Viral UDL

From the Flu to you!

Sandi is sitting on her couch with a blanket over her and two dogs on her legs. She is typing on her computer and has her sick table materials beside her.
For the first time in a long while, I am sick. The flu epidemic did not spare me this year. As I sit here with my “sick table” fully stocked with my hot tea, Halls cough drops, Puffs Tissues Plus Lotion and Vicks, and a nasty wastebasket full of used tissues, I find myself thinking about things that are infectious and contagious.
 
Wikipedia tells me that, “In the United States, the flu season is considered October through May. It usually peaks in February.” According to the CDC, this year’s flu strain is the H3N2 virus. The estimate is that the Flu shot is only 30% effective against this flu strain, but you are still urged to get it. The Definition of contagious is to move easily from one person to another.

Influenza Activity Estimates Indiana and much of the nation have sporatic outbreak in October. In November Indiana is still sporatic but other states are showing local activity.  By December all contiguous states show widespread flu reports.
Between November and the end of December, the flu spreads rapidly because we are traveling to see out of town friends and relatives for the holidays. We are leaving our normal geographic boundaries and reaching out to others.

Infectious diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses. Great ideas can be spread that way too. I am getting ready to work with a small team of educators that wants to learn more about Universal Design for Learning (UDL). We are going to meet twice a month and discuss how to UDL their classrooms and lessons. We don’t know where this will go, but we are hoping it will become contagious! This is the way PATINS works. Groups of educators step out of their mental geographic boundaries, try something new and share it with their colleagues. The same principles of contagion apply to learning great educational frameworks like UDL as do the flu. The difference is great results for Indiana educators and students.  

I’d love to infect you with the UDL virus! Reach out to me and let’s get some positive educational pedagogy spreading around your school!

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The Best Things In Life Are Free

scs
I stumbled upon an old song that Sam Cooke re released in 1964 called, “The Best Things In Life Are Free.”

“Moon belongs to everyone

The best things in life, they're free
Stars belong to everyone
They glitter there for you and for me
They are yours and me

Flowers in spring
The robins that sing
Sunbeams that shine
They're yours and their mine

Love can come to everyone
Best things in life they're free
All of the good things
Every one of the better things

The best, best things in life
They're free”

While the lyrics are very simple, the reflection it gave me as I listened was rather deep. Knowing that research constantly reflects that teachers can be one of the most impactful persons in a student’s life, it made me immediately think about all of our students who may struggle daily; whether academically, socially or emotionally.

I had recently been with a passionate group of educators who were seeking ways to support their students. Together we brainstormed some considerations for appropriate accommodations. Assistive technology tools were introduced to facilitate independent learners and support students on the autism spectrum. Strategies for classroom management and behaviors were also shared. We engaged in conversations about specific learning disabilities and had discussions about accessible educational materials.

So, what does all of that have to do with a song titled, “The Best Things In Life Are Free?” Chance. It all comes down to Chance. It’s free and sometimes...it’s all a student really needs...to be given a Chance.    


Sing it Sam! 


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To Do One Thing Is Also Deciding To Not Do Something Else

Image of a fork in a road with an ominous looking sky above

Deciding to do one thing, is also deciding to not do something else. Likewise, to believe one thing, is simultaneously to not believe something else. This almost certainly seems like a simplistic statement...one that is nearly self-evident. Yet, when one begins to contemplate daily decisions, even routine or minor ones, from this virtually-transposed perspective, things can start to be inspected differently.  

I had a friend once, whom I haven't spoken to in many years. Like most people I have had any length of contact with, he said a lot of things, most of which I do not remember even the notion of. However, one particular statement he verbalized to me nearly 20 years ago, has remained with me, word for word.  

He said, "You are always going down one road or the other with every single decision you make, but never the middle." He continued, "Any time you think you're in the middle, you're actually on one path, but thinking about the other path." He concluded with, "Every decision and every action is either moving you in one direction or the other, but never both directions at the same time." 

He wasn't a really great friend, but I've always remembered these particular words from him. I try to meaningfully and regularly ruminate on the deep implications of their meaning. I was also recently prompted to think of this ever-protruding philosophy in my life in a slightly different way, which I anticipated to be worth discussing here.  

There's a question that tends to get posed consistently, whether I'm providing a training, sitting with my office computer, checking emails from my phone on-the-go, or participating in a meeting. That question has to do with two separate, but very related concepts: ALL students' ability to work toward grade-level standards and which accommodations are/are not permitted on high stakes testing. Conclusively, questions that indicate one belief...one path, which is simultaneously not believing something else, according to this philosophy at hand. 

I pose that these questions represent beliefs, rather than simple factual inquiries. Asking me which shoes I put on this morning, could be a simple factual inquiry. In contrast, asking about allowable accommodations on a high stakes test or how it could be possible for ALL students to work toward grade-level standards, proposes that the inquiry comes from someone who is traveling down the path to the left, while thinking about the path to the right. 

While I cannot fault this, and much could be said at this juncture about the value of reflection while on one path or the other, the actuality of the path that is underway (decisions and beliefs), is that the student who is figuratively walking with the facilitator, is actively traveling on ONE path, but not both at the same time and not the middle. When accounting for the relatively limited time our students have with us, each step taken in one direction, potentially sacrifices steps that could be taken in the other direction.  

By deciding that what ultimately matters, is the allowable accommodations on a high stakes test, one is also deciding that the tools that could engage a student meaningfully for "the other 175 days" of school are of secondary importance. Traveling down this particular path seems to be rather common and also understandable given the gravity of these tests! Yet, allowing this anticipation of the end of the year to decide the path to get there, seems quite counter-intuitive to our ultimate goal.  

We know that the more actively engaged our students are in a curriculum that is accessible to them, the more accurately we can predict their success on that high stakes test (with or without the tools) and more importantly, their success toward independence as uniquely awesome and creative humans in society.  

When we slow down to think before we take that next step or make that next decision, it is of significant consequence to ponder what we are also deciding not to do... not to believe... not to expect.  

Decide to expect greatness from ALL of your students in ways that you can't even envision yet. Take steps that demonstrate your travel down this path decisively. Seek support, training, and trials of tools, from PATINS. Be aware of what your steps, your decisions, your beliefs also mean that you are not choosing, not traveling toward, not believing in. Deciding to do one thing, is also deciding to not do something else. To believe one thing, is simultaneously to not believe something else.

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New Device?

Recently, I had the pleasure of keeping my cousin for the night, while her mom got a much deserved night off. My cousin is 5 years old and in kindergarten and came armed with her iPad. I kept her busy most of the time, but as we were winding down she decided to play on her iPad. I was curious and watched her interacting with the device.

I noticed right away that although she had many apps on the iPad, there were not many fun, learning type apps. I had recently purchased many puzzles for her and I knew she loved puzzles, so I installed some puzzle apps for her. She was also just beginning to write, so I found some fun tracing/writing apps for her as well.

I mentioned to her mom the next day that I had added some apps and she was very grateful. She said she had meant to take a look at them. Parents have so many responsibilities, so I was glad I was able to provide some assistance. If you have questions or need recommendations for educational/learning-centered apps or software, please contact a member of the PATINS staff. We also have many apps and software titles available to borrow in the PATINS Lending Library.

If your child received a new device for Christmas, please remember there are a number of factors to consider. One consideration I would make would be to be aware and to be involved. Please consider what apps and software are being used on the device. There are many apps and software programs that are both fun and educational.

Another consideration I would make is to have parental involvement with the device. Consider how long your child spends on their device and spend time interacting with them as they play. If they are particularly interested in a certain subject or area, find an app or software program that would interest them. If you have the ability, stream their device to the family television, and “play” together or read a story.

A third consideration I would make is to have clear guidelines for device usage. Will you allow the device to be used during meals, at bedtime, in a room without a parent? Do you have the password for your child’s device? Will they be allowed to use social media? Can they access or purchase apps? Will parental controls be set on the device? Consider a Family Media Contract, there are many available through a Google search.

Lastly, keep in mind that there are many accessibility features available for devices. Apple has many features built-in; you can find these features under Settings, General, Accessibility. You can find accessibility features in Windows and Apple computers as well. If you have any questions about any of these features, our PATINS staff would be glad to assist you!

I hope you have a Happy New Year! 


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Unexpected Gifts

Last weekend while out shopping for a perfect treasure to give my husband for Christmas, I wandered into a thrift store and began perusing the book collection. We need another book in our house as much as we need another seashell. Which is to say, not at all. We have a rule now, “bring in 1 book, get rid of 1 book.” No problem. For the book I purchased, I will gladly bring to the thrift store a whole box of books!

The book is The Technique of Teaching, by Sheldon Emmor Davis, Ph.D. (I googled him, he was quite a prolific author in the field of education.) The copyright date is 1922. It’s a small book — 4.5 X 7.5, with a dark blue hardcover. The gold lettering on the spine is no longer readable, except for the word Teaching. I took the book from the shelf and opened it, and I have learned.

The book has seven chapters. Chapter One echoes the title: “The Technique of Teaching”, and is, of course, an overview. The next 6 chapters explain how to teach Spelling, Reading and Literature, Composition and Grammar, Arithmetic, History and Geography. All that in 336 pages!

Because of my interest in supporting students with dyslexia, I wanted to go straightaway to the chapters on spelling and reading. On the way there I came across several important gems: “We are teaching pupils, not subjects.” True. “Learning is attention.” Check. “Emotional response (is) important.” Yes. “Belief in pupils (is) essential.” Wow. I don’t remember discussing teaching in such direct terms when studying for my teaching certification. Are these ideas too obvious to mention?

The Teaching of Spelling chapter still is pertinent to the methods of instruction prescribed for dyslexic learners: systematic, explicit, phonetic, multisensory.

For instance, Dr. Davis wrote, “For clear impression the assignment may require writing words plainly, syllabication, copying in the air and upon paper, pronouncing aloud individually and in concert.” The language is dusty, but concise. He wrote, “The degree to which a given child or class may be visual, auditory, or motor minded we may not know, but the teacher who makes the multiple sense appeal is on safe ground.” Which is an accurate plan for using a multi-sensory approach in teaching spelling.

Under a heading called Repetition with attention, Dr. Davis wrote that since spelling can be monotonous, keep study times short and focused, and use different types of drills to keep it interesting. He spoke of using reasoning to help teach spelling, such as the rules for vowels depending on their positions in words. “One who is led to discover the reason for persisting e in singeing, tingeing, or hingeing is far more likely to be using economy that the child who mechanically masters each word. For he has a key to the situation even when he encounters a word he has never studied.” The spelling of hinging has been changed (Dr. Davis also discusses spelling changes through history), but his method of teaching spelling involves using a tactic that is systematic, examples provided.

In Chapter 3, “The Teaching of Reading and Literature”, Dr. Davis begins to discuss phonetics in a substantial way, with examples of learning activities that at first sound archaic, until I began to understand their brilliance. For example, the teacher or students might create a tool called “winding the clock.” A phonogram (ick, ock, ore) is placed in the center, think of the point where the clock hands connect, then 12 consonants or consonant blends are placed instead of numbers, for students to make real or nonsense words. As Dr. Davis points out, the student should meet the sight words first: “After the pupil know at sight can, man, hand, and others of the same family, it is not difficult to focalize his attention upon the phonogram, an.”

Does this book utilize explicit instruction? Absolutely. The author describes how to make different types of card decks, and how to use them. His methods and activities, or “devices” are easy to understand, often with practical advice: Use of Objects and pictures. “Use of objects is one of the surest ways of introducing the ideas for which words stand. This is experience gaining rather than reading, but necessary nevertheless.”

This is not a handbook for teaching dyslexic readers, and not once is the word used. If you are an educator you should by now have your own copy of Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, even if you teach content other than reading and spelling. Because as Dr. Davis wrote, “Every group doing written work is a spelling class.” As teachers, reinforce one another, every chance you get.

Indiana now has IN HB 1108, the Dyslexia law, and educators are being called to address the 1 in 5 in meaningful ways. Which means you may be required to attend trainings to help you teach. Hopefully, that will be the case. I have heard the big sigh, and have been told by a few individuals that “This is just too much, with all else I have to do. “I get that.

But help is all around you. There are resources in the PATINS Lending Library: books, software, hardware. The ICAM provides free memberships for your students to receive Learning Ally audiobooks-all they need is an IEP and documentation of a reading disability. There are trainings to attend here in Indiana. You probably have some very good resources in your possession now. Don’t wait to be trained to begin helping struggling readers. Use what you have until you get what you need. Let us help!

Happy Christmas, Everyone!



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It's the Thought That Counts

a person's open hands holding a small wrapped giftbox

If you celebrate the holidays that take place this time of year, there’s a good chance gift giving is a part of that celebration.


I love to give gifts. I enjoy it even more when I think I’ve come up with something the recipient might actually like. But I usually find myself slightly stressed this time of year, and frequently at a loss when it comes to determining gifts for the people on my list.

Gift giving will be a different kind of experience for me this year. One reason for this is that my son’s family recently expanded to include three foster siblings, (2 year-old boy, 4 year-old girl & 7 year-old boy) in addition to their 18 month-old daughter.

IMG_7401-1.JPG

While I had an idea about the kind of gifts I wanted to give the them, I had no clear sense about how or where to start. I began thinking about the kids, both individually and collectively. I tried to figure out what I knew about their likes and dislikes, unique characteristics, strengths and challenges, and anything else I had come to understand about them.

I factored in the kinds of experiences I hoped my gift selections might offer, as well as elements I thought they’d value and derive maximum enjoyment from. I tried to take into consideration the physical space of their home and the general environment in which they live and play. I did a lot of Internet searching, asking friends and colleagues, and just plain contemplating.

Looking back, I realize my approach for gift decision-making wasn’t scientific or profound. Yet I also recognize the value of working through the process in the way that I did. It allowed me to identify what was most important about my gift selections.

Ah-ha! The connection.

As it turns out, my gift selection process closely resembles the process I used to go through on a regular basis when creating lesson plans as a teacher. I’d start with the general vision in mind (like the goal, standard, topic), then work through multiple layers of available information until I felt I’d reached as much clarity and discernment as possible. At that point I’d feel ready to turn plans into action.

Lesson designing was always a labor-intensive endeavor for me, as I think it is for many teachers. There is much necessary intentionality of design - planning, research, collaboration, and a great deal of deep thinking.

Deep thinking about:
  • the students - what is known as well as what’s unknown
  • the goals - what is intended, hoped for, expected, assumed
  • the obstacles - what stands in the way or threatens to impede the child or the goal

Now, as educators begin looking ahead to the implications of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its numerous endorsements of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), I am excited about the improved potential impact. This is because UDL guides the process for curriculum development in such a way that
all students are able to access, participate in, and enjoy rich and meaningful learning opportunities.


At the design level within UDL, potential obstacles are eliminated (or at least minimized); the learning environment is set up with everyone in mind; and students’ variability is not only acknowledged, but also honored. There are no average students, no singled-out special cases, and no exceptions to the original plan. A UDL plan for instruction is intended and designed to be fully inclusive.

The lesson design process may continue to be a fairly labor-intensive process, even with the clear principles and supportive guidelines of UDL. But I believe when we’re engaged in deep thinking about the work we do, and about the students we teach, the process will always be a sort of labor of love.

If you’re curious about UDL or ready to dive in, you can access helpful information from the PATINS’ UDL resource page located on our website. There’s even an online tool to help you create your own UDL lesson plan from scratch. Our PATINS blog, as well as our weekly #PatinsIcam Twitter Chat regularly includes great ideas and insights related to UDL. (You can read archived blogs and chats at anytime!)

Finally, whether you’re just beginning or already implementing a UDL approach in your classroom or school, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us to share your UDL questions, experiences and expertise. We’d love to support you wherever you are in the process of ensuring access to the curriculum for all students!

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Searching for the Why

Recently, I was invited to an evening of wreath-making where I would be making a live wreath in the spirit of the holidays. Upon RSVP’ing to the event, I felt excited yet anxious about a new upcoming experience. Plus, I was acutely aware that I’d only know a couple of the attendees, so I was already feeling insecure about my lack of wreath-making abilities that would be on display in front of people I had never met.  

Making a wreath should be easy enough, right? I mean what all would it really involve? These were questions I kept asking the slightly crafty side of myself in an effort to prepare for what to expect.

Now the time had come; I was working on my wreath. Nervously, I gathered eight bundles of greenery, wondering if I was bundling the greenery in the right way, if I was choosing the right combination of greenery, if anyone was watching me, and if it would all come together.Jena & Bev displayed Jena's completed wreath

In the end, with the support and positive reinforcement of my two friends and a mild allergic reaction to the greenery on my hands, the wreath turned out just fine. I even received a text the following day from a neighbor who said she thought it looked great and wanted one of her own. What a compliment!

On that same day with the wreath hung on my front door, I was having a conversation with a couple colleagues about the underlying reasons students misbehave. This conversation made me think of my recent wreath experience.

Most likely unbeknownst to anyone at the event, I was truly nervous and uncomfortable when I arrived that evening. And if I didn’t have the ability to persist through my anxieties with an understanding that in the end I was likely to be successful and enjoy the experience, I may have taken a spot on the sidelines or possibly shut myself off from this experience altogether without anyone understanding why. This potential misunderstanding could have led me to additional feelings of fear and isolation.

Though this comparison may seem trivial, my experience got me thinking about how as educators with standards to teach, lessons to create, and progress to monitor (among myriad other responsibilities), it is easy to forget that each of our students bring their own sets of interests, anxieties, experiences, traumas, etc. to school each day. It is this unknown, the why, that often materializes as challenging behaviors in the classroom that we cannot fully comprehend.

Then in the moments of challenging behaviors like withdrawal, refusal to complete tasks, and outbursts to name a few, we can be all too quick to react without considering why the student is behaving in that way. Not only can the why be so easily neglected in the heat of the moment, but a search for the answer takes time and resources and can lead to a strained relationship with the student or to heartbreaking answers. This can trigger us to build walls for our own protection, along with the reasoning that we have a number of other students who deserve our time and interest.

Yet, I believe it is necessary that we remain compassionate, knock down our walls, and fervently seek out a deeper understanding of the why behind our students’ behaviors. And because the why can be multifaceted and very complex - while still so integral to our understanding and ability to provide proper support - remember that it’s okay to ask for help.

Seek out the programs, resources, parents/guardians, professionals and colleagues in your building or district, in addition to further training. A collaborative approach will ease the burden and better ensure a thorough understanding of the student’s experiences and needs. For it is in this why, that we have the opportunity to replace these behaviors, empower students with the necessary tools to feel secure and in control, and make the difference that so many of us set out to do as educators.
 
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A Universally Designed Thanksgiving Gathering

black raspberry pie
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! The Sharritt’s have already stuffed themselves once last Sunday as we hosted my husband’s Kincaid cousins, and we’re on our way to Lansing today to feast with our daughter Grace, her husband Chris, and their family of choice at their church.


I hope you are on your way to a gathering filled with love, moist turkey, and many kinds of pie. It’s a time for human to human contact, something we may feel a little uneasy about in these days of personal interaction mediated by devices. We’ve been seeing Cousin Cyndi’s baking wins and fails all year on Pinterest, and now it’s time to sit down and actually break some honey twist bread with her. Uncle Mickey has been lurking on Facebook all year, and while we haven’t seen him, he’ll know much about what we’ve been up to by monitoring our newsfeed.


It is a new and ever-changing social dynamic we’re all figuring out together. I thought I’d share some tools I’ve discovered as a Specialist for
PATINS that might help you navigate this tricky digitally disposed world.


There are many apps designed to help folks who struggle with social skills. And I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing like a family gathering to make you feel like your social skills have been set back a couple of decades. A Jeopardy-style game called 10 Ways helps students learn to recognize idioms, sarcasm (also known in our family as decoding what Uncle Roger is saying), and how to start a conversation, among other things. These are mainly developed for people with autism, but who among us couldn’t benefit from choosing “listening for 400” or “personal space for 100” and learning some pointers to help us improve at getting along?

gameboard for 10 ways app showing the categories body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, personal space, and eye contact

Working with students who have blindness or low vision, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to help these kids find ways to interpret social situations without the benefit of seeing body language and facial expressions. A new viewing device called the
OrCam helps them to not only read print in their environment (signs, menus, books), but can also be taught to recognize faces of their friends and family. The lens on their special glasses sees who is present when they enter a room, and voices names into the user’s earphones. An app for your phone called Seeing AI does this as well with the phone’s camera, and goes a step further: you can train it to not only recognize “Aunt Ethel” by taking her picture, but you can train it to recognize “Angry Aunt Ethel” and “Happy Aunt Ethel” by taking her picture with those facial expressions. Then when you walk into the kitchen you’ll know if she’s discovered that you broke into the fudge stashed in the pantry before she yells at you.


screen from seeing AI app showing boy aiming his phone at a girl with the text

I don’t have low vision, but this app is helping me to remember which one is Auntie Mid and which one is Auntie Rene (same enormous nose and sweet smile) just by discreetly aiming my phone their way. Honestly, it is helping me keep track of names for folks I may only see a couple times per year at the family dinner. At PATINS we are promoting a movement in education towards
Universal Design for Learning and this app is a good example of how one tool designed for a special need or task can evolve into an improved learning environment for all (including those of us who have 51 first cousins!)


There are new instant captioning apps for the hearing impaired that use voice recognition to put speech into text. This is huge for both students in a classroom, and also for Grandpa who is struggling to hear his granddaughter speak to him over the football game.

There are three major principles for Universal Design for Learning: Engagement, Representation, and Action & Expression. Engagement entails getting someone interested in learning, like this little cheer my son Ben did with his younger cousins to get them get motivated to help dry dishes.

Representation is the practice of presenting content in many different ways. For Thanksgiving, this obviously translates into having as many flavors, colors and textures of pie as possible. You also might want to contrast with a cheesecake or flan.

The final principle, Action & Expression is easily illustrated at any family gathering. Look around the table at the beautiful diversity that came from the same bank of DNA, and embrace all the forms of expression that we have to share what we know.
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New Heights

It’s that time again for me to blog. If you have followed any previous blogs that I have submitted, you might see a pattern. This one is no different.

I have been enthralled with what my grandchildren have shown me as they develop. It is always a surprise to see the growth every time we get together.

Let me first forewarn you that what I am about share might sound scary and, frankly, a little unnerving unless you are somewhat of a risk-taker.

My youngest daughter and son-in-law have three children, two of which I featured in my last blog, Dean and Logan are seven and five respectfully. The youngest is Hazel, a fearless child, that has made every attempt to be as much like her older brothers as possible.

My wife and I were seated in our kitchen one afternoon. Her phone dinged indicating there was a message. She picked it up, looked and shouted, “Oh my gosh, what are they thinking?” She shook her head with her mouth open.

“Look at your granddaughter,” she said as she passed me the phone. What I saw was Hazel in their backyard tree some 15 feet off the ground and my grandsons some branches below.

Dean checking on Hazel's position in the tree.
An aside here, with all the technology available to kid these days, my daughter and son-in-law have encouraged their children to spend as much time outdoors getting physically active. Both parents were raised that way.


Back to Hazel however. We called my daughter at my wife’s encouragement to make sure someone was closely watching her. Hazel seemed to be having fun, and we were reassured that they were keeping a watchful eye on her.

Hazel in the middle of a tree with Dean and Logan on each side
So, what’s that got to do with the earlier warning and my wife’s concern? Hazel just turned two years old in September.


She had no problem climbing or getting down. It was a personal accomplishment, though a little frightening for us, but not for Hazel.

What I took away from this experience was that even though Hazel is two years old, she had the confidence to climb the tree because her brothers had shown her how. She had her parents’ reassurance that they were there if she needed help. She was offered praise and encouragement for her accomplishment. Hazel is determined to not let failure get in her way.

Among other things, building personal self-esteem in students is as important in the classroom as it is outside of the classroom. They need a chance to succeed by placing focus on their strengths and not so much on their weaknesses.

For some students, what they risk in the classroom is not the same risk that Hazel took, but it is just as powerful on another level. Student confidence is extremely important as it encourages them to move to the next goal. Maybe they are somewhat reluctant but knowing what they have accomplished before can carry them on.

Of course, there will be circumstances that will demand courage to meet the challenges with determination but with the proper support, encouragement and enthusiasm, anyone can reach for that higher branch.

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Second Life

Immersive

Last week at our annual Fall Conference, people came up to me at the Access to Technology booth with inquiries. It reminded me of how my professional journey started... with so many questions.

If you didn’t know already, I’m a college student working at PATINS. Saying that my situation in PATINS is new would be inaccurate. Many of you who have been following the PATINS Project for years know that a few college students have come and gone (and stayed) through the PATINS roster.

Characters change and positions are shuffled and a new face is always surprising but not necessarily something new. Second Life isn’t new either.

Second Life has been a part of the Grant since 2009 under the supervision of Daniel McNulty back when he was still a regional specialist, and it has been a part of our Grant ever since. Years later, in 2016, it was in my hands as Virtual Space Manager and I found it a little overwhelming.

I had heard of Second Life a few years before but had never gotten into the world since it was not my preferred creative outlet (I enjoyed the Sims!). Now three-dimensional building had to be more than a pastime, and I wasn’t sure where to start. At first, I didn’t want to change any of it. Daniel had put in so many hours just to make the island what it was. There were some things that needed fixing, and others needed updating, but everything still worked. But how was that different from what we had been doing on the island for the past few years? It was mine now, and no Admin. Asst. title before me had ever gotten this kind of opportunity. How could I make it special for a bunch of people who know so much more about education than me?

I treated this like any other learning opportunity and starting asking a lot of questions. I asked Daniel questions, I asked Julie questions, I asked Sandi questions, and I even bothered Jim. When they answered what they could, I asked the Second Life Community questions about everything else. I traveled to different worlds, discovered different kinds of buildings, and participated in the different actions around the Second Life worlds. I sought out answers and sometimes left with more questions.

If I was a PATINS Specialist in Virtual Space, I would have a finished degree and years of experience. But thankfully I’m not. I am the Manager and a college student. I don’t have all the answers about Second Life and three-dimensional thinking. I have all of the same questions that every learner has, and I’ve made and keep up a space that makes me question how it could change a classroom or a teacher every day.

So how should you use Second Life? I don’t have every answer for that. As Second Life’s community has proven over and over again, there are limitless possibilities for the user looking for entertainment and for the user looking for Education. There are schools devoted to learning more about the virtual environment and there are schools that help with specific subjects. The worlds you visit are built by real people who had the same questions and these are their answers.

To quote what Linden Labs has told me to do a thousand times since I joined Second Life, “EXPLORE”. Explore the world, explore the opportunities that other users have provided, and explore your own creativity. And always... ask so many questions.



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