After further researching strategies and technologies for differentiating, I am excited to say that I found several new resources not only through the various checkpoints on the UDL website but also through independent research. There are so many technologies at our fingertips, the issue is finding time to research and learn how to implement those technologies. The resources I zeroed in on is known as “Scrible”. This tool allows students and teachers to collaborate with one another, post questions, color code notes, highlight important aspects of curriculum etc. One area I find my students struggling in is being able to understand the “why” behind the information. Why is it so important to what we are studying? This tool would allow me to communicate effectively with my students and lead them in the right direction if they are struggling. It also would allow those learners who struggle in certain areas to ask me questions through note taking and better organize their thoughts as they independently work their way through the course. This tool would be helpful in both a face to face course and also a digital learning environment. Many of the tools I explored could be beneificial in both settings and I look forward to implementing them. In order to find this resource, I googled teacher/student collaboration/communication tool. Similar sources I stumbled upon included evernote and zoho notebook.
As we discussed last week, there are endless similarities between face to face education and digital learning. Obviously there are some stark differences, however the similarities seem easier to identify. The most obvious similarity that stood out to me from the reading is that most educators work with students of all learning types and disabilities, including physical impairments, learning disabilities and those students considered to be “gifted”. We are all tasked with meeting those students where they are and leveling the playing field through various teaching strategies, activities and interventions. This responsibility does not change with the educational setting. I also believe that when we reflect on and evaluate our methodology in order to better meet the needs of our students with disabilities we are ultimately creating a better learning environment and educational experience for ALL of our students as mentioned in the reading.
As cited in the research, we accomplish this goal by implementing various instructional and management strategies to insure that students on all levels achieve mastery, again, regardless of setting. I believe as “face to face” teachers, we should also vary the ways in which content is presented, modes of student expression of information and comprehension and the ways in which we engage the students in our class. Curriculum, whether digital or paper and pen, should be accessible to all students and supports should be in place to assist those students who need help in certain areas. Our number one goal as educators, no matter how and where we are educating, should be that each and every student is given a fair shot at achieving success and mastering the skills and knowledge necessary to be productive members of society.
I took note of a few differences in the reading, but again the similarities far overwhelm the discrepancies. The text provided an example of a student with cerebral palsy who may struggle to communicate clearly face to face, but could communicate his or her thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in an online environment. It also mentioned the fact that disabilities and differences in students are not as easily highlighted in the online learning environment if we design a course that meets the needs of each student. This is a wonderful asset of an online course. Often when my exceptional education students are pulled for small group testing etc., I wonder how it effects their confidence in their own ability. Luckily, by the time they make it to the high school this has become a normal occurrence for themselves and their peers, but I have to imagine it does take some sort of toll on them. The online environment could truly provide a blank slate for all students if designed correctly.
The final piece that caught my attention from the reading concerned students with disabilities and their reading skills. This is something I struggle with on a daily basis, specifically in my 9th grade/Collaborative courses. While this issue could occur in both types of environments, it is not as easy in a face to face environment to accommodate these students. Online, there are far more opportunities to provide quick video clips to reinforce material, audio text and additional study strategies/tools to make up for the deficiency in learning.
This week’s reading reinforced the fact that face to face instruction and online instruction are far more similar than they are different. Best practices in both areas overlap greatly and the study of online education can provide insight and ideas concerning how to better your face to face instruction. I also learned that while there is not as much government regulation in terms of accessibility on the web and online education as there is of face to face public education, it is coming. This could be both a good and bad thing. I also found a great deal of resources exploring the UDL checkpoints that I not only want to implement into my module for this course but would also like to explore further and implement in my actual classroom. Again, because the goals of both education settings are the same, the instruction and technologies available can benefit both types of instruction.
The main question I still have concerning differentiation coming out of this week, is how is it actually done? What I mean by this is, structurally, how do we set up a course to suit the needs of each student? Do those students with a disability see a different type of class structure in the platform when they long on? Do they have different resources available to them only? OR should we give the choice and autonomy to the students and give a variety of assessments, modes of conveying information etc. and allow them to decide what is best for them? (Obviously, this is what I am leaning towards because again, differentiation can help ALL of our students) For a high school level course, what is best? How do we relay the fact that they have this choice? Should we as educators point out which types of resources are better for which types of learners? Or do we allow the selection process to occur naturally?
The topic of the Electoral College is already one that students tend to struggle with, therefore I want to insure that I am providing a number of different ways to convey the same type of information. I would also like to expand the type of summative assessment that I provide students the opportunity to complete, rather than your run of the mill, multiple choice assessment. I want to allow them to “create” a product that conveys their understanding, rather than simply answering questions to show mastery. Again, the checkpoints on the UDL website provide a number of great resources that I would like to include. Some that I have already explored and would like to possibly utilize include Visuwords, Create-A-Graph, RSS Feed & CRAYON.