A Trip Down Technology and Special Education Memory Lane

Posted by Matt Berringer on November 4, 2015

Holly Lupo, IEPPLUS Development
Special EducationHave you ever thought about how far we’ve come in the last 50 years with regard to special education and technology? I remember manual typewriters, IBM selectrics, key punch machines, mimeograph machines, the first IBM and Apple computers and portable laptops, not to mention cell phones that were as big as a suitcase.

I remember receiving a support call from a district staff member back in the old days. I instructed her to put a floppy disk (5 ¼) into her computer’s drive and close the door. There was a short silence followed by the sound of the classroom door closing. New staff today may have never even heard of a 5 ¼ floppy drive; even a 3 ½ diskette looks more like a fancy coaster than anything else. A floppy drive, what’s that? Do you mean a CD, DVD, or USB thumb drive? Why don’t they just use the cloud?

Here’s another chuckle: Back in the beginning, a user physically picked up the mouse when asked to point to the menu option on the screen and then physically tried to use it on the screen instead of moving the mouse on the desk to have the arrow point to their selection. Now computers, keyboards, mice, and software are taken for granted as part of the way things have always been.

Thinking back, an IEP did not even exist until 1975, and it was completely handwritten. Multiple copies had to be made for the parent, the teacher, the file cabinet, and anyone else requesting one. Modifying a single goal, service, or section of the IEP was a major production as the form or entire pages had to be rewritten by hand or typed with typewriters without autocorrect. Those were the days.

Back in the day software programs had size limitations and had to fit on those floppy drives—technology was very limiting. Today we have available almost unlimited storage, instant access, multiple choice selections, graphs, charts, and a keyboard of all sorts right at our finger tips.

Miniature desktops, laptops, iPads, and tablets are now a common sight in classrooms, and students are being taught using various computer programs. Staff members all have access to a student’s IEP with a touch of a button at any time, even from home when a teacher needs to view the IEP while communicating with a parent after school/work.

Have you thought about how software must respond to:

  • Different operating languages: Apple computers or iPhones, Android, and IBM computers, not to mention the various languages in which software can be written.
  • Visual look and screen size: To go from a computer monitor (whatever size you use), to a laptop (again different sizes), to current technology that now includes tablets and smartphones.
  • Constant regulation changes: Each state has their own ideas and different set of forms, which are constantly changed, moved around, new requirements added, as well as adding new forms. In addition to the surprise changes that may go into effect the day they are released by the state.

As you can tell, I’ve been around a long time and so has IEPPLUS. As mentioned above, we have seen many changes to special education and technology. Our goal is to continue to adapt to the ever-changing rules, regulations, and technology enhancements and to continue to make things easier for your staff who service special needs students. We want to assist your staff in communicating with each other easily with regard to a student, so that student can achieve success. Just think, these students will then be able to continue on the technology and teaching journey. To boldly go where no one has gone before.

Topics: iepplus, EdTech News and Info, Opinion, Holly Lupo