This past summer, I had the privilege to visit Australia with students currently in the teacher preparation program at the University of Illinois. We had the opportunity to visit various school districts and learn about the school system in Australia. Specifically, I had the chance to meet special education teachers and ask them questions about how they provide individualized services for students with disabilities.
The Alice Springs School of the Air was one of the schools I had the privilege to teach a lesson on geography. This school offers a wide range of educational services and activities to students with a wide range of ability levels living in remote areas in the southern half of the northern territory and the extreme north of South Australia. Is teaching a lesson via satellite effective? How can the teacher connect with the student? How is teaching a lesson via satellite helpful for a student with learning disabilities? Alice Springs School of the Air believes in high quality communication using a variety of methods to maintaining and sustaining effective classroom instruction for all students. This was especially demonstrated when I had the opportunity to teach a lesson to a group of 7th grade students. These students were approximately 1,700 miles away from the location I was teaching the lesson and they were about another few thousands of miles away from each other. Although the majority of the teaching is done via satellite, the teachers are able to see the students on the screen and are able to see each student’s individual screen if needed. The teacher is able to do just about everything a teacher in your typical classroom would do except it’s all done through a screen. In regards to students with disabilities, the teacher and the student’s parents are continuously communicating about the various ways that accommodations and/or modifications can be made. This type of teaching style requires that the teacher adapt continuously to be able to provide an effective lesson every time but don’t classroom teachers do the same also?
Teaching a lesson at The Alice Springs School of the Air was a great hands-on experience working with a different community and utilizing a different form of communication systems. Being a former special education teacher, I feel grateful for having had this exposure to different types of learning and being open to the idea that “one size fits all” isn’t true for all our students regardless of their disability. For more information, visit their website: http://www.assoa.nt.edu.au/the-school/our-school/