As a followup to my post about considering students with disabilities (here) as we move to online lessons, it struck me that this could be a an opportunity to better support and possibly improve the service that we deliver for special education students. We should in any case make sure that we keep these students’ needs in mind as we transition to virtual classroom technologies.
(Disclaimer the size of a jumbo jet: I know very little about the practice of working with special education students; anyone who is expert please correct or comment on anything I get wrong.)
At minimum, I”d like us to make sure that in this time of COVID-19, I’d like to make sure that we don’t leave behind the special education students. I believe they can be helped via virtual classroom as much as any other students.
It’s possible that this will require some involvement from a parent or other caregiver in the home working alongside the child and the special education teacher. Which may serve to help train the parent on teaching methods that they could use in other contexts. Or at least help the parent be more aware of ways their child can best perform. And in the best case scenario, this may serve as extra contact for each child, as they would have the individual attention from a parent during the lesson. (I acknowledge that this is a privilege, and I don’t want to presume that everyone has this ability, for any of several reasons.)
Another of the advantages of teaching online is the ability to record the session. This could enable the parent or caregiver to re-watch and repeat some of the exercises, or re-teach some of the same concepts, for reinforcement purposes.(I’m ignoring for the moment any legal issues of recording – I’m sure there are some – but I’m guessing that for the benefit of the child this can be managed.)
Yet another advantage may be the ability (potentially also legally fraught, I assume) to contribute these recordings to research: With appropriate permission, researchers could review and code these sessions in order to study what methods work better, and thereby improve special education for all. With modern video technologies, the faces could even be blurred, to help anonymize the participants.
Finally: because we can do this at scale and at a distance — across buildings, districts, school systems and even states — it is possible that we can reconfigure our classroom model based on the needs of students and the expertise of teachers; such that students with similar needs can be paired with teachers with the relevant expertise, wherever they each happen to live. Something along the lines I mentioned here.
In the best of all possible worlds, we could use this moment to improve the teaching of all students, including special education students.