This week’s blog edition is dedicated to the Indiana educators. In reviewing my year, I have logged a whole lot of miles and met with a whole lot of school staff. It has been GREAT! What an amazing group of folks. My life is truly richer for these experiences.There has been a number of topics that we have covered. Much of what we have talked about is how to include all students in the curriculum and I can tell you that is a loaded statement. It sounds simple, but it has a lot of layers when you really look at it. For some presentations, there is a slide I show of a Venn-type diagram of 6 circles. I think this describes education today.
1. I put students in the center. As educators, we know students really are and have always been the central focus.
2. Just above that is a circle of Diversity. We can all agree there is much diversity found in the classroom ranging from academic abilities to socio-economic, cultural, language, religious, and the list can go on. As a consultant, I include teachers and staff in the diversity pool and this is something that must be considered for communication and for accessibility as well. One size does not fit all. Neither for students nor staff.
3. So next to children and diversity, we find student achievement. I list this third, purposely, as we are not dealing with a product here that can be measured in purely economic or statistical terms. Achievement is very important to be sure. Educators have always found a way to measure student achievement. So the fact that we have and need student achievement is a given and absolutely necessary. The thing is, student achievement is best measured when there is a good match between what the children know, can do and demonstrate with what is expected. That brings us to the last three circles of the Venn Diagram.
The Stuff. Instructional Technology (IT including infrastructure), Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Assistive Technology (AT)
4. In the middle we have the Instructional technology provided for all students/staff, regardless of educational placement.
5. On one side we have AT which is required for students to benefit from their special education where ever it is i.e. general ed class, special ed class. So those make sense and have been around for awhile.
6. The other player is UDL, which serves as more than a bridge between the two. It has been called a framework and I look at it as a warm embrace for education. Purposeful, planned, front-loaded, collaborative. A future blog can go into this in more detail but suffice it to say that UDL brings education full circle, and honestly, I have seen this kind of work in action all around Indiana.
Schools today operate with technology. They really always have. It used to be the slate and soapstone, or the vellum and quill, or the #2 lead and paper. Pick your era. There was always a way to use a tool for education, so really, there is no difference now. The discussion should not be to use technology or not. The question is, "How do children demonstrate what they have learned?" The discussion should include brainstorming multi-modal ways to engage students, multi-modal ways to present information and multi-modal ways to have them express and demonstrate understanding, while building in layers of increasing independence. The challenge is on to find out what students know and to find ways to challenge all students.
It has been an absolute joy to meet teachers and educators across Indiana engaged in dynamic ways of reaching students and who seek out more ways to reach children who learn via atypical means and methods. Keep up the good work!