In special education in India

In India, two special educators, one at a private special school and one at an integrated pubic school, have similar experiences with going online with their teaching within days after the lockdown in India was announced. They were both already using technology for their day to day interventions with their students, including tablets, computers, and online videos on YouTube. At the integrated public-school, educators were assigned tablets from the school that they used for their teaching and kept with them at school and at home. Since the WiFi at the school was available only in certain areas, the educators bought their own SIM cards with data connections for their tablets to be always connected. When teaching went online, the educators continued working with their tablets. The special educator at a private special school has access to computers connected to the internet and also tablets connected to the school’s WiFi within the school premises. When teaching went online, they used their own personal devices, mostly their smartphones and sometimes, if available, their home computer or laptops, to connect with their students. They usually asked other tech savvy family members to help them connect when using a laptop or computer.

Both schools have dedicated resource rooms for special education with games, puzzles, devices, and other physical resources for everyday interventions. Since the lockdown in India was sudden, and schools were closed within days after the announcements in March, educators were not able to take these resources home from school or provide them to the parents and children.

The special educator at the public school used mostly WhatsApp to connect with their students. This includes sending a 15-day lesson plan (with short tasks and activities) to their parents or caregivers every two weeks. The tasks and activities are evaluated by connecting with the parents or caregivers every week. For most of the student-parent pairs who are connected with the educators, there are also weekly online sessions using WhatsApp video to check on the progress made, provide short interventions, and discuss any issues. For parents who do not have access to or do not use WhatsApp, the educator sends the 15-day lesson plan via SMS and has weekly phone calls. The calls and video session times are negotiated with the parents a day before.

At the private school, once they decided to go online, they set up a schedule for all educators and school staff. The educators have to conduct online sessions using Zoom with each of their assigned students. The sessions can be one-to-one or with many students at the same time. The session times were negotiated with the parents, with some they were fixed and with some they were more flexible. In addition to online sessions with the students (with the help of parents), the entire school staff has regular (4 days a week) all-hands-on-deck Zoom meetings (about 40 min long). In these meetings, educators can discuss any issues they are facing, e.g. technical or with their teaching, and get resolutions. There is also a WhatsApp group for the school educators and staff where short technical training videos on how to use Zoom etc. are provided. The educators create weekly lesson plans for each student, which they share with each other and other school staff for feedback. Evaluation of the tasks and activities is done daily, and a report is created by each educator for all of their students and sent to the school admins every workday.