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.

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:

February 28

Learning Intentions – What are we really teaching?

As a staff we decided that one of the first things we would do when we began to design Universally Designed lessons was to ensure that we were clearly stating our Learning Intention to our students at the beginning of each lesson. Some of our teachers now write the learning intention for each of their lessons beside their daily agenda on their board. Teachers who are using Interactive Whiteboards build their first slide as their learning intention slide. I wanted to share two things I have discovered as a result of doing this:

My first discovery is a bit embarrassing but here goes… I always thought (assumed) what I was teaching was obvious. I wasn’t convinced that simply stating the learning intention would make a great deal of difference. One day I was teaching phonemic awareness to a small group but hadn’t planned ahead to discuss the learning intention. On the fly I decided to do this. One problem… I quickly realized that I was unable to articulate it in a way that would make sense to my students. I realized at that moment that the lesson I had planned did not have a clear intention, that I was actually intending to teach my students a whole bunch of things. Being that I work with students with learning disabilities who have not been able to gain phonemic awareness from classroom lessons, I instantly knew this could not go well. This was the turning point for me in my understanding of backward design – beginning with the end in mind. After all – how can we expect to get to our destination if we are not clear about where we are going. 

My second discovery has been about how clearly articulated learning intentions make it easier to make adaptations for students when necessary. One of our students has autism. He is currently on an adapted program (he is working towards the same learning outcomes as his classmates but may need to learn and show his understanding differently). Adaptations have been far easier since his teacher has begun adding the learning intention to the classroom agenda. When I walked in to work with this student the other day the class was working on a math sheet. Because I had missed the lesson, the worksheet the students were using made no sense to me. Being that this student is not currently able to make sense of verbal instructions, the lesson had probably not have made much sense to him either. Luckily the learning intention was to ‘make things balance’. I quickly found a balance scale and some cubes and got him involved in adding cubes into the baskets until the scales balanced. His activity looked quite different from his classmates’ activity, but he was still working towards the same learning intention. Had the learning intention not have been stated I would have had difficulty determining an appropriate adaptation. In an attempt to accommodate this student I may have selected a different aspect of the task to focus on. 

In a perfect UDL world the teacher and I would have met prior to the lesson, discussed the activity, determined the barriers within the lesson for learners including this one, and found ways to remove the barriers. In our world where on-the-fly happens more often than we care to admit, the simple act of articulating the learning intention makes a huge difference for our learners.

January 6

Ableism

I have been reading the book: New Directions in Education: Eliminating Ablism in Policy and Practice by Thomas Hehir. It brought up a wide variety of issues that impact educating students with disabilities. The first and most basic to the author’s perspective is ableism.

Ableism is to students with disabilities what racism is to people of different races or sexism to gender differences. Hehir defines ableism as ” deeply held negative attitudes toward disability that are analogous to racism”. According to Merriam-Webster racism is: “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”.  In this book Hehir encourages educators to carefully consider each student individually rather than as a group of people with similar traits and capacities.

Throughout the book he encourages educators to consider all planning for students with disabilities through the lens of: minimizing the impact of the disability while maximizing the child’s ability to participate. Very much the basic goal of the UDL movement.

Hehir documents incidents that illustrate how educational policy, assumptions made about students with disabilities, and failures to differentiate instruction and assignments have compounded disabilities for students in our education system.

This book brought up so many important issues in Special Education today. It has provided me with many new blogging ideas…