There are several technologies that can help schools and teachers better support special education distance learning. According to reporting from EdTech Magazine, it's essential for educators to first make sure they can adapt the distance learning tools they are using to the needs of individual students.
Teachers can conduct their daily classes using virtual classrooms and collaboration solutions, letting students access classes using the devices that are easiest for them to use. Or, they can provide individualized instruction using the same video-based tools. Oftentimes, devices such as tablets and smartphones have accessibility features—like live transcriptions and mono audio—that make it easier to both access a class and participate in it.
Some teachers have seen success by uploading videos of lessons that students can access individually and at their own pace. Various applications feature assistive technologies, like speech-to-type, which may help some learners engage with these lessons, participate in live classes or join specific activities. Others may let students record their answers, verbally responding from their devices. Depending on the needs of the learners involved, gamification techniques may also help with classroom engagement in a distance learning environment.
Involvement from parents and caregivers is crucial to success with distance learning for special education students. According to a special report from EdWeek, Bridging Distance for Learners With Special Needs, it's essential to proactively reach out to families for their input and perspective about their goals for distance learning and which technologies will best support their children's specific needs.
They should also consult the distance learning resources that disability rights and educational advocacy groups have created. Educating All Learners, one such hub, offers a wealth of best practices on topics like teaching and learning strategies as well as tech tools that advance accessibility.
Not all families have equal access to internet connectivity or digital devices, so schools should make sure they have the technology support they need to participate in effective distance learning for special education students in the first place. Otherwise, special education students will face even more barriers in accessing educational opportunities. Indiana's Fort Wayne Community Schools delivered remote learning in record time by rolling out a 1:1 plan that included mobile hotspots for the families that needed them, helping eliminate this obstacle.