Shabby Miss Jenn

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Universal Design for Learning--Day 2, Part 1

The Inclusion Works Conference is geared for parents and professionals, with a pretty strong emphasis on professionals. Math is not my strong suit, but if I were to guess, I'd say the big ball room consisted of about 75% professionals, 25% parents. I was strongly encouraged to attend as a parent because knowledge is power.  If I know what teachers are being taught about inclusion, I am better equipped to help guide my own school district.

The mornings started out with a general topic over breakfast for an hour. Afterward, we were able to choose the breakout sessions that we wanted to attend. There was one session before lunch and two sessions after lunch. I ended up opting for sessions that could really benefit professionals and parents. While co-teaching is exciting, I really didn't want to sit through a session on how to implement it in the classroom since I'm no longer a teacher:-)

Thursday's breakfast session was an "Eavesdrop on the Experts". While eating some yummy, cheesy egg casserole, three amazing women in the field talked amongst themselves about some things they are excited about in regards to teaching and inclusion. If you aren't familiar with Dr. Paula Kluth, Dr. Wendy Murawski, and Dr. Lisa Dieker, I highly recommend looking them up. And if you ever have the opportunity to hear them speak, you should go! We also received a copy of the not yet released book Collaborate, Communicate, and Differentiate! by Wendy Murawski and Sally Spencer. It focuses on increasing learning in students across the board, including those with special needs.

The first breakout session I attended was "Universal Design for Learning: Providing Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Students", facilitated by Kirk Behnke. I think the most important information I walked away with from that session is that in order to modify the curriculum, you have to accommodate the student. That student is not necessarily a student with disabilities. The bottom line is, we all learn differently. Some of us are visual learners, others are auditory. Some of us need to move around while we work, some of us need peace and quiet. In order to be an effective teacher, the material needs to be presented in multiple ways. In effect, the knowledge of the students needs to be assessed in multiple ways. By doing this, teachers are creating an atmosphere in which every student can be successful. It's the essence of UDL.  To me, it's the perfect way to include kids with disabilities in the general ed environment.  To get a better understanding of what I'm trying to say, look here.  

I also think technology plays a HUGE role in classrooms today.  Educators need to accept and incorporate technology into the curriculum.  Technology is such an easy accommodation for kids with disabilities.  And how exciting if everyone in the class has the same accommodation???  Then the students with disabilities don't stand out like a sore thumb!  The following video spoke volumes.  It was kind of like my "a-ha" moment in how to successfully integrate students of every ability level in one classroom.  We're all different.  Why are we all expected to learn the same way?


*  Handouts for all of the sessions from Inclusion Works can be found here.


jocalyn said...

thanks again!!

Jenn said...

ahh! I LOVE this!! as a homeschooler, I get so much "but he should be in a classroom" If classrooms around here would "get it" like this video does, maybe he would be there!

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