WEC
Westchester Exceptional Children's School
520 Route 22 North Salem NY 10560
  
Westchester Exceptional Children’s School
Technology Plan 2015-2016
Executive Summary
 
Introduction
Founded in 1969, WEC is a non-profit; New York State approved special education day facility, located in Westchester County, NY, serving up to 88 students from 36 school districts and nine counties in NY, CT and New York City.  Our educational mission establishes that each child, no matter how disabled, is a valuable individual capable of high achievement and worthy of society’s best efforts. WEC meets the educational, social and emotional needs of students with autism, communication or behavior disorders or medically fragile children through individualized educational programming.  WEC prepares the children and youth to graduate into workshops or mainstream public schools by giving them the opportunity and tools to achieve and succeed.   WEC has received statewide recognition for its vocational program.  WEC offers each student and his/her family the following: life skills training; individualized special education; speech therapy; adaptive physical education; Prevocational Work Activities Center; vocational training; a 12-month school year; individual psychological counseling; testing; group therapy; parent training and counseling; and sibling therapy.
 
The goals of the Technology Plan center on using technology to further our vision of academic excellence as well as ensuring that students demonstrate proficiency in Information, Media and Technology Literacy Standards as led by the Media and Technology Program. In a time when change is the rule rather than the exception, students need to learn how to adapt to the explosion of new information. In effect, teaching them how to learn is the most critical responsibility we have to our students.  It is not only about what we teach; it is about how we teach it.  The Technology Plan’s goals speak to the larger issues of preparing our students for their future, providing professional learning for teachers to use information technology tools and resources in the everyday business of teaching, and ensuring proper and adequate funding and resources necessary to equip our classrooms for teaching digitally.
 
Vision for Educational Technology
The changes in our world have introduced an urgent need to teach students skills that transcend across all curricular areas.  The 21st century classroom will ensure that technology is an integral and ubiquitous part of a flexible and relevant environment.  Students will be challenged to use technology and information resources responsibly and to think critically and creatively to solve problems effectively and efficiently.
 
Educational Technology Mission
The U.S. Dept. of Education acknowledges that a fast-growing world of technologies has the potential to bring remarkable new possibilities to teaching and learning--helping teachers work smarter and making learning more engaging for students. These technological innovations can help teachers make schools into incubators of exploration and invention. In particular, special education teachers are constantly trying to enhance their techniques as they teach students with diverse needs and abilities. WECS recognizes the usefulness of new technology in meeting the multiple and varied needs of students who are physically and mentally disabled. In order to meet our goal, serving the many needs of our students through innovative technology, we prioritize Internet speed, and have exceeded the FCC minimum speed standard. The Internet connection at WECS operates at a speed of 337.5 MB per 1,000 students.
Technology in education is a teaching and learning tool, that when used effectively, will support and help transform how we interact, produce and seek personal growth and enjoyment.  We expect effective, competent, and purposeful use of technology by administrators, teachers, and students to establish seamless integration of technology on a daily basis throughout the curriculum an extracurricular activities.
Core Beliefs for Educational Technology
The use of technology in our program supports our goals to foster independence, knowledge, and confidence through a curriculum that addresses the individual needs of each student.  Each of these technology tools helps us in our overall objectives, which include:
  • To create a customized, comprehensive curriculum for each child that strengthens reading, writing, math, and science abilities;
  • To provide learning opportunities for children that help them communicate effectively, acquire and use problem solving skills, and positively interact with peers;
  • To increase the ability of each student to learn independently through customized, high-tech learning tools;
  • To offer a variety of extracurricular enrichment programs that include homework assistance and learning strategies, enhance computer skills, encourage creativity, and foster social interaction;
  • To improve social competence and encourage appropriate behavior through daily practice;
  • To increase students' level of independence and self-reliance;
  • To provide realistic life experiences for children with disabilities that prepare them to live in their community.
  • Engagement and learning increase with the use of technology.
  • Technology supports differentiation of learning.
  • Active participation and contributions to the learning process increase with the use of technology.
  • Project and inquiry based learning experiences are enhanced with the use of technology.
  • Technology skills are best learned in context through project and inquiry-based learning.
  • Technology supports broader collaboration opportunities both locally and globally.
  • 21st century communication requires fluency in the use of technology.
 

Our core beliefs for educational technology are based on research studies and observations recounted in the literature.  Case studies, longitudinal research studies and day-to-day anecdotal evidence point to confirmation that effective use of proven instructional strategies with technology improves student learning by reaching diverse learning modalities, supporting differentiation, and by definition, require authentic, project-based and inquiry learning. 
 
Review
WECS currently has a robust Wi-Fi network, offering sufficient bandwidth to meet student demand. We have over 130 IP addresses, more than enough to handle a wireless connection for each of our 80 students and 40 teachers in the school.
 
The iPad program was initiated at WEC in 2012. Thanks to generous funding, WEC has been able to purchase 80+ iPads (one for each of our students). We are now seeking funding to purchase much-needed replacement iPads for those that are either damaged or not working along with related software applications.
 
WEC’s iPad program has made a huge difference to the students in every facet of their school lives including academics, communication skills, functional skills, social skills and more. Thanks to this funding, no child will be without an iPad if theirs breaks because we will have a readily available replacement units.
 
2015-2016 Focus Areas / Technology Plan Goals & Strategies:
Purposeful use of technologies and digital tools is a centerfold of the 21st Century classroom. In the years, to come, the school is committed to moving forward to address our vision by improving access, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness of technology resources and tools to meet a variety of student learning needs within the context of a challenging economic reality.  As such, the District Technology Planning and Advisory Committee explored the top technology trends and explored how these trends will help to support our vision.
 
The Trends reflect the priorities of the Plan for the future and include purchase of the following:  
 
#1. Thirty iPads with related software applications:The iPad program was initiated at WEC in 2012. Thanks to generous funding, WEC has been able to purchase 80+ iPads (one for each of our students). We are now seeking funding to purchase much-needed replacement iPads for those that are either damaged or not working along with related software applications.
WEC’s iPad program has made a huge difference to the students in every facet of their school lives including academics, communication skills, functional skills, social skills and more. Thanks to this funding, no child will be without an iPad if theirs breaks because we will have a readily available replacement units.
 
#2. 3 Xcellon 10-port Powered USB 3.0 Aluminum Hub Charging Stations: These would be used to charge iPads, primarily, but may be used with any USB devices. The aluminum hub is durable, and it dissipates heat, which eliminates the risk of burns for students who might inadvertently touch it. These qualities are important as we work with students who may have motor control issues.
 
# 3. 22 Laptops:
 
14 HP Stream 11-R020NR 11.6” Notebooks, with Celeron N3050 1.6 ghz processor, 2 GB RAM, and 32 GB solid-state drive. This would allow us to equip each classroom with a small laptop for student use as well as NY State student testing.
6 HP Pavilion 15-P390 15.6” Touchscreen Notebooks, with A-Series A10-7300 1.9 ghz processor, 8 GB RAM, and 1 TB hard drive. This purchase would enable all of our teachers to have touch screen laptops in the classroom for school use. This would enable them to maintain student records, access students’ health histories and special needs, stay abreast of best practices in special education, communicate with administrators, and build student curriculum. The touch screen makes for quick and convenient access to programs and files. If a teacher were to use this with students, the touch screen would also give students an easy way to interact with the technology, as many who are enrolled in our program are lacking in fine motor skills.
2 Apple Macbook Air Notebooks, with an Intel Core i5 1.6 ghz processor, 4 GB RAM, and 128 GB solid-state drive. These notebooks would be used for mac-based learning in our technology class and would allow us to use a greater range of Mac-based educational software. They would provide compatibility between iPads and would be used to help keep our fleet of iPads updated. Long battery life, its lightweight profile, and durable nature allows for greater portability around the school.
 
#4. 1 Mobile SMART Board, an SB480i6 series interactive whiteboard with a SMART UF70 projector. The SMART Board is a touch-sensitive whiteboard that is connected to a computer and a projector. Lessons or presentations are made on computer programs and then the projector displays the image onto the whiteboard. The computer is then controlled by either using a finger to open or close programs and move objects, or by electronic pens to write words. It is a tool that is invaluable for classrooms, allowing for increased accessibility for different types of learners. SMART Boards provide support for students’ visual, auditory, physical and mobility, as well as social and communication needs.
 
WEC’s goal is to provide a SMART Board for every classroom. At present, WEC serves students, ages 5-21, in 12 classrooms. However, we only have 3 SMART Boards. Two of these SMART Boards are portable and the classroom teachers share them. This means each classroom only gets to use them every few weeks. The SMART Board we will purchase is also mounted on casters so it can easily be moved from room to room. This will allow our classrooms to have more regular and consistent access to SMART Board technology. The projector can support playback for a number of devices beyond the SMART Board, including DVD players, computers, iPads, and more.
 
With a SMART Board in every classroom, we anticipate that our students will increase their skill building and become more engaged in the learning process.
 
Because disabilities vary from student to student, the iPad, which can be customized, is of great benefit. For instance, a student who is verbal can utilize academic iPad software (math, science, English, and reading), while a student who is non-verbal could use an application like Proloquo2Go, which provides a full-featured communication solution. This ability to provide individualized instruction for children is valuable, especially at a school where so many of our students have a number of special needs.
 
WEC Teacher Danielle Vought has stated, “One of the best things about IXL (app for iPad) is that students can access it from school and from home. This program works very well for my students.  The program is fun, animated and colorful! The kids get excited to work for their ‘reward’ at the end of the skill.” 
 
After four years of having iPads in the classroom, evaluations, including diagnostic tools, adaptive behavior scales, behavior checklists, independent living screening tests, standardized assessments, and classroom observations consistently demonstrate that 75% of our students are able to read – an outstanding rate given the development disabilities of the population we serve. 100% of students have been better able to control their outbursts and work independently and the attention spans of the students have increased by 50%.  Since the initiation of the program, there has been an increase in the number of students who have been able to enter public education in special or typical classrooms.  The iPad has proven to be a great equalizer, one of WEC’s main goals, as it is customizable for all 80 of our students.
 
Thanks to the use of iPads in the classroom, we anticipate the following long-term outcomes: 1)68 children (85%) will test at a higher level of receptive and expressive language skills; 2)76 children (95%) will improve their story and language comprehension by half a grade level; 3)64 children (80%) of children will attain a higher level of cognitive development as demonstrated by the ability to follow instructions and event sequencing testing; 4) 64 children (80%) will demonstrate a higher level of frustration tolerance as noted by staff observation; 5) 72 children (90%) will demonstrate positive social skills (patience, taking turns, etc.) as noted by staff observation; 6) 76 children (95%) will demonstrate the ability to work independently as noted by staff observation; 7) 76 children (95%) will increase their engagement in the learning process, as evidenced through testing and classroom participation.
 
The SMART Board also allows teachers to address different learning styles - visual, auditory and kinesthetic. It engages all types of students and facilitates differentiated instruction. A SMART Board helps students with autism, for example, improve communication skills through group collaboration (Vanderleer, 2007). The interactive whiteboard gives educators the ability to present things visually, and provides ease in creating and altering activities. Many of the students we serve have not yet developed all the fine motor skills necessary to operate a mouse. When using the SMART Board, a student's finger becomes the "mouse", and he or she can move or touch anywhere on the screen with ease.
 
With access to SMART Boards, we anticipate that 100% of students will be more engaged in the learning process; 70% of students will increase their attention span and ability to focus; 50% of students will have improved cognition; and 60% of students with autism and communication difficulties will improve their communication skills through group collaboration.
 
Additionally, we anticipate the following long-term outcomes thanks to the use of the SMART Board in the classroom: 1) Students at WEC will learn at a faster rate from improved differentiated instruction strategies facilitated by use of the SMART Board, helping some to transition more quickly back to a mainstream school setting. 2) Students will have improved ability to work independently, which will help them in their transition to post-WEC life in the community. 3) Teachers at WEC have a long-term tool for rapid assessment, whereby learners can receive immediate feedback. Teachers will be able to quickly identify individual strengths and weaknesses in various subject areas and isolate areas/topics that need more focus or review.
 
Research has shown that the use of laptops by special education students has increased engagement in school work, increased students’ motivation to work independently, and improved class participation and social interaction with other students (Harris and Smith, 2004). The use of laptops and regular access to the internet in the classroom will expand student learning outside of the classroom, allowing students access to stories, images, sound, and research from all over the world. Teachers will also benefit from laptops in creating specialized curriculum for special needs students, and will have access allowing them to research best practices in special education. In a 2004 study from the University of Southern Maine, more than 70% of surveyed teachers reported that the laptops helped them to more effectively meet their curriculum goals, and individualize their curriculum to meet particular student needs. Over 75% of the teachers reported that having the laptops helped them better meet the statewide learning standards (Silvernail and Lane, 2004).
 
Teachers who use online tools to share information with parents will have an easier time accessing and updating student progress via the laptops. They will have an easier time communicating with colleagues, support staff, and administrative officials.  Through the laptops, teachers have access to the Individualized Education Program (IEP) belonging to each student.  Using this plan, they work with support staff, administration, and family members to be sure every child is meeting his or her goals and making appropriate progress. The use of a laptop in each classroom will allow for more efficient communication between all stakeholders.
The apps that students interact with via iPads and the SMART Board will be available for home use.  We estimate that 75% of our families have iPads or computers at home that allow students to continue learning after the school day is over.
All teachers, administrators, and support staff members receive ongoing training and professional development related to classroom technology. We employ a technology expert who manages all our computers, iPads and SMART Boards. The administrative staff, in collaboration with our IT employee, develops and implement training depending on the needs of the teachers and support staff. As most teachers are familiar with and use iPads, laptops, and SMART Boards on a daily basis, the need for intensive training will be minimal.
In developing this Plan, the Technology Planning Committee considered the reality of the current economic condition while ensuring that our students have access to the tools that will best meet the needs of our students and teachers.  The following are the goals and strategies for 2015-2016.  Finally, we will meet periodically each year to review and evaluate the success of this plan and reserve the option to change this Plan based on changing conditions, needs and funding.
 
Future Goals:
Develop a continuous process of evaluation and accountability for the use of educational technology as a teaching and learning tool, a measurement and analysis tool for student achievement, and a fiscal management tool.