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SEN and Computing - Research Project help for trainee teacher

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by milliemoo321, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. milliemoo321

    milliemoo321 New commenter


    I'm a Computing and ICT BSc student, etraining from my previous career as a Business Analyst to be a Computer Science Teacher starting in September. The project I wish to conduct for my final BSc module is to research the question "Does the use of technology in schools improve learning outcomes for students with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND) ?"

    Specifically I am interested in the following themes:

    o exploring the use of technology in the education of children with SEND status, and how it has improved their learning capacity and ability to communicate.
    o considering whether the use of technology has increased the capacity for SEND pupils’ inclusion into mainstream classrooms.
    o ascertaining whether the academic potential for children with SEND status is improved using technology

    I'm carrying out primary research in local mainstream and special schools and obviously reading whatever I can find, but I'd be really grateful if anyone has any pointers to research I may have missed, or anecdotal evidence that may assist me in my quest.

    Many thanks
  2. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    No idea if it's any help to you, but my educational research focus over the years as a "reflective classroom practitioner" has been on the use of technology in teaching modern foreign languages to learners with special educational needs. I contributed a chapter to what may be the first book entirely devoted to ICT usage in teaching MFL to students with SEN:

    Beltrán, E. V., Abbott, C. and Jones, J. (eds) (2013) Inclusive Language Education and Digital Technology, Bristol/Buffalo/Toronto: Multilingual Matters.

    My own contribution is entitled "Meeting Special Educational Needs in Technology-Enhanced Language Teaching: Learning from the Past, Working for the Future" and can be found in the list of book and article titles on my website at http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/home/publications. The direct link to the chapter is https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0Bw7z_4bLjOOEOXdOdExGbHBPTVU. Just click the link to get free access to the full text of the chapter. You'll see I include a history of ICT usage and, as well as describing some of the "wow" factors arising from the role of computers, I have a cautionary tale to tell about employing a modicum of scepticism when observing miraculous improvements in students with SEN when they are working at the computer. I was researching learners of French and German, but I'd be surprised if the results were very different when looking at ICT in learning other subjects.

    Finally, in the matter of the general direction of your own research, be sure to spend some time determining HOW you are going to test your hypotheses about the benefits of computer-assisted learning. Are you going to have a control group working without computers while your experimental group work with them and then compare the outcomes? I know of a secondary school in Lincolnshire in the 1980s where such comparative research was planned. When the project was announced, the school switchboard was jammed by parents demanding to know why their sons and daughters had been placed in the control group, deprived of computer access. Remember too that a curriculum totally delivered by computer can be a dehumanising experience. There are so many factors to consider that you may have trouble controlling the parameters tightly enough to get the answers you are seeking.

    Anyway, I wish you the best of luck and I'll be happy to offer any further advice if it helps.
  3. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    My main thought is that you have chosen a very very wide field. You'll need to decide what you are defining as "children with SEND status" to begin with. This could cover any student from someone a little behind in mainstream to a student working at the "old" P level 1 (i.e. with only reflex responses) and all stages in between. Then there's those who have physical and / or sensory needs such as visual impairment or cerebral palsy, or those who lack a limb... all have very different needs and all will use ICT to some extent.
    Then what ICT you actually mean? - from using the type of computer, tablet, phone or whatever that is used by most people or using adapted technology (for example "speech machines" like Stephen Hawkings, i-tobi, switch operated toys or a talking watch)
    Then what apps or programs ... I could go on but hopefully you get the picture. You are looking at several PhD's here, rather more than you were anticipating at this stage I suspect.
    rosiecg likes this.
  4. rosiecg

    rosiecg Occasional commenter

    Yes as dzil has said, you need to narrow it down a bit! Looking at ICT in a special school for children with complex needs is very different to looking at ICT in a mainstream schools for children with dyslexia for example.
    dzil likes this.
  5. milliemoo321

    milliemoo321 New commenter

    Thanks all - 'several Phd's' was not quite what I had in mind:) - I agree, it's a huge area, and a fascinating one. I've narrowed it down to the provision in my local area, specifically looking at Integration (in mainstream settings) and improvements in communication (for mainstream and special schools). I've been incredibly lucky and had visits at a couple of local special schools where the technology is amazing. Having discussed it further with my tutor and considered the word restriction (4,500 - more of a long essay really!) that should suffice for undergraduate level. Bt it's definitely an area I'd like to find out more about in the future.
  6. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    "Amazing" is certainly everybody's first reaction when observing the interaction between students diagnosed as having learning difficulties and the computers they work with, whether they are in a mainstream or special school setting. Do take care, however, as I mentioned in my earlier message, to explore how effectively ICT activities are integrated with off-computer tasks, ensuring both assignments are not only within everybody's capabilities but also are challenging and fully contribute to each student's general educational progress. Be vigilant when you watch students working on computers and never draw optimistic conclusions from what you see unless you have the necessary objectivity and the hard data to back them up. Your tutor will expect no less in the way of critical judgement. Good luck with your "long essay"!

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