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Using Anchored Instruction to Teach about Assistive Technology

View the results of a study that used a computer-controlled, videodisc player to present audio-video anchors in group instruction about assistive technology to undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals.

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This investigation reports about the development and formative evaluation of an assistive technology instructional module that was developed in an integrated hypermedia format according to principles of anchored instruction. The module was field tested with undergraduate students, graduate students, and professionals. Revisions were made in the module based upon feedback from the field tests. It was concluded that people respond positively to anchored instruction on the topic of assistive technology and that anchored instruction appears to have utility for both pre-service and in-service training. A number of implications are described for those who are involved in the development and delivery of instruction about assistive technology.

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The importance of assistive technology for people who have disabilities was underscored in the enactment of PL 100-407, the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act in 1988. In developing this landmark legislation, Congressional research concluded that many children and adults with disabilities can benefit from the use of assistive technologies that are designed to reduce barriers in the environment, enhance their ability to communicate, and otherwise improve their independence.

The significance of assistive technology was further recognized in the federal regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (PL 101-476) to make the definition more applicable to children with disabilities:

Assistive technology means any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. (Federal Register, August 19, 1991, p. 41272).

The Congressional research that was done to justify PL 100-407 found that lack of knowledge about assistive technologies is a major barrier to their use by professional educators and related personnel who provide direct services to people who have developmental disabilities. The lack of training in assistive technology among direct service personnel is paralleled among university faculty who are responsible for preparing special education personnel. For example, at the same time that the Congress was conducting its research, a national survey found that special education professors reported that they lacked the knowledge and skills to provide training in the use of technology for children with disabilities (Blackhurst, MacArthur, & Byrom, 1988).

Although the aforementioned research could be considered to be somewhat outdated, it appears that the need for training in assistive technology persists today. For example, when the 1995-96 agenda was developed for the Technology, Educational Media, and Materials for Individuals with Disabilities Program in the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), four program commitments were established as a result of broad-based input from the field. One of these was to foster the use of assistive technology through professional development activities:

This means training and supporting teachers, administrators, parents, and related service personnel on the benefits of instructional and assistive technologies so that they can increase productive use of instructional time, prepare students with disabilities for employment and citizenship, and promote their intellectual, ethical, cultural, emotional, and physical growth. (Office of Special Education Programs, 1994, p. C-1)

Four of the five research projects that were funded in 1995 under this research agenda were designed to examine various aspects of assistive technology applications, including assistive technology training.

One of the challenges facing those involved in providing assistive technology training is the design and development of training materials that can be used at both the pre-service and in-service levels. One approach to this challenge is to develop training materials that are designed according to principles of anchored instruction.

According to Hasselbring (1994), anchored instruction involves the development and use of shared experiences between the teacher and the learner that can help the student construct new knowledge and understanding through the development of rich mental models. The rationale for the use of anchored instruction is that teachers face learners with a wide range of dissimilar backgrounds. Consequently, there is often no common reference point (or shared knowledge) between teachers and students upon which instruction can be based. For example, one can talk about the use of a scanning device to operate a communication aid to assist people who have difficulty speaking, but it is easy to develop misconceptions about such devices unless one experiences them or sees examples of them. To rectify this problem, conceptual anchors, in the form of very brief audio and/or video vignettes that can serve as examples, are integrated into instructional programs to provide a common frame of reference for learners. Once the common frame of reference is established, instruction can proceed in a quicker and more efficient fashion than when traditional verbal examples are provided to learners.

Researchers (e.g., Brown, Collins, and Duiguid, 1989; Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1993a, 1993b; Sherwood, Kinzer, Hasselbring, & Bransford, 1987) have been developing multimedia materials that use anchored instruction. Their research has documented the success of this approach with a range of learners.

Multimedia instructional materials incorporate two or more of the following media forms: text, drawings, pictures, animation, sound, computer programs, or moving pictures. For example, a training program that uses slides and audiotapes would be considered a multimedia presentation, as would a videotape program that is controlled by a computer.

In recent years, technological advances have lead to the development of hypermedia instructional materials. Hypermedia training programs use computers to control access to text graphics, sound, and animated images (Blackhurst & Cross, 1993). While multimedia training programs most frequently present information in a linear fashion, the use of computers to control the display of information provides the ability to access information in nonlinear ways. For example, with appropriatelWednesday, August 16, 2006 mouse pointing device on "hot spots" or "buttons" on the computer screen which provide links to other information (Howell, 1992). Thus, a mouse click on a word could bring a definition of that word or a mouse click on the name of an assistive device could produce an image from a videodisc that shows a picture of the device and then a brief video illustrating its use.

While multimedia programs can be developed to present anchored instruction, hypermedia programs can provide greater flexibility in such instructional programs. Presenters using multimedia programs are most frequently restricted to the presentation of information in the sequence in which the presentation was designed. On the other hand, presenters using well-designed hypermedia programs can modify the sequence of instruction or can provide enrichment or supplementary information based upon questions or comments from training program participants.

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The purpose of this report is to describe the results of an investigation to explore the development and formative evaluation of a hypermedia instructional module to provide pre-service and in-service instruction about assistive technology. The hypermedia program was designed to use principles associated with the use of anchored instruction for the delivery of instruction.

Research Questions

  • How can assistive technology training materials be developed in a hypermedia format that use the principles associated with anchored instruction?

  • How do learners respond to anchored instruction on the topic of assistive technology?

  • What are the implications of anchored instruction about assistive technology for pre-service and in-service training?

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This investigation involved three major activities: (1) development of an instructional module designed to provide an overview of assistive technology; (2) formative evaluation of the module through field tests with undergraduate students, graduate students, and a variety of professional educators; and (3) revision of the instructional module based on the results of the field tests. Following is a description of the activities that were conducted as part of this investigation.

Development of the Instructional Module

An instructional module, titled Overview of Assistive Technology, was developed to deliver the instruction. A set of instructional design specifications was generated to define the objectives for the training, the content outline, and specifications for the components of the module. Following the preparation of the instructional design specifications, development of the components of the module commenced. Components included a videodisc, computer programs, participant handout, and presenter's guide. (In the interest of parsimony, the descriptions of the computer programs, videodisc segments used, participant handout, and presentation guide reflect the final products after revisions based on data from the various field tests of the module.)


The purpose of the instructional module was to develop an awareness of assistive technologies. The objectives were to enable trainees to: (1) explain a functional orientation to the use of assistive technology to meet the needs of people with disabilities; (2) define assistive technology and related terms; (3) identify public laws that address the use of assistive technologies and assistive technology services by individuals with disabilities; (4) state the parts of the assistive technology continuum; (5) describe functions that can be enhanced through the use of assistive technology; and (6) Identify sources of assistive technology information and use a computer program to locate assistive technologies to meet functional needs of people with disabilities.

The content was based primarily on an instructional module developed earlier that addressed the same topic (Melichar & Blackhurst, 1991), but in a format that used multimedia (overhead transparencies and slides), as opposed to hypermedia. Content was presented around the framework of a unifying model of human function that was developed for the earlier materials. Information about the model can be obtained from a report, titled A Functional Approach to Assistive Technology, that is available from the online report menu at this Web site.

The model provides a framework for departing from many current practices that focus primarily on disabilities and devices when considering the use of assistive technologies. Within the context of the functional model, when decisions are being made about the provision of special education services, it is important to base them on factors related to human function rather than on the diagnostic label that has been assigned to the individual (e.g., autism or severe developmental disability) or a specific assistive device that might be readily available. The real issue is the problem the child has in functioning within his or her environment.

The model underscores the importance of needing to know things such as the nature of the demands that are being placed on the child from the environment and how those demands create the requirements to perform different human functions, such as learning, reading, walking, talking, seeing, and hearing. It is important to know how such requirements are - or are not - being met by the child and how factors such as the child's perceptions and the availability of personal resources such as intelligence, sight, and mobility can affect the responses the child can make. In addition, it is important to understand how availability of external supports, such as special education, different types of therapy, and assistive technology can impact on the child's ability to produce functional responses to the environmental demands.

The functional areas addressed within the context of the model included (a) existence; (b) communication; (c) body support, protection, and positioning; (d) travel and mobility; (e) environmental interaction; (f) education and transition; and (g) sports, fitness, and recreation. Additional information about the model and how it can be used for guiding the delivery of special education services have been provided by Blackhurst and Lahm (2001). Illustrations of how the model impacts on the delivery of assistive technology services have been described by Blackhurst and Cross (1993).

In addition to explanation of the functional model, content for the module included definitions of terms and concepts, description of laws that provide assistive technology mandates, illustrations of assistive technology devices and services within the abovementioned functional categories, sources of information about assistive technology, and how to use a computer program to locate information about assistive technologies.


A constant angular velocity (CAV) videodisc was developed for use in the module. A CAV videodisc can contain still graphics (up to 54,000 single images, such as slides), full-motion video (up to 30 minutes), or high-quality audio. A single videodisc can contain a mix of still photos or graphics, videos, and audio. Because of the way a CAV videodisc is recorded, the precise location of information can be identified. For example, a 10 second video may begin at frame 43,360 and end at 43,660, while a single picture may be located at frame 5,001. By logging the frame numbers of the information contained on the videodisc, the information can be accessed via a computer program or a hand held remote control device.

Brief segments were selected from videotapes and videodiscs that contained examples of assistive technologies and their use. Primary sources were promotional videotapes of products commonly distributed by vendors and videotapes developed on training projects. Forty-nine video segments ranging from still photos to videos that lasted up to 3 minutes were selected. Most segments were very brief (approximately 15-45 seconds), while some still photos were accompanied by brief (approximately 7 - 14 seconds) audio narratives.

The video segments were transferred to a three-quarter inch videotape which was then sent to a recording studio that specialized in videodisc production. Upon receipt of the videodisc that was produced, a log was prepared of the frames that designated the various locations of the images stored on the videodisc.

Computer programs

A computer program was designed to present information and to control the presentation of audio and video stored on the videodisc. The program was developed in the HyperCard (Apple Computer, 1993) programming environment for use on Macintosh computers. HyperCard provides a very flexible way for controlling the presentation of text information, graphics, and sound.

Video drivers (Apple Programmers and Developers Association, 1988) can be installed in HyperCard programs that enable users to start and stop videodisc players to display segments of sound, still pictures, and full-motion video. Developers can construct images, called buttons, that appear on the computer screen. Computer programs, called scripts, can be attached to the buttons to cause various things to happen when clicked on with a mouse pointing device. For example, the following script turns the button on the screen to black to indicate that it has been clicked. It then turns on the videodisc player sound and plays the video that appears between frame 19,523 and frame 21,592 on the videodisc.

on mouseUp
    set the hilite of me to true
    video sound, on
    video play, 19523,21592
end mouseUp

Once the buttons had been programmed, they were named and displayed on the computer screen, which was projected to participants. For example, a screen that controlled the presentation of audiovisual anchors showing different types of assistive technology that could be used to facilitate education and transition contained eight buttons displayed vertically. These were labeled: Power Pad, Touch Window, A Writing Tool, Alternate Keyboard, Keynote, Braille and Speak, Telecommunications, and Facilitating Inclusion. The presenter could select the items in any sequence. If a short presentation was appropriate, there was no necessity to present all of them. This illustrates the value of a hypermedia program which enables the presenter to display video anchors in a variety of sequences. To view another video segment, the presenter needed only to click the mouse on one of the other "buttons" (e.g., words that were not highlighted). Thus, the presenter is not constrained by the linear sequence designed by the program developer.

Button scripts in HyperCard programs can be written to perform a wide array of tasks. For example, buttons corresponding to each of the elements in the model described earlier, caused a window to open at the left of the screen to provide examples of information associated with each of the clicked buttons. If another element was clicked, the current highlighted one would be canceled, the newly-clicked element would be highlighted, and the information associated with it would be displayed. This ability to access such information at the click of a mouse illustrates another advantage of a hypermedia program.

The HyperCard program prepared for this investigation presented the objectives of the presentation, information about the functional model, definitions, points of information, controlling buttons for the videodisc player, sources of information about assistive technology, and a button that provided access to another computer program that could be used to search for assistive technology devices. The program presented the components of the functional model block by block so that the model was "constructed" as each of the components was presented and described.

In keeping with the notion of using anchored instruction to assist learners in solving problems, the computer program also presented two scenarios that served to provide a reality base for portions of the presentation. Following is one of the scenarios:


Ann is a five year old who has cerebral palsy. Although she appears to have average intellectual abilities, her speech is almost impossible to understand. Ann's teacher often uses instructional games in class, such as Simon Says, to teach various concepts. She wants to increase Ann's participation.


This scenario set the stage for the presentation of the components of the functional model. Each component was presented within the context of how it related to circumstances in the scenario concerning Ann.

The Adaptive Device Locator System

The second computer program that was incorporated into the module was the Adaptive Device Locator System (ADLS). The ADLS (Academic Software, Inc., 1991) is a computer program that can be used to locate information about assistive technologies and their manufacturers and distributors. ADLS was developed under a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Project supported by the U. S. Department of Education. It uses the functions underlying the model which was described earlier as the organizing structure for its database. The module presented a description of the ADLS and provided an illustration of how it could be used to obtain a solution to the scenario described above.

ADLS is unique among assistive technology information systems in that users do not need to know the names of devices or the companies that produce or distribute them in order to locate information. Rather, they interact with the computer program to select functions that a prospective assistive technology user needs to be able to perform. The computer presents choices to the user and information to help the user make decisions about which choice to select. Additional information about ADLS (and other assistive technology locator systems) can be accessed from the Locate Assistive Devices option on the NATRI Web Site Assistive Technology Resources Menu.

ADLS presents a list of functions, similar to those described above. The user clicks an option (e.g., Communication) for Ann's scenario. In response to the mouse clicks, additional options are displayed. In this case the options were selected in this order: (1) Expression, (2) Verbal Expression, (3) Vocal Expression, (4) Speech Producing Devices, and (5) Dedicated Communication Aids. After making the fifth selection, ADLS presented six types of assistive devices that might be relevant to Ann's needs. The user could then see a graphic that illustrated a device that was typical of that category and a brief narrative explaining the device and how it operates. In this case, the category of devices that was selected was Communication Aids/Touch-Sensitive Boards.

Users can then obtain a list of manufacturers and distributors of pressure-sensitive communication boards. ADLS also will print letters to each source, requesting information about the specific device and a copy of their catalogs.

The training module provided an example of a second ADLS search in response to a scenario that described a need to locate a device (other than a wheelchair) that would enable a student with degenerative muscle disease in the legs to move around on the playground. ADLS located three types of devices: an Irish Mail, a hand-operated tricycle, or a motor-driven cart.

Presentation Script

A presentation script was prepared to provide information to supplement that displayed from the computer program and the video anchors presented via videodisc. The script was in the form of notes for the presenter to use, supplementary information about the video anchors, and prompts about when to display the information in the computer program and the videodisc.

The presentation script also provided information about local and state agencies that provide assistive technology services and the HyperABLEDATA and DOS-ABLEDATA CD-ROMS (CO-NET, 1995). These are large databases of information that can be searched by device name, vendor name, or descriptors. Contrasts between the ADLS and ABLEDATA programs were made and a case was presented for using them in conjunction with each other to locate information about assistive technologies.

Participant Handout

A specially-designed handout was prepared to facilitate note taking by participants. The handout was developed in the form of a framed presentation outline. The handout contained a list of the objectives, printed information, mutilated phrases and sentences, and space for additional notes. The mutilated items contained blanks for participants to enter information that was presented in computer displays that were projected during the presentation.

Prior experimentation with framed presentation outlines has determined that they facilitate note taking in group presentation. This format helps to (a) maintain attention of participants, (b) keep them in sequence with the presenter, (c) reduce frustration and writer's cramp by eliminating the need to copy or write large amounts of information, and (d) ensure that participants leave with information that can be used for future reference.

Formative Evaluation and Revision Procedures

Formative evaluation is the activity in the product development cycle in which versions of instructional products are tried out with representatives of the groups for whom the training is targeted (Baker & Schutz, 1971). Such evaluation typically comes in the form of field tests in which participants provide feedback to the product developers about their reactions to various features of the instructional product and the way in which it is presented.

In this investigation, the instructional module was used with three groups of individuals at the pre-service and in-service level: (a) undergraduate students, (b) graduate students, and (c) professional personnel. Projection devices were used to display the computer graphics. A Pioneer CLD-2400 videodisc player and a Panasonic 27 inch color monitor mounted on a mobile cart were used to display images from the videodisc. A Macintosh PowerBook 540C computer was used to present the computer graphics via a Proxima computer/video projector and also to control the display of audio and video images stored on the videodisc.

Each group participating in the training completed a questionnaire following the presentation to obtain feedback about their perceptions of the module content, presentation format, and procedures used in presenting the module. The response metric for the first twelve items was a five point, Likert-type scale with descriptors being strongly disagree, disagree, unsure, agree, and strongly agree. One question asked about how much the participant learned (Not much, a little, some, a lot, more than I expected). Three open-ended questions sought information about strongest aspects of the session, weakest aspects of the session, and changes that should be made if the session was to be repeated. Participants also were asked whether they would recommend the session to their colleagues (No, unsure, perhaps - with changes, definitely). A question was added to the questionnaire used with professionals to inquire about how much they knew about assistive technology prior to the session (Nothing, a little, some, a lot). Revisions were made to components of the module based upon feedback obtained from the questionnaires.

The first version of the module used the functional categories but did not contain the diagram of the functional model nor information about ADLS. It also contained additional information about legal mandates and employment opportunities in assistive technology. That module was presented to a group of 23 undergraduate students enrolled in an introduction to special education course.

Based upon feedback from that presentation, the amount of information about legal mandates was reduced, information about ADLS was added, the computer program was modified, and the presentation guide and handout were revised. The revised module was then presented to a group of 22 graduate students enrolled in a graduate version of an introductory special education class.

Feedback from the second presentation resulted in further modification in the content and format of the module. Information about employment opportunities was dropped, the functional model was added as were the problem scenarios. Additional information about sources of information for locating assistive technology was added.

The module was then used in two in-service training programs with 14 professional persons. Participants included teachers, administrators, technology specialists, college professors, and post-doctoral fellows studying applications of technology in special education. Feedback from the last two presentations has resulted in minor changes in the module. It is currently being redesigned to be used for additional in-service training programs.

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Data collected from the formative evaluation questionnaires were used to determine the reactions of participants to the assistive technology instructional module. Mean ratings for items on the feedback questionnaires are displayed in Table 1.

Table 1

Mean Ratings on Assistive Technology Training Module
Field Test Questionnaire


Undergraduate Students
(N = 23)

Graduate Students
(N = 22)

(N = 14)

Objectives were met



Content was relevant




Presenter was knowledgeable




Presenter was well-prepared




Presentation well- organized




Presentation was effective




Quality was appropriate




Visual aids were appropriate




Handouts were appropriate




Video demos were helpful




Time schedule was appropriate




Session met my expectations








An analysis of the grand means for each group, ranging from 4.2 to 4.8 on a five point scale, indicated that the module was well-received by those participating in the field tests. The lowest rated individual items related to time schedule problems. It was determined through further analyses of the open ended responses that the module contained too much material for use in an undergraduate class of 1 hour and 15 minutes. Modifications were made in content, as noted earlier, resulting in higher ratings of that item in the second and third presentations, which also were extended to slightly more than two hours in length.

Participants were positive in their reactions to the format of the module, the organization that occurred as a result of the format, and the quality of the content. Mean reactions appeared to improve from session to session, as modifications were made in the module, with ratings from the professionals approaching the ceiling of the rating scale (9 of the 12 variables were rated at 4.8 or higher on the 5 point scale).

Of particular interest was the reaction to the video anchors. Undergraduate students rated them at 4.3, graduate students at 4.8 and professionals at 5.0. When the open ended responses to the question that asked for comments about the strongest aspects of the session, 48 of the 57 responses alluded to the use of the video anchors.

Responses to the item asking for comments of the weakest aspects of the presentation were directed primarily to logistics (e.g., length problems, inability to see the screen, room temperature, sound quality). Four respondents suggested adding other activities for participants to make learning more active.

Table 2 provides data about two additional questions that were asked on the field test questionnaire. When asked how much they had learned as a result of the presentation, the majority of respondents reported that they had either learned a lot or more than they expected. The highest percentages were reported among professionals who participated in the training. This result may reflect on the changes that were made in the module as a result of the two prior field tests.

Table 2

Reactions of Participants to the Module
Undergraduate Students
(N = 23)
Graduate Students
(N = 22)
(N = 14)

How much did you learn?

Not much




A little








A lot




More than I expected




Would you recommend it to colleagues?









Perhaps, with changes








It could be argued that the reason the professionals reported the highest percentages in the amount learned was a function of lack of prior knowledge about assistive technology. In an attempt to obtain insight into this possibility, a question was added to the questionnaire that was completed by the professionals, with the following results: 7.1% reported that they knew "nothing" about assistive technology prior to the session they attended; 14.3% indicated that they new "a little" about the topic; 42.8% indicated that they new "some"; and 35.7% indicated that they new "a lot" about it.

Of particular interest, the professionals who indicated they new "a lot" prior to the session, also provided some of the highest ratings to the individual items. Those individuals also indicated that they learned "a lot" from the session; however, the nature of their written feedback indicated that they were particularly interested in the format for the module and the procedures for using video anchors. Since those individuals were responsible for conducting assistive technology training, it seems likely that they were responding to the process being used, as opposed to the content that was presented.

Data in Table 2 also indicate that participants were sufficiently satisfied with the module to recommend it to their colleagues. Again, the percentages of people increased with each revision of the module. Of particular interest is the fact that 100% of the professionals would "definitely" recommend it.

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This investigation has several limitations that should be kept in mind when considering the results. These relate to variability in the versions of the module that were field tested, sample composition, sample size, nature of the criterion measures, and characteristics of the presenters. Each of these limitations will be addressed below.

First, the three versions of the module that were presented were slightly different. Thus, it is not appropriate to aggregate the questionnaire data across groups because each group was exposed to a slightly different version of the module.

Second, there is the potential for bias in the three samples that composed the subjects for this investigation. The undergraduate and graduate students were enrolled at the University of Kentucky (UK). Some of the professionals also were enrolled part-time in advanced graduate work at UK, were members of the faculty there, were employed on projects operated in the Department of Special Education, or were UK graduates. It is unknown whether the results of this investigation will generalize to others who are not associated with UK.

Third, the sample size was relatively small, with 22 in the first group, 23 in the second group, and 14 in the third group. There is a need to expand the number of subjects in future studies using the instructional module.

Fourth, the criterion measure for evaluating the module was a self-developed questionnaire for which the reliability and validity are unknown. The two student groups were required to take examinations on the content of the module and perform a computer search for assistive technology with the ADLS computer program. While data generated from those activities were very positive (e.g., all students passed the test and all were able to present evidence of a successful computer search), those data were confounded because students were required to do additional readings about technology and lab attendants were available to assist them with computer searches. Thus, there is a need to conduct additional studies to determine whether participants can meet objectives solely on the basis of the instructional module.

Finally, the presenters of the module were its developers, who were very familiar with the topic and the materials. There is a need to determine whether the training materials are sufficiently "transportable"; that is, whether individuals can use the components of the module appropriately solely on the basis of the written instructions and whether participants that they teach meet the module objectives.

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Much was learned in the development of the assistive technology anchored instruction module that has implications for those who are involved in the design and delivery of instruction about assistive technology at either the pre-service or in-service level. A discussion of several of the most important of these follows.

Steps in Developing Anchored Instruction Modules

One of the reasons this research was undertaken was to explore the procedures that are necessary for the development of assistive technology training materials in an integrated hypermedia module based on principles of anchored instruction. Eight steps were followed in the development of the instructional module developed for the investigation. Following is a summary of those steps.

    Step 1: Develop Instructional Design Specifications

    Step 2: Obtain Audio - Visual Anchors

    Step 3: Produce Medium for Displaying Anchors

    Step 4: Design and Develop Presentation Graphics

    Step 5: Prepare Participant Handout

    Step 6: Develop Presentation Guide

    Step 7: Field Test Materials

    Step 8: Revise Materials

Those interested in the development of either pre-service or in-service training materials in assistive technology should be able to use these steps to guide their development efforts. The efforts devoted to Step 1 (Development of Instructional Design Specifications) will impact significantly on all of the following steps. The Instructional Design Specifications include the objectives for the module, procedures for evaluating whether the objectives have been met, a detailed content outline, description of learning activities and alternatives, and identification of resources that are required for its implementation.

Use a Development Team

The development of integrated hypermedia programs such as the one described in this article require specific skills related to the following areas: content specialization, video editing, hypermedia programming, graphics design, and production of print products. Development is greatly facilitated through the use of teams of people that can bring their expertise to bear on instructional module development projects.

It should be pointed out that it is not necessary to have people assigned full time to such projects. The people who were involved in the development of the assistive technology module worked on a part-time basis over the duration of the project. Specialists (e.g., graphics artists and videographers) were used for only brief periods on an as-needed basis.

Obtaining Audio-Video Anchors

The most difficult and time consuming part of this project involved the location of the audio and video clips that were used as the anchors. Most of the anchors were taken from videotapes that had been prepared by assistive technology vendors. Others were taken from video tapes and videodiscs that had been developed on projects under federal contract. A few were taken from commercially-available videodiscs.

Considerable time was required to preview these video sources and make decisions about what would be extracted for use on the videodisc that was prepared. Logs were then prepared to identify the frame numbers of the starting and ending points for each vignette. Additional time was required to obtain permissions to use the video vignettes that were to be used. After obtaining permission, the vignettes were transferred to 3/4 inch video tape that had been specially prepared with time codes and sound and color control signals for use by the facility that pressed the videodisc. (Production cost for converting the videotape to a videodisc check disc amounted to $200 for this project. Videodisc production costs by the time the project was completed had risen to $300 per disc.)

An option that exists with some topics is to use existing videodiscs that are commercially available. These can be purchased and then "repurposed" for use in anchored instruction. That is, the scenes on the videodiscs can be logged and then used, as appropriate, in a module. For example, one of the Indiana Jones series of adventure videodiscs was repurposed by researchers at Vanderbilt University for use in instructional programs. (It should be noted that videodiscs prepared in CAV format are most suitable for such purposes.)

If existing video is not available, obviously it would be necessary to shoot new video. Unless videography services are available, this can be a time consuming process. It should be noted, however, that it is not necessary to be concerned about a lot of special effects, wipes, fades, and transitions from scene to scene. Because the video anchors are quite brief and typically represent stand alone examples, they are accessed individually from the videodisc and do not require extensive editing. (This suggestion would not apply if the anchors are in story form, such as the Jasper Woodbury Problem Solving Series [Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt Learning Technology Center, 1993a] that uses adventures to anchor instruction.) It should be noted that media release forms should be obtained from any individuals (or their legal guardians) prior to videotaping them.

Copyright issues can present problems in obtaining audio-video anchors. This can be a "gray area" because of different interpretations of the copyright law. The authors have heard different opinions from lawyers about copying existing copyrighted video. One position is that it is illegal to copy any existing copyrighted video without permission. The other position is that it is permissible to copy brief selections from videotapes and other media if (a) one has purchased the original media and (b) only one copy will be made and it will be used solely for use by the agency that purchased the original medium. This latter interpretation comes under the "fair use" provision of the copyright law. Clearly, developers should check with their own legal counsel prior to proceeding with the use of previously copyrighted media. The best course of action would be to obtain permission to copy any video vignettes of interest.

Alternate Media Forms

The module developed for this investigation incorporated computers and videodiscs for presenting the video anchors. It should be noted that anchored instruction can be delivered with less sophisticated equipment. For example, overhead transparencies can be used in place of computer graphics; a hand-held remote controller or barcode reader (which accompanies some videodisc players) can be used in place of a hypermedia program to access the images from the videodisc; slides accompanied by verbal narrative can be used to present anchors; or anchors could be presented via videotape. Thus, individuals interested in developing anchored instruction should not be dissuaded from exploring this approach by the lack of high-tech equipment.

On the other hand, those who have the capability to do so may be interested in exploring higher-end technology systems for the delivery of anchored instruction. For example it would be possible to convert visual and auditory anchors to digitized form for use in programs displayed solely by computer. Procedures are now readily available to convert videos to QuickTime digital movies that can be used on both IBM-compatible and Macintosh computers. A problem with such movies is that they require considerable amounts of computer disk storage. This problem can be solved by placing the materials on CD-ROM discs. Such programs could be made for both group presentation and individual tutorials.

Logistical Requirements in Group Anchored Instruction

Instructional modules, such as this one, present some unique logistical requirements when used in group instructional programs. A videodisc player and large screen monitor are required to view the anchors. It was found that a monitor with a 27 inch screen was acceptable in a classroom holding approximately 25 people.

A computer projection system is necessary for displaying the computer graphics. It was found that an active matrix display projection pad used with a high intensity overhead projector was marginally satisfactory for such purposes. Training participants in the back of the classroom complained that images projected by such systems were somewhat difficult to read when the room lighting was at a level to facilitate note taking. It was found that a computer/video projector provided the clearest image. Unfortunately, this is also perhaps the most expensive option. An alternative to using computer projection would be to use overhead transparencies for the presentation graphics and use either a lap top computer or hand-held remote controller or barcode reader to access the anchors from the videodisc.

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Keeping in mind the above discussion and limitations, the following conclusions were drawn from this investigation:

  1. It is possible to develop assistive technology training materials in a hypermedia format that use the principles associated with anchored instruction.

  2. People respond positively to anchored instruction on the topic of assistive technology which uses a structured approach employing the use of detailed presentation scripts, framed presentation outlines, presentation graphics, and audio-video vignettes whose display is controlled by computer.

  3. Anchored instruction on assistive technology appears to have utility for pre-service training at the undergraduate and graduate levels and for in-service training of professionals.

This investigation was conducted as a formative evaluation of an instructional product. As such, the reactions obtained from those who participated in the training were useful in making revisions in both the content and the format of the instruction. Data from participants indicated that they liked the format and believed that the visual anchors were useful in facilitating their learning. There is a need, however, for additional summative research to determine whether participants actually do acquire the knowledge and skills that were specified in the module objectives.

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Adaptive Device Locator System [Computer Program]. (1991). Lexington, KY: Academic Software, Inc.

Apple Computer (1993). HyperCard [Computer Program]. Cupertino, CA: Apple Computer.

Apple Programmers and Developers Association (1993) HyperCard videodisc toolkit user's guide. Cupertino, CA: Apple Computer.

Baker, R. L., & Schutz, R. E. (Eds.). (1971). Instructional product development. NY: Nostrand Reinhold Co.

Blackhurst, A. E. (1993). The development of special education. In A. E. Blackhurst & W. H. Berdine (Eds.). An introduction to special education (3rd Ed., pp. 4-35). New York: HarperCollins.

Blackhurst, A. E., & Cross, D. P. (1993). Technology in special education. In A. E. Blackhurst & W. H. Berdine (Eds.). An introduction to special education (3rd Ed., pp. 77-103). New York: HarperCollins.

Blackhurst, E. E., & Lahm, E. A. (2000). Technology and exceptionality foundations. In J. D. Lindsey (Ed.) Technology and exceptional individuals (3rd. Ed., pp. 3-45). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Blackhurst, A. E., MacArthur, C. A., & Byrom, E. (1988). Microcomputing competencies for special education professors. Teacher Education and Special Education, 10, 153-160.

Brown J. S., Collins, A., & Duiguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 17, 32-41.

CO-NET [CD-ROM]. (1995). Madison, WI: Trace Research and Development Center, University of Wisconsin.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1990). Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition. Educational Researcher, 19(6), 2-10.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt Learning Technology Center. (1993a). Anchored instruction and situated cognition revisited. Educational Technology, 33(3), 52-70.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt Learning Technology Center. (1993b). Integrated media: Toward a theoretical framework for utilizing their potential. Journal of Special Education Technology, 12(2), 75-89.

Hasselbring, T. S. (June 1, 1994). Anchored instruction - Why are we here? Presentation conducted at the Advanced Institute on Anchored MultiMedia for Enhancing Teacher Education. Nashville, TN.

Howell, G. T. (1992). Building hypermedia applications: A software development guide. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Melichar, J. F., & Blackhurst, A. E. (1991). Introduction to a functional approach to assistive technology. Lexington, KY: Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling, University of Kentucky.

Office of Special Education Programs (1994). Fiscal year 1995 application for new grants: Technology, educational media, and materials for individuals with disabilities program (CFDA No. 84.180U). Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Education.

Sherwood, R. D., Kinzer, C. I., Hasselbring, T. S., & Bransford, J. D. (1987). Macro-context for learning: Initial findings and issues. Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, 1, 93-108.

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Since this research was concluded, the instructional module has been used to train a team of 35 Special Education School Based Consultants in Fayette County Schools in Lexington, Kentucky. It also has been used to provide statewide training to Physical Therapists and Speech/Language Pathologists in Kentucky via compressed interactive video.

Development efforts are continuing. NATRI staff are in the process of obtaining and developing new video anchors, which are being used to prepare a CD-ROM and accompanying computer program. This will enable individuals to use the materials for self-study as well as providing a more accessible medium for those who are interested in using the module for group instruction.

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Using Anchored Instruction to Teach about Assistive Technology( © 1996) was conducted by A. Edward Blackhurst and Timothy E. Morris. At the time this research was conducted, Blackhurst was a Professor and Principal Investigator of the University of Kentucky Assistive Technology (UKAT) Project in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Kentucky. Morse was a doctoral student and Research Assistant in Special Education. The report can be duplicated and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided this credit is included.

A copyrighted version of this article is available that includes screen displays of the various computer graphics that were presented and an illustration of the framed presentation outline that was used as a participant handout:

Blackhurst, A. E., & Morris, T. E. (1996). Using anchored instruction to teach about assistive technology. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 11(3), 131-141

Development of the materials for this project was supported, in part, by Grant #H029K90220 National Assistive Technology Training System, Grant #H029D20063-95 Doctoral Program in Special Education Technology, and Grant #H180U50025 Examination of the Effectiveness of a Functional Approach to the Delivery of Assistive Technology Services in Schools from the Office of Special Education Programs, U. S. Department of Education. Portable videodisc projection equipment for the delivery of training was purchased with a grant from the Interdisciplinary Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky.

The information and conclusions presented in this report do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the funding agencies.

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