Final Reflections - Teaching with Technology

The course, Teaching with Technology, has taught me how to integrate technology in all aspects of education for all students. I teach technology, so, for me, technology is integrated in every aspect of my class from daily blogs to exams. I have drug a few of my fellow technology teachers along in that they are now paperless, as I am. But, even as I work with technology each and everyday, I did not consider the students in my class or school who struggle with using technology, namely those who are hearing impaired or blind. Our campus has many students with special needs, including language barriers and handicapping conditions. These students must have access to the same high standards that the State expects for all students we serve. "The challenge posed by greater diversity and greater accountability is to enable students with widely divergent needs, skills, and interests to attain the same high standards (Rose and Myer, 2002) [1]." We must be flexible in designing lessons for the individual needs of students with special needs. As teachers, we must use Universal Design for Learning's power and flexiblity to include all students, regardless of ability, in the education process[2].

My task for the group project was to create a lesson for the blind and hearing impaired students in the class. Many teachers do not have blind or hearing impaired students in class. Most blind or hearing impaired students have educational aides to help translate information or take notes. Teachers need to know how to effectively work with blind and hearing impaired students. Teachers are prepared for to work with slow learners and modify appropriately. Teachers also know how to work with students in wheel chairs or that have modality issues or those who may be hearing impaired, and again, make necessary changes for these students. This year I had a legally blind student; he was later removed because the assignments required meticulous work from a textbook that is not available on tape. Professional development is required to teach how to create an electronic book. The CAST UDL site is a good place to start. For my part of the assignment, I incorporated text to speak in my electronic book to accommodate the blind and hearing impaired students in the class. "The text-to-speech feature in UDL Editions is an excellent example providing options for visual information. Press "play" in the toolbar to hear the story read aloud. This feature not only benefits students who are blind or visually impaired, but students who are struggling readers or who are English Language Learners as well [3]." In addition to text-to-speech, the UDL site offers captioning which will help all students. I am using CAST Book Builder in my Web Mastering classes. At this point students are only creating a vocabulary book. And, they are having fun creating these books! Later, I may have them expand their books to include other technical and design information.

The lesson plan I created using UDL was different than any I have created. Our district has a lesson plan template which includes Warm-up, Procedures, and Closure. The lesson plan created using UDL was more in-depth; I do not know if I would, realistically, want to create this every week. It is not that it is more than we already have to do, it just makes you think more about what you want students to know and be able to do at the end of a lesson or unit. Also, UDL forces you to focus on the needs of all students in the class, not just those who are going to get it, but those who will need extra support to get it. "Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.[4]" Before learning about UDL lesson plans, I have never considered adding additional resources to my lesson plans. Nor have I ever added an anticipatory set to the lesson. UDL would be a lot of additional work for teachers, but it is worth it to ensure that every students' educational and learning needs are met. I think that the UDL lesson plan forces teachers to really think about what will happen in their classroom. Even a substitute teacher can teach a UDL lesson designed by the teacher.

Collaborating with peers was helpful in this class. As teachers, we must collaborate when creating lesson plans so that everyone is teaching the same thing at the same time. I learned that time and place do not need to hinder collaboration. My collaborators worked in different schools and cities. We were able to meet, online, once a week or more if needed. We created Team 5364 Web site[5] which has our chat logs, lesson plans, and reflections. Each person brought something unique to the group. I intend to continue to use UDL Book Builder with my classes. I cannot commit to the lesson plan, but it is a valuable resource that needs to be shared with other teachers. I think that teachers are challenged to meet the needs of all students, no matter what. This class made me stop and reflect on that; are all of my students learning?

[1] Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Available online at the Center for Applied Special Technology Web site. Chapter 1. Retrieved on October 5, 2009, from http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/
[2]Lessonbuilder.cast.org (nd). Principles of Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved on Oct. 5, 2009 from http://lessonbuilder.cast.org/window.php?src=videos
[3]National Center on Universal Design for Learning. Checkpoint 1.3: Offer alternatives for visual information. (3/15/2011) Retrieved on March 22, 2011 from http://www.udlcenter.org/implementation/examples/examples1_3
[4]About UDL (n.d.) Retrieved March 11, 2011 from http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html
[5]Team 5364. Teaching with Technology Project. (2011, March) https://sites.google.com/site/team5364/