Inclusion in early childhood education means increasing the participation of children in the cultures, curriculum and communities of local schools. It concerns being able to support the needs of all children. Having an inclusive environment is essential in offering opportunities for learning for children and you as an early childhood teacher want all children to benefit. The use of ICT in early childhood education is a vital tool that ensures that inclusion actually happens.
Here are a number of ways that ICT can create an inclusive classroom (North & McKeown, 2005):
1 . Children find computers and any other form of ICT device to be motivating.
2. Text, graphics or sound can be accessed through multimedia and this can account for individual learning styles and strengths.
FACT: ICT can aid to moving from integration to inclusion. However, you need to ensure that you and your staff are developing inclusive practices at your early childhood centre.
3. There is a lot of software that combines colour, pictures, animations, sound and humour which can grab the children’s attention who are turned off by group work and listening.
4. Social interaction is ripe when ICT is integrated effectively as children can work together around the computer focusing on the learning task. This enables them to develop their language and social skills in addition to learning from their peers.
5. Many keyboards offer access to word processing so that work is legible.
6. Predictive packages can make the difference between thoughts in the head and words on the page.
FACT: E-inclusion is based on the social model of inclusion where learning difficulties are created by the social context.
7. Spell checkers are a great way to help children learn to spell if used correctly and can make a difference between chaos and meaning.
8. Assistive technology is a form of ICT device that helps children with physical, sensory and learning difficulties overcome barriers.
9. Drawing tools allow early childhood teachers to develop and provide visual instruction sheets for children who have problems getting information from listening or reading.
FACT: It is important that you understand the demands placed on children in steps of planned, technology-supported activities if you are to ensure that children with disabilities are included.
10. Don’t forget about the power of the digital camera that allows children to record experiences and achievements in a very immediate way.
Optimising ICT for Inclusive Learning
In the 21st century, there are many ICT tools to choose from. However, when we think of it we mostly envisage images of computers and data projectors. As teachers, we need to think how we can ensure an inclusive education for everyone and ICT tools for teaching and learning is your best option.
From the start, UNESCO defines inclusive education as the following:
"Inclusive education is about putting the right to education into action by reaching out to all learners, respecting their diverse needs, abilities and characteristics and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the learning environment."
Achieving the effective use of ICT in inclusive education can begin with you as the teacher considering the environment. Now even though not all of us will work in a new school, these questions can set the foundation for ensuring that ICT in inclusive education is an important part of your strategies.
- Does the layout support or restrict good ICT provisions?
- Is there room for all students to work at computers with paper etc. beside the keyboards?
- Can you as the teacher walk around and easily see what each student is doing?
- Can you demonstrate work on a computer screen to the whole class?
(North and McKeown, 2005)
Organising ICT in your room
Education is for all and it is the key to changing the world. Before you change the world, change the classroom first. By organising ICT in the classroom effectively, you not only make a considerable difference to the potential of ICT capability but also to enhance the use of ICT in inclusive education.
First, you need to think about how students will around the room as children with poor motor control need clear spaces. Ensure that you never leave bags and coasts in the ICT rooms.
The layout of the room needs to always be considered and the equipment of the room needs to be considered for especially those students with SEN. Unobstructed access into and around the room is vital so as not to create any mobility challenges.
You also need to group students in a U shape or horseshoe shape for class discussions or demonstrations. If you have a large room where computers are situated around the edge this strategy is of particular importance.
To give you an idea of what exactly I am talking about when discussing about ICT in inclusive education, here is a list of ICT that is great for the inclusive classroom:
- Interactive whiteboards – easier to integrate sound and video as part of the lesson. Colour and pictures can reach out to a wider range learning styles.
- iPads and tablet computers;
- digital cameras and recorders;
and so on.
I could go on, but ICT in inclusive education includes all that we already use and integrate into our teaching and learning today.
Despite this, ICT in inclusive education in early childhood, primary and secondary is entirely dependable on you ensuring as a teacher that you will have a good ICT lesson. So the following will prove useful to you:
- Before – careful planning to cover content and set clear objectives. You will also need to plan for additional, supplementary or alternative activities.
- Opening the lesson – whole class activities and questioning. Setting the pace and organising the groups.
- Developing the lesson – a mix of computer and non-computer activities as appropriate.
- End – make sure that everyone has seen the whole as well as the parts. Allow students to see other students’ work.
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