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Let Universal Design for Learning, be all about “Assisted” Technology for All

Let Universal Design for Learning, be all about “Assisted” Technology for All

Our goals for our students include independence as life long learners. When you work with challenged learners it is imperative to focus on their independence and life long skills and practice using those skills. Here is the how to: Help your students achieve independence as a life long learner, anytime, anywhere.

In September, we introduced our students to the suite of Google Apps. All students were given a user name and password for our school google domain. Once logged in, a calendar was introduced as a way to keep track of assignments, family vacations, days off, tests and quizzes, Homecoming, Sporting events, school plays, Marching Band and the end of first trimester. Next we shared how to access their email, a google doc, how to answer a survey in a google form and finally how to make a presentation. All of these options are located in our google domain. This google introduction took about 3 weeks as we shared how to use these apps and how to find purpose while making good choices.

Most often, the use of google apps allows for collaboration, whether that be a shared calendar, a shared presentation, a google doc or a shared spreadsheet for data collection. Shared calendars not only serve as a reminder of when a project is due for a student, but it’s also a way for the teacher to see when an important competition is scheduled, and then it’s a reminder for a teacher to attend that school event .

Our students even chose to use google presentation as they prepared for classroom slide shows. They were able to use google presentation with the teacher as editor, or with peers as collaborators on their projects.

The most powerful reason for using google docs is that the app allows for a teacher to be editor across time or space. Also, the teacher can choose to open the document at a later time and leave editing comments and questions for her students. There are never enough hours in the school day to work with all students, however, by going digital, the opportunities for revisions and edits extend far beyond the walls and hours of the classroom. One evening I told my students that I would be online to edit student work. One student left me a note the he had his essay ready to be edited. I edited the work, left him questions and comments with suggestions for changes. He immediately started making changes on the document as I was working on it. We chatted using google chat and in less than 20 minutes, he had a revised document and was ready to turn in the paper the next day.

The next focus was teaching our students with some excellent web 2.0 tools. We chose to use Animoto (opens in new tab), an online slide collage production tool, complete with Text, titles, spotlights and music. Finally, we taught our students how to use Quizlet. Quizlet is a vocabulary flashcard online tool. One Friday afternoon we shared this app with a student, he had not done well on his previous English quiz. During the weekend he taught himself how to use Quizlet, added his vocabulary words and on Monday he re-took the quiz and passed with 100%. That is the power of student choice, student digital access and student designed toolkits.

Until recently, classroom tools have been teacher chosen, teacher driven and teacher taught. This week, each of our students began designing their own toolkit with powerful online tools. We hope that by having students design their own toolkits, that they will have a reference spot to go to when they are completing school assignments or long term projects. Since these toolkits reside on the web, it provides our students anytime access and choice in which tool to use and complete their assignments.

This week our students created their toolkit from a google doc template. They added their own tools, selected colors and personalized their templates. Then they published their google doc to the web. Finally, by giving their toolkit webpage a tiny url, our students are able to find their toolkit no matter where they are.

Stop by for another installment about our continued use of webtools in our toolkits. These tools allow for all our learners to be independent life long learners.

This blog post is part 2 of multiple blogs about UDL, toolkits and independent learners.
For more information, check out the toolbelt theory by Ira David Socol or the UDL tech toolkit started by Joyce Valenca and Karen Janowski. Finally, from,
we have teaching every student.
What should your students consider for their digital toolkit? by Cheryl Oakes