Designing ‘Structure’ to Support ALL Learners:
Universal Design For Learning (UDL) stems from architecture, in which buildings and infrastructure were designed to reflect the needs of all individuals from accessing curb, sidewalk, or building. Likewise, instructors must design content sensitive to the needs of all learners.
The 3 Main Principles of UDL are as follows:
- Multiple Means of Representation
- Multiple Means of Expression and Activity
- Multiple Means of Engagement.
In light of learning technologies curating customized educational experiences is both manageable and environmentally friendly. In fact, I no longer lug around that inevitable stack of papers to grade. Grading physical papers has become obsolete. I’ve traded in my red pen for a pink font color applied to Google Docs instead! Saving a few trees is only one of many ways in which the suite of apps available in Google allows educators to redesign with engagement in mind.
In tinkering with Google Slides this semester, I have observed the following benefits specific to student engagement.
Buy-In and Accountability: Since students know their peers will see their work, they are motivated to edit and revise carefully. If used in an online or blended format, students know that those that get started earlier on an assignment will have more options when it comes to selecting an area in which to contribute.
A Student Created Resource: Once Reviewed by the instructor and any corrections made, the students have an immediate resource completed with content presented in multiple audio and visual mediums. These can serve as study guides or reviews that the instructor does not have to create.
Community Building: Google Slides allows every student in the class to add material to the same project at the same time (just like a Google Doc). So imagine turning 30 students loose on a single slide presentation, tasked with curating a slide of their own. (See Use #2 Option A below). Suddenly a room full of 30 adults are furiously scrolling and typing, racing to grab a slide before someone else can snap it up.
In my class, students were laughing and commenting to peers across the room, as they ‘raced’ for the same slides. After the initial fanfare, the room went silent, except for keys clicking and students whispering as they supported one another in adding media content. One student even commented, “This is fun!.” I was able to walk around and confer with each student. Talk about meeting the needs of ALL learners.
Compare and Contrast
The following are two uses for Google Slides. Compare student engagement in Use #1 with Use #2.
Google Slide Use #1: Online Presentation
- UDL Principles: Multiple Means of Representation
- Bloom’s Taxonomy: Remember, Understand
Google Slides provides a flexible format for helping students gain information through multiple means of representation with the ability to add images, audio, and embed videos from Youtube, all within the same forum – a slide presentation. It is fairly simple to create a slide presentation and it can be shared with students for reference after the class session has ended.
To view an example, click here.
- Tedious and Time Consuming
- Minimal Student Engagement
Formatting a presentation is a lot of work and only the instructor engages in critical thinking. Curating a presentation requires summarizing and synthesizing content to fit a limited slide presentation, analyzing and applying text, images, and video to best support understanding, and evaluating presentation continuity. The final product provides a tool that offers students passive participation at best, rendering the instructor the ‘sage on the stage’.
Google Slide Use #2: Online Presentation with Student Contributions
- UDL Principles: Multiple Means of Representation, Multiple Means of Expression and Activity, Multiple Means of Engagement
- Bloom’s Taxonomy: Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create
Option A: Collaborative Presentations
In a collaborative presentation, the instructor curates the first few slides of the presentation, as in Use # 1, but students curate content to complete the presentation.
In this format an instructor, in any setting (Face 2 Face, Blended, Online), can contribute the first few slides of a presentation. These can reflect a presentation as described in Use 1 or directions for the remaining slides in the presentation. After these initial slides, students are responsible for adding content, either by adding a slide or curating a pre-formatted one.
Example: Students develop a single slide
In teaching a lesson on phonemic awareness and phonics, I provided a graphic organizer in which students recorded definitions and wrote examples to support their thinking at the remember/understand levels. To cement this thinking, I needed my students to analyze and apply this information. After the initial slides that supported the ‘lecture,’ I added 30 blank slides to the end of the presentation, and typed a single content specific term or instructional strategy at the top of each slide. Once I had completed explicit instruction, I gave students a task. They had to select one of the 30 remaining slide and then define the term or explaining the strategy, giving an example and locating or creating an image or video that supported the slide’s content in a visual and/or auditory manner. I gave students complete creative license over his/her slide as long as the font was readable and criteria met. When assessing work, I was able to score individual student slides.
I designed the structure and students built the content in way that reflected their own thinking and creativity.
To view the final product, click here.
Option B: Create Slides for Use in VoiceThread
Any presentation created with Google Slides may be downloaded as image files and uploaded directly into VoiceThread. VoiceThread is a web-based tool used widely at CI that creates asynchronous conversations in voice and video around media. Students engage with content at all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy depending upon the type of discussion curated by the instructor.
To learn more about VoiceThread, click here.
We have only scratched the surface on Google Slides and Student Engagement. Tomorrow I will share another idea.
Until then, ready, set, GOogle! Happy creating!