Blog #5: Accessible and Equitable go Hand in Hand
Reflecting on tonight’s discussion of accessibility and equity in the context of your own course. How accessible is it? Are there any issues related to accessibility and equity that you need to address? What other ethical/social considerations might be relevant?
As I reflect on class tonight, I continue to ask myself and others, how are you providing accessible and equitable learning experiences? What does this look like? What does it involve? It is clear that there are many different ways, based upon who you are teaching, what accessible and equitable learning might look like. But at the end of the day, all learners must have an opportunity to access learning.
During class, I was asked what I currently do in my own classroom and it has occurred to me that although I do some things, I am not doing enough when it comes to ensuring learning is accessible to all. Here are a few things I am currently doing in my own classroom now:
Google Read & Write - an extension on Google Chrome, where students can listen to any text and respond, using a microphone. To ensure all students have access to this, I ensure all computers have the extension ready to go at the beginning of the year, every student has headphones with a microphone and of course, we practice using it daily, for students to become confident and competent with it. However, during class, it was brought to my attention how this extension can become overwhelming due to all the different features and buttons it has. Luckily for me, we only focus on 3 buttons to listen, respond, and pause if one might need. Due to this, I am going to try a suggested tool in the fall called Read Aloud, which has fewer features, to ensure my learners do not feel overwhelmed when trying to complete their tasks at hand.
Google Classroom - all materials are provided on this LMS, where students can access any materials. It is labeled very simplistically, so students can see exactly what they need to do that day and can complete the task.
Social stories - Help students with different expectations, social cues, responsibilities, safety, and well-being. Students have one at school and one at home, where they read daily. When creating these, I ensure to create them with the student and use pictures of that particular student, so they see themselves within the story.
Involving the parents and guardians - this is the biggest thing I have learned, is involving the parents to see what their child needs. We are no experts and the family knows the child best. Ask the child. Ask the parents. This is a way to ensure they have access to an equitable education. For example, one year I taught a student who got migraines with certain colours and text, and therefore, all text needed to be enlarged and on a blue sheet of paper. If I had not met with the partners first, I would not have known that this student needed this to ensure he had an opportunity to learn.
Moving forward, I want to continue to provide an accessible and equitable learning experience for all. I know I have more to do but I am going to continue to find tools and techniques to ensure everyone has an opportunity to access their education. An app I will use in the future is called, Seeing AI and this app can read any text (whether in the room or on a sheet of paper). This will not only help students who have difficulties reading but also help students with social stories, as we go around the school and take pictures. Further, I have come to realize my weekly blogs are not that accessible and a goal moving forward, will be to ensure I am providing captions, subtitles within videos, enlarged text, and labeling my blog more thoroughly. I will be a flexible educator, as I believe, like Dr. Philippa Cater, that is the way to ensure students have an equitable access to education.
Being within an accessible and equitable blended or online classroom is feasible, however, there are some ethical and social considerations. Firstly, many of my students do not have access to technology at home and therefore, especially a blended classroom, it is not feasible to ask them to complete any of the online work at home. Secondly, funding in general. How will we ensure all students have access to technology when we do not even have enough funding within our schools to have enough teachers, resources and support? It is a real issue. Finally, being safe and proactive online - being a digital citizen. Some people have been on technology all their lives, while others are only open to it once in school. This is important to teach all our students as we immerse them into a blended and/or online classroom.
At the end of the day to have an accessible and equitable education goes hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Every person deserves an opportunity to access education and this will vary from person to person. It is vital to build relationships, ask questions and be prepared to fail and be challenged. We are no experts but we are there to provide an equitable, accessible education for all. Let’s start today!
How else can I ensure to provide an equitable and accessible education for all?