Selamat Datang!!

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I know I am not alone in flocking to local restaurants serving Malaysian cuisine. Here on the west coast we are spoiled… and currently am awaiting my party at The Banana Leaf.

Upon opening their menu, I could help my eye to be drawn to their welcome page shown above.

What a welcome! I mean it probably helps that I’m starving, love coconut rice and am about to give them money.

As I turn the pages, however, I notice something else too. The menu pages are filled with tasting menus and a fusion of combinations neither labeling nor categorizing, but instead showing how these different cultures have influenced their dishes… constructing something new.

Imagine if this is how we viewed diversity in schools. Imagine if, instead of compartmentalizing students into special needs categories, income brackets, behavioural tendencies and ESL levels, we looked to these instead as lenses or influences. Influences that are honoured, and bring everyone together within the community to create and construct something new.

It would no longer be “my kids” and “your kids” or “those kids” and “these kids” … But our kids. This is us.

This is diversity. Where everyone comes from strength. Where everyone can contribute. Where the goal is learning from each other… not tolerating each other. A fusion of experience and knowledge, creating something new.

Perhaps a school like that could have a welcome page too, and perhaps it could sound a little something like this…

Welcome to your school! We are happy to have you here and hope to share with you the finest learning opportunities that this world has to offer! Known as the crossroads of culture, ability and experience, diversity is what makes our school so great. So may we suggest some construction of learning, where every student grows as soon as they are ready, and sharing is among the community. Learning is our goal and so allow us to transport you from what you know to what you can know, in the warm heart of your classroom.

Let’s strive for this. And until then, I’m going to eat some coconut rice.

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Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday

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I am an inclusive teacher. I believe in inclusion both philosophically and personally. That being said, as much as I believe that students learn best with their peers, I also understand the need for time where some students receive explicit and targeted instruction. Having additional opportunities, for example, for some students to address developmentally appropriate literacy and numeracy goals can compliment inclusive classroom learning and assist in students being more successful when working with peers. Some students may also have additional goals that are irrelevant, and sometimes inappropriate to be contextualized within the general education classroom. Students may have physical or speech therapy, or need instruction around toileting, where location needs to be considered for effectiveness, and to maintain the integrity of the students. Although inclusion is valued and philosophically strived for, having opportunities for explicit instruction in some areas can reinforce transfer and personalization when students come back into contextualized classrooms.

Regardless of where students are located when receiving inclusive instruction, the question becomes not where they are learning, but what are they doing within each context. The difficulty in any setting however, is how to match instruction to our students’ needs in general, let alone setting up programming for students who often are difficult to assess diagnostically to help set goals in the first place. I myself am guilty of attempting to provide explicit programming for my students in both classrooms and resource room settings, trying to appropriately match individual goals of 10 or more students, and feel at the end of the day, like nothing was meaningful at all.

When looking at research-based practices, it is supported and intuitive to conclude that the more opportunity a person has to practice skills in multiple settings, the more a learner retains it. In addition to this, however, activities that meet multiple goals at once are an efficient way to meet these needs when working with multiple students with diverse needs. This not only provides the time for deeper learning, but also addresses the assumption that teaching is simply ensuring coverage of a lot of content over short period of time. I struggled for this for years, and then I walked into another Kindergarten classroom. I love Kindergarten.

If you ever walk into a kindergarten room I guarantee you will find in the corner a wall covered with a calendar, a graph labeled with pictures of suns and clouds and if in Vancouver, a lot of rain. Counting sticks numbering 100 days of school, lyrics of songs for learning the days of the week, pictures of the classroom helper, the lucky recipient of this week’s show and tell, amongst many other morning routine activities.

Of all the different Kindergarten classrooms, isn’t it amazing how they all do these activities in some way or another? It is more than just educational standards and curriculum guiding these teachers through these routines. A major concern for any teachers is making sure they “cover” the curriculum. The beauty of kindergarten and this deeply established calendar and routine systems, is that these standards are planned in exactly the opposite way. When looking at the BC educational standards for kindergarten, for example, it doesn’t take long to see that many of the activities that students participate in during these morning routine systems cover more than one curricular standard at any given moment in time.Image

Taking a look at a matrix which cross-references the prescribed learning outcomes in the BC kindergarten curriculum, with activities in a morning routine, you can see how rich these activities are as they address multiple goals in cross curricular areas. It becomes clear, how inefficient teaching can become then, when it is planned as a linear sequential checking off standards. Working with students on one goal at a time, is not only boring, but also exhausting for teachers who are trying to keep up with students at different levels meeting goals at different paces within a given time frame. Kindergarten is such an excellent example of NOT doing this. These morning routine systems are worked on and practiced everyday, and because they are planned so effectively, these students are also being deeply embedded in these goals throughout the year. In addition to practice, having an activity meet multiple goals, it is much more manageable for teachers to increase complexity enough to challenge students who learn quickly, while at the same time still creating access and continuing to build on prior knowledge of students who need extra time and practice. A reminder of how all teachers should view curriculum and planning, the efficient and effective way of not only ensuring “coverage” of standards, but also the quality of understanding them.

my dog.

For example:

Working with the class on a calendar and guiding them through counting activities and identifying ‘today, tomorrow and yesterday’, addresses up to 15 separate prescribed learning outcomes, in 7 different curricular domains. For more example check out the matrix here.

This method, to me, was the exact solution I needed for my own classroom. Rather than planning multiple activities for individual students, I could plan one activity that met multiple goals. I could finally go home before the sunset and hang out with my dog!!

In reflecting on my own classroom, where my expectation was to provide this explicit instruction in a meaningful and appropriate way to students with developmental disabilities who ranged in age from 12-19, I moved to thinking about the content of these kindergarten routines and activities. It seemed the goals of these routines were just as relevant to my students, and a great context to embed literacy and numeracy skills as well. Thinking about my students’ own experience in kindergarten, I can imagine they simply were just not ready to learn these routines with their peers. At the time, many of my students’ program goals were behaviorally based because they were learning ‘how’ to go to school. It doesn’t make these skills, however, irrelevant. For many students, gone are the days of learning concepts of ‘today, tomorrow and yesterday’ (and other meaningful primary concepts), if the student with developmental disabilities is in a grade 8 science class.

Just because these concepts are no longer being taught in the current classrooms of students over the age of 10, it doesn’t mean the concepts should no longer be taught. These relevant skills are perfect examples of the life skill type goals that students could benefit from long beyond the years of their formal schooling.

These goals were perfect for my students. The problem was that the commercial resources available for teaching these skills look like this:

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There is a HUGE hole in age appropriate resources for students whose cognitive challenges are greater than their peers. Plastering a high school classroom, in a pull out resource room or otherwise, with a giant pink and purple calendars covered in bumble bees, are far from desirable to grade 9 boys. Cognitively disabled or not, I have heard on numerous occasions from my students, “this is for babies.”

The frustrating part for me was, when viewed within an age appropriate context, classroom routine systems could be an excellent way to expose students with special needs to information and interests of their peers. In addition, exposing my students to new ideas and topics is something critical in helping them evolve past interests typically associated with younger children (e.g. blues clues, Barbie, fisher price pianos etc.).

In addition, my goal when designing these age appropriate and cognitively appropriate activities was not only such that the stigma attached to them is gone, but to try to make them appealing to age appropriate peers as well. I know that an activity is successful when my students with special needs have not only engaged in it, but the rest of the class also wants to participate.

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A great example was when we introduced a hockey playoff pool to group of students with developmental disabilities in a high school. Regardless of whether this was a familiar sport, we realized that the students could engage in many aspects of this topic; locations of the teams, mascots, colours, uniforms, players etc. Some students chose their teams based on statistics, others chose teams based on the proximity to Disneyland. We were also able to embed numeracy goals such as more/less, counting and values of numbers 1-5 using the scores; as well as address some literacy goals using team name, player names, logos etc. as the vehicle. The success in meeting goals didn’t just end there, every morning when we gathered to find out which teams had won, the 4 classes surrounding our resource room, all gathered as well. We quickly drafted up pcs symbols and voting charts and within days, we had over 50 members of our pool voting daily in this age appropriate AND cognitively appropriate activity. A highlight was when a parent called chuckling, sharing how the night before, his son with autism, walked into the living room and for the first time asked, “hey dad, what’s the score?”

Creating these activities with both peer and cognitive factors in mind, student’s motivation and confidence are built in both domains. Many challenges I faced early in my career, was a barrier in either one or both of these factors. If an activity was designed based on the students’ level of cognitive ability, but did not consider the students’ interests and the interests of their peers, students would quickly display a lack of motivation, confidence and/or agreement of the task. A similar scenario would exist when the interests were considered, but the task was not designed to address the students’ zone of proximal development.

The big question evolved to: How could I design tasks which addressed cognitively appropriate goals while at the same time embedding age appropriate interests of the students AND their peers?

Routine systems can be implemented in many different ways in schools of every grade. I have seen these systems in pull out resource rooms, in inclusive classes, and built up as strategic social grouping with a combination of students with and without disabilities. The older the student is in age the more age appropriate considerations need to be taken.

When designing these activities then, the names, the look, the content, the resources and thesupplies all need to be presented in a way that would be considered appropriate for the students as well as their peers. The first step we decided in making these changes was to streamline the traditional commercial materials, looking at these products minus the pastel colours and cartoon animals, and viewing them as what the essential core goal would be. We bought rolls of electrical tape from the dollar store and went to work on the white board. To our luck, all of the whiteboards in our district are also magnetic, so this became the backdrop of our routine system and on it we used the electrical tape to organize the space for the variety of activities that could be created.

ImageRecently, I have been working in a resource room, program planning for 3 students with developmental disabilities in grade 8 and 9. Although we are working towards them being included into classes with their peers, because most of the students’ schooling careers were in isolation with an educational assistant, their immediate goals were addressing the initial steps of working first in a small group instructional setting.

They were a perfect example of a group of students who could benefit from the goals and
activities of morning routines established in a primary setting, but who needed the age appropriate context of a high school.Image

As a part of their program, we designed their day with a ‘class meeting’ (instead of ‘carpet time’) setting the stage for their day. An ‘agenda of the day’ (instead of ‘shape of the day’) and within this structure, we planned a variety of activities that we aimed to meet multiple cognitively appropriate goals as well as address age appropriate interests and topics relevant to their peers.

You will see many similarities between these activities to those in primary classrooms, but notice how the names and look have been changed to make them appropriate for high school settings.

When looking specifically at students with developmental disabilities, we all know how the cognitive gap for these students increase exponentially as their grade level increases with their peers. Closing this gap is the job of teachers, support staff and families. Routine systems are an example of how we can do that, but commercial products alone cannot be depended on to meet our students’ needs.

For more information about calendar systems and routines, check out:

Koralek, D. (2008). Teaching and Learning through Routines and Transitions. YC Young Children. 63(3). 10.

Squires, J. (2009). Use of Embedded Learning Opportunities within Daily Routines by Early Learning Teachers. International Journal of Apecial Education 24(2).

Tunde Szecsi , Joohi Lee , Joo Ok Lee & Jill Fox (2009): Teaching Strategies: Time Here, Time There, Time Everywhere: Teaching Young Children Time through Daily Routine, Childhood Education, 85:3, 191-192.

I see a difference… Can you see a difference?

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This is a Christmas card from Robbie, one of my students. When I got it, I took one look at the two bubbly yellow characters with ears right on the top of their head and said, “Wow, those are really nice…. bears.” He quickly and sharply corrected me saying, “No No No Ms.Moore, those are people and it’s me and it’s you can’t you tell by their hair look mine is orange and spikey and yours looks like Justin Bieber.” Other than the stutter, it was said exactly like this; no pauses, one breath, rocking body… picture it.

I never made that mistake again. I quickly learned which “bear” was me, as I received 7 more of these cards for every year I ever worked with him (and will probably continue to receive). A yellow line on the top of the card, an orange line down the right side, the Robbie and Ms. Moore bears in the top left corner and its painstakingly consistent message inside reading, “Dear Ms. Moore Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy my card. I like you Ms. Moore. From Robbie.” Every. Single. Year.

I should also mention how his lack of muscle tone and fine motor skill difficulty prevents him from writing curves, presenting his freehand drawings and written communication to others, as an invented cryptic language, consisting of a series of up and down lines and no spaces… which he could totally read.

As sweet as this sounds, the increase of perseveration resulting from the anxiety developing immediately following Halloween became overwhelming. The looming deadline would distract him and decrease his learning capacity exponentially, until we finally realized that in November and December, scheduling “card making” time during his day saved the sanity of Robbie, his family and everyone working with him. As Christmas got closer, however, he always somehow found a way to re-create these time consuming hand made Christmas cards, for every important person in his life. The structured rules in his brain making sense of the continuum of relationships by separating his family’s and friend’s cards with the closing “I love you” and the latter respectfully substituting, “love” for “like”… these cards could easily number in the 50s.

I tell you this story, not to describe how and why it could be difficult to work with Rob, but more to give you an idea of what his brain is like, restricted by the boundaries he has been forced to create to cope in, what many refer to as, “the real world.” Robbie’s secondary symptoms, common to individuals who have Prader-Willis, involve Obsessive Compulsive tendencies, which trap him (and his family) into routines which most of us will neither experience nor understand. I admire his structure, routine and ability to manage his life, among a giant universe of inconsistencies and the forever changing rules and expectations placed on him to fit into this “real world” by typical and able-bodied people. From my (and many others’) perspective, he has done phenomenally.

I am sure one can imagine what Robbie’s Individual Education Plan would look like. Traditional, category specific goals around self advocacy, awareness of disability and self regulation followed him for all of his schooling which is valuable, don’t get me wrong, but meant little to teachers who were teaching him art, science or really anything outside of the resource room setting.

A few years ago Rob brought me his report card. It was a piece of paper cresting the school’s symbol and motto, listing his name, his courses and the amount of times he was late and/or absent. Looking down his course list, where on a typical report card percentages and letter grades were housed communicating a students progress, Robbie’s course progress markings included (and were limited to) asterisks, a perfect 100%, a single line which stated “see comments attached,” or the most common, just left blank. Attached however, to the back of this report card, were rarely comments, let alone any description of progress of Robbie’s performance in any course or content expectations outside of resource room and traditional special educational programming. Progress was arbitrarily limited to “he’ll get something out of it,” but no one (including myself) really had any idea what that “it” was.

For a school (and district) priding itself on inclusion of exceptional students, this infuriated me. After my initial freak out of, “What is wrong with you people?!?!?!” I realized that it wasn’t that the teacher didn’t want to assess these kids or give them an ethical report card, but that they had no idea how. The goals on Robbie’s (and other low incident student’s) Individual Education Plan (IEP), had little or nothing to do with the content of the courses they were in. In secondary schools, juggling 30 plus students (special education or otherwise) in 7 or 8 blocks quickly adding up to the responsibility of up to 240 students is common. Attempting to provide them all with meaningful programming around their grade and course level Performance Standards, understandably leaves the keeping track of and reporting on toileting routines a low priority.

This also does not take into consideration the factor that 99% of these teachers may have only received the single required special education course taken by teachers in university, which simply extends their pedagogy of special education to DSM IV labels and diagnoses. Differentiation strategies (at least when I attended) included in the lesson plans created by my fellow future teaching leaders, was simply a single line at the bottom stating, “I’ll pair them up with the bright kids.”

Although pre-teacher training in post secondary institutions are getting significantly better in preparing educators to respond to and plan for classes of diverse students including those with high incidence disabilities (learning disabilities, English as a second Language, behaviour, reading and writing difficulties etc.); Teachers are still not provided sufficient background knowledge on how to differentiate, adapt and modify content for the students with the most significant needs, including Autism, Down’s Syndrome, students with multiple disabilities, Deaf-Blindness etc. Clearly a frustrating factor, with inclusion being expected for many of these teachers in schools today, as a result, these students’ inclusive experience in secondary settings are limited to greetings and taking attendance before being pulled out, a few minutes in Phys. Ed and (if an amazingly supportive teacher is found) minor participation in elective classes (Home Ec, Art, Wood working etc.).

Don’t even get me started on academic classes like science and social studies…. I’ll save that blog for another day.

This is a great time to acknowledge the incredible educational assistants (EAs) who make ANY of this possible. If these students ARE given the opportunity to attend a class with their typical peers, it is these incredible individuals who are often the ones doing goal-less modifications and adaptions on the fly to help these students participate as meaningfully as possible, whether it is their contract of roles and responsibilities or not.

To begin to tackle this issue in our school, I went on a hunt for a teacher. I needed a teacher who was willing to spend some time with me to try and create some explicit goals around a particular content area…and where did I go? Straight to the art room! I didn’t have the diagnostic assessment necessary that could clarify specific goals he needed in Art, simply because they don’t exist; BUT I did have… the Christmas card. A great piece of evidence that could be used as a baseline performance-based assessment, to help determine some Art related goals. I reviewed the Christmas cards, and made a list of ideas that looked something like this:

Possible goals for Robbie:

  1. Consider an audience when writing- i.e. type messages instead of writing
  2. Use a color photocopier to decrease the amount of time and mass produce the parts of the cards that are the same
  3. Photocopy templates where he could insert information easily
  4. Take and use photos of him with the person the card is directed to

All of these ideas, I thought, would help ease his anxiety and perhaps help him enjoy the pre-Christmas excitement that happens the 4 weeks before the holiday break.

As I contemptuously brought my list of ideas down to the Art teacher, I was all ready to review them and see how we could incorporate them into her program, thinking this would be a great way to inclusively provide a direction for Robbie’s program in Art. I am wondering right now if you the reader can see where this is going? Clearly, I DID NOT.

Within 1 minute, Mrs. Shelling looked at the Christmas card and said, “Oh, well he needs to work on filling up white space, using a variety of shades and colours, and background and foreground.” There you have it. We now had goal, and none of them were mine. What I had failed to realize was, that although my intention was to include him meaningfully in this Art class, I missed the entire purpose of my quest; none of my goals were content related.

This was the moment I realized the value of collaboration. Although, as his case-manager, I knew inside and out the inner most workings of Robbie’s category related program, I was neither an Art expert, nor had the background knowledge and lens for which to view Robbie’s Christmas card to determine the Art related goals he needed. I could easily have been deflated, but rather was thrilled. I got it! I NEEDED these teachers, just as much as they needed me. I did not in fact, know everything.

After this simple three minute conversation, we (not I) were able to draft up an Art specific Individual Education Plan, we later coined, “One-page IEP” for Rob, which was content related and now a guide for both the teacher and the educational assistant. With a purpose to the activities, everyone now knew what to focus on, while participating in and completing the assignments along side their age appropriate peers.

A perfect example of inquiry, this concept snowballed, and we started to compile together one-page content IEPs for students who were modified and included in secondary classes. The amount of time in classes, work output and student independence increased exponentially. The EA’s loved it, and the teachers started to get involved. These IEPs became relevant, the teachers became invested, and these simplified content goals started to become the universally designed and enduring understandings that everyone in the class could benefit from seeing and understandings as well.

In my 7 year tenure, our school went from 0% to 100% teacher participation in goal development, implementation and/or assessment of modified students with developmental disabilities included in their secondary content classes. The One-Page IEP listed the goals, and eventually evolved to include a rubric to assess student progress. Parents started to receive report cards that read, “see comments attached,” and there would be not only a comment, but also a rich description of the activities, progression of students, and now an entire new set of data to help determine goals for the following year.

This became our departments mission, to continue to develop the goals to make inclusion of these students meaningful, starting first with electives and eventually moving onto academic subjects. A sustainable concept, which is still going strong, 2 years post my departure. There is nothing more satisfying that seeing the torch being passed and continued, brilliantly I will add, by my successor and former team members.

So…Did it work? Did Robbie learn? Did he achieve his individually set goals for his Art class? Well, I will leave you with this. A picture submitted to the school’s annual silent art auction fundraiser. A perfect summative assessment and piece of evidence used to communicate to his parents when report card time came around, that Robbie did indeed, exceed expectations. Filling up white space, using a variety of colour, considering background and foreground. Check. Check. Check.

Despite the fact that I had to fork out $325 well deserved dollars to get this piece of art to hang in my office, it is a great example of the effects of collaboration and the simple belief that indeed, everyone can learn. More importantly, however, it is Robbie’s own way of telling me that, there is absolutely nothing about his cards that needs to be changed; for I am one of at least fifty proud people, who every year, await our cherished Robbie’s Bear Christmas Cards.

Everything I need to know (about Universal Design), I learned in Kindergarten.

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I remember the day I learned about Universal Design. A framework whose influence extends (and originates) far beyond education. I have attended numerous workshops since, but the one example that still resonates with me, is the image of the ramp in construction and building design.

I am quickly taken back to the high school I attended. A monstrous brick building constructed in 1957, housing over 2000 students in central Alberta. I remember being in grade 10, when construction was being done to retrofit a stairwell to accommodate a student attending who was in a wheelchair. The commotion (and cost) that this created made it obvious to even the students, as to why this wasn’t considered in the original plans of the building. This exact idea is the main principle of Universal Design. We would be hard pressed to find a building constructed in recent years without a ramp or an elevator designed in the blueprints from the beginning, assisting not only the users in wheelchairs (who the supports are designed for) but also benefiting mothers with strollers, 12 year olds with skateboards and dogs with sore hips.

If you extend this metaphor to represent learning in schools, teachers become authorized to view supports and strategies which may have been designed for one learner, but can aid in supporting many learners.

I was fortunate this year, to work with a lovely Kindergarten class in Richmond, British Columbia. I spent a couple days with this group, including attending my first 100 day party (and even made my own hat)!! I remember drawing trees resembling that of Dr. Seuss, with a single strip of blue sky along the top of my page in Kindergarten, but this class was like a kindergarten wonderland. Paying particular attention to the emotional development of her students, this young teacher is already a master at fostering cooperation as well as self reflection in her 5 year old companions to promote conflict resolution and social responsibility in these little humans.

On one particular day, I was there to observe the centres in the afternoon (which by the way should totally have a place in classrooms WAY beyond kindergarten!) Kids flocked to the sand table, unpacked the plastic fruit from the house corner, built un-wavering structures from lego, raced timeless toy cars and cozied up in a corner with a pillow and a picture book. All students engaged, not with pencils, papers, chairs and tables… but with play.

I was called in to observe and support one little guy , who was identified with special needs. As with many students, explicit instruction in social skill development is beneficial, and often students need additional attention paid to structure and opportunities to practice these skills. What I noticed immediately, however, was how the teacher utilized these strategies to support not only her student with special needs, but how she used these strategies to support ALL of her students. Examples of these Universally Designed practices were all over her room. Visual count down clocks, transition strips and clear visuals were available for everyone to see and use. Choices offered to students for centres and where to sit, allowed students to start managing and recognizing what supports they need, and promote this beginning self regulation of their own learning. What was also important to note was that none of these supports included an educational assistant. The “assistant” instead, was in the design of the class.

To further support this particular identified student, we thought that some additional steps in “how to clean up,” centres beyond the general class clean up cue would be helpful. We decided that having an additional visual cue outlining clean up procedures in no more than 3-steps, could help facilitate this student to be clear about the expectation, and as well, prevent some behaviour which was occurring during this less structured time. It didn’t take long, however, to realize the benefit to not only this student, but to all the students, again reinforcing the teacher’s commitment to responding to the needs of her diverse learners.

What I loved about visiting this class, even in my short time with them, was the clear philosophy regarding diversity. Immediately seeing benefits of supports and how they could be used to in terms of all students’ learning, there was no concern (or air time) for un-fairness, or the “othering” mentality of us vs. them. This class is a great example of a teacher simply educating her students… all of them and a working model of inclusion.

Universal Design is a philosophy, and (I am convinced) once adopted, both a more effective and efficient means to educate students. There are so many retrofitted lessons and activities surrounding us as educators; and just as archaic brick buildings are modified, trying to force students into pre existing formulas and structures, can be costly and disruptive.

These students are fortunate to benefit from such a clear rationale of supporting diversity; learning from each others’ strengths and responding to their stretches, regardless of label, category or funding allocations.

A big thank you to this class, for reaffirming, despite our year of tensions and over stretched resources, that meaningful inclusion is possible.

For more information on Universal Design for Learning, CEC (council for Exceptional Children) has published a great reference text.

In and Out and…

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I am using the following framework to help me classify the Apps I am reviewing on the App-tastic page, as well in general planning for my students. IPO (as the techies refer) is often used as a logic and design framework.  I, on the other hand, am using it to refer to our brain…which is kind of like a computer…So I think it works. Hopefully you will find it helpful in not just App searching, but in the everyday. I personally use this strategy (although my mother would argue not enough)  to remember, learn, plan for and teach new information.

Input: 

I have used this term to simply describe the information going into our heads.  We all input information through our senses, and as one would imagine, the more senses in action…the more information goes in.  This is the basic premise for many education programs and frameworks including, but definitely not limited to, Multiple Intelligences, Differentiated Instruction, Universal Design for Learning and is especially utilized when working with students with special needs who may experience deficits in one or more of their senses. It is also no surprise then why the iPad is so popular when working with these groups (and with individuals over 70 :)). It automatically takes these factors into consideration in it’s design (e.g. visual, kinaesthetic, auditory, interpersonal etc.) In terms of the iPad and, I have included apps which could be used as a source of input relying on these characteristics.

Process:

OK this is the hard part. Just because information goes into out head, doesn’t mean it stays there. How many times does someone tell you a number, or a name and immediately after you have heard it you can’t remember.  I don’t know about you, but I can also include appointments, locations, and where I put my keys.  There are many strategies one can implement, however, to promote the “stickiness” of this information.  My good friend Leyton Schnellert taught me the importance of connecting new information to other experiences, either real or fictional, to help information make sense to us. He would probably actually use the term “connecting” as another step in this process as essential when planning for teaching. Other strategies include practicing it, manipulating it, teaching others, sorting, classifying… the list could go on.  I wish I knew this in high school when I spent class after class taking notes and then when the bell went, I closed my book and ran to the cafeteria and/or gymnasium. If I was lucky I would find my notes again at the end of the term crushed in a ball at the bottom of my locker when I had to actually show what I knew on some sort of assessment, in which case I would then attempt to relearn it all, sometimes up to 3 months later!!!  which nicely leads me into the next section… (yes, I was totally THAT kid).

Output:

Ok teachers, hopefully you have not forgotten the previous step and provided the formative assessment required for students to actually show you what they know.  Output tools can be used to help communicate or present information to others in regards to something someone has learned.  For example, a powerpoint presentation, voice output, recordable stories as well as, just a way for someone to assess a particular skill. Often times I find it particularly difficult to assess my students who who are non verbal, or communicate in ways other than my own method. On those occasions, when I need to enter their world for a moment, I find the iPad a great mediator as, there all of a sudden, becomes a method of expression for the individual that includes more than speaking and writing…with a pencil…that they hate…and then they throw at me. Sigh, I love them.

Meet Daniel.

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One thing I want to share on this site are some stories of some remarkable people who have crossed my path.  One that immediately comes to mind, is the story of Daniel.  A humbling and profound moment which I continually draw on.  An amazing individual who taught me more in 5 minutes than my entire undergrad.  AND to support my non-linear brain…created in COMIC LIFE (which if you don’t know about…you should explore immediatley). Enjoy.

Storywheel

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So part of my new job is travelling to schools and assisting them in utilizing technology as a tool to support diverse learners. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with 3 lovely educators at Errington Elementary in Richmond, BC. Together we looked at the school’s newly purchased iPad and we shared apps to help students in their primary classrooms. One stood out called “Storywheel.” This particular app is a tool that can be used to assist oral language development as well as for those writers who may need a scaffold to get those ideas flowing (and we all have some of those!).

At it’s basic (and free) level, the storywheel is filled with random picture prompts. At a small cost, themed wheels can be purchased (e.g. space, pirates etc.). Players spin the wheel and record part of the story using the picture as a cue. Once that section is recorded, the storywheel is passed to the next player and the process is repeated. players an be from 1-4 players and up to 12 sections, and by the end, the entire story is played back and paired with the animated picture prompts.

I have used this app with small groups of Kindergarten students as well as an opening community builder activity with a group of teachers on a professional development day. It is a great way to get the creative juices flowing… and can get pretty hilarious depending on the group.

Give it a try and let me know what you think and how you have used it! Did I mention it is FREE!!!

To see the overview of details that this app (and others) have to offer check out my App review.