Sandra Jost is a teacher in the Greater Victoria School District and has had over 20 years of experience supporting the needs of her students with technology in the classroom. She uses strategies of Universal Design for Learning in her class to ensure that all of her students are able to access the curriculum.
UDL is an educational framework that encourages teachers to consider the accessibility of the curriculum they are teaching. She has experience implementing interactive whiteboards, computers, Kurzweil 3000 and speech-to-text software programs so that all learners have access to the tools that help them access the curriculum in a way that best meet their needs.
Two of her students, Skylar and Siobhan, came forward to tell of their learning experiences. The students speak:
Skylar is a young man who didn’t enjoy reading and writing. He needed the assistance of an adult for both these tasks. Using classroom technology, Skylar is now reading independently at grade level. With a broad smile, Skylar tells us of writing his journal entries on a computer and sharing it with others on the classroom’s Smart Board.
When asked about his learning experiences Skylar is quick to respond, “School was not much fun before. I like going every day now. My favorite thing is my journal. I couldn’t do it before but now it is fun. The best thing in school is using computers for writing. My wrist gets sore and I get tired when I use a pencil. Now I can write the same stuff everybody else does. The computer makes it fun. I always like to come to Mrs. Jost’s class because I can do all my work in here. Before I didn’t like coming to school because doing work with a pencil was too hard. I want to be a cop and school will help me use the computers in police cars.”
Siobhan , another student, was unequivocal about how much she enjoys learning in a classroom outfitted with technology to help all learners. Siobhan’s independent reading level does not match her interest level. As a result of technology she is now engaged in reading books above her grade level.
Siobhan uses speech recognition technology to complete most of her written assignments. When asked about her learning experiences, she explained, “I used to hate going to school. I like this place. The technology makes it way easier to do my work. Reading is easier now. I am a better reader. I am more willing to write now and I think I am a better writer.”
Siobhan’s Father added, “She is more confident. Before she didn’t have the motivation to go to school because she felt she couldn’t do as well as the other kids. She loves it now.”
Mrs. Jost’s Story
“The two biggest challenges that I have as a teacher are meeting the needs of my diverse population and keeping my students engaged. All students need to feel welcome, valued and supported. Technology has allowed me to meet the needs of my students, supporting cognitive delays, learning disabilities, fine motor challenges, attention concerns, and gifted talents. I am able to differentiate instruction, assignments, and presentations, using the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) pedagogy. Students learning styles can be addressed and enhanced. Technology allows learning to happen in a variety of interesting and exciting formats. Walking into a classroom with technology breaks down the barrier and levels the playing field. What you see is a room full of engaged learners, working together. If students’ needs are being met, they are willing to challenge themselves and their abilities. With technology, whether it is a Smart Board, computer, laptop, tablet, or digital camera, students are able to use the tool that works for them for that particular task. Teaching is no longer asking students to remember a large volume of facts but rather a journey of exploration: questioning, evaluating and collaborating.“
Mrs. Jost is just as enthusiastic about her enhanced classroom, “Technology has allowed all of my students to strive to do their best and to be excited about learning. And as a result I think I have become a better teacher.”