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

Want Meaningful PD? Get Teachers Involved

Recently, I attended the National Teacher Voice Convening in DC, and while I was there, I realized how great my own district’s PD model is. Why? Because it’s run by teachers and it’s totally aligned to the UDL philosophy (for more info on the UDL Guidelines, click here). I would love for this model to catch on nationwide, so if it sounds good to you, please share! Our model was the brainchild of Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Chelmsford Public Schools assistant superintendent, and her PD committee. It goes like this: At the end of each school year, an electronic survey is

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

Dear teachers, administrators, and friends of the teaching profession,   If I read one more article about the mediocrity of the teaching profession, I may internally combust. I don’t know why teacher bashing has become a hobby and an accepted norm, but it has. If we aren’t holding expectations high enough, we’re contributing to the achievement gap. When we adopt the Common Core, we hold standards too high. Let’s face it, we’re being attacked from all angles, and it’s time to fight back. Amplifying our voices is the only way to save our profession.   America needs to hear from