EdTech and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

The EdTech Hub is a global non-profit research partnership
Our goal is to empower the people making decisions about technology in education.

In recent decades, the global adoption of education or educational technology (EdTech) has grown significantly. Technological solutions are now prevalent across various aspects of education service delivery, and there is a growing consensus that technology can improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and fairness of education worldwide.

One specific area where EdTech shows promise is for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

This curated list of evidence and resources in EdTech is specifically designed for learners with SEND and is intended for decision-makers seeking to enhance the integration of EdTech for learners with SEND within their education systems. We adopt the definition used in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which states that “Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

Evidence and Resources

Using education technology to support learners with special educational needs and disabilities in low- and middle-income countries

This brief focuses on how policymakers can make decisions about EdTech to support learners with SEND while offering policymakers the rationale and tools to move towards an inclusive approach. It also includes a detailed annex with descriptions, costs, availability, and examples of accessible and assistive technologies.

Your Questions Answered: Using Technology to Support Gender Equity, Social Inclusion and Out-Of-School Learning

EdTech Hub participated in a Girls’ Education Challenge webinar in May 2020, which welcomed stakeholders from countries including the UK, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Nepal. The session focused on issues regarding gender and social inclusion during the Covid-19 crisis. This document provides answers to a list of 10 questions received from stakeholders, which are still relevant today, such as:

  • How can technology support those with a disability?
  • How can we provide learning to children in remote, rural, and hard-to-reach areas?
  • What devices work in areas with low connectivity or electricity?
  • What are some good practices to support girls to engage with technology, to ensure educational programmes do not do harm, and to address the digital gender divide?
EdTech for Learners with Disabilities in Primary School Settings in LMICS: A Systematic Literature Review

This systematic literature review was guided by the overarching aim of establishing the categories of EdTech that may be appropriate to support the learning of children with disabilities aged 4–12 years in low- and middle-income countries. A critical review of the published literature was deemed essential as the field of disability and EdTech (mirroring larger trends in disability and educational research) has remained dominated by anecdotal commentaries and strong personal assertions, but substantiated by little evidence.
In framing the review, we drew on a dual model of access which provides a helpful lens into how EdTech can support a learner’s development trajectory across different interventions (e.g. learning to read Braille or sign language), targeted educational outcomes, inclusive practices and suitable accommodations in different educational settings. This approach is underpinned by a human rights agenda, as articulated in the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which demand fair and equal access to education for all children and young people. They are also concerned, however, that an individual child/young person should have agency, self-determination and independence. Article 2 of the CRPD unambiguously recognises that reasonable accommodation is vital in enabling persons with disabilities to enjoy and exercise their rights on an equal basis with others.

Pakistan Distance-Learning Topic Brief: Primary-level Deaf Children

The Covid-19 crisis has severely impacted the ability of national education actors to provide access to education services for all students. This brief provides guidance and recommendations on how to support the education of deaf children in Pakistan using alternative learning approaches. It presents the rationale for adopting certain teaching and learning strategies when supporting the learning and well-being of deaf children during global uncertainty. Children with deafness and hearing loss are particularly vulnerable during school closures. They are isolated at home and unable to access information as easily as when attending school. This brief presents some of the practices that are reportedly working well for deaf children in different contexts.

What steps are being taken to reach the most disadvantaged students during the period of Covid-19 school closure?

This resource was initially created to support the most disadvantaged students during the Covid-19 school closures. However, the recommendations and findings from this study are still relevant today, particularly for marginalised learners and learners with SEND needs, who might face ongoing barriers to education such as inadequate infrastructure, accessibility, and negative attitudes or stigma toward learners with disabilities. This study takes a broad view of ‘disadvantage,’ recognising that it presents itself in several different forms: socio-economic status, ethnicity, language group, gender, geography (including the challenges of remote rural communities), special educational needs, and disability.

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