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'Hero Elementary' Equity Strategies to Design and Use Blended Science Learning Resources

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Listen and learn : Research paper
Lecture presentation

Research papers are a pairing of two 20 minute presentations followed by a 5 minute Q & A.
This is presentation 1 of 2, scroll down to see more details.

Other presentations in this group:

Betsy McCarthy  
Daniel Brenner  
Dr. Momo Hayakawa  

Learn about a case study focused on "Hero Elementary" science resources (PBS television episodes, digital games, eBooks, hands-on activities, digital notebook), and their use with K-2 English learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged students and those with moderate disabilities. Resource design with research-based equity strategies provided greater access to the academic content.

Audience: Teachers, Professional developers
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials:
Can be accessed on any browser.
Topic: Equity & inclusion
Grade level: PK-5
Subject area: ESL, Special education
ISTE Standards: For Education Leaders:
Visionary Planner
  • Engage education stakeholders in developing and adopting a shared vision for using technology to improve student success, informed by the learning sciences.
Connected Learner
  • Set goals to remain current on emerging technologies for learning, innovations in pedagogy and advancements in the learning sciences.
Systems Designer
  • Ensure that resources for supporting the effective use of technology for learning are sufficient and scalable to meet future demand.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary


There is a growing body of literature related to the design and use of digital resources that promote inclusion and accessibility (Caria, et al., 2018; Cheng & Lai, 2019; Knight, et al., 2013; Lee, Miller & Janusyk, 2015; Panagopoulou, et al., 2018). Many best practices are represented in the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and computer assisted instruction (CAI) frameworks (CAST, 2011; Weng, Maeda & Bouck, 2014) which identify design features and instructional practices that maximize accessibility and remove barriers for learners at each stage of the learning process, including affordances that provide for multiple means for engagement, representation, and expression and action. TPT designers created an inclusion framework to guide the production of all the digital and analog HE resources. Drawn from best practices specified in UDL, CAI, and research in science education, the framework includes design features meant to create resources that are both welcoming and accessible to diverse groups of students. The design features of HE resources are specifically targeted to allow diverse groups of students to access NGSS science content on their own, and to allow teachers to adapt activities to provide students better access to the content.


The case study employs a multi-case design (Yin, 2003). Multi-case designs allow for comparative analyses between cases, and provide robust findings for research questions that are addressed across cases. Researchers are using constant comparative analysis (Goodrick, 2014) and qualitative data analysis (Maher, et al., 2018) to identify similarities, differences and patterns across the multiple cases and to address the research questions. The study’s research questions include:

• What adaptations do teachers make to HE to provide greater access to the NGSS content for their students?
• Did adaptations include accommodations and modifications specifically for students’ strengths and abilities?
• How do the design features of HE support students’ access to NGSS learning activities?

Data were collected at three after-school programs in the southeast, mid-west, and west coast of the United States. Data collection involved classroom observations, pre-observation interviews with the teachers prior to the classroom visits, running records of observations of the teacher and student behavior, and teacher post-observation interviews occurring immediately following the observation sessions. Data were collected and analyzed for six lessons.

An initial code book was created based on the research questions and the interview protocol questions. Transcripts and notes were coded with the tags created in the code book using NVivo software (QSR International) to facilitate analyses. Based on the initial code tagging, the code book was then refined and used to code the remaining interview transcripts and observation data. The software was used to help categorize and classify the data, and to sort sentiment, themes, and attributes from the data. Coding and subsequent data reduction through analytic memos and case reports were completed independently by two researchers. Preliminary findings were extracted from the completed case reports (3).


Preliminary findings for the study suggest that HE’s resources, designed to promote access to science learning for English learners, students with disabilities and those classified as socioeconomically disadvantaged, were successfully used to engage students in these student populations. Though data collection and analysis continue to take place, the findings suggest that teachers’ adaptations to the resources, including their accommodations and modifications, provided students greater access to learning content. In addition, the design features of the resources supported opportunities for students to more deeply engage in the science content.
Teachers mentioned appreciating the accessibility features of the resources, as well as the variety of choices available to them as they plan HE lessons. Flexibility of the HE format allowed teachers to adapt and improvise activities as needed. One teacher said that being able to return to parts of a playlist to review and revisit content helped to reinforce the learning. The design features of the curriculum also allowed teachers to make changes depending on students’ language proficiency, preferences, and ability level. Analysis of observations and interviews suggest that eBooks were particularly engaging and informative for English learners and students with disabilities. eBook features allowed teachers to launch the book, then students could interact with the images and audio with little distraction. Even students with significant attentional difficulties were able to focus on the activity and the images.


As researchers and developers strive to create digital and blended educational resources that support learning for diverse groups of students, there is a need for research-based guidance and examples of how resources are designed and used with intended users. The current study addresses this critical need by describing how a suite of blended learning resources, designed to be used by English Learners, students with disabilities and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, is used in informal learning environments with diverse populations of students. In addition, it describes the design features and affordances of the resources that may have supported students’ access to the learning content. Findings from the study can further our understanding of how diverse groups of students interact with digital activities in general, and provide insight into how digital activities can be designed or adapted to be even more inclusive and accessible.


Caria, S., Paternò, F., Santoro, C., & Semucci, V. (2018). The design of web games for helping young high-functioning autistics in learning how to manage money. Mobile Networks and Applications, 23(6), 1735-1748. doi:

CAST, Center for Applied Special Technology (2011) Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0, Wakefield, MA. Retrieved from

Cheng, S. C., & Lai, C. L. (2019). Facilitating learning for students with special needs: a review of technology-supported special education studies. Journal of Computers in Education, 1-23.

Goodrick, D. (2014). Comparative Case Studies: Methodological Briefs - Impact Evaluation No. 9.

Knight, Victoria, et al. (2013) A review of technology-based interventions to teach academic skills to students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, vol. 43, no. 11, p. 2628+. Gale OneFile: Nursing and Allied Health, Accessed 8 Apr. 2020.

Lee, O., Miller, E. & Janusyk, R. (2015). NGSS for All Students. NSTA Press.

Maher, C., Hadfield, M., Hutchings, M., & de Eyto, A. (2018). Ensuring rigor in qualitative data analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 17(1), 1-13.

Panagopoulou, M. S., Tsihouridis, C., Panagopoulou, A. S., Verevi, A., Papalexopoulos, P., & Vavougios, D. (2018). Science Education Adaptations for Non-Textbook Instruction to Students With Learning and Other Disabilities: A Chronological. US-China Education Review, 8(4), 135-144.

Weng, P.-L., Maeda, Y., & Bouck, E. C. (2014). Effectiveness of Cognitive Skills-Based Computer-Assisted Instruction for Students With Disabilities: A Synthesis. Remedial and Special Education, 35(3), 167–180.

U.S. Department of Education (2020). Office of Special Education Programs, retrieved February 20, 2020

Westin T., Ku J.J., Dupire J., Hamilton I. (2018) Game Accessibility Guidelines and WCAG 2.0 – A Gap Analysis. In: Miesenberger K., Kouroupetroglou G. (eds) Computers Helping People with Special Needs. ICCHP 2018. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 10896. Springer, Cham.
Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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Betsy McCarthy, WestEd

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