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Review article

Identifying emerging trends for implementing learning


technology in special education: A state-of-the-art review
of selected articles published in 20082012
Gi-Zen Liu*, No-Wei Wu, Yi-Wen Chen
Foreign Languages & Literature Department, Foreign Language Center, National Cheng Kung University, 1, University Road, Tainan 701,
Taiwan
Contents
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3619
1.1. Denition of learning technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3619
1.2. Special education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3620
2. Literature review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3620
2.1. Categories of research aims regarding LT implementations the eld of special education. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3620
2.2. Findings and inspiration from the previous studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3620
3. Method. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3620
3.1. Data sources and criteria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3620
4. Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3621
Research in Developmental Disabilities 34 (2013) 36183628
A R T I C L E I N F O
Article history:
Received 26 May 2013
Received in revised form 3 July 2013
Accepted 9 July 2013
Available online 22 August 2013
Keywords:
Learning technology
Special education
Review
Learning disabilities
A B S T R A C T
As electronic learning (e-learning) becomes increasingly popular in education worldwide,
learning technology (LT) has been applied in various learning environments and activities
to promote meaningful, efcient, and effective learning. LT has also been adopted by
researchers and teacher-practitioners in the eld of special education, but as yet little
review-based research has been published. This review research thus carefully examined
the trends of LT implementations in special education, providing a comprehensive analysis
of 26 studies published in indexed journals in the past ve years (20082012). Two
research questions were addressed: (a) What are the major research aims, methodologies,
and outcomes in these studies of implementing LT in the eld of special education? and (b)
What types of LT are mainly used with special education students, and for what kinds of
students? Major ndings include that examining the learning effectiveness of LT using was
the most common research purpose (75%); researchers primarily relied on experimental
studies (46%, 12 studies), followed by interviews and questionnaires (19%, 5 studies).
Moreover, the most common use of LT was computer-assisted technology (such as web-
based mentoring, educational computer games, laptop computers) in special education;
studies investigating the use of LT with mentally disabled students were more than those
with physically disabled ones. It is expected that the ndings of this work and their
implications will serve as valuable references with regard to the use of LT with special
education students.
2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +886 952179024; fax: +886 6 2387730.
E-mail addresses: gizen@mail.ncku.edu.tw, gizenliu@gmail.com (G.-Z. Liu).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Research in Developmental Disabilities
0891-4222/$ see front matter 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2013.07.007
4.1. Distribution of research aims . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3621
4.2. Distribution of research methodologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3623
4.3. Distribution of research outcomes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3623
4.4. Distribution of LT use. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3624
4.5. Distribution of the type of disabilities. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3625
5. Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3625
5.1. Most studies focus on effectiveness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3625
5.2. Most studies adopted experimental studies, interviews and questionnaires as the primary research methods . . . 3625
5.3. The implications of positive and negative outcomes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3625
5.4. Computer-assisted technology is most widely used in special education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3626
5.5. LT is more often applied to mentally disabled students rather than physically disabled ones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3626
6. Limitations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3626
7. Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3626
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3626
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3627
1. Introduction
Learning technology (LT) refers to a wide range of technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching and
assessment in education (Jonassen, 2004; Liu, Liu, & Hwang, 2011; Liu, 2008; Rushby & Seabrook, 2008; Tsai & Hwang, 2013).
As electronic learning (e-learning) becomes increasingly popular, LT has been widely accepted and applied into many
learning environments and activities (e.g., Chen, Shih, & Liu, 2013; Chiu & Liu, 2013; Evans, 2008; Liu, Lo, & Wang, 2013;
Spence & Liu, 2013; Sun, Tsai, Finger, Chen, & Yeh, 2008; Yesilyurt, 2011). These developments have prompted educators and
researchers to develop a number of educational applications for LT to improve both teaching practices and learning
outcomes.
Recently, LT has also been applied in the eld of special education, and both teachers and students claim that it not only
helps improve academic achievement, but also makes learning activities easier (Chiang & Jacobs, 2010). Two literature
reviews (Fitzgerald, Koury, & Mitchem, 2008; Pennington, 2010) have synthesized studies of implementing LT into special
education. Fitzgerald et al. (2008) reviewed the use of technology to teach students with autism spectrum disorders, while
Pennington (2010) examined the literature on the effects of computer-mediated instruction on the learning outcomes of
students with mild and moderate disabilities. While these two studies provide valuable information, both only focused on
one type of disability, and they did not examine or categorize research trends in terms of research aims, methodologies, and
outcomes. It is these gaps in the literature that the current study addresses.
Based on a literature review conducted by Wu et al. (2012), the research trends of mobile learning studies in education
have been categorized into three main areas: evaluating the effectiveness of mobile learning, the design of educational
activities, and users affective responses. This categorization system was adopted in the present study to examine the
research aims of the focal literature for two reasons. First, mobile learning is one kind of LT (Liu & Hwang, 2010), which is also
the main focus of the present study, although the current work broadens the research area from mobile devices to all kinds of
learning technology, including computer assisted technology. Second, both the earlier and the current study examine
education, with the former taking a broader view, while this one only looks at the eld of special education.
In sum, the aim of the current study was to identify the research directions, methods and trends in the related literature
over the past ve years, from 2008 to 2012. It practically provides an organized framework for researchers and teacher-
practitioners planning further LT studies and activities.
1.1. Denition of learning technology
Learning technology (LT) refers to a wide range of technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching and
assessment (Liu, 2008; Liu & Hwang, 2010; Rushby & Seabrook, 2008). Liu and Hwang (2010) also use this term to refer to
electronic devices as well as information and communication technology (ICT) which can be used to develop new knowledge
and skills in all kinds of educational elds, including special education.
Three components of the paradigm shift that has occurred in e-learning are from e-learning to mobile learning (m-
learning; Hsu, Hwang, & Chang, 2013; Liu & Hwang, 2010), and then to context-aware ubiquitous learning (u-learning;
Hwang, Kuo, Yin, & Chuang, 2010; Hwang, Tsai, Chu, & Kinshuk Chen, 2012; Hwang, Tsai, & Yang, 2008; Liu & Hwang, 2010).
In the present study, LT will only refer to the electronic devices and ICT used in e-learning and m-learning. LT in e-learning
includes computer-assisted programs, specic software and computer networks; LT in m-learning includes any mobile
devices (such as smart phones, tablet PCs, iPad, iPods) which are capable of wireless communication (Kagohara et al., 2013).
The reason why u-learning applications (such as QR codes, RFID, and GPS) were not examined in this work is because in the
studies we examined applications of LT in u-learning have not been applied in the eld of special education yet.
Different terms were used to refer to similar concept of LT. Fitzgerald et al. (2008) used the term computer-related
instruction to indicate teaching instructions that had LT involved in. Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) also referred to
the use of LT in teaching in Penningtons (2010) study. The current paper will refer to them as LT.
G.-Z. Liu et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 34 (2013) 36183628 3619
1.2. Special education
Sometimes special education will be used exchangeably with special needs education, for people who are either mentally
or physically disabled, they need special care, equipment, and necessities to help them live well (Florian, 2007). The general
categories of special education include intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders (ASD),
emotional or behavioral disorders (ADHD), hearing impairment, speech and language disorders, vision impairment,
physically disabilities, and cerebral palsy (Florian, 2007). This work thus reviewed the studies which clearly state that the
focal learners fall into one or more of the above categories.
2. Literature review
2.1. Categories of research aims regarding LT implementations the eld of special education
Based on Wu et al. (2012), we found that previous studies of implementing LT in special education fall into three broad
research directions: evaluating the effectiveness of using LT with special education students (e.g., Levy & Lahav, 2012; Garcia,
Loureiro, Gonzalez, Riveiro, & Sierra, 2011; Ferna ndez-Lo pez, Rodrguez-Fo rtiz, Rodrguez-Almendros, & Martnez-Segura,
2013); designing educational activities with the use of LT (e.g., Chu, Chen, Lin, Liao, & Chen, 2009; Ari & Inan, 2010); and
special education students and teachers affective responses toward LT (e.g., Dincyurek, Arsan, & Caglar, 2011; Campigotto,
McEwen, & Demmans Epp, 2013).
Researchers have used various different methodologies to examine how LT impacts the learning outcomes of special
education students. For example, studies have examined which approaches, including traditional instructional ones and
those applying LT, are more benecial to special educational students, based on literature review (Fitzgerald et al., 2008), as
well as an indepth discussion of how LT has helped mentally disabled students to develop their psychomotor abilities (Karal,
Kokoc, & Ayyldz, 2010), and a qualitative and quantitative investigation of special educational students affective respones
regarding the use of LT (Dincyurek, Arsan, & Caglar, 2011). In brief, different research methodologies can lead to research
outcomes with different breadths and depths, and thus inspire further researches in various directions.
2.2. Findings and inspiration from the previous studies
Two previous literature reviews examined the research trends with regard to the use of computer-related instruction
with special education students. Fitzgerald et al. (2008) considered the effects of computer-mediated instruction on
the learning of students with mild and moderate disabilities, based on a review of studies from 1996 to 2006. Empirically
based ndings were reviewed and discussed in the basic skills areas of reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as in the
content areas of social studies and science. The results were interpreted and discussed regarding traditional teaching
methodologies in special education, as well as changes in the instructional ecology and expectations for students created by
the inclusion movement and reforms in general education.
Pennington (2010) reviewed research conducted between the years 1997 and 2008 that examined the use of computer-
assisted instruction (CAI) to teach academic skills to students with autism. The author concluded that CAI was effective for
teaching a limited set of academic skills to individuals with autism, although functional relations were found in few of the
single-case designs, and none of the group designs included a control group.
Inspired by these two earlier work, the present study extend its research scope by investigating how the use of LT,
including computer-related technology and mobile devices, has been implemented in the eld of special education, based on
a review of several studies published from 2008 to 2012.
Specically, two research questions are examined in this work: (1) What are the major research aims, methodologies, and
outcomes addressed in the studies on implementing LT in the eld of special education? (2) What types of LT are mainly used
with special education students, and what types of disabilities do the students have?
3. Method
Our review was conducted from a data pool consisting of two databases, which are the ISI Web of Science (WOS) and
Science Direct. The selected papers were examined in two phases with different exclusion criteria. Through these
procedures, the rest of papers were conrmed to include in our survey.
3.1. Data sources and criteria
In the rst phase, 118 studies were obtained from both databases, including 33 duplications, giving a total of 85 papers.
The search terms included combined terms, e.g. technology learning AND special education, e-learning AND special
education, computer AND special education and digital learning AND special education. The quotation marks mean that
the words must appear as a phrase, to avoid non-related studies being returned, like special needs for education. In addition,
the inclusion criteria are that all the works are research or review articles published between 2008 and 2012. However, it
should be noted that in order to include the latest research, we also included papers published in January of 2013, since the
current study was conducted at the beginning of 2013.
G.-Z. Liu et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 34 (2013) 36183628 3620
Next, the abstract of the 85 studies was examined by both authors of the present study. Studies were excluded based on
the following ve criteria, including: (a) the LT was not used for educational aims, (b) the disabilities of the students were not
clearly identied, (c) the study does not examine educational activities that implement LT, (d) the focus of the study is not on
the learning outcomes of the students, and (e) the study is not related to the focus of the current work (e.g., it discusses safe
spaces for special education students, provides suggestions for students in the prison, examines how special education
policies are developed). If the information contained in the abstract was not clear enough to categorize the article, the
researchers examined the full text.
This survey aimed to include only high quality studies, with a quality paper being one that presented an overall
description of the research, including (a) research purpose, (b) learner demographics, (c) methodology, (d) use of technology,
(e) discipline-orientation, (f) educational context, (g) objectives, and (h) learning outcomes (Wu et al., 2012). Ultimately, 26
high quality articles that met above criteria were included in the current review (see Fig. 1).
4. Results
The results of the analysis are presented below. More syntheses and organized item-based information (including
participant information, methodology, learning technology use, and positive or negative research outcomes) are provided in
Tables 13.
4.1. Distribution of research aims
We classied each article into one of three categories according to its research purpose: (1) examining the learning
effectiveness of using LT with special education students, (2) designing educational activities with the use of LT, and
(3) investigating the special education students and teachers affective responses toward LT. As seen in Fig. 2,
examining the learning effectiveness of LT using was the most common research aim (75%), with 21 studies doing
this. This was followed by investigating the special education students and teachers affective responses toward LT
(14%), which includes 4 studies, and designing educational activities with the use of LT (11%), with three studies. It
should be noted that Campigotto et al. (2013) and Tan and Cheung (2008) both had two research aims, including
examining the learning effectiveness and investigating participants affective responses, and the nal results includes
these overlapping ones.
85 papers
Exclusion criteria:
(a) LT not used for educational purposes
(b) Learners without clearly identified
disabilities
(c) Studies not involved in educational
activities when implementing LT in
special education
(d) The focus of the study not on the
learning outcomes of students
(e) Irrelevant studies to special education
Web of Science & Science Direct
118 papers
Inclusion criteria:
(a) published in 2008 to 2012
(b) research and review articles
Elimination of duplications
26 papers
Fig. 1. Flow chart for the procedure of paper selection.
G.-Z. Liu et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 34 (2013) 36183628 3621
Table 1
Analysis of studies which aim to examine the learning effectiveness of using LT with special education.
Study Participants Methodology Learning technology (LT) Outcome
Aziz et al. (2012) Malaysian special education students
(emotional or behavioral disorders)
Observation Cloud computing; augmented reality Positive
Campigotto et al. (2013) Toronto students in grades 7 through 12
(intellectual disabilities; learning
disabilities; autism spectrum disorders)
Action research iOS devices with the MyVoice application Positive; neutral
Carmien and Wohldman (2008) Young adults with cognitive disabilities Experimental study A Compaq model 900c laptop computer Negative
Chiang and Jacobs (2010) 16 students in Special Education program
(learning disabilities)
Interview Kurzweil 3000 !K-3000 (assistive
software that provides students with
reading support)
Positive; negative
Everhart et al. (2011) Two children with moderate to intensive
disabilities (intellectual disabilities)
Case study Created individualized computer games Positive
Ferna ndez-Lo pez et al. (2013) 39 students fromSpain (autismspectrum
disorders; emotional or behavioral
disorders)
Experimental study Picaa (a mobile platform based on iPad
and iPod touch devices)
Positive
Fitzgerald et al. (2008) Students with intellectual disabilities, or
learning disabilities, or emotional or
behavioral disorders
Literature review Computer-mediated instruction Positive; neutral
Garcia et al. (2011) 30 children with cerebral palsy Questionnaire A computer-aided communication device Positive; neutral
Grant and Dieker (2011) Two Black males in high school
(emotional or behavioral disorders)
Case study Web-based mentoring Positive
Groenewegen, Heinz, Fro hlich, & Huckauf (2008) 24 Mentally handicapped participants Experimental study Virtual worlds with an educational game
and tasks
Positive
Karal (2009) 6 Students with speech and language
disorders
Experimental study Computer-aided articulation material Positive
Karal et al. (2010) Turkey mild mental impairment students
(intellectual, learning and emotional or
behavioral disorders)
Case study Educational computer games Positive
Kiboss (2012) Hearing impairment Experimental study Computer-based special electronic
learning program
Positive
Peltenburg, van den Heuvel-Panhuizen,
& Robitzsch (2011)
55 Netherland special education students
(learning disability)
Experimental study Computer-based text on subtraction Positive
Pennington (2010) Students with autismspectrumdisorders Literature review Computer-assisted instruction Positive
Rodrguez et al. (2012) Voice disorders and pathologies patients
in special education centers in Spain and
Colombia
Experimental study Developing activities called PreLingua
with computer-aided voice therapy
Positive
Stodden, Roberts, Takahashi, and Stodden (2012) 69 HawaiI public school students with
learning disabilities
Experimental study Kurzweil 3000 text-to-speech (TTS)
softeware
Positive
Tan and Cheung (2008) A 7 year-old child with emotional or
behavioral disorders
Interview and
questionnaire
Computer for collaborative work Positive
Topaloglu and Topaloglu (2009) All kinds of special educational students
especially for handicapped ones.
Literature review Distance learning application Neutral
Watson, Ito, Smith, and Andersen (2010) A public school special educational
students (learning disorders)
Experimental study Assistive technology (AT) for oral and
written communication
Positive
Woodne, Nunes, and Wright (2008) Students with learning disability
(reading)
Experimental study Computer for online text Negative
Note: Campigotto et al. (2013) and Tan and Cheung (2008) were counted twice because they both fell into two categories of research aims.
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4.2. Distribution of research methodologies
We classied the research methods into seven types. Fig. 3 indicates that researchers primarily relied on experimental
studies (46%, 12 studies), followed by interviews and questionnaires (19%, 5 studies). The rest of the studies included three
literature reviews, three case studies, one observation, one action research, and one descriptive study.
4.3. Distribution of research outcomes
Fig. 4 indicates that 23 studies (77%) reported positive research outcomes, while three (10%) studies reported neutral
outcomes and four (13%) studies reported negative ones. It should be noted that two kinds of outcomes were reported from
one study. For example, in Chiang and Jacobs (2010), both advantages and challenges were pointed with regard to using
specic software (K-3000) to enhance the self-perceived academic abilities of high school special education students.
Table 2
Analysis of studies which aim to design educational activities with the use of LT.
Study Participants Methodology Learning technology (LT) Outcome
Ari and Inan (2010) 22 University students in Turkey
(hearing impairment; vision
impairment; physical disabilities)
Questionnaire Computer (internet); special software Positive
Chu et al. (2009) Students with mild disabilities
(intellectual disabilities)
Descriptive study A problem-based e-learning (PBeL)
model
Positive
Rodrguez-Fo rtiz et al. (2009) Special educational school students
(autism spectrum disorders and speech
and language disorders)
Experimental study Augmentative and alternative
communication systems (a platform
Positive
Table 3
Analysis of studies which aim to investigate the special education students and teachers affective responses toward LT.
Study Participants Methodology Learning technology (LT) Outcome
Campigotto et al. (2013) Toronto students in grades 7
through 12 (intellectual disabilities;
learning disabilities; autism
spectrum disorders)
Action research iOS devices with the MyVoice
application
Positive; neutral
Dincyurek et al. (2011) Students with orthopedic
impairment (physical disabilities)
Questionnaire Computer assisted program Positive
Kortering, McClannon,
& Braziel (2008)
54 Students with learning
disabilities and 6 students with
emotional or behavioral disorders
Experimental study Computer assisted universal
design for learning
Positive
Tan and Cheung (2008) A 7 year-old child with emotional or
behavioral disorders
Interview and
questionnaire
Computer for collaborative work Positive
Note: Campigotto et al. (2013) and Tan and Cheung (2008) were counted twice because they both fell into two categories of research aims.
75%
14%
11%
Research Aims
1. Evaluang the eect of
LT (21/28)
2. Desgining a LT for
learning (4/28)
3. Invesgang the aect
domain (3/28)
Fig. 2. Distribution of research aims.
G.-Z. Liu et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 34 (2013) 36183628 3623
4.4. Distribution of LT use
Fig. 5 shows that the most common use of LT is computer-assisted technology in special education (71%, 20 studies),
followed by specic software (18%, ve studies) and mobile learning (11%, three studies). Among these, there were two
studies with overlapping technologies. For example, one observed cloud computing and augmented reality within the
context of special education (Aziz, Aziz, Yusof, & Paul, 2012), while the other one explored the attitudes of the students
46%
19%
11%
12%
4%
4%
4%
Metholodogy
1. experimental
study(12/26)
2. interview &
quesonnarie(5/26)
3. literature review(3/26)
4. case study(3/26)
5. observaon(1/26)
6. acon research(1/26)
7. discrpve study(1/26)
Fig. 3. Distribution of methodologies.
23
3
4
0
5
10
15
20
25
posive neutral negave
Research Outcomes
Fig. 4. Distribution of research outcomes.
Fig. 5. Distribution of various types of learning technology.
G.-Z. Liu et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 34 (2013) 36183628 3624
toward the use of computers and specic software in a writing class (Ari & Inan, 2010). Mobile learning (11%, three studies)
was examined by the fewest number of studies.
4.5. Distribution of the type of disabilities
Only nine types of disabilities are observed in the studies examined in this work, and no health impairments or
developmental delays are included, as shown in Fig. 6. Along the x-axis, 14 can be categorized as mental disabilities, while
the others are physical ones. It should be noted that two or more types of disabilities may be mentioned in one study.
Fig. 6 shows that students with mental disabilities were most often assisted by LT with regard to improving their
academic abilities. For example, in Everhart, Alber-Morgan, and Park (2011), computer games were successfully used to
improve the academic skills special of educational students. However, there were much fewer investigations of the
implementation of LT with physically disabled students, with only 13 times being mentioned in papers), such as Rodrguez,
Saz, and Lleida (2012), which illustrated that LT could effectively help students overcome speech disorders and learn how to
pronounce vocabulary.
5. Discussion
5.1. Most studies focus on effectiveness
As seen in Fig. 2, in the 26 studies examined in this work, 21 of them focused on the effectiveness of using LT with special
education students, a nding that was not reported in previous special education related literature surveys. More
importantly, this result corresponds with surveys of the literature in other technology-assisted learning contexts. For
example, Wuet al. (2012) pointed out that most studies of technology-assisted learning focus on the learning effectiveness of
mobile learning. Vogel, Canon-Bowers, Bowers, Muse, and Wright (2006) also indicated that most studies on game-based
learning focus on its effectiveness.
5.2. Most studies adopted experimental studies, interviews and questionnaires as the primary research methods
Fig. 3 shows that experimental studies were the primary research method (12 out of 26 studies), followed by interviews
(ve). Quantitative approaches were thus favored over qualitative ones. Moreover, the result of only two studies falling into
the categories of case study was in line with Pennington (2010), which indicated that functional relations were found in few
of the single-case designs (Everhart et al., 2011; Garcia et al., 2011).
5.3. The implications of positive and negative outcomes
Fig. 4 shows that 77% of the 26 studies reported positive outcomes. For example, Chiang and Jacobs (2010) pointed out
that teachers and students in the eld of special education expressed positive attitudes toward the use of Computer-based
7
9
6
7
3
4
2
3
1
The Type of Disabilies
Fig. 6. Distribution of the type of disabilities.
G.-Z. Liu et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 34 (2013) 36183628 3625
Instruction (CBI) in the classroom. More specically, the teachers stated that this technology was a powerful tool that
enhanced teaching and learning, and that they observed improvements in the performance of the participating students
after integrating technology into their classroom instruction. Campigotto et al. (2013) also highlighted that technology that
is perceived to be fun by students has greater potential to improve motivation in learning contexts. The results indicated the
strong potential for successfully integrating mobile technology within special needs classrooms, with a high-degree of
student support for using mobile devices to enhance classroom experiences.
Although negative outcomes were reported much less than positive ones, it is still important to draw attention to the
challenges of using LT in special education. Campigotto et al. (2013) highlighted the challenges of incorporating such
technologies into the curriculum in terms of practicality, teacher comfort, and the limitations of the devices. Chiang and
Jacobs (2010) also pointed out that time constraints, limited access to the necessary technology, and difculties in managing
the class, were three common barriers encountered when integrating CBI into teaching. These issues worth our attention,
and solutions must be found to overcome the challenges they present.
5.4. Computer-assisted technology is most widely used in special education
As shown in Fig. 5, computer-assisted technology is very often used in special education, and this is attributed to the fact
that LT is benecial for students learning outcomes. For example, Topaloglu and Topaloglu (2009) clearly stated that LT
means that students independent learning is not limited by time and space constraints. In addition, they also noted that LT is
relatively inexpensive, and can be used to apply distance education for special needs students.
5.5. LT is more often applied to mentally disabled students rather than physically disabled ones
As seen in Fig. 6, there were more studies investigating the use of LT with mentally disabled students rather than
physically disabled one. This implies that mentally disable students face more problems with learning target abilities such as
acquiring vocabulary (Rodrguez et al., 2012) and being able to understand geometry (Kiboss, 2012). Instead of helping
physically disabled students to learn academic knowledge with the aid of technology, it is more urgent to help them solve
more practical physical problems, such as the learning how to use active video games as a way to increase their energy levels
(Rowland & Rimmer, 2012).
6. Limitations
Although the present paper provides a systematic reviewof current trends with regard to using LT in special education,
it cannot represent the overall trends in this domain because of the following limitations. Our research only included
research and review articles, and not works fromother sources. In future work, we recommend that the researchers can
include a different range of sources to provide more detailed and representative results, and use other denitions of special
education.
7. Conclusions
The aim of this study was to identify contemporary research directions and trends with regard to the implementation of
LT in the last ve years (20082012). While two previous literature review-based papers provided insights into how LT could
be applied to students with autism spectrum disorders and students with mild and moderate disabilities, they failed to
examine how LT could be used with students with other mental and physical disabilities.
In our study, we conducted a systematic review of the overall research trends regarding the research aims,
methodologies, learning outcomes, types of LT used, andthe types of disabilities in the focal students. The current paper has
the following ve ndings: (a) the research aimof most LT studies examined in this work were to evaluate the effectiveness
of LT; (b) the preferred methodology was experimental studies, followed by interviews and questionnaires; (c) most of the
research outcomes were positive; (d) the most common use of LT was computer-assistive technology; and (e) LT was
mainly used to help the mentally disabled students to acquire academic knowledge. The ndings and implications of this
work are expected to provide both teacher-practitioners and researchers with valuable references and suggestions with
regard to the use of LT in the eld of special education. We also expect that more context-aware ubiquitous learning
research and sensing technology (Hsu, Hwang, Chang, & Chang, 2013; Hung, Hwang, Lin, Wu, & Su, 2013; Liu & Hwang,
2010) will be applied to all types of special education in order to help learners with mental and physical disabilities
worldwide.
Acknowledgements
We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the Editor-in-Chief, Professor Matson, for their comments on an earlier
version of this paper. This work was partially supported by the National Science Council in Taiwan (NSC 102-2511-S-006-
005-MY3, NSC 100-2511-S-006-001-MY2, and NSC 98-2511-S-006-003-MY2).
G.-Z. Liu et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 34 (2013) 36183628 3626
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