10 Tips for Supporting Virtual Professional Learning Communities

10 Tips for Supporting Virtual Professional Learning Communities

By Magdelena Ganias and Katie Novak Over the last several years most districts across the country have taken small steps towards incorporating technology into professional practice. District and school leadership teams have discussed options to meet the needs of professionals who are juggling both professional and personal responsibilities. Professional learning, including Twitter chats, online graduate courses, and Facebook book groups have become popular alternatives to “sit-and-get” professional development (PD) options. Although these options have been valuable to many educators, they were often not the norm, as faculty meetings, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and professional development workshops were still held largely

Better Professional Development in 5 Steps

Teachers engaged in professional development

They didn’t build Rome in a day, and we certainly can’t educate our kids in a day. But all too often our systems limit professional development for teachers to a single intensive day on a new program, initiative, or framework. An intensive PD day shouldn’t be a single event, it should be part of a longer learning journey. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has taught us time and time again that it is not our students who are disabled – it is our curriculum, our assessments, and our systems that are disabling to our students. When we remove barriers to

Million Dollar Question: What Does UDL Look Like?

What Does UDL Look Like?

What Does UDL Look Like? I really struggle when someone asks me, “What does UDL look like?” It is not because I don’t know the answer, in theory. It’s because I don’t know what it looks like for YOU. As the brilliant Dr. Liz Berquist explains in UDL: Moving from Exploration to Integration, “Because the implementation of UDL is variable and unique-in this sense it is a model of UDL itself. UDL looks different in every learning environment, just as it looks different in every school, district, and state. Although there are patterns to be found in this variability, there

Fighting the Anti-Guidelines: Bringing Your PD to the Next Level

Get your teaching PD to the next level

Alanis Morrissette penned the song, “Isn’t it ironic?” Not to date myself, but when I was in high school, my friends and I rocked out to that song. If I could go back in time, I would tell Alanis to add a line about UDL professional development. It would go something like this, “It’s like rain, on your wedding day.  It’s a free ride, when you already paid.  It’s the sit-and-get of UDL PD. Who would have thought? It figuuuuures.” (It’s catchy, isn’t it?) Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is best practice for all students because it focuses on providing

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 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

Becoming an Expert Learner: Wait, What?

“Wait. What?” Wait. What? Translation: Stop for a moment. My brain needs some time to take this in, build comprehension, and determine what exactly is possible and what resources I need to get there.  Wait, what? is a moment when our minds feel blown, because they are. Our neural pathways, as they are currently constructed, need to take a detour. Neuroscience calls this brain plasticity. Educators, we call this learning. Today’s keynote at the BCSC UDL Institute was given by rockstar teacher, Dr. Jon Mundorf, aka, Fundorf (check him out on Twitter). His message – becoming an resourceful, knowledgeable learner is best exemplified by

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

The Redesigned is SAT coming. Be prepared.

On January 15, I attended a presentation by Alan Bernstein, Senior District Director, K12 Services, at the College Board. The presentation focused on the release of redesigned SAT in spring 2016. Given what I learned, we, as educators, need to begin preparing for these transitions right away. Our current tenth graders will have a very different experience on the SAT and we owe it to them to prepare. Luckily, many of the transitions align to shifts we’ve already made with the Common Core. First, a note on organization. There will be 3 sections in the new SAT – only two