Technology Empowers Inclusive Education in Canada

By: Yasmin Ranade

April 15, 2017

Educators across Canada have the opportunity this month to attend free workshops in-store, in-class, at EDU conferences and online where they can learn about leading a connected classroom.

Through a partnership with Inclusive Education Canada (IEC), Microsoft will provide free professional development workshops and resources for educators to ensure they have the right tools to help provide the most effective learning experience for students.

Marc Seaman, VP Education, Microsoft.

“Microsoft and Inclusive Education Canada are dedicated to promoting awareness around inclusive learning,” commented Marc Seaman, VP Education, Microsoft. “The partnership began in celebration of February’s National Inclusive Education Month.”

“These workshops will demonstrate how built-in accessibility features in Windows 10 and Surface Pro 4 devices can give teachers the opportunity to provide personalized learning, giving students an improved experience and equal opportunity in the classroom.”

Gordon Porter, Director, Inclusive Education Canada.

“The use of technology in classrooms certainly has the potential to improve instructional outcomes for students with accessibility and learning challenges,” said Gordon Porter, Director, Inclusive Education Canada.

“Inclusive education is about opening up our schools and classrooms to students with diverse needs and supporting both the children and their teachers to ensure that appropriate learning is the result. Special education practices rooted in the past [can sometimes create] segregation and separation from the mainstream the default. New technologies that allow both teachers and students to use 21st century methods holds the promise of more effective inclusion in classrooms across Canada. We need to invest in equipping our classrooms with up-to-date technology, for both teachers and students.”

Can technology personalize and strengthen instruction to meet the vision of Inclusive Education?

Jameson Lee thinks so. Lee is a Special Education Assistive Technology Coordinator with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. In his role, he supports the development and implementation of system wide training and support for Assistive Technology and specialized equipment needs.

“I am constantly amazed how technology continues to push the limits of what is possible, especially for our exceptional learners who possess such unique and diverse talents,” shared Lee. “Assistive and adaptive technologies in our classrooms are helping to support a range of learners by reading text, recognizing speech, organize thinking, highlight and magnify words, all of which enables all students to contribute to the class community through a new-found independence.”

“It is apps such as Office Lens that have opened up new possibilities for struggling readers,” shared Lee. This is an app where a student can take a picture of text and it instantly recognizes and reads it back to a student. Suddenly, this student can participate in class discussions alongside their peers. It has made reading enjoyable again, especially for students who traditionally would have been excluded because they read differently.”

“OneNote Class Notebook is another great example of how all students can use different technology tools to represent their ideas in a group during a brainstorming session. The Collaborative Space is a shared section, where many students type their ideas, some will use the built-in Learning Tools’ Speech-to-Text function while a few students will record their ideas with the Audio Recorder. Students are personalizing their learning experience by using the tools that best suit their strengths.”

“It has been through the integration of technology that has allowed educators such as myself to focus on personalizing the learning experience to meet the needs of all students where they are a part of the classroom community, feel confident to take risks in their learning and experience success.”

Lee added, “In my district in Eastern Ontario, we have been able to take advantage of The Technology and Learning Fund, a provincial government initiative aimed at enhancing infrastructure, hardware and professional development with a strong emphasis on 21st century learning competencies.”

Microsoft’s free professional development workshops suited for Inclusive Education ends this month, but information and registration is still open for events, particularly many events taking place this week.

 

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