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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resource Center for Families & Educators

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How Can Virtual Environments Support Learning for All?

In the struggle to implement expanded remote learning, educators are also finding opportunities. But with efforts to provide devices and Wi-Fi access, educators still are missing — or inadvertently reducing — opportunities to better serve all students.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, district administrators too often made decisions from a testing standpoint, and then thought about special education. If leaders think about special education and accommodations first, they can make decisions that benefit all students and ensure those with disabilities are not left out. Whether education takes place online or on campus, it’s essential to ensure that classrooms are inclusive.

How District Offices Can Lead This Work

One way that districts can support educators as they create inclusive classrooms is to evaluate the technology platforms they use. This work is not just for technology departments to manage alone; it is essential for curriculum and instruction departments to partner with technical staff. Conduct accessibility checks to ensure platforms and resources used for remote learning are safe for students and integrate with pre-existing systems. Turn on captions as a default for instructional videos. Ensure software or platforms have a text-to-speech option. Be mindful of those and other features that can help students understand and engage with lessons.

It’s also important to be strategic about instruction. Many schools have adjusted the amount of instructional time to include synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Because of this, districts should work with curriculum teams to prioritize what students need to learn to ensure they can successfully advance to subsequent grades. Include educational technology and special education experts in these conversations. These professionals understand what resources are available and what supports the district can put in place for students and teachers. Providing educators with additional direction on what content standards to address, and what supports are already available, can enable teachers to focus not just on what to teach but also on how to teach online.

For students with severe disabilities, many schools struggle with providing services during remote learning. Staffing shortages and limitations on meeting face to face exacerbate those challenges. As districts move into the new school year, they must address what services they can provide remotely, what support they will provide parents, and how individualized education programs (IEPs) may be modified to address learning from home. Can physical and speech therapists’ work be moved online? Can teachers provide parents with ways to support life skills lessons? When looking ahead to hybrid instruction, is it feasible to prioritize bringing these classes back on campus? It is essential to reach out to your local and state education agencies as they continue to release guidance on how to address these students’ needs.

Excerpted from “Develop Connections to Boost Student Inclusion” in EdTech Magazine. Read the full article online to learn about developing connections to boost student inclusion and disabilities supports that promote learning for all students.

Source: EdTech Magazine | Develop Connections to Boost Student Inclusion, https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2020/08/when-virtual-learning-barriers-collapse-inclusion-expands | Copyright © 2020 CDW LLC

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