Saturday, March 31, 2012

Learning Designed for Students

Thinking back to when I was a student I’m not so sure the learning was designed for me or for students in general.  From what I remember, we were all moved through content and skills in lock-step.  The teachers were on a mission to get us to the next grade by covering what was on their list.  Now this was back in the day when content didn’t change much and the skills that we needed were tried and true.  That model isn’t really fit for today or the future.

imageAn elementary school in our District has adopted an educational model called Universal Design for Learning or UDL.  Although UDL is not about technology, implementers have found that technology makes it possible to use the approach efficiently.  Our elementary school has embraced the use of special software, laptops, and SMART Boards to support this approach to teaching and learning.  I share some quotes with you that the principal shared with me for how the UDL approach makes a difference in the lives of kids…

“increase ‘access’ to general curriculum materials and, at the same time, provide support for the learner’s particular challenges”

“‘text-to-speech’ technology can be a powerful tool for visually and processing speed impaired students to keep pace and comprehend what they are reading”

“technology is used to ‘even the playing field’ and allow the child independent access to the curriculum”

You can see from these quotes that this approach and use of technology has a real assistive / adaptive feel to it.  Certainly we’ve found it to be a positive model for specially challenged learners.  However what surprised the Principal and teachers was how well the approach and tools improved learning for all their students.  They’ve demonstrated this through the data they’ve collected and how the data clearly show increased success for all children.

I want you to meet Chloie and Madison, two grade 5 students from our UDL school.  I visited with them a few months ago and they shared with me how a particular suite of tools called Solo6, helped them with their writing.  Please enjoy their videos posted below where their specific learning activity was to develop and write a speech.  Perhaps you will leave a comment for them on their videos.

Chloie shows how she develops her speech

Madison shows her approach to writing a speech

Earlier this past week I received an email from the teacher that arranged my visit with Chloie and Madison.  She said the girls were asking when I was coming back to show them their videos!  How cool is that.  I’m visiting with them next Monday to share their videos with them.  I haven’t used the videos in any presentations yet so this blog post will serve as their début.

I’m no expert on using or implementing UDL but as an outside observer, I see it as a model or framework worth considering as schools move toward a more personalized approach to learning.  Although technology isn’t the end, it is certainly an important means to achieving this aim.  As technology matures in its capability we will see significant advances in how it will transform learning for all kids.  For a glimpse into the near future in how technology may evolve to support not only education but our lives, check out the latest from Corning Glass.

The future is near…

What examples might you have where technology plays a key role in the learning success of students?  If you have UDL experience, perhaps you could share some UDL stories here.