Sunday, September 25, 2011


UDL or Universal design Learning is founded on the notion that there is a wide spectrum of diverse learners. By attempting to use UDL in our classroom, we, as teachers, are attempting to reach all the different, and individual learners. We are essentially providing a variety of ways for students to access their learning. These variety of ways can include instructional or assistive technology - these are high tech forms of assistance - but they also can include low tech forms of assistance, such as PECS. I like how Alice commented on her blogthat a good way to use UDL is to be more thoughtful in lesson planning. When lesson planning it is important to consider the different learners and to create methods that will allow all students to access the material. Are there more kinesthetic learners in your classroom? Is there a way to make the lesson a kinesthetic experience? For the more visual learners, can you provide a large, or hand-out visual to assist them in the lesson? Consequently, my previous post made me realize that UDL is not only about the materials, but about the use of space as well. Is the physical space used in a way that allows access for all learners?

As teachers we need to open our eyes to all the different designs around the classroom and school and acknowledge that some designs unintentionally hinder students from 100% access to education. As i explain in my previous post, I believe lack of space hinders some learners....I know it hinders me as a teacher. Clearly, this wasn't the intention of the architect. In this sense I wonder if UDL is an unattainable goal. While it is worthy of consideration on teachers parts, 100% UDL seems impossible. The design of every object carries assumptions based on how the majority of people will use it, and rarely considers alternate methods. I would be interested to see or hear about an object that is Universally Designed AND accessible to everyone.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Here is a picture of my current classroom. What you see is what you get. There is no more space behind the camera; that is it. This room, and every other classroom, in this school is about this size. Everyday I cram 3 different classes of 20 students in here. Forget behavior managements; I feel like at least 5 minutes of each class is spent on space management. Every activity creates a traffic jam. Each child at this school gets their own computer that they bring from class to class. The come to class with their giant folder, their computers, their books and there is simply not enough space for everything.

This is a private school, and not surprisingly, I have not seen one student with physical disabilities. I say not surprisingly because I wouldn't be surprised if the admissions department chooses to not admit students who need space for a wheelchair, or even crutches of some sort would be problematic.

I teach 6th grade English and have encountered many issues while trying to teach. Firstly, I have tried to excuse smaller groups to do certain activities. For example, I will have one table stand up and update their book cards in the back of the room. I thought that this was the solution to the traffic jam; however, I have concurrently discovered that it is hard for 6th graders to multi-task. That is, they cannot listen to directions while updating their book cards, understandably. So, by excusing simply table by table I have found that I often have to repeat myself. Now, I will excuse table by table then wait until the whole group reconvenes to give directions. It just feels like such a waste of time to me.

Additionally, it makes smaller group work hard, which is crucial in English class. It's hard for smaller groups to actually form because everyone is in everyone else's space.

I can only imagine that this is every New York teacher's dilema. I find myself searching online, or walking around and looking at other rooms, to see what other desk designs teachers have discovered for a more efficient classroom. I am still on that search....I am open to suggestions!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reflecting on Martinez

I really enjoyed Martinez's article on problem solving. I most particularly like how she acknowledges that changing our attitudes towards mistakes, as educators, can assists students in improving their metacognition. By not focusing on the mistakes we, in turn, place appropriate emphasis on the process, that is, the cognition behind learning. This seems to be an easy enough transition for the teacher - from focusing on the process rather than simply focusing on the mistakes - but once you are in the classroom it becomes clear that teachers have historically constructed a need to focus on the mistakes. Our whole grading system is based on the mistakes. Students loose points for lateness, for spelling mistakes and other inaccuracies; and sometimes, as teacher, we overlook the effort. We assume the effort must have been minimal if the mistakes are plenty. I believe that special educators have a stronger insight into this dilemma. Through our experiences we have learned that many mistakes are made along the way, but it is more about learning the process than the result.

This reminds me of a recent NY Time article. I am having trouble finding it now, but once I do I will post it. The article focused on a recent study which proved that students are more likely to do better on following assignments if emphasis was placed on their EFFORT and not their INTELLIGENCE on the previous assignments. For example, a group of students were asked to write about a particular topic. Afterwards, in one group, a teacher told the students did well that they were so smart. On the next activity they did worse. The hypothesis of this verbal praise was that the students then felt "worried" that they had placed themselves in the "smart kid" category, and wouldn't meet the expectations of that category. Alternatively, the other group was praised on their efforts, and consequently did better on the next assignment. Here, the hypothesis was that the students were inspired by the fact that their hard effort produced desirable results, and therefore were encouraged to try hard again.

Martinez's article clearly correlates with this study. Emphasis on the process can provide encouragement, whereas focus on the mistakes only discourages As adults, we should easily be able to relate to this, or in the very least, I know I can. My relationship with technology is heavily based on learning from my mistakes. I can sit at a computer and try to solve some formatting issue for literally an hour and it is all trial and error with different buttons and options. Case and point.

Here is the link for the article.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A love hate relationship...

Technology and I have a love/hate relationship. My family use to always tease me that I had a curse when it came to technology. Every computer I owned crashed, every Ipod I have had, at one point or another, showed me the frowny face. For Christmas this year I got an itouch and dropped it on my first run breaking the screen. You get the point. So, I guess you could say I am not scared of technology, but rather of hurting technology. I have to work with it, and honestly, I like working with it, I am just terrified of breaking it. I think it is great that we are working with our mistakes as part of this class, yet, when it comes to technology, some mistakes cannot be undone.

My technology style is trial and error. I don't like to watch tutorials, I really dislike reading them. I simply want to play around with it until I get it. I actually really enjoy someone showing me around (as long as they don't take it out of my hands). Like many people, I learn from doing. The same is with technology.

Nonetheless, I am working at The School at Columbia right now as a 6th grade teacher and this school LOVE technology. Every teacher has a Mac book Air, every classroom has an Ipad and an SMART or Etise board. Every kid has an apple computer. All of their projects are published online on their own server. Everything is shared through google. It is nuts, but I like it. They have a huge team dedicated to technology, which I sometimes wonder if the money there could be better allocated, but on the other hand, this team and its resources are teaching these kids how to be students in the 21st century. They have made me a believer: technology can bring about a change in education that is needed. Throughout my time at The School I keep finding myself thinking, "man, this would be so great for a Special Education class!" It just has to be the right technology.

Before moving to NYC I worked in a public school as a paraprofessional in Salt Lake City. The school was terribly underfunded, so resources were pretty pathetic. We would try to do technology activities with students on these old, terrible computers, and it really frustrated me. What was the point? I understand that helping kids become more familiar with technology is a step in an of itself, but today there are so many pieces of equipment that are user friendly, and intuitive. Why should we struggle to teach technology when it can be so easy? We struggle because it costs a lot.

In short: I am scared of technology because I know its value and power. I believe in the power of technology to change education, but it's gotta be the right equipment.

Once I finished the Martinez reading I will write a brief reflection.