iPads for Inclusion

Area(s) of Focus: technology
Level(s): Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12

Identification of the key needs of IEP learners vis-à-vis the new AMDSB inclusion model, with a focus on teacher and support staff best practices related to supporting these learners with iPad-based technology, rather than traditional SERT withdrawal

The AMDSB has adopted an enhanced inclusion policy that will be enabled through the use of iPads. All of St. Marys DCVI’s Grade 9 students with IEPs that indicate the need for a scribe/reader have been provided with iPads. The goal was to  have these students remain in their regular classroom, using the technology provided to meet their learning needs rather than being withdrawn to a separate SERT environment. The focus of this project was to allow teachers access to the same technology students are using, as well as release time to discuss and problem-solve around the logistics of  this new scenario.

The goal of the teachers participating in this TLC project was to enhance their familiarity with the new technology and specific applications for students with IEPs. We were committed to making the best use of this technology for all students, but the particular focus of this group was on ensuring that the needs of our learners with additional challenges were met in our regular classroom setting, allowing them to excel under the new parameters of the board’s enhanced inclusion policy.

Team Members

  • Sara Jewson

    Avon Maitland District School Board

  • Lori Black

    Avon Maitland District School Board

  • Sherry Logan

    Avon Maitland District School Board

  • Les Brunton

    Avon Maitland District School Board

  • Stephen Chateauvert

    Avon Maitland District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

The first goal the group set was to identify concerns related to the challenges the shifting inclusion paradigm posed to students, and thus to educators. We selected three key issues that were both pressing, and could practically be addressed in the time allotted to the project:

1. Pursue a plan to create a virtual notebook for students with iPads (a model that can be accepted universally by staff if possible).

2. Creation of digital courses of study that can be used and disseminated to students using a platform that will be guaranteed to be viable long term; finding and using a suite of apps that can be applied universally across most curriculum areas.

3. Help students currently in Grade 9 and moving forward who have SEA iPads and thus are “different” from their classmates. There is recognition of social/emotional effects of them using the technology in a regular classroom environment that must be addressed, as well as an investment in teaching the students how to make best use of the technology in order to ensure the optimal use of the technology as designed.

In working towards addressing each of these areas of concern, we were able to extend professional learning. In particular, each staff member was able to create digital classrooms, assessments using a variety of iPad-based evaluation techniques, and identify more closely ways to limit the apparent social/emotional impacts on students currently in Grade 9 (those undergoing the first year of the new inclusion model).

Staff identified an additional need to increase our awareness of the role of the school’s Technology Coach in helping teachers facilitate the transition from “traditional” to “technology-based” teaching practices.

Activities and Resources

The primary resource that made the project possible was the purchase of up-to-date equipment for the staff to use. iPads provided by the board were significantly outdated, making much of the inclusion software unavailable to staff. Purchasing new iPads rectified this situation.

Use of the school’s Technology Coach was an excellent resource. This person was able to guide discussion (as many of the participating staff were relative newcomers to iPad use) and provide suggestions regarding hardware and software that would help to ameliorate specific challenges identified by the group.

The chance to liase with staff members from the elementary panel was also an excellent resource. The elementary panel is further ahead than the secondary panel in the AMDSB in terms of both inclusion and iPad use (the pilot project began with Grade 7). Having release time access to this resource was invaluable, as it allowed us to build on the best practices already underway in the elementary panel.

Unexpected Challenges

Having various apps showcased to the team was not particularly helpful. The team was able to identify the difference between being “shown” an app, and being “taught’ to use one. Being bombarded with potential options, without having someone of sufficient expertise in-house to guide us through the use of the program, was overwhelming and counterproductive, as it ultimately wasted precious time with very little gain.

Finding appropriate scribe/reader applications that read or interpret non-traditional text-based pieces (diagrams, equations, charts) continues to challenge the group. This makes finding applications for math particularly challenging – so far the group has been unable to identify an appropriate “fix” for this issue.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

One of the particular benefits of the team assembled at the beginning of this project was the representation of several diverse departments (math, CWS and technological studies). This means that any hardware or software discussed had to have practical applications in each of the diverse subject areas.

The selection of SHOWBIE as the platform for classroom organization met the needs of each curriculum area, and allowed for the following supports to be put in place for our students:

1. Teachers can impose a notebook structure that will support the weak organizational skills of many of our IEP learners (our target group). This will mean that when referring to previous notes, investigations, inquiries, assignments or evaluations, students will have the information in chronological order, and be able to access it, allowing it to be integrated into future learning or assessments.

2. The nature of SHOWBIE honours work done by teachers in other platforms (Edmodo, Google Docs, etc.) and extends the options for assessment. For example, video and audio features allow for students to demonstrate understanding in hands-on ways (particularly useful in technological studies) and to explain their learning orally, rather than relying consistently on written output. This should help offset the need for withdrawal or extra support for students whose IEPs are primarily necessitating scribe support.

3. Teachers also identified the opportunity  the iPads and SHOWBIE create for formative learning conferences. This allows teachers to assess various steps in the learning process and to help students self-identify challenges to their own learning.

4. The staff were able to develop a framework for the changing role of SERT in the iPad/inclusion era. It not only recommends how a SERT may continue to support students with iPads, but also discusses the possible intersection of the roles of classroom teacher, SERT and Technology Coach. For a detailed outline of this framework, see “Resources Created.”


Throughout the project, the team has kept ongoing minutes of our various meeting days, sharing these with our administration as the project progressed. This has allowed for the possibility for an ongoing conversation regarding the assertions and professional learning of the team members, as well as possible applications for and recommendations regarding the staff as a whole. We plan to meet as a group with our administration at the conclusion of the project with a list of recommendations we would like to see implemented as the inclusion framework moves forward. We will be able to evaluate how these recommendations are implemented, and their success, and then share the project overall at the board level. We plan to submit copies to the Director of Education, the Superintendent of Special Education and the Superintendent of Education – Program.

Project Evaluation

The learning goals that were achieved during the tenure of this project include:

  • identification of a common application/platform for disseminating resources, collecting student work and allowing for student-student, student-staff collaboration – SHOWBIE
  • selection of a platform for student virtual notebooks – SHOWBIE
  • creation of a foundation of knowledge and skills to allow for the gradual transition from “traditional” to “technology-based” teaching practices as iPads become pervasive in our classrooms
  • gained greater understanding of the role of the Technology Coach in supporting teacher learning and student needs
  • gained greater understanding of the intersection of the role of Technology Coach and SERT
  • the selection of the SHOWBIE platform allows to SERT to directly monitor and support the ongoing learning and success of students with IEPs

Areas we might change our approach to:

  • identified the need for additional sessions allowing for more participation from an increase number of departments
  • extend the project to allow the group to evaluate the long-term success of recommendations made
  • the late start date (necessitated by the late receipt of funds) means that the project had a short tenure
  • find a mechanism to allow for student voice to be a factor in ongoing discussions

Resources Used

Announcement and overview of the AMDSB’s Next Generation Learning Initiative


Avon Maitland District School Board Administrative Procedure No. 141

Subject: Equity and Inclusive Education