My teaching style is more sage-on-the-stage than I would like it to be. Unfortunately, direct instruction is the teaching method that my special education students respond to best. I used to feel guilty about this, but as I have worked my way through the MET program, I have found that I am not the only teacher that uses a lot of direct instruction, and many educators agree that it is often necessary for my classroom population. That being said, I do try to incorporate as much student-centered instruction as my students can handle. Now that I am teaching 8th- through 10th-grade self-contained math classes, my plan is to start using short, small projects and activities in 8th grade and gradually increase my role as the guide-on-the-side as students progress through those grades. I look forward to the next few years, and I envision a classroom that looks very different from the one I am teaching in right now.
I found the description of personalized learning in the iNACOL report Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalize, Blended and Competency Education very similar to what special educators do on a daily basis. Our job is to differentiate and personalize learning to maximize a student’s chance of finding success with learning. The lists found in the article on pages 5 and 6 demonstrate how closely special education mimics personalized learning, including:
“…a students’ right to access learning experiences that enable them to progress according to their level of ability”
“…a dynamic learning opportunity providing students with content that addresses their personal learning needs based on their interests, parental input, and teacher observation as well as assessment data, which is the most important element”
“…various starting points within content, varied amounts of guided practice and independent practice as needed”
“…discovering students’ prior knowledge and experience of the content they are about to learn and meeting them where they are” (Patrick, Kennedy, & Powell, 2013).
Blended learning through the use of technology is an excellent way to provide for personalized learning. Recording lectures and putting them online for students to watch asynchronously as homework allows the teacher to completely individualize instruction during class time. Students can complete classwork and activities that match their learning level, style, and interests.
My biggest concern with creating an online asynchronous algebra course for special education students who, for whatever reason, cannot maintain in a physical school environment, is the lack of direct instruction. I worry that even with created videos and step-by-step instructions, some students will not be able to find success. Adding in some synchronous lesson delivery could make the difference between failure and success. I think most algebra topics will lend themselves well to synchronous delivery. Some ideas might include:
- Doing a screen share with Desmos to demonstrate graphing linear equations would be a great lesson to deliver to a group.
- Using TI-Smartview software to demonstrate how to use the graphing calculator to help with a given topic
- Teaching a geometry lesson using Geogebra
- Using Google Sheets to create statistical graphs
- Working through a simulation such as The Moving Man to help students understand how to create graphs based on movement
Patrick, S., Kennedy, K., Powell, A., & International Association for K-12 Online Learning. (2013). Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education. International Association for K-12 Online Learning.