Saturday, May 19, 2012

Accessibility for All Students

When I first started teaching at UCLA five years ago, I modeled my syllabus after that of my mentor’s and was pleased with how detailed it was. I soon realized that most of my students were not referring to it, even though it offered critical information for completing assignments throughout the quarter. I have tried several times to simplify it and make it more user friendly, while still including the important assignments and information. After reading about Accessibility, I now realize that I have to take a serious look at how to add headings, create a sub-heading system that makes sense, and possibly include graphics for some of the student activities explained in it. This week’s assigned reading totally opened my eyes to realize that I have not considered students with special needs in my course material. Within the seminar content sessions, all of my lessons are hands-on, use manipulatives of some kind, and are designed for visual learners—which is my strength. However, now that this brick-and-mortar setting is morphing more and more into an online interaction with my students, I realize that I need to address these other learning modalities as well.

 Recently, I viewed some educational videos that I was interested in showing to my elementary students. The videos were designed by students from MIT in Massachusetts who wanted to answer student inquiries and make math and science come alive for our students. The only problem is that most of the student presenters speak so rapidly that I cannot understand or follow everything they are saying. Since I am a native English speaker, I can only imagine how frustrated my bilingual students might be trying to follow these presentations. Yet, if they slowed down their speech and had subtitles, these videos could offer tremendous support to math classrooms around the world by offering real-world connections for everyone.

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