Category Archives: Universal Design for Learning

Levaraging the Immersive Reader tool during Virtual Learning

For one of my current consulting jobs I am making short how-to videos for different technology tools that are helpful in distance learning. One of the recent ones that I have been recommending to teachers has been the Immersive Reader tool from Microsoft, which can be used within many of the company’s own products, like Microsoft Word, but can also be used on the Microsoft Edge web browser and in other ed tech products like Newsela and Wonderopolis.

I first wrote about Immersive Reader in a post from 2019, where I included several ways to support diverse readers and speakers with technology that I had learned about at TCEA in 2019. Leslie Fisher had done some quick demonstrations of Immersive Reader and other tech tools that could help students with translating, reading, and writing on the internet. Unfortunately, the teens and tweens I was teaching at the time did not have adequate equipment to support some of these during class – such as headphones and private screens – without making them feel singled out. Because of the pandemic, more technology has been dispersed and many students are working independently, so students may be more inclined to use these tools – if they know about them.

For the web version of Immersive Reader, students need to be using the Microsoft Edge Web browser (though there is an unofficial chrome extension that mimics Immersive Reader if you want to go that route – read my post about extensions first). When using Edge, students can generally right-click on a web page, and choose to have it read aloud. But many pages with articles will have an extra feature that you can see in the URL window – a book icon. If the book icon is visible, you can click on it. (Please be aware that the icon is only available on articles – and even then may not be present if the article is heavy with advertising and photo galleries.)

After you click on the book, you will be in “Reader View,” which takes away all of the distractions on the page. You will also get a menu right under the URL window that gives you many more options.

You can still have the page read aloud (and choose from dozens of voice options as well as the speed). But you can also use Text Preferences to change the size of the text, its spacing, and the background color. Under “Grammar Tools” you have the option of splitting words into syllables, and/or designating parts of speech with any color(s) you choose. “Reading Preferences” allows you to focus on one or more lines at a time, enable a picture dictionary, or translate the page into a different language.

I have no doubt that students will be distracted when they are first introduced to the tool. Even I got a little off-task trying to hear words read to me in different voices. But once students have explored it, and have it available to them at all times, the novelty should wear off, and students can use Immersive Reader to enhance their learning. To de-stigmatize its use, I would encourage all of my students to learn how to use it, so that it becomes as normalized as grabbing a dictionary off the shelf. (Okay, that’s probably not as normal anymore, but I think you get the picture.)

For some more ways that Immersive Reader can be used, including other apps that support it, I recommend reading this article, “3 Ways to Support Your Students Using Immersive Reader,” from Ditch That Textbook.

UDL for Remote Classrooms

My latest post for the NEO blog is, Applying Universal Design for Learning in Remote Classrooms.   I know that many educators are still concerned about what the beginning of the new school year will bring, but this article will give you many helpful tools regardless of your upcoming situation.  Universal Design for Learning is all about creating lessons effectively and efficiently for all students.  One of the first videos that I watched when I went to Harvard one summer for UDL training is the Todd Rose TED Talk I’ve embedded below.  It embodies the philosophy behind UDL – where we stop designing schools for “average,” and begin designing “to the edges.”  Take a look at the video, and then hop on over to my article for specific ways to apply UDL to distance learning.

My previous NEO articles have been: How Distance Learning Fosters Global Collaboration, How to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom, and How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning.

The Myth of Average

I was reading a book by Ken Robinson the other day that reminded me of this video.  I knew I had posted the video on my blog at some point, but didn’t realize that it was three years ago.  It definitely bears making an encore appearance.

In this TEDx Talk by Todd Rose, you will hear the astounding story of how the Air Force discovered that designing for the “average” pilot can be debilitating.

Apply this to schools, as Todd Rose does, and you can see why – by trying to help the greatest numbers, we end up helping the least.

The video is 18 minutes long, but well worth watching all of the way through.

Design to the Edges

iCivics Drafting Board

It’s been awhile since I’ve visited the iCivics site.  You can see my last post about it here (2012!).  The site, founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, offers interactives, games, and lesson plans for learning about civics.  And it’s all free!

There is a lot of curriculum available on the site, and teachers can log in and add students to a class, giving them assignments that the teachers can then monitor.  One of the tools that looks really great for 5th graders and up is the Drafting Board tool.  This is a robust, thought-provoking interactive that leads students through steps that result in crafting a persuasive essay.  I’ve embedded the iCivics  introductory video to Drafting Board below.  This PDF thoroughly explains how to use the tool.

iCivicsDraftingBoard

There are several things that appeal to me about Drafting Board.  It scaffolds the process of writing a persuasive essay based on evidence very well.  The teacher has the capability of differentiating the assignment by choosing different “challenge levels” for students. Though there is a lot of reading involved, all of the passages have accompanying audio for students who need that support.  These features make this a great UDL resource.

One of the lessons is about whether or not 16-year-olds should be given the right to vote – a topic that is frequently brought up by my students. (Actually, they think “all kids” should have the right to vote.)  Another one that would tie in very well with my 5th grade unit on The Giver is the question of whether or not students should be required to do volunteer work in order to graduate.

Even if you don’t have access to 1-to-1 devices for your students, Drafting Board would be a valuable whole-class lesson, or even a center for groups of students, inviting an educated discourse about controversial topics.

Two More Fabulous Ways to Use Aurasma for Education

from:
from: http://augmentedrealityeducation.blogspot.com/

As I mentioned in “Trends for Education in the 2013-2014 School Year,” augmented reality is going to be big in education.  Really big.  It has the potential to allow students to experience learning in so many different ways.  For kids who do not learn best by reading or listening to lectures, augmented reality could definitely be the key to engaging them.  This is why I recently started a Flipboard magazine called, “Augmented Reality for Education.”  A prime example of the ripple effect of Augmented Reality was yesterday’s post about the ColAR app and International Dot Day.

Aurasma is another free app that can be used to create augmented reality experiences for your students.  You can see an example of how I used it for a presentation for teachers in Monday’s post, but the real power of AR is when it’s placed in the hands of the kids.  If you have not tried Aurasma before, you can find some excellent introductory resources here and here.  You can also find a list of my own posts on Aurasma here.

I recently found a couple of great example of Aurasma being used with students, and shared them on my Flipboard magazine.  But, since there are only about 20 people currently subscribed to that magazine 😉 I thought I should share them here, too.

The first video, which you can find here if the embedded version does not work, shows how Aurasma could be used to help a student with a standard worksheet when the teacher is not readily available.

The second video, which is  located here, shows how a music classroom can be brought to life using 2-dimensional photos.

Rows of Desks are SO Yesterday

Remember the post I did on adding a Genius Bar to your classroom?  Well, I decided that I must do exactly that.  So, I have been working on re-purposing an old bookshelf to become the countertop of my Genius Bar.  Have I mentioned that I am not very good at DIY projects?  First of all, I often forget to do a “Before” picture, so I only have a “During” one.  Secondly, it’s possible I killed more than one brain cell while I spray-painted this monstrosity – and that’s slightly ironic considering the fact that I am calling it a “Genius Bar.”   However, I cannot wait until the students see the finished product.  Maybe they will be so excited that they won’t notice my diminished capacity…

My Genius Bar in progress!
My Genius Bar in progress!

I am doing my best to re-design my classroom this year to support the type of learning that I plan to facilitate during the next nine months – lots of collaboration and creation.  I just got some great news – I will be able to use the empty classroom next to me, as well!  I am brimming with ideas.  Unfortunately, I am not not brimming with finances for this endeavor.  I am going to see how much I can re-purpose to create my “Learning Studio,” and then work on getting financing for the rest – perhaps through Donors Choose.  I will keep you posted on my progress.

Speaking of Donors Choose, check out the #RemakeClass Photo Sweepstakes sponsored by Edutopia, in which you can possibly win a gift card from Donors Choose!  If you’re like me, and don’t think you can get it together by the August 25th deadline, you might still want to visit the site to take a look at all of the fabulous photos for some inspiration.  If you are interested in entering the contest, here is a link to the F.A.Q.’s. (Also, here is a link to Edutopia’s weekly giveaways, which also includes a Donors Choose gift card this week for $500!)

For more inspiration, here are a couple of other articles that have great ideas for classroom makeovers:  “How to Make Your Classroom a Thinking Space” by Suzie Boss, and “My Top 10 Learning Spaces – A Universal Design in a Gifted Classroom” by Zoe Branigan-Pipe.