I love teaching teenagers! I mean teaching young adults!

I love teenagers! I mean young adults. They are looking to find their way in their worlds, with their peers, and often crashing into the adult world of expectations. We all struggle, especially in schools with the school parameters, school hours, school expectations and all the while under the scrutiny of our community, state and federal standards.

Often there are moments of learning, sharing and growing. One of those moments happened today. I work with students who need support accessing their education in general and specially designed classes. There is always the tug, for me, about when to share a technology tool, when to push a technology tool and when to let the student choose to use the tool. Today it was push the tool.

My students, are similar to all of us. We like the familiar, the sameness, and routines. However, as I offer more and more Universal Design for Learning opportunities to my students, more of them are choosing the unfamiliar. The reason they are choosing the unfamiliar, is that the new tools are time savers and collaborative.

Today, James spent most of his class making a super presentation in Google Presentation about the weather and climate in Rome, Italy. He was totally engaged in the process and the details that he put off defining the weather and climate vocabulary. Later in the day, I made him take a break to work on the vocabulary. Like all of us, he tried to put it off to another day, but I prevailed. I had him watch and in 5 minutes, he was hooked!

His worksheet had a space for the word, a space for the definition and finally a place for an image of the vocabulary word. Something we can all remember from our school days.

As James watched me, I opened up Quizlet, an online flashcard system, created a word list, added the vocabulary word, chose auto-define, then picked the definition from a list of 5-6, finally searched for a picture and moved on to the next word. I didn’t say anything except what definition and image do you want? In less than 5 minutes I had opened a new word list, added 2 words, definitions, images and shared the list with James. He said, “OK, you got me with this one Mrs. Oakes!”

Was it the personal touch, was it the fact that he saw how quickly it came together, was it the fact that I had defined two of his 20 words? How can we apply this way of teaching and sharing new tools with our peers?