Bettering Inclusion by Using Technology
reading aloud: j reads Harry Potter (4)" by Anna T is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
April 26, 2022
The above photo may look ordinary to most. But what about students that are struggling readers? The thought of sitting down with a book such as this could elicit anxiety. Now think about those students in a classroom, surrounded by their peers, and given the instructions to read silently. In a perfect world those students would have an inclusion teacher with them to help with their IEP accommodations. That may look like helping with a website to read to them or reading the passage/book/assignment to the student or group of students. However, as Covid has taught us, sometimes we just aren't prepared for the world to happen. What happens when you can't pull small groups? What happens if you need to read quietly to a student but can't get more than 6 feet to them? During these times we fall back on our "TRUSTY" technology. So, what happens when "TRUSTY" can't be trusted?
I asked these questions because I saw first hand how quickly things can turn out to not be the ideal picture that we had in our heads.
During my brief stint as an inclusion teacher, I was witness to Covid-19 classrooms. We needed to help our students with daily lessons and give accommodations but not actually be near them. This would have been fine had we been able to rely on the technology to provide the gaps that we were forced into. I don't blame those gaps on the technology but rather the lack of thought of technology.
Let me explain. While I was teaching middle school ELA inclusion the special education students ran into a problem almost daily. The teacher would discuss the assignment and what was expected of them. Example: Read the passage in your workbook and answer the questions on the following pages....
Now, go back to the scenario of a struggling reader in class being given an assignment to read. Their teacher cannot pull them into small groups, nor come near them. Can you guess what they did? Most of them fell asleep, doodled, daydreamed, or some combination of these. Where was the text-to-speech? Where were the read-alouds? Where was the support? The technology is there, so why were we failing these students? The problem started when our district created their own program. The problem is that they didn't create it with equity in mind. How can a child work independently when they don't have the proper tools to do so? Every child had access to the paper copy workbook, but not every child could read that workbook. Didn't any of the big shots that created this new curriculum think about the students with accomodations? Evidently, not.
There are some quick fixes had someone given even 10 seconds of thought to.
I very quickly found 2 videos showing text-t0-speech apps that you can download to your computer. As a matter of fact, you can do it now and have this blog read to you. It was that easy. Both are free. You can find the Google Chrome extension here and Balabolka here. Had the workbooks been shared with the teachers as a PDF, they could take the pages and share them within a Google Classroom and have the pages read them. The workbook was not put into PDF form. It was left to the teachers to provide these extra steps. LIKE WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TO DO ALREADY!
Another problem comes in when the teachers aren't allowed to actually download any program without having to submit it for acceptance or to request a work order for the program to be downloaded remotely. Either way, there is a waiting period that could last for weeks.
So, I guess the question that now lies with us is this....Where were the teachers that represented the Special Education population of students when this new curriculum was developed?
My Covid-19 classroom could have looked like this! Let's work smarter, not harder!
"Using Ripple Reader" by Kathy Cassidy is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0