Agency is about taking control of my own learning. Agency in teaching includes making the right options available for my students. Designing spaces that meet the needs of all students means that universal design for learning principles (UDL) need to be applied. Since I design digital spaces that are used within physical places, I need to carefully review my options.
What are the options students currently have in my courses? As I examine the choices in the courses I teach, I discover that options abound, yet there is more work to do. While a variety of digital technology is prominent, students also engage with low tech options with paper, markers, and physical sticky notes. What are the options for students to ‘show what they know‘, the HOW of learning? It is important to provide choice and voice in physical actions, expression and communication, and executive functions.
Providing options for physical action should consider the motor demands of tasks. This includes how students respond physically and how they navigate in physical and digital spaces. Within digital tasks, options to use text, image, video, voice recordings are provided. Dragon dictate and Word Q are available and encouraged. One student produced a Quicktime screencast as part of her inquiry into this Ministry of Education licensed software. Here is her video recording.
- One way that students connect digital spaces with physical places is through the use of QR codes. Students create visual posters that include four or more QR codes linked to digital content relevant to their topic. Many students create new collections or content to support their inquiry.
- In one class, students collaboratively drew an image of today’s student. This was completed using a method of their choice – digitally or hand drawn. Some were done in Cacoo while others were completed with chart paper and markers. Here is one example.
Providing options for expression and communication means that text is not the only choice. To show what they know students can apply a variety of media. Using a variety of media is not only encouraged, it is expected. Sandbox tasks allow students to explore a variety of Web 2.0 tools while applying critical media and digital literacy skills to their work. Students create blog responses, produce comics that show understanding of concepts, and engage with others using a variety of online collaborative tools. For each physical class, my option is to introduce and use one new tool, activity or resource that my students can apply to their own teaching/learning practice. They learn by DOING IT.
Padlet was used to explore student understanding of the topic of constructivism.
- Students create a comic strip to demonstrate what they learned for a variety of topics. Once they have created their digital avatar in Bitstrips, the class photo shows a who’s who of digital characters.
- Students responded to an online survey form to identify their stance toward the issues relevant to media literacy.
Providing options for executive function will focus on self regulation, sustained effort, persistence, being personally aware, and metacognitive tasks. This can include goal setting, to-do lists, calendars, and checklists. Feedback for improvement is essential. Reflections on, in and of actions is integrated into the process and final products students create.
- Remind is one tool used this year but it is uni-directional (from teacher to student). While it provides a way for me to connect to students to remind them of tasks to do or ideas to remember, it does not ensure they apply self regulation or sustained effort.
- This year I provided feedback to students as a google presentation using skitch to annotate images captured from their blog sites. While this was an effective way to show students what I noticed or where to make improvements, it did not ensure that students understood my directions or suggestions.
- For the major assignment in one course, students create their own rubrics using a framework constructed in class on a google spreadsheet. Once students craft their rubric, they submit them for feedback prior to submission with their final project.
As I reflect and review my options, one area of the UDL principles for action and expression will require increasing potentials for agency for students. Engaging students in options for executive function can include collaborative calendars, to-do-lists, checklists and goal setting. Providing these options will ensure that students take control of their own path through their learning within these courses.
Universal design for learning principles can transform teaching and learning. The application of UDL to course design will be my option to transform personal agency in teaching and learning. If you want to provide options for your students, you can learn more about UDL on the SOOC4Learning site and follow on Twitter #SOOC2015.