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.
There are many tools out there for students who struggle with reading. There were several I gathered at TCEA 2019 this year, and I have been meaning to share a curated list. Here is a quick rundown (a big thanks to Leslie Fisher, who demonstrated these in her multiple sessions):
Immersive Reader – Microsoft offers this free suite of reading aids through OneNote or directly through it’s Microsoft Edge browser. If you install the extension on your browser, you can change the background, break words into syllables, search for certain parts of speech, focus on a line, access a picture dictionary, translate, and read text out loud. Thanks to Leslie Fisher for demonstrating all of these features!
Rewordify – You can change complex text to simpler language by pasting it into the box on this page. Even better, there are several free learning activities that you can customize and print that offer matching, quizzes, etc…
SMMRY – Get a summary of the text you paste into the box.
Google Docs Voice Typing – Just go to the Tools in Google Docs to access this feature and make sure you give access to the microphone.
Closed Captioning in Google Slides – Did you know that you can offer closed captioning as you present a Slides presentation? Click here to get the instructions.
Microsoft Translator – Download this app to your phone or just use it in your browser to start a conversation with anyone anywhere. Among its other features, you can use multiple microphones for a conversation, which can be translated into multiple languages at the same time! You can also use the app to take pictures of text (typed, not handwritten) and translate it.
I hope at least one or two of these tools is new and helpful to you!
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.
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.
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…
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!)
Ever since my former principal, John Hinds, recommended a book to our staff, Spaces and Places, by Debbie Diller, I have looked at my classroom with a brand new set of eyes. I’ve tried to break out of the traditional mold, and to create an environment that promotes engagement, collaboration, and curiosity. I still haven’t attained the ideal classroom, but I like to think that I improve each year.
This isn’t about themes or decorating. This is about placement of furniture and learning tools. It’s about visualizing the kind of learning that you would like to see happening, and then designing a space that facilitates that.
Most of us do not have the resources to design a classroom from the ground up, but this is a great time of year to consider getting rid of, or re-purposing, what we don’t need and finding the best placement for what have. I know many teachers who have surrendered their teacher desks and/or filing cabinets because these pieces of furniture no longer serve a helpful function in the learner-centered, 21st-century classroom.
Instead of walking into your classroom and mechanically dragging desks into rows this year, consider what physical changes you can make to galvanize your students to become the kind of learners you have always imagined.
Since most of us don’t have a design team to consult, I highly recommend Spaces and Placesas a more economical alternative. Also, Classroom Architect is an online tool that you may find useful as you plan the structure of your classroom.