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Tech & Tools

Integrating Technology-Dependent Children Helps Family Function Better

Normal everyday life for parents requires organization. For parents of children who require ventilators, oxygen, IVs, and other tools to live, those day-to-day tasks can be time consuming, difficult, and stressful on the family. But researchers from Case Western Reserve University found that mothers who successfully integrate the care of the technology-dependent child into family life have families that function better.

“It’s about the perception of the child’s illness,” says Valerie Toly, PhD, RN, PNP, of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University. She is the lead researcher on the study “A Longitudinal Study of Families With Technology-Dependent Children” published in Research in Nursing & Health.

Toly’s research is one of the first longitudinal studies to see how families function and reach normalcy once children leave the hospital equipped with technology to keep them alive. She studied 82 mothers recruited during visits to a hospital’s specialty clinic.

The mothers were interviewed and given six surveys after leaving the hospital and then again 12 months later to track changes in the mother’s psychological well-being, family functioning, and normalcy.

The mothers—primarily white (79%), African American (17%), Hispanic (6%), and Asian (2%)—ranged in age from 22 to 66. About 75% had some college education, one-third worked full time, and 75% had other children, some of whom also were technology dependent.

About one-third of the mothers tested for clinical depression, and that percentage increased by 7% at the second visit. (Mothers with high levels of depression were provided mental health resource information.)

At the beginning of the study, children ranged in age from 6.75 months to 16.83 years, with an average age of 6.41 years. Nearly one-half of the children had medical issues related to neuromuscular diagnoses like cerebral palsy, and one-half of the children needed more than one technology. Overall, an average of 45 hours of home care help was needed at the first interview, and that need grew by the second interview.

The researcher found mothers whose children no longer used technologies had the greatest improvement in family functioning and normalcy.

Toly says children in the study “are in a high-risk, vulnerable group … three children died in the one year span of time between interviews and one mother died. This is much higher than the general population.”

But for those who continue to require technology, integrating the child into family events is critical. Toly has seen mothers pack up the technology and take the child along with other siblings to soccer practice and other family events. In another instance, one mother missed an annual family camping trip because of the extra work required to include the technology-dependent child in the trip; the following year, the extended family pitched in and built ramps, making it possible for the mother and child to join in the camping fun.

Examples like these keep families on the normal track. “Mothers integrate technology-dependent child into the family by being flexible about when to give medications or food,” Toly says.

But adhering to rigid schedules can interfere with what others in the family need to do, and it can create problems, Toly adds.

“A mother’s depression plays a greater role in family functioning than the child’s severity of illness,” Toly reports.

— Source: Case Western Reserve University


With Just One iPad, Teachers Improve Classroom Lessons

While K-12 schools around the country search for funding to provide iPads to every student, an education researcher in North Carolina has found that even a single iPad can make a huge difference in the classroom.

The results of her experience with student teachers at Wake Forest University appeared in the December/January 2011 issue of Learning & Leading With Technology.

“Because they’re truly part of the digital generation, our preservice teachers and the K-12 students they teach have a natural aptitude for tablet devices,” says Kristin Redington Bennett, an assistant professor of education at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.

Though iPads can cost more than $500 with 3G access and a budget for apps, Bennett says, “Don’t discount the device because of its price. We found that just one iPad allowed teachers to design creative lesson plans tailored to individual learners.”

One of her preservice teachers even used the iPad to solve a problem with a disruptive student who made trouble in the reading center every morning. But when the teacher showed the student how to download books on the iPad, he read with focus for 20 minutes each morning—a goal he had not achieved until then.

“Anything new and different is engaging for kids,” says Nancy Davidson, a senior elementary education major at Wake Forest who used an iPad in her student teaching last semester. “Tracking student growth through apps, pictures, and videos became more efficient for me and more interesting for the children. Using the iPad in class started as a luxury but quickly became a normal part of their learning process.”

“What often happens in schools is that they purchase this new technology and expect teachers to use it with little training in how to design successful instruction with it,” Bennett says. “My goal is to train our elementary education candidates to graduate from our program with the skills and fluency in the use of mobile technology to support teaching and learning. This has allowed many of our graduates to be leaders in their schools even as a first-year teacher.”

Based on her experience, Bennett recommends these top 10 apps for use with elementary-school students:

1. Google Earth (all ages): Take a virtual field trip to anywhere through this app that uses global satellite and aerial imagery with a swipe of a finger.

2. DoodleBuddy (all ages): Students and teachers can use this across all content areas as a whiteboard equivalent to paint, draw, sketch, and write.

3. Story Buddy (K-second grade): This app allows kids to create, read, and share stories that they create with the iPad.

4. Stack the States (second through sixth grades): An animated, game-based way to learn state locations, capitals, shapes, abbreviations, and nicknames.

5. Geocaching (third through sixth grades): In this global treasure hunting game, participants hide and seek containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share their adventures online.

6. Numberland HD (prekindergarten through first grade): Twin heroes teach numbers using the Montessori Method.

7. Corkulous (second through sixth grades): This app allows students to collect, organize, and share ideas through notes, labels, and photos.

8. iThoughtsHD (third through sixth grades): This mind-mapping tool can be used to sequence ideas, write mind maps, organize thinking, and assess interrelatedness.

9. Coin Math (kindergarten through third grade): Students learn both sides of a coin, how to add them, and how to pay for something with the correct coins.

10. StarFall ABC’s (prekindergarten through first grade): Students learn to recognize letters and develop skills as they begin to learn to read.

For more information, see Bennett’s research website: http://kbennett.net.

— Source: Wake Forest University