Teach Like A Designer

Design is everywhere.  It seeks solutions that are both aesthetic and functional.  With a little bit of creativity and ingenuity we can make our lives easier and enjoyable.  Design has the power to build communities and maximize human potential.  Have a look at the following video and the many examples of the role design plays in our lives.  What would you change?

Universal design first emerged in the field of architecture.  It is often explained with the classic wheelchair ramp example.  This simple adaptation to an entryway makes a location more accessible to, not only individuals in wheelchairs, but parents with strollers, movers with dollies, and anyone that has difficulty using stairs.  In the following video, Harvard researcher Todd Rose points out that we most often design for the average person.  We are doing it wrong. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eBmyttcfU4 Using Todd’s approach, we can promote  Universal Design for Learning in our classrooms by leveraging technology.  It is possible to redesign traditional resources using technology.  Rather than using the average student as a model for this design, we should look to “the edges”.  In other words, use the widest points of variance in ability.  Teachers know that not everyone in their class is reading at grade level, yet reading is an integral part of instruction and tasks in other subject areas. In order for students to demonstrate their strengths in other subjects or contexts, their sources of information need to be “adjustable”.  We  need to ban the average and support resource redesign in order to nurture the potential of our students and expand the range of talent in our communities. Universal Design for Learning is an approach that values a diversity of needs and actively supports all learners.  It is the idea that assistance for one can be assistance for the whole class.  Everyone benefits from smart design. UDL isn’t just about creating an accessible physical space or providing a range of materials and technologies.  We can also reshape our curriculum and our assessments to support a variety of needs in classrooms.  This requires advanced planning and a flexible, inclusive mindset. Realizing the real purpose of a lesson or task is a first step.  If students are being asked to write a paragraph to summarize an article in their notebooks, we need to predetermine what is the most important outcome. Does it matter if their paragraph is in cursive, on sticky notes, or spelled correctly?  Does it matter if they read the same article, have it read to them, or discuss it with a partner?  Will students need a “main idea and details framework” or a “first, then, next organizer”?  Most components of a task should be entirely flexible, so then, the teacher can hone in on a specific result.  In this case it may be solely the ability to condense written material. After that, we need to look at the variety of skills, knowledge, abilities, and interests students bring to the table.  Educators can aim to provide three kinds of adaptations:

  • represent information in multiple ways
  • provide a range of options for student production
  • diversify strategies for engagement and motivation

For example, a teacher might achieve the goal of explaining the life cycle of a plant by sharing a variety of media: a chart, a time-lapse video, actual plants at various stages, and a digital text.  He can then provide the students with planting materials and links to online games, interactives, and video explanations for students to investigate further. Lastly, an ongoing and embedded assessment process is essential to the Universal Design for Learning approach.  For example, students  might demonstrate their understanding of a mathematical concept or process by recording drawings and audio using a whiteboard application.  This assessment task can take the pace of all or a portion of a pencil and paper test which can present barriers for some learners. Universal Design has a significant impact because it serves to eliminate barriers to learning before they present themselves.  The teacher can therefore plan and create a positive classroom environment, free of frustrations, bias, and exclusion.   Sources http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/81593316828 http://www.edutopia.org/what-is-design-thinking-for-educators http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/reports/speced/panel/speced.pdf

Featured image by Maresa Smith via http://deathtothestockphoto.com/

2 Replies to “Teach Like A Designer”

  1. Love this, and I think as we become more adept we can build and share a pool of resources to make this easier 🙂

    1. Thanks Teresa! I’ve been stuck on how we should share and pool our resources lately. But now I’m thinking that it doesn’t matter how. Just share. Everyone needs to find their own way to share and get on it. Right? =)

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