Home » Education Technology » The Virtual Education Strategies That Deliver Better Learning Outcomes
Education Technology

The Virtual Education Strategies That Deliver Better Learning Outcomes

Kelly J. Grillo, Ph.D.

Coordinator of Special Education, Cooperative School Services; 2020 Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Teacher of the Year

Daniel McNulty, M.S.

State Director, PATINS Project

The teachers serving our classrooms are resilient, and so are our students. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and service providers, with family and caretaker support, knock down barriers to learning for students with disabilities by providing access to a free appropriate public education.

Many teachers say that being creative, collaborative, and sharing accessible materials extends learning engagement for students of varying abilities. Data shows that the regressions in math, reading, and language skills many predicted as a result of distance learning are not coming to pass.

At the local level, we have found little regression of basic literacy and numeracy skills. However, academic language, proper grammar, and syntax have been impacted. That effect is greater for students living in poverty. 

These anticipated regressions have not materialized because teachers mobilized with three strategies.

Creativity & flexibility

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) calls for specially designed instruction, and special educators are the most creative people I know. From singing a lesson’s content, to dressing up on screen, to reading aloud via phone calls during remote learning to gain and hold youngsters’ attention, teachers have been engaging in inventive practices during COVID. 

For our students with the most significant challenges, we are seeing more use of tools like Amazon Alexa (see TEACHING Exceptional Children). Teachers committed to flexibility know engagement, presentation, and response all require customized design for learning with choice. They are winning through the use of Universal Design for Learning.

Collaboration & trust

Students and families learning remotely who have trusting relationships with their teachers and service providers stay connected. Ideally, building that trust would have begun long before COVID-19, however, families have shared that out of a pandemic comes an opportunity to get closer to their school community, and teachers agree.

Accessibility & crowdsourcing

As students were asked to learn at home, the world fast-forwarded web accessibility standards. Though not perfect, teachers learned quickly that posting and sharing materials that can be read independently by screen-readers, and allowing students to accommodate for themselves, leads to more independent learning. The teams with the greatest access standards and partnerships thrived, collaboratively curated multiple accessible resources, and exceeded family expectations overall.

The field will not unlearn

The teachers exercising creativity, collaboration, and accessibility are allowing students within special education to thrive during a pandemic. In fact, some students have grown and families attest that their educational outcomes have improved.

Share Share
Next article