Benetech CEO, Betsy Beaumon, explores the challenges and opportunities in remote learning for inclusive education
Technology is advancing into all aspects of life and it’s left many people behind. As more and more tech-enabled solutions emerge to meet today’s challenges, we have the opportunity to build a better future through software that is inclusive, equitable, and just. As CEO, I spend every day evaluating the challenges and opportunities for software to address equity in education, employment, poverty alleviation, and human rights. I truly believe that together we can make technology work for all people. In this brief update, I’m focusing on how we can empower every student to read and learn.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll, while providing new clarity around longstanding problems in education. Students are returning to school, and what that means varies by country, by district, and even by day, but most cases involve some form of remote learning. Access to internet and devices to participate in remote learning varies widely, as do the situations students face in trying to learn from home. Educators must innovate to find ways to keep their students learning despite these barriers.
It is now easier to envision a future of hybrid learning models and tech-enabled personalization, and role models exist. Special educators are heroes who help figure out which methods and tools will work for each student –a skillset needed today to support the entire remote student population. In doing so, we should also achieve increased equity and inclusion, so all students benefit.
Throughout the pandemic, our Bookshare initiative has seen record growth in registrations of students with disabilities, especially in the US and in India. Some of our Bookshare users report feeling they are on a more level playing field with their peers because remote learning allows them more independence to go at their own pace based on their learning style:
“Working from home is really working for me. It’s been amazing. I don’t have to stress as much when I’m here because I’m in my own space. I can get more things done and I can accommodate myself.” - Emery, middle school student in Texas
As more educational materials are Born Accessible, rather than being retrofitted to meet the needs of students with disabilities, it will allow a wide range of students to access the same books or courseware. More commonality, with personalization options, allows for easier teacher preparation and improved support for parents who are increasingly critical to their students’ success.
Amidst huge challenges, we have the opportunity to learn, challenge the status quo, and emerge on the other side of this pandemic with stronger education for all. We are all in this together.
- Broadband access is basic 21st century plumbing. Home access, plus relevant devices, must be a high priority for public funding or public/private partnerships. Some promising collaborative efforts have emerged in Benetech’s own backyard and across the globe.
- Read more about Born Accessible materials and our Global Certified Accessible program.
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