Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reflection- Reaching and Engaging All Learners Through Technology

Throughout this course, we explored the various tenets of Universal Design for Learning, UDL, and Differentiated Instruction, DI, and identified myriad applications of technology that could aid in the development of UDL and DI lessons.  I was most struck by three main elements of the course, assessment strategies, using technology to share information, and using alternative final projects with technological incorporations.
Drs. Smith and Thorne reviewed the merits and uses of formative, ongoing and final assessments, stating that educators can use up-to-date assessments to understand what must be covered, ensure that they are progressing appropriately through the curriculum, and review the breadth of student learning at the conclusion of the unit of study (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009a).  I have always incorporated various assessments in my classroom, but have found them frustrating to prepare, tedious to correct and cumbersome to inform instruction as I have nearly one hundred students and a fast paced curriculum.  Realizing that technology can automate much of the paperwork aspects of the pre- and ongoing assessments, I am enthusiastic about increasing the frequency of ongoing assessment in my classroom without making more work for me.  As the burden of multiple assessments is lifted, it opens the opportunity for online student surveys that allows teachers to learn about their students as learners, their interests, and learning preferences (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009b).
Mathematics instruction tends to be traditional, lecture-based with rote calculations in class and for homework, and pen and paper tests and quizzes.  I see the potential of alternative instruction and activities, especially with the inclusion of technology.  The presentation aspect of UDL, which encourages various representations of concepts (Rose & Meyer, 2002) is improved dramatically with technology.  Multimedia, web quests, software, excel based graphing lessons, and manipulatable resources on active whiteboards can all allow students to approach the curriculum from an angle that personally resonates with their interests and learning styles.  Additionally, as our students are digital natives, by bringing technology to the classroom, we are speaking our students’ language and engaging them in the way they choose to interact with the world.  If we use technology to meet student interests and needs, we engage them as learners and individuals.
I am most excited about using alternative and technology rich means of sharing understanding.  Though I must administer our grade level common assessments, I have begun to find opportunities for students to show their understanding through various creative means in addition to typical tests and quizzes.  Students can show their understanding of concepts via the creation of infographics, VoiceThreads, PowerPoint presentations, slideshows, podcasts, digital drawings, movie makers, and various other resources.  Once created, students can share their work on blogs, wikis, and hosting sites, or they can use the blogs and wikis to share their learning in written and/or visual formats.  We acknowledge that math is more than computations in a vacuum and is more applicable and understandable in a real world context, but we continue to test in traditional methods.  This course has shown me the vast means of expressing curriculum concepts in alternative manners than just traditional assessments.
Our students are digital natives and they will enter a workplace in the future that will undoubtedly incorporate various technologies.  Not only can we prepare our students for this environment, but also we can improve interest and engagement and create meaningful learning experiences by incorporating technology.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009a). Assessing Students [Motion picture]. Enhancing learning through linguistic and cultural diversity. Baltimore: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009b). Learner Differences [Motion picture]. Enhancing learning through linguistic and cultural diversity. Baltimore: Author.
Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Retrieved from 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What can you do with Google Docs?