The next couple of weeks will be very busy for me as I attend and present at four conferences in the period of three weeks. Wow! First, I am presenting at PASCD in Hershey, PA tomorrow. The following week, I am presenting at VASCD 'in Williamsburg, VA on November 29th. Then, I will be heading to the Innovative Schools Summit in San Antonio on December 1st. Finally, I will be presenting closer to home at Learning Forward in Washington DC on December 5th. After all that, I will definirely be looking forward to my Winter Break and some down time before my February conference schedule begins.

TransformED: Amplifying Learning Using Tech Tools

Two weeks ago, I shared a blog post called TransformED Vision and focused on how we can craft a vision either for using technology tools to amplify student learning. This vision can vary in scope, being more individualized for a classroom or a grade or being broader for a district, school or nationwide. In this post, we will focus on two very important questions to help us get started. First, why are we using technology tools and second, how do these tech tools enhance or amplify learning?

This week, I will focus on how we can provide increased access to learning for all of our learners using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and how perfectly tech tools fit into that framework and help all of our students to better engage with, access, and share their learning related to content. While  UDL is not a new topic for this blog, it is an important one that we will revisit several times during the course of this year in this blog series.

How can technology tools help us  transform access to learning?

When using technology tools, we need to be strategic as we select technology tools for our students to engage with.  One way that we can be strategic is to connect technology tools with Universal Design for Learning,  Let's consider how we can do that. First, does the technology tool help to better engage our learners? Next, does the technology tool help our learners access more representations of content? Last, does the technology tool help our learners to better share and represent their learning? In this week's blog post, we will address how certain technology tools can empower all of our diverse learners.  

How do the technology tools transform access to learning for our students?

1. Engagement:  Are we providing our students with choices in the way that they learn and linking it to their interests?

2. Representation:  Can students access the content across languages or just English?  Can they engage with content using multimedia or solely text?

3. Action and Expression: Are students being given a variety of tools to choose from when they respond and share their learning?

Let's look at a few of my favorite technology tools as a way of seeing how they help me meet that

Pear Deck:  Pear Deck takes any Google slides presentation and allows you to make it interactive using a variety of different slide types. 

How does Pear Deck increase access to learning? The slide types offer students various ways to not only enhance student choice and voice, but also offer various ways to respond to content. One of my favorite things about Pear Deck is the integration of Immersive Reader. Immersive Reader is an amazing resource that includes the ability for students to have a read aloud,  translation, and even customize the appearance of text. 

Flip:  Flip is a cloud based discussion platform where students can share ideas and provide each other feedback.

How does Flip increase access to learning?  Flip is an amazing free tool that provides our students multiple pathways to access learning. Students can respond in a variety of ways, choosing from text, drawing tools,  audio options, images, gifs and even backdrops. The variety of options is not only is engaging to students  but also provides them many ways to respond to and share their learning. Like Pear Deck, Flip also includes Immersive Reader which makes it extremely accessible to all of our students by providing them with read aloud options, translation of text, and customizing the appearance of the text in the topics and groups.

Padlet:  Padlet is a virtual wall where students can post and share ideas.

How does Padlet increase access to learning? When people think about Padlet, they often only think about how you can use it to respond with text. But that is short sighted and ignores the power of the three dots. When you click on the three dots, it provides educators many ways to engage students and students many ways to respond to and share ideas. Some examples of those ways are audio, video, drawing, autodraw, and even screen recording. Although Padlet does not provide Immersive Reader like the other two tools, it does provide many options to display information in a variety of ways. 

Next Steps

Consider how you use technology tools to increase access to learning. What technology tools do you use for this purpose? Why do you use them and how do they increase that access to learning? Are there any that I should add to my toolbox or maybe I shared one that sparked your interest?  I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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