A West Virginia University special education professor has won an award for getting her students to watch TV and surf theNet.
Barbara L. Ludlow, who uses satellite technology and the World Wide Web to teach students as far away as the South Pacific, is the recipient of the 2002 June Harless Teaching Award.
“Professor Ludlow has developed innovative approaches to training the special education teachers of today and tomorrow,”said C.B. Wilson, associate provost for academic personnel and award committee chairman.”That she must employ various distance education methods to reach a growing number of students speaks volumes for the special education program at WVU .”
The June Harless Award is named for the late wife of James”Buck”Harless, a Mingo County coal executive and a long-time supporter of WVU . It was made possible by a contribution from Gene A. Budig, WVU s 17th president and now a visiting scholar with the College Board. Candidates for the award are judged on success and achievements as a teacher.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Dr. Ludlow joined the College of Human Resources and Education in 1983 as an assistant professor of special education. She was promoted to associate professor in 1987 and professor in 1995.
She is coordinator of the graduate degree and certification programs in severe/multiple disabilities and early intervention special education. These programs train prospective and practicing teachers to work with children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Ten years ago, Ludlow began teaching all courses and supervising practicums in these two programs via television to reach students in all 55 West Virginia counties and neighboring states. In 1999, she began airing live, interactive streams of the satellite broadcasts over the web, reaching a broader audience that includes four students in the South Pacific and one in Iceland.
“Both the students and I would prefer face-to-face classes, but distances prevent that,”Ludlow said.”We feel technology allows us to have meaningful interactions while providing increased access to the program.”
Ludlow offers two courses a semester, and there are between 80 and 120 students in each course.
A constant shortage of special education teachers nationwide is leading to an increased demand for creative programs such as Ludlows. Typically, prospective teachers will obtain special education certification to land a teaching job until a position opens in their preferred areas, creating new vacancies in the field.
That is, in fact, how Ludlow went into special education. With bachelors and masters degrees in classical languages, she was living in Delaware in the early 1970s and having difficulty finding a teaching job. She decided to volunteer in a school for children with mental retardation and found the experience so rewarding she returned to college to obtain special education training. She earned a masters degree in special education from the University of Delaware in 1974 and a doctorate from WVU in 1983.
Unlike many teachers, though, Ludlow didnt leave special education when the opportunity came along.
“This has been the right career choice for me,”she said.”I love being a faculty member, and I love being in special education.”
She has won numerous national, university and college teaching awards. Most recently she won the American Council on Rural Special Education Exemplary Technology Award for 2001 and is a semifinalist for the 2002 Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia Professor of the Year. She has also written or co-written several textbooks and journal articles and made numerous presentations at conferences for special education professionals.
Of the Harless Award, Ludlow said she is humbled and grateful for the recognition it gives to technology-based education.
“I think the instructor-learner relationship is at the heart of a meaningful educational experience,”she said.”Whether face-to-face, on air or on-line, it is understanding and making a personal connection with your students. I think my program has been successful because I have been able to do that.”
Ludlow lives in Morgantown with her husband, Michael Duff, a self-employed media specialist who produces her programs.