9 principles of Universal Design assist in designing more effective instruction for students with learning disabilities

by Amanda Kastrinos
Master’s student, University of Florida

Amanda Kastrinos

Amanda Kastrinos

The goal of any successful instructor is to teach the course in a way all students will understand. But how can college teachers plan instruction for students with special needs, specifically students with learning disabilities?

With the passage of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act, teachers are required to make necessary accommodations to any student with a learning disability.

As the law states, “No otherwise qualified person with a disability shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity”  (Section 504).

Some of these accommodations could include providing a note-taker, preferential seating, additional time on tests and assignments, providing copies of lesson plans and assignments, or allowing video or audio recording of lectures.

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More research is needed to back up learning styles theories

by Cindy Spence
Master’s student, University of Florida

Cindy Spence

Cindy Spence

Intuitively, learning styles theory makes sense. Many of us have an orientation toward a certain kind of stimulus: visual, aural, kinesthetic. And many of us believe we learn better if a lesson caters to our orientation.

The evidence, however, says our intuition is wrong.

University of Virginia psychology Professor Daniel Willingham, who studies the role of cognitive psychology in kindergarten through university education, says the evidence for learning styles just does not exist. Learning styles, he says, are one of those things people think they have figured out. They believe science has settled the issue, in favor of learning styles, when very little research has been done at all.

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Culturally responsive teaching – A perspective for improving student learning

by Kendra Auguste
Ph.D.  student, University of Florida

Kendra Auguste

Kendra Auguste

Culturally diverse students face additional challenges associated with adjusting to an unfamiliar or predominately white culture. As a result, educational attainment at the collegiate level remains an issue for minority students.

Contributing stressors include:

The imposter syndrome: Students may feel like they aren’t smart enough and question if they belong on a college campus. “Surely the admissions committee made a mistake!” They may struggle with meeting some performance measure or find difficulty fitting in.

First-generation condition: Those students who are the first in their families to attend college may lack family support and find difficulty adjusting to a culture different from their own.

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Group project strategies contribute to learning potential for college students

by Daniel Pimentel
Ph.D student, University of Florida

The Parable of Stones: Communicating the Benefits of Group Projects

Daniel Pimentel

Daniel Pimentel

Often considered the holy grail of technology companies, Apple Inc. represents a diverse and interdisciplinary team of professionals. From packaging design specialists to software engineers, the team at Apple is what many would call the ultimate group project based on its roots in a California garage in 1976.

Nearly two decades after his small project revolutionized the way humanity communicated, Apple’s founder and icon, Steve Jobs, spoke on a childhood experience and the importance of teamwork. He described how as a child an elderly man on his block invited him to view his collection of rocks. The man was rugged and aged, and Jobs wondered what value these rocks provided for the man. Placing them in a motorized container filled with liquid and grit powder, the man turned on the machine causing a chorus of clanks and swashes. He invited Jobs back the following morning.

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7 tips to effectively use games and gamification in the college classroom

By Min Xiao
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Min Xiao

Min Xiao

Many people think educational games are for elementary school students and adults are too old to play them. In fact, games are widely used in both academic and professional trainings.

In universities, some professors ask their students to role-play being a manager in a company to solve real-world business issues. This activity is actually a role-playing game.

In the professional world, many companies use games as major team-building activities during orientation for new employees.

When people play games, they are usually very happy. This positive mood helps them to learn knowledge quicker and better than usual.

Another way to enliven the class is to use a technique called gamification. People often confuse gamification with using games in class. In fact, the two concepts are very different.

Gamification means borrowing game elements and applying these elements in non-game situations. For instance, teachers can adopt ranking and rewarding systems from video games and apply them in their class. The structure of the class is like a game, but students may not play a real game in the class.

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‘Teaching Naked’ provides strategies & insights into using technology as a college instructor

by Barbara Myslik
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Barbara Myslik

Barbara Myslik

In his book “Teaching Naked” José Antonio Bowen, the President of Goucher College, presents a fascinating new way of looking at a role technology plays in post secondary education. From the provoking title to the last chapter — filled with useful strategies, tips and insights — Bowen grabs our attention and provokes us to rethink technology as we know it.

The book is divided into three parts.

In Part One, titled “New digital landscape,” Bowen sets up the context. There are three basic truths regarding technology and its relationship with education that the author wants us to embrace before moving on to practical advice.

First, education online, or education using technology is no longer domain of post secondary institutions. Computer users all over the world can gain free access to content delivered in variety of ways suited to their learning preferences with no need for an educational institution intermediary. That means, the value of what what it is that institutions of higher learning are delivering has to change. Higher education, according to Bowen, can no longer focus on delivering content. It needs to focus on delivering thinking skills to filter, understand, analyze and apply that content to new situations that are a part of our every day life.

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Strategies for designing more effective class group projects

by Liudmila Khalitova
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Liudmila Khalitova

Liudmila Khalitova

Group projects have many advantages for students as well as for instructors.

Students have an opportunity to learn more working people, decrease their individual work load sharing it with other students, and develop collaboration and communication skills which are essential for their future work.

Instructors can assign more complex tasks and reduce the number of final projects to grade.

However, sometimes group work can be very challenging. In this post I will address those challenges and give some tips on how to minimize the costs of group projects.

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