Talk Typer is a website that works best in the Google Chrome Browser. Without installing any software, you can choose from several languages, then speak into your microphone, and Talk Typer will print the text of your speech. You can then look at what it produces, make any corrections you would like, and then move it into the bottom portion of the page. In this second level, you can e-mail it, tweet it, or even translate it seamlessly into another language.
This free tool could be so useful for ELL classrooms, foreign language classrooms, and even regular classrooms where students might use this as an aid or an extension. For teachers who are looking to incorporate Universal Design for Learning into their classrooms, I think this resource is essential.
I ran across the video for The Independent Project yesterday, and was immediately intrigued by the idea. Some high school students basically created their own “school-within-a-school” in which they pursued their own interests. One student developed the idea, and 8 students ended up participating in the pilot project. This excerpt is taken from their “White Paper“, which details the process of developing The Independent Project, “His intent was to design a school in which students would be fully engaged in and passionate about what they were learning, would have the experience of truly mastering something, or developing expertise in something, and would be learning how to learn. He felt that the most important ingredient to a school like that would be that it was student-driven.”
This idea runs along the same lines as the Genius Hour, but is even more expansive, as this became the format for these eight students for their entire school day, every school day. When you watch the video, you will see the impact this project had on a very diverse group of kids – which also reminds me of the philosophy of Universal Design for Learning.
The video, which you can also see at the project’s website, is 15 minutes long, but well worth watching.
One way to engage students in school is to make their learning relevant to them. And, one way to do this is to let them start thinking about possible careers and how their learning can be useful in those careers. Paws in Jobland is a great site for younger students to learn about many of the possibilities that await them once they finish school. A simple animated dog guides them through the different choices (accompanied by text and the choice of sound, great UDL site!)- from a Job Finder to an Alphabetical Search. The Job Finder asks brief questions about the student’s interests, and then suggests some possible fields for which he or she might be suited. Within each field is a list of careers, and the student can click on each one to find out more.
I know that a lot of classrooms work on goal-setting, and this would be a fun activity that would expose the kids to many areas that might not have been considered by their young minds yet. Paws in Jobland may not encompass every single career, but it is a great introduction to the “real world”.
Last week, I featured the topic of Universal Design for Learning. You can learn more about it here. One of the proponents of UDL, and a man who practices what he preaches, is named Jon Mundorf. When he spoke at the UDL Institute at Harvard a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned something he does with his students called “The Wonder Project”. His “Wonder Project” reminds me a lot of the Genius Hour idea that has been discussed on my blog several times. Mr. Mundorf allows his students to research something which they have always wondered about (in the areas of science or social studies) several times a year. On his site, he gives guidelines for the project, resources, and examples. This is an excellent way to engage students in the learning process by allowing them to find out more about something that is relevant to them.
This post completes my week-long feature of Universal Design for Learning, a project with the mission to maximize learning for all students. To read the earlier posts, you can click on these: Universal Design for Learning, Variability Matters, Planning for All Learners, and Learning Wheel.
Another tool that is provided by CAST, the organization that created Universal Design for Learning, is Book Builder. According to the site, “This wonderful and free online tool allows you to create your own interactive “books” to help young readers learn reading strategies to build comprehension. Enter your own text, images, and hints.” To use Book Builder, you will need to create a free account. Once you do this, you can create a book that has accompanying audio, “mentors” who can be clicked on for extra help or suggestions, and areas for students to respond.
CAST is working on a more robust version of this with its UDL Studio. With this tool, students can highlight text that proves an answer, and then compare it to the teacher’s highlights. The students can choose whatever modality they want to use for responding to questions built in to the book. There are many other features that make this a very strong tool in the hands of the right teachers. UDL Studio is still in Beta, from what I understand, but you can test it out for yourself.
Finally, I would like to leave you with one more video. It is an excerpt from Glee, in which a deaf choir performs “Imagine”, and the other students join in. It is a very powerful reminder of how amazing all of our students can be when given the opportunity.
(For my entire week-long series on UDL, check out the following links: Universal Design for Learning, Variability Matters, Planning for All Learners, Learning Wheel, and Book Builder. You can also click on the Universal Design for Learning category in my right margin or take a look at my Pinterest Boards for UDL for even more resources.)