30 May 2019

PROVIDING TECHNOLOGY ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL LEARNERS

Technology brings people together in ways that never before have been possible. E-learning is going to change learning and teaching. Students can learn from anywhere, and teachers can teach from anywhere. Technology-enabled learning experiences should be available to all learners, including those with special needs. Default learning supports should be incorporated into learning software and hardware. The future is about access, learning and collaboration everywhere, both locally and globally. It’s going to be social to teach and learn. And with the emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs), things are already beginning to move this way. In fact, virtual reality offers endless possibilities for immersive experiences that provides accessibility for all learners.

Similarly, features like text-to-speech, speech-to-text, extended font sizes, color contrast, dictionaries, and glossaries should be incorporated into educational hardware and software to make learning accessible to all. Here are three main principles that drive learning.

1. Allowing students to access information in more than one way. Examples include digital books, specialized software and websites, and screen readers that include features such as text-to-speech, variable color contrast, variable text size, selection of various levels of reading or materials written in the primary language of the learner.

2. Provide multiple means of expression to demonstrate and express what all students know. Examples include options for expressing their learning, where applicable, which may include options such as writing, online concept mapping, speech-to-text or translation programs.

3. Engagement methods to stimulate learning interest and motivation. Examples include offering options for a particular skill or competency among several different learning activities or content, providing opportunities for increased collaboration or scaffolding, or providing tools, such as digital storytelling, to ensure that grade-appropriate content material is accessible to many learners.

Digital learning tools can provide more flexibility and support for learning than traditional formats can provide. Using mobile devices, laptops, and networked systems, educators can better customize learning experiences to align with each student’s needs. They can also expand communication through social media tools with mentors, peers, and colleagues. Digital tools can also enable content to be modified, such as increasing or lowering a text’s level of complexity or changing the rate of presentation. Digital tools like games, websites, and digital books can be designed to meet the needs of a variety of learners, from novices to experts, at a higher level of engagement. Learners with little understanding may first approach the experience as a novice and then move up to an intermediate level as they acquire more knowledge and skills. Some site have options for engaging learners as a beginner, intermediate, or advanced learner with the content and adapts the learning activities accordingly.

The aim of teaching is to introduce students to a whole world of concepts they have not yet known. Technology is like a foray into modern invention–and you become the leader of the expedition. Instead of viewing digital devices and internet spaces as a threat to your duties, you look at them as unexplored growth areas for you and the young minds that trust you to show them what’s out there.

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