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Technology Integration in Special Education Teacher Preparation: Lessons From the Field

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Listen and learn : Research paper
Lecture presentation

Research papers are a pairing of two 20 minute presentations followed by a 5 minute Q & A.
This is presentation 2 of 2, scroll down to see more details.

Other presentations in this group:

Dr. Jennifer Courduff  
Dr. Jean Kiekel  
Dr. Dennis McElroy  
Dr. Peter Hessling  

Hear about a national study that aimed to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how teacher prep programs are preparing special education teachers to integrate technology into teaching and learning. The study used a peer-reviewed survey, recorded interviews and focus groups to collect data within the special education community.

Audience: Principals/head teachers, Professional developers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Topic: Teacher education
Grade level: Community college/university
Subject area: Inservice teacher education, Special education
ISTE Standards: For Education Leaders:
Connected Learner
  • Participate regularly in online professional learning networks to collaboratively learn with and mentor other professionals.
  • Use technology to regularly engage in reflective practices that support personal and professional growth.
For Educators:
  • Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary


Technology has been shown to be an incredibly powerful mechanism for providing access to educational resources and experiences. One of the biggest challenges is moving teachers forward in understanding and managing the effective integration of technology to create rich learning experiences for students (Chance, J., 2017). A critical factor in this process is how special education pre-service teachers are prepared prior to entering the classroom (Tondeur, J., van Braak, J., Sang, G., Voogt, J., Fisser, P., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A., 2012; Kuo, Nai-Cheng., 2015; Perkmen, S., 2008).

As recommended by the National Educational Technology Plan (2017), special education teachers need to leave their teacher preparation programs with a solid understanding of how to use technology to support learning. Effective use of technology is not an optional add-on or a skill that we simply can expect teachers to pick up once they get into the classroom. Teachers need to know how to use technology to realize each state’s learning standards from day one.
Two major organizations that guide the integration of technology in education are the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE). ISTE released its educator standards in 2017 ( while SITE also released a series of recommended teacher competencies or TETCs ( in 2017. The ISTE standards focus on the skills and understandings practicing educators need to have as part of their practitioner toolkit. The TETCs provide pre-service guidance so teacher educators are prepared to model and integrate technology in their teaching. These recommendations are not mutually exclusive, but in reality are part of the same road map.


Data collection included an electronic survey, optional recorded interviews, and optional focus groups. The purpose of three methods of data collection is to ensure that we gain a deep understanding of the phenomenon under study (Patton, 2002, Yin, 2016). Part 1 of the electronic survey were used to obtain non-identifiable demographic information for each participant. Surveys as a method of research provide insight into the attitudes, and opinions of the population studied (Brewer, 2009). Survey data can be of particular use for educators as it is both a flexible way to obtain information about a given population and inexpensive in terms of time and money (Pazzaglia, Stafford, & Rodriguez, 2016). Moreover, utilizing an existing survey instrument is appropriate when a subject has been studied in similar settings (Irwin & Stafford, 2016). Survey research is appropriate to determining current conditions in education and can be flexible in scope, because surveys can include questionnaires, observations, and interviews (Ebel, 1980).
Recorded interviews and focus groups were optional. At the end of the electronic survey, participants were asked to check a box indicating their willingness to participate in an interview, focus group, or both. They were asked to provide an email address where they could be reached to schedule the interview and/or focus group. Interviews and focus groups took place in the private online synchronous meeting site, Zoom. A constant comparison method was used to analyze each set of data collected in order to deeply understand the experiences and stories of participants (Yin, 2016). Interviews were transcribed and open coding was used to determine major categories of information. Electronic surveys were analyzed using descriptive statistics and triangulated with interview and focus group data. As major categories emerged, all data was axial coded to gain a categorical understanding of the core phenomenon within instructional practice (Creswell & Poth, 2018). Lincoln and Guba’s (1985) criteria for establishing trustworthiness in qualitative research was employed throughout data collection and analysis. The resulting narrative is in progress and will include thick description of participant experience. Credibility and dependability were addressed through data triangulation, member checking, and peer review.


The broad source range of expected respondents allowed the researchers to examine how perceptions are similar or different across types of institutions (public, private, various enrollment sizes), preparation focus (special education push in, pull out, self contained), view point (preservice, inservice, preservice faculty, assistive technology mentors/coaches). We will present the findings and then lead a discussion on how university teacher preparation programs might streamline curriculum and integrate technology in order to better prepare special education teachers for the 21st century classroom. The results of this research will be shared via conference presentations, publications, and other means such as online webinars. The implications are anticipated to inform special education pre-service educators concerning strengths and gaps in teacher preparation programs and to provide the impetus for professional learning networks to share integration practices.

The results of this research could inform teacher educators and those who develop teacher preparation programs of the complexities of preparing special educators to use technology in teaching and learning. Findings reveal several additional layers of complexity inherent in special education teacher preparation including an overwhelming amount of curriculum to cover (e.g. IDEA, IEP process, disability profiles, working with parents, content expertise, classroom management, etc). Technology integration is considered an “add-on” if it is considered at all. There continues to be a divide (e.g. “your kids”, “my kids”) among groups of general and special educators. Although some universities offer common courses that include all pre-service teachers, this is not standard practice in teacher prep programs.


The results of this research could influence how knowledge of the ISTE standards is communicated to all stakeholders within the educational community. Further, study findings could inform special education teacher preparation programs in preparing new teachers for the variety of technology resources available to them at different school settings. Finally, results could be useful to educational leaders, superintendents, and policy makers in how we might move forward in the national adoption of the ISTE standards in educational decision making.



Berends, M. (2006). Survey Methods in Educational Research. In J. L. Green, G. Camilli, & P. B. Elmore (Eds.), Handbook of complementary methods in education research (pp. 623-640). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Brewer, E. (2009). Conducting Survey Research in Education. In C. V. Wang (Ed.), Handbook of Research on E-Learning Applications for Career and Technical Education: Technologies for Vocational Training (pp. 519-533). Hershey, PA: IGI-Global Publishing.

Butler-Kisber, L. (2010). Qualitative inquiry. London: Sage Publications.

Chance, J. (2017). Impact of purposeful professional learning on integration of instructional technology integration in daily classroom practices.

Christensen, R., Knezek, G., Alexander, C., Owens, D., Overall, T. & Mayes, G. (2015). Measuring 21st Century Skills in Technology Educators. In D. Rutledge & D. Slykhuis (Eds.), Proceedings of SITE 2015--Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (1130-1136). Las Vegas, NV, United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Creswell, J.W. & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Eaton, S., Brown, B., Schroeder, M., Lock, J., & Jacobsen, M. (2017). Signature pedagogies for e-learning in higher education and beyond. Open Educational Resource. University of Calgary.

Ebel, R. (1980). Survey research in education: The need and the value. Peabody Journal of Education. 57(2), 126-134.

Foulger, T.S., Graziano, K.J., Slykhuis, D., Schmidt-Crawford, D. & Trust, T. (2016). Invited Commentary: The Time is Now! Creating Technology Competencies for Teacher Educators. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 24(3), 249-256.

Foulger, T., Graziano, K., Schmidt-Crawford, D., & Slykhus, D. (2017). Teacher educator technology competencies. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education. 25(4), 413-338.

Irwin, C. W., & Stafford, E. T. (2016). Survey methods for educators: Collaborative survey development (part 1 of 3) (REL 2016–163). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands. Retrieved from http://

ISTE, (2017). ISTE Standards for Educators. [online] Retrieved from Sept. 12, 2018.

Kuo, Nai-Cheng. (2015). Action Research for Improving the Effectiveness of Technology Integration in Preservice Teacher Education. i.e.: inquiry in education: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 3. Retrieved from:

Lincoln, YS. & Guba, EG. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Michael Russell, Damian Bebell, Laura O'Dwyer and Kathleen O’Connor (2003). Examining Teacher Technology Use: Implications for Preservice and Inservice Teacher Preparation. Journal of Teacher Education 2003; 54; 297

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Pazzaglia, A. M., Stafford, E. T., & Rodriguez, S. M. (2016). Survey methods for educators: Selecting samples and administering surveys (part 2 of 3) (REL 2016–160). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands. Retrieved from

Perkmen, Serkan, "Factors that influence pre-service teachers' technology integration performance" (2008). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 15804.

Tondeur, J., van Braak, J., Sang, G., Voogt, J., Fisser, P., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. (2012). Preparing pre-service teachers to integrate technology in education: A synthesis of qualitative evidence. Computers & Education, 59, 134–144.

U.S. Department of Education (2017). Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update. [online]. Retrieved from Sept. 12, 2018.

Yin, R. (2016). Qualitative research from start to finish (2nd ed.) New York, The Guilford Press.

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Dr. Jennifer Courduff, Azusa Pacific University

Dr. Jennifer Courduff is a Professor of Education at Azusa Pacific University where she develops courses and teaches in the Master of Arts: Learning and Technology program. She is an active member of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and advocates for the needs of special education teachers in several professional learning communities. Her research and presentations focus on technology integration within inclusive learning environments and mobile learning.

Dr. Jean Kiekel, University Of St. Thomas

Dr. Jean Kiekel received her PhD from Kansas State University in Curriculum and Instruction. She is currently the Field Placement Director at the University of St Thomas. She has developed an online master's program in Instructional Technology at the university which will be a track under the C&I Master's degree program at UST. Her current research interests include instructional technology in K-12 classrooms, online learning, and teacher induction,

Dr. Dennis McElroy, Graceland University

Dr. Dennis McElroy is Professor Emeritus from Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa. He is the 2020-21 ISTE Teacher Education Network PLN President. Dennis is an Apple Educator, technology advocate, and passionate teacher educator. His career has included time serving as a high school science teacher, technology director, Iowa DOE technology consultant, school board member, and university professor. In his free time he is a devoted father and grandfather as well as a gigging musician.

Dr. Peter Hessling, North Carolina State University

I’ve been teaching at North Carolina State University for over 25 years, including almost 15 years of teaching online in some form or another. My Ph.D. is in Foundations of Education from UNC Chapel Hill, so I come at technology entirely from the humanities. My research is in the history of education, online teaching and collaboration, and pre-service teacher beliefs. I’ve been on the ISTE TEN leadership team for several years, usually participating heavily in the ISTE TEN Playground. Occasionally, I like to make short class videos using puppets.

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