Final Project-Universally Designed Lesson

For the past few years, I have been working with 11th and 12th grade Resource students at my high school. This past year, I went back to teaching all 4-grade levels (9-12) and have several ninth grade students. All ninth graders are required to take Earth Science, and pass a regents exam at the end of the year. The ninth graders go to science class every other day (Block Scheduling) and are taught by an Earth Science content teacher. As a resource teacher, I generally am a support to help supplement this content.

The Earth Science Regents exam is a test of 50 multiple choice questions on part one, and 35 short answer, explanatory type questions on part two. The students are allowed to use an Earth Science Reference Table (ESRT) to take the test. The table consists of 16 pages of information. Approximately a half to 60% of the test questions can be answered using the reference table. One of the main goals of this class is for students to be able to garner information from visual materials, such as charts, graphs, tables, maps, etc.

The Earth Science curriculum is comprised of 12 units, or modules, which are designed to teach students that, “Many of the phenomena that we observe on Earth involve interactions among components of air, water and land” (NYSED 2009). Students are taught, how to interpret data pertinent to each unit, from a section of Reference Table. Typically, the science teacher introduces the section of the table they will be working with for that unit and students complete activities, perform labs, and learn vocabulary, content, and concepts that go along with the table of information.

There are a number of ninth graders each year that do not pass the Earth Science Regents Exam, because they are not able to access, and utilize the Reference Table to gain necessary information. After taking this class, I thought it would be a great idea to apply UD to teaching the ESRT so that it would be accessible to all ninth grade students, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation (Ron Mace 1997). For this project I am going to apply the ideas of UD to one section of the NYS Earth Science Reference Table. It is my hope over the summer to take the other sections of the table and do the same thing, so that next year, the entire table will be accessible to all freshmen taking this course.

I have spoken with the Earth Science teachers about this idea and they are on board and think it would be very useful for their classes. We have not finalized how it may be implemented. They may incorporate my plans into their lessons, or I could go into their science classes, at the beginning of each unit and be the “guest” teacher. We will have to wait until the fall to see how our schedules work out, to determine which way it can be done. I would prefer to go into their classes, because I think I could really have some fun with this idea and believe that a novel person might help to engage the students. I would be an additional resource for students (other than those identified) and by working with me in class they could get to know me and maybe feel comfortable accessing me with questions, or for additional support, during the day or after school. I will use the UD lessons/materials with all of the ninth grade Resource students, but by would like to be able to use them will all the ninth graders in the building.

Three target students:

My student from project 1 was a student identified with ADHD. This student likes to be active and moving. (Personal interests are food, since his family owns a bakery, and sports, he is very athletic) His strength is that he is able to do several things at once. He has strong communication skills and is extremely charming. He is liked by both peers and adults.. His behavior is appropriate for his age and does not interfere with learning. His academic performance is at least in the average range. He likes science and is interested in the subject matter. He especially likes lab classes. He needs information to be concise and direct.

The second target student is a student of color. She tends to be reserved and quiet, and would never think about being a disruption or disturbance in class. She likes when information is presented visually with the least amount of words possible. (Personal interests are fashion, hair, current-style). Her strength is that she is sweet and kind, wants to please those around her, and is always willing to do what she is asked, or lend a hand. Her behavior does not interfere with learning. She perseveres with language and communicates with others despite her stuttering. She always tries her hardest, even though it does not always show in her grades. Science is a neutral subject, not necessarily her most, or least favorite. She is quite social with many friends, and teachers tend to like her. She needs information to be in visual format without many words to interfere.

The third target student is a student on the spectrum, with Aspergers. He is very bright and would learn in much the same way as most of his typical 9th grade peers. He does not have a preference for how material is presented, and would do equally well with language, visually or kinesthetically. (Personal interests include marine biology, especially whales; and history, particularly the Civil War era). He is a solid student, has a good work ethic, and achieves academically. He has strong communication skills, which include a large vocabulary and a good understanding of the English language. His behavior does not interfere with learning. He is very social and is liked by peers and adults. Science is interesting to him and he considers it one of his best subjects. He learns best when information is organized, logical and sequentially presented, like most would.

The original lesson given by the Earth Science teachers is to have students take out their reference tables and then direct them to the chart on the top of page 14. The teachers typically would point out the various sections of the table and explain how, and when, each is used. The lesson would be a 15-20 minute overview and would be done verbally. There is no choice for students, and everyone in the class is participating in the same way, with one mode.

In the first reading, Zeff (2007) stated that when applied to education, “UD brings a framework for making learning more accessible and instruction more responsive and inclusive to all students.” Currently, the science teachers are not making the ESRT accessible or inclusive to all ninth graders. It is not very responsive because the students are sitting listening to the teachers talk. There are no options for student learning, and there are a fair number of students who do not pass the Regents Exam, so have not been able to access the reference material. Thousand (2007) suggests that when developing instruction we should, “Allow students multiple means to access the content.” Thousand further states that, “Learning preferences provide valuable context for designing access to the content; and, content differentiation also can be facilitated through the use of taxonomies, graphic organizers and technology, layered curriculum and differential levels of student participation, culturally responsive techniques, and students’ interests in the curriculum.”

The first thing I would do for the Universally Designed lesson is to make the ESRT available in multiple formats. It can be printed (as it currently is used); downloaded in Braille, or large print for students who have low vision; downloaded and translated to Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian or Hatian Creole for ESL students; downloaded or scanned into the Kurzweil, for students who are weaker readers, do not have grade level language or vocabulary skills, as target student #2, or for the ADHD student (from project 1, student #1) to help keep focus and attention to the task at hand, and allow him to be a more active learner.

I would begin the lesson by color-coding the chart (see below) with the students. I would demonstrate for students (via smart board) while they were coloring their own table. I would also have some charts available for students that may just want to listen or choose to do it at a later time. The colors on the chart will help students see the information more clearly, and it will give the chart some layers of comprehension. This activity would help to engage students by making them active participants and by allow them to manipulate material. Finally, it would bring focus to each section, introduce unfamiliar vocabulary, and facilitate pre-learning.

original chart

Color-coded model

(New York State Science Standards 2009)

Lesson Goal:
Standard 2 and 7:

Students will access and generate information using the Selected Properties of Earth’s Atmospheres table.

(Logical/Mathematical Intelligences, Spatial Intellectual Intelligences, Naturalistic Intelligences) (Gardner 2005)

Lesson Objectives:
-1 table – 4 types of information
-convert km to miles
-give temperature for each zone
-atmospheric pressure to 35 miles above sea level
-understand why water vapor is only found in the troposphere
-vocabulary (stratosphere, interface, etc)

Essential – every student will be able to convert miles to kilometers using chart
Expected – students will give altitude in mi/kl above sea level; give temp for each sphere; give pressure/water vapor for troposphere; identify interface
Enrichment- understand/ explain why most of the atmosphere’s water and pressure are found within the troposphere.

Assessment/Demonstration of Knowledge
Harwood and Humphry (2008) believe that there is no “Ideal, “ or normal student and that there is a full range of students who need to be taught. If teaching is flexible and allows for students to focus on strengths to complete tasks and use different strategies to compensate for weaker areas, then it would make sense to have the following array of ways to have students demonstrate knowledge.

After coloring the chart, students may work individually; collaboratively in groups; on computer with YouTube videos (demonstration or song); on laptop with Kurzweil; with Science teacher; with me, to answer various questions by using the Properties of the Earth’s Atmosphere, section of the ESRT. Questions will include T/F, short answer, etc and include comprehension through analysis type questions. Essential, expected and enrichment goals will be considered mastery.

Students will take a written unit exam at the end of unit, using the ESRT. Prior to the exam, student’s will be able to come in after school to “review” and demonstrate mastery by: (1)answering sample questions on paper; (2) answering questions using Kurzweil; (3) Dictate responses into Dragon Dictate program on computer;(4) with interactive computer programs (Regents, commercial, from school districts); (5)YouTube creation

By allowing students choice it will, help students to be comfortable with learning, and learning to be accessible. In addition, choice will help to , “Promote self-efficacy by structuring academic tasks that can be accomplished with a reasonable effort and high rate of success” (Mastropieri 2001).


Translated ESRT:

Braille ESRT:

Hammocks Middle School Podcast pg 14 ESRT:

Pg 14 ESRT Song:

I like the idea of making the ESRT accessible to all ninth graders because being able to read pictorial information, such as graphs, charts and tables is a necessary life skill, especially in our highly visual world of today. In addition, I do not think any student should fail a test, when they have the answers and just need to be able to locate them. Therefore, if the tables were truly accessible to all students, they could learn how to navigate through each section and meet with success on the state assessment. Passing the first high school, high stakes, assessment would encourage, motivate and allow for high success rates, and thus self-efficacy.

Having the table available on the Kurzweil would allow target students (1&2) more access. For the ADHD student, having the ESRT available on the Kurzweil would help to maintain focus and concentration. It would assist with following along, and not being all over the page. The Kurzweil could also help with unfamiliar vocabulary (which he would just skip over if he didn’t know it). This technology would build upon strengths because the student would be more actively involved. He can adjust the speed of reading, the voice, etc. and can manipulate the information by adding highlighting, or taking notes as he is learning the information. It would provide the opportunity to have the information given to him in various ways simultaneously, and would help him to remain more focused because he would be busy doing several things at once, actively learning, which is his preferred method.

The same technology, the Kurzweil, would be helpful for target student 2, as well, but for different reasons. This young lady does not have all the language skills of her peers, and it would provide her the opportunity to learn grade level material that she may not be able to read. She would have the opportunity to hear the unfamiliar words, and readily have access to a dictionary, for meanings. She too could take notes on what she was learning, by simply using the highlight, cut and paste function of the program and not have to write or spell the information. This would also provide her with notes (which she could actually read) to use and study from. This technology would build upon strengths with this student because she could work quietly and independent without raising attention to herself. The information would be presented visually, and auditorily, without her having to know all the words on the paper.

I was worried about taking this class, because of the technology component. I started teaching in the days when ditto’s were the newest technology so the thought of putting a project on a blog and having to upload video was pretty scary. I will admit that it probably still takes me a little longer to actually do these things, than my younger peers, but I am pretty proud of what I have learned in this class and it all came together by doing this project (even though I couldn’t get the links for the websites to insert). I have been teaching my resource students how to use the ESRT for probably 20 years, and have never downloaded it, known that it was translated into 5 other languages, or could be accessed in large print and Braille. I had never used YouTube videos and am amazed that you can not only find almost anything you need, but that many of them are great teaching tools. The irony, of course, is that our school has now blocking YouTube so we cannot access it from the building. I am OK with this though, because when I mentioned to one of my techie-juniors, this dilemma, he simply explained to me how to copy them at home and just bring the CD in to use with my classes. I actually thought to myself when he was explaining this to me, that I could probably do it, which is something that would not have crossed my mind before taking this class, or doing this project. After 30 years, I know content, and strategies, and now feel comfortable using technology, instead of avoiding it. It’s kind of exciting to have some new toys to play with.

Learning Style Theory

Learning style is an individual’s unique approach to learning based on strengths, weakness and preferences ( Keefe (1979) defines learning styles as the, “Composite of characteristic cognitive, affective, and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learning environment.” Stewart and Felicetti (1992) define learning styles as those, “Educational conditions under which a student is most likely to learn.”

Learning style models, theories and research has been on going for at least the last 70 years, or longer. Myers-Briggs started looking at the way people learn back in the 30’s and there has been ongoing research ever since. Various disciples such as psychology, engineering, education, industrial training and health care, among others, have all examined the idea of learning style as an effective ways of learning new information. It is interesting to me that fields other than education (especially business, marketing, etc) have expressed interest in exploring the most efficient, effective way to train employees.

Although there are many learning style profiles (inventories and assessments) Richard M. Felder, Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University, lists and explains the following as the four main learning styles theories (Felder 1996).

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) -This model classifies students according to their preferences on scales derived from psychologist Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. Students may be:
• extraverts (try things out, focus on the outer world of people) or introverts (think things through, focus on the inner world of ideas);
• sensors (practical, detail-oriented, focus on facts and procedures) or intuitors (imaginative, concept-oriented, focus on meanings and possibilities);
• thinkers (skeptical, tend to make decisions based on logic and rules) or feelers (appreciative, tend to make decisions based on personal and humanistic considerations);
• judgers (set and follow agendas, seek closure even with incomplete data) or perceivers (adapt to changing circumstances, resist closure to obtain more data).

The MBTI type preferences can be combined to form 16 different learning style types. For example, one student may be an ESTJ (extravert, sensor, thinker, perceiver) and another may be an INFJ (introvert, intuitor, feeler, judger).

Kolb’s Learning Style Model-This model classifies students as having a preference for 1) concrete experience or abstract conceptualization (how they take information in), and 2) active experimentation or reflective observation (how they internalize information). The four types of learners in this classification scheme are
• Type 1 (concrete, reflective). A characteristic question of this learning type is “Why?” Type 1 learners respond well to explanations of how course material relates to their experience, their interests, and their future careers. To be effective with Type 1 students, the instructor should function as a motivator._
• Type 2 (abstract, reflective). A characteristic question of this learning type is “What?” Type 2 learners respond to information presented in an organized, logical fashion and benefit if they have time for reflection. To be effective, the instructor should function as an expert.
• Type 3 (abstract, active). A characteristic question of this learning type is “How?” Type 3 learners respond to having opportunities to work actively on well-defined tasks and to learn by trial-and-error in an environment that allows them to fail safely. To be effective, the instructor should function as a coach, providing guided practice and feedback.
• Type 4 (concrete, active). A characteristic question of this learning type is “What if?” Type 4 learners like applying course material in new situations to solve real problems. To be effective, the instructor should stay out of the way, maximizing opportunities for the students to discover things for themselves.

Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) -This method classifies students in terms of their relative preferences for thinking in four different modes based on the task-specialized functioning of the physical brain. The four modes or quadrants in this classification scheme are
• Quadrant A (left brain, cerebral). Logical, analytical, quantitative, factual, critical;
• Quadrant B (left brain, limbic). Sequential, organized, planned, detailed, structured;
• Quadrant C (right brain, limbic). Emotional, interpersonal, sensory, kinesthetic, symbolic;
• Quadrant D (right brain, cerebral). Visual, holistic, innovative.

Felder-Silverman Learning Style Model -This model classifies students as:
• sensing learners (concrete, practical, oriented toward facts and procedures) or intuitive learners (conceptual, innovative, oriented toward theories and meanings);
• visual learners (prefer visual representations of presented material–pictures, diagrams, flow charts) or verbal learners (prefer written and spoken explanations);
• inductive learners (prefer presentations that proceed from the specific to the general) or deductive learners (prefer presentations that go from the general to the specific);
• active learners (learn by trying things out, working with others) or reflective learners (learn by thinking things through, working alone);
• sequential learners (linear, orderly, learn in small incremental steps) or global learners (holistic, systems thinkers, learn in large leaps)
(Felder, 1996)

Montgomery and Groat (1998) list the Grasha-Reichmann scale, additionally, as one of the main learning theory scales.

(Montgomery, Groat 1998)

The learning style approach is based on the idea that individuals perceive and process information in very different ways. The underlying premise is that how much an individual learns is based on whether the educational experience is geared toward their particular style. This particular approach does not necessarily look at cognitive function of an individual, but rather in what area they are the strongest. It is not so much, “Is the student smart?” but rather, “How is this student smart?” (Funderstanding 2011)

The Funderstanding website, a resource for teachers (and parents) puts it fairly succinctly by saying that the concept of learning styles is rooted in the classification of psychological types. Learning styles theory is based on research demonstrating that, as the result of heredity, upbringing, and current environmental demands, different individuals have a tendency to both perceive and process information differently (Funderstanding 2011).

As educators, I think there is some merit in looking at students learning style when teaching. If business & industry use learning style theories to train their employees, in the quickest and most efficient ways, then I think educators should at least consider these theories. I personally have found using a students particular learning style, to teach them, effective. To me it just makes sense to build upon, or use, a students strengths. Learning style theory goes hand in hand with UDL because it is a way to reach as many students as possible, and make the information accessible.

Many learning style inventories can be found online; additional information can also be found at:

Cassidy. (2004, August). Learning styles: An overview of theories, models and measures. Educational Psychology, 24(4).

Definition of learning style. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2012, from

Felder, R. (1996, December). Matters of Style. ASEE Prism American Society for Engineering Education, 6(4), 18-23. Retrieved from

Keefe, J. W. (1979). “Learning style: An overview.” student learning styles diagnosing & prescribing programs. NASSP National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1-17.

Keefe, J. W., & Ferrell, B. G. (1990, October). Developing a defensible learning style paradigm. Retrieved April 18, 2012, from

Learning styles. (2011). Retrieved April 20, 2012, from

MBTI basics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2012, from

Montgomery, S. M., & Groat, L. N. (1998). Student learning styles & their implications for teaching. Retrieved April 16, 2012, from Center for Research on Learning & Teaching, University of Michigan website:

Sein, M. K., & Bostrom, R. P. (1989). Individual differences and conceptual models in training novice users. Human Computer Interaction, 4(3), 197-229. Retrieved from Google Scholar database.

Stewart, K. L., & Felicetti, L. A. (1992). Learning styles of marketing majors. Educational Research Quarterly, 15-23. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Spaces and Geographies of Learning

This week the readings turn our thoughts to how space can include, and welcome those around us. It is particularly important to UD to have spaces that are comfortable and inviting and make all who use them feel like they “belong” to them. Goldstein (2008) explained in his work how environments directly affect how people behave. He stated that if a campus is welcoming, comfortable and barrier free, students will interact with their environment and learn. It will promote a sense of wellbeing and the feeling of community. Goldstein sited examples, like the University of Oregon’s Amphitheatre; of how a space can change the way people interact with the environments. Buildings, along with furnishings and equipment, sound and lighting, are all ways, which allow personal freedom of expression for those who use the facility.

Imrie (1988) addressed the idea that most Western buildings are valued, and characterized by an able-bodied society, and as such many environments are generally inaccessible for a range of people with disabilities. Imrie further discussed that the disabled have to, “Confront hostile built environments in their everyday lives ones where access to buildings, streets and places is often impossible. Designers tend to generate and perpetuate, exclusive, segregated spaces.” Historically buildings have been designed without true access to all, and this unfortunately continues to be perpetuated. Imrie cited, Davies & Lifchez (1987) who argued that access should not be a constraint on architectural design but rather conceived as a, “Major perceptual orientation to humanity.” Hayden (1981) was also mentioned in this article as she calls for a new paradigm of the, “Home, neighborhood and the city’s, one which describes, as a first step, the physical, social and economic design of human settlements that could support, rather than restrict activities of people with disabilities.” As Imrie (and others) have argued, it is important to remember that we have to work against these environments that do not allow access to all.

Creating Environments of Ability, by Strange (2000), explained that, “Environments of ability include, secure, involve and engage all students in the learning community.” She reviewed the four key components of all human environments. These components include: physical, human aggregate, organizational and socially constructed. The physical components are both the natural and man-made items that make up our space. These spaces should encourage and/or facilitate movement, and the signs/posters placed in these spaces should inspire and send messages. The human aggregate are the characteristics of the people who inhabit the space and should reflect varying degrees of differentiation. The organizational components look at the government of the space and the rules for making it function. The way a space is organized would be a more formal environment. The socially constructed components, tends to reflect the subjective views of those who live there. Places can be safe and inclusive or communal environments. They can also be involving, where individual differences are appreciated.

Just as we try to make our homes welcoming, as teachers, we need to make our learning environments inviting as well. As a white, middle class, able-bodied individual, I have not had to face the challenge of trying to navigate an environment that is hostile, and because of this, I do not always think about how challenging environments can be, for certain individuals. When we are setting up a learning space we have to make sure that it is a space where students can navigate, but more importantly make sure that it is a safe space where kids can be comfortable as themselves. We need to ensure that our learning places help to foster a space where everyone feels like they belong and are part of both the smaller (classroom, campus) and larger (community, world) environment around them, and that is why “spaces” are such a critical component of UD.

Reflection: Visual Imagery

I thought that the Zen Garden website was a great example of how similar information could be represented in such different visual ways. I also liked the Color Theory website and although I do know a little about how colors affect mood and learning, it provided me with additional useful information. I got out my colored markers/chalks this week and did some different visual notes and illustrations, which students seemed to enjoy.

I know for students identified with learning disabilities, that images are crucial. I tend to draw pictures all the time when making vocabulary flash cards with students, or always stop to show pictures of things we may be discussing. For example this week we were doing Punnett Squares in bio, and they were crossing different minks, so I showed my student with Aspergers, images of several minks. It led to a rich discussion about fur and the throwing of red paint by animal activists, things no on in the class knew about prior. I also showed a 10th grader the image of the tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square, and an 11th grader a picture of the Watergate Hotel. I think the images makes the learning so much more real for students, maybe because it causes emotion. Students cannot understand about Tiananmen Square (and the lack of personal freedom) without seeing these images.

After doing this week’s reading I have come to further appreciate just how powerful, and emotional, visual imagery can be. Barry (1997) made some very salient points in her publication, Visualintelligence: Perception, image, and manipulation in visual communication, especially when she stated that, “The visual world is an interpretation of reality but not reality itself.” When we view images it tends to be what we expect to see rather than what it really is. Images make us respond emotionally to the situation before we can think things through, therefore, it may not be fully rational; and we don’t always understand the emotions because emotional processing comes after we act upon something. I guess I do not always think about how emotional images can be but I should because I am the first one to cry during movies. I thought it was also interesting when Barry (1997) said that colors or coloring, “Can create emotional bias before conscious judgment is formed.” There are many things that lead to bias but I never really thought of coloring or shadowing as some of them.

Teaching and Reading the Millennial Generation Through Media Literacy, by Considine, Horton & Moorman (2009) helped me to further understand that reading is no longer just printed text but also film, television internet and many other types of media. I do agree with the authors when they state that as, “Educators, we need to build the bridge between the knowledge students already have and the content that they need to learn to be successful inside and outside of school.” As I have been thinking about this article, I think that teachers in my building are using mixed media literacy to teach from, however, I realize I need to use more of it myself. I could definitely use the “Story of Movies,” and National Film Standards websites to incorporate visual media into what I teach my students. I also agree with the authors that there can be much instruction built around images that students see because they do not always understand them or look at them from any other perspective other than their own. Since Millennials are likely to use technology to communicate, they do need instruction in navigating it and media is more likely to grab their attention than books and lectures. On the way to school one day this week, my 11th grade daughter told me about 2 movies that she watched in film class (the class is offered by the History dept so looks at films from a historical perspective.) After watching two films that were up for Best Foreign Film in 2006, Pan’s Labyrinth, and The Lives of Others, she was able to tell me all about Fascist Spain, in 1944, and Stasi officers in totalitarian Germany. My daughter was not only knowledgeable about the history, but also passionate when she explained why she liked The Lives of Others better. I have to admit I only half heard what she was telling me because I kept thinking about this reading and her as a Millennial. My daughter’s teacher did teach history, but he also helped her construct meaning, develop ideas, and analyze and evaluate information, without ever opening a textbook. I agree wholeheartedly with the authors that knowledgeable and creative citizens for the Global Village need to be taught differently and that Media Literacy is one way to do this.

Tech log: Online Video

I really knew almost nothing about online video before exploring some things for this tech assignment. I am familiar with YouTube and do use it regularly. It is a great resource for learning how to do almost anything. I have not make, or uploaded, any video to YouTube, I just watch what others have posted. Unfortunately, it is not available as a resource in school as its access is denied on school computers. I did not know anything about, or have used podcasts or vodcasts.

After doing some research, I think I would be more apt to use available podcasts, than I would be to make one of my own. I can see that it is a technology that would have use in the classroom and that it would be relatively inexpensive because all you need is a computer and a digital music/media player (such as an ipod). I would have to have some time to work with this technology, before feeling comfortable enough to use with students. It doesn’t seem to me that making a podcast would be as easy as just using software, like mindmapping or text-speech conversion.

After searching the web for available podcasts, I do see that there are many available related to high school subjects, such as US Hist or Earth Science. I would subscribe to these and use them with my students. The video casts seemed a bit more interesting than just the audio podcasts, and I think that my students might be more engaged in watching, rather than just listening.

I did explore Vimeo a bit and again, I feel that this would be something I would need to spend some time with to feel comfortable using it ; I will have to spend of some with one of the district tech personnel, perhaps on one of our inservice days, to see how to do this.

Tech Log: Mind Mapping

Although I was not familiar with the software, or term mind mapping, after some looking into this, I realized that I was familiar with the concept. For many years I have had much success using graphic organizers with my students. I use them regularly for students who have language, or reading issues, especially. Typically I would take notes that are in a long, written format and change them over to an organizer. I have also used the graphic organizers when I am trying to teach specific content to my students, or brainstorming with them to organize their ideas, before writing. I have not used the computer to make the organizers so was very interested in the software.

I watched the YouTube video’s for Google’s Mind Mapping but decided to go online to the ThinkBuzan (imindmap) site because it was stating that it was the “Official” Mind Mapping software, developed by Tony Buzan, who supposedly is the inventor of Mind Mapping.
I registered on the site so that I could use the software on a trial basis, this week. I used the imindmap software a few times but had the most fun with my 9th graders. We made a mind map for an upcoming Earth Science, Weathering & Erosion test. It worked very well & the students really liked it. It was colorful and much more fun than my old graphic organizer. We printed our map and my students took it home over the weekend to study from. In addition, after showing it to students in other Resource Rooms, they distributed it to all the 9th graders as a review for the upcoming test.

I liked the software. It was easy to use and my students thought it was pretty cool. It was definitely a motivator. I am not sure if the novelty will wear off, but we are going to continue to use it for another week or so, until or trial period has expired. I am very likely try to purchase this software. It is pretty reasonably priced: 3 users for $65, or mobile app for $15.99. I am thinking that I will send one or two of my freshmen to the principal with their mind map and let them explain to him how they used it, & why he should by it for our room. My guess is that they will convince him to purchase it.

All in all I liked this mind mapping software and am glad that I had to learn about it for class!

Reflection: Lesson Planning with UD

The case study, by Stacy Dymond, that used participatory action research to redesign a high school science class was very interesting. Because there are many educators that believe that inclusive high school general ed classrooms are difficult to achieve, the authors did a research study to show just how it could be accomplished. The researchers worked with a HS general science teacher, a co teacher, a special ed teacher and paraprofessionals within the school to set up UDL. The project was a little more difficult because they had to re-design the teacher’s ninth grade general science class. They included students with mild disabilities (LD) but also wanted students with more severe disabilities (SCD), such as moderate or severe mental retardation, to have access to the curriculum, as well.
The redesign process first began with the curriculum, (GOAL) and then focused on the instructional delivery, learning environment, student participation, materials and finally assessment. There was much detail as to how the research was set up, how the lesson plans were created, how they analyzed data, etc.
The findings from this research group were several, however, one of the most important was that each students IEP objectives could be addressed through the content class. The general science teacher also, “Expressed greater ownership for helping all students in the classroom learn. Rather than believing that the co-teacher or paraprofessional was responsible for students with disabilities, she identified instruction of theses students to be her responsibility.” (Dymond 2006). The special education teacher’s role also shifted also. His role broadened from just working with the identified students to planning with the general ed teacher before the instruction occurred, instead of trying to adapt during the class. The paraprofessionals role expanded from being one-on-one support for the students with SCD, by sitting next to them, to supporting small groups of students within the classroom.
I did not think the student outcomes were surprising. The social interaction skills for all the students, including the students with SCD improved. These SCD students were also excited about attending class, and demonstrated the development of interpersonal relationships. UDL increased all students participation in class and the teachers noted that all of the students were working together which meant that students took more responsibility, completed more work and improved test scores.
The two areas that the teachers thought were especially important were lesson planning and time to work together with each other. Of course, the time to work and plan together would be critical, but I was surprised that they were adamant about the benefits of the lesson plans. As I was reading this, I have to admit that I thought I wouldn’t really want to write out the lesson plans, and had negative flashbacks from my first years of teaching. So, when the science teacher stated that she thought the lesson plans really help facilitate the redesign process by organizing instruction and improving communication between the team members, it made me stop and really think about this. I can see her point very much and can understand how it would certainly help with the organization. The teachers additionally stated that they learned from the research study, “That they needed to be more organized in order to collaboratively create a universally designed classroom.”
I think this study really showed how UDL could not only work by engaging and having all students learn, but how it can also change the roles and attitudes of the teachers.
I think I have known for a long time that all students should be included in general education classes probably because of the years when I had to teach “special classes.” I believe this study really shows how much all students, both regular & special ed, really benefit from inclusion, how UDL can get all involved, and how with collaboration, teachers can take ownership of all students.

The Knoll article relates to lesson planning and UD because it reminds us that when lessons are universally designed they are not structured to fit only a certain type of students, but rather all students. Many teaching environments are structured to fit a certain type of race or gender and, “Create an academic system that privileges a certain type of body and mind (the able bodies) thereby creating disability discrimination.” (Knoll 2009). Many of these barriers are socially and politically created and by only teaching to the privileged we are excluding many students. If as teachers, we design our lessons universally so that our classrooms are accessible to the largest number of students we are not reinforcing the idea that only some can be included. We need to be mindful of our language so that we do not encourage social privilege. Our classroom applications should always encourage safe places for dialogue and where each student can get what they need without being made to feel bad, or inferior. Our attitudes about accessibility and interdependency in the classroom will model for our students that we are accepting of all and not excluding some. Because, as Knoll states, “When multiple individuals work together to make the environment accessible, it suddenly becomes significantly easier to meet all the various needs in the classroom (Knoll 2009).
By using UD and being mindful of the feminist theories of privilege, oppression and intersectionality, teachers can continue to lesson barriers and create learning environments for all.

Project 1: Learning about learners- Teens and Young Adults with ADHD

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the diagnostic label for all aged individuals, children through adults, having significant problems with attention, impulsiveness and excessive activity. ADHD represent a heterogeneous population who display considerable variation in the degree of their symptoms, in the age of onset and extent to which other disorders occur in association with (Barkley, 2006). According to the American Psychiatric Association, 3% to 7% of the school-age population has ADHD and many children continue to display significant symptoms throughout adolescences and adulthood (Weyandt, 2006). ADHD is one of the most common reasons children are referred for behavioral problems, and is one of the most prevalent childhood psychiatric disorders (Barkley, 2006).

From as early as the 1940’s children were identified as hyperactive. Studies continued on hyperactivity throughout the 50’s and 60’s, however, it was not until1975 that the number of research studies skyrocketed in conjunction with the passage of Public Law 94-142.  At that time programs for learning disabilities, behavioral–emotional, and language disorders, and physical disabilities, were developed. “The increase in research on hyper-activity characteristics of the 1970’s continued unabated into the 1980’s, marking hyperactivity the most well-studied childhood psychiatric disorder in existence” (Barkley, 2006). The American Psychiatric Association published the first criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder in 1980, when it became a syndrome, and later in 1987, changed the designation from ADD to ADHD. Through the 90’s and into the twenty first century, neurological studies continued on children, adolescence and adults identified with ADHD.  It has been documented that individuals with ADHD tend to exhibit pre frontal-striatal networks that are smaller, with right prefrontal regions being smaller than left. These brain variations are thought to affect many domains of major life activities and individuals exhibit deficits in executive function and self-regulation (Barkley, 2006).

Individuals who are diagnosed with ADHD often have difficulty with executive function (Barkley, 1997), which makes mental control and self-regulation difficult. There are four main challenges that an adolescence or young adult, in high school or college, identified as ADHD might have. These would be hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention and disorganization (Carbone, 2001).

Challenges with hyperactivity may mean that the student is not able to sit for periods of time, or throughout an entire class.  The student may fidget, walk around, or continually talk or get up and move around the classroom. In addition, individuals may not be able to attend to fine motor tasks, such as drawing or laboratory tasks.  The challenge of impulsivity may mean that the student fails to read information carefully, which could result in incomplete assignments and poor test taking. The impulsive student may also have difficulty waiting his/her turn, especially in conversation and may interrupt or blurt things out.  Inattention, or distractibility may mean that the student identified with ADHD cannot sustain attention or follow through with directions, assignments or duties.  Disorganization affects the student’s ability to organize tasks and activities. This students may be reluctant to engage or will avoid, and may looses items and be forgetful (Litner, 2003).

Although there are challenges to a student with ADHD, they have numerous strengths as well. According to Leroux (2000), “Studies of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often emphasize the problems, diagnosis and treatment, but rarely consider the characteristics which are remarkably similar to those of creativity” (Cramond, 1994). The diagnosis of ADHD does not include any intellectual boundaries (Garber, Garber, 1990).  Hyperactivity in the gifted child is known as high energy levels, which are focused, directed, and intense (Clark, 1992). It is therefore reasonable to assume that there are students with ADHD who have high ability levels, gifts, and talents (Laroux, 2000). The teen with ADHD, once stimulated by something of interest, can focus large amounts of energy toward it. This same individual with ADHD also tends to resist direction, which could be heightened intellectual perceptions and an unwillingness to accept the judgment of others (Laroux, 2000). According to Cathy Davidson (2011), the brain is made up of a web of billions of interconnected neurons that can attend to many things at once. “If multitasking is the required mode of the twenty-first century, thank goodness we now have a hyperactive, interactive brain that’s up to the (multi) task ” (Davidson p14).  Young adults with ADHD are not only masters at multitasking, but were built for it, and are naturals at it.  Maybe that is why individuals identified with ADHD are successful, as adults.  One of the many successful adults is Michael Phelps, who at age 26 holds the record for eight medals of any type in a single Olympic Game. Another Michael, Michael Sandler, is a successful young man with ADD who wrote the book, College Confidence with ADD: The Ultimate Success Manual for ADD Students (2008), Sandler’s shares some of his advice in the following interview:

Sandler has some interesting information for other young adults.  He explains how he was diagnosed as a young child and then again later on in college when he could not attend to tasks. Sandler’s  advice is to try different options to see what works best for each individual, and build upon strengths. I agree with Sandler and also believe that individuals with ADHD when have many strengths that they can draw from to become successful adults. Being able to multitask is definitely an advantage in today’s world, and work force.

Teens and young adults with ADHD face challenges, but also possess strengths as well.


Barkley, R. (1997). Behaioral Inhibitions, sustained attention, and executive functions: Constructing a unifying theory of ADHD. Psychological Bulletin, 121(1), 65-94. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library Prep database.

Barkley, R. (2006). Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ,NY: Gilford .

Carbone, E. (2001, November/‌December). Arranging the classroom to students with ADHD. Council for Exceptional Child, 34(2), 72-81. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library Prep database.

Clark, B. (1992). Growing up gifted (4th ed.). ,NY: Merrill.

Cramond, B. (1994). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder & creativity-What is the connection? Journal of Creative Behavior, 28, 193-209. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library Prep database.

Davidson, C. N. (2011). Now you see it. , NY: Viking Penguin.

Garber, S. W., & Garber, M. D. (1990). If your child is hyperactive, innattentive, impulsive, distractible helping the ADD child. ,NY: Villard Books Random House.

Leroux, J. A., & Levitt-Periman, M. (2006, April). The gifted child with attention deficit disorder: An identification and intervention challenge. Roeper Review, 22(3), 171. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library Prep database.

Litner, B. (2003, June). Teens with ADHD: The Challenge of High School. Child & Youth Care Forum , 32(3), 137. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library Prep database.

National Association of Special Education Teachers NASET [ADHD series -part 2:Characteristics of students with ADHD]. (2006/‌2007). Retrieved from‌2738.0.html

Sandler, M. (2008). College confidence with ADD: The ultimate success manual for ADD students. Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks.

Weyandt, L. L., & DuPaul, G. (2006, August). ADHD in college students. Journal of attention disorders, 10(1), 9-17. Retrieved from SAGE Journals Online database.




Week 7: The Role of Technology in UD

I have believed for some time that Steve Jobs and many of the Apple creations were nothing short of genius, by changing the world and how people navigate it. From the first week that we talked and read about the principles of UD, I couldn’t help but think to myself that Jobs really knew these principles well. Simple, flexible, low effort, small size and space, a community of learners, all seemed to fit most new creations that Apple introduced. Everyone wanted the ipod, iphone and/or ibook. People, techies and non-techies alike were all purchasing and playing with these cool toys. I don’t think many knew that these toys would change the way people navigated the world. Although I am not much of a techie myself (although I am a loyal Apple user), even I, thought that the new 4s iphone, that talked and asked my daughter questions, was probably one of the coolest things I had seen in a while. And, of course, as soon as I saw it the teacher in me just kept thinking about how great this would be for individuals with disabilities. I could only think back to the early ‘80’s when my students were at such a disadvantage because they couldn’t read or write, and needed to “carry” me around school with them. I can’t help but think how much easier, more enjoyable, and freeing it is to now have a cool tool (that everyone else has, or wants) to carry around with them instead.

Chrisholm and May’s, Universal Design for Web Application, (2009) seems to go right along with what I have found to be true for my students. Mobile information, while life changing for some, is out there for everyone to use, so it just makes sense to Universally Design web applications so that they are easy for all to access. The authors used the example of phoning in a grocery order and how convenient it can be, but also explained that for many it is more than a luxury, but rather a necessity that would make everyday functioning very difficult without. Chrisholm and May further made the point that, “Web designers make decision that affect people’s ability to navigate, interact and seek and participate in communities of their own,” so accessibility by all is a must.

Although there are standards for web content, and accessibility guidelines, these authors make the case that accessing the web should be universal for more important reasons. It is true that web design started out with the idea that the web should be easily accessed by individuals with a disability, however, it really comes down to the fact that any one of us could become disabled at anytime. And as we grow older we could need the web for our everyday functioning, as well. Accessibility for all just makes sense because the variations among users continue to increase, and the more accessible web applications are, the more people will use them, which if you are a business, means more revenue.

Cathy Davidson’s book, Now You See It, (2011) also tied into the idea that technology is not only a cool tool, that everyone wants to use, but that it can be used in many ways in educational settings. I think Davidson and her colleagues from Duke University took a chance when they agreed to become one of the six Apple Digital Campuses (another genius idea of Apple) and just let happen what was going to. I think it would be wonderfully refreshing to teach with such innovative people that don’t necessarily believe that just because they are the adults with power, they automatically have all the answers & knowledge.

Davidson’s information on attention is fascinating. It makes sense that because of how and what we attend to, we (and our students) are missing out on so much additional information. The idea of “crowdsourcing,” for difference and diversity, is exciting because we can work with each other and all be the “experts.”

I think the role of technology in UD is huge. I have seen over the years, how much the technology has changed and helped my students. It is so much easier to download a novel to students’ ipod, or my classroom computer, than it was to find the right track on the 4-sided tapes that we used to receive from the Recordings for the Blind, 3 weeks after we ordered them!   Not to mention that there is no more having to drop off the huge yellow recorders (to listen to these tapes) at students’ houses, because they wouldn’t be caught dead bringing them home on the bus. It has made my students so much more independent and so much less disabled.

I am excited to use technology in UD.  It will not only make learning much more accessible, but also much more fun!