• A Case for Supporting Strategic Learning with UDL in a Classroom

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 5/12/2017 7:00:00 AM

    This case study is from “Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age” by David Rose and Anne Meyer and is the last in a series of informational articles about UDL and how it can be used for all types of learners.  Further information on this topic is included in the book and is available through Amazon.

    Ms. Chen’s 5th grade class includes Charlie (the student who has difficulty self-monitoring and staying on task), Jamal (who has good strategic planning skills and a motor disability), and Patrick (who has language-based learning disabilities). Ms. Chen has set the following goal: “Student will demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.” Although several of her students have difficulty with text, she keeps the gaol focused on writing because she knows that written literacy is critical as her students move on to 6th grade. She also knows that the UDL framework will help her individualize the instruction she provides. Ms. Chen reviews the teaching methods most helpful for strategic learning and considers the multimedia, networked tools, and scaffolds she might use to foster success for all her students.

    Concentrating on the skill of writing narratives, Ms. Chen encourages her students to select story subjects that find interesting. TO help them envision the stories they will be creating, she provides many models of fiction and nonfiction stories in text, sound, video, and image form. She builds a classroom story collection of printed books, tapes, and videos uses Inspiration software to create a story home page, with links to a library of digital stories- including some written by former students and some that she has found on the we. The software also allows her to group these stories into different categories, such as fiction and nonfiction, and even further, into narrative genres such as detective stories, fables, and adventures.

    Ms. Chen reads many of these stories aloud for and with her students, leading discussions of what students liked and didn’t like and highlighting story elements. She also collects models that call attention to story structures and the writing process, including “famous first drafts” that illustrate the heavily revised beginnings of some well-known works. The story home page provides links to author-focused web sites so that students can learn from the insights of professional writers who model their working process.

    By providing so many different kinds of models, varying in content, medium, and context, Ms. Chen ensures that everyone will find appropriate models to emulate as they begin to develop their own narratives.

    All of Ms. Chen’s students need to practice at their own level of challenge. To support students at different stages of proficiency, she provides scaffolds such as multimedia story templates, a variety of “clip” media, drawing tools, and tools they can use to digitize images they bring home or even their own voices. Students who have trouble generating text often begin by creating a series of images or recorded sounds to help them develop their plot and characters; with this foundation, they usually find that text flows more easily. Because this particular learning goal is focused on the writing process, Ms. hen also encourages students to use scaffolds like spell checkers when editing their work.

    Ms. Chen is familiar with the work of Lynne Anderson-Inman and her colleagues at the University of Oregon showing that diverse students benefit from working with graphic organizer software like Inspiration and Kidspiration (Anderson-Inman & Horney, 1996/97). She teaches her students to use these tools, knowing that visualizing story elements as interconnected geometric shapes will help them plan their stories structurally.

    Different students in the class rely on scaffolds according to their needs:

    • To support Jamal in focusing and condensing his lengthy story, Ms. Chen encourages him to strip it down to its main elements using Inspiration.
    • To get Charlie “unstuck” when he can’t select a topic, Ms. Chen gives him a deadline, provides him with some rubrics for choosing a topic, and writes out a concrete schedule of steps, each with a mini-deadline.
    • To help Patrick through his anxiety about producing text, Ms. Chen provides a multi-media story template and helps him scan in pictures of his favorite baseball player. The series of pictures will form the structure for his story.

    To generate ongoing feedback and build students’ self-monitoring capabilities, Ms. Che encourages them to exchange drafts and review each other’s work within a structured format that includes constructive suggestions. She also encourages students to use email to solicit opinions from each other and from outside experts. For students who are ready, she suggests submitting drafts to web sites where they can obtain outside reactions, including the Stone Soup site (http://ww.stonesoup.com), which posts student work. Such online connections extend her ability to help students obtain regular, ongoing feedback from a variety of sources.

    Ms. Chen also helps her students build their self-monitoring skills by encouraging them to compare their work to external models and compare their drafts to their mental models of their stories. Using a digital microphone, students record themselves telling their stories. Next, they write the text of the story in a word processor and use text-to-speech to listen to how what they’ve written sounds when read out loud. Comparing the recorded “target” stories with their written stories sound provides a supported context for self-monitoring.

    To meet the writing standard, Ms. Chen’s students need to produce their final story in text. But she encourages them to use other media, supporting alternative modes of expression and skill demonstration in conjunction with text (see Gardner, 1993; Sizer, 1992a, 1992b). Ms. Chen provides a variety of multimedia tools including word processors, HyperStudio, digitizing software, and publishing programs. With these tools, the students enhance the text they produce with images, sounds, and animations. Some students produce artwork on paper or in clay to go along with their stories. By encouraging these diverse expressive pathways, Ms. Chen helps all students reach the text-based goal.

    Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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  • Designing Instruction to Support Strategic Learning

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 4/28/2017 7:00:00 AM

    This is a continuation from the last publication regarding the four teaching methods with more specifics about how this works using UDL to support every student’s learning.  Again, the methods are: 1) providing multiple examples; 2) highlighting critical features; 3) providing multiple media and formats; and 4) Supporting background knowledge.

    Teaching method 1 is supported by providing flexible models of skills performance. Learning how to do something requires developing a mental model of the pattern in question. This requires exposure to external models of expert performance, and to counter examples that demonstrate incorrect execution. Teachers can present multiple models for strategic teaching. Using the world wide web allows for the collection of models, links those models to a home page, offering students an increasing array of choices, including examples of completed work, steps in a process, demonstrations of skilled execution, or connections to others who are willing to share the way they work.

    For teaching method 2, providing opportunities to practice with supports is key.  We know that practicing skills in context is more effective than practicing skills in isolation. Teachers can scaffold some parts of the process so that learners focus on strengthening their abilities in other parts.

    Electronic media provides scaffolds in the context of learning. Text-to-speech supports decoding so that learners can focus on strategic reading or content learning.  Spell checkers support mechanics so that learners can focus on expressing their ideas and improving writing fluency.  Built-in calculators scaffold math facts so that learners can focus on mathematical reasoning.

    Providing ongoing, relevant feedback supports the third teaching method. Delivering ongoing, relevant feedback is critical when teaching skills. Learners need to know if they are practicing effectively. Feedback can come in many forms, but It is important for feedback to be ongoing.  Helping students develop self-monitoring skills helps ensure ongoing feedback when the teacher is not around. The use of online connections to mentors and peers offer students the chance to seek comments from others outside the classroom, or from direct contact with a teacher.

    For the last teaching method, provides learners with chances to demonstrate that skill. Demonstration challenges learners to consolidate and apply the process. The use of digital media offer widely varied supports and opportunities to help students demonstrate knowledge and skills such as using the world wide web or a class home page.

    Approaches for teaching skills must be flexible and must reflect the way strategic way students learn. Assembling digital content, multimedia software, and internet resources helps teachers build a collection of options for individual learners. These resources allow teachers to vary the media, models, supports, and feedback that can be offered to students.

    Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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  • Designing Instruction for UDL

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 4/14/2017 7:00:00 AM

    There are 4 teaching methods for UDL: 1) provide multiple examples; 2) highlight critical features; 3) provide multiple media and formats; and 4) support background knowledge. Let’s explore each of these.

    The exposure to multiple examples supports bottom-up recognition processes. Much of the art of teaching  lies in selecting and presenting numerous, effective examples. Digital media and tools can facilitate finding and presenting these examples in the form of text, image, sound, or video. The variety of materials available in digital form lets the teacher build expansive collections of examples suited to every student’s instructional need. Once the digital resources are gathered, they can be saved and shared from class to class, teacher to teacher, year to year. Students can also edit and manipulate digital materials and teachers can collect many varied examples that are personally and topically relevant and provide new ways for students to interact with those examples.

    For the second teaching method, highlighting critical features, teachers make the process easier by highlighting the critical features of a pattern as a way of directing students’ learning. As the teacher has gathered examples of the concept being taught, students begin to see and recognize patterns for those visual cues. This is also a technique used in speaking. Teachers use critical features when they speak using pitch, volume, pauses, intonation, pointing, gesturing, and facial expressions. Sometimes it is not enough to use visual and auditory alone.

    Using digital media and tools offer teachers a wider variety of ways to highlight key features. Animation, color highlighting, graphic elements that add emphasis and zooming in on photographic images are a few examples of being able to emphasise critical features.

    The third teaching method, providing multiple media and formats, consists of using a variety of presentation patterns which enable students to find the format or medium that appeals to and works best for them. This type of method offers students both choice and redundancy.  Redundancy offers opportunities for students to discern patterns in a variety of ways, thereby increasing the understanding about what matters in the pattern. Research has shown that teaching in multiple modalities not only increases access for students with difficulties, but also improves learning among all students (Siegil, 1995).

    The last teaching method, supporting background knowledge, incorporates new knowledge into old knowledge. What the brain already knows can influence what it will learn from a new example or experience. Teachers help students tie their background knowledge to new patterns and help fill in gaps by providing related information.

    Digital materials provide a way of supporting background knowledge because they are flexible and can be linked to other information resources such as those on the web. Students can access background knowledge if and when they need to on their own schedule.

     Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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  • UDL and What It Does for Teachers and Students

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 3/17/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Ron Mace, at North Carolina State University, conceived, designed and constructed the concept of universal design for all learners. The goal is to accommodate varied users without the need for subsequent adaptation or specialized design. Addressing the divergent needs of specialized populations, including those with disabilities or ESL, increases the usability for everyone.

    For years now, we’ve been making buildings physically accessible to everyone who needed accommodations.  Unfortunately,  curricula got left behind. The goal for educators should be to not simply make information accessible to students, but to make the actual learning accessible. Teachers need to know the instructional goal of their lessons in order to structure their teaching.  The UDL framework provides guidance for using technology to support the instructional goals and to provide the support when provided resistance and challenges.

    Within the framework for UDL are three principles: 1) recognize essential cues and patterns; 2) master skillful strategies for action; and 3) engage with learning. The common thread with this framework is providing students with a wider variety of options.

    In planning lessons using UDL, the first step is setting a clear goal. The standards are determining what you are teaching, not how  you are teaching them. If the standard states, “The students will write an essay using cursive”. Isn’t the real goal to have the student write an essay?  Does it really matter how it is written? The next step is allowing for individualized instruction.  What is available to the students to accomplish the task? Finally, there is assessing progress. Ongoing assessment enables teachers to ensure the goals that have been met with the methods and materials continuing to support students’ progress.

    Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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  • Images and UDL

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 3/3/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Interpreting images is complex, and not everyone sees things in the same way. Because different visual features are processed in different parts of the brain, some aspects of images can be accessible to an observer, while others may not. Within the recognition networks, multiple areas of the brain are used, and the overall idea that is being communicated can be difficult for some.

    Students can be distracted when processing text, causing them to focus on the unimportant elements. Strategic networks help viewers determine what is important and focus attention on that image. The more complicated the concepts, the more demands requiring skilled interpretation based on the knowledge of where something is placed on a page or drawing attention to something. Within the affective networks, the detachment of an image may not engage a student to look closely and feel the image’s emotional content.

    Up to this point, our look at media has been through the traditional mode of media. It’s now time to move into the power of digital media and how that can impact your students and your lessons. Digital media offers so many more features to meet individual student needs. Digital media is versatile, transformable, can be marked and can be networked. Let’s look at each one.

    The versatility of digital media allows for speech, video and text. Depending upon the various challenges for students, any combination of the formatting can be used. Once this has been determined, then the same material can be changed by appearance of text or images, adjusting the volume, turning off or on graphics, etc. The adjustments to the student does not change the overall information, just how it is presented. A newer concept in digital media is the hypertext markup language (HTML) coding for constructing web pages. This allows the user to create title, subheadings or specific parts of the body of material they are reading. This also allows the teacher and student to alter content to accommodate needs or preferences. Teachers have the ability to use the same material that they have chosen, but mark it in different ways for different students. It allows marking and unmarking several times.

    The last way of using digital media, is through networking. Available within a touch of a keystroke is a dictionary/thesaurus, organizers, electronic notepads. Gone are the days when things need to be supplemented separately from the actual work area; everything is there if you need it. Ultimately, the use of the new media available to teachers and students will benefit everyone. Practice using and understanding media is the first step to integrating media into the curriculum, thereby engaging diverse learners. and moving us into the Universal Design for Learning, UDL.

    Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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  • Reading Text and UDL

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 2/17/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Reading is a complex task due, in part, to the many parts of the brain which must work in concert to actually read the print and comprehend it. A student’s ability to read is subject to various subtle (and profound) barriers, even at the beginning of learning the letters. Although the alphabet only contains 26 letters, there are twice as many sounds depending on how the letter is used in a word. Familiarity with the text helps with knowing which pronunciation is to be used when the words look exactly alike. This is the recognition network’s way of dealing with reading.

    In the strategic network, comprehension is the focus. One must not simply recognize the meaning of text, but also  construct that meaning through interpretation and analysis. Among the weaknesses in this area is the difficulty with setting goals, understanding purpose, interpreting structural cues and meaning, connecting prior knowledge with new content, monitoring progress, and remembering concepts. When students have trouble with decoding and it is not automatic, this sidetracks the ability to focus on constructing meaning.

    Text tries to give emotion and power to the reader. The affective network increases the nervous system’s ability to replicate the power of speech as if it were being heard. Using punctuation and visual cues help with setting the emotion, but some students, even with these cues, can still have trouble visualizing these emotions. Another challenge is the student’s experiences with the process of reading and their interest in the content presented.

    Individual differences in affective networks can be shaped for students’ understanding of text and the content. Understanding and being sensitive to a student’s individual differences can help teachers provide different choices of reading material, build supports to engage students, and use other media constructively.

    The last section of understanding the preliminary information for UDL, will be discussed next time by looking at how images play a role in learning for students throughout the three networks.

    Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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  • Strategies and Affective Networks in Speech Which Relate to UDL

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 2/3/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Listening requires a great deal of participation from the brains strategic networks. Much of this is due to the memory demands imposed by speech. A variety of researcher’s studies have recognized “active listening” as a significant act of cognition that engages the strategic networks.

    Those students with executive functioning deficits and ADHD rarely have trouble with recognizing speech as it is occurring. They have trouble understanding speech because they cannot engage the strategies and skills necessary for active listening, learning, and remembering. Know some students like that?

    Verbal working memory is fundamental to speech comprehension. Student are capable of recognizing speech, but struggle to comprehend it. Concentration is another factor. The listener has to devote attention and screen out irrelevant stimuli.

    Using the affective networks requires content be conveyed by intonation, facial expression, and gesture. Some students may have trouble with different aspects of the affective processing of speech. Interpretation can be disrupted by the inability to distinguish the speaker’s tone of voice, but understanding the literal words.  Think about some of our students with autism. Can you think of some that you’ve had who demonstrated this deficit?

    Some of our students with emotional difficulties can find listening very challenging. Their personal situations alone can make them have difficulty with listening and attention when so much else is going on in their lives.

    The power of speech makes it an excellent medium for communication and teaching. The difficulty, as one can see, is how speech is processed and how sounds present themselves to the listener. Next time we’ll look at reading text using the three networks.

    Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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  • Instructional Media as it Relates to UDL

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 1/20/2017 7:15:00 AM

    A teacher needs to start by selecting a medium for teaching and should consider its appropriateness for the particular content or activity. Next, the teacher needs to weigh the characteristics of each student. This goes back to my initial position based on researching UDL and the conversation with my sister. We can’t just teach one way and expect all kids to learn. Next, we will explore the role of the three networks in speech and reading.

    Understanding speech requires interpreting meaning from the flow of sounds and using prior knowledge and content to predict what words will come next, and finally to make sense of what we are hearing. Challenges to understanding speech include hearing impairments and difficulty segmenting speech-sounds quickly. The semantics, or ability to attach meanings to words can also be a challenge for some students.

    The visual cues for understanding speech are important. Some students have a very hard time distinguishing visual cues used by a teacher. The student who is blind, is at a huge disadvantage when visual cues are used with spoken language. Listening to and understanding speech also requires the student to act strategically and to stay focused and engaged. This is where the domains of strategic and affective networks become involved.

    We know that there is motor planning when we are going to speak. Our mouths form the words and actions. We listen to someone when they speak. Listening requires heavy participation of the brain’s strategic networks. To gain meaning, we must remember what we hear. We all have our own way of doing this. The student with executive functioning skill deficits will hear what is spoken, but have difficulty understanding what is being said. Selective concentration is another key factor. The listener must devote attention and to screen out irrelevant stimuli. All of this makes up the recognition networks.

    Understanding speech requires the meaningful interpretation from the flow of sounds.  Barriers to understanding speech include hearing impairments and difficulty segmenting speech-sounds quickly. Research has shown that some children do not process the spoken language quickly enough to recognize normal speech patterns. One way of helping them is to slow the speech down, possibly by using a computer. Students can then learn to segment the speech into the individual sounds that make up words.

    Another barrier for some students is semantic recognition, or the ability to attach individual meaning to words. An example from the reading used the word rock. There are many different meanings for rock, and one has to be able to use context clues to understand the actual meaning. Some children have difficulty with this task. Difficulties using grammatical constructions can appear independently of other language problems.

    Visual cues when it comes to speech are also important. They help convey the meaning of words. The facial expressions and gestures provide emphasis, context, and significance to verbal communications. A student with a visual impairment sometimes misses key parts of the spoken conversation. This can be very true for the ADHD child too.  They hear it, but don’t meaningfully attend to what they have heard.

    Listening to, and understanding, speech requires a student to act strategically while staying focused and engaged. The other domains of the strategic and affective networks which will be examined in the next newsletter as it pertains to speech.

    Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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  • The Affective Networks and How They Work

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 1/6/2017 8:00:00 AM

    Our Affective Networks ensure that we are emotionally responsive to the outside world. Information travels from the sensory organs up the continuum to where it reaches our “feel” emotional reactions. We respond almost instantaneously when we hear or sense something. We can be uptight and nervous before a presentation or athletic event. We also have the ability to use techniques such as breathing, refocusing attention and visualizing success. Teachers can learn how to help eliminate, or at least lessen, the negative emotion students may have in situations at school. One reason students with severe affective disorders (such as childhood depression) have reading failure, is because strong affective influences can derail the work of recognition and strategic networks (Gentile, Lamb, & Rivers, 1985; Kindard, 2001). Understanding affective issues can help teachers support learners more effectively.

    Affective Networks are often overlooked, but are essential for learning. When a student withdraws effort and interest, this was once considered something outside the scope of classroom intervention. Over time, this has become  a major factor to address when necessary for student growth and learning. Think about the needs of the students when reading. Don’t some like to read alone; whereas others can read with lots of people and noise going on; some like to be told which books to read; whereas others like to have the freedom to choose.

    A teacher’s ability to form a framework with recognition, strategic, and Affective Networks can help us analyze our students’ individual strengths and challenges, and to understand the individual differences that our students bring to each of our classrooms.

    There were several web links on this topic that I can share with you. If you would like those, please contact me at mneumann@ssjcs.k12.in.us. In our next issue, I will start exploring the instructional media that can address the recognition, strategic and Affective Networks for students to promote learning.

    Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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  • The Strategic Network and How it Affects Learning for Students

    Posted by Nikki Rankin on 12/9/2016 7:30:00 AM

    In the last newsletter, I explained some research about the recognition networks and the beginnings of understanding how UDL can work in a classroom. The second of the three networks is strategic network, and I’ll go into this in detail now.

    The strategic network helps us plan, execute, and monitor internally generated mental and motor patterns. Strategy is used in everything we do, even if we are not conscious of this happening. Within this area, the brain identifies a goal, designs a plan, executes the plan, self-monitors and corrects or adjust actions, if necessary. This is done within the frontal lobe. Gopher, 1996, found that skill instruction is often more effective when the components of the process are learned simultaneously rather than one at a time. When a teacher expresses goals clearly, gives verbal instructions, or offers models for students to work from, this supports the students by stressing the importance of strategic skills and encouraging students to be guided by clear goals and plans.

    Students learn best when good instruction and good models, and they are given plenty of opportunities to practice and to receive ongoing, relevant feedback.  Now, the kinds of models and supports for individual learners depends on the student’s particular strategic strengths and challenges. Awareness of differences can help teachers design optimal strategic teaching for different kinds of learners.

    Understanding the strategic network’s function and the differences in the student’s strategic network his helpful when teaching skills and strategies such as predicting, summarizing, and determining the steps needed to solve a problem or write an essay.

    The next time I will finish with our third network, affective networks and put this all together after that.

    Michele Neumann  Michelle Neumann, Assistant Director

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