Inclusion and digital teaching - an Interview

I talk with the educational scientist Lea Schulz about digitally inclusive teaching.

Domingos: welcome to a new podcast on digital accessibility. Today I have another exciting guest with me: Lea Schulz. First of all, thank you very much for taking the time for this podcast. Just start by introducing yourself to those listening.

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Lea's career

Lea: yes, I'd love to, first of all thank you very much for allowing me to be there. I am a special education teacher, have worked as a special school teacher for a long time and combine the topics of digital media and inclusion into the topic of diclusion because I have seen from the perspective of schools and educational institutions that these two subject areas are often thought of separately and that is my request It is to think of the two together in order to reduce barriers on the one hand, but above all to make the potential more visible on the other. This is actually my main area of work.

I'm currently connected from Flensburg, working here at the European University in Flensburg as a so-called educational engineer. We are working on various topics in a large state program that revolves around digitalization. So there are several people like me who work on this. That means I am in the area of teaching and learning scenarios and develop new ideas for teacher professionalization around this topic and of course also for digitally inclusive teaching. This is my main area of application at the moment.

Before that, I worked at the state institute as a director of studies and as an educator, and worked in school development. Before that I was a teacher. And before that, I was able to help develop a platform: Some teachers may know Bettermarks, a learning platform for mathematics. And I have also advised other companies on how to develop learning software from a pedagogical perspective. That's basically how I came to say: I would like to think about and combine inclusion and digital media and find many more options for how we can think about it together.

Digital teaching after Corona

Domingos: You have already mentioned the topic of digital teaching. There was a certain upward movement, I would say, when the Corona wave emerged, but that seems to be declining again. What role does digital teaching play now?

Lea: Well, I think your perception is actually similar to mine. There was a really big wave caused by Corona and we created a lot of infrastructure that might not have been considered quite as necessary before, so that schools are becoming better and better equipped, with devices and training events and WiFi and so on. A lot of tweaks have been made, even if it is still not sufficient in many places. But I don't think we need to discuss that today. It was a small revolution in time, there is no other way to say that, and a lot has changed when it comes to the professionalization of our teachers.

However, since the pandemic is over in the form it was before, you can see that in some places there has been a step back in the classrooms: "Well, we don't need it like that anymore." I don't think it's entirely wrong to think again about what role digital media should actually play for us in lessons, so what we used before is something that we can really use to create good, inclusive, individualized lessons , but also to design cooperative, collaborative teaching. It's not wrong to really talk about the form of teaching and the culture of teaching, how the skills for the future of our students can actually be developed.

Because I don't think I would necessarily speak of digital teaching, but rather of teaching that brings the analogue and the digital together and that takes place quite naturally in a culture of digitality, so to speak. That we somehow learn together and that we don't even have to say that it's all digital now and that it's all analog because I don't like digital or anything like that, but that we really look at the potential of all the media that we use in class but always keep in mind that in order to participate in a digitalized society it is necessary that we create awareness among all teachers as well as all students and also train them with skills so that they can move in a digitalized world. This is necessary in order to be able to do really good teaching.

From my perspective, that would also be the role that digital media play on the one hand, i.e. this thinking about the future: What skills do we actually need in the future. And we live in a digitalized society. I can only participate if I develop these skills. From my perspective, there is another role for digital media in teaching: because it is also about us revolutionizing teaching and learning and, in a culture of digitality, teaching and learning not only based on the digital skills that could be developed , revolutionize, but also because of the potential that we can exploit. Especially for heterogeneity in classes, especially for classes that are very different or students who are all very different, regardless of the composition of these classes, it is all the more necessary that we use digital media there, for example for individualization processes Illustration of the options: being able to use operating aids or options for presentation, design, creativity. There are a lot of areas that are involved in this, from my perspective, which describe the role of digital media in teaching in order to be able to design really good, inclusive lessons.

Questions in digitally inclusive teaching

Domingos: What challenge arises when you have disabled students who want to be taught digitally or inclusively?

Lea: There are a lot of challenges. I think the first thing we need to talk about is what is meant by disabled students and what is meant by accessibility, because accessibility ultimately means something different for each student. So in the end, accessibility means that I would like to acquire a content, a competence, a knowledge, perhaps within educational processes or within digital lessons. And accessibility at this point means that I as a teacher and or our educational institution, school, is able to reduce barriers so that everyone can participate and that of course varies greatly from the individual perspectives of the students. What a student with a visual impairment needs certainly does not need visualization, while visualization is incredibly important for a student with a cognitive impairment in order to be able to understand content processes.

And so I think you can see that when it comes to the challenge of teaching, we are not yet very far along with these ideas in pedagogy with the usual accessibility criteria that are applied, for example, when it comes to designing websites or something similar enough come. These are important basics, for sure. However, within pedagogy we must be able to target the individual. That means we have to know our students, we have to know where there might be barriers, which are sometimes obvious. So if I know there is a visual impairment, then I know that I have to react to it. But sometimes they are not obvious, for example if I do not yet know, because I am still relatively new as a teacher in a class, what strategies a student has: Is he or she capable of doing this, for example? To use a certain program or know how to create a PowerPoint presentation from a text, he or she is able to filter out the most important content from a text. So these are very different requirements. Or do I even have one at home? e.g. access to end devices. That is always what is meant by the digital gap, at least a level that people say we first have to create access to end devices.

So I would say, yes, we certainly need to think about accessibility to be able to overcome these challenges. On the one hand. On the other hand, we also have to talk very strongly about adaptivity. So we have to take a good look at where our students are, what is the next step, what are the barriers that might be in the way and what technologies - or sometimes they are not technologies - what media can we use to help students to give them the option and opportunity to learn. And that's why we have many challenges, especially when using digital media.

I think the challenge is precisely this adaptability: I therefore have to know what a barrier could be. I also need to know where the students are currently at so that I can design learning opportunities in the zone of next development. But then we also have the challenge that we often work with learning media that are not yet subject to a quality check, so I cannot yet assume that they are initially designed to be accessible. And then as a teacher I also have to be able to use the learning media in such a way that I can individualize them so that I am able to differentiate there. Well, I think it's a great example. You mentioned the pandemic earlier. A great example of this actually came about directly during the pandemic. Many teachers have been using the Anton app around the clock, and it has really boomed over time. And they also developed really interesting content. The Anton app was only often used in such a way that people said: "So everyone in class 5 should practice such and such tasks on fractions" - in principle this was not differentiated at all, and perhaps no one even looked at whether they were Students at home were even able to download the app, is the app even accessible if they have hearing impairments, visual impairments, or perhaps something like written language difficulties? Are students even able to read the tasks that are visible there? were. And to this day I think that is a challenge that makes it visible. I have to be able to use the apps or software that I use and learn to use them. And as a teacher, I obviously need a lot of skills in this area. I have to know the apps, I have to know where my students are, I have to be able to create a digitally inclusive learning environment for my students so that they can all learn as well as possible.

Advantages of digital hybrid teaching

Domingos: Inclusion in teaching is generally discussed a lot. Do you see any particular advantages in digital or hybrid teaching for inclusion?

Lea: I've been working on this for a long time - I think it offers a good option for certain areas. Maybe you have to say it that way. I think this flexibilization of learning is ultimately how we learn in adult education. We look for a specific motivation and put together certain training events or lectures or workshops online that we are interested in. We use the times when it suits us or when we can learn particularly well or something similar. So we accept the learning offers that are available online. I would also like that for our students. This is this option: the older you get and the better you are able to organize and structure your learning processes yourself - of course I have to guide you and support you in ensuring that you are able to organize your learning process . So that you set goals for yourself or stick to certain things or complete a task or are able to make a plan: What do I actually want to learn, where are my priorities, what are the first ones now Goals that I want to achieve, what tasks do I have to complete to achieve this and so on. When do I do this? That is my personal requirement for schools, that we achieve exactly that. This form of learning structure or learning organization. And if we have achieved that in this process or are in the process of achieving that, then we can of course make these learning formats more and more flexible. And for me that would also include completely digital lessons.

I would like to raise one more perspective. This is the flexibility of learning. Basically, that I can learn at other times, in other places and so on, for all students. And then that opens the door to us offering an option for participation, especially for certain risk groups or for students who, for example, are sometimes unable to attend classes in face-to-face classes. An example: We have a student at a school near here who was diagnosed with diabetes and now has to go into rehab for several weeks to adjust. That's not entirely rare now. It happens more often in a school context that any form of illness is an exclusion, for example, and that's why there are often things like hospital teachers and so on. And for this student there would be the option of being able to join the lesson, for example via such small robots as there is the AV1 or the dowel or various options to be able to join in via small robots or simply via a hybrid form of teaching. The robots also offer the option of being able to participate even better in cooperative processes. So not only do you hear the presentation at the beginning, for example, if there is one, but you can actually work together in groups. The older the students are, the easier it is to organize something like this via video conferences. But a Robotis version like this is somehow much better, especially for younger people. This is of course a nice form of participation. If I am sick or cannot take part due to illness, I have the option, and it must remain an option, to be able to take part if I feel like it. There are definitely studies that have taken place on this. And we now know that it's much easier for many students to stay connected to the class, so I can stay in the social context of my class and I'm always in the awareness of the other students and it's easier for me is to return, because in principle I still noticed a lot, even though I wasn't there. Similar options obviously apply to students who have difficulty being in such a large class context, we have students, an example is the autism spectrum, but that is actually not always true, but for some students who simply do not have that be able to endure being in such a large group for an entire morning and there would also be an opportunity to be more flexible, saying that on certain days you can also take the option to take part from home. However, the prerequisites for this are really good reflection processes, i.e. constantly coming into contact with all students who use this flexibility and just looking and reflecting whether it still fits their learning goals, whether they are able to work on things at home or You may not have enough space at home to complete tasks in peace or to achieve the goals you have set for yourself. Of course that is also part of it, i.e. this form of flexibility. I think there are great options there. But I also believe that we have to be very good at providing really good pedagogical, reflective support.

Introduction to the topic

Domingos: That sounds super exciting. What opportunities do teachers have to familiarize themselves with the topic?

LEA: I really like the question because it's actually a very practical question and it comes up again and again in practice, exactly this problem: So either you don't have the resources because you can't pay for them or because they do Your own skills may not be so extensive that you can use everything well. This is very different, but taken directly from practice.

I would like to point out one small thing: I'm always asked: Is there a great inclusive app that I could name. And that's all I can say from my own experience. No, an app cannot be inclusive. There are no inclusive apps. That does not work. My lessons can be inclusive, I can design a learning environment inclusive, I can live inclusion or my attitude is inclusive, but an app cannot be inclusive. It can perhaps be accessible according to fixed criteria, there are ready-made criteria for that, we could talk about that, but it is still far from being inclusive. Inclusion lives from the way I teach, from my attitude, from the effort I make to find the potential of my students and bring them out and support them in achieving their goals. And I can do that with the smallest of resources, even in the digital area. I am able to create a digitally inclusive learning environment using relatively simple things. I wouldn't always start with a big app or huge learning software, where you have to spend ages getting used to it and where you simply lose a lot of time, which may also be expensive in the end, but I would move forward with small steps.

Maybe an example: If I have a class, I'm sure that in almost every class I now have students with linguistic difficulties who can't follow the German language well enough, who perhaps don't yet understand certain words from the educational language context well enough Perhaps they also have difficulties with sentence order or simply speak a different native language and have not yet gotten far enough with the German language to be able to understand all the content well, so they vary greatly, be it multilingualism or a linguistic impairment in any form could be a barrier be. Theoretically and practically in almost every class.

And I could take precautions in such a digitally inclusive learning environment. For example, I could decide for myself that whenever I have a task somewhere, be it in station work on an assignment sheet, or perhaps on a digital learning platform where I offer written assignments, I can always see that I am on board with it In addition to the written task, I also provide an auditory task.

On the one hand, I can do this by enabling the students to use operating aids - one variant is not always that easy, I will say. So it's not necessarily easy to access, especially for younger students, but it is a variant. But I could also switch to using speaking QR codes, for example, especially with younger students. Or I also use recorded tasks in the Book Creator or in a similar eBook format, where in addition to the text you can also offer audio and so the students have the option of either reading the text or having it read to them or maybe to have it translated again into another language and I have just created access to a task that may not have been accessible before.

And that's an example, that's a small example of why I either have to deal with an e-book like this, which is very low-threshold. All I can always say is that I already worked with it in kindergarten. It's possible, you can do it, it's not a huge challenge to get started with. Or I work with talking QR codes, for example kidsblock has a great version. Now this is just an example. Of course I can also do this with many other things. This means that I look at where there might be barriers on the one hand or where I have the opportunity to create different accesses to a learning object. It's always good not to be so stuck in just offering one thing but, if possible, to give the students the option of perhaps also watching a video or playing it as an audio in other languages, perhaps creating access, making certain technical terms clear, making learning strategies visible to do and so on. Perhaps visualizing processes and times if necessary or making them audible via sounds is also another variant of creating different accesses to the learning objects. And I can do that with very few resources.

Of course I need something digital in the classroom. I think we agree on that. So, of course, some kind of equipment has to be available. I've also worked with students' own devices, but I'm actually not a fan of it because I think we do education here in Germany and we're actually not that bad at it. But education also means participation. And participation means educational equality. And in the end that also means that students must have access to devices. That's why I just find it difficult to say: Yes, bring everyone your own devices and then you have six children sitting there who don't have one. There has to be a solution for this from my perspective. But still, I need one or the other device and can achieve a lot with it.

Domingos: yeah cool, thanks for the tips. Where can interested people find out more if they want to familiarize themselves with the topic?

Lea: yes, there are different options. I have a website, you can of course take a look at it, there are a few tips at There you will also find lots of links to other great websites, to great people who have really good ideas. And a second variant is the book “Diclusive Learning Worlds”, where we published a book in which teachers, students, professors, scientists and various practitioners put together their ideas on digitally inclusive learning. And I think that is an incredible enrichment, these ideas landscape that are opening up that already exist in Germany and that we have made visible through this book. I can only recommend reading it. It's actually not an advertisement because we made it our mission to make this book available free of charge. That means you can download it from the website. I don't mean to say that we don't make any money with this, but that was important to us: This actually came about from the social media sector, that we simply got together and said: We want to achieve something together. And that's where this book came from, among other things.

Lea's channels

Domingos: I also read the book and can definitely recommend it to others. You yourself are also a good source of information. Where can people follow you on social media?

Lea: Still on X, You can find a lot on LinkedIn at the moment, but you can also currently find me on Instagram and Facebook. And otherwise I always try to record current things on the website as much as possible. I have a second, somewhat more hidden website for those who would like to delve a little more into the practice, I have another website called At the moment we are always publishing the products that we create together with our two cooperation schools here around digital-inclusive learning. And you can see a lot of great, creative things that our students have helped to develop with the teachers on site at our partner schools.

Domingos, thank you very much for all the information. Then we wish you much success in your future projects.

Leah: Thank you very much.

Lea's website

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