MARINA DEL REY, CA — A consortium of leaders in special education and digital learning have launched a National Educational Technology Center supported by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Funding will establish and support the Center for Innovation, Design, and Digital Learning (CIDDL) for five years. CIDDL will build collaborative networks, spur innovation, and increase understanding of how technology can be harnessed to improve the education of students with disabilities.
“As someone who supports early intervention and early childhood special education service delivery for children with or at risk for disabilities, I know that digital tools provide a powerful means to promote equity and access. During COVID we saw how young children and their families experienced gaps in service delivery with unexpected transitions to virtual and distance models. In the end CIDDL will help all of us do better, including those of us in higher education who train educators to support children and their families.” said Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman at the University of Kansas.
Focused on higher education faculty, leadership preparation, early intervention providers, and teacher educators CIDDL will determine needs, develop research opportunities, offer professional development, and secure funding for innovation. At its core, CIDDL aims to ignite collaboration and inspire innovation to fully realize the benefits of technology for educating students with disabilities.
“Collaboration can be a great opportunity to improve how technology can be a bigger part of our teaching and how we serve students,” said Yong Zhao. “Before the pandemic, many teachers were thinking about it, and are now embracing it after seeing how technology can present new ways to serve students.”
CIDDL was designed based on the belief that collaboration across disciplines and throughout stakeholder groups can inspire new ways to educate students with disabilities. CIDDL brings together thought leaders, researchers, personnel preparation stakeholders, and designers from the University of Kansas, the University of Central Florida, CAST, and the Metiri Group.
“Research has already shown us that students with disabilities were substantially underserved with virtual and distance learning during COVID. We have to be sure that every teacher and leader in education is ready and sees the potential in design and digital learning for every student,” said Dr. Jody Britten, Senior Associate at Metiri Group and Leadership at CIDDL.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented serious challenges to schools and educators around the world, CIDDL leadership say it has also shown how limitations can lead to innovation and solving problems. Teachers have been required to use technology in new ways and opened the door for new ideas.
“We’ve known for decades that use of technology in practice tends to be difficult for people in education to conceptualize. We believe the field has a lot of innovative potential, our job will be to elevate those conversations, and bring innovations forward. If we do this right, we can transform the field by empowering people to work together,” said Jamie Basham at the University of Kansas.