Learning From An AT Chat

Here is a guest post from my teaching partner Chantelle Davies.  Thanks Chantelle for sharing some and conducting an AT Chat. Your posts are always informative. 

Reading along with the most recent ATchat was my first experience with following a twitter chat. Although, it took some time to become accustom to following along several thought threads from a variety of people (with the limited content one can put into a single tweet); I did come to really appreciate that value of sharing thoughts about education with people from around the globe.

One of my initial challenges in following the chat was the need for a common vocabulary understanding. Terms like UDL and RTI were frequently used, and although they sounded familiar I had to jump over to do a google search to refresh my memory.

As I had first guessed, UDL was referring to the term Universal Design of Learning. If you are unfamiliar with this, this is the idea that educators can minimize barriers for students, while maximizing learning for all students. The theory is that if we support the students ‘between the lines’ of the majority, then we will benefit everyone. This is just like the idea that providing a ramp for someone in a wheelchair supports people with strollers, on bikes, with a walking cane, or someone on roller blades. UDL has three principals:

Representation - show learning in different ways

Action and Expression - allow students to approach learning tasks and demonstrate what they know in different ways

Engagement - offer options to engage students and keep their interests

Centre on UDL


RTI or Response to Intervention “is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs.”

I discovered that RTI relates to the three tiered intervention approach that I am already familiar with. I guess I just didn’t know the terms properly:

At the tier 1 stage, students who have been identified as struggling learners through a series of test and screenings receive instruction and support in addition to their regular learning that is completed in a time frame of up to eight weeks.

Children who are still struggling after the eight week intervention are moved into the tier 2 stage. Students then receive increasingly intense intervention support in a small-group setting.

Students who continue to show difficulties in their learning following their grading period where tier 2 intervention was offered, move into the tier 3 stage. It is in tier 3 where students receive individualized intensive instruction. Following individualized instruction, students may be referred for further evaluations that would allow for special education services offered by the school board.

So, from this chat I learned some new acronyms and I was also exposed to a few new tools. A lot of the talk in the ATchat was about the tools available on students devices that can support them in their learning, and the logic that was often presented was that many of these tools could benefit all students.

Two of the tools mentioned in the ATchat were WordTalk and Balabolka. Both of these are free text-to-speech software that will work well with Windows operating systems. I see the value in offering these tools because students that struggle to read many of the texts provided in class for learning (for example around science of social studies topics) can now feel more independent in reading the material given to the rest of the class. Students will definitely feel more engaged when they feel they can be successful. Further, the beauty of using a tool like WordTalk allows all students to approach their learning with this extra tool if they feel it would be helpful. Even the best readers in the class could use these tools to extend their learning and find other more advanced reading material on their learning topic to deepen their understanding of the material.

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