Monday, July 11, 2016

Three Ways to Use Free Technology to Reduce Barriers in Your Classroom

How do you help ALL students learn and engage with the curriculum if they are experiencing problems and barriers? Here are some ideas to to help our students succeed in the classroom regardless of their ability or disability.

1. Voice Typing

How many of our students struggle with writing papers because of their ability to get their thoughts on a page or their typing abilities? Are we grading them on their knowledge or typing ability? Google Docs has a great feature called Voice Typing.  When you are in the Google Chrome Browser, open up a Google Doc, choose the Tools Menu, and select Voice Typing.


Students can use this free speech-to-text tool to record their thoughts. This can be a perfect tool for students with dyslexia, cerebral palsy, or a broken arm.


2. Provide Scaffolds and Supports through FAQ's 

I believe that there are three types of students in any classroom. Students who need your help, students who don't need your help (in fact, they wish you would stop talking and let them work), and frequently asked question students. Our focus should be on helping students who need help, but how do we help the FAQ kids when they have questions?

FAQ students often feel bad that they bothered you, but you can provide scaffolds and supports by creating a LiveBinder (with helpful resources) or create a Table of Contents in a Google Doc. Why not answer a few of their questions in this way?  Here are a few examples:

1. Reading Assignments the UDL Way (LiveBinders)

2. Creating a Table of Contents Using Google Docs 


3. Get Rid of One Size Fits All Discussion With Padlet

Why do we have students participate in one way? Padlet is a free tool that can be used on any device, which can provide with flexibility on sharing their reasoning. Padlet is basically a virtual post-it note platform, which gives students the ability to participate in ways that work best.
  • Type answer on the post-it note 
  • Attach a file (PowerPoint, Word, etc.) to explain reasoning, access grammar tools, and add visuals. 
  •  Attach a hyperlink to a an external source like Google Docs or create a MoveNote presentation, where they can verbally discuss their answer with their classmates.

Conclusion:

Removing academic barriers is an important part of the instructional process. By looking at the barriers that exist, we can provide students with ways to access the curriculum like never before. It is not so much the tool, but how the tool is used that makes all of the difference. What are your favorite strategies?


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