An inclusive education system does not start with machines, but understanding. “When you see a successful child, look at who is behind them. You would find a good teacher, an engaged parent, supportive classmates,” said Ada Ng, Corporate Affairs Director at Microsoft Hong Kong.
To support Hong Kong teachers, parents, and students in learning more about special educational needs (SEN) while enhancing their computer literacy, Microsoft Hong Kong, Hong Kong Education City (HKEdCity) and technology partners combined efforts for a campaign called ‘Master Code for Innovation and Inclusion’.
Spanning eight months, the campaign ran 16 workshops that got participants—over 60 Primary 1 to Secondary 6 teachers, about 130 students and even some parents—thinking hard. What should an inclusive society and education look like? How do we move away from applying deficit labels on students with SEN, to using a strengths-based thinking about the skills and knowledge they bring to the classroom? What are the characteristics of students with SEN? And most importantly, what can they, as individuals, do to support students with SEN?
With these in mind, participants tried their hands at software such as Visual Studio, Microsoft Cognitive Services, Windows Internet of Things and Minecraft. As they got more familiar, they started to explore how these digital technologies could support students with SEN, help them access the curriculum on the same basis as their peers, exercise greater independence, and enhance their learning.
Ronny Lum Chun Wai, assistant project manager at Centre for Special Educational Needs and Inclusive Education under The Education University of Hong Kong, explained that graphics can be made more stimulating to help a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) learn better.
“Understanding may be a cornerstone of an inclusive education, but technologies can take us there with higher impact,” said Ada. “Technologies that have a place in society are those of real value. They help solve real-world needs. They do not and should not exist separate from our daily life.”
The participants then got to building learning tools that raise and promote awareness of students with SEN, helping them enhance their understanding and application of knowledge in creative ways. To date, 70 schools enrolled for the competition. The winners will be announced on 25 November, and their works later showcased at the upcoming Learning and Teaching Expo 2016 in Hong Kong.
“Through this campaign, we have helped students, teachers, and parents make the first step towards creating a more inclusive classroom for SEN students with technology,” said Ada. “We were really ecstatic at the responses we received, and we are spurred to continue spreading the message of inclusion, not just within the education sector but also across the general public.”
We wish all competing participants the best of luck!
Want to try your hand at coding as well? Stay tuned for our upcoming Hour of Code event happening in December.