In 1978, Vygotsky developed his social constructivist theory of learning, in which he first introduced the concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). In his argument, Vygotsky (1978) described learning as an essential and conventional process that allows individuals to improve mental functions and culture. Specifically, Vygotsky asserted that social interactions coupled with structured learning in the aspect of the ZPD drive cognitive development.
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The implementation of assistive technology (AT) requires knowledge about essential resources and prudent monitoring to ensure effective decisions and enhanced quality of outcomes. Moreover, optimal use of available resources requires a comprehensive understanding of the learning needs of both educators and students. Odden, Archibald, Fermanich, and Gallagher (2002) hold that an effective decision concerning the use of resources ensures equity and prioritization in the allocation of resources, leading to the achievement of expected outcomes among educators and students.
Evidence-Based Practices in Implementing AT
The demand for evidence-based practices in AT decision-making is frequently articulated by administrators, researchers, and educational leaders, mainly because of the legislative influences mentioned above, and the CEC’s professional ethics need special educators to utilize evidence-based practices in their classrooms (Peterson-Karlan & Parette, 2007). Failure to use evidence-based training methods has been identified as a factor in the nonuse or abandonment of AT (Dunst, Trivette, Hamby, & Simkus, 2013). Furthermore, in the implementation of evidence-based practices, education professionals experience challenges relating to the adoption, accessibility, effectiveness, and sustainability of implementing interventions (Peterson-Karlan & Parette, 2007).
Planning, application, and detailed understanding are the main attributes of evidence-based practices in the implementation of AT. Planning entails the process of (a) introducing novel practices, materials, and knowledge to learners, as well as (b) demonstrating how educators and instructors use them in teaching. Application constitutes the way learners (a) integrate and incorporate novel practices, materials, and knowledge in their learning process and (b) the assessment of learning outcomes. Detailed understanding comprises of the process of (a) involving learners in (a) the reflecting of their experience and (b) undertaking self-assessment to explore new learning opportunities (Dunst & Trivette, 2011).
The IEP team is responsible for considering AT services for all students with disabilities and for documenting any AT needs in a student’s lEP. When the IEP team identifies a need for AT and selects specific AT services, it develops a plan for AT implementation. It is suggested that AT specialists assist the IEP team with consideration, assessment, and development of this plan (Dyal, Carpenter, & Wright, 2009). Nevertheless, since the provision of educational services has not gained the expected attention in line with the roles of AT, teams of individualized education programs (IEP) experience considerable struggles in implementation. A significant proportion of education professionals do not have adequate training to provide quality AT services to learners (Peterson-Karlan & Parette, 2007). Evidence-based practices are limited due to the lack of randomized controlled experiments performed among a representative number of students with disabilities under AT interventions. Consequently, the adoption and implementation of AT in community settings and learning institutions rely on the accuracy and reliability of data provided by researchers and developers in predicting learning outcomes and benefits.
Quality indicators for developing a plan requires AT implementation to follow a collaborative approach for all stakeholders to make their contributions. According to IEP, the development approach obliges AT team to cooperate in formulating an action plan, operationalizing activities and defining specific roles.
Even though the given model helps to simplify the collection and classification of information and promotes decision-making from assessment to evaluation of outcomes, there are some critical elements that must always be included: shared knowledge of the student, the environments, and the tasks; collaboration and communication of multiple perspectives between individuals who will be involved in the decision making and those who will be impacted by the decisions; information pertinent to decision making; flexibility and patience; and on-going processes for periodically revisiting the SETT Framework. These elements are critical because they aid education professionals in whether the information that applied in decision making and implementation is valid, reliable, and updated to capture the shared knowledge of AT (Zabala, 2005).
Teachers experience difficulties related to poor learning and negative attitudes in handling children with disabilities included in the traditional classroom. These difficulties are not only complex but also enduring, and thus, hindering teachers from helping children with intellectual disabilities to function independently in the traditional classroom (Maine, Brown, Dickson & Truesdale 2019).
Although the mainstreaming or inclusion of learners with disabilities constitutes an essential goal for most parents and educators in the field of special education, the notion of stimulating positive attitudes remains debatable. There is evidence that inclusion or mainstreaming is among the ways that students with intellectual disabilities access academic accomplishment and adaptive behavior effectively. In their comparative study, Dessemontet, Bless, and Morin (2012) assessed the learning performance 34 children with disabilities included in the traditional classroom as the experimental group and the matching number in the special schools. Over two years, researchers compared adaptive behavior and academic achievement of children with disabilities in the experimental and control groups. This study revealed that children with disabilities included in the traditional classroom exhibited significant improvement in adaptive behavior, numeric skills, and literacy skills in the two years of follow-up.