Inclusive Education: It’s Not the Students Who Are Disabled

Inclusive Education Part 3

The first organization to address the personalization of instruction for all students was the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). CAST is still going strong today. Their research on increasing outcomes for students with disabilities began in 1984, when they explored benefits of using emerging technology to make traditional education more accessible for all students. Working in classrooms with students, researchers at CAST quickly observed that these technology-based learning supports not only fostered inclusion and allowed students with disabilities to be educated with their peers, but the supports benefited the other students as well. In the early 1990’s, they began

UDL vs DI: The Dinner Party Analogy

UDL Provides a Buffet of Options

When I am presenting on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an education framework routed in offering options to students to help them take control of their own education, teachers often tell me they have been doing it already for years. I ask them to explain. What follows is often a description of Differentiated Instruction (DI). Like UDL, DI is also an education framework based on providing options to students. However, there are some critical differences that differentiate (pardon the pun!) the two frameworks from one another. The Dinner Party Analogy I like to explain the differences by asking teachers think

How UDL Will Capture a Classroom

Capture Your Classroom

  I grew up in a little town called Seekonk, Massachusetts. My childhood home was built on a dead end, abutting a forest perfect for a game of Capture the Flag. On summer nights, our neighborhood crew divided the woods into two territories and strategized for the ultimate prize, an old tattered towel fastened to a glow stick. We played the game night after night, perfecting our offense and defense, getting more confident and audacious as we navigated the woods in the dark, eventually climbing trees and jumping mosquito-laden streams to reach our goals. Eventually, I’d see the porch lights

A-Ha Moment about Assistive Technology

When working with educators on UDL implementation, there is one question that always comes up. “Is UDL effective for students with significant, intensive needs?” Today, Joy Zabala provides an emphatic “yes!” And believe me, if anyone knows this with certainty, it’s Joy. As the CAST web site notes, “Joy Zabala is a leading expert on the use of assistive technology (AT) to improve education for people with disabilities. As a technologist, special educator, teacher trainer, and conference speaker, Dr. Zabala has earned international recognition for her work on AT and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).” Although it’s critical that all students receive

UDL Engagement: Honoring Cultural Identity

“The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades…” Oh,Timbuk3, how right you were. Today, Dr. Liz Berquist asked us to don sunglasses as a metaphorical lens to see where our learners are coming from, understand them and the culture that defines them, and value who they are as people. After hearing her message, I am confident that if all educators could see their students through the cultural lens that Liz defined, the future would be much brighter. The essential question that guided this work, “How does your cultural identify connect to how you connect to your students?” The answer may be uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation we

UDL, Expert Learners, and the 36 Ton Machine

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to the fabulous Loui Lord Nelson, author of Design and Deliver, discuss the characteristics of an expert learner – by sharing an analogy about the “Best. Birthday Present. Ever.” To provide some background, UDL is all about teaching students how to become expert learners. Knowledge is at our fingertips – Google, Siri, and countless other apps can provide us with knowledge that used to be reserved for only the “great students” of their day. Now, we live in a world that “knowledge” in isolation is rather meaningless. Our task, as educators, is to teach students what to

“That” Teacher

Ten years ago, I was teaching 7th grade. One of my students was a bright, charismatic girl who wanted to be an English teacher when she grew up. She promised to keep in touch and come back and volunteer in my classroom when she was in college. Well she did, and now she’s all grown up and ready for her own classroom. When we were talking last week, she told me that she didn’t want to be a teacher until she met me. Now, her goal is to be the kind of teacher I was to her. I wondered what

Cage Busting the UDL Way!

This week I attended and presented at the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) conference in Snowbird, Utah. In addition to collaborating with 350 of the country’s top educators, I had the pleasure to attend a session lead by the brilliant and provocative Rick Hess and rock star teacher, Maddie Fennell. Their session, “Cage Busting Teacher,” urged us to take action. How do we do that? We solve problems in education. As they were speaking, I couldn’t help but see the connection to Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Improvements in education happen when educators eliminate barriers that prevent

Why We Teach

I have taught for the past twelve years. During that time, there were only a handful of students I felt like I did not reach. One, in particular, drove me up the wall. This student – I will call him X – sat like a lump for 180 days in my 7th grade English class no matter how hard I tried. I universally designed lessons, I met with him at lunch to try to build a relationship, I provided scaffolds, deadline extensions, and exemplars. Sometimes, I even stood on my desk and tap-danced (hey, you do what you can!). X

Teacher Core Revolution

Last month, I spent two days at the National Teacher Voice Convening in Washington DC. I still feel a buzz of excitement. Every time I have an opportunity to meet with educators from across the country, I am more and more convinced that American education is remarkable. And now that the Common Core connects all teachers, our collective brilliance, creativity, and student empowerment will only amplify. I attended the conference to present an innovative project – The Teacher Core Revolution, which will use the power of teacher voice to help garner nationwide parental support of the Core in a series