Participate 3 – Accessing Digital Learning Communities

What types of barriers might impede students’ opportunities to access digital learning? What might we do to eliminate such barriers?

Many types of barriers can impede students’ access to digital learning. As a special education teacher, I’ve noticed most of my students access the Internet primarily on their phone or tablet. Few have Internet access at home, and fewer still have access to printers. In keeping with the Pew study, my students belong to minority groups, have learning disabilities — including autism — and come from families which are economically-disadvantaged.

Increasing accessibility, in the long-run, may require some type of federal, state, or local government action. Decatur, Georgia — along with some other cities nationwide — offers free wifi to the public. The connection is spotty, but it works pretty well. Fortunately, there are some things teachers can do to increase accessibility of their online tools. Providing captions and transcripts for videos and proper formatting to allow for e-readers are two small things that make a big difference.

I confess I had never considered how to design a website for students who have trouble with motor skills (paraplegia, muscular distrophy, etc.) or who are visually-impaired. How can we make sure students who can’t use a mouse can still access the lesson? I’m not sure about that one. Using “tab” and “shift + tab” works pretty well, but sometimes there are road bumps. I just tried to access the TOOL website using just the tab key. I was able to open lessons, play videos, and mark them completed, but I could not close the windows to advance to the next lesson. I’d have to talk with someone who knows much more about coding than I do.

A simple fix for accessibility is to keep checking the links from class to class. Make sure all your links still work, so that students can easily access the material. I could not access the Broadband map on my home laptop. Not sure why. It’s unfortunate because it looks like a very cool tool! Not sure if it’s a computer issue or a website issue.

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