Instructional Technology/Reusable Learning Objects in Special Education
Reusable Learning Objects, NCLB and Special Education
What do [NCLB] (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) and Reusable [Learning Objects], have to do with each other? The latter could help satisfy the former. NCLB is an aggressive plan by the federal government to improve student achievement and hold schools accountable if students do not. Schools must make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) with all students being proficient by 2013-2014. If a a school that is receiving Title 1 funding fails to make AYP for two consecutive years, they are required to offer school choice, take corrective action, or provide supplemental education srvices to their students. To do this, the achievement levels of specific subgroups of students must be raised, with students in special education being one of those subgroups.
Special education means different things to different people. It can be as simple as a special education teacher advising a regular classroom teacher as to ways lessons can be adapted to make them more accessible for [included] special education students, all the way to residential schools that cater to students with a particular [disability]. Despite the location, special education means helping students with special needs achieve the goals and objectives as dictated by their IEP’s (Individualized Education Program).
The Individualized Education Program
[IEP] stands for Individualized Education Program and is the plan agreed upon by the parents/guardians and educators for every child that is designated as needing special education. They are reviewed yearly and altered if needed.
Examples of IEP goals and objectives:
The student will develop/increase their math application skills by identifying/using graphs and tables to obtain information 80% of the time on an informal test.
The student will develop/increase vocabulary and word recognition skills by recognizing/recalling common sight words, critical sight words: colors, numbers, months, days of the week, Dolch list, and survival words 8 out of 10 tries.
Customizing for the IEP Using Reusable Learning Objects
In a nutshell, special education is customizing lessons to meet each students’ needs. Reusable learning objects will allow teachers to do just that. Students in special education need to be exposed to the same information as their regular education peers, but not necessarily in the same format. Since students with the same disability can function at different levels, it is very difficult to find a textbook to accommodate a given group of students. Another problem with textbooks is that they are usually written at grade level. Students with disabilities often do not read at grade level. They need other ways to access the information.
A well constructed learning object deals with a single idea or chunk of content. A teacher can string these objects together to create or support a lesson. Searching through learning object depositories, teachers would be able to review objects and find ones that met the needs of their students. Because RLO's are digital, they are limited only by the creativity of the author. The issue of reading level could perhaps be avoided by finding an object that taught through animation. Sound can also be incorporated into learning objects to assist with the reading level issue. As well, or for those student whose learning modality is more aural than visual. They may also need to have the content presented differently, or in a number of ways before they get the meaning. This can be easily accomplished with this digital medium.
In some cases, templates are available. Using a template for a learning object, even teachers with minimal experience can provide numerous opportunities for learning. Once a student is familiar with the interactivity of the particular learning object, the no longer have to worry about what to do and can focus on learning the content. For many students in special education, reading and following directions can be a problem. If a student is familiar with a particular format they can work on their own without having to wait for instructions.
Memory is also an issue for many students in special education. Some need a great deal more exposure to the content than their peers. If the teacher is also the author of the learning object he/she would be able to easily personalize these objects to make them more meaningful to the student. More importantly, they could be tailored to address the specific objectives from that student's IEP. Building quizzes and tests into the objects would also allow the student and the teacher to monitor the student's progress.
More and more, teachers are expected to individualize instruction. Reusable learning objects can make this much easier. Textbooks are expensive and districts aren't likely to purchase individual ones for students as teachers might like. Specialized packets aren't any more practical in the long run. The costs of paper and the purchasing and maintaining of copiers is a constant packets is extrememly time-consuming for teachers. Storing all these accumulated materials also gets to be a problem over time. Eventually, closets and storerooms become filled with leftover materials that either did not work out as expected or were extra because many materials have to be ordered in specified quantities.
Initially, creating and/or retrieving learning objects may be time-consuming, but, once assembled, the teacher need just review and edit them for use with another student and/or class. No more flipping through workbooks and hours in front of a copier or rummaging through dusty closets. With a well-organized favorites folder and a few clicks of a mouse, teachers will be able to construct customized lessons and for students that genuinely reflect the goals and objectives on their IEP's.
Digital Storytelling Create Digital Stories as RLOs for Special Education students.
K-12 Classroom Reusable Learning Objects in K-12.