Monday, January 30, 2012

GTC 1/24/12 Making Learning Accessible, Students with Disabilities

We read and then during our meeting discussed an
article about simulations of disabilities. We looked at the different frameworks that one could view disabilities in, from a lack or failing on an individuals part through ways that the interaction between the individual and their environment impedes productive engagement, to how society as a whole or in a particular context prevents or marginalizes the full engagement of people with disabilities.

In preparation for simulation of disabilities we talked about factors that could lead to more and less productive simulations. In particular we discussed some of the less visible realities of disabilities, such as the social stigma and ways people are treated, that can be difficult to experience in a simulation.

Several of us then voluntarily chose to wear a blindfold and participate as students in a mini lesson. Two people also volunteered for a simulation of a learning disability, ADHD, and listened to distracting noises and videos while the lesson was being taught. Lisa taught on the parts of a flower and the ABC model of flowers. During the discussion afterwards many interesting ideas came up. Not the lease of the which was how much the classroom is a social environment and the willingness to participate is moderated by how participatory other students are being. We came up with some interesting ways in which to universally design your classroom so that all students can participate.

The most striking thing that we noticed was that simply using more student engagement techniques, for example asking a lot of questions or using physical models along with drawings on the board, catered to students who have certain disabilities in addition to capturing different kinds of learners. Essentially, the more diversity that we have in teaching, the greater an audience we will be able to reach. Whether people learn better by handling a physical model, or actually need a model instead of a drawing because their sight is limited, using models, verbal descriptions, AND drawings simultaneously will reach a larger audience. Also, one participant in the ADHD simulation pointed out that she was able to pay attention when the instructor asked questions and actively engaged students in the learning process. Designing a classroom accessible to everyone seems to have much to do with engaging students and using diverse teaching and learning techniques.

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