For 10 years, Illinois State University’s Special Education Assistive Technology (SEAT) Center has been preparing future teachers to better educate students with disabilities and making significant contributions to its field.

A teacher who understands how to use assistive technology (AT) in the classroom can help visually impaired students learn at the same rate as classmates, empower children with physical disabilities to speak or move in ways that spare them from social and physical isolation, and enable children with learning disabilities to succeed in a general education curriculum.
“With the increasing presence of 21st century technologies in our society, and their potential to meaningfully support all students in today’s schools, the SEAT Center remains committed to preparing future education professionals to effectively integrate a wide array of technologies into the learning experiences of all children with disabilities,” said Phil Parette, special education professor and director of the SEAT Center.

The SEAT Center has supported every student majoring in education at Illinois State over the past 10 years, including over 5,000 students enrolled in Department of Special Education courses and over 1,200 in other College of Education courses. Nearly 9,000 general education majors have had hands-on AT experience though the Instructional Technology Passport System: Competency H (Assistive Technology). The SEAT Center has also provided nearly 20,000 open laboratory hours to over 17,000 students to support the curriculum.

“Since 2001 the professional education unit at Illinois State University has been able to assure our P-12 school partners that an Illinois State teacher education graduate has had the most current training available to address the needs of all learners,” said Deborah Curtis, College of Education dean. “Demonstrating competency with assistive technology means that our teacher candidates have developed a toolkit to aid them in individualizing instruction for each student within the classroom in order to meet the learner at his or her own level. This is not a commitment that many other institutions can make. We are indeed fortunate to have this amazing resource available to our faculty and teacher candidates as they strive to transform 21st century learning.”

In addition to preparing future teachers at Illinois State, SEAT Center faculty members and staff conduct research on best practices in AT instruction and maximizing the use of AT devices to meet the needs of individuals, families and schools. They have researched and developed curricula and discipline-specific technology recommendations including early childhood, speech/language pathology, special education, music, and psychology. The SEAT Center is highly visible in the field, conducting more than 200 workshops in local, state, and national education venues. Since 2004, they have collaborated with the Assistive Technology Industry Association to publish a peer-reviewed AT journal, Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits, and contributed to 149 other peer-reviewed publications. The SEAT Center has secured funding in excess of $1.7 million and has created and maintained an equipment and software inventory with a market value exceeding $630,000.