Technology in the classroom can be a powerful equalizer. It provides a level playing field where all learners can develop the necessary skills to thrive in a digital world — but only if every student is able to use the devices.
Accessibility is a key factor in the success of any mobile learning program. Yet many schools fail to address it until after devices have been purchased and teachers are left scrambling to find online tools to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
“Accessibility is often an afterthought. There are pockets of practitioners who are doing a great job, but on the whole I don’t think accessibility is part of the conversation when we’re talking about technology,” said Jennifer Courduff, who develops courses on digital teaching for Azusa Pacific University.
When developing a mobile learning program, avoid these common accessibility mistakes:
1. Neglecting to use built-in features.
While most mobile devices offer a variety of accessibility features, “many people just don’t know what’s there, so they’re hunting around for apps, tools and software when it’s right there in the device,” Courduff said.
“Discovering guided access is a moment of thrill for everyone,” she said. “There are a lot of educators who are working with students who have behavior disorders, and if you give them a device, they will play with the apps and not stay where they’re supposed to stay. Guided access locks the device into one app so the student can’t get out of it.”
2. Leaving teachers to work in silos.
For integrating technology into diverse learning environments, studies have shown that teachers are more likely to succeed with the support of a team. A team approach provides teachers with troubleshooting help, a sounding board for ideas and the chance to learn from each other’s experiences.
“Talking deeply about appropriate technology is huge,” Courduff said.
3. Failing to provide sufficient training and support for mobile devices.
It’s common for a school or district to focus on choosing and purchasing mobile devices without planning for the training and maintenance needed to make the technology useful to students.
“Inevitably, somebody has to set the device up with apps appropriate for the needs of each student,” Courduff said. “Teachers have so many students with a wide variety of learning deficits and a wide variety of curricular or behavior goals they have to target. They don’t have time to wrap their brains around how to integrate mobile devices with kids.”
Accessibility should be a top consideration when choosing, preparing and deploying mobile technology for classroom use.
“When the rubber hits the road, what it comes down to is that you have nothing if you don’t have effective management and implementation of a device,” Courduff said. “If you don’t know what the tools are and how to work with them in a way that meets the learner’s needs, the device just gets left in the corner.”
Want to find out more about using mobile technology to engage and challenge learners? Sign up for the ISTE U course, Taking Mobile Learning to the Next Level.