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Correa-Torres, Silvia M.

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As the educational environment is moving more towards a technology-rich system, students with visual impairments (VI) educated in general education classrooms must be guaranteed equitable access to content curricula. The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of middle school students with VI when accessing and using technologies in general education classrooms. In this multiple case study, three middle school students with VI were observed in general education settings for two school days. In addition to the students, general education teachers and teachers of students with VI (TVI) also participated in the study to understand how best they support access to technologies for students with VI in their classrooms. The theoretical framework that guided this study was Piaget’s cognitive development theory, and the learning model was Universal Design for Learning. Data were collected through multiple instruments: observations, interviews, and educational documents. Students, their general education teachers, and TVIs were interviewed about their experiences with the use of technologies in classrooms. After data collection, the analysis was completed using within-case and cross-case analysis. The within-case analysis revealed the experiences of using technologies in general education classrooms for each student in the form of a narrative story. Each student’s story included the components: (a) how did they see their world?, (b) how did they experience their school day?, and (c) how did their ideal world compare to their real world? The cross-case analysis was conducted by comparing participants’ experiences with technologies in general education classrooms. Four broad themes emerged from the cross-case analysis: (a) technology is imperative in general education classrooms; (b) frustrations with accessibility issues in general education classrooms; (c) for general education teachers, it has been a learning curve; and (d) for TVIs, the buck stops with them when it comes to access technology. Within the above four broad themes, some emerged findings were intriguing. General education teachers were open to training on technologies that are more engaging for students, as opposed to technologies that were universally accessible. Inaccessible technologies used in classrooms were not only the ones adopted by the school or district, but they included programs that were created and shared by other teachers through learning communities. While the students, general education teachers, and TVIs in this study understood the legal mandates of IDEA and an IEP, they did not know any other accessibility laws related to technologies that Kindergarten-Grade 12 schools should abide by. Conceptually, some sub-themes found in this study were: (a) the majority of educators were differentiating the curricula to meet the needs of students through constant adaptation as opposed to using tools that account for learner variability at the outset, and (b) student choice and advocacy played a big role in the experiences of students with VI in general education classrooms. Based on the findings, implications for practice and future research directions are discussed in this study.


256 pages

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