This is our season in North America for graduations from high school and universities. On May 9, 2009 I attended the graduation ceremony at University of Maine where we were able to observe the transparency of how to use assistive technology for the masses.
We were in a huge auditorium, and as most graduations there were many graduates, guest speakers, pomp and circumstance. In the far end of the photo you can see a blue screen near the ceiling with yellow words, this screen streamed the text as the speakers were talking in real time, including side comments. At the very top middle of the image, you see a video of the speaker at the podium.
Photo from UMaine website, permission requested.
These bits of technology personalized the whole experience of graduation for all the participants. I am not handicapped, I do not need to have the audio amplified, I do not need to have a text writer documenting the audio, but by virtue of having this, anyone who needed to access the video, or the audio to text was able to take advantage of it. No one needed to order this ahead of time, no speaker needed to turn in their speech ahead of time, and all of us in the seats at the back of the auditorium were able to see our loved ones graduate.
This experience made me think of my classrooms. Although the University had some very expensive equipment to manage video and audio the expense of the equipment has dropped in price in recent times. Similar things are available in classrooms now, and this is a mindset that all of us need to embrace. It is supported by the Universal Design for Learning Community.
This is lifted right from the website:
Universal Design for Learning calls for ...* Multiple means of representation, to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
* Multiple means of action and expression, to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know,
* Multiple means of engagement, to tap into learners' interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase motivation.
As I reflected more on my experience at graduation, I continued my thinking about ways to change the delivery in my classroom, change how the student responses are demonstrated in my classroom and the options I can offer my students to scaffold and connect to the learning in my classroom. This is all about personalizing the learning which is a theme in Disrupting Class, by Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Michael B. Horn.
We are at a point in time where we have the ability to offer this to all learners and all situations. We do not just build this atmosphere and learning situation for special individualized education plans, but rather take ideas and the information we have learned over the years to offer this to all our learners.
So, tomorrow as students participate in my classroom, some of the changes will look like this.
Directions written on the board: not only in the single text and color, but varied colors, size of text and graphics or emoticons where appropriate, vocabulary words defined where appropriate, a graphic organizer given to each student in order that they interact with the information as it is being delivered and explicit teaching about how to make use of the graphic organizer, ( I would go so far as sharing graphic organizers with students by making copies and sharing exemplars) Finally, at the top of each graphic organizer would be a student statement about how they will personalize the learning in a specific area and included in that statement a standard for reflecting on their progress towards the end of the instruction.
By changing my delivery to include Universal Design for All, I am making my classroom more inclusive for all learners no matter their individual needs. I am also making my learners responsible for their learning intake, learning demonstration or reflection. The people doing the most work are doing the most learning. How will you personalize the instruction, learning activities and reflections in your classroom?