Wednesday, February 23, 2011

National Technology Plan and Universal Design for Learning, What's not to Like?

What does the National Technology Plan have to do with Universal Design for Learning and why are they mentioned in the same document? I was very excited to read about this marriage. Finally, a section of the document I could live with and promote.

“The model of learning described in this plan calls for engaging and empowering personalized learning experiences for learners of all ages. The model stipulates that we focus what and how we teach to match what people need to know and how they learn. It calls for using state-of-the-art technology and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) concepts to enable, motivate, and inspire all students to achieve, regardless of background, languages, or disabilities. It calls for ensuring that our professional educators are well connected to the content and resources, data and information, and peers and experts they need to be highly effective. And it calls for leveraging the power of technology to support continuous and lifelong learning.”

UDL, Universal Design for Learning, what do you know? Here is a fun quiz to get you thinking. Be sure to come back and continue reading.

alice barr photo
Alice Barr photo
As I get ready to coordinate the learning of 20 students, I am embedding UDL into the plan for the next 3 weeks. I will present information in many ways to my class, I will offer
student choice in presenting  and reflecting upon what they learned, I will be sure that student engagement is in place daily which means that I will offer a variety of options which stimulate interest and motivation in learning. Will it take more time? Sure at first, but eventually this  will save time in the end, and save some learners.

I will have engaged students who will work on the multiple collective assignments. I will have a busy classroom

How can UDL work in any classroom? Here is a comprehensive website which will assist you as you become adept at integrating UDL principles into your mainstream or specialized classrooms. What you will find is that most of the suggestions from this website will be things that are common sense ideas  that we need to bring to the forefront of our planning. For example,   Art Beyond Sight  is a web resource which explains how to discuss and describe art to individuals who are visually impaired or blind. If you and I had a blind student we would be sure to include this in our daily planning. However, what UDL promotes, is by offering this kind of instructional alternative as part of our daily routine, we meet the needs of students who function with limited visual understanding or any student who may learn best with this modality and support. This is the main difference in a UDL classroom.

As you begin this process of embedding UDL into your lessons and classroom, start slowly, follow the prescriptive outline at the website. Soon you will be adding options for your visual learners, your auditory learners and, your language learners, as you continue teaching your content area.

This is what  all teachers can begin to do. It is good for our teaching and learning process. It is good for all learners, general education students, gifted students, special education students, ELL students and, it is good for the teacher as well.

Lisa Parisi said it best in response to Karen Janowski's Twitter post wondering why more teachers won't try UDL options in their classrooms:
  • Educators must believe that they are responsible for teaching every child
  • Educators must teach students how to access tools and then allow them the access
  • Educators must give up that position of power to allow students the freedom to do what they need to be successful

The one person in the classroom working the hardest is learning the most, I am planning that it won’t be me, but it will be all my students! Good luck as you begin to adopt UDL measures, your students will benefit!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Liven up your Class or Meeting

cross posted at
Smackdown Web Tools
Try something new in your next class or staff meeting. In the spirit of open source learning, we should capitalize on the success of what is known in technology workshops as a smackdown. Originally smackdowns happened in the realm of  entertainment wrestling. A smackdown is defined by Merriam and Webster as a confrontation between rivals or competitors.

In the world of technology conferences, a smackdown is a session dedicated to volunteers from the audience sharing the projector and 2 minutes to explain the latest web 2.0 tool and how it is used in a classroom, a meeting, a personal learning network.

As one participant said, “it is a great way to attend a session, you don’t have to sit through a potentially boring session because the presenter changes every two minutes.” My reasons for attending a smackdown  are; I often have something to share, I get to meet some of my Twitter followers and the people I follow, and last but not least I get some very valuable tools to share with my peers and my students.

The latest smackdown I attended was at ATIA in Orlando at an Assistive Technology Conference. Thanks to Chris Bagaj for podcasting the session. I am sure he will be happy to share his podcast  and blog with you.

Take the smackdown idea to the next level. Take the smackdown into your classroom and have students share information in 30 seconds before moving on to the next person. Take the smackdown into your next staff meeting and have folks share an idea or program that is working for them. To begin with start out with a time limit for each person and an overall time limit during the meeting or class. How are you using the smackdown idea in your school?

Thanks to for their image.

AAAS - Project 2061

AAAS - Project 2061

These standards are important.