Project 3 Final Project


This write up is designed as a presentation in Workshop for Teacher Educators

For this project I decided to explore the plight of visually impaired student’s in higher levels of education and at the same time consider that they could also be in the group Second Language Learners (SLL).  In my presentation I highlight their challengers in accessing quality instructions in these institutions. I then suggest solutions to these challenges by emphasizing on the use of best teaching practices in the higher institutions of learning through universal design for learning.

Lack of sight is an obvious barrier to the acquisition of new dispositions by the students who are blind or visually impaired Barry (1997). Research shows that despite many decades of worthy and charitable intentions, poor education and rampant unemployment continue to leave most visually impaired people without the skills and resources to emerge from isolation, poverty, and restriction. (WAFTB, 2011). The essence of educating persons who are blind and visually impaired is to increase their independence, security, equality of opportunity and quality of life. Teachers of the visually impaired are therefore concerned with helping their learners to acquire knowledge, skills and values just as it is the case for the sighted students. Traditionally and it is still happening in the developing countries for example Kenya today, these students have been educated in special schools in isolation from their sighted peers. Additionally, it was believed that the best way to educate these students is to lecture to them since they have good sense of hearing and to provide to them digital braille since they can read by touch. The students were never offered tactile graphics since it was believed that the students cannot master spatial concepts presented in graphics (Groenewegen, 2005). The students educated in the traditional way obviously faces a rough transition from the segregated school to the inclusive environment of higher institutions including universities. There has been a great development in educating these students especially in developed world for example US but still there is a lot to be improved. My project will further investigate the extent into which the visually impaired learners access quality investigations in higher institutions of learning and particularly in the universities.

Challenges Facing Visually Impaired Students in Access of Quality Instruction in Universities

Despite the technological revolution and the policies governing accessibility of information through this technology now in force (IDEA, 2004, UN, 2006, AT Act, 1998 and Section 504 of the Federal Rehab Act, 1973), there still exist significant instructional barriers for the learners who are blind and especially those who are English language learners to access quality education. Kashdan and Barns (2012) observed that teaching ELLs students who are visually impaired involves complex challenges. These challenges include coping with inaccessible intake tools and training materials in the mainstream.

 

 

 

Furthermore, Kildal (2008) observes that the computer-internet revolution has relied much on and has greatly boosted the development of visual literacy compared to the tactile literacy. In case of sighted users, highly specialized data visualizations (designed to exploit human vision and visual information processing) provide quick and easy access to overview information. Additionally, it help with the performance of various aspect of information analysis such as identifying trends, pattern and features that might be of interest. Nothing so far of this nature has been invented to enable the persons with blindness to access the information in the same way.

Research has also shown that use of tactile data as external memory aids to prevent high mental workload levels while speech helps in accessing detailed information on demand (Galajdova, 2005). Additionally, tactile pictorial presentations enhance representation, interpretation (clarification of difficult text) and enhancement of memory. Carney et al, (2002) and Kildal, (2008), affirm that this aspect of learning still lack for the students who are blind. Furthermore, the challenges are enhanced barriers to the provision of a wide array of online material as well as the traditional paper-based material for the visually impaired students. Securing original material in time for other production for example in braille format has been a great challenge (AHRC, 2002).

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to these IT barriers, research has shown that by its nature blindness presents obstacles that might greatly affect access to quality education. For example, understanding of information and application of the lessons derived from the information requires a developed cognitive ability. Gauzman and Kozulin, (1998) observes that the learners who are blind are faced by major cognitive problems. The first of the cognitive problems is related to the difference between the simultaneous character of visual perception and the successive character of tactile perception. The second problem stems from the fact that the process of concept formation in learners who are blind is dominated by two extremes: (i) extremely abstract verbal notions that have little support in the learners’ experience, and (ii) extremely concrete tactile images of every-day life objects that possess little potential for generalization. As a result, the everyday concepts that possess a certain degree of generality are under-represented in the cognitive repertoire of the learners who are blind. The third cognitive problem is directly related to the predominant methods of education for the learners who are blind that almost  completely exclude two-dimensional schematic representations of objects and processes such as diagrams, charts, plans and maps (tactile graphics). As a result many of the cognitive tools used by sighted students remain underdeveloped in the learners who are blind and those who are visually impaired.

 

 

 

 

Due to the aforementioned access of AT and learner’s cognition problems, Barfield (2003) observes that productivity for these special needs students often suffers and lags behind other students in the learning situation. One would argue that students who suffer most are those in University and colleges of higher learning because they are often subjected to learning situations where they are expected to work intensively and independently.  The long-term effect of this is the apparent lack of employment of the graduates who are blind which has for a long time been invariably blamed on lack of relevant and quality university education of the graduates and the skills required in the labor market (Alade and Eni-Olurunda 2005).  This eventually leads to social inequality; increased dependence, lack of security, inequality of opportunity and low quality of life for the students who are blind or visually impaired.

 

In universities, There is currently no legal (or practical) requirement for access to or guarantee of quality instruction (in fact the idea is that SWD have the same access to instruction good or poor, that students without  disabilities have. Given this condition one would want to think that the accessibility of quality instructions in these universities depend largely on the professor’s discretion. Some of these professors might not have had training on how to teach the students with visual impairments.  In this sense the accessibility of quality instruction for the students might be compromised.

Best Practice to Educate the Visually Impaired Students in the Universities

I believe the most important thing to do when working with the students who a visually impaired and especially SLL is to first accept that they are not different students. Once one put the student before the medical condition one is able to concentrate on what one think the student can do rather than on what the student cannot do. With this kind of attitude one is able to focus on the real problems these students might face and be able to look for the most appropriate solution for the problems.  From here the application of UDL principles and practices will to a large extent give the visually impaired student opportunity to access quality instruction they so deserve (Rose and Dolan, 2000). The best thing to do in this period of time is to shift from the traditional methods of teaching these students where  the visually impaired students were educated in isolation from their sighted peers and lectured to and simply provided with only digital braille as a mead to read write and store their notes. Professors who embarrass the use of UDL principles and practices would go far in making these students access quality instructions.

You tube link: Best practice through UDL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7eUf_7dZVM&feature=related

Conclusion

I believe that every teacher has a role to lay in the education of all students. The teachers therefore must not only demonstrate the correct attitude for all types of learners in their classes but also embrace the instructional practices that will give all the learners opportunity to access quality instructions. Quality instructions in this sense will not only enable the students to master content but also enable them to transfer what they learn into real life situations and convert the students to be good learners in the whole of their lives. By doing so the visually impaired persons will be able to confront problems they may face in their daily lives with confidence and hence live fruitful and independent lives.

 

 

 

 

References

Alande E.B & Eni-Olurunda, T. (2005). The Status of Inclusive Education in Oyo State,

Nigeria. African Journal of Education Studies. Nairobi: Kenyatta University.

 

Galajdová, A., Majeník, J. & Šimšík, D.  (2005) Graphical Information Access for

Visually Impaired. Technical University of Košice. Letná: Košic.

 

Gouzman, R. (1997).   Major problems of blind learners using tactile graphic materials

and how to overcome them with the IE Braille program. In A, Kozulin (Ed.), The Ontogeny of Cognitive Modifiability, pp.261-272. Jerusalem: ICELP.

 

Groenewegen, T . G. (2005).  Visually Handicapped Learners Learning from Sighted

Teachers: A conceptual Framework for Research into Special Instructional Technology. African Journal of Education Studies. Nairobi: Kenyatta University.

 

Kasdan, S & Barner, R., (2012) Teaching English as a new Language to Visually Impaired             ELLs:    Problems and Possibilities. New York: Journal of visual impaired and blindness          American foundation for the Blind

Kildal, J., (2008). Developing an Interactive overview for Non-visual Exploration of Tabular          Numerical Information. (Unpublished PhD thesis) Glasgow: University of Glasgow.

Rose, D., & Dolan, R. P., (2000). Universal Design for Learning: Associate Editor’s Column.           Journal of Special Education Technology, 15(4), 47-51.

World Access for the Blind (WAFB), (2008) Instructional Program and Methodology. Retrieved,   September, 12 2011 from, http//www.worldacessfortheblind.org

Project 2: Learning about learners


English language learners

Students arrive in middle or high school with a broad range of experiences including various levels of language mastery and proficiency.  For example According to Rubinstein-Avila, (2003) English Language Learners (ELLS) come in the middle schools with different reading abilities, strategies, and varying prior experiences with text genres. Additionally the students come from different social economic status. All these characteristics place these learners in different point of entry of learning in the mainstream education.

What come to my mind when I think about the education of ELLs are the challenges they face in the instructional situations. This raises a series of questions in my mind: Should students who are still learning English spend the school day in classes where only English is spoken? Would it be logical for these students to be taught using English primarily but include some explanations or materials in their native language? How well would be the classroom environment and the learning material be adopted for better learning by these students? What would one term as the best practice in the teaching of these learners? These questions are valuable in my discussion and suggestions for the optimal learning experiences for these learners.

Perhaps for purpose of clarity it would be important to mention that there are various categories of these leaners. Some do not speak a word of English and are not literate in their native language. I am imagining that this is more so with refugees and immigrants others have some conversational English, but are not yet fluent, and in their native language they are not only literate, but have mastered a great deal of academic content. For these learners to benefit fully from the classroom instructions, they are required to learn English and not just spoken English but the academic English ( Aria and Marlo-Camphell, 2008). Goldenberg (2008) defines academic English as a term that refers to more abstract, complex, and challenging language that will eventually permit one to participate successfully in mainstream classroom instruction. He further expound this by stating that Academic English involves such things as relating an event or a series of events, being able to make comparisons between alternatives and justifying a choice, knowing different forms and inflections of words and their appropriate use, and possessing and using content-specific vocabulary and modes of expression in different academic disciplines such as mathematics and social studies. In reference to this, it would be not an easy matter for an ELLs to learn the academic English. Since it takes time to do so, then it could be expected that the students learn English simultaneously with the learning of the content presented to them in the various disciplines in the school. Given this scenario, the ELLs student might not access quality instructions from the class due to the language barrier.

Kindler, (2002) observes that the ELLs are well below their native English speaking counterparts on tests of literacy. This is obvious because for the students to succeed in the academic work they are expected to eventually be able to understand and produce academic English both orally and in writing. In case they don’t do this, then there is a chance of them falling behind their peers as they will make poor grades and might get discouraged. This will lead to their further failing behind and hence having fewer educational options and in long run fewer occupational choices.

 

Apart from the language barriers, the ELLs students face the problem of context. Eisner, (2001) pointed out that one of the persistent problems in education of ELLs is that research has been conducted on the best practice in education but consideration of context or possible interaction effects has been forgotten. She laments that it is unfortunate for research to be conducted on effective teaching practices as well as other substantive areas forgetting to address important contextual differences. I support Eisner observation in that most of time teachers forget that these learners come from different environments and bring in class experiences that in most cases are different from those of the native English learners and instead of offering appropriate accommodations in instructions,  quite often the teachers generalize the instructions.

In consideration of this, it is then obvious that the ELLs students who need academic content instructions, just as all students do will be left behind. Schmid, (2001) observed that the school drop out for the ELLs students are rates re escalating year by year.

 

Although the ELLs students lack appropriate academic language, I believe they curry with them great wealth of knowledge and other experiences which a teacher can tap be able to give these learners proper accommodations in the school and during the instructions. For this I would suggest disentangling academic language proficiency from content proficiency. By doing this, the teacher will use English to teach content meaning that the teacher has discretion to  allow code switching or to some extent allow utilization  of the language familiar to the ELLs students so that the learners access the instructions and at the same time acquire more Emglish. Additionally the teacher should be flexible enough in presentation of the content making sure that he or she considers each individual student context and differences in abilities.  This is not easy though, A teacher need to first make a thorough assessment of the learners ad understand not only their levels of academic language which in this case is English but also learn the learners background including culture, prior experiences and the learner’s individual abilities among other aspects (Tomlinson, 2001).   This brings one to another key issue. Given that these learners do not have the same starting point in academics and have a range of experiences and abilities, the teacher endeavor will be to make sure that all the learners in the class benefit fully from the instructions.

 

When I think of offering optimal learning experiences for these learners what comes to my mind is the utilization of UDL principles and practices in designing and presenting the content. In doing this I would propose that the teachers borrow a lift from Thousand, Vila and Nevin, 2007) decision and critically think about what to be taught, what levels of understanding they wish their learners to have, knowledge and proficiency learners are to demonstrate and what context, material and differentiation are necessary to allow all the learners a point of entry to learning. In the content presentation I would suggest that UDL practices which calls for multi-sensory and multi-methods in instructions (Rose and Dolan, 2000) be adhere to or be observe by the teachers in order to give the learners equal opportunities in access of the instructions. In essence the teachers should use variety of ways, means, learning resources ad examples to present information to the learners, offer different means for the learners to demonstrate their knowledge skills and values and use different and variety of motivations to keep the learners interested and engaged on the tasks for a long period of time (CAST, 2011). By doing this I believe that the teacher will have given appropriate accommodation to the learners regardless of their differences in the classroom.

 

 

Reverences

 

Aria, M.B., & MorCamphell, (2008) Providing ELLS Parental Involvement: Challenges in            Contested Times. Greater lakes center for education research and practice;      http://www/greatelakescenter.org

 

CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author

 

Goldenberg,c. (2008). Teaching English to Language Learners: What research Does and Does      not say. American Educators: quarterly journal of educational research and ideas, Vol.            32,(2)/Summer 2008

 

National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC) (2001) Differentiated Instruction             and Implications for UDL Implementation Effective Classroom Practices Report By    Tracey Hall,     Nicole Strangman, and Anne Meyer

 

Robbin,  Z. (2007 ). Design Across the Curriculum: New Directions for Higher Education.            Washington: Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

 

Rose, D., & Dolan, R. P., (2000). Universal Design for Learning: Associate Editor’s Column.       Journal of Special Education Technology, 15(4), 47-51.

Tomlinson, C. A., (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. (2nd Ed.)   Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

ELLs Struggles and Strategies You tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bWU238PymM&feature=related

Who are ELLs Students? You tube link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6Hr3PN9r6I&feature=related

Differentiated theory

Differentiation theory

Human being function differently and have different experiences of the world they live in. in the same way, not all learners are alike. In this sense it would be correct to say that these learners have their individualized or different ways to take in information, make sense out of that information and utilize their information in their real lives situations. This calls for instructional approaches that offer multiple opportunities for acquisition of knowledge, skills and values for these learners. Differentiated instruction as a teaching theory ensures the multiple opportunities in the instruction. According to Tomlinson, (2000), the theory is based on the premise that instructional approaches are varied and are adapted in relation to individual and to the diverse students in classrooms. In essence, following this theory, teachers are supposed to be flexible in their teaching approaches, adjust the curriculum and presentations of contents or information to their learners. This helps the learner to learn well than when the learner is expected to adapt to the already fixed curriculum and instructions.

This theory intersects well with the UDL for it considers the onset designing of the information and presentation and hence ensures flexibility and decreases the barriers that in many occasions limit access to materials and learning in classroom (Rose and Meyer, 2000). The UDL calls for the design of the curricular with the need of all students in mind so that methods, materials and assessment are usable by all. The proponents of the differentiated learning claims that UDL is a framework that tells teachers what to teach while differentiated  instruction theory tells the teacher how to teach. Indeed differentiated instruction combines with the principles and practices of UDL to provide teachers with both theory and practice to appropriately challenge the barriers faced by the broad scope of students in conventional classrooms.

Differentiated instruction recognizes students varying background knowledge, readiness, language, presences in learning and interests. The endeavor is to react positively to maximize each student’s growth and individual success in the learning process. The theory of differentiation emerged from Vygostky (1980) as he discussed about the social context and the interaction of the student with that social context. He argued that the social context plays a vital role in the acquisition of knowledge. Those students in their “zone of proximal development” can, with assistance, resolve a problem that they could not have resolved alone and move on to another level of knowledge. Following this, differentiated theory for teaching argues that when teachers provide dynamic, flexible and clear instructions while scaffolding students and monitoring them through collaborative work they learn better. This stems from the fact that as the students work together in a social context they exchange information and use different strategies of learning.

Additionally, just as it is in with the UDL multisensory and multi-methodology instruction is emphasized in this theory to ensure that information is accessible to all learners. According to Tomlinson, (2004), teachers can differentiate one or a number of the following elements in any classroom learning situation: (i)The content or what the students are going to learn (i) The processes or activities and the procedures that the teacher is going to engage students in should be flexible and variable, (iii)The products or the practice and accomplishment that follow the learning period and  the ongoing assessment to the students’ progress by assessing them before delivering the content, while and after the completion of the learning process. Looking keenly it show that the differentiation theory borrow heavily from the UDL principles and practices and in fact go further to clarify to a teacher how to use the principles and practices in teaching.

References

National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC) (2001) Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation Effective Classroom Practices Report By Tracey Hall, Nicole Strangman, and Anne Meyer

Rose, D., & Dolan, R. P., (2000). Universal Design for Learning: Associate Editor’s Column. Journal of Special Education Technology, 15(4), 47-51.

Tomlinson, C. A., (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. (2nd Ed.) Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

 

Principle 2 and Assessment


# using Technology to create and administer accessible tests. By Salem Spencer

This article is wonderful. It has taught me a lot of things particularly about the various ways to ensure that my tests to students are accessible to all regardless of the levels of abilities.. Have learnt that a teacher can well use differentiated instruction but students might fail the test due to the fact that the test might not be accessible to the learners. In the same way as in instruction the teacher must apply UDL principles in the creation and administration of tests. Computer-based technology is a wonderful tool to do this and has many advantages and has great potential in helping students access testing programs. This technology is flexible in that it allows a range of technology based techniques and access to be intergraded across the curriculum to differentiate the testing process to address student’s individual strengths and challenges as well as the unique and varied teaching environments. I was actually impressed in the way the author described various ways to integrate the universal design principles in testing. I also loved the way the author has described the advantages of using the computer based technology to ensure access of the test materials. For example to cater address the needs of learners with disabilities, to motivate learners, to give quick feedback, allow breaks during testing, and I really remembered the famous GRE test when the author described the style of questioning i.e. one is able to learn more as he/she do the test by getting feedback that direct to the correct answer and giving an alternative questions and adjusting it depending on the performance of the previous question by the student. To me this kind of technology is of a great help to the students and should be utilized as much as possible in testing the learners. I like the fact that the author cautions the reader that if this technology is not used wisely it can result to cheating and that the educator must make sure that they select appropriately the technologies. The educator should be careful that the technology provides student with access to test without altering the test content, construct and the results. Though this technology is really helpful, it might not be useful in my country where computers are extremely few.

# Accommodation and Universal design: Supporting Access to Assessment in Higher Education. By Ketterlin-Geller and Johnstone

By reading this article it dawned to me how we in Kenya carelessly block the students from demonstrating their skills by giving them only one fixed option to do their tests. Despite the lack of technology I think we are still using the traditional methods of testing where the examination is fixed periodically and question and answer expectation predetermined. I think even before we are able to use the modern technology we need to shift from the traditional to the most conventional methods of instruction and assessment. As the author of this article put it, we need to use technology to ensure integrity of the test and deliver accommodations that will make the test no less or difficult than the original format.  It is true that UDL endeavors to level the playing field so that no student regardless of ability or disability is discriminated in any way. The article has made me to recognize the connection between universal design and accommodation.  The universal design seeks to improve the overall design of assessments for all students.  The author of this article has emphasized the issue of accommodations in assessment stating that the accommodation should be individualized. I agree with them. The only concern I have about the individualized accommodation especially in my country is that the teachers may be out of sympathy tend to make  the examination of students with disabilities less difficult compared to their abled body peers. I am not sure whether this is affecting the USA now that the teachers have been made accountable for their student performance by the new law. I believe that all students should benefit fully from both instruction and from the assessments in education.

UDL Principle two


# Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Chapter six

by Rose Meyer at al

This chapter has made it clear to me about the “Network teaching methods” which makes instructions accessible to all learners despite their differences. It is true when teaching learners with diverse abilities one need to make instruction extremely flexible to allow all the learners to benefit from the instruction.  The individualized teaching methods and the methods for developing the instructional support described in this chapter are very practical. My only fear is that I come from a country where Assistive technology is extremely rare. The methods described here heavily rely on the technology. However, I have learnt very important things which could improve our education back in my country.  Consideration of brain network and making sure that the curriculum, course materials and instructional methods are flexible is vital to ensure that learners benefit from the instruction. As a teacher educator I will not only be creative and make my lessons accessible to all learners but also teach the teacher trainees about this.

I also loved the way the affective domain of knowledge has been elaborated in this chapter. I agree what Goleman (1995) say about the UDL perspective. That motivation is at least as important for school success as the capacity to recognize and generate patterns. For sure in many occasions we as teachers fail to motivate the students in the right way. The notion of motivation especially in my country is that of awards or punishment. Indeed before I read this chapter it had not occurred to me that the methods one use to design instruction should be a great motivation for the learners. Offering choice of content, choice of context, providing adjustable level of challenges and offering choice of awards is something new to me. I think we use more of what is here called traditional methods because these choices are based on the teacher’s discretion. The students have no choice to make. They receive what their teacher wish to offer to them. I think this is something that we need to change and as a teacher educator I will make effort to see how this can be rectified in my country.

#  What the Best College Teachers Do.  by Ken Bain

The literature presented by Bain is extremely critical to all teachers. The four fundamental inquiries around which scholarship is supposedly centered is vital.  The first inquiry: “What should by students be able to do intellectually, physically, or emotionally as a result of their learning” brings me back to the three principles of universal design. Any time a teacher thinks of the four fundamental inquiries described here what comes in mind is flexibility in designing content and flexibility of delivery of the same content to the learner. What is even more interesting to me is how we teacher try to transmit knowledge, skills and values to the learners. We pose as custodian of knowledge and imagine that we can open the brain of the learner and pour what we know in their brain. I would equate this kind of teachings with politics and call it “dictatorial instruction”. Really this is what has been happening in my country and I feel sad about it. What Bain call traditional teaching does not consider the student differences in learning? It is teacher centered as opposed to the learner centered. It is imperative for teachers to make effort to monitor each student’s progress, while maintaining an understanding of the individual student. The questions Bain asks are very crucial. Just to highlight some of the thirteen questions, “what information will my students need to understand in order to answer the important questions of the course and challenge their assumptions? How will they best obtain that information?”  This question gets to the essence of providing students with the knowledge and skills they can use to manipulate and synthesize the materials on their own.   “How will I spell out the intellectual and professional standards that I will be using in assessing students’ work, and why do I use those standards? How will I help students learn to assess their own work using those standards?” these questions ensure that the teacher supports student learning rather than imposing learning to the learners.

In my own assessment by considering the argument of Bain one would attract the learning interest of the students and be able to monitor whether the student are teaching accordingly I a very flexible and non-threatening environment. Learners are given opportunity to express what they have learnt and this is the best way to know whether the learning goals have been achieved or not. The second principle of UDL is expression. The learners should be given the opportunity to express what they have learnt and the key thing here is the flexibility of expression. This is what Bain express here. Use various means to let the learners demonstrate what they have learned. I love what Bain has argued about in this presentation. The only question I have is how well one would manage this this kind of student-teacher interaction in a huge class of over 300 students which is the case with our classes in Kenya where there is also scarcity of technology.

 

#  Teacher Perspectives: Strategy Instruction Goes Digital. By Nicole Strangman

As strongman comment in her article, “each student in the class brings different strengths, weaknesses, and interests to the classroom…” It would then be imperative for the teachers to consider this aspect and be able to present and their contents and measure all student’s intellectual, physical and emotional output progressively as opposed to a single scale examination. This article describes a well-designed digital text to support reading. The digital text is in tune to the principle and practices of UDL. It is flexible in that the students using the digital text are able to assess their learning by receiving immediate feedback, the learners who have visual problems can enlarge the print to size of their choices and those who are totally blind are able to use the text-to-speech technology. In my own view, the digital text does not only cater for learners with different needs but also make the learner interested to learn and hence learn better (engagement). Unfortunately this kind of technology is not available in my country but despite this the principles applied in this technology can still be applied by our teachers. For example use of almost immediate feedback to the learners is important and the teachers should be able to do this. Another practice is that of using variety of teaching resources and group discussion (cooperative learning and problem solving) which enhances the mastery of the content and transfer of the same to solve problems in the real life situation. According to me the main thing is the goal to be achieved in the teaching. As we look forward to acquisition of the digital book technology the principles and practices of UDL can commence in Kenyan teachings.

# The courage to teach. By Palmer

I was moved by reading this literature partly because what the author describe as an old fashion of the role of the teacher and partly because of the way the author capture the Universal design pedagogical practices. The traditional thinking that teacher entirely curries what the author calls “the image of community of truth” and that he she gives and the students must take to me is a great impediment to learning. This principle makes students appear like objects or jars to fill with the myriad experiences from the teacher. I love the principle the author describes here that students and the act of learning is more important than the teacher and the act of teaching. Although the teachers have already in his or her custody myriad experiences in the field of his/her discipline, it is imperative that the major goal of his/her act of teaching be students learning. The author has vividly arranged and described the instructional methods in a continuum beginning with the teacher centered methods, the subject centered methods and then the student centered methods. The author of all these emphasizes the multiple pedagogy and I truly agree that this is the way to go. Students come in with difference experiences and they have different abilities. In consideration of this, ad to make sure that every student benefit fully from the instruction then use multi-pedagogy is imperative.

The use of technology increases access of subject of knowledge by the students. The author is clear about this and has demonstrated how computer based technology can be used as an instructional recourse to appeal to the various senses of learners, resent content in various media from digital o pictorial and cater for the students different style of learning and also to create activities that enhances mastery of content my the students. Universal design strongly advocates flexibility in all its three principles and I believe technology is a real aid to support this flexibility to teaching and learning. I feel encouraged by tis literature and will practice the modern pedagogy and encourage my colleagues who are teachers like me to do so.

Week three: UDL Principle 1

 

# Differentiating Instructions: Collaborative planning and Technology for Universally Designed Learning

By Thousand, Villa & Nevin

By reading this book chapter I have not only learnt how content should be presented to the students applying UDL principles but also the literature here has made me to rethink how I approach things in the world. The author commence with a very striking affirmation by John Holt. The fact that we do things backward and that the best way to do things is to start with something so that we can have strong desire to do it and in the process develop skills needed is amazing to me. I also love the way the author expands the meaning of the term content to include what is taught, the level of understanding knowledge, proficiency students are to demonstrate, context, material, and differentiation. Further, the argument put across by the author about how teachers arrange access to curriculum and content of their students and the role they play in differentiation made me think deeper about how I should educate my students. As a teacher educator in my country, I found it vital to rethink about how well to use taxonomies in presentation of my content to students. The first principle of UDL is representation and from this book chapter the author is clear that the learning objectives must be made very clear to the students. In addition the teacher must use multisensory and milt-methods to during the presentation of the content to the learners.

Considering what the author has found out in the use of Bloom taxonomy, it is true that we in Kenya have not been differentiating objectives for various learners. I as a teacher educator in university have never thought of this due and it is the high time I implement this. In our country we have not been thinking seriously about accommodations of all types of students in our classes thanks to the knowledge I now have of UDL. I will implement this immediately I go back to my country.

# Universal principles of design: 125 ways to enhance usability, influence perception, increase appeal, make better design decisions, and teach through design. By Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J.  (2003). 

The way this book is structure to is strange. It looks like a kind of an encyclopedia but more of an exposition of a kind. The book houses knowledge of various disciplines is short (2 pages) forms. It provide myriad of theories within very short space. The structure of the book firs reminds me of the major principle of universal design. In essence regardless of whatever discipline one is in this book caters for all. Therefore the book itself is universally designed. That’s apart, the book has clearly described the principles of UDL describing and giving vivid examples. The first principle of UDL which is “representation” is now clear to me. The question that came to my mind as I read more about this principle was; how many time me as a teacher educator thought of how well do I  break my content in to small manageable bits (chunking) for ease of understanding by my students. This is one thing that made me to think further that by considering how I structure my content I will be helping every learner in class to access the same. I should be able to in onset design my content in a way that it is accessible by all the learners despite their different abilities. Reading about the issue of cognitive dissonance which is found on page 45 of the book what came to my mind I facilitated communication. I think we lack this concept in our teaching in my country.  This book describes things that looks obvious to me but in a surprising way shows me that I should look deeper into the matters that seems obvious. An example is when a book explain the term “error” and does it in a way that one think deeper the repercussions of error. Indeed I will be more careful on developing my lessons for the learners and particularly how I organize my content and deliver it to the students. As a teacher educator I must teach this lesson to the teacher trainees.

 

 

# Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. by Rose Meyer at al

This book chapter was amazing to me. The author has made be to rethink about how we select instructional media for our instructions. Although I had some knowledge on how the text speech images and digital media affect their accessibility to students. I had never before thought deeply about why the flexibility in the media the key to providing instruction. I actually laughed at myself and at majority of teachers in my country when the author put it,   “Instead of thinking carefully about which medium to use in a given situation, we usually select what we have chosen in the past or what is convenient now”. Practically this is what we have been doing all through. I have learnt that we should be very careful since the various types of media have very different things to offer. Indeed we should consider the strengths and weaknesses of each type of instructional media (speech, text, and images) media to determine their suitability for difference instructional purpose. I have learnt that apart from considering appropriateness of a particular media to particular content or activity we also need to weigh the characteristics of our students. This is rarely done in my country by the teachers. We have not been keen in considering student s individuality but have been operating on what the author calls “one-size-fits-all” mindset.

I Kenya we have been having very many school dropout especially in primary and secondary school levels. The complaints have been that these students are mentally not able to understand the content taught. The students also get discouraged because they realized that they do not understand what is being presented to them by their teachers. Since they cannot go to the few special residential schools that are in the country they ends up dropping out is the schools. What has surprised many, the same people who a deemed to be “foolish” or “mentally retarded” by the school do very well outside the schools. By reading this chapter I have realized that the teachers have been playing a great role to facilitate the dropout from the schools. We often set goals and tie them to particular media without considering alternatives and further evaluate the learners in the same fixed way. The end result is labeling them “foolish”. I think this is the high time Kenyan schools embrace the use of more flexible media including the electronic media.

Foundations of UDL: Neuroscience ad Disability Studies:Reflection of readings for Week 2:

 

# Instructional accommodations: Impact of conventional vs. social constructivist view of disability by Sarah M. Ginsberg and Karen Schulte1

This research article was very important to me. This study interviewed professor’s view of students with special needs in their classes and the kind of accommodations they give to these students. The findings for the study were that some professors held conventional view while other held social constructivist perspectives about the students with disabilities. It was clear that those who had integrationist perspective gave more accommodations to the students. This group of professors strived to practice inclusive education. I was surprised to realize that just like it is the case with my country (Kenya), most of the professors have little or no knowledge and skills to educate the learners with special needs.

Lack of the knowledge and skills has led to poor accessibility or lack of quality university education the students with disabilities. The professors who have the conventional view tend to divided from the main learning community.

 

…..has the potential to not only put undue burden on the learner for their role in their     education, but to create a sense of alienation in the learning environment? Students            who do not feel that they belong are likely to have decreased retention in post-    secondary education programs (Belch, 2004-5).

 

Universal design instructional has been found a common and successful approach to remediating this problem. (Belch, 2004-5; Burghstahler, 2001).  The findings of this study portray a clear picture of the kind of suffering the students with special need are undergoing in the universities and hence the dire need for application of UDL in the university education.

This study did not observe in the classroom or interview students. Doing so might have generated more information about the education of these learners in the universities.

 

I love the suggested approach to solve the problems facing the professor.

 

if we expect professors to be able to provide an accessible education for all students,     faculty development centers will need to begin not only with increasing faculty    awareness of disabilities, but by teaching the underlying premises central to social      constructivism before moving forward to address universal instructional design.

 

Indeed the perspectives teacher have related to students with disabilities must first be changed to pave were for better inclusion of the learners and access to quality education by the learners. I conclude by stating that inclusion and application of UDL in education is the way to go.

 

# How the Brain Learns. by David A.  Saousa

 

This book has opened my eyes. I have vividly seen the mistakes I have been making as a teacher and I think I will now be able to rectify the mistakes. I also feel that every teacher needs to understand how our brains learn in order for him/her to plan well for instructions and engage the learners in the right way dunning the instruction progress. I have learnt how I acquire new dispositions from the environment through the sensory faculties and the way the sensory receptors detect the information and through neurons curry the information to and from the various sections of our brain. I am now well versed with the “information processing model” and its usefulness in the instructional processes.

I love the way the sensory register information has been presented and the information intergraded to the teaching and learning. The description of the process that leads to the retention of information in both the short-term memory and then the long-term memory is particular very important to me especially in preparation and delivering of instructional contents. The book chapters have also helped me to learn more about hoe emotions can lead to or create a barrier to learning. I particularly liked the way this has been ranked to show the importance of the learning environment: Data affecting survival, data affecting emotion and lastly data affecting new learning. I liked the following statement; “How a person ‘feels’ about a learning situation determines the amount of attention devoted to it”. Something else that captured my attention is the fact that meaning and the purpose of whatever we teachers teach must be made clear to the students if at all the students have to retain the information in their brains. I I actually was not aware of and which was clearly explained to me in the article is that meaning of the content alone does not necessarily lead to learners interest to learn. The purpose of the learner mastering the content or the skills is what mostly matters.

The explanation about the sensory presences by the learners leads me to think critically about the application UDL principles and practices to teaching and learning processes. Learners have different preferences and learning styles and therefor in endeavor to meet their different needs one has to us multi-sensory approaches and multi-methods in the instructions. As a teacher I will be able to create the most conducive climate for learning, I will be able to use humor to enhance the learning climate and promote retention of the content and skills to the learners,  motivate the learners in the most effective way, create meaning in new learning and use closures effectively to enhance learning.

It is amazing to learn how poorly I have ben assessing my students. The author has clearly demonstrated to me the way to go about this. I will effectively test my students to find out whether they have retained the information in their long-term memory. The practical methods and skills explained in this article on how to do this are amazing. Although I have been allowing students to work together on given tasks, I had never before that how well I would use synergy to enhance learning. The author has opened my eyes and I think this is the way to go about it. This was a wonderful reading.

 

Taking Exceptions: Discourse of exceptionality and the invocation of the “Ideal”. By Hardwood and Hamphry

 

This book chapter has presented to me very important issues concerning how discourse of exceptionality has led to the notion of exceptionality and conditions of being positioned as “disability” and why this should be recognized as oppression. The book chapter has made me to be keen and critical about the address of students in terms of their behavior or achievements. Truly the discourse of exceptionality should be interrogated in terms of production of norm of “ideal student”. After reading this literature, it is now clear to me how something becomes an issue of problem. The process of problematization has become clear to me why and how things, (phenomena, behavior, processes) becomes a problem. It has downed to me that in many occasions in my country when we describe students in certain ways the implication is that this could lead to a problem. The testing of IQ for example which brought about the phenomena of the normal curve has led to the misconceptions of the ‘normal’ and the ‘Ideal’ students. Indeed this has led to serious discrimination in terms of services given to learners. This discrimination goes against the novel duty to educate all ranges of students to their full potentials.

Upon reading this literature, I thought about our policies in Kenya concerning the education of the students with special needs. These policies should be refined in a way that they capture the description and the categorization of the learners in the schools. I also thought about the application of the principles and practices of UDL in the education of all students in my country. As a teacher educator I will as much as possible train my students to use this and I hope eventually we shall be able to make sure that our leaners including these with special educational needs access quality instructions.

 

#          A Comparison: Difference, Dependency and Stigmatization in Special Education and             Disability Studies. By Young and Mnutz

 

 

This book chapter has helped me to learn a number of things. First I had not before clearly understand the way the three disciplines i.e. Psychology, Special education and Disability studies relate tin the endeavor to  make brighter the lives of students with special needs. I am now aware that the discipline of psychology relies on identifying individual deficits and developing individual solutions to academic, social and behavioral problems in schools. The special education on the other hand offer short solutions to long term problems of education al inequalities for students labeled disabled in schools. That the disability studies provide alternative lens to that of special education by shifting questions about educational inequality from the individual to that of the society from the  child to school ad classroom structure. I have learned that the major difference between the special education and disability studies is mainly in their mission to help the child labeled “disabled”. While special education work to remediate students so they may leave independently in the future, disability studies explore societal constraints that keep students from accessing social and academic experiences in the present and in the future.

 

I totally agree with the argument presented in this book chapter that it would not be enough to give students the services they need while not subscribing the same situations to the future of social and academic dependence. It is true personally I as a person with disability have experienced problems being accepted back in the society even after I had attained quite an admirable level of education. There is also the tendency of providing the short term services needed in education but not considering that in the larger society there could be bigger problems that the short-term solutions cannot solve.

This brings me to another painful issue discussed in this book chapter; the issue of ‘normalcy”.  When we try to fix people with disabilities or in other words try to minimize the evidence of disabilities they might be having so that the individuals can fit in the society we go wrong. What happens to the disabilities that cannot be fixed or hidden or minimized for example congenital blindness? This will mean that that person will not be fully accepted in the society. Labeling and stigmatization which are also discussed here come in handy and the result is suffering by this particular individual with disability.

 

I love the idea of applying UDL to the education of the learners who are special needs because it offers both the shot-term solutions: the learners immediate needs in the school and long term solutions to the problems the learner might face in the future in the society. This gives the learners knowledge; skills and confidence to confront his problems in future even after schooling. It also leads to independent. As the author argues there is there is the need of the schools to embrace the UDL principles and practices in order to avoid barriers that the students have in their education. One barrier that I have noted of concern in USA schools is that of standardized test. The author has argued well that schools should go beyond standardized tests acknowledging the students impairments while addressing structural barriers in classrooms or schools. I believe this is the way to go. In my country the situation is worse. Labeling is common, stigmatization is a usual thin to an extent that the majority of people with disabilities themselves have accepted that they are “abnormal” and they have given in the struggle of being accepted in the society. This literature is an inspiration to me and I will fight hard to rescue the people with disabilities in my country upon completion of this course.

Weekly Reflections (Week one, January 17)

Universal Design Access the Curriculum by Robin Zeff

This article to me is a clear introduction and clear description of the concept of Universal design (UD). It gives me the history of universal design and demonstrates to me how Universal design for Learning (UDL) emanated from the architectural concept of inclusion.  The statement introducing this article “when applied to higher education, universal design brings a framework for making learning more accessible and instructions more responsive and inclusive to all students”. Attracts my attentions and arouse my interest to learn more about the UD. The progressive development of the UDL principles from those developed by Ron Mace that were more tied to the physical environment to the connection of these to higher education to make the teaching and learning more accessible to all is to me amazing. Although it was not the superior product from the architectural design that made UD gain mainstream acceptance, it is very interesting for me to learn that many things for example highly designed kitchen utensils that I normally find in the market were first designed for people with disabilities.

Moreover, I am shocked by the fact that the social forces that many years back brought about the acceptance of UD to higher education i.e. pressure of expanding diversity of today’s student population, the social pedagogical challenges of integrating digital technology into higher education and political pressure for greater accessibility of higher education is what our universities in Kenya are facing today and we are yet to find solutions to this. Indeed due to the increasing range of students in the universities in Kenya today, there is a need to challenge the traditional pedagogy and andragogy practices in the higher education and to make education accessible to the broad range of the learners.

The expanding role of technology in education today which is of tremendous potential for improving education is another powerful issue that makes me think more broadly about the accessibility of education back in my country. Mostly in our universities in Kenya the tendency is to give an alternate form of a lecture to the students with disabilities for example audio lecture. I have come to learn through this article that technology should be used for more than replicating a lecture setting. I learn that the curriculum should be redesigned to marry good pedagogy with appropriate use of technology. To me the fact that UD is a strategy that aids in making learning more accessible to all learners through the use of technology is exciting. The challenge is what my country which lacks most of the technology should do in order to ensure accessibility of education to all. However, this is not something that we cannot overcome. After all I believe that good instruction does always depend on high level technology. We can commence by using the available technology in our learning institutions. It is amazing how Bastarbler and her DO-IT team approached the introduction of UDL in the University of Washington. I like the way they started by providing computers and various adapted software and called this practice universal design of Information Technology, then went further to working with the faculty members to make instruction and materials more accessible to learners ad called this universal design of curriculum and instruction and then finally focused on improving the library services and bringing them to career center and calling it UD of student services. I love this and I think it can work very well with our Kenyan university. This style is easily acceptable by both the faculty members and the students.

Policy Foundation of Universal Design for Learning. by Thomas Hehir

The book chapter by Hehir begins by giving me a clear image of the kind of suffering the personas with disabilities underwent prior to the laws and policies ensuring that they accessed education. The description of the conditions these people lived drove a major question in my brain: What was the government doing about this? However the author quickly caught my interest by describing how the passing of federal special education law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973 and Individual with Disability Education Act; IDEA, 1975) bound and enabled the accessibility of education by these learners to the current status of UDL utilization in the least restrictive environments. The law set the dynamics leading to greater access for children with disabilities and further lay foundation for educators to enhance accessibility through UDL. In Kenya today we still do not have specific laws to guarantee the quality education for student s with disabilities. This is sad and I have learned here how important such laws are in ensuring the rights of all in terms of education are not violated.

I have further learned the role of the parents in advocating better education for their children. This is vividly seen in 1980s and 90s when they further challenged the separation of their children and fought for the integration of these children into the mainstream.  Back in my country Kenya parent’s involvement in the education of their children is minimal. Their major role is to pay the school fees and engaging although rarely in solving disciplinary cases of their children. Our educational policies should allow parents to put more of their voices to the education of their children. As I continued to read this chapter I remembered the saying that “necessity is the mother of innovation”. The necessity to include the learners with disabilities in the mainstream in 1990s brought about intense technological innovation in the field of the persons with disabilities. With this I think it was possible to come up with another law which of cause came in handy in early 1990s: the Americans with Disability Act, ADA which put tremendous emphasis on people with disabilities access to everything in life thus leading to the amendment of the IDEA in 1997 with endeavor to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the general education curriculum. According to Hehir, policies including RTI and PBS have had a great impact on the support of UDL.

Finally, I love the fact that UDL creates the framework to reduce the barriers in education, anticipate the diversity in every day classrooms and embed support into curriculum thus open the door in education for all. I conclude by stating that UDL is embedded by the law and it is great. Therefore I will try introducing this when I get back to my country.

 

Universal Design for Learning Provision in Higher Education Opportunity Act (PL-110-315)

This book chapter introduces me to very important law; HEOA of 2008 which was passed with strong inspiration and supports the statutory definition of UDL. I learn that the definition of UDL incorporates three principles: representation, expression and engagement. Further I learn that UDL emphasizes reducing of barriers with appropriate support and challenges built in instructions. I find it a very good idea to step up the pre-service training of teacher’s education program to incorporate instructions consistent with the UDL. This will obviously empower the teacher to meet the diverse needs of their students. But I also thought it would be great to in-service all other teachers who are already in the field so that they can better meet the diverse needs of their students. This write up well describes the HEOA but I don’t really understand what happens to the institutions which does not get the federal funding. Just like it is the case with the ADA only those institutions that are funded by the federal government are highly restricted to follow the law to the letter. I also see this happening with the HEOA and the implication is that the implementation of this law might not be adhered to by all. Despite this, my feeling is that passing of this law is vital. My country should be able to borrow a lot from the way USA is handling education.

March 6th article reflection

MARCH 6th REFLECTIONS
As I read the article “Getting it right from the start” a trail of questions ran through my mind. Some of the questions were: How can one really be able to accommodate the students with different types of disabilities among a large group of able bodied and achieve the class objectives? As I perused through the article something very interesting caught my eyes; “Universal design is not achieved through uniformity but rather through flexibility and creativity”. The examples given in the article on how the teacher handled various students in her physical education classroom gave me a further understanding on how the teacher can make sure that each learner regardless of his/her disabilities can access quality instruction. The explanation of consideration of the three major variables i.e. the attribute of all the students in the class, the objectives of the class and that of the individual students and the modification variables cleared by doubt that it is not possible to achieve the lesson objectives. The other question which disturbed me as I commenced reading the article was: How can a teacher make sure that all the learner regardless of their disabilities attain the determined new dispositions just like the other able bodied? As I read through the FAME model, I couldn’t avoid the joy in my heart. I got the answer straight on how a teacher can create modification for lessons in order to enhance the learning for all. The five steps of instructional modification were amazing and I could see clearly why in my country Kenya many students with disabilities get discouraged and run away from schools to the town street and go begging. But still even after reading this article my third and last questions was not fully answered. The teacher in order to accommodate the al learners in her lesson used variety of learning resources which well fitted the individual learner’s needs. Still, my question is what do I do as a teacher from poor country where such high technology and finance for may be improvisation the high quality learning aids is not available? Our curriculum is also fixed in a way that “one size fits all” what can I do to in this situation to ensure all the learners in my class benefit fully from the lesson despite their disabilities. I need more material to read or explanations for this.
As I read through the article “preparing students with disabilities for college success”, I deeply thought about why some of the students I have taught before seemed to be embarrassed and other became very dependent to the kind of the accommodation my school gave. Seriously I have learnt a great deal on what to consider before designing accommodation for the students with disabilities. What tricked me even more was that “….specific accommodation should not automatically be considered or provided to students with specific disabilities… nor does the fact that a student has disability mean that the student necessarily requires accommodation”. I now realize how important it is to assess and consider the needs of individual student and to involve the student in this assessment. On the issue of transition to the college level, the policies are understandable according to me but the issues of balancing the students’ needs and that of the college ability that of the college decision on what to in terms of accommodation is tricky. E.g. who ensures and how is it determines that the accommodation is reasonable for the learner? There could be some bias here and the affected learner can suffer a great deal.