Monday, May 13, 2013

How Inclusion Can Be Successful

Please note:  This was an essay I wrote for a continuing education class on my philosophy of inclusion.

An inclusive classroom is a community of learners that work together as a team despite their educational differences. The foundation of an inclusive classroom is the special education teacher, general education teacher, and related service provider's ability to work together to promote a classroom that views inclusion as a process to fostering relationships through differentiated instruction, technology and project based learning.
Project based learning is defined as  “a teaching technique in which students learn by doing engaging activities that lead to products based on their own experiences” (Ravitch, 2007).  Project based learning is an ideal teaching methodology for the inclusive classroom because it encourages students to come together in teams to complete a real world based problem. Each team member has a specific role within the team.  In the inclusive classroom, the students inregular education might have roles that require higher level problem solving skills, while the child in special education might have a role that supports their IEP goals.  Since many children with special needs are active learners  the inclusive classroom would also further prepare students for life outside the classroom.
Project based earning is a natural foundation to differentiated learning.  In order for students to successfully complete their task for the group, the teacher must take into account the way each childlearns.  Clearly, a child with special needs learns in a different way than a typically developing  student.   However, the project based learning philosophy, at its root, requires teachers to take a look at how each student will contribute to the successful completion of the project.  For the child with special needs, this automatically means using accommodations,modifications, and supports to bridge the ability gap.
Using technology inan inclusive classroom that uses project based learning is the bridge that connects the student with special needs to his/her peer group.  Since many classrooms are moving towards each student having an iPad to use in conjunction with Smart Boards, the ability to craft differentiated learning opportunities becomes less of a burden for teachers.  Since many classrooms are using iOS applications such as SmartNotebook to complete project based learning assignments, the special education teacher can easily adapt the lesson plans and iPad settings to support the child with special needs.  For example, if a 7 year old boy with high functioning autism was placed on a team to complete a creative writing activity that required each child to draw a picture that went along with their chapter in the story in the SmartNotebook app, the child with autism could integrate meaningful pictures with words from the AAC application Proloquo2go into SmartNotebook.   This would be considered the modified approach to creative writing for a child with autism, while the regular education students would complete this assignment directly in the SmartNotebook application.
In conclusion,project based learning integrates the learning needs of both children with special needs and students in regular education.  It sets all students up to be assessed on state standards within the common core curriculum using project portfolios that accurately portray each child’s educational abilities.
Ravitch, Diane.(2007). Association for Supervision and Curriculum.,  174.

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