Week 9— Pre-Thesis

Nelson James
5 min readApr 7, 2021

This week has been filled with a ton of research and interview. As the idea becomes more formalized, I’ve finally sort of narrowed down and redefined the problem statement to hopefully address the root causes of the problem.

The problem I’m addressing: More so now, there has been an increase in Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), 504 Plans, and also the general need to include principles of UDI within K-12 learning design. Teachers are finding themselves needing to personalize education for a majority of students which can lead to in some cases, burnout, and a low return of teachers, especially in schools without an abundance of resources.

After feedback from some teachers, the general stance, is that post-COVID, this issue is going to be more significant than before. As students will continually need differentiation due to the disproportionate nature of how schools have been functioning this past week. More specifically, we talked about how something like this would work really well within the GenEd section of students and LED students (students with learning disabillities), rather than with IEP students. There some students that have IEPs that might benefit from something like this, but in thinking about autistic students, or students that might have visual or auditory disabilities, might not be able to interact well with a system mostly computer based. There are some questions there for how in a future adaption of this, it could become more accessible, but then again, from the interviews, those students need that 1 on 1 interaction to really help them, and special ed classes address those issues, there’s just a question of access to special ed classes and instructors that disproportionately affects certain students. We also talked about some existing frameworks that do similar work, but without the automation portion, that including EdPlan which is a IEP management software essentially, and offers techniques for teachers to differentiate and personalize their instruction based on the needs of the students. Of course, the teacher ends up still doing it, but it’s still helpful. I’m looking into what systems are being used in other districts that might do similar work. We also talked about the gifted and at-risk population of students that could benefit from something like this. Traditionally, this type of technology is used as course recovery or credit recovery and would be targeted to the at-risk population, and originally, I was trying to get away from the technology being used solely for that point, but I do think it could be beneficial for that population as well, especially, since most at-risk curriculum is not engaging or inspiring. As for the gifted population, it could be helpful in terms of the adaptive nature of constantly challenging students to move up levels and gain mastery for different content.

We also talked about how something like this would work within a Reading/Langugage Arts Class, and sort of acknowledged that there are some elements of learning how to read that’s best done with a teacher, but there are also elements that could be done using technology and would be really helpful if it was adapative. Some of those areas include parts of speech, synonyms/antonymous, word choice and work usage. There’s also the idea of cross curriculum, and allowing reading/la to be apart of other core subjects as well, so it’s not necessarily just a LA class or just a reading class, but making it apart of social sciences, etc.

Lastly, we talked about the role of the teacher, and that in some cases, teachers like doing this work and personlizing content so that students are able to grasp the information. We also talked about one of the disadvantages of this framing that, teachers are overwhelmed, which is not necessarily the case, it could also be that teachers lack the training necessary to differentiate and personalize learning quickly and efficiently. We talked about maybe thinking about the training from the perspective of the teacher and how training could be created to educate the teacher on different techniques for doing this work so that they’re not as overwhelmed. But we also did acknowledge that technology would make it easier for everyone. In this conversation, it was also really helpful to think about how to incorporate the teacher more so within this framework, and something that Dan has been mentioning for a bit, and that is maybe framing the journeys that the students would take into a script for the teacher. Giving the teacher a persona or so, and having them guide the students through the game. I thought this was interesting because it sort of invites the teacher in again and makes them apart of the lesson, which is also important.

With that, here are some other things I’ve updated with regards to the research question and potential ways to address this question:

Research Question: How can technology help with providing students content that meets their accessibility needs and adapts based on their ongoing success?

Potential Solution Description: I’ve been working with a group of 6 teachers in Florida looking into this issue and they have helped advise me on potential solutions and ways to address this problem, but also to help define the problem, which has changed significantly from the start.

Currently, I’m looking into how can technology play the role of providing the standard accessibility requirements that you would see being addressed in IEPs or 504 Plans and while also including variations for different learning styles.

So essentially, for the demo, I’m going to have about 4–5 variations of the lesson that addresses points in IEP, 504 plans, and also some variations of learning styles. In a perfect world, this would be a checklist in a software that a school uses and each teacher would check for each student, and the platform would prescribe the appropriate variation of the lesson for that student with all their needs being addressed. So I sort of want to demo what that model could look like. But the question that I’m trying to ask is whether this technology could serve a purpose in diversifying instruction automatically in a way that takes the stress from the teacher and frees up their time to then provide more personal instruction to students who need more 1 on 1 work but are not given that, due to lack of resources.