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College of Education

Special Education

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

virtual reality

The future of educational technology

Virtual reality and augmented reality. It’s a two-headed beast, set to be a $5 BILLION (with a B) industry by 2021 and almost $12 billion industry by 2025. How does that fit into education?

The college’s research on the two is taking place at WSU Pullman and WSU Tri-Cities


Don McMahon runs WSU’s Assistive Technology Research and Development Lab. It’s main focus is to create and test next generation assistive technology interventions. This includes refining the use of existing tools, such as augmented reality and virtual reality.

Murrow News 8 produced this video by reporter Kyla Emme:

The lab is high-tech. Much of the technology used in this lab was formerly part of the Neurocognitive Lab. Here’s a video from the Daily Evergreen:

Assistive Tech Lab website


Jonah Firestone runs WSU Tri-Cities’ Simulation and Integrated Media for Instruction Assessment and Neurocognition Site. For the sake of everyone, we just call it by its acronym: SIMIAN. This lab is similar to its counterpart in Pullman: research how to use technology to help students learn.

Jonah recently joined the Education Eclipse podcast to talk about the lab:

Professor researching virtual & augmented reality for special education

July 20, 2017 – By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Jonah Firestone, an education professor at Washington State University Tri-Cities, knows that technology is the future of education, which is why he is researching the use of virtual and augmented reality as tools for not only the general classroom, but specifically with special education in the kindergarten through 12th-grade setting.

“With regular video games, you’re looking at a flat screen,” he said. “But with virtual reality, you wear a head set and you can look all around. It’s a 360-degree view up and down and you can see this complete world around you. As kids get more used to using this type of technology and as the price goes down, schools are going to start adopting these because you can now send an entire classroom on a field trip to The Louvre without leaving the classroom.”

Firestone said for subjects like science and history, teachers rely on textbook and stationary images to give students a picture of what they’re talking about as it is expensive to take students to laboratories and settings that are referenced in those lessons. With virtual and augmented reality, however, teachers can bring those settings and projects to the students in the virtual sphere.

“We can use this technology to put children and adults into complete virtual worlds where they can be a cell in the human body, or students can do experiments in physics and chemistry that they couldn’t normally safely do in the classroom setting,” he said. “You can then repeat those over and over again.”

Overcoming learning disabilities

Firestone said virtual and augmented reality have different purposes, but both can be applied as additional tools in the classroom, which could help students who struggle with traditional learning methods.

“We used to talk about this thing called learning theories where certain people were characterized as different types of learners, but that’s not really true,” he said. “We all learn in a variety of different ways. But with the more modes in which we learn, whether it be oral, visual or tactile, the more we’re readily going to learn.”

Some students may have problems processing information that is given to them orally, or students may have visual disabilities where they have difficulty processing static information like documents with lots of text, he said. Students also may have issues holding their attention for an extended period of time.

“So what virtual and augmented reality do is reinforce learning in ways that helps from a variety of different vectors,” he said. “And realistically, strategies used in special education are good practices for any education setting. We can translate what we learn about these tools into the general classroom setting, as well.”

With virtual reality, students wear a head set where it provides them with a complete 360-degree view of a setting or project that the students can interact with. With augmented reality, students use a device like a tablet or a headset where the device projects an image into the real-world setting. Firestone said a good example of augmented reality is Pokemon Go, where the image of a Pokemon is projected through a screen into the real world.

“We’ve all taken classes where we’ve aced the class, but we have no idea what we’ve learned,” he said. “What we want to accomplish with virtual and augmented reality is a more organic method of learning. This organic method of learning is accomplished through learning by doing.”

Research results so far

Firestone worked with Don McMahon on the WSU Pullman campus to run a study with special education students at the college level who studied bones and skeletons using augmented reality with the help of iPad Minis. They compared what the students learned and absorbed with augmented reality to what they learned and observed from textbooks and the team got great results.

Firestone is now taking that research a step further by applying the same tools to kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms.

“College kids are great, but I am very much interested in how these technologies can be applied to the k-12 setting,” he said. “What we’re currently doing is taking this same process and we’re modifying it for fifth-graders. Then, we’re going to modify it for middle school and high school.”

Firestone said he is using augmented reality to supplement different school lessons, including science where students observe and learn about the human body.

“Imagine looking at a picture of a femur, but with augmented reality, not only do you see a picture of a femur, but it has a voice that defines it for you and then shows you where it is on the human body,” he said.

Firestone is also looking into using virtual reality to immerse the kindergarten through 12th-grade students in an underwater experience called “The Blue.”

“It’s an underwater application where you see whales and you’re in a reef,” he said. “I’m then comparing that to the same information that the students glean from a text.”

Firestone said he’s had great results with the technology so far and that blending the virtual experiences with what students are presented with in a textbook is a winning combination.

“There is no one magic solution for learning, but the more things we can put together, the more kids are going to end up learning,” he said.

SIMIAN website

College of Education Graduate School Information Session

Free info is great. But free fried chicken with that info? Even better!

WSU’s College of Education will answer questions for potential graduate students at its annual Fall Graduate Preview Day.

Thursday, November 1, 2018.
9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Cleveland Hall Room 70

It is open to anyone interested in a career in teaching, educational psychology, sport management, educational leadership, or exploring issues of culture and power in education.

Participants will learn about these programs, the application process, financial aid, scholarships and assistantships, will be able to meet faculty members, etc.

Also, yes, free food. Participants will be able to eat lunch with current graduate students and ask them questions.

To reserve a seat and receive an agenda, email or call 509-335-7016.

After School Special

Jeff and Vicki Gordon, along with WSU’s College of Education, invite you to our 4th annual “After School Special.” We want to celebrate your hard work and another successful school year!

Please join us for a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception as you mingle with teachers, educators, COE grads, and Cougar enthusiasts.

Please feel free to add Cougar alumni and local educators to this event through our Facebook event page:

RSVP to Sara Kinser by June 1, 2016, at 509.335.8880 or

Agents of Change Application

  • To express interest in participating as an Agent of Change, please fill out the following application.

  • BRIEFLY, using plain talk (PLEASE!), explain what your research is about (enough for someone to understand, but not so much that it takes you a long time to write it up).

  • FYI, the female shirts are a true female cut and they run really small, like... smaller than you'd think. Females may choose a men's shirt if they'd like.


It’s our passion to make a difference that drives us!

Although we often celebrate and recognize the past, if you are someone who wants to make sure the present and future are even better, and are currently working toward that goal, then you’re an “agent of change.”

Introducing, our college’s Agents of Change campaign!

Goal: Showcase our amazing people like you, whether your faculty, staff, students, alumni… or just a supporter of our college and the work we’re doing.

Why: Because our folks rock! We want to highlight you and the reason you do what you do.

How: We’re going to showcase you through photos, video, blog posts, etc! We’ll put them online, and on social media with the hashtag #AgentsOfChange and hope you’ll share these, as well.

Wanna share why you’re an Agent of Change?
1Register to be an Agent of Change
2Script a 30-second statement about what makes you an agent of change. Sit down with our Marketing and Communications team to record this.
3Agree to do some form of communication that would better connect you to students and alumni and help push your work out. This can be a blog, being a podcast guest, etc. You can use Marketing and Communications to come up with a plan that plays to your strengths.
4Social mediacize the content all over the place (is "mediacize" a word?)! Use the hashtag #AgentsOfChange.
5After your post, if you're in Pullman, come get a cool T-shirt that says #AgentsOfChange on it. If you're not in the area, email us your address so we can send one to you!

For questions, please email Brandon Chapman.

Marcus Poppen


Marcus Poppen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Special Education
Pullman Campus
Cleveland Hall 358
Pullman, WA  99164


Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

Dr. Poppen’s research and scholarship is broadly focused on supporting career development and transition outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities. His interests include understanding the unique paths of career development for youth and young adults with disabilities, including those involved in the juvenile justice system, foster care system, and/or living with mental health concerns; collaborative school-based transition programs that are designed to facilitate the coordination and delivery of pre-employment transition services; and, program evaluation and capacity building efforts that support data-based decision making.

Teaching and Professional Interests

Dr. Poppen’s teaching interests are in Special Education . His professional interests include program evaluation, research, and implementation sciences.

Selected Publications

  • Poppen, M., & Alverson, C. (2018) Policies and practice: A review of legislation affecting transition services for individuals with disabilities. In B. Hughes, C. Johnson & B. Taga (Eds.). New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, Support and Transitions for Adults with Special Needs, 2018 (160), 63-76.
  • Scheef, A., Barrio, B., Poppen, M., McMahon, D., & Miller, D. (2018). Exploring barriers for facilitating work experience opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities enrolled in post-secondary education programs. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability.
  • Poppen, M., Lindstrom, L., Unruh, D., Khurana, A., & Bullis, M. (2017). Preparing youth with disabilities for employment: An analysis of vocational rehabilitation case services data. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 46, 209-224. doi:10.3233/JVR-160857
  • Lind, J., Poppen, M., & Murray, C. (2017). An intervention to promote positive teacher-student relationships and self-determination among adolescents with emotional disturbance. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 40, 186-191.
  • Scheef, A., Barrio, B., & Poppen, M. (2017). Developing partnerships with businesses to support job training for youth with disabilities in Singapore. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 40, 156-164.
  • Mazzotti, V.I, Rowe, D. A., Sinclair, J., Poppen, M., & Woods, W. (November 2016). Predictors of post-school success: A systematic review of NLTS-2 secondary analyses. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 38, 196-215.
  • Poppen, M., Sinclair, J., Hirano, K., Lindstrom, L., & Unruh, D. (May 2016). Perceptions of mental health concerns for secondary students with disabilities during transition to adulthood. Education and Treatment of Children, 39, 221-241.
  • Lindstrom, L., Harwick, R., Poppen, M., & Doren, B. (2012) Gender gaps: Career development for young women with disabilities, Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 35(2), 108-117.

Education Background

  • Ph.D., Special Education, University of Oregon (2014)
  • M.S., Special Education, University of Oregon (2012)
  • B.A., Family and Human Services, University of Oregon (2007)

Special Education Faculty

Special Education Program Faculty


Susan Rae Banks, PhD
Early childhood special education; Indigenous family involvement in education; culturally responsive assessment, curriculum development and delivery; and Native teacher preparation.

Michael Dunn, PhD
Literacy skills /strategies to assist struggling readers and writers; and response to intervention.

Yun-Ju Hsiao, PhD
Autism spectrum disorders; families of students with disabilities; and evidence-based practices.

Donald McMahon, PhD
Universal Design for Learning (UDL); mobile devices; and augmented reality as an assistive technology for students with disabilities.

Darcy Miller, PhD
Special education policies and law; Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders; teacher preparation; and behavior/emotional disorders.

Sara Petersen, JD
Special education law; and teaching students requiring intensive educational supports.

Marcus Poppen, PhD
Behavioral and mental health; juvenile delinquency; family and human services; secondary special education; and transition.

Affiliate Faculty:

June Canty



Special Education Add-On Endorsement

Special Education Add-On Endorsement

The Special Education Endorsement Program at Washington State University provides the skills and knowledge required for those who want to teach students with special needs in grades P-12. The course work can be taken at either the undergraduate level or the graduate level.

In order to earn the add-on special education endorsement, students must be enrolled in or have completed another endorsement (such as elementary education, English language arts, mathematics, etc.). Students must apply for the add-on endorsement.
All of the courses are offered in an online-only, asynchronous format. Students can access the lessons and do the assignments when it is convenient to them; there is no designated time that students have to be online in a given week.  Students do not need to relocate to a WSU campus but do need U.S. student status. They can take classes in their current location if they have access to a DSL-speed (or higher) internet connection. Some course work is available on site the four WSU campuses. Check the schedule of courses offered at each campus for current course delivery options.

The requirement to complete an evidence portfolio (SPEC_ED 499) versus a practicum (SPEC_ED 490/590) is determined by the student’s physical location.  WSU students enrolled through the Global Campus will enroll in SPEC_ED 499 and complete an evidence portfolio.  The portfolio will align their out-of-school experiences (e.g., Special Olympics coach) with students with disabilities to the state special education competencies.  In this way students can demonstrate that they have had experiences working with children and youth with disabilities, and they demonstrate positive and productive skills in that experience. Those who complete the endorsement through Global Campus complete 29 credits of course work and evidence portfolio.

Students admitted through Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities or Vancouver will complete two 2 credit practicums (SPEC_ED 490/590) for a total of four credits.  The practicum experience consists of 90 hours of experience in a special education classroom or setting (usually 6 hours per week, for 15 weeks) for each two credits of practicum. Students not certified in Washington must complete a background check before enrolling in practicum credits. School placements will be made by campus placement personnel; students should not coordinate their own placements.

The WSU Special Education Endorsement Program is designed to meet state and national standards and is accredited by PESB (Professional Educator Standards Board). The federal government requires that school districts employ “Highly Qualified” teachers. That determination is made at the school district level and is dependent on the endorsements and certifications you have obtained.

Pre-Endorsement Waiver:  A teacher who has completed sixteen semester credit hours of the required special education course work is eligible for a pre-endorsement waiver which will allow that teacher to be employed as a special education teacher. This is a district-initiated process and additional information and application can be found on the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website.  WSU requires students to complete the courses listed in bold below before signing the Verification of Teacher Program Enrollment form (SPI 1534).  The remaining credits and all endorsement requirements must be completed within five years of service as a special education teacher (WAC 392-172A-02090).

Students can begin courses in any semester, if they have met all the prerequisite coursework. To find out more, contact one of the people below.

  • Greater Vancouver Area: Dan Overbay, WSU Vancouver Education Academic Coordinator (; 360-546-9673).
  • Tri-Cities area: Helen Berry, WSU Tri-Cities Education Academic Coordinator (; 509-372-7394)
  • Pullman and Online: Staci Bickelhaupt, WSU Certification Coordinator (; 509-335-8146)

Course Offerings and Schedule

Title Fall Spring Summer*
SPEC_ED 301 – Education of Exceptional Children
Prereq: none
SPEC_ED 401 – Teaching Students with Disabilities
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 420
Concurrent enrollment in SPEC_ED 301
SPEC_ED 402 –Assess & Curric for Students w/ Disab.
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 420; SPEC_ED 404
SPEC_ED 403 – Sec. Ed. for Students w/ Disabilities
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 420; SPEC_ED 404
SPEC_ED 404 – Professional Skills in Spec Ed.
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 420
Concurrent enrollment in SPEC_ED 301
SPEC_ED 409 – Early Childhood Special Education**
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 420
Concurrent enrollment in SPEC_ED 301
SPEC_ED 421 – Inclusion Strategies for Sp. Ed. Teachers
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 420
Concurrent enrollment in SPEC_ED 301
X  X
SPEC_ED 440 – Methods in Intensive Educ Support
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 420
Concurrent enrollment in SPEC_ED 301
SPEC_ED 470 – Assess and Instr in Reading
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 420 or instructor permission
SPEC_ED 490 – Practicum in Special Education***
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 420; SPEC_ED 404OR SPEC_ED 499 – Evidence Portfolio
SPEC_ED 501 – Teaching Students with Disabilities
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 520 or by petition
SPEC_ED 502 – Assess & Curric for Students w/ Disab.
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 520 or by petition;
SPEC_ED 503– Sec. Ed. for Students w/ Disabilities
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 520 or by petition;
SPEC_ED 504 – Professional Skills in Special Education
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 520 or by petition
SPEC_ED 509 – Early Childhood Special Education
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 520 or by petition
SPEC_ED 521 – Inclusion Strat. for Sp. Ed. Teach
Prereq:  SPEC ED 301 or by petition 520;
X  X
SPEC_ED 540 – Methods in Intensive Educ Support
Prereq:  SPEC_ED 301 or 520 or by petition
SPEC_ED 571 – Assess and Instr in Reading
Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 520 or by petition
SPEC_ED 590 – Practicum in Special Education***
    Prereq: SPEC_ED 301 or 520 or by petitionOR SPEC_ED 499 – Evidence Portfolio

Courses listed in bold are required for the pre-endorsement waiver

*Summer course offerings may vary. Check with the campus contact person for current schedules of course offerings.

**SPEC_ED 409/509 is strongly encouraged for teachers endorsed in secondary content prior to applying for the pre-endorsement waiver.

***A minimum of two credits of SPEC_ED 490/590 or completion of Spec Ed 499 (2 credits) must be completed before WSU will sign off on a teacher’s pre-endorsement waiver paperwork.

Faculty contacts

Pullman, Spokane, Online
Darcy Miller

Sara Petersen

Michael Dunn

Helpful Links

Did you know …

Special education endorsement program classes may also be taken at the master’s level and incorporated into an Ed.M. degree. The courses are offered in an online-only format through WSU’s Global Campus. Students watch the teaching videos and do the assignments/activities at a time during the week that is convenient to them; there is no designated meeting time.

College of Education, Cleveland Hall, PO Box 642114, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-2114, Contact Us

Globalization, Diversity, and Education Conference (#GDE2019)

15th AnnualGlobalization, Diversity, and Education Conference

Healing the Mind/Body/Soul: Community, Activism, and Justice in Education

Register Now
Conference Program




Early bird or advance registration deadline is January 11. The cost is $195 for General/Faculty ($225 after) and $90 for students ($100 after).

Register Now

Keynote Speakers

This year’s conference brings in two very well respected scholars. Terisa Siagatonu will give a performance the first day, and Dr. Dyan Watson, a workshop the second day.

Learn More

Book Your Room

Once again, we’ll host our Globalization Conference at the Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Airway Heights, WA. Great food. Great fun. Great learning.

Book Hotel

Press Play


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#GDE2019, #globalization, #diversity, #agentsofchange

They said it…

GDE is a supportive and challenging environment for scholars and activists to engage in stimulating and at times difficult dialogue on today’s educational issues. 

—A.G. Rud

The 2018 Globalization Conference brought together over 150 scholars from 35 Institutions and Organizations to share research, dialogue, and strategize deeper ways of working together for greater justice in schools and communities. The energy and commitments to rejecting racist policies and practices and mobilizing higher education, k-12 education and community organizations for equity and justice was powerful to witness.

—Paula Groves Price

Special Education Ph.D.

Special Education PhD

The Department of Teaching and Learning, in the College of Education, at Washington State University offers a PhD in Special Education. The PhD program is valued by potential students, graduates, and institutions as rigorous, relevant, and innovative, offering superior quality professional preparation that produces exceptional and creative researchers and teachers with a focus on improving the lives of students with disabilities and their families. The PhD program emphasizes the generation, application, and translation of research that will enhance the field and improve the lives of those with disabilities. Graduates are prepared for academic and leadership positions in teaching, research, and service with a focus on equity and social justice for persons with disabilities.

Program Information

  • The research methods courses in the PhD program include the Carnegie Core: Epistemology, Principles of Research, Quantitative Research Methods, and Qualitative Research Methods (12 credits). The research core is required of all doctoral students in the College of Education and provides students with the advanced research skills and knowledge they will need in their future professional positions.
  • The Special Education required core courses in the PhD program include: Seminar in Disability Studies, Response to Intervention, Single Subject Research Design, Diversity Issues in Special Education, Social Development and School-Based Prevention and Intervention Practices, Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology, and Seminar in Quality Indicators for Research in Special Education (24 credits). Within these broad-based courses, students have the opportunity to focus on their areas of interest (e.g., Universal Design for Learning as applied to students with intellectual disabilities, autism, or K-12 populations, etc.; Research in Special Education as applied to K-12 settings, early childhood, students with behavior disorders, etc.).
  • The scholarship support course work includes an Academic Writing for Dissertation course and a Dissertation Preparation course (6 credits). PhD students are also provided with the opportunity to enroll in specialty courses taught by faculty (e.g., Autism, Transition, etc.).
  • PhD students complete two internships, one in research in which they obtain hands-on experience in research projects. The other internships is focused on teaching in higher education and involves syllabus preparation, effective teaching practices, and assessment/evaluation activities.
  • Students are supported and mentored throughout their program by faculty advisors and program committees. Dissertations on problems of practice in students’ areas of interest are encouraged.

Note: Students can access the doctoral program through interactive television on WSU campuses.

Washington State University