It goes without saying the COVID19 pandemic has and continues to have a profound effect on education. Students are adjusting to hybrid or fully remote learning, and educators are continuing to make complex decisions about how best to support students in the new normal.
On October 28, 2020, InnovateEDU and the Educating All Learners Alliance hosted a webinar focused on education technology resources for special education. More than 1,100 practitioners joined the event in real-time.
The webinar featured video demonstrations of five special education technology tools that were developed through the IES Small Business Innovation Research Program and ED’s Office of Special Education Educational Technology, Media, and Materials for Individuals with Disabilities Program. The event also included conversations with special education practitioners and researchers who provided perspectives on the role of special education and technology to meet the needs of all students. The webinar involved a variety of resources and opportunities, including:
- A new Guide to Special Education Resources which presents information on 20 research-based tools
- A video replay of a May 2020 “Virtual Unconference in Special Education” featuring a full day of presentations and panels for remote teaching and learning
- The Educating All Learners Alliance website, which provides curated tools, strategies, and best practices for supporting students with disabilities remotely during COVID-19
- The CAST website, including: Accessible Education Materials for COVID-19; Framing the Future of Learning with Technology, Clusive, a universally designed reader for students with learning needs, and Learning Designed, a professional development and micro-credentialing platform for practitioners
- An announcement of an upcoming funding opportunity through ED/IES SBIR, which releases around December 1 and calls for proposals from small businesses for up to $200,000 for R&D of new and innovative special education technology products
During the webinar, practitioners participated by adding comments in the chat box with a “wish list” of education technology they would like to have now to support teaching and learning. Participants entered dozens of responses, many calling for increased connectivity and access to hardware and software, especially in rural areas. Other responses focused on education technologies for teachers, students with or at-risk for disabilities, and parents and caregivers.
Following are just a few of the entries:
- “More coaching tools to use with children who are learning remotely to provide instantaneous feedback”
- “Descriptions that allow teachers to at-a-glance identify the features a program offers to match to the features that their students need”
- “Using data to support teachers and students with decisions that move learning forward.”
- “Resources that I can use to assist with non-compliant behaviors and keeping their attention in person and virtually.”
- “Making it possible for students to show their work for math so that we can see that rather than just their answers.”
- “Common share place for all teachers.”
- “I am looking for a way to deliver instructions to the home distantly”
For Students with Disabilities
- “Teaching students how to be self-determined learners.”
- “Build this skill set from kindergarten.”
- “Develop and implement collaborative activities”
- “My nonverbal students need hands on.”
- “Engagement and motivation; remote resources.”
- “Student choice and voice.”
- “Make it a family affair / Zoom with family member supporting on other side.”
- “A resource that we can use to incorporate the parent or group home worker that have to navigate these different learning apps for the student.”
- “Easy-to-follow videos that we can use to show parents and students how to use these resources when they aren’t in front of us.”
Lastly, one of the teachers provided a comment: “We need more of these events.” From everyone involved in the October 28 webinar, thanks for attending. We are planning for more events like this one soon.
Edward Metz (Edward.Metz@ed.gov) is a research scientist at the Institute of Education Sciences in the US Department of Education.
Tara Courchaine (Tara.Courchaine@ed.gov) is a program officer at the Office of Special Education Programs in the US Department of Education.