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A TechCHAT On Digital PD for Educators With President and CEO of Scenario Learning Brian Taylor

With the percentage of students on the autism spectrum at 1 in 68, almost all teachers, and more than 1 million paraprofessionals, work with students with children with autism, disabilities, or in special education. 


Brian Taylor, special education advocate and CEO of Scenario Learning, had over 15 years of experience with Thomson Learning in executive management positions; and as COO and co-founder of netTrekker, an academic search engine that helps students safely search the Internet, before his current role. 


Taylor recently discussed on-demand training through their Exceptional Child program, which serves educators working with children with autism, disabilities, or in special education, with Education World. 



What’s behind the gap in training from educator to educator when it comes to properly approaching students with autism and disabilities? 


The vast majority of teachers want to help every student succeed, but many educators are under-trained on important special education related topics such as autism. Even the educators in the special needs classroom could use more. The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that all students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment. This means every teacher will be working with students with exceptionalities. Additionally, the gap in training is certainly fueled by constraints of time and money; and also the incredible demands on teachers to demonstrate performance against state and federal achievement tests. As rates of autism, and some other impairments such as emotional and behavioral disabilities increase, we have to find more cost-effective ways of equipping teachers to support all students.



How can we better train educators to teach this diverse set of students with technological solutions? 


Online, on-demand professional learning can play a huge role here. The days of questioning whether teachers can successfully access online resources are over. With our SafeSchools Online Staff Training System (the other side of our business), we have all school employees (administrators, teachers and even support services staff) completing one course per second - millions of course completions each year. Online, on-demand training helps educators train when their schedules allow. This way, they can learn at their own pace and revisit the training at any time.



When it comes to process, what type of time and monetary investment will it typically take for schools and districts to take a more systematic, strategic approach to professional development in serving students with autism and disabilities? 


Special education, for all its importance, has huge cost challenges. For many districts and school boards, it’s their greatest issue of budgetary encroachment –the highest uncontrollable cost variable in their budgets. And it’s getting worse. Student [populations] are getting bigger, teachers are getting older, and the turnover of young teachers is much too high. We believe automating all of the burdensome administrative tasks of managing professional development frees teachers up to learn and apply, and most importantly, spend more time working with students and their parents and guardians.



What makes Exceptional Child a better online system for training staff members who support students with disabilities over its competitors? 


We have many of the world’s best special education thought leaders as authors. Carol Gray for Social Stories; Andy Bondy and Lori Frost for PECS, Barb Bateman for Special Education law; Tim Lewis for PBIS; Lori Korinek for Self-Regulation - and the list goes on. Our courses run on any Web-enabled device and include practitioner video from partnering schools. The Learning Management System allows administrators to easily assign, notify, and track the training, plus administrators can even customize many aspects of the courses to district and state preferences.



Discuss any evidence that you’ve gathered to support Exceptional Child’s effectiveness. 


Our program is new, but the majority of the professional learning topics in our course library are focused on the most successful evidence-based practices for special education. We’ve also developed Exceptional Child with several partnering school districts across the country who have helped guide our efforts. We will have test groups as we launch our Learning Management System to track its efficacy, and research shows that online professional development is already proven to be effective.



To learn more about Scenario Learning, visit here.  



Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

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