March 6

Learning through Games

Games can be a very effective and very engaging method for learning for a wide range of learners but as teachers it is our job to choose wisely. The learning should not be contrived. I was asked recently to evaluate a math game to determine if it would be good for use in our classrooms. I believe the object of the game was to explore a fantasy village (though I was never quite sure what the object actually was…). Occasionally I came upon a road block and had to complete a math challenge in order to continue exploring the village. The math challenge was irrelevant to the game, it was just the chore I had to do before I could get back to the fun. Teachers must carefully consider the message this is sending about math!! There are probably thousands of games online for most math concepts. Choose carefully!!

Warning: Choose games carefully!

One of the other concerns I have with computer-based games for learning is that we need to ensure that the objective of the game is a worthy objective, that it fits with what we value as teachers. One example: I don’t use worksheets in my classroom to teach phonics. I don’t believe that teaching phonemic awareness in isolation through worksheets has any positive impact on their reading skills – and can be detrimental because they are generally so mindless (I sure don’t like filling out forms – why would my students???). While computer games designed to improve phonics or phonemic awareness skills may be far more engaging than worksheets, they are just dressed up worksheets. While the kids may learn the isolated skills few kids actually apply these skills to reading.

But they love it…

I find it surprising to see teachers who would never give their Kindergarten students a phonics worksheet, but will sit them down in front of a computer screen doing a glitzy version of the same. They justify this by explaining how much the kids LOVE the activities which always makes me laugh. My two kids LOVE chocolate, potato chips, candy etc. and would be thrilled if I offered these things for dinner each night. I don’t because I know it is not the best thing for them. They also LOVE TV… need I go on?

Playing to Learn Math

This post was inspired by the following fantastic presentation Playing to Learn Math created by Maria Andersen about the use of games to teach math skills. It makes many fantastic points about how and why games can be great learning activities when selected carefully. I need to take some time to play some of the games she recommends to brush up on my Algebra skills!

I will post games as I find them. If you have any recommendations for games, or any comments about games as educational tools please add your ideas in a comment on this post.
February 28

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

This is a must watch video for all educators. It is ridiculous that our education system tends to want all kids to conform, that we tend to be focused on everyone doing things the same way, that we focus on the individual, that we don’t value “all kinds of minds”. Temple Grandin highlights the value of all kinds of minds to our society. As a society we desperately need schools and teachers that understand this. We know as adults that if we are able to work effectively within a cooperative group we can achieve more than what we would if each individual worked in isolation. We can achieve synergy. As educators we need our students to experience this. We need to build learning environments that foster cooperative learning so that our students understand and benefit from the true value of diverse thinkers and learners.

February 19

UDL-Sunshine Coast-February 19, 2010

Here is an updated version with some added links for this presentation. All of the links are live so you can view the resources referred to.

View more presentations from astrang.

I really enjoyed my time on the Sunshine Coast. What a beautiful place – wishing I had stayed longer… perhaps forever… Hoping to hear more from Sweet Cascadia soon!! 

Please add a comment, question, story … below and join the conversation. It is all about collaboration!!

February 18

UDL Planning For Inclusion & Differentiation

The break-out session following my Keynote address for the UDL Conference on the Sunshine Coast on February 19th went a completely different direction than I planned based on the interests of the participants. I am loading up the slides I had planned to go through because I think they are still useful and really did not require a presentation to follow their intent.

January 12

Sunshine Coast UDL Presentation

Here are the slides from my UDL Presentation on the Sunshine Coast. The links within the presentation are live – enjoy exploring!

To download the slides as a PDF file go to: http://drop.io/astrang

If you have any comments or questions, please add a them as a comment to this post.

January 9

North Vancouver – January 6, 2010

Here are the slides from the UDL presentation I did in North Vancouver at Balmoral Jr. Secondary School on January 6th, 2009:

View more presentations from astrang.

If you click on the “full screen icon at the bottom of this slide show it will be more readable. The links within the presentation are live – click on them to view the site refered to in the slide. Please post any comments or questions as responses to this blog post.

If you would like to download the hand-out for this presentation please go to: http://drop.io/astrang

October 22

Horizons 2009 ~ CUE BC Presentation ~ What is UDL?

CUE BC 2009 - UDL_1

We had five “learning intentions” for participants in this presentation.

  1. To gain an understanding of UDL
  2. To understand why it is important that we understand and embrace UDL in our classrooms now as we are eager to meet the needs of increasingly diverse student populations, and as we need to make decisions about the types of technology we purchase and the pedagogy that drives it’s use.
  3. That UDL is not about the technology.
  4. That UDL is a subtle shift in paradigm that is having a profound impact on learners
  5. That creating Universally Designed schools and classrooms is a journey into which we have taken our first steps with a long way to go…

Continue reading

August 17

Back to school advertisements…

Back to school advertisements make me crazy!!! The Staples’ – “Its the most wonderful time of the year” advertisement is running continuously. The picture of those two children dreading school makes me sad. (Wow – the commercial is on again – second time since I started writing this post/rant). I so want school not to be something they dread –  a bitter pill – nobody wants to take it but it is good for you so you must. The father skipping through the store so gleeful about sending the kids off – what are we saying to our kids??? (There it is again!! – granted it is 1:54 am so I am writing slowly but reeeaaally). Reality is that many kids do dread school – I really believe we can do better than this for our kids. As a parent I get that it is nice to have time away from the kids but could this not be something we keep to ourselves? I get that this commercial is intended to be cute and make people smile but it really just makes me sad.

May 1

Ableism: My thoughts 1 year later…

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2009

Last January I blogged about my reflections following reading: New Directions in Education: Eliminating Ableism in Policy and Practice by Thomas Hehir. The following thoughts stuck with me and guided my practice over the past year.

  • Hehir defines ableism as ” deeply held negative attitudes toward disability that are analogous to racism”.

Then I looked up “racism” according to Merriam-Webster racism is: