Head of Education Strategy, Texthelp
When thinking about educational technology (edtech) to support our special education needs or disability (SEND) learners, we need to think about everything that might sit below the surface.
One of our most famous exports in Belfast is the Titanic. If we think about that notorious iceberg, we know that only 10% was visible above the waterline, yet the 90% that the captain needed to know about was invisible.
This is also true of our pupils if we think about the percentage with identifiable or, perhaps, obvious individual needs. Any teacher will tell you, however, that this is not reflective of the students who need support — those who struggle silently or those who simply learn differently.
Remove stigma for SEND learners
We need to think about the stigma we apply when we give a certain subset of learners access to technology. The branding of tools as ‘assistive technology’ can create barriers for those who don’t want to be labelled.
During the extended periods of remote learning, we saw a quadruple rise in the use of assistive technology. That’s because everyone found a benefit. We need to ensure there is equity of access to the same tools for all learners to use when they need them.
Start designing lessons with your
toolkit and students’ needs in mind.
The right toolkit for all learners
We need to provide students with tools that can help them understand and be understood in different ways.
When thinking about text-to-speech as a tool to support dyslexic students, we forget those under the waterline who could also benefit. Reading aloud helps to reduce screen time, with understanding new topic content and with revision. By giving everyone access, all learners can benefit.
Design with technology in mind
Start designing lessons with your toolkit and students’ needs in mind. Think about the format of your classroom activities and the instructions that go alongside them.
Could you provide instructions in multiple formats (written and oral, for example)? Could you provide a list of terms and their meanings ahead of presenting new topics for students to understand, before time, what new words and language mean? If the answer is no, edtech can now put this in the hands of every learner with ease.
The most important thing to remember when using edtech is to provide opportunity. We can design learning well and select the right tools, but we need to give our SEND students the opportunities to use them.