Promoting inclusion using ICTs
Roger Andrews, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Students who experience disabilities such as the loss of basic communication skills for students with hearing impairment, may find their psychological needs compromised when they are integrated into the regular classroom (Dalton, 2012). Alquraini and Gut (2012) found students with severe disabilities are still fighting for improvements in inclusive educational programs. The inexperience of teachers has also influenced the effectiveness of including students with disabilities into the regular classroom (Andrews, 2002). Haywood (2006) discovered that, despite the numerous laws that have been developed to ensure inclusion, many schools throughout North America have not yet created nor developed fully an inclusive environment for all individuals with special needs. Ruijs, Van der Veen, and Peetsma (2010) found that inclusion can have both a positive and negative effect on students. They also observed that students with disabilities could take up much more of the teacher’s attention causing the typical student to be at a disadvantage. Bossu, Bull and Brown (2012) observed that many governments in developed nations were either reluctant, unwilling or unable to find the recourses necessary to help support the idea of inclusion within the regular classroom. Social diversity, racial differences, economic status and the school environment all have the tendency to mirror society’s differences, and as a result, influence the acceptance of inclusion within the classroom (Dei, 2012).
Role of ICTs
Freire, Linhalis, Bianchini, Fortes, Pimental (2010) identified that the use of computer-based systems has been a long-term field of research and it has been recognized that the use of such systems has a potential to improve educational environments. Freire et al. (2010) also observed that, as computer-based educational resources increase daily, there is a concern regarding how to provide inclusion for all students. Pearson and Koppi (2002) revealed that for WebCT courses to be successful, a structured approach must be taken to ensure an easy transition from the traditional classroom to online learning. Pearson and Koppi (2002) also support the idea of inclusion as a way of providing students with the opportunity to partake in courses that are available to all students, and the shift to online learning in turn stimulates teachers to improve the teaching and learning practice for all students.
The using of Interactive White Boards (IWB) by visually impaired students can provide benefits for these students when interacting with graphical contents in learning activities (Freire et al. 2010). Freire et al. (2010) also observed that using IWB enables students to have access to the learning material by means of direct access to particular objects; students are able to navigate easily through the material that is available within the IWB software. Technology can also be very beneficial for children and young people with special needs reducing the possibility of isolation and increase self-confidence in the mainstream community (Mavrou, Lewis, & Douglas, 2009). Alquraini and Gut (2012) found that students with disabilities, regardless of the severity, increased academic performance in the main academic skills when exposed to an inclusive environment. Luke (2002) concluded that the development of skills acquired through the use of technology implies a more engaging learning experience. Luke noted that “accessibility in online course designs will ensure that the wider population benefits from these programs” (p. 7). Luke also observed that technology was empowering those with disabilities. Andrews (2002) identified a connection between web-enhanced instruction and preparing teachers to be involved in an inclusive classroom. The author noted that when new teachers have the opportunity to collaborate with local schools via the Web and view real-life situations of inclusions, they can reduce the gap from being a novice to an expert much more quickly (Andrews, 2002). Pellerin (2013) noted that, in order for the inclusion of students with learning disabilities in Early French Immersion to be successful, an approach has to be adopted in which the role of technology supports such practices by teachers. Pellerin also indicated that the use of assistive technologies offers students with disabilities more options and removes barriers from allowing students to be a part of an inclusive classroom.
Starcic (2010) observed that regardless of the importance being placed on inclusion and the interest in using the variety of ICT applications, there is a lack of attention being placed on incorporating students with disabilities into the mainstream learning environment. Starcic also found that many teachers are not aware of all of the positive benefits of associating e-learning environments into the inclusion classroom. Pellerin (2013) mentions the fact that inclusion in mainstream programs call for more funding, improved assistive technology, and in-servicing for teachers. The funding for these things may not be easily obtained and without them, the students who struggle with learning disabilities will not have their needs met (Pellerin, 2013) Luke (2002) observed that introducing technology into an inclusive classroom there may have the potential to exclude some novice users or users with learning disabilities who require full step-by-step instructions that are necessary to obtain full function of the technology. Freire et al. (2010) found that if computer based educational tools are not developed properly then these systems become another obstacle that students with disabilities have to overcome or risk being excluded from the learning process. Freire et al. (2010) also found that with regards to the software that avails of IWBs, it may be difficult to provide inclusion methods to help students with disabilities. Comprehensive help files are nonexistent or not readily available for students and teachers who may require them for the ICT to reach its full potential (Luke, 2002).
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