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Posts Tagged ‘inclusive

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I applaud the group that is trying to connect differently-abled folk with inclusive employers.

I also wonder whether the creators of the video realise how they are excluding some viewers by blindly following a trend.

The trend is for some news organisations (like Now This News, the South China Morning Post, and even the BBC News) that place text descriptors over video. These are not subtitles. They are summaries or statements of main points in the video.

See the difference in the slideshow below — subtitles are transcriptions of speech; the other text is information not necessarily represented in video footage.

The text overlays are distinct from subtitles. Subtitles are a good thing for the hearing-impaired. The text overlays deny the visually-impaired because there is no audio equivalent. The trend of using text descriptors over video is exclusionary. This is sadly ironic given how the video highlights one example of being inclusive. 

Come October I will be facilitating online modules on ICT for inclusive education. This is part of a larger course set that I have been involved in since 2016.

As with most courses, the allocated time is extremely tight, so we uncover only the basics. But there are two broader issues that I wish we could address in greater depth. These are some quick thoughts on the deficit model and equitable education.

The first thing I take issue with is the deficit model of special needs and inclusive education. If you watch the videos below, you might note how the “disabled” are concerned about how they help they receive is often based on charity or pity.


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The interviewees shared their hopes and dreams, which are no different from yours or mine. So instead of just focusing on overcoming their disabilities, we might also develop their nascent or untapped abilities.

The second issue that does not get enough attention is equitable opportunities in education, not just equal ones. This long used reference illustrates the difference between treating people equally and with equity.

Treating everyone the same is a hallmark of equality. The problem with equality is that the most disadvatanged start at a much lower point and the help does not boost them enough to level the playing ground.

The idea of fairness drives equity. This means giving those that need it more help than those who do not. This is like giving the poorer more money to tide over the current coronavirus pandemic and less (or nothing) to the rich.

How does ICT fit in?

In terms of equity, I see the marginalised and disenfranchised given at least as much access to current technologies. Where there are specialised enabling (assistive) technologies, I say we put in the time, money, and effort to develop and provide these to those who need them.

As for overturning the deficit model, I say we focus on technologies that enable the so-called disabled to develop and share what they can do. This might be everyday tools we use like YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok.

I hope to be able to conclude my modules with these thoughts or sprinkle them when they arise organically. This way I focus less on content that expires and more on mindsets that last a lifetime.

The comic and video below is funny because they are true to teachers. In those truths come hidden lessons if we bother to look.
 


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No, I am not talking about learning how to mute everyone in Zoom or how to improvise camera stands for sharing written work.

The comic and video capture attempts to replicate classroom practices. When pushed online, we call these synchronous teaching and learning activities. Such activities are the focus of the comic and video because that is what most people seem to think teaching looks like online. This is only half the picture.

The hidden lesson is about designing for asynchronous and more inclusive learning. The design and facilitation of such learning are not obvious or glamorous. It is neither easy nor interesting to capture the process of combining educational psychology, content knowledge, pedagogical savvy, technical skills, learner empathy, and evaluation principles.

The design of asynchronous learning is about teaching that ensures learning without the constant and immediate presence of the teacher. This is NOT about taking the teacher out from the teaching-learning equation. It is about a shift in focus and effort — understanding the processes of learning and meeting the needs of learners asynchronously.

Inclusive education, be it online or offline, is about including the quieter learners so that they express themselves (there are other types of disadvantaged learners, but this group is easily overlooked). Reticent students are already reluctant to speak up in class. Instead of replicating such conditions online, we might design and facilitate experiences that focus on deeper, nuanced, or reflective thinking.

Is designing for asynchronous and more inclusive learning more difficult? Definitely. This is why teachers and educators who only know how to teach in classrooms, labs, and studios need new mind and skill sets if emergency remote teaching is to actually become meaningful and powerful online learning.

The good news is that teachers do not have to start from scratch. They might be able to transfer some skills and practices (e.g., active listening and wait time) to the design of online experiences. However, the same skills might have to be tweaked or revised to account for the lack of immediate social cues and a shared physical environment. Using the examples, active listening might be replaced by anticipatory scaffolds from the teacher and active reflection for the learner; wait time might be translated to longer or negotiated deadlines.

The bad news is that teachers might not see the point of adopting new mindsets and learning new skills. If the lockdown now and possibly ones in the future are relatively short and transient, why should they change? They might consider this: The applications online of psychology, pedagogy, technology, and evaluation can make them better teachers overall. If that is not relevant and continuous professional development, I do not know what is.

 
Every now and then I say, “Ah, serendipity!” because I discover something that is relevant to my learning and teaching.

A resource that was delivered to me almost a month ago was the preview list of journal articles from the British Journal of Educational Technology.

I like BJET because it has thematic releases. The March series focuses on technology for inclusive and special needs education.

The content is wide-ranging and might be slightly beyond the reach of one group of leaners I meet every year. However, I find these two articles to be particularly relevant:

The rest of the articles are listed here.

We are all special, but some of us are more special than others. This might be an educator’s take on the famous line from Animal Farm.

To that end, educators should design resources for all our learners, not just those who seem “normal”.

I was glad to chance upon this tweet and wish it was available several weeks ago when I was facilitating modules on ICT for inclusion. But next year’s batch will benefit from this find.

The Twitter discussion was just as fruitful because it revealed the original source of the posters. There are three more posters — for screen readers, users with motor conditions, and learners with hearing impairments — in the complete set.

Best of all, the posters are covered by a Creative Commons license, CC-BY-NC-SA. Good on them!

Last night I concluded an evening class on ICT for Inclusive Education.

I was hoping that this round would allow me to provoke more thought on the differences between equality and equity in inclusive education.

As a refresher, here is one of the better visualisations and descriptions of equality and equity.

To that end, I wanted to share three videos at various segments: A Netflix trailer for Atypical, a feature on Greta Thunberg, and the winner of this year’s America’s Got Talent, Cody Lee.


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I only got to the first two videos and this was my intended message.

The main characters of all the videos were somewhere on the autism spectrum. All rely on some form of technology to be human and realise their goals — Sam needs noise-cancelling headphones because he is sensitive to noise, Greta uses social media to monitor her movement on climate change, and Cody has his keyboards and YouTube videos.

These are people with special needs and they are born into better circumstances than most. They are supported and enabled by their families and peers. They can compete on equal footing and even exceed the normal and neurotypical.

What about the rest who are not born privileged? They cannot be treated the same; they need to be treated fairly. This might mean giving more help and resources so that they can live their best lives.

Providing such help is a complex and messy process. For me, one of the starting points is special needs or inclusive educators. They need to know WHAT some technologies are and HOW best to incorporate them for teaching and learning.

They also need to know how other issues surrounding technology and pedagogy affect the two — issues like political will, policy, budgets, parental perspectives, social norms, etc. The burden is also on such teachers and educators to stay current with such issues and work from within the system to effect change.

In a few months time, I have the privilege of resurrecting a short course on inclusive education with ICT.

As I always have my radar on, my feeds produced two resources I might be able to use.

The first is a news article that might reinforce a more progressive view on special needs and inclusive education. But it is locked behind a paywall and all my learners might not have this newspaper subscription.
 

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The second is a YouTube video that might not have an obvious link to my course. What does a 16-year-old environmental activist and Nobel prize nominee have to do with inclusive education?

After watching the video I found out that Greta Thunberg has Asperger Syndrome. Hers is an example of how everyday technology (e.g., social media) enables identity and passion.

The availability of the video over the news article also illustrates the reach and accessibility of some learning resources over others. Some providers shoot themselves in the foot and disable themselves.

The op piece in this tweet was an impassioned call to step up our efforts in inclusive schooling and education.

I take no issue with that call because we can only be better people for it.

I did notice, however, that you could substitute every instance of “inclusive education” or “special needs education” with almost any contentious issue in schooling — say technology integration — and the op piece would still make sense. Take this segment, for example:

… we still have a long way to go in embracing inclusion technology fully.

One of the key factors for inclusive technology integration in education is adaptation. The present landscape of special needs technology integration in education in Singapore is lacking in a customisable curriculum to meet the diverse needs of children with special needs.

I did not change the last two words (special needs) in my selection because every child is special in their own way. Technology can help express their uniqueness and latent abilities.

Reading the whole article more critically, you might discover that it says everything and nothing at the same time. Everything because it covers the issues broadly; nothing because it merely skims the surface. This is why we can play the word substitution game.

Viewed more broadly, the write-up might sound like a politician’s or policymaker’s script for a speech. It is a call to action, but it is so generic that is becomes impotent.

Word substitution is my way of determine the depth of thought of the written or spoken word. If one issue in schooling or education cannot be distinguished from another with the help of word substitution, its rallying call is but a whisper.

Two things prompted this reflection — an interview I watched on YouTube and interactions I had with a special breed of teachers.

A few weeks ago, I watched an interview of Ris Ahmed on YouTube [focused segment]. The actor explained how “Asian” meant very different things in the UK and the USA.


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I can vouch for what Riz Ahmed said because I lived in the USA for several years and had to minor incidentally in socio-political geography to educate those around me.

Now fast-forward to the present. For the last few semesters, I have interacted with pre and inservice teachers who are pursuing diplomas in special needs education (SPED).

I find the “special” in SPED to be a misnomer. It has different meanings in different contexts and it is an insufficient catch-all term.

If you go to almost any school system in the USA and are labelled “special”, you are atypical. You might have a genetic, physical, or behavioural condition that distinguishes you from “normal” or typical. The label is generally a negative one.

In Singapore’s context, being in a special stream of schooling might be a highly sought label. Being a student a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school is a mark of academic excellence. For some history on SAP, read this NLB article.

However, the special-as-atypical meaning is more dominant now in our context. This is because students with special needs are more visible and are given more equitable opportunities than before.

Despite the “special” label being more common, those of us who consider ourselves typical might still gawk at atypicals. This is because our social circles do not overlap as much as they could.

This is why a newer term and phenomenon is on the rise. It is called inclusive education. This could mean including students with hearing impairments or ADHD or certain forms of autism in neuro-typical classrooms.

Inclusive education recognises that atypical students need more or special assistance while not isolating them all the time from the larger world. This is big step forward in special needs education. It might just be the equivalent of bringing the “real world” into typical classrooms.

Today I continue my journey as a consultant by revisiting experiences I used to facilitate almost ten years ago. I have designed ICT-focused modules for a group of allied educators whose work revolves around children with special learning needs.

As a teacher educator in NIE, I used to facilitate a core classroom management and special needs awareness course. Back then I relied on PBwiki (which became PBworks) and Google Sites to provide rich learning experiences.

Back then, the content of the course was centrally planned by a committee and content was stuffed awkwardly into an LMS. Once student-teachers graduated, they could not access the resources. I decided to use open wikis to provide continued and timely access.

The wikis are open to this day. Google is good at leaving things as is; PBworks annoys me at least once a year by asking me if they can claim the space.

This time round I am experimenting with the newly minted Google Spaces to provide a springboard for accessing numerous other online resource, tools, and platforms.

Google Space for CAE/SEED course on ICT for Inclusion.

Some things have changed in the area of ICT for special needs and others have stubbornly remain entrenched.

The ICT-enabled learning possibilities for individuals with special needs is immense. I have been collecting online references for a few months and the possibilities are mind-boggling and heart-warming.

Like most socio-technical phenomena, the problems lie in human ignorance, indifference, and inertia. One word encompasses all three: Administration. The group that should support and enable instead enforces and blocks.

Administration is typically multilayered, and while bureaucracy is generally a pain, I have been fortunate to work with a layer that has given me some freedom. I will use that leeway to design learning experiences that are active instead of archaic and meaningful instead of mundane.

Why do I do this? I believe that every one has “special needs” when it comes to learning. Each of us lies somewhere along a continuum of preferences and abilities. A course designed by an administrator ticks boxes and reaches for the low-hanging fruit. A course designed by a learner tickles and challenges.


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