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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Smart Thinking: Ideas and Resources to Drive them to Think

If you are a SCAN user, by now you have heard the bad news that the SCAN technology tool at TregoED is going offline in June.  The good news is that SCAN is more than an online tool, SCAN is a process for helping your kids be better thinkers.  You don’t need no stinkin’ computer for that!  Your brain is the best and most complex piece of technology you will ever own.  And just like any technology, you can always learn to use it better.

SCAN, simply put is an acronym for 4 questions that can help take a complex problem with different perspectives and break it down into manageable pieces:

1.        Stop and look at the situation….what are the most important issues? What are people concerned about?
2.       Clarify those issues – What do you mean by that?  When you ask a student to explain themselves you make them dig deeper than the facts.  What are the arguments for and against these issues?
3.       Ask what is most important.  Again, this step makes your students evaluate arguments and prioritize issues, a process that requires critical thinking.
4.       Now what?  The last step of this critical thinking strategy asks students to determine what should be done, synthesize a solution, make a plan. Use this graphic organizer to get them thinking with any scenario!

Drive them to think! 

So here are some recent hot topics (culled from and Newsela) that just beg for some SCAN critical thinking:
Do you think we should stop having Daylight Savings Time?
 Should Apple have to give the government the code to open their iphone?

Have students read the article, research a point of view, develop an argument, determine which issues are most important and devise a plan of action.  Let them work in groups, debate, collaborate and negotiate.  Check out this easy SCAN graphic organizer - smart thinking!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tech & UDL: Giving Students Voice and Choice

Teachers are faced with the challenge of meeting the needs, finding the spark, and moving a diverse group of students towards adulthood every day.  Designing your lessons so that they address all the different learning styles, strengths and weaknesses of our children seems like a daunting task. So how do we help every student succeed without being overwhelmed?  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) helps by providing a framework that breaks this task into manageable pieces.  Technology provides the resources and tools we need to design, deliver and assess those lessons. 

UDL is a framework that can help you design and plan accessible learning in your classroom.  Essentially, you examine your goals, materials, methods and assessments and provide a variety of options to make sure that everyone has equal access to learning.
CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology designers of UDL) proposes we do these 3 things to design lessons for all our kids:
1.       Present information (content) in different ways 
2.       Allow students to approach learning tasks (manipulate information) and demonstrate what they know (assessment) in different ways.
3.       Allow options that will engage students and keep them interested.

While you can certainly design a UDL lesson without technology, technology can help you find and organize great resources, to accomplish the challenging task of offering students voice and choice in the way they learn and the way they demonstrate that learning. Check out Karen Janowski’s comprehensive Wiki, the UDL Tech ToolKit with great tools for multiple means of presenting information, expressing learning and engaging students to help you remove the barriers for all learners.  Looking for more? Check out the resources in this livebinder, UDL Resources for Middle Schools

Implementation of the “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)” is right around the corner (Fall 2016). What better way to ensure that “Every student succeeds” than designing lessons that encompass the diversity of learning styles, interests and passions of our students.