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How does virtual learning work for special education?

It seems like everywhere you look, there's new digital resources available for special education.

It's an exciting time!

The education community has been embracing digital for many years now, but recently we're seeing a SURGE due to meeting the needs of virtual learning.

This post has me stepping on my soapbox for just a moment to offer my opinion on choosing the best digital resources for the special education setting. This has been in the back of mind for awhile, but it almost seemed like too big of a problem to tackle – how do we meet everyone's needs?

Is there already research on this?

Quick Answer: no

After a few days of diving into research and looking at hundreds of digital examples, I came to a fairly simple conclusion – just use the same good sense we already possess as special educators.

Wait…what?!?

We have experience vetting quality “hard copy” resources for our students based on their unique accommodations and interests. Why can't we do the exact same thing with digital resources?

We can!

The biggest impact on moving from paper to digital? Presentation.

Presentation is a HUGE factor on assessing digital resources for special education.

I always love to teach and learn from examples, so I'm first going to share a NON-example of a digital resources designed for younger learners:

Choose the best digital resources for your students working in the special education setting! Use this checklist to vet materials.

This is intended for a first or second grader focusing on phonics and encoding (spelling).

The data collected from completing this digital task card? Applying phonics knowledge to spell the word chair.

But is that really the information we'll be gathering?

This is considered a NON-example for the following reasons:

  • Step 1 – Student will click on the speaker icon and listen/read the directions
  • Step 2 – Student completes the thought process for the task (“how is chair spelled? I hear the /ch/”)
  • Step 3 – Drag and drop the letters needed to spell chair
  • Step 4 – Check your work and click submit

The steps above could probably be broken down further into even more steps as students are manipulating the keyboard or mouse and speaker.

Have you figured out why this is a NON-example now?

I think this task card is perfectly acceptable IF you're assessing the ability to follow directions with four or more steps. But for phonics and spelling? Maybe not.

Here's an example of what I believe targets our students' phonics knowledge:

Choose the best digital resources for your students working in the special education setting! Use this checklist to vet materials.

What is the student supposed to do?

  • Step 1 – This task cards cuts to the chase and immediately asks the student to apply their thinking processes: Read the word and find the picture.
  • Step 2 – Student clicks corresponding picture (feedback is immediate – correct or incorrect – and slide automatically advances)

That's it!

After several of these task cards are completed, I will be able to gather enough information on my students' phonics skills to decode words with the CVCe spelling.

Now it's your turn!

Use the following checklist to assess the digital resources you're choosing for your classroom.

Your Digital Checklist

Choose the best digital resources for your students working in the special education setting! Use this checklist to vet materials.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?

I'd love to hear from you!

Let's continue the conversation. Click below to join the free Special Educators Resource Room Facebook community!

Hi there.

I'm Jennifer!

I’m Jennifer and I was a special educator in the elementary school setting over the past decade. I entered the classroom every day dedicated to making learning inclusive AND engaging.

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