If you have never considered how tech can make your class more inclusive, I encourage you to do so. If you have considered ways to meet the needs of your students in more diverse ways while helping to build a positive culture in your class, then this post may be just a refresher for you. I will briefly feature Pear Deck, Buncee, Microsoft tools, Wakelet, and Flipgrid to show how these tech tools can help you create that inclusive classroom we all need.
THE INCLUSIVE POWER OF TECH
In my classroom, one way I allow all voices to be heard is through the use of the Google Chrome add-on for Pear Deck. I have been using this tool, Pear Deck, since 2015 to facilitate classroom discussions because it allows me to make Google Slides interactive so that students see my presentation and then can respond to questions with short answers, draggables, multiple-choice, and drawings. When I have them respond with short text or long text answers, I can show student answers on my projector screen and it also displays them on all student devices. We can examine all responses one at a time, and all student names are automatically hidden so that we can discuss answers anonymously. This allows students to take risks and respond without fear of not sounding smart, sounding “too smart,” or of being wrong. If an answer is wrong, I love to have students look at it and justify to me why someone might have put that as a response. I pay for Pear Deck premium service monthly in order for me to see the student names with the responses, because I have to have some accountability when teaching high school, and I can use it as a formative also. When students know I won’t “out them” for their answers as long as they are appropriate, they feel safe taking those risks and respond with a deeper answer more often than not.
(When this began)
I also explore educational technology (edtech) companies that build inclusion within the tools they offer, such as Buncee, a tool in which students can create presentations, graphics, videos, audio creations, and so much more. Students like to see representations of themselves and their families in the clipart tools use, and Buncee does an amazing job at this. Their clipart, which they call ‘stickers,’ has students in wheelchairs, blind students, and students of various nationalities, races, and religions. Family stickers include those with two moms, two dads, a mom and dad, as well as grandparents. The company is used by educators internationally with elementary through high school students to create presentations, audio or video recordings, graphics, cards, and more. Students can even customize an avatar to make it look more like them instead of just a general representation of themselves. The amount of care that Buncee puts into making their users feel included is a big reason why I began to use their tool in the first place.
I had nothing to say
As for making special education students feel included, Microsoft tools and those within the Microsoft partner family, such as Buncee, Flipgrid, and Wakelet all help me achieve this goal. Microsoft’s Immersive Reader is a free tool that is embedded directly into Microsoft products and in many of their partner products, such as the three I previously mentioned. This amazing tool adds a sound icon by any text which students can play to have the text read to them. It also has over 30 languages that it can translate the text into, and it can highlight words as it reads the text to the student. The text highlight can even be color-coded to help those with dyslexia. The features it has will depend on which program is using it. With native Microsoft tools having more options than their Microsoft family partner counterparts.
And I’d get lost in the nothingness inside of me
(I was confused)
Wakelet and Buncee have the Immersive Reader tool plus the Flipgrid integration (Wakelet) or native video integration (Buncee), among other integrations. Flipgrid and Buncee both have options for students to create a video or audio response, which can be used for differentiation, as well as for an alternative form of assessment. Flipgrid uses their video response without activating the camera (a blacked-out screen effect) which is also a great option for students who have to provide a response but don’t want to be on camera. Buncee’s audio option works a bit differently. After adding a “sticker” to the page, then you get the option to add audio to that sticker. Students can choose or design a clipart version of themselves, add it to a slide, then add audio which they record in app. It is a fabulous way to bring their creations and learning to life, and allow their voices to be heard.
And I let it all out to find
That I’m not the only person with these things in mind
I encourage you to look at these tools with inclusion in mind. You may find a new way to use them that fits your students’ needs and provides inclusion in ways you didn’t expect. When you decide on the “why,” you are using tech, the how becomes much simpler to discover.