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Showing posts from September, 2011

GUEST POST - Lindsey Wright

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Why UDL is Necessary for Education Technology By: Lindsey Wright We live in a society that espouses equality for all. It is, in fact, the central tenet of American philosophy. However, consider the difficulty providing guidelines to encourage a uniform approach to education that ensures equal opportunities for each student. It sounds like an impossible task given the diversity of students and wide range of curricular goals. Adding into the mix the fact that digital technology is taking more and more schools online only emphasizes the challenge of individualizing education for each student. The Universal Design for Learning provides a structure of principles upon which to build specific uses of educational technologies to provide each student equal opportunity to learn. Indeed, such guidelines are necessary for effectively applying technology to education in the classroom. The flexibility of technology tools for education is their great strength, but it also requires a

Providing Multiple Means of Action and Expression

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Our students need to interact with materials and curriculum in different ways ( Principle 2 of UDL ). If they do not have this option, it creates a "barrier" towards learning. UDL classrooms look to provide students with "access" towards the curriculum in different ways. It helps our students understand the "How" of learning. For example, the other day I had my students read an article. I provided students with an electronic copy, which contained hyperlinks to other news sources. This gave students an opportunity to access supplemental materials to watch video clips or listen a podcast of the subject area. We discussed key vocabulary words that would appear in the text. Students created "Bumper Stickers" (for our visual learners) to define the term. They had to draw a picture to represent the concept, create a slogan (to define the term), and actually write out the term on the "Bumper Sticker." Students were asked to verbally share

Providing Multiple Means of Representation

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Imagine teaching a group of students about Lobsters. Many of them may have come from different backgrounds, where they may have never seen one before. We know from brain research that to actually learn material, we need to give our students opportunities to connect with it in different ways. How do you do it? Providing students with multiple ways of representing material ( Principle 1 of UDL ) is all about giving students a chance to connect with material via their senses.  Here are some of the key ingredients: • options that customize the display of information • options that provide alternatives for auditory information • options that provide alternatives for visual information How would a typical UDL lesson about lobsters works? As your students begin shuffling into the room, you try activating your student's prior knowledge, by asking your students to get out their notebooks and write down 3 facts about lobsters. Many of your auditory learners hate this activity, bec

What is Universal Design for Learning?

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Whenever anyone asks me about my blog, I always tell them that it's not a Web 2.0 blog. There are tons of blogs out there that can give you technology to use. I always tell them that my blog is about creating learning opportunities for ALL students through a concept called Universal Design for Learning. That's usually the point where their eyes glaze over! There is ton's of research out there about the concept, from world-class experts in the field. CAST is one of the leading organizations in UDL research. Yet when people take my classes, read articles about UDL, or go to UDL workshops, they often don't have a clear vision of what it is. So over the next couple of days, I'd like to give my spin on the concept that is impacting the way ALL students learn. Universal Design was originally intended to design better products, buildings, and environments for the widest range of users possible. From the start, modifications are taken into consideration, to reduce cos

Mother Nature's Contribution to UDL

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Environmental responsibility is becoming a part of our culture more and more each day. Everywhere you turn someone is "going green!" Schools, businesses, and consumers are playing there part! The Mother Nature Network (MNN) is a site devoted to exploring environmental issues from many different perspectives. Naturally if you are a Science teacher, you would benefit from this site. If you teach in another subject area, you may be tempted to turn away and ignore this post. However, there are some great resources for all subject areas, which would encourage inquiry-based thinking from all of your students. The Earth Matters section contains all of your Science-friendly information about energy, animals, etc. History teachers have a section on Politics! The Health section could benefit Health / Phys. Ed teachers with discussion topics like fitness / well-being. The Lifestyle section could easily be used by Art teachers, who want to discuss art / culture and even fashion. T

Creating Your Own Living Breathing Textbook

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Are you frustrated with the limitations of textbooks and textbook companies? First of all, it's expensive. Secondly, you may only be able to buy new textbooks every five to ten years. Thirdly, by the time you get your hard copy textbook, its out of date. What if you want to customize your student's learning experience?Maybe you want your students to have up-to-date information and access to current events. What do you do? Head to the copy machine. What if there was a better way? A way to customize your student's learning experiences, embed current event articles, and show YouTube videos. Well, there is in fact and it's been around in awhile. It's called Livebinder . What is Livebinder? It's a self-proclaimed "3-Ring Binder of the Web," allowing you to organize information in Tabs and Subtabs. You can add PDF Word documents, PDF PowerPoints, embed websites, embed YouTube videos, and pictures. It allows you the opportunity to create a living and

What's Holding You Back from Using Prezi?

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Many of us are scared of trying new things. Especially when it comes to technology. We are scared that, in the words of one of my graduate students, "we will break something that we cannot fix." These are the words of a true "digital immigrant," or someone who knows what life was like before the Internet! What's the problem with this? Our kids are "digital natives" and technology is something they like to use, because of the possibilities to create, collaborate, and experiment. Our kids are not scared of technology. Why? There's always the "Undo" button. Unfortunately they learn that this is not always the case in real-life. So to all of you "digital immigrants" (including myself)...can I ask you a question? When you have to do presentations in class, what do you normally turn to? Let me guess...PowerPoint. Many of our kids are "PowerPointed" out. In the past I have written about another alternative called Prezi, ye

The Law of the Land Constitution Site

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Can you believe that there are topics, which seem boring to our students? :) I know that I'm being sarcastic, but there are topics that students need a little extra push. When I was in school, I lacked the desire to want to learn about the US Constitution (sorry history teachers!). That is why it is so important to provide students with different ways to motivate and engage them to push through material that may not interest them. The Law of the Land is an interactive site from Weekly Reader , devoted to teaching students the US Constitution. Take a stroll through the site and you will be amazed! The Framers Section provides students a monologue from each of the most important architects of our constitution.This section is provides flexibility for students to learn, where students can listen or read the text of a historical figure's monologue. The Timeline is an interactive timeline, where students control "Paul Revere" as he travels down the timeline. Student

The Need for Flexible Materials through Lifty

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When you are universally designing lessons for your classrooms, we need to take into consideration the flexibility of the materials that we offer students. Take for instance a traditional reading assignment. Many students are comfortable with a traditional photocopy, which they can highlight and "mark-up" the text. However, photocopies offer limitations. For instance, students with visual impairments may have difficulty reading from the same photocopy as a student without these difficulties. Students who need the extra support of listening to text, do not have the flexibility of copying and pasting the text into a program like Voki. When you are designing lessons for ALL students to learn, you need to consider the flexibility of materials. Can you access materials online for students who need extra support and resources? Can you manipulate the text for students with visual impairments? Can you access a digital copy for students to access at home? These are all questions yo

40 Inspiring Blogs Every Special Education Teacher Should Read

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We live in an age where a "one-size" fits all approach to education doesn't work. Crammed into our classrooms today are students with IEP's, 504's, GIEP's, etc. How do we teach to all of our students? When we universally design our instruction, we provide opportunities for ALL students to learn. Many of the instructional strategies that are used to teach this segment of our population can enhance instruction for all students. Whether you are a special education teacher, teach AP courses, or are sandwiched in between, you may want to take a look at the following Blog Article: 40 Inspiring Blogs Every Special Education Teacher Should Read . The resources are divided into several different sections: Special Needs Teachers Share - gives insight into strategies and supports that work in SPED Inspirational Resources - is jam packed with inspirational material aimed at inspiring educators, while dealing with the everyday challenges that exist in SPED Creative and