Welcome back! In this course, E-Learning Design for Diverse Environments, we’re taking a look at the various ways e-Learning can impact a range of learners and learning environments. Now that the course is half over (yikes!), I’m taking some time to reflect on two concepts and ideas that have stuck with me.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
This is a concept I was first introduced to in my previous course. The three tenets of UDL are multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement (Totzke, 2013). In other words, the content should be represented and expressed in ways that anyone can access it (printed text, audio narration, braille, or another language), and learners should have multiple ways to share what they learned (writing, speaking, arts, etc.). A more detailed description of these central ideas can be found in the graphic at right.
I was intrigued by the possibilities of altering text to make it more accessible to my struggling readers, especially the idea of screen readers. Many of my kiddos struggle with oral reading fluency, which has an impact on comprehension and the amount of text they are able to consume in a given time frame. A screen reader, although not a perfect replica of human fluency (see the reader used by the fabulous Wonderopolis, which I love sharing with my students – wonderopolis.org) has the speed and phrasing characteristic of good oral reading. So, those of you that have delved into the world of UDL, what applications exist for screen readers? Have you students found them helpful? I have access to Mac laptops and desktops, if that makes a difference.
Web 2.0 refers to the category of online applications that allow the user to participate by commenting, sharing, and authoring content. This wave of technology can play a significant role in education, allowing students to publish, collaborate, curate content, and develop their identity through creative expression (Terrell, 2011). These tools can be used in UDL-aligned instruction, giving students options to express their knowledge. Yet with security concerns and issues over intellectual property and copyright, many teachers have difficulty incorporating these technologies into their classrooms (Terrell, J.). I will be the first to say that student privacy and security are paramount in my school, after all, I teach minors. I love the idea of a class blog and publishing projects for the world to see, but how can we ensure safety? To compound matters, are online published works protected under FERPA (Diaz et al., 2010)?
Authoring tools may be the best answer to this conundrum. Students can create and share in the classroom, and post to a private classroom page. This video, straight from the horses’ mouths, so to speak, is a good example of how Web 2.0 can engage our kiddos.
Technology is fun and prepares them for the future. What more could we ask for? What the kids do not necessarily understand (and why would they), is the theoretical underpinnings of why Web 2.0 is so effective. Learning is a social process (Pasher et al., 2011; Wood et al., 2010) – we interact with other people, sharing what we know and gleaning new knowledge from them. While small groups are a natural teaching technique that aligns with this theory, Web 2.0 offers unique opportunities for interaction. Online interactions on a blog, wiki, or downloaded podcast are accessible outside of school – helpful for studying (as an alternative to the traditional written study guide), or for a student who was out sick and needs to stay abreast of what is going on in class. Students do not
always have the option of gathering with their classmates after school to discuss and share.
I’ve been struggling with ways to incorporate Web 2.0 into my intervention groups. I see them for such a short time. Our work is usually in reading comprehension, and that practice is grounded in printed text, discussion, and writing. However, the video gave me some easily implementable ideas. In addition to the typical written response, which my students absolutely need to practice, I can use Wordle, Glogster, Tagxedo, or a podcasting app to give them a chance to show off what they’ve learned. Now if I can only ensure that I will have access to the mobile lab!
For all the teachers reading this, especially the elementary ones what online venues do you use to share student work? What measures do you take to ensure privacy and security?
For more on UDL, visit the CAST website: www.cast.org
Diaz, A., Golas, J., & Gautsch, S. (2010). Privacy concerns in cloud-based teaching and learning environments. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3024.pdf
Pasher, E. & Ronen, T. (2011). The complete guide to knowledge management: A strategic plan to leverage your company’s intellectual capital. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Terrell, J., Richardson, J., & Hamilton, M. (2011). Using Web 2.0 to teach Web 2.0: A case study in aligning teaching, learning and assessment with professional practice. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(5), 846-862.
Totzke, P. (2013, November 11). Long story shortz – Universal design for learning [Video file]. Retrieved from **Unit 2**
Wood, D.R. & Whitford, B.L. (2010). Teachers in the learning community: Realities and possibilities. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.