W8 O’connor…Is this really new?

I chuckled a bit when I read the information about Universal Design.  Back in the 90s I was grade 5 teacher in the UK.  We certainly didn’t have all the bells and whistles back then (one computer sheared between two classes with 32 kids in each…and it rarely worked) but we certainly adhered to these principals and were given structures to work within.  For example, in math class… Ok say I was going to work with fractions.  First there would be some type of presentation for the whole class usually involving the old form of a doc cam (over head projector), then the class would be split into three groups.  There was a group that learned best with manipulatives so they maybe had pizzas made of card to split into fractions, then another group who  still needed something more visual would work with say shapes drawn on paper and have to circle which fraction was shaded.  Another group who could think more abstractly could work with the fractions themselves.  Took a lot of thinking and prep but it worked well and all the kids were able to learn.

I have carried this thinking into my classes here.  Although I don’t have my students cutting up pizza in class (although I am sure they would like that) I do always try to use multiple ways to explain things.  If I have written instructions I always explain them as well and you will often see  pictures and diagrams on my whiteboard to explain concepts such as how a certain verb tense works.



1 thought on “W8 O’connor…Is this really new?

  1. In answer to the titular question, I don’t know if the practices themselves are particularly new, so much as the theoretical work around the concept that underpins them, if that makes sense. I think good teachers intuitively provide multiple modes of access to material and target their strategies to their students, but disability studies, as a formal field of inquiry, has only been around 25 years or so (and the Americans with Disabilities Act is only 26 years old). And it seems like– at least in my experiences as a graduate and an undergraduate student, and especially in my home discipline– there are classrooms that the concept of “access” has yet to reach. I can count on one hand the times that my grad school profs did anything other that speak during class (one professor wrote on the board once or twice, and one did actually use powerpoint on occasion).

    It seems like younger kids gets much more multimodal educational opportunities, and those sort of peter out as they get older, as if the older and more “advanced” a student gets, the more abstract/theoretical/conceptual (essentially, “hands off”) they should be in their learning. (The standout exception being the sciences, that involve lab or field work.) It’s possible that’s just philosophy, but I’d love to find a way to incorporate a lab/field component into philosophy classes.

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