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Using Technology to Support Inclusion

Written by Amanda Von Kleist
December 02, 2010

As a special education teacher in a high school setting, my primary goal is to bring students with disabilities into the mainstream of education successfully. Not only do I want these students to be included in general education classes and curriculum, I want them to be able to engage in the work with increasing levels of independence. I want students to have access to the resources that they need in order to do the kind of work asked of them. Over the past few years technology has begun to play a very important role in terms of housing the resources my students need to be successful right alongside their “non-disabled peers.”

Is it possible to support students in four different grade levels, each with a seven-period schedule?

It is difficult to impossible to be in several places at the same time, yet my role as a builder of access to general education curriculum seemingly requires such a feat. Let me provide an example. During third period six students in an English class need help reading a chapter out of a novel, simultaneously eight seniors need support organizing their ideas for a PowerPoint presentation for Government, coincidentally sophomores in World History need access to notes to supplement their own in order to complete a homework assignment. This is where the use of technology allows me to serve all of these students’ needs at once.

Uploading Resources = Building Autonomy

Our school has a drive on the server that all students can access from any computer on campus. We call it the “R” drive or the “Student Data Drive.” Each student has their own file on the drive, accessible only with their individual log in and password, where they can store their work securely. Additionally, there is common space on the drive to store shared data. I can upload data to the shared part of the drive, students can access it and save it into their own secure file, so that they can use and manipulate the information as they see fit.

Examples of Resource Uploads

  • Carlos has been assigned to read two chapters from The Kiterunner. He struggles at times decoding grade level words, however often understands the meaning of the words once he hears them spoken. Carlos, book in hand, checks out a pair of headphones and plugs into a computer in the library. He opens the link to the audio version of the text which I uploaded to the server, and soon his work is done.

Kiterunner, Chapter 1

  • Yadira has been assigned a paper in English 11 which requires her to trace the moral development of characters in The Crucible. She must select quotes that demonstrate that each character is operating at a specific level of Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development and justify her selection through analysis. Using the Excel chart that I uploaded on the server, she can save the chart to her own file and can sort through the quotes to plan out her paper.

Crucible Quotes Chart

  • David has been assigned to create a PowerPoint presentation in which he defends his own understanding of human nature, comparing and contrasting his beliefs with Enlightenment era philosophers. David accesses the PowerPoint template that I uploaded to the student server, saves it to his own file and begins filling it in and making it his own.

Human Nature PowerPoint guide

  • Next Monday, students in government will have their first test. Students with a diverse range of abilities will need to prepare. Some students need only a list of terms to study and a format to use for studying. Others will need a complete guide to study the needed content. Students with more significant need will use the guide while they take the test. Students will be guided to the most appropriate option and access the resource independently.

Government Chapter 1 Study Guide

Government Chapter 1 Study Guide – Terms Only

Expanding Access

The disadvantage to uploading resources to the student data drive on campus is that those resources are not available to students once they go home. An obvious solution to this problem (and one that I will work toward) is to upload these very same resources to an online venue such as the school website, google docs, a ning or a wiki site. These sites must be selected carefully as many are ultimately blocked by school internet filtration systems. Using these resources at home will require students to save the work they do at home and bring it back to school in an electronic format, such as a memory stick. Many of my students do not have computers or internet at home, so building access to these resources on campus is the most realistic approach at the moment.

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