Sunday, July 26, 2015

Time to Retool the IEP?

"No, you can't do that. The IEP says that they must be tested in small groups with a teacher." The teacher who said that looked at me in frustration. "I know it would work but, the IEP is law."

Technology is changing the face of education. I am a big fan of the potential of learning in and through technology, but even those who are unhappy with the changes know that the only question left is when and how.

The hardest areas to change with the advent of technology are those that have been codified in law and as a result, generate a stream of templates directives and paperwork. Prime among codified practices is the IEP (Individualized Education Plan). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates the IEP.

Assistive technology in many formats has always been part of the possibilities of working with students with disabilities, allowing them to be part of the mainstream classroom. The guiding principle is that of the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

The topic of LRE came up last week as we worked with teachers. As teachers explored the apps, that integrate into Chromebooks and iPads. Teachers commented on text to speech, touch interface, and speech to text feature, saying that they can see how students can now be a much more integral part of the classroom. They pointed out three main features:

1. Once we deliver differentiated through devices, teachers can differentiate the curriculum in ways that are not readily visible to all students and in a way that allow all students to remain in the classroom and participate.

2. With voice and touch interfaces, there is much less need to pull students out of the classroom as part of any assessment. All you need is a headset and potentially a quiet corner.

3. Teachers can track the progress and engagement of all students while paying particular attention to students with disabilities.

All of this will be possible only if we start studying these approaches and accommodations and move to change the content of IEPs to reflect the new classroom realities.

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