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Cynthia Okolo - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Cynthia Okolo Cynthia Okolo

Professor of Special Education | Michigan State University


Special education expert, focusing on content-area literacy for students with learning problems and disabilities


Cynthia Okolo is a professor of special education. Her research focuses on improving academic outcomes for students with disabilities through the integration of technology into the classroom. She also studies how Universal Design for Learning (UDL)-aligned instructional practices can improve learning and behavior. Her current projects involve the development of literacy tools and strategies for using digital reading materials and teacher preparation for the implementation of UDL. Most of her work has been conducted in middle and high schools and in diverse classrooms that include students with and without disabilities. She is Past President and Professional Development Co-Chair of the Technology and Media Division of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Industry Expertise (4)

Public Policy



Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (3)

Learning Among Students with Disabilities

Special Education


Education (1)

Indiana University Bloomington: Ph.D., Special Education and Educational Psychology

Affiliations (2)

  • MSU Special Education
  • LARC: Literacy Achievement and Research Center, MSU

Journal Articles (3)

Twenty-Five Years Later: How is Technology Used in the Education of Students with Disabilities? Results of a Statewide Study

Journal of Special Education Technology

Jeff Diedrich, Cynthia Okolo

2014 This study provides a snapshot of factors associated with assistive technology (AT) use in one large Midwestern state. Conducted about 25 years after the passage of the original Technology Related Assistance Act, the study presents results from a survey of 1,143 Michigan educators. Results of the study show that respondents use technology frequently in their personal and professional lives, but less so during the instruction of students with disabilities. AT is viewed positively and educators believe they are knowledgeable about some aspects of technology use. However, in other areas, educators provide low ratings of their knowledge of specific AT uses and functions, and have mixed impressions of the support they receive for technology use. Scores on measures of self-reported knowledge and perceived support vary significantly among different categories of respondents and are only moderate for special educators and low for general educators. Nevertheless, educators express interest in further professional development about AT. The need for additional professional development, along with better access to technology and more funding, are perceived as top barriers to more widespread AT use. Other findings include a lack of knowledge about how technology is used by students in and out of school and the low rate of participation of general educators, students, and parents in AT decisions. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for reforming practices related to technology implementation, professional development, and research.

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Response to Intervention and Evidence-Based Practices: Where Does Technology Fit?

Learning Disability Quarterly

Sean Smith, Cynthia Okolo

2010 Advancements in technology-based solutions for students with learning disabilities (LD) offer tremendous opportunities to enhance learning as well as meaningful access to the general education curriculum for this group of students. This article examines technology integration within the context of response to intervention (RTI). At the forefront of special education reform, RTI is reshaping special education practice. This article seeks to connect RTI components (e.g., evidence-based practice) with technology-based solutions in order to further ways in which technology tools can be incorporated into the lives of students with LD. Three effective practices (graphic organizers, written instruction, explicit instruction) are examined. For each area, we briefly describe the approach, examine the evidence behind the approach, and discuss technology-based tools that embed these effective features.

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Publication Preview The Virtual History Museum: Learning U.S. History in Diverse Eighth Grade Classrooms

Remedial and Special Education

Carol Sue Englert, Emily C Bouck, Hequn Wang, Cynthia Okolo

2010 History is an important but often overlooked content area for all students in this current era of accountability. Yet instruction in history can help students become problem solvers and learn to make interpretations from multiple perspectives. This article reports the results of a pilot study examining history learning across three groups of students (i.e., students with disabilities, students without disabilities, and students enrolled in an honors class) as they studied history (a unit on Andrew Jackson) through a Web-based history learning environment—the Virtual History Museum. The results indicate students in all three ability groups made gains from pretest to posttest in factual knowledge and reasoning about key concepts of the unit. The results provide preliminary support that a Web-based learning environment that includes features to assist students with mild disabilities can improve learning for all students at about the same rate.

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