e-Learning in a Special Education School

I teach an elearning class. I work at a Spec Ed school. Not one of my students in my school in enrolled in an elearning class. I have one student in my elearning class on an IEP.

Now, before I get all preachy, its fair to say that my school does offer elearning to our students and a fair number of my staff offer blended learning in some capacity. But I do want to make a point that in my brief and limited experience,  a certain group of students is not being represented fairly.  I am only speaking from my experience and I truly hope this is NOT a common theme throughout other boards and online course offerings in general.

In many ways, I feel online learning could be an ideal situation for kids with IEP’s.  Our school offers a number of computer applications to assist our students. OSAPAC software runs like blood in our veins. Many of my students could school me on smart board, scanning, uploading, listening, dowloading, printing, and especially copying and pasting.  Generally speaking, that generation seems to be partly computer synapsed anyway and students at our school have been linked since elementary trying new software to help them hear, see, learn, understand, manipulate and have fun.  I have on more than one occasion just asked simply, “Have you heard of ….?” and if it’s yes, they show me what they’ve done. If, no, they zip right on and are clicking away faster than I am developing something.

So why haven’t I seen more IEP kids enrolled? Theories:

– maybe un-identified students are in my courses and don’t have an official “diagnosis”

– our students have a reputation of being unmotivated to achieve

– an actual teacher presence needed for focus and attention

– the need for one-on-one explanation for different learning styles

– the knowledge in-house of those IEP’s for extra time, supervision, tools, etc

– they are able to get the courses they need at home school – no spec ed reason

Theories why more IEP students could be enrolled in online classes:

– blended learning has worked well at my school – so using the technology is not an excuse!

– social media is transitioning as more than just “social” but as a learning tool – our students are familiar with this technology as well

– perhaps online classes could run in a similar fashion to co-op and blended learning with weekly (or so) face to face meetings for that learning style differentiation

– the increasing use of differentiated instruction in online learning to accommodate those learning styles

– motivation (an issued even with non IEP students) can be increased (for any of these myriad of situations:students who have behaviour issues or medication issues or appointments and may have absenteeism in regular classes) by allowing students to learn a little more on their own schedule

Aside from IEP issues, if more and more students are dropping out of school for any reason, if graduation rates are declining, offering a learning experience outside the traditional school can only be a positive option.  Do not be afraid to allow students on IEP’s to spread their wings and take online classes. To prepare them for the world after secondary school which could involve college and university, we are only aiding their transition by allowing them more options in high school.

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