Monday, March 25, 2013

Mind Changer

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”  B.B. King

           In response to a comment from another blog “Reforming Education”, an individual requested that I provide concrete suggestions and implementations of restructuring the resource room and/or purpose.  In my personal professional opinion, Resource Special Education teachers’ current duties are to assist students in completing the General Education teachers’ assignments, the classroom manger in an inclusion setting, or the in-house substitute teacher.  With Common Core providing an admirable platform, it is acceptable to say the dynamics of the resource room and teaching methodology must shift in the 21st century to accommodate the educational demand.
In a very informal case study of twenty-five English resource students, the processes of changing how my resource room functions began during the 2011-2012 school year.  However, the major changes occurred during 2012-2013 school year.  The scope of the students’ disabilities ranges from specific learning disabilities to very mild mental retardation and range in age from thirteen to nineteen years old.  The background of my students’ lives varied from single parent to racially mix and to adopted families’ homes. 
How did I change the expectations of my students?
The first thing that must change is the Resource teacher’s mindset of his or hers abilities and purpose for teaching.  As it is written by the Apostle Paul in Romans, “…transform your mind by the renewing of the right spirit…”  Instead of having a group of students working on several different skills as the same time, elementary resource teachers should develop flexible groups based on the concepts that need to be taught.  Yes, this means that members of the flexible groups may and should change according to the students’ needs or deficiencies. 
How to determine who belongs in which flexible groups?
Flexible groups can be determined by students’ data.  Elementary resource teachers can use curriculum based assessments or achievement gap profiles.  Then, the resource teacher must design and teach lessons based on that data.  Now, the resource room aspects or appearances mirror that of the general education classroom.  Simply stated, the resource room imitates and is parallel to the general education classroom.
In designing the lesson plan, a technology performance- based lesson appears to be the most appropriate style of lesson for the newly designed resource room.  A technology performance-based lesson provides the maximum amount of adaptability in the lesson and assessment opportunities based on specific rubrics.  The specific rubrics must explain the expectations clearly and distinctly for the students to meet the optimal performance requirements.
In changing the resource teachers’ mindset and purpose for being an educator, staff members, building administrators and special education directors will slowly begin to change their perceptions or ideologies about the resource room’s learning environment.  Note that this transformation or restructuring starts with the purpose of the resource teacher not from upper administration.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Reforming Education

Reforming Education

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”        
                                              John Dewey


      Understanding what integrating technology is in the classroom goes beyond the simple application of SmartBoards or interactive whiteboards and document cameras. Integrating technology deals with comprehending the essence of research learning. It is the key in teaching learners how to grasp knowledge and expanding their knowledge of the world’s current notions. Knowing that learners’interactions and social skills have changed, Madeline Hunter states “Any growth requires a temporary loss of security.” History notes that a traditional educator had excellent control of his or her classroom, desks are in nice neat rows, learners’ materials are organized above and beneath their desk, and learners did not speak unless the teachers gave them permission. Moving forward requires a technology-based curriculum that reconstructs and transforms the tradition classroom; upgrades a traditional educator into a 21st century; transfigures the meaning and teaching in Special Education resource rooms and embraces John Dewey’s philosophy about educating learners in their era. 
       There are hundreds of reasons why technology should be integrated in the classrooms. And yes, there are just as many issues in K12 school systems that hinder the integration of technology in the classrooms.  Regardless of the reasons or issues, learners are demanding that education transforms their ability to create, expand, and explore the world’s nuances. Common Core Standards dispenses a platform of methods and means that expose learners to a higher level of creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaborative learning.
      Does higher levels of creativity, communication, critical thinking or collaboration relate to integrating technology or change the definition of a struggling and/or learning disabled learner? If the answer is yes, then mutation of the learning environments between general education and resource classrooms must be similar in instruction and dynamics.  Resource classrooms' obligations must be more than a location for learners to come and complete general education assignments or homework. The solution begins with rubrics. Rubrics, as an assessment tools, introduce a specific and diverse review of learners’ products.  A Chinese Proverb says “Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.” Rubrics give educators an explicit set of criteria to assess learners’ performances. Rubrics provide struggling and mildly disabled learners’ performances and products to be reviewed differently.

       How long will it take for this excellent approach of teaching to reach the atomic K12 school system?