A Matter of Course: Improving Access for All Learners

By Magazine Staff  |  Photographs by David Rehor

CLASS: Improving Access to the General Education Curriculum for All Learners

FOCUS: The course introduces undergraduates to the concept of universal design for learning, which tries to improve the educational experience for all students—including those with disabilities or limited English proficiency. Students learn to use the most current classroom technology such as interactive whiteboards and polling devices in the class, which is designed to prepare students to be teachers who can support the learning needs of all learners. Most students taking the class are special education minors, though their majors include speech pathology, psychology, and elementary education.

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IS IT ALL ABOUT TECHNOLOGY?: “We teach them how the relationships they have with the children are really pivotal to learning. Technology is a tool; it’s not the whole thing,” said Monica Phelps, instructor of education. “We also try to get across that kids aren’t the same as they were in their learning styles and needs 20 years ago. We need to keep kids engaged and excited.”

CRITICAL TEXT: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. “It’s about a man writing a book after he’s paralyzed except for his left eye,” Phelps said. “The students find the book very powerful when you’re looking at what people can do given the right tools.”

HOW THE COURSE FITS THE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION’S FOCUS: “What we’re finding is that a lot of the schools—whether they be in urban areas or pockets of poverty—are really making the effort to put technology in the classrooms,” Phelps said. “Some of our students are going into classrooms that have this type of technology and other students are helping lead their schools to use it. This class is not coming out of nowhere. It’s definitely responding to a need.”

STUDENTS SAY: “I think as future educators it’s really important that we be up on technology,” says Anh Thu Nguyen, ’12, an elementary education major with a minor in special education from Cherry Hill, N.J. “I actually did not really think about technology in the classroom much at all. I have an iPhone, but I use it mostly for fun. I’m curious to see how we can bring it into the classroom.”

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