Theories that Inspire Great Instruction
As a trained Special Education teacher, I have always believed that it is essential to offer a variety of learning strategies and project opportunities to the students in my classroom. I have always worked hard to create interactive multi-modal activities and learning opportunities, often providing manipulatives, games, posters, white boards, mini chalkboards, personal anchor charts and graphic organizers for students, aiming always to provide the tools and strategies individual students need in order to succeed, never believing in the on-size-fits-all model of instruction.
Over the years, I have been inspired by a number of great instructors and theorists, with Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences being most influential in my instructional planning, delivery, and assessment. Gardner identified a variety of modes of learning, and with his theory, challenged the notion that the delivery of instruction needs to be the same for all students in the classroom. Closely linked to the theory of Multiple Intelligences is differentiated instruction, where educators vary their instruction, assignments, and assessment in order to address the multiple intelligences of students. Universal Design for Learning also plays an important role in my instructional style, as it posits that what is essential for some is good for all. You can learn more about such principals and theories in a fabulous document called Education for All, where UDL and differentiated instruction are identified as essential in instructing the widely diverse learning needs of students in Ontario. All those theories and principles have always encouraged me to examine and re-examine my instructional strategies.
Essential Technology and Google Apps
When I first began teaching, I used technology to find resources and lesson plan ideas, and to communicate via e-mail. However, entering the field of Special Education opened my eyes to the benefits of using technology to differentiate instruction. Technology that is essential for our special education students can benefit everyone. Although a large variety of software and apps are available to our students, the free suite of tools available from Google Apps are by far my favourite. In September, I posted the article, “Google Apps for Education Bootcamp”, in which I recounted my experience learning about Google’s Apps for Education. For those of you who read my blog, you may remember that I attended LEARNStyle’s Google Bootcamp in the summer. At that point, I was fairly new to Google Apps in Education, but have been using them passionately ever since. I was excited by the possibilities offered by Google Apps in Education. I realized at the Bootcamp that as I re-entered the regular stream classroom, my students and I could really benefit from the collaborative nature of Google Apps. In addition to that, students in my classroom with special education needs could easily create and find documents using Google Docs without panicking that they forgot where their work was saved and how to retrieve it.
Meet the Needs of All Your Students with Google Apps
Since that time, I have had the opportunity to use Google Apps for Education with a diverse group of grade 5 students, including seven students identified with special education needs who require a modified curriculum. Since September, I have used Google Apps with all my students, joyfully discovering that the needs of all students were met. I scaffolded my instructions, and always offered tips to challenge more advanced learners in the classroom. Today, all students in my classroom use Google Docs and Google Presentation to collaborate with classmates. I find that I am easily able to challenge my students to extend their ideas and thinking, while accommodating the needs of my special education students. As I experimented with Google Apps in the classroom, I looked for additional programs to differentiate student instruction, and found a whole host of third party apps available through the Chrome store.
“Differentiate Instruction in an Integrated Classroom Using Google Apps”: an Interactive Workshop
On Wednesday October 23rd, I had the opportunity to present a workshop to a group of educators from across Ontario at ECOO’s Bring IT Together in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I took part in the Google Spot which was put on by DJ Cunningham of LEARNStyle. During the breakout session, I led an interactive workshop entitled “Differentiate Instruction in an Integrated Classroom Using Google Apps”. I used Google Presentation to put an interactive slideshow together for users. Pages include hyperlinks to information about the foundational theories which inform my teaching, collaborative activities to engage in during the workshop, and links to instructional videos to support those new to using Google tools and apps.
Multiple Intelligences Inventory and Choice Board
How do your students learn? Are they actively involved in selecting their culminating tasks? Are your students fully engaged in their learning? If you did not say yes to each question, it is imperative that you have your students examine their learning preferences and areas of intelligence. I am sharing my workshop with you. Included in the workshop are a Multiple Intelligences test for students, and a Multiple Intelligences choice board using Google Apps. You may use the slideshow as you wish: explore Google Apps; learn more about DI, UDL, and MI; discover your Multiple Intelligence by taking the MI test available; or use the MI Choice Board with your students in order to differentiate classroom tasks.
Tip: In order to use the interactive activities available without the risk of sharing a document, presentation, or drawing with other users, make a copy of the content on the page, and paste it into your own document, presentation, or drawing. I have included comments in the margins in order to guide you.
I encourage you to spend as much or as little time as you need on the tools you feel will benefit your students. However, I highly recommend that you take some time to explore the multiple intelligences with your students, and have students take the MI test I have provided. Once students have a good understanding of their areas of strength, they can use the MI choice board to select tasks that utilize tools available through Google Apps or the Chrome store.
For your convenience, I have listed the links that are available in the presentation.
Instructional Theories and Resources
Interactive Workshop Activities and Instructional Videos
Google Third Party Apps Listed in the MI Choice Board