Monday, March 30, 2015

Meeting Diverse Learners Needs

Whether we have students with identified learning disabilities or not, we have students who process and understand information in ways different from our own.

Universal Design for Learners (UDL) is a set of principles that guide how to meet diverse learning needs. We can be most effective at engaging and supporting learning when we follow these three principles of UDL:

  1. Provide multiple means of representation - the ways we present content.
  2. Provide multiple means of action and expression - the ways we encourage students to show their understanding.
  3. Provide multiple means of engagement - the ways we help students make personal meaning and connection to content.
This graphic organizer from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) offers increasingly sophisticated steps to apply these principles to help students become resourceful, strategic and motivated learners.
Used with permission from CAST on 2.19.15
Some things you can do to get started.
1. Representation - mix it up! 
Communicate with your students using alternatives to text; record your voice or a short video. When using text, add relevant images and graphics that can help students make sense of your words.

2. Action and Expression - mix it up! 
Give students opportunities to share their understanding through creative projects: create an advertisement for a concept, artwork, a letter, a dance, an app., a word cloud.

3. Engagement - mix it up! 
Provide multiple ways for learners to navigate your course. Use sources that represent multiple perspectives. Locate relevant TED Talks, Youtube videos, Blogs, twitter feeds. Give students choices. Provide ways for students to work purposely together.

Do you have ideas to share about universal design for learning? Please comment below. If you need help coming up with ideas for making your course more accessible to your students, let me know.

A .pdf and text readable transcript of this graphic are available at the UDL Center
For other resources on UDL visit CAST.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Using Youtube

Here is a Youtube activity I like to use. For this example I am using the broad topic global health. Feel free to apply it to your own content.

Video and Discussion Assignment Overview
This week we will use the discussion thread called Current Events in Global Health to discuss information you have found.

Assignment Details

Step One
Go to

In the big search bar at the top of the page, enter keywords related to global health. You may use one of the following keyword sets or choose your own.
global health
h1n1 vaccine
global health ebola
emergency preparedness ebola
global health vaccine
global health drinking water
global health nursing
Step Two
Review at least three short videos. Consider their length (how many mins), age (when posted), source (you may have to infer this based on content; watch out for ADs), value (what the video might contribute to our discussion).

Step Three
Select one and post the address/link in the discussion forum. Include a 25 word or less reason why you selected this video to contribute to the discussion.

Step Four
View and comment on at least two of your classmates' videos.

Why Do I Use Youtube?
Sure there is a lot of dubious material on Youtube. And there is some excellent content there too! This assignment gives students practice analyzing and discussing the relative value of content found on the internet. As a group we are able to peer review the content and learn from each other's effort and perspective.

Want to comment on this assignment or recommend another? Leave a comment below. If you want help considering ways to use internet resources within your course let me know.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Are you Teaching Above the Line?

In the 1990s Dr. Ruben Puentedura introduced the SAMR model for describing the use of technology for learning. Going from the bottom up, direct substitution of a digital tool or process for an older technology or practice does not substantively change learning. When we use digital technologies to create new opportunities - previously unavailable - for our students, we can transform learning.
image licensed for reuse under CC by Ruben Puentedura

Though there is no cut and dry way to determine if an activity is strictly substitution, augmentation, modification or redefinition, consider this example.

College essays were written with paper and pen. Then using the technology of the typewriter they were neatly typed. Then with the advent of computers papers were typed on a computer and printed possibly in multiple copies for distribution. These technological advances enhance the experience of writing, but do they transform it? I suggest these advances fall below the dotted line of the SAMR model. Writing activities that might go beyond enhancement, or above the line, include publishing papers for a large audience and using a teacher's social network to invite expert feedback.

The technology alone does not transform learning. It is how we use it. When we first start teaching online, it is tempting to use digital tools and activities to substitute for the traditional classroom experience. As we gain confidence, we must consider moving up the SAMR model.

If you have ideas to share about transformative uses of digital technologies/media, please comment. If you need help generating transformative strategies, let me know.