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Inclusion: The Key to the Future of Education

A paper by Martin McKay, CEO & Founder of Texthelp. In light of the current educational landscape, our CEO, Martin McKay has given his thoughts on how the COVID pandemic has impacted schools and what the future holds.

In this paper, we explore:

  • Universal Design for Learning and how we can remove barriers to learning
  • How inclusion will be transformative and can benefit all learners
  • How we can tackle the challenges of change head on
  • The impact of Texthelp tools on teaching and learning

This paper was written by Martin McKay, Founder and CEO of Texthelp. Special thanks to our contributors at Cinncinati Public Schools, Catoosa County School District and Plymouth-Canton Community Schools.

Executive Summary

Everyone has the right to understand and to be understood.

In our rapidly shifting K-12 education landscape, this has never been more true than right now.

The events of the past two years have drastically changed teaching and learning. They have propelled us into a new era of education. The sudden shift to remote instruction and the following months created new challenges. Students and teachers were navigating unfamiliar, remote classroom environments. And research shows that learning was measurably interrupted as a result, despite the best efforts of teachers.

In some cases, the interruption was due to a lack of access to technology, both at school and at home. In other cases, it was linked to the lack of collaboration students experienced when learning remotely. While academic achievement was lower for all student groups in fall 2021, students in special education and other historically marginalized students were more disproportionately impacted.

The pandemic disruption left in its wake both expected and unexpected consequences in K-12 education. There are still many challenges to overcome. However, it has also created an unprecedented opportunity for education leaders to reassess standard practices. With an eye toward the future, we can prepare for new education realities and learning environments.

One of the biggest opportunities we need to tackle is ensuring inclusion in K-12 education. The pandemic brought to light issues of access and equity, and the importance of recognizing the unique learning needs of all students. Making sure that all students have the tools they need to learn is critical to the future of education.

This is the premise of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is an approach to learning that is based on the understanding that every student learns differently. They may require a different way of engaging with, and expressing understanding of, grade level content. UDL has the potential to maximize learning experiences and minimize barriers for all students.

During the pandemic, teachers, parents, and students moved quickly to find and implement digital solutions in response to the prevailing crisis. Edtech companies rose to the challenge, innovating products and solutions to meet the needs of teachers and students.

As a result, technology-based solutions are more available and easy to use than ever before. They have refined user experiences that allow for quick implementation and access across different learning management platforms and devices.

Educators have realized that digital learning tools offer new possibilities for learning. They create the potential to design a more accessible and supportive learning environment for all students. Technologies that are built with UDL in mind and are used widely across the student body act as tools for collaboration, expression, and productivity. They promote a more inclusive classroom environment and create better learning outcomes for all students.

About the author

Martin Mckay, CEO & Founder, Texthelp

Martin founded Texthelp in 1996 to help people with communication difficulties. What started as a company focused on people with profound Speech and Dexterity Disabilities has become a world leading Assistive Technology company. His goal is to make sure that by 2030 Texthelp will have advanced the literacy and understanding of one billion people. In 2017, Martin received the Presidential Award in recognition of lifetime contribution to dyslexia and literacy from the International Dyslexia Association. Today, Martin serves in an advisory capacity on the Universal Design for Learning council.