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How Live Teaching Enables Special Education Classrooms

January 30, 2024

How A Live Teaching Environment Enables Special Education Classrooms

Live teaching is becoming more and more common in general education classes. With live teaching, students receive synchronous instruction from a remote teacher while an in-person classroom coach assists with classroom management and student support. Live teaching enables districts to fill vacancies with a quality pool of experienced educators.

But how can live teaching work in special education classroom settings?

Special education teachers could use the additional support of a live teaching environment, especially amid the decades-long teacher shortage. Still, some districts are hesitant to adopt this model in their special ed classrooms, as they require tailored instruction, behavior management, IEP support, and more.

However, live teaching can be a powerful solution for students with mild to moderate learning or behavioral disabilities, both in self-contained and inclusive classrooms. This model serves as a way for district leaders to resolve ongoing staffing challenges and meet the requirements of their students with disabilities.

The Unique Needs and Challenges of a Special Education Classroom

Special education classrooms are more complex than general education classrooms, presenting a variety of unique challenges.

Tailoring Instruction to Diverse Learning Abilities

Special education teachers must customize their teaching methods to meet the needs of various learning abilities within a single classroom. Whether it’s an inclusive/integrated setting or a self-contained special education classroom, the needs of the students are always diverse. 

Most schools support this need for additional tailored instruction by adding a second certified special education teacher and one or more paraprofessionals.

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) serves more than 7 million U.S. students, and every special education student needs an Individualized Education Program (IEP). 

IEPs are vital to ensure successful student outcomes, but add logistical and administrative burdens to the special education classroom. Someone has to read, manage, and administer those IEPs, as well as log, track, and file reports to maintain IEP compliance.

Live teaching (including the use of online or hybrid classrooms) is one method of supporting these personalized learning plans. 

A remote, certified special education teacher can provide real-time individualized or group instruction that satisfies the IEP goals of some special education students. This frees up in-classroom professionals to provide differing instruction to help others.

Behavioral and Communication Challenges 

Some students served by IDEA present behavioral and communication challenges that can be disruptive in the classroom and demand extra attention from educators. 

These challenges add to teacher stress and contribute to teacher burnout. This is especially problematic in a landscape where special education resources (and teachers) are limited.

Virtual live teaching environments can also help here, freeing up in-classroom personnel to address these challenges in positive, inclusive ways. 

Varied Learning Paces and Styles 

The special education classroom and the inclusive classrooms are also home to extensively varied learning paces and styles. For example, some students may need abbreviated instruction, while others need extra repetition. 

Live teaching is ideal for accommodating different learning paces and styles in special education classrooms. It can be used as a “double-dip” or traditional resource pull-out, helping schools meet the required minutes of extra instruction called for in some IEPs.

How Have Live Teaching Environments Evolved in Recent Years?

Teaching environments have evolved rapidly over the past few years. The pandemic forced most school districts to pivot to some form of online or hybrid education, spurring the development of new technologies and helpful innovations.

The Integration of Advanced Educational Technologies 

First, the technology enabling virtual live teaching environments has advanced in ways educators might not have imagined possible a decade ago. 

Modern ed-tech benefits all K-12 learning (not to mention higher education), but it’s been particularly useful for special education, providing:

  • Dynamic/interactive learning spaces that allow students to learn in more hands-on ways
  • Tailored learning so students can learn at their own pace
  • More inclusive environments and accessibility options, broadening access to learning
  • Real-time feedback and support to boost engagement and reduce wasted time 

Trends in Personalized and Adaptive Learning

Further advancements in technology are fueling a new level of personalized, adaptive learning from elementary school to high school, including special education services. 

AI and machine learning tools can collect information on a student’s knowledge base, skills, understanding, and capabilities. This data collection allows these tools to formulate content and task recommendations that fit the student’s specific needs.

These technologies are still in their infancy. However, the rapid rise of user-friendly AI-driven tools suggests that similar education-oriented tools will be increasingly helpful in the special education realm.

In addition to our live teaching, Elevate provides adapted learning materials for special education classrooms. Our special education subject matter experts review each lesson, reducing text, removing ambiguity, and adding more checks for understanding. 

Students receive guided notes and visual reinforcement of key vocabulary. Plus, we focus on increasing brain breaks within instruction and emphasizing major standard clusters at each grade level. 

The Shift From Traditional Learning Models

The shift away from traditional learning models was already underway on a small scale prior to COVID. However, the pandemic supercharged the integration of technology within the classroom.

LIVE teaching models like Elevate K-12 provide the best of both worlds: all the advantages of a traditional, in-person classroom, and access to top teachers and the highest quality education. 

It can be challenging to find quality educators, particularly those with backgrounds in special education. Elevate K-12’s “hybrid” approach (a LIVE remote teacher plus a district-provided paraprofessional in the classroom) keeps things as close as possible to a traditional classroom environment and expands the pool of quality educators beyond those who are locally available — giving access to more qualified candidates. Elevate is like any other classroom experience but enhanced with technology that can help provide that extra support and engagement for students with disabilities.

The advantages of incorporating technology into the classroom via non-traditional learning models are especially pronounced in special education, giving students greater flexibility in their learning. These models can be especially effective for students with neurodivergence or certain learning disabilities, such as ADHD. 

In these models, the LIVE instructor can tailor lessons specifically to better engage these students. And, if more hands-on support is needed, the LIVE teacher can continue their lesson while the in-class paraprofessional provides one-on-one support for individual students.

Is Virtual Teaching Appropriate for Special Education Classrooms?

We’re unashamed supporters of virtual learning and remote teaching, but it’s still worth asking the question: is this model appropriate in special education?

We believe that, for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities, the answer is a clear yes.

Consider this finding by Central Michigan University’s Mark E. Deschaine, published by Michigan Virtual:

“Online and blended learning opportunities often are the saving grace for students with cognitive impairments. Many prefer the low stress and impact of reduced face-to-face interactions while being able to focus more intentionally on the content.” 

However, it’s important to consider the varied nature of students with special needs. A solution that works well for one student may be wholly inadequate for another.

Elevate is already working with numerous public schools to provide virtual teaching for special education. These are the three primary ways schools are using Special Ed LIVE to extend their special education capabilities:

  • Traditional resource pull-out: an additional “double-dip” of grade-level content to meet instructional minutes for IEPs
  • Core instruction: a core/credit course for students with IEPs who need a slower pace and extra support
  • Alleviate caseloads: free up in-person special education teachers to focus on individual intervention, progress monitoring, and IEPs

“We looked hard for Special Ed teachers, but just couldn’t find them,” says Michael Harris, Senior Director of Talent Management, Milwaukee Public Schools. “Finally, we piloted the Elevate K-12 Special Ed classroom and the results were phenomenal. We honestly couldn’t believe how well it worked.”

Benefits of Live Teaching in Special Education

In the right situations, the live teaching model can benefit special education teachers and students alike. Here are a few of the ways we see this happening.

Enhancing Engagement Through Interactive Tools

Live teaching enables the use of virtual interactive technology that wouldn’t be useful or necessary in a traditional classroom. For example, a chat-based interface could effectively increase engagement among students who are uncomfortable or unable to engage verbally.

Visual reinforcement is a key component of in-person teaching, but interactive tools can supercharge this component in online or hybrid teaching settings.

Providing Consistent, Specialized Instruction

Live teaching also enables students to receive consistent, specialized instruction tailored to their IEPs. Districts nationwide have difficulty hiring and retaining special education teachers and often rely on non-certified staff and long-term subs to fill gaps.

With live teaching, special education students can build trusting relationships with dedicated, professionally certified educators, delivering the consistency they need to thrive. Teachers can also adapt content for each student to fit whatever accommodations and modifications that learner needs.

Bridging Gaps in Special Education Teacher Shortages

Live teaching can also help mitigate the impact of the special education teacher shortage. Many schools find it difficult or even impossible to source local certified teachers. However, virtual live teaching opens up the talent pool to anyone in the country who is certified to teach in that state. 

Customizing Learning Experiences for Each Student 

The live teaching model can also make it easier to customize learning experiences to fit the needs of different students. For example, tools like Loom or other screen recording apps paired with a modern learning management system make it simple to deliver customized videos.

Tips for Implementing Live Teaching in Your Special Education Classrooms

It’s one thing to talk in the abstract about how live teaching can enhance special education, but executing it in the real world seems a lot more daunting.

Use these tips to implement live teaching in your school’s special education classrooms — and get it right the first time.

Select the Right Technology

First, classrooms need to be outfitted with the right technology and equipment. This can be a bit of a challenge, as the definition of “right” may change depending on the live teaching provider you work with. The types of disabilities and accommodations in a particular classroom can also impact which tools will best serve.

Elevate’s comprehensive live teaching solution meets state and local requirements and is ideally suited for special education classrooms. With our program, you can alleviate teacher caseloads, provide much-needed resources, and tailor each student’s educational experience to fit their needs.

See why our Special Ed LIVE solution is the ideal mix of technological innovation and quality teaching: explore Special Ed LIVE.

Work With Trained Educators Familiar With Online Instruction

It’s important to understand that live teaching differs from conventional in-classroom instruction in numerous ways. As we all learned during the early days of the pandemic, simply dropping a classroom teacher in front of a webcam is not sufficient for optimal instruction. 

That was (and is) true in a conventional classroom and is even more relevant in special education. To make the most of virtual live teaching, you need access to educators skilled in online instruction for special education.

Elevate K-12 pairs districts with qualified, experienced special education teachers who use best practices for online instruction and live teaching. We also provide adapted content with accommodations and modifications already in place.

Meet some of the teachers at Elevate K-12.

Create an Inclusive, Accessible Virtual Classroom Setup

Virtual classrooms can be highly effective, but setting them up for special education classes may take some extra creativity. Some students will need physical accommodations for accessibility, while others require additional hands-on assistance for inclusivity.

Creating safe spaces or resource rooms to disengage from noise and environmental stimuli is one common inclusivity practice, especially for students with autism. Differentiating instruction through small groups, education stations, and/or paraeducators is another.

The UDL guidelines can be helpful in developing special education classrooms that provide multiple means of engagement, representation, action, and expression. However, classroom personnel are a primary factor in creating an inclusive, accessible virtual classroom as well.

In the Special Ed LIVE model, each classroom includes a district-provided paraeducator or “classroom coach” who ensures students log in to class on time. They are also responsible for coordinating physical accommodations, printing guided notes, and preparing learning materials in advance. 

During class, classroom coaches may redirect student behavior, model engagement, and generally nurture a positive classroom community. Classroom coaches meet at least once a week with the Elevate Special Education teacher to review student needs and plan for instructional support.

Monitor and Track Student Progress

With the live classroom teacher not physically present, monitoring and tracking student progress must happen another way. Paraeducators and classroom coaches should take care of the bulk of this work, tracking student progress in the same ways you’d see in a traditional, in-person classroom.

Special Ed LIVE also provides an inclusive learning coordinator (ILC) who supports the Special Ed LIVE program, school, and teachers from start to finish. The ILC virtually observes instruction and ensures students receive the accommodations and modifications outlined in their IEPs. 

They also collaborate twice monthly with the school’s special education supervisor, sharing assessment, attendance, participation, and engagement information. 

Explore a More Impactful Special Education Classroom With Elevate K-12

As school districts across the United States continue facing a special education teacher shortage, virtual live teaching has emerged as an ideal solution.

Elevate’s live teaching solutions virtually connect certified special educators with the districts that need them. We also provide vetted courses with built-in modifications and adaptations and a proven collaboration structure. 

We’ll partner with your in-house staff to ensure every student receives the accommodations, support, and quality education they deserve.

Ready to learn more about how Special Ed LIVE can solve your special education challenges? Explore our solution today!

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