The world is changing because of technology. It’s our job as educators to ensure that in the future, our students will be able to change the world with technology.
21st century learners are different than learners before them. Technology isn’t just a tool; rather, it’s a function of necessity.
And today, more than ever before, technology can be a function of necessity for our Special Education students.
So what happens when our schools do not have technology?
We go back to the basics!
First we need to connect to these curious learners in our classrooms. We must be just as captivating as the video games and the cell phones filled with responsive apps, connecting them to millions of constant forms of entertainment!
Engaging our students is the only way to get our students to learn. However, it isn't just technology that helps us captivate the attention of these modern-day learners. 21st Century learners need to be problem solvers. In order to solve problems, one must be able to analyze a problem and execute a rational plan for solution.
While all of these steps hit Bloom's taxonomy AND meet the requirements for engaged learners, none of them NEED technology.
Instead, let’s use our brains (AKA old school computers).
First, let’s boot those brains up!
The strategy of Mind Mapping is a visual form of thinking. They are a nonverbal tool for communication of ideas and thought processes. Additionally, Mind Maps can be used as a note-taking strategy and study tool.
All you need are markers, chart paper or a whiteboard and post-it notes! (You know you’re a teacher when more than one strategy includes post-it notes!)
Start with a central idea or main concept (i.e. frogs). Write this on chart paper or the whiteboard. Next, create branches from the main idea of sub-topics or single words that relate to the central idea.
Tip: Use different colors to differentiate each sub-topic.
Then, draw sub-branches, stemming from the main branches. These should contain words that elaborate on the topic of the branch from which it stems.
Tip: Including visual depictions of the words helps differentiate for visual learners.
Challenge your students by having them create their own mind maps on topics. Students can mind map individually or in groups. Have students compare and contrast mind maps or add to mind maps using - you guessed it - post it notes!
The strategy of Mind Mapping enables students to recall ideas, build connections between concepts, and thus, enhance comprehension.
Next, present curriculum as a problem to solve!
The Brainstorming Challenge Strategy does just this.
All you need is a pair of dice and some way to write answers down (i.e. paper and pen, whiteboard and dry erase marker).
Begin by providing groups of students with a challenge. This can be a case study, a question, or a problem. Groups should, then, roll the pair of dice. Whatever number the group rolls, they need to produce that number of answers to the challenge. So, if a group rolls a 6, they need to generate 6 different possible solutions to the challenge.
Challenge your students to review all of their ideas, choosing only their 2 best answers. Ask them to justify their decision of the top 2.
This strategy enables students to analyze a problem from varying points of view.
Tip: This strategy can also lead to a Social Emotional Learning discussion on choices, group cooperation, and more!
Now, let’s assess these strategies!
The only materials needed for the Muddiest Point Strategy are index cards or post-its (and who doesn’t love using post-it notes?!).
After a lesson, ask students to write questions that they still have about the focus of the lesson. Next, have students work in groups analyze the questions based upon a set of criteria. For example, groups may look for patterns or categories in questions, recurrent themes, or outliers.
After students sort the cards, challenge the groups to find the answers OR answer as a whole group. The questions can also be employed for future mini-lessons and educator lesson reflection.
The Muddiest Point Strategy has students summarizing, sorting, analyzing, evaluating, and identifying for connections and themes, all of which are higher level Bloom’s Taxonomy skills.
And while your administrators hopefully continue to fight for our students' technology needs, Donorschoose.org is a great site to obtain donations for your classroom to increase technology in the meantime.
~By Miss Rae
Hi! I'm Miss Rae! I'm a Special Education Coordinator with a passion for creating research-based resources for DiVeRSe learners.