Enhancing Professional Development in Special Education Through the Web, by Jennifer A. Gold
Continually seeking new methods of delivering information, NCIP designed and is currently implementing the first in a series of virtual team meetings, or online workshops. Entitled, "READY! SETT! GO!," this free, four-week online workshop focuses on the SETT Framework for selecting assistive technology, developed by Joy Zabala, an educational specialist at Region IV Education Service Center in Houston, TX. Facilitated by Joy, 15-20 participants from around the country engage in conversation through email and a HyperNews gateway system on NCIP's Web site. Similar to a traditional workshop environment, educators learn about the SETT framework, analyze a case study, work through a hypothetical assistive technology assessment, discuss plans for implementing ideas into the classroom, and reflect and report back on their experiences.
NCIP recognizes that since one of the most valuable forms of staff development is the study group (Whitaker, 1996), the benefits of a virtual workshop for educators are limitless; learning under the tutelage of an expert in the field, collaboration with those with similar roles and responsibilities, and access to information and resources, all less the normal constraints of time and distance that presuppose attending a workshop or course. As Whitaker concurs, "[they] start to fall apart when people don't have enough time to attend meetings."
NCIP recognizes that one way around this--and as an additional option to the less structured environment of the online events--is to set up an environment for interaction and teamwork to occur electronically. This conversational environment, coupled with supplementary resources that can be printed out and read off-line, once again lends itself to NCIP's model of integration of information in various formats.