- 1c Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.
Below is my blog post after 3 guest speakers spoke to our EDT 517 class. They discussed their experiences and how they are utilizing various tools and frameworks to meet their learner’s needs. Below are my takeaways:
On Monday night, I received some of the best professional development I have ever experienced. Dr. Penny set up three exceptional guest speakers to share with our EDT 517 class: Nancy Kawaja,Luis Perez, and Audrey O’Clair. They discussed their experiences as educators utilizing assistive technology and touched on the Why? What? and the How? The Triology of UDL.
The presentation began with Nancy. She shared some of the Whys of UDL. A few of her key points included how we should be rethinking how we are addressing accommodations for students. With the tools that sit on the devices our Ss have in our classrooms of today, many of the requirements set in an IEP can already be addressed. With texts to speech apps, there really isn’t a need to have a person as a scribe. We can provide the learner with the instructions needed for him/her to use the tool.
Nancy also told two student stories that opened up my mind even further when it comes to assistive technology. She shared how one student struggled with grasping word problems. Something that actually is difficult for most learners not just students with learning difficulties. This student was particularly distracted by the confusing anecdotes that are included in word problems that are found in state assessments. Nancy and the student were able to work together to remove those barriers. They utilized a program called Explain Everything and they were able to illustrate the student’s learning and show his process. He was able to draw out a number line and record his thoughts as he solved the problem. As new problems were assigned every week, he would immediately open up his app and walk through it alone. He also had a recording to review and refer back to as the year progressed!
She also shared the story of Ada Mae. The student had to write a persuasive essay. The student has severe learning difficulties. Rather than typing out her essay, she was able to share her voice through BookCreator audio and her vision with the drawing feature. She then was able to take that skill and transfer it. She is in a life skills class that has her working with the school kitchen. She asked if she could take her device with her. When she got there, she began taking pictures and videos of the steps she will need to take and utilized the audio feature to summarize a reminder for herself. Seeing her utilize the tool on her on, Nancy stated “I can’t think of a better classroom academic task than one that transfers directly over to a life skill for a student. It then explodes into all aspects of life” Wow! I can’t think of a more powerful goal statement for our learning opportunities we create for our students.
Nancy also discussed how we can provide multiple means of engagement with the help of technology. Because of our access to technology today, we are able to extend our thinking for a student. For example, Nancy shared how her team was able to at Language Arts through a coding and robotics lens for a student with autism. We were able to empower his learning in a subject that is extremely difficult for him. We included his passion, and he was able to then make those connections.
Nancy also reinforced the usefulness of the Clips app in making video content more accessible for our students (shout out to Dr. Penny for sharing it with us to start the year). On Tuesday morning, I quickly made the tutorial below to share with our staff, so they could start utilizing clips to record class announcements and directions for our learners.
Up next was Luis. He started with the what of UDL. Asking us to reflect and to define what UDL means to us. I think as a class we are growing stronger in truly defining the concept, but we have a bit to go. Something that really resonated with me was what Luis shared regarding WCAG. Something that I struggle with as an edtech supervisor is selecting the right tools for our online learners simple because there are an endless amount of Web 2.0 tools out there today. Many of them have a similar learning outcome. How do we choose the best one then? Luise explained how, yes it is important that the tools and materials that we are utilizing and creating not only have a strong educational value, but they are easily accessible to our learners. As online educators, something we should be more aware of are the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). They are pretty extensive, but Luis shared how we can focus in on the four principles. The goal is to succeed in the 4 principles. If any of them fails, users with disabilities will experience difficulties understanding your lessons and materials. This was definitely an “a-ha moment” for me. I quickly went to Canva to create a graphic I can share with our school staff to highlight his key points.
I would like to thank the speakers again, and Dr. Penny, for setting up this learning experience. The stories and ideas shared were so very powerful.
After having such a valuable session with three wonderfully innovative educators, I started to reflect on my own practice. I have already started using the POUR method when I am creating learning modules in Canvas for my teachers. It is also a great evaluative piece I will be adding when I look at tools that my school will integrate. I also created a blog post to share some of the practices and tools that I learned with our staff: http://www.courtneykofeldt.com/2017/11/14/udl-designing-learners/
The practices that Luis and Nancy discussed will be carried with me from now on- in my trainings, in my interactions with students. UDL will be part of my mission as an edtech supervisor at an online school. Our content needs to be easily accessible especially for us because our students are not in our physical space right in front of us. We are also at an advantage because we can seamlessly integrate these tools and topics within our online lesson posted daily in Canvas and through Zoom.