Recently, my husband and I did some repairs and painting on a rental house rather than paying someone else to do it. While we were working, sometimes I needed a ladder but when my husband worked on the same area, he didn’t need the ladder. We achieved the same goal but I used a different tool than he did. Neither one of us assumed that I was incapable of finishing the job because I needed the ladder. At different times while we were working, we used different tools but at the end of the week we were proud that we accomplished all that we had planned to do. Isn’t that the way learning should be in the classroom? I think Ira was right on target when he states, "Disability" has little or nothing to do with this. Everybody needs this skill set.” Giving students the ability to learn different tools for different situations should be taught to every student throughout their school career. During the local Council for Exceptional Children’s meeting, we talked about Universal Design for Learning. Karen Janowski was the guest speaker and shared with us the UDL Tech Toolkit. The question that kept coming up was why teachers didn’t do this in the classroom and how can we get them to do this? I’m not sure we ever came up with a good answer to this but we had a great discussion.
Ira also states “The only way to allow students to assemble this essential toolbelt for information and communication is to throw open your classroom and let the world in.” I think this applies to all of the filters out there used to protect our children. I believe the people in power are really trying to protect our children, no matter how misguided their intentions may be. I think it is very important to keep the lines of communication open with the people in order to show them how these tools can be more of an asset if allowed rather than a liability. At first they may be resistant but if I can show them examples of how I can use this tool and get others to use it and show their examples, it may help. I also think it is important to think of why people may be opposed to using this tool and have an answer ready for this before the discussion. I don’t think change will happen overnight but I can’t stop trying.
I also think that that Ira’s quote involves teachers trying new things. I need to be more open to new things and how they can apply to my lessons. Of course I think it is important to learn the new tools but I think it is most important to see how they can be used in the curriculum that I am teaching. I don’t want to have my students to use a tool just to use it. I want them to use a tool in a way that will help them create something new in the context of what I am teaching. Without this connection I think I am wasting my time. If I don’t see a purpose for learning something new, I will not waste my time learning it or I will put it aside and never use it again so I don’t want my students in the same position. I think as I see new tools I need to think about how I can use this in my classroom rather than how I want to learn just to use this. Once I see how it can be relevant, then I can focus my attention to the particulars of using the tool.
I feel this toolbelt theory is so important to being successful in life. This is important for all students of every level from elementary school through post secondary school. I will continue to add new tools to my toolbelt and get rid of the ones I no longer need. I will also make sure that these tools are relevant to my needs at this time. I know that my toolbelt can be changed often and changed according to what I need to do but it sure is comforting to know that I have different tools that I can put in my toolbelt if I need them.
Original image: 'Pegboard' http://www.flickr.com/photos/45789087@N00/2012923574