The transition to online learning highlighted some of the already existing challenges and addressed some of them effectively. One of these challenges was effectively meeting the learning needs of children with special needs in online teaching. In the 4th International Academic conference held from October 29-31, 2021 on Education, teaching and learning in Brussels, Belgium, a research paper was presented on online learning strategies for children with special needs. The paper brings to the fore the strategies used by the teachers of the Philippines for teaching differently-abled children online.
For this, researchers collected data using qualitative methods and through semi-structured interviews with these teachers. The regular teachers and those handling learners with special needs across various grades at the Elementary level in both public and private schools were surveyed and questioned for this study. The whole study revealed 3 dimensions, firstly the problems faced by teachers in online learning, secondly the strategies used by teachers for catering to the needs of children with special needs and lastly, the effectiveness of those strategies.
The following strategies were used by the teachers for teaching students with special needs:
The teachers used various online software such as Twinkl, ClassIn, Google Classroom, Zoom, Online Educational Games and online books for successfully imparting lessons
Out of these apps, Twinkle was the most used app as it allowed the teachers to access activities that are helpful, fun and enjoyable for the students
Besides this, respondents also said that the Classen app helped in making class alive and interactive by allowing students to modify and write on the online blackboard
The teachers used online software applications and online tools despite having no prior experience in dealing with a technological set-up with differently-abled students
They utilised online books minimally, which was followed by online educational games
Even in online classes, the teachers utilised printed modules and these were also given to the students
Most of the families preferred blended learning mode due to the issue of internet connection and lack of gadgets
Effectiveness of the strategies used by the teachers :
The online activities and manipulative and interactive online classroom applications are effective in teaching and learning in online classes
According to the research paper of Shahrill & Salleh published in 2016, the use of virtual manipulatives enhances students’ performance in terms of conceptual understanding
As far as challenges are concerned, the following problems were faced by the teachers in teaching differently-abled children with special needs:
The most common challenge during online classes was reported to be the lack of family support for the child, which was chosen by 5 out of 10 teachers
Internet connection was reported to be the second most common problem, with 4 out of 10 teachers complaining about it
The third most common problem encountered by the teachers was the absence of an online environment which was chosen by only 2 out of 10 teachers
On the whole, teachers attributed two main sources of information to help work with students with disabilities online. These included their experience from teaching in traditional settings and professional development provided through their current working environment.