Online Learning and Special Education

The COVID-19 pandemic created a challenge for teachers, parents, and students in special education. It came with all the issues that hit the broader education community, and additional concerns about how the students would handle learning under these new conditions. Students in special education classrooms usually need a structured, consistent schedule, and that was more difficult to maintain while working remotely.

Winn and Behizadeh emphasized a right to education, specifically literacy education, and it is naturally easy to worry about fulfilling those obligations for special education students when they suddenly found themselves in a completely different setting, with a strange new routine none of them were used to.

Open laptop that says online learning, Writing utensils, and a notebook sitting on a desk

By law, schools were still required to provide special education services during remote learning, which included various services in addition to general education curricula like reading and math. The problem is that accessing these services could be difficult. Parents were often at a loss as to what to do. This also came with them having to basically become teachers themselves and try different learning methods till they found something that worked for their child.

IEP assessments became an issue too. The school must evaluate every child’s IEP and determine whether education goals were being met and what needed to be rewritten in light of the student’s current needs. With remote learning however, correctly evaluating these things could prove difficult for special education teachers and the aides who are meant to help students navigate through their time at school.

It was a rough year for special education, but hopefully things will begin to look up from here on out. More schools in Ohio are back in person (whether part-time or full-time) which should mitigate the issues that arose around special education. Being back in a physical classroom can give students the structure and consistency they need to learn.

How the Pandemic Has Changed Classroom Etiquette: Will In-Person Class be the Same?

A couple weeks ago, I was logged in my Colonial and US Literature Zoom class when the chat started blowing up.  A number of my classmates were engaging with the material in a nonconventional way. They were memeing with the class content.

Watching the events of class unfold got me thinking about how the pandemic has revolutionized school. Students wouldn’t say what they were saying in the chat in an actual classroom. In less than a year, a new school etiquette has formed.

Now with school being done virtually, students log in, mute themselves and turn off their camera. A lot of the time, the only person visible to the class is the professor. Hardly any students speak in class; the professor talks to black screens with student’s names. The chat feature is popular and contributing to the class via chat is acceptable now.

While ruminating about online class, I began to worry about the eventual transition back to normal, unrestricted in-person classes.

There is no chat feature in the classroom. Students cant mute themselves, turn off the camera and walk away. Will students be able to sit around others, look them in the eye and participate in person? I sure do hope so.

Nicholas Carr discusses the internet and it’s implications on our brain and life in his article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Carr addresses some concerns about the internet that I share. He too fears that humans have become too reliant on the internet, and in effect, humans do not perform intellectually like they used too. But thankfully Carr also offers us hope. Habits learned from the internet are not permanent:

The human brain is almost infinitely malleable. People used to think that our mental meshwork, the dense connections formed among the 100 billion or so neurons inside our skulls, was largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. But brain researchers have discovered that that’s not the case. James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind “is very plastic.” Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. “The brain,” according to Olds, “has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.”

I’m sure we will readapt and adopt a classroom environment similar to before, but perhaps we won’t. Either way our brain will adapt, and school will go on.