Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Unique Perspective

Hello All!
I know I've been very lax in posting on this blog. Life has been extremely busy and finding time to blog has been challenging. Kate (Ahern--Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs) posted on her Facebook that she was deleting blogs that hadn't posted in a year from her RSS. Got me to thinking I probably needed to update my blog, huh? HAHA Wouldn't want to be dropped from Kate's wonderful collection.  Then Kate posted about her class's use of Unique Learning Systems this year. I had been planning a similar post since we are also using it, but hers is so much better than my poor over-stressed and sleep deprived brain could devise. So go here and read what Kate wrote.

Now that you've done that, I completely echo Kate's statements. I appreciate how ULS has stepped up their game this year, especially for kids with more severe and complex disabilities. The online supports and activities are fantastic for most of my students and they are much more willing to participate in preassessment activities. I also like that the activities align directly with my kids' state assessments this year (primarily History/Government for my current group). I love that they have added a Level 1 checkpoint/assessment. My paras are excited about using both the online and print materials with the students. They can easily see definite progress and how to extend learning on their own, giving them needed ownership of the instruction. And the transition piece at all levels has fit in well with my cooperative's need to make major improvements in compliance in that area.

In addition to Kate's wishlist, I have a couple of my own:
  • Definitely would like more auditory supports for students with vision impairments (I have two with no functional vision but the profile still kicked them into assessment activities that require vision; neither of these students are able to use Braille so auditory content is very important for them).
  • I would really like to be able to analyze data from the checkpoints and skill assessments more closely. For instance, does the student consistently miss a certain type of question (quantity over 5, -ig family words, etc.)? Does the student have a history of "no response" rather than wrong answers? Does the student perform better at the start of the assessment or at the end? And so forth. The score at the end is nice, but I would really like to see what exactly we are measuring, which skills need more work, and where improvement has occurred.
  • I would also like to see more games and maybe a greater variety of games (card games, matching, physical activity, in addition to board games).
  • Out-of-the-box arts and crafts activities would be good too (in addition to the cooking and science activities Kate requested). It would be really neat to see a sub-study of sorts on a particular artist or art technique that went along with the theme.
  • Suggestions for community connections would be good.
  • I would also note that the majority of folks around my area who are using ULS are using it in categorical self-contained settings, not inclusion settings, so Kate's point about the math activities in particular, is very valid for us.
  • It would also be nice to see activities directly aligned with Bloom's Taxonomy and labeled as such. Even (or especially) "participatory/Level I" students should have opportunities to move past the Knowledge and Comprehension levels to demonstrate learning on all levels of Bloom's. They are very capable of "higher order skills" when given appropriate supports. (Hmmm...makes me think I should write a post soon on how we are using Bloom's in my program....)
All in all I am very pleased with Unique this year and am excited to be using it in my classroom. Hopefully the company will continue this trend of listening to the requests of their consumers and make even more improvements and advancements over time. If you haven't checked it out, or looked at it lately, you should.