After my readings last week I decided that it was time for some reflection to actually assess how I use both Assistive Technology (AT) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in my own classroom and school. First, here is a quick video on the story of École Connaught School so you can get an idea of the consultation that went into the new build. Later in the post I will include a couple photos of my old classroom (formally and now the music room again), as well as my new classroom located in the portable rooms just added to our building 2 weeks ago.
Connaught is a unique school that has taken UDL to heart throughout the build in many ways. Many of the classrooms have large garage doors so they are not only accessible, but offer the teacher a way of allowing independent or group work to take place in a new setting with supervision. We also have many wide open work spaces with lots of alternative seating including couches, different chairs and varying heights of tables that are available to any student – they were not selected with anyone in particular in mind. We have break out rooms, community spaces and “wet and messy” areas that are available to all staff and students as additional learning room! Many classrooms are connected with sliding doors to connect learners and allow for collaborative work. Each classroom has an interactive board and microphone system. Connaught is also equip with an elevator to accommodate students who cannot navigate the stairs for whatever reason. There is also plenty of natural sunlight as well as patio work spaces for the warmer months. There are so many positive, well thought out attributes of the school. I am honoured to work at a school where student success took such a front seat. Assitive technology is also alive and well in our building. We have SUCH diverse needs at our school that not offering these aids is really not an option. We have wiggle seats for students, wobble chairs, assistive technology (lap tops, google read&write, etc.), games room at recess for students who struggle going outside, pencil grips, visual schedules,
SOOOO…where does this all leave me??? I am immersed in the possibility of wonderful teaching practices and a beautiful school but am I facilitating any of the positives that I have learned about, to ensure my students have what they need without feeling ostracized? Below are a couple photos of my temporary classroom, which is normally the arts education room – hence the carpet and wall mural! On account of the fact that I knew I wouldn’t be in this classroom for a long time, I didn’t put up all of my decor however, I made sure that all my regular items were accessible to my class – fidgets, alternative seating and flexible groupings.
When we moved into our new classroom I was able to finally give the students a classroom that was put together, looked nice and had the amenities that I was hoping for! A breakout space, soft furniture, alternative seating, fidgets, essential oil diffuser, plants, an organized space for lap tops and cords for student computers, a visual schedule, a large calendar on the wall, quiet headphones, etc. Although some of the list are not direct assitive technology, they are pieces of the classroom that students had become dependent on to have a smooth day. I also kept my decor very simple and not cluttered – many of my kids have ADHD and too much going on in the class is a determent. Below are photos of my current space:
I moved after doing some of the reading last week and I tried my best to make the classroom more accessible to all, rather than singling out specific kids. I walk around the room to teach, I use my microphone, I allow students to choose their seat, sit on the soft furniture or stand and I allowed students to choose a wiggle seat, or wobble chair. I was happy to offer the students some choice – however, I was also happy to lead children into certain items that I felt would benefit them. Rocking chairs and rolling stools are assigned to students with specific needs, however, I gave them the chairs without making a big deal out of it and most of the other students didn’t notice.
Overall, I feel like after reflection I am doing OKAY. I think the basis of my success falls back on relationships with my kiddos. I have built a comfortable classroom where students know they will always get what they need, and that if another student gets something, it’s because they needed it. I think it’s very important for kids to trust you and know that you have their best interest in mind. I try and compare it to students wearing glasses – they wear them because they need them, you don’t wear glasses because you don’t need them. If the trust is built I think it takes away some of the anxieties and stresses that assitive technology could cause. I also think it’s crucial to think ahead and try and use UDL to minimize the amount that you have to customize for individual students as you probably have more students than you even realize that would be take something away from the change.
Now that you have an idea of what my classroom is all about, I intend on interviewing my students to see how they feel! I am also going to transition into the learning apps I am using to try and engage students. Do they like them? Do they not? Why?
Thanks for reading,
“Educating the mind without educating the heart,
is no education at all.”