Thursday, January 1, 2015

Technology To Help Special Needs Students Using the Universal Design For Learning Model

Technology To Help Special Needs Students Using the Universal Design For Learning Model

Each student is different and unique in their own way. In this day and age we need to move from the traditional ways of teaching where all students are taught in the same manner. In fact according to the CAST website “Individuals bring a huge variety of skills, needs, and interests to learning. Neuroscience reveals that these differences are as varied and unique as our DNA or fingerprints.” We must realize that each student has a different learning style and with the use of technology it makes it much easier to help the various types of learners. Below is a list of the best websites for helping students with special needs, so please bookmark them. 

Please click on the following links to find apps that you can use in your classrooms to help students with special needs.

Suggested readings to check out….

So how do you use technology in a class that has special needs students? Please consider the following example to provide a step by step approach to this question:

The school principal directed you, a lead technology school-based expert, to work jointly with a classroom teacher to create learning experiences that not only meet students’ individual differences, but also address 21st Century learning trends. Specifically, the principal asked for you to design, implement, and assess a technology integration/intervention program for a group of 30 students with unique needs.

Of the 30 students, there are 10 identified as gifted and talented. The gifted and talented students are accustomed to working individually online. Two students have disabilities dramatically affecting learning. One student is blind and another is hearing impaired. The remaining 18 students reflect ability levels ranging from the lowest level to high achieving.

In order to solve this problem I chose to have the students begin the class by completing a multiple intelligence survey and learning styles assessment located at surfaquarium. The reason for starting the class this way was to find out the various types of learners that I would be working with. I realized that I had several that were hands-on, visual, and auditory learners. I also had the teacher complete a survey located on survey monkey. The purpose of this survey was to evaluate the level of technology proficiency that my classroom teacher had and design my lesson according to their abilities. I was also able to use this survey to plan professional development sessions that will help the teacher acquire new technology skills that they can bring back to their classroom.

After learning where the students were at academically I designed UDL (Universal Design for Learning) lesson plans that met the needs of all students. I realized that I had special needs students in the class and I had to find a way to help them based on their need. I utilized text to voice software to help the students that were blind and hearing impaired. I designed hands-on learning activities for the gifted/talented students that allowed them to use higher level thinking skills to accomplish the assignment. All students were required to use Web 2.0 applications such as blogs, videos, and/or audio to help them understand the material and provide a means of assessment rather than traditional methods.

 The lessons were designed to help teachers see how you can integrate technology into the classroom among diverse learners. You will see an example lesson (keep reading) for gifted and talented students, visually and hearing impaired students, high range of ability students, as well as low range of ability students. The lessons are all broken down into recognition networks which is the “what” of learning, strategic networks which is the “how of learning and affective networks which is the “why” of learning.

Furthermore, the lessons were designed to have students reflect upon their learning by the use of blogs. According to Solomon & Schrum, “Blogging is the new way to express oneself and have an authentic audience. The implications for students include writing about issues and thus improving writing skills, learning from each other, thinking through topics thoroughly enough to offer an opinion and add information, peer editing, finding a community of others interested in the same topic, and becoming confident in sharing what they know.” (pg. 56)

 The rationale for the recommended professional development for the teacher was suggested to provide a hands-on approach to learning how to teach with technology. I realized that many teachers are simply not embracing tech in the classroom simply because they may not know how to use the tech themselves. By having a professional development that is focused on the use of Web 2.0 applications I felt it would ease the pressure on many teachers who may have a sense of uneasiness. 

Sample Lesson Plans:

These lessons were designed to help teachers see how you can integrate technology into the classroom among diverse learners. You will see an example lesson for gifted and talented students, visually and hearing impaired students, high range of ability students, as well as low range of ability students.

I used the CAST lesson plan builder found at
This is a great resource where you can learn about the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) lesson plan template, explore examples of UDL lessons, as well as create and save your own lessons based in the UDL lesson template.

Once you create an account on this website you will then be given an option to create a UDL lesson plan and view other examples of UDL lessons. You can even watch videos to learn more about UDL.

See video below:

 My lesson examples:

UDL Lesson 1 targets the Gifted/Talented

UDL Lesson 2 targets the special needs students. In this example we have a blind and hearing impaired student.

UDL Lesson 3 targets the low-level students

UDL Lesson 4   targets the high-level students

Here is the link to create a UDL lesson offline if you had a hard time finding it on the website.

Still Need More Examples, check out the following examples

Look at the following link below to see how you can use cartoons to engage auditory and visual learners.

This video can help many visual learners.

The visually impaired students will be accommodated with a voice to text software.  Check out this video about Dragon Diction.

In conclusion, using the UDL approach is an excellent way to meet the needs of students requiring special attention. The examples provided are just a few of the ways that you can teach with technology and still follow the UDL strategies suggested. Please feel free to try these techniques out and offer suggestions as well as other ways that you plan on teaching with technology to meet the needs of all students! 

References: (2009). Model UDL lessons. Center for Applied Special Technology. Retrieved on March 27, 2014, from

Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, New schools. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Is ClassDojo a Useful Tool For Classroom Behavior Management?

As I speak to many beginning teachers I am often hearing the same horror stories. 

  • I can't handle these kids! 
  • The students are just out of control!
  •  I just don't know what to do. 
  • Any suggestions before I lose my mind? 

 Managing classroom behavior is a critical component of being an effective teacher. 
  • If you can't manage your classroom early on in the year, then you will have a difficult time for the remainder of the year. 

 In order to manage your classroom you must be:

  •  Consistent in what you do on a day to day basis. Teaching can be an arduous task if you allow it to be. I learned that you have to work smarter, not harder in this wonderful profession. 

My story...

 The biggest problems that I faced as a first year teacher was that I couldn't teach if none of the students were listening to me speak. I tried effortlessly for the first few months, however nothing seemed to work. 

The yelling and screaming only worked so long, until I was burnt out and out of words literally.  

 The problem that I noticed was that students were simply not motivated to do their work and behave in class. I tried in many ways to talk to the students and explain the importance of doing their work and behaving, however nothing seemed to work.

I've got the solution

My solution was found...

I finally decided to search for a solution to my problem. I began to learn that students were much more willing to pay attention if I can convince them that there is a reward or prize for their effort. 

 I needed to find a way to publically reward my students, thus allowing them to feel a sense of accomplishments for their efforts. The students seemed to respond very well to friendly competition. 

 I figured if I can find a way to create a competitive atmosphere in my classroom, yet reward students for appropriate behavior then I may have a win-win situation.

 I finally found what I have been looking for, it was ClassDojo. This program is simply amazing. Please read the various stories that are found on their website. What I also loved about the program was that it not only allowed me to manage my class, but also use technology at the same time. 

 Please try it out for yourself and comment on this post with your thoughts and opinions of the program. What did you like most? Least? Do you think that ClassDojo a Useful Tool For Classroom Behavior Management? 

Check out this program and see for yourself

Pictures found on the following website: 

 ClassDojo image. Digital image. Https:// ClassDojo, n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2014. <>.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How do we increase student motivation?

"Research shows that allowing students to set some of their own learning goals increases their motivation to learn. Technology enhances this process by helping students organize, clarify, and communicate learning objectives." 

 I selected this quote because I truly believe that this is correct. To increase student motivation we need to:

  • Allow them to set their own learning goals. 
  • Hold them accountable to their individual learning.
 I believe that allowing students to set their own goals will make them much more responsible and interested in what they are learning. By giving students options they may feel a sense of ownership and involvement in the material that they are learning. The use of technology will help enhance student engagement on the material that is covered. Technology can be used to:

  • Allow students to share their ideas and creativity in various forms. 
  • Prepare students for the "real world" of collaboration, communication and organization in the workplace setting. 

Citation: Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Chapters 1, 15-38.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

FAA, industry launch drone safety campaign- Simple teaching strategies to increase literacy in your class.

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2014 file photo, a drone flies during a presentation to the press in Paris, France, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. Alarmed by increasing encounters between small drones and manned aircraft, the drone industry is teaming up with the government and model aircraft hobbyists to launch a safety campaign. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Original post found here:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alarmed by increasing encounters between small drones and manned aircraft, drone industry officials said Monday they are teaming up with the government and model aircraft hobbyists to launch a safety campaign.
The campaign includes a website — — which advises both recreational and commercial drone operators of FAA regulations and how to fly their unmanned aircraft safely. The campaign was announced by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Small UAV Coalition, both industry trade groups, and the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which represents model aircraft hobbyists, in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The two industry trade groups also said they plan to distribute safety pamphlets at industry events, and are working with drone manufacturers to see that safety information is enclosed inside the package of new drones.
Retailers say small drones, which are indistinguishable from today's more sophisticated model aircraft, are flying off the shelves this Christmas.
"In just a few days, kids old and young will unwrap presents, and many of them — maybe tens of thousands — will have unmanned aircraft," Michael Toscano, president of the unmanned vehicle association, said in a conference call with reporters. "This technology is very accessible and in very high demand, but information on how to fly safety isn't readily available. That's why we've created this safety campaign."
The FAA is concerned that amateurs are using the drones in a reckless manner, increasing the likelihood of a collision that could bring down a plane or rain debris down on people. The agency has been receiving about 25 reports per month this year of drones sighted flying near manned aircraft or airports, up from just a handful of reports two years ago.
"This is an issue of growing concern," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "The price of unmanned aircraft has come down and this newer and more powerful technology is more affordable to more people, yet many are not familiar with the rules of flying."
Small drones are available today for as little as a few hundred dollars. As of the end of 2013, about 1 million small drones had been sold worldwide for recreational and commercial use, according to industry estimates. Sales this year are expected to significantly outdistance previous tallies. Catalogs like Hammacher Schlemmer and Brookstone have prominently featured small drones this Christmas, while online retailer Amazon is offering more than a dozen different models priced from as little as $30 to nearly $3,000.
"Many of these operators have no aviation history, background or knowledge," Margaret Gilligan, FAA's associate administrator for safety, told a recent forum hosted by the Air Line Pilots Association. "They think they just bought something fun that they just want to fly around. They don't for a moment think, 'I'm entering the national airspace system.' "
Such operators don't intend to interfere with manned aircraft, but "they just don't know what they don't know," she said.
Original post found here:

One of the simplest things that I have done this year to incorporate more writing in my classroom was to use online discussion boards to allow my students to share their thoughts on various current event topics relevant to the class. A few months ago I was teaching a lesson on drones. I had my students conduct research on the use of drones and they were instructed to prepare a presentation to the class. As an in class writing assignment, using the website I had the students answer the question: What are some ethical issues surrounding drone warfare? Prior to answering the question we had read an article (similar to the one listed on this post) and engaged in a debate about the issue. To extend my lesson students posted their comments on the discussion board and then allowed other classmates to comment on their post. I found this strategy was an excellent way to engage my students in the areas of writing, science, technology, politics, etc. I encourage other teachers out there to use this strategy if you need to include more writing in your class. For many schools literacy is a major area of weakness and allowing students to write more can really inspire them to develop this skill. Please comment on your thoughts and read the article featured here.  If you need more ideas on how to include more writing assignments in your class please follow me on my blog as I will publish more articles in the future. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Constructionist Learning Theory

“Constructionist learning theory tells us that we learn in a variety of ways. The more opportunities we have, and the more actively engaged we are, the richer our understanding."

 I strongly believe in this quote and I apply the principles of multiple intelligences as a regular part of my classroom instruction. According to this article, knowledge is a developed through the use of "tools, resources, experiences, and contexts." Something that I found very interesting is that the article stated that good teachers use experience as an instructional tool. I also feel that personal experience and making connections to prior learning is absolutely valuable to the learning process. To sum things up, I believe that every educator should apply a variety of strategies to make the learning process much more beneficial to all. The more opportunities the student has the more memorable the experience will be. As a result, the experience will lead to greater understanding!

Citation: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, (1999). Learning as a personal event: A brief introduction to constructivism. Retrieved from

Happy New Year! What is your resolution?

Greetings everyone,

 Happy Holidays from my family to yours! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season.  It has been a while since I have blogged...but I'm back! In fact my resolution this year is to be a more productive blogger. What is your resolution? As we educators enjoy the holiday break it is a time to not only relax and spend time with our loved ones, but I feel that we also need to reflect on the past year and the New Year to come. What will you do to inspire your students during this New Year?

  As quality educators I feel it is our responsibility to provide engaging lessons to our students that enhance their learning and inspire a thirst for knowledge. One of the problems that I realize is that many educators are not always willing to take risk in the way that they teach. Why change what you are doing if it has worked before? This is a common response that I hear from my fellow educators. I feel although we need keep many of the fundamental ways of teaching consistent we also need to realize that the way that students learn is always changing. With the advent of technology, social media and other online resources at everyone's fingertips it is no surprise to why we need to change with the times. I challenge every educator that may stumble upon my blog to do their best this year to incorporate at least one new form of technology into their classrooms. It may be something simple, however make sure that it is relevant to what you are teaching and it provides an opportunity for the learners to be fully engaged in the lesson. Students learn best by doing and using technology is something that I feel most students nowadays love to use and can truly inspire their individual learning. Please take a bit of time during the much needed break to really think about how you plan on rolling in the New Year in your classroom. What technology will you include to help all students succeed? What resources will you need to allow for full engagement of your lessons? With that I say happy holidays to all and have a blessed new year!