During these Corona Virus Times, we, teachers, have been made fully aware of the fact that the most important thing about using Technology to teach is making it work well for ALL our pupils. Hopefully, this awareness was there before.
The word “ALL” appears in Bold and CAPITAL LETTERS because I would like to stress one fact that is very important: It is of utmost importance to make Technology work well for people with disabilities.
While I have been a teacher of English as a Foreign Language in the same High School (The Six-Year Kugel High School in Holon, Israel) for the last 31 years (I am a Dinosaur indeed!), it took me some years to become aware that there was “such a thing” as Learning Disabilities. I knew certain teenage pupils had all sorts of difficulties (personal, social, and more), or that some of us, teachers, turned to thinking that some pupils were plain lazy, etc. Of course, these were not always the reasons some pupils failed. I should have known better, but then I had not been taught about Specific Learning Disabilities.
I can never forget that back in 1997, I had a very knowledgeable and talkative (in excellent English) pupil who could hardly read and write in English. I could not understand why he would fail every Reading Comprehension and Writing test. I asked him (and tried to help him), of course, but he wouldn’t answer. A TV film about a dyslexic child I happened to watch sometime after he had left school having finished (but not succeeded in) 10th grade, taught me that there was “something” called Dyslexia. This should not come as a surprise: Awareness of the issue of Learning Disabilities was not widespread at the time.
Ever since then, I have learned about Special Needs pupils. I have also tried to familiarize myself with Web Accessibility. Although I will not become a Web developer, I try to make sure that my Web pages are accessible, at least to the extent I understand. I try to help colleagues see how important Web Accessibility is (and encourage them to use Moodle also because it caters to the needs of Special needs pupils, as this video I created shows). For sure, when it comes to Accessibility, I am becoming more and more aware of the needs of people with Visual, Hearing, Motor, Speech, and Cognitive Disabilities.
The High School year in Israel is over nowadays. The Corona Virus and the need to get High School pupils to learn with Technology are not, neither in Israel nor elsewhere. For the school break, I have given my pupils a break away from Moodle (sometimes that happens), but not from learning (even though I can’t see them, I can hear them shouting at me). I have asked them to review and relearn Vocabulary they have studied.
My pupils have been asked to access a few Smore Newsletters with their summer assignments (See “Build up your Vocabulary!“). Hopefully, these Smore Newsletters will help them organize the way they tackle the task. I have tried to make both these newsletters and the assignments accessible (at least, as much as possible). I hope to get colleagues from other schools in Israel to help me with accessible interactive pages that provide more review.
Perhaps the summer assignment will help pupils use Technology to learn effectively. Corona Virus seems to be here (in the entire world!) to stay, and who knows whether or not we will be combining Distance and Face-to-Face Learning during the next school year. Some more practice in learning online will not ruin my pupils’ summer break (I hope).
Oh, here is some more information fill-in concerning this post:
Thanks to that pupil (or probably because I felt I had failed with him, though I tried to help him), soon after he moved to another school I went on to be trained in techniques of Remediation that are appropriate for the teaching of English as a Foreign Language: I have a teacher’s Diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties and was even a member of The British Dyslexia Association sometime in the past. I have made use of what I learned to try to help pupils with reading difficulties at school and beyond ever since. This certainly applies to my use of Technology, for sure as far as helping pupils with reading difficulties (and not just Dyslexic) is concerned.
As for the pupil who helped me open my eyes to the reality of Learning Disabilities, don’t worry: I know that he has grown to become a college graduate, and has quite a very successful career in his field in many ways, for sure.
As for upgrading and updating what I know about Web Accessibility, I am taking a free course with edX: Introduction to Web Accessibility.
And as for learning, we teachers can help pupils learn, but it is up to them to do so.