KU News Release

October 30, 2012
Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860

Professors land $2.5M grant to help schools better technology for struggling learners

Sean J. Smith

More Information

LAWRENCE — When it comes to developing plans for improving technology in schools, it’s a lot like buying uniforms for the band: One size will not fit all. Researchers at the University of Kansas have secured a $2.5 million grant to address the underutilization of evidence-based technology tools by struggling students and those with disabilities in the K-12 school.

The project, the Sustainable Implementation of Innovations for Student Achievement, or SIISA, is designed to develop, investigate and revise an adoption implementation model/process and a diagnostic, monitoring and implementation support system that will lead to successful use of an evidence-based technology tool to support literacy development.

The United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education awarded the five-year grant to researchers at KU’s Center for Research on Learning to develop SIISA, a program designed to develop, investigate and revise a process to further integrate technology into the lives of students. Sean J. Smith, associate professor in the Department of Special Education, is the principal investigator with James Basham, assistant professor; Diana Greer, assistant research professor; and Don Deshler, professor of special education, serving as the co-principal investigators.

Too often schools are given mandates to improve technology, or meet instructional benchmarks, without thought given to the unique makeup of each educational setting and how they may affect such plans.

“Our goal is to empower schools to implement effective technology,” Smith said. “It’s not a case of, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ That just doesn’t happen.”

The project will focus on effectively implementing educational technologies that benefit students with disabilities but will also examine ways to effectively implement change in a school environment. Working with Don Johnston, a developer of technology solutions for struggling learners, KU researchers will engage schools both in Kansas and across the country to examine effective ways to integrate evidence-based technology. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, they will gather information on school readiness, teacher perceptions, technology infrastructure, students needs and similar information to best determine how to integrate technology.

KU researchers and Don Johnston staff will use the information they gather to develop a Diagnostics and Implementation Decision Dashboard, a customizable tool they hope to make available to schools across the nation at the completion of the project.

The technological aspect is part of a larger effort to help understand how change takes place on a school level. By personalizing the tool based on individual school dynamics, KU researchers hope to gain an understanding of effective ways to implement improved technology and instructional methods.

“After the five-year period of the grant is done, we hope to not only have a tool that schools can use to meet their needs, but a better understanding of how to affect change. Not only in individual schools, but across a district and even wider,” Basham said.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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