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The SETT Framework

A couple of comments on how the SETT Framework came to be. First, like all of us, I have been concerned for years about the issues of device abandonment and underutilization. Why is this such a prevalent phenomenon? As we have become more skillful in matching device features to the needs and abilities of potential users, why are we still not seing the kinds of changes in communication, participation and productivity that we have expected to see? Though changes for some individuals have been profound and life-changing, why are we not seeing, after more than ten years of trying VERY hard, hoped-for systemic improvements?

As I pondered these questions alone and with others interested in these issues from personal and/or professional perspectives, a couple of insights began to emerge:

1) Even when the features of devices were well-matched to the needs and abilities of users, the devices were not always environmentally USEFUL for the system operator. Perhaps it was a question of portability. Perhaps there was nobody close to the user on a daily basis who was able to support the person adequately in using the system effectively. Perhaps there were mixed attitudes and expectations on the part of people around the person using the system. There were any number of possibiliities.

2) Often the systems were not designed to support the person using the device in the accomplishment of tasks important to him/her. The thought comes to mind, "How much time and effort would anyone put toward using any tool that did NOT fit the task or the environment in a useful, meaningful way?" The clear answer for most of us would be, "Not much"! It has become a red flag for me when I hear someone say, "Oh, yes. He has what he needs, but he just uses it like a toy"! I would certainly question how well the set of tools promotes meaningful POWER for the individual that he did not have without the tools. From those thoughts, the idea of a system of tools which match the person, the environments, and the tasks emerged.

The second challenge which fostered the development of the SETT Framework involved a collegue new to our group. In our roles at Region IV Education Service Center, we are regularly asked by our participating districts to make recommendations about what hardware and/or software is the "best" for them to purchase. This, of course, is NOT a readily answerable question without considerable additional exploration. Our new collegue, however, had not yet had the opportunity to know this. He would come often and ask us what he should tell the caller. Our answer was consistently, "It depends." Though we talked at length about what it depended upon, we were really not moving very quickly toward a common understanding of the issues and ways to go about exploring them. Patience grew thin on all parts. "This was NOT new stuff! People have been doing this work for years!" "OK, then. Just tell me about it in language I can understand! Forget the jargon and just help me know what to do"!

Then one day, in considerable frustration, I said, "Look, to get the best shot at putting together a system of tools, you need to explore the student, the environments in which the student is expected to use the tools, and the tasks which are an inherent part of communicating, participating and being productive in those environments!" It was a big "Ah, ha!" for all of us! He understood and we realized how simple, yet complicated this all was! Later, when I was struggling to put all this old stuff together in a new and memorable way, this persistent and thoughtful collegue said, "Well, THAT part's easy at least! It's just SETT!" And so it is! Now let's explore the parts!

SETT_read.gif (2243 bytes)Supplemental Reading:
The SETT Framework

Note: Supplemental readings may also be accessed from the Resources link on the SETT home page.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998.

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.