Augmenting Learner Experiences for All Students

How can technology support teachers who want to offer their students augmented experiences for learning after mastery has been attained?

For this question, I am thinking of students who are talented, high achieving, self-motivated, and who relish the joy of the learning journey. In a general classroom, because these students are self-sufficient, they are often overlooked. Once they have proved mastery and they have their A+ in the grade book – then what?

I am thinking about this question as it relates to ISTE standard 5a for Educators especially as it relates to my 9th grade Language Arts class.

5a. Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning an accommodate learner differences and needs.

ISTE Standards for Educators

In a previous blog post, I highlighted Understanding by Design, by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, who maintain that as teachers design their course the focus should be more on what the student learns, rather than what the teacher will teach. An intentional lesson or unit design begins with considering the over-arching learning goal and how that goal will be assessed. The primary focus is student learning and student understanding.

Universal Design Learning

As I was researching information for this week’s assignment, I discovered a different, yet companion concept called Universal Design Learning which seems like a great fit for my dilemma: how to augment the learning experience for students once they have demonstrated mastery.

The Universal Design Learning theory in education originated in work by architect Ron Mace in the 1960s.  He was solving the problem of accessibility in physical environments for people with disabilities. His idea that physical environments should be accessible to all was expanded into a learning theory by Rose and Meyer (2002.) They proposed that, not only physical environments, but also learning environments including curriculum, teaching, assessment and learning tools should promote learning that is accessible to all.

Both Dave Rose and Anne Meyer were part of a small team who initiated CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology.) Their guiding question all the way back in 1984 was: How can computer technology enhance learning for students with learning disabilities? Since then their mission has grown and developed to include the use of technology to make learning accessible to all variable learners. The CAST website has a timeline of their research and development which I found interesting and really reassuring to know that as researchers and educators in the field have been considering best practices for technology use in education, they have also helped shaped best practices in teaching.

Eric Moore suggests looking at Universal Design Learning as a “framework to create classroom environments that are inherently built with the type of flexibility that lends itself to the ever-present variability of any given student population. We know students vary across multiple dimensions, yet we often teach to the middle.” In the same conversation Moore argued that it is “essential to have multiple means of representation, engagement, as well as action and expression” in a classroom which gives students the opportunity “to take responsibility for their own learning.”

The goal of UDL is to support learners to become “expert learners” who are, each in their own way, purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal driven.

Watch the following video for a quick explanation of the three principles of Universal Design Learning:

CAST

CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) has created a comprehensive set of UDL guidelines to direct teachers as they develop their lessons or units.

Find the full set of guidelines plus further information here: The Universal Design for Learning Guidelines

Understood for All has adapted the UDL guidelines into a chart of questions teachers can use as they are designing their courses. See the example below and for the full set of questions tap the link: Getting Started with UDL

Find the full set of questions here: Understood for All Inc
Get Proactive – Design Lessons for Variable Learners

It was while I was exploring the CAST website that I found an answer to my question regarding augmenting the learning experience for students. CAST researchers and developers have created the UDL Studio which is a free tool for educators to create a lesson or unit following the three UDL principles. An example of a lesson can be found at UDL Editions.

Teachers design a unit structured with variable support. Teachers and students can then decide how much support the student will need to help them attain the goals for the unit.

Since The Tell-Tale Heart is part of my curriculum, I was interested to see how the levels of support worked. As you can see in the image below, students can click on buttons and icons to get support for vocabulary, literary terms and definitions, analysis, added information about author and background as well as information about genre and style – as much or as little support as the student requires.

The Tell-Tale Heart UDL Editions

CAST has a free UDL Studio which guides teachers through the design process. Teachers can create their own project (some guidance, with lots of flexibility in design,) use a template (maximun guidance with page layouts and author tips,) or remix a model (moderate guidance.) Very UDL!!! As I tried an example of all three and decided that I would use the remix a model format until I become more competent. I you are interested in a comprehensive lesson planning digital tool that helps you target a broad spectrum of variability in the classroom, I highly recommend a visit to the CAST studio. Here is a link to their Tips and Resources which I found really helpful.

How do I know what sort of learner I am

Since there is such a variation in learning styles and abilities, I think it’s important for students to figure out what sort of learner they are. I know there are tons of forms and quizzes that can help students figure this out, but I found one that I thought was most helpful from a website called Faces of Learning. Their vision is for all people to understand their strengths and weaknesses as learners, and for everyone to expect and demand high quality learning environments throughout their lives. Their mission is to help build the capacity needed to support those high-quality learning environments. Their Learner Sketch tool is an interactive tool which generates a comprehensive report which includes strategies for managing learning challenges. Once the tool has generated strengths and challenges, it provides and opportunity for respondents to choose strategies for developing learning skills. The learning Sketch then generates a strategy plan. I took the test and one of my challenges is attention. Some of the strategies from my learning sketch are in the image below. I think this would be a great tool for students to use to help them understand their own learning challenges.

Find your own Learning Strengths and challenges by completing the Learner Sketch at Faces of Learning

Augmenting the Learning Experience

I found three great websites that offer teachers resources for augmenting the student learning experience for those students who are at varying stages of meeting their goals, some may need extra suppost in one area, while others may have met their goals and want to extend their knowledge in an area of interest.

1. Neuroscience for Kids

The first website is Neuroscience for Kids, maintained by Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D. from the University of Washington’s Education Department. Neuroscience for Kids has a monthly newsletter for students with interesting information. The website has pages of resources about neuroscience for students to explore, as well as highly engaging puzzles and quizzes. I will be passing this information on to our Science and Biology teachers.

brains

Detailed information and engaging quizzes and puzzles.

UDL sensory systems
udl newsletter
UDL questions
udl experiment
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2. Wolfram MathWorld

The Second is Wolfram MathWorld and Wolfram Demonstrations Project which offer students interested in all things math related a myriad of opportunities to find a topic of interest and extend their learning.

wolfram mobius shorts
wolfram number guessing
wolfram optical illusion
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3. No Red Ink

The third is noredink.com. No Red Ink is an engaging Grammar and Writing program. One of the aspects I think is most valuable is that students can move through tutorials at their own pace. Once they have completed a diagnostic test, they receive highly personalised tutorials and assessments which lead them through levels of understanding. Students can keep a record of their own progress, set their own pace, move on to more challenging work or go back to relearn something they missed or forgot. Teachers are always kept in the loop and have access to fine data analytics such as how often a student has visited the site or tried a tutorial, when a student has taken an assessment and ideas on how to help the student progress.

Final Thoughts

I like the idea of thinking of may class as variable learners and the UDL model has been helpful to me as I consider developing a new 7th grade Language Arts curriculum for next year. The best way to address the needs of all learners is to be proactive and make necessary adjustments for variable learners in lesson plans right from the get-go. For that, both teachers and students should understand their learning strengths and challenges. The UDL design studio offers a step by step process for designing lesson plans to meet the needs of all learners. If there are students who require even more of a challenge, then there are organizations such as the two I highlighted, Wolfram and Neuroscience for kids which teachers can use as additional resources. As far as augmented learning for Language Arts, I found a really interesting site from the University of Mary, Washington – https://assignments.ds106.us/. This is an open course for Digital Storytelling. But, that exploration will have to wait for another blog post.

References

Chudler, E. H. (n.d.). Neuroscience for Kids. Retrieved from http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/neurok.html

Create dynamic, UDL supported learning environments! (n.d.). Retrieved from http://udlstudio.cast.org/

Frequently Asked Questions. (2018, January 22). Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org/more/frequently-asked-questions#tools

Heick, T. (2018, April 5). A Beginner’s Guide To Personalized Learning -. Retrieved from https://www.teachthought.com/learning/beginners-guide-personalized-learning/

ISTE Standards for Educators. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

Wolfram Mathematica. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.wolfram.com/mathematica/

Your Learner Sketch. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.facesoflearning.net/your-learner-sketch/

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