[Category: Before Class, After Class]
Helping Special Education Students Outside the Classroom
by Adewunmi Payne Akinhanmi
The Virtual Learning Environment- VLE is a new technology my school adopted a few months ago. Staff were trained and we had/still have some IT staff on ground in school to help teachers when there are issues with the use of the VLE.
The VLE platform, is an online learning platform that can be accessed anywhere in the world with a school given user name and password. It has all the subjects offered in school already built in it. Teachers are able to design their own platforms once they sign up.
They can design their profiles, put up pictures, and leave some encouraging sentences for their students. Teachers are able to upload lessons, learning objectives, resources, homework, projects etc.
Teachers register their students on their platform page; that is if you are taking year 4A class only, all the students in year 4A are enrolled on the teacher’s platform page.
Students are given identification numbers and passwords and can access the VLE platform anywhere in the world so long as there is internet access.
They can also arrange for all their students to meet on the VLE platform at the same time during the weekend or after school for group discussions, walk them through assignments or join in a game to enhance learning.
The VLE is structured in such a way that the teachers will know if a child accessed an assignment or not.
Teachers can time the submission deadline for an assignment and if time is exceeded the child won’t be able to access the assignment any more.
Senior management can know how many teachers use the VLE and view their VLE pages if it is up to the standard required by the school.
Who benefits from this technology?
Students benefit tremendously from the use of this technology- meaning learning does not have to start and end at school. There are resources and games that consolidate skills learned in school which students can access at their leisure. Access to these types of resources would not be possible at school due to time constraints. Also, when notes are incomplete or students are absent from school, they still have access to what’s been taught in school.
Parents also benefit from the use of the VLE as it allows them to get more involved in their children’s learning and have a better understanding of what is going on in the classroom, when assignments or projects are due, etc.
Teachers benefit by being able to provide their students with ample supplementary resources online that would be impossible to squeeze into the daily time allotment for a class.
What were the differences before and after using VLE?
It was a struggle to keep up with assignments, due dates, making sure all children got the notes they needed, etc. For my students this presented challenges in organisation skills. Staff had to support teachers at the end of every school day to ensure each group of children have their learning diaries accurately filled with their assignments, homework textbooks are packed, workbooks are taken home and handed in by the due date, etc. Parents were always calling teachers after school to ask for clarification on assignments and it was a hassle.
We have a student with sickle cell anemia and is sometimes off from school for health reasons and almost every student is absent from time for one reason or another. Support staff usually has to schedule extra sessions to help students catch up and fill in the gaps that children may have missed.
Once time a student had to have surgery and a support staff needed to go to the child’s home three times a week to provide learning support so the child didn’t completely miss out on learning.
Children also depend so much on teachers to access a lot of their learning.
When VLE was first adopted
Teachers were reluctant to use the new technology; they believed it was additional work and more stress. Additional training to learn how to use the VLE was really inconvenient and ate into teachers’ time outside of class. Children would often forget their passwords and a lack of internet services at home was a source of great concern for both teachers and parents.
Teachers also complained about not knowing how to upload their resources. As for my department, the SEND (Special Education) department, our staff were trained separately and we had a dedicated trainer located assigned to us for a few days. Our special education platform allows us enrol every child on our special education registry and only these children can access our special education platform. My assistant was on after school duty during that term and missed out on a lot of the training. As a result, she seemed to lose interest in the use of the VLE for a long time.
The VLE is at the heart of learning in my school now. Regular students from KS 1-4 are comfortable with its use. We have fewer excuses for not completing homework and projects and parents are much more involved in their children’s learning.
Teachers have developed a system for uploading their lessons and resources without using too much administrative time. A senior colleague of mine told me that she uploads her lessons immediately after each class and others even upload them from home once they are done planning a lesson. If there are any changes adjustments can be made to lessons anytime.
I personally tend to load my VLE platform before class. I usually add more resources afterwards or something new I discovered while lecturing to my students. The VLE has provided unlimited access to learning in my school, giving students, especially those with special education needs, the opportunity to practice via repetitive learning and over learning of concepts taught in class. One of my special education students told me that his mother makes sure he plays the games uploaded on the VLE every evening before going to bed; it’s no wonder his spelling skill are improving commendably.
Backlogging homework whenever one of my special education students misplaces their learning diary has become so much easier. Even when notes are not completed in class, there’s minimal anxiety as the lessons are available on VLE.
For parents who help their children with homework and studying, especially in the early year classes, feedback has been particularly good because they are able to help their children use the methods taught in class rather than confusing their children by introducing methods of their own.
The VLE has increased our students’ ability to take more independently take ownership of their learning in many different ways. They plan their own study time, decide how much practice they need, and can easily access the resources needed to reinforce skills they learned in class.
The VLE is a technological tool that, I believe, gets better the more comfortable you get using it and can enrich learning for all children, especially those with special education needs.
Adewunmi Payne Akinhanmi
SEN Coordinator Whole School, Grange School
Adewunmi is an award-winning special education coordinator. A versatile special education teacher of close to a decade (working with pupils ages 4-16 with SpLD, Autism, SEBD, General Learning difficulties etc) and an international teacher trainer.