The Inclusion Toolbox (Dec. 2017)

This Fall, I set out to design a course that could be a “Makerspace” for teachers to create student-centered Inclusion Tools. My vision was for teachers to use the Design Thinking approach and educational technology to create inclusive tools and visual aids. I decided to call my course, The Inclusion Toolbox.

liana with comic life visualOne of the primary goals I wanted to achieve with this course was to demystify the process of making some of the most popular tools and visual aids requested by classroom teachers, such as Visuals, Charts, Social Stories, Graphic Organizers, Behavioral and Social Emotional supports, and UDL tools (Universal Design for Learning). I wanted to show teachers that truly anyone can make these “tools”, and through the course, empower teachers to practice the design skills and make their products in real time.

I asked two district specialists, Kate Jacobs and Robin Lewis, to join me sharing their technology expertise in the course. Robin, the Assistive Technology Specialist, is a wealth of knowledge on all things Google and and App related; she led the group in tutorials of Google Suite and Lesson Pix. Kate is quite tech savvy herself; she led participants in a tutorial of Comic Life, and shared her knowledge on creating engaging, student-centered visuals.

As a premise, I set out to dedicate the first half of each class to teaching the specific content, technology, and design skills, but then, to also dedicate 60 minutes of each class strictly to “Making”. This meant teachers would have have uninterrupted work time to make their products, apply their learning, practice the technology skills, and print their final products in the Teacher Resource Center. The feedback from participants on this class structure has been very positive.

jenny with lesson pixAnother major focus of the course was to build in opportunities for teachers to apply the stages of Design Thinking. The Design Thinking process includes “Empathy”, which asks designers of products to “check in with their users”, or connect directly with the people who are using the tools or products. Each tool is designed to solve a problem or a challenge the student is facing. As a part of the course, teachers were asked to meet with their students in order to interview them and hear from students directly about the challenges they are facing. In our class discussions, we touched upon how we often make assumptions about what is going on with students when we problem-solve without them. But if we invite students into the conversation and give students a voice, often we find out they can provide insight about the problem that we could only gain by asking. By getting clarity about the problem, the teacher can design a better tool to help the student work through the problem or challenge.

After students started using the tools, teachers met with their students again to ask questions like, “Is this tool working for you? Is this tool helping you write your paragraph? Is this tool helping you to follow directions? Is this tool helping you to stay calm? Is this tool helping you to remember to ____? Why or Why not?” By getting the student’s feedback, this in turn boosts a student's self-agency and confidence, which enhances a student’s opportunity to self-reflect, self-advocate and take ownership of their learning.

At our last class on December 12th, teachers will share their learning and final products with their colleagues in short presentations and a gallery walk.  

If this course interests you and you would like to be notified of future offerings, please contact Christina Gavin at [email protected].

Photo (top): Art Teacher Liana Trail shows her Student Visual made on Comic Life. 
Photo (bottom): Special Educator Jenny Schnabel shows off her Inclusion Tool made with Lesson Pix.
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