== Understanding Inclusive Education ==
Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and the idea that each student has a unique learning style continues to have many implications for today’s educators, especially as classrooms become populated with more diverse students. The diversity is especially felt within the area of inclusive education, where students who are classified as having a particular disability are educated within the same environment as their regular education peers. Sapon-Shevin (2007) defines inclusive education as practices that support the belief that all students in a school, regardless of their intellectual abilities or particular labels, have the right to be educated in the mainstream of education, and have their needs met within this context. She asserts ‘they are assumed to be full members-perhaps with modifications, adaptations, extensive support—but they are members nonetheless” (p. 6). Kluth (2003) adds that inclusive education is more than a set of strategies and practices but “an educational orientation that embraces differences and values the uniqueness that each learner brings to the classroom” (p. 24).
The challenges teachers face are many which range from classroom management issues; to effectively delivering content to help students meet and exceed the standards, but within the inclusive environment they are even greater. Teachers and in class- support ( teacher’s assistant or paraprofessional) must consider the challenges that both the inclusive and general education students face which includes their social interaction with each other and understanding and their different abilities.
== Making Inclusive Education Successful ==
Making inclusive education successful requires that everyone get involved. Collaboration of parents, teachers and school administration is the beginning point, and ensuring that all modifications as outlined in the inclusion student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) are implemented-- which can be anything from extra time for the student who has a reading or writing disability to all together modified work. Additionally, research has shown the importance of the following to making inclusion work.
1. Learning must be cooperative
2. Open communications
3. Building of friendships and social relationships
4. Students must be able to access the curriculum. Instructional methods which are differentiated help to facilitate this process.
== How can Distance Learning Help? ==
Now more than ever, distance learning has the potential to transform teaching and learning within the K-12 inclusive classroom, but it needs to be tailored with the needs of this group in mind. With technology as its main tool, distance learning can become an effective way to aid student achievement for this group, while making learning a fun, social and ongoing process. Computer-based technology has been shown to be a valuable way of improving student achievement, particularly for students with learning disability. Wikipedia defines distance learning as “a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy and andragogy, technology, and instructional systems design that aim to deliver education to students who are not physically on site.” Many higher education students have experienced distance learning courses where they never have to attend classes on campus or in person and where all communications with teacher and peers are conducted through electronic media. The convenience for learning that this field offers is certainly one main reason why it is appropriate for the inclusion classroom. Distance learning can be a supplement to the inclusion classroom by giving the general education student reinforcement of work taught and can level the field for inclusion students by ensuring that modifications according to each students unique IEP are put in effect. Inclusion students whose modification is “extra time,” for example, can use distance learning as a way to complete work, share work with peers and teachers and receive immediate feedback from the convenience of home. Other benefits of distance learning for this population include:
• Continuation of the socialization process and building of friendships
• Promotes digital literacy (an important skill for the 21st century students)
• Meaningful learning and collaboration
• Presentation of content in an interesting way through the use of technology.
To facilitate this are technologies which are popular technologies. These include video conferencing, podcasts, social networking, YouTube, wikis and blogs. These technologies are equipped to begin to meet the needs of inclusion students in a distance learning environment.
== Video Conferencing ==
Commonly understood as an extension of the telephone with the addition of image, video conferencing is an effective way to continue academic work away from the traditional classroom environment. Wikipedia defines it as “a set of interactive telecommunication technologies which allow two or more locations to interact via two-way video and audio transmissions simultaneously. It has also been called visual collaboration and is a type of groupware. It differs from videophone in that it is designed to serve a conference rather than individuals” Video Conferencing offers numerous opportunities for teacher and students in the inclusive setting to continue the education process after school.
• It is ideal for the teacher to offer quick feedback to student work
• Students whose particular modification required more time to complete class work could get the opportunity to share their work during the video conferencing and get the feedback from classmates.
• Student can continue work on project with group members which help foster relationships.
== Podcasts ==
Wikipedia explains a podcast as a “series of audio or video digital-media files which is distributed over the Internet by syndicated download, through Web feeds, to portable media players and personal computers. Though the same content may also be made available by direct download or streaming, a podcast is distinguished from other digital-media formats by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added.” All students in the inclusive classroom stand to benefit from podcasts because of the reinforcement and relearning opportunities it present, but some benefit more than others:
• Students with visual impairment can listen to lectures on their iPods or mp3 players. This benefit of podcasts is beginning to satisfy the need to provide another point of access to the curriculum for non-traditional students.
• Audio learners who are characterized by the ability to remember what is heard compared to what is read, or by a difficulty reading or writing would have lecture presented in the format that works best for them.
== YouTube ==
There is no end to the possibilities of YouTube for inclusive education. It affords teachers the chance to upload clips of lessons for students’ viewing, and in turn students can comment on videos and receive immediate feedback in that form from both teacher and other peers. YouTube also has extensive content for k-12 population.
All learning styles would find YouTube as an effective educational tool. Audio and visual learners can work comfortably listening to, viewing and commenting on video clips while Kinesthetic and tactile learners would enjoy projects centered on making and uploading YouTube videos clips.
== Social Networking ==
There are many social networking sites, a list is available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites. As the name suggests, social networking can promote the building of friendships and further help to socialize inclusion students with their general education peers and teacher. Kluth (2001)holds that providing opportunities for social connection beyond the classroom is important. Using social networks as a learning tool is becoming more popular with sites like ELGG, for example, an open-source social networking software where users are provided with their own weblogs, an online profile, RSS reader and file repository (with podcasting capabilities). It is ideal for students because of the privacy controls which it allows. Students can keep their profiles private or available to selected users. Teachers can use social networks for group projects which require a great deal of collaboration and to engage students in discussions.
== Wikis and Blogs ==
Wikis and Blogs are being used now more than ever as an educational tool. For the k-12 inclusion classroom, wikis like the other technologies can give students another place to continue the work started in the classroom. Students can brainstorm ideas, work on group projects together, and receive feedback from teachers and peers. Teachers can have a place to post assessment tasks and check for understanding. Similar to wikis, blogs give students their own space to share their thoughts, and receive feedback. Teachers can use a blog as the class page where information pertinent to students and parents are accessible.
== References ==
Kluth, P. (2003). “You’re going to love this kid”: Teaching students with autism in the inclusive classroom. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Sapon-Shevin, M. (2007). Widening the circle: The power of inclusive classrooms. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press.