What Do You Think – How Individualized Should We Make Education?

from:  http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-article-on-teacher-value-added-data.html
from:  ednotesonline.blogspot.com

Recently I’ve run across quite a few articles that seem to give opposing viewpoints about the direction schools should be going in order to improve.  I would like to hear your thoughts on some of these topics.

Big Think recently posted an article called, “IEPS Shouldn’t Be Just About Special Ed.”  The article, by Chris Dawson, advocates the use of technology to differentiate instruction for all students.  The claim is, and to a certain extent it’s true, that only Special Education students have legal documents that specify the type of instruction they should receive.  However, all students should have this right, instead of being lumped into large groups who receive standardized lessons which are often directed towards “the middle.”

As a teacher of gifted students, I hear this observation quite a bit from parents and students.  While I certainly understand the difficulties with the current structure of most schools to make these types of accommodations, technology can definitely get us closer to customizing instruction.  We just need to be careful of the danger of automatizing learning too much. That is why I am a huge advocate of “Genius Hour” and projects like our district’s pilot summer program.  I also support Universal Design for Learning as a means for achieving this goal of creating a learning environment that supports and benefits all types of learners.

Interestingly, I found a comment on Dawson’s article that showed a different perspective.  “The problem with this notion is that life out of schools doesn’t accomodate to us. We accomodate to it. We also risk limiting kids to the things they are already good at. That they already like. Perhaps the Dawson family would enjoy a different brand of pizza on Friday night, or perhaps something altogether different than pizza.”

So, I wonder.  What do you think?  Does designing instruction so that it will raise the bar for every student based on his or her needs and abilities do them a disservice in the “real world?”  All thoughtful comments are appreciated!

iSolveIt

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Some people spent their Easter weekend camping out in parks. Some spent it cooking and baking feasts for their family. I spent it playing two new games on my iPad.

iSolveIt is brought to you by the Center for Applied Special Technology. CAST is “an educational research & development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning.”

I have mentioned UDL a few times in earlier posts. With iSolveIt, it appears that CAST is working on developing apps that fit into the UDL framework.

Currently, there are two app for iDevices: MathSquared and MathScaled. What I like about both of these free apps is that they allow multiple people to register on one iPad, so when they are using it they can just log in, and continue with the level they last accessed. I also like that the apps have a few levels which allows you to work at your own pace. Another advantage is that each one has a “Scratch Pad” option, allowing you to make notes to help you with your game. And, finally, I am thrilled by the reasoning skils that are required to play each of these games. These are not “drill and kill” games.

What I didn’t like was that I could not find the instructions for either app within the app itself. I ended up going to the iSolveIt website to figure out what I was supposed to be doing for both games. The website has helpful directions and videos, but it would be nice to be able to have tutorials within the app.

If you like Sudoku and Ken-Ken, then MathSquared is the game for you. If you like balancing equations in Algebra, then MathScaled will appeal to you. Or, you can neglect all of your other duties for the next few days, and try both.

Math Class (Imagined by Kids)

One of my colleagues shared this video the other day that had been shown at one of our district trainings.  On one hand (with one, two, three, four, five fingers), it’s quite funny.  On the other hand, it is a bit scary – because we probably all had teachers like that at one time or another.  Sometimes, as teachers, we get frustrated that our students don’t understand, but forget to try teaching the skill a completely different way that they might comprehend more easily.  Many times, they can discover the method on their own with a little bit of guidance.  This video reminds me that I need to constantly monitor my students’ understanding, and to be ready to offer alternatives instead of getting upset when they don’t “get it”.

Here is the YouTube link in case you are unable to view the embedded video: http://youtu.be/KdxEAt91D7k

Dance By Number

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How can you engage your students in a lesson about patterns, while making sure they use the scientific process, graph their data, analyze their data, and make accurate predictions based on that data?  By incorporating dance, of course!  “Dance By Number“, a lesson that can be found at Stem4Teachers, is guaranteed to make your classroom noisy and chaotic for a few days – but also guarantees that your students will be active in their own learning.  The website has a good video that describes the process and shows it in action.  It also provides the lesson plan, student sheets, and teacher tools (which includes rubrics).  In addition to the enthusiastic involvement of the students, this lesson makes differentiation easy; students can adjust their own levels of learning by creating patterns that reflect their abilities.  It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned Universal Design for Learning on this blog, but I definitely think this lesson fits the bill.

Augmented Reality in the Classroom

photo credit: ETPA via photo pin cc
Ever since I saw a presentation on Augmented Reality at TCEA this year, I have been pumped about using it in my classroom.  However, I haven’t seen a lot of user-friendly applications for every-day teachers yet.  I tried desperately to get AR Sights to work on my Mac at home and on my PC at school, and neither experience lived up to my expectations.  I purchased an AR pop-up book, and though the kids seemed to enjoy it, I did not really feel like it had the impact I desired.
Richard Byrne posted about a new app from PBS called, Fetch! Lunch Rush!, and I suddenly saw the power of AR, and how I could use it in my classroom.  Although this particular game is too basic to use in the Gifted classroom, I can definitely see how activities like this would engage kids.
So, I did a search on Richard’s blog for other mentions of AR, and found a free app called Aurasma.  And, now I can make my own augmented reality layers that will appear whenever my students use the iPad camera on images I select.  My students, too, with a little guidance, can create their own.  Instead of using QR codes, I can make an Interactive Bulletin Board on steroids!
Check out these videos for some live demonstrations of Aurasma:  Aurasma in the Classroom (embedded below), Aurasma for Shakespeare
This would be a really interesting assistive technology for students.  Imagine having images on the pages that students can scan for help with the text, just as the hostess of Aurasma for Shakespeare demonstrates.  This falls nicely into Universal Design for Learning.
I would love to hear from anyone else who is using Aurasma in the classroom!

Aurasma in the classroom from mark herring on Vimeo.

UDL Tech Toolkit

If you have not heard of Universal Design for Learning, also known as UDL, you might want to check out my post here that gives an introduction.  You can also choose Universal Design for Learning from one of the categories on the right for additional posts on this topic.

UPDATE 6/10/2020: Unfortunately, the resource below is no longer available. 

The UDL Tech Toolkit is a Glog that has links to a variety of technology tools to make learning accessible to all students.  Even if you have not heard of UDL, or are not ready to plunge into Universal Design for Learning full speed ahead, you will find that there are many useful resources included in this Glog.  I would definitely recommend bookmarking the UDL Tech Toolkit, so that you will have a ready reserve of sites that can help you to engage students with many different abilities.