George Lucas Educational Foundation

21st Century Skills - Are Students with Disabilities Being Included in the Programs?

21st Century Skills - Are Students with Disabilities Being Included in the Programs?

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21st Century Skills - Are students in Special Education Being Included in Reports by Education Nation and Race to the Top Grants - Project Based Learning and 21st Century Skills are the new conversation. Where to students with disabilities fit? Are they not creative thinkers, creative, technologically literate, team players and innovators as well?

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Meri Kahle's picture
Meri Kahle
7th & 8th Interrelated Sped (Language Arts) from rural Kansas

As a middle school sped teacher, I would like to think that the 21st Century Skills are very applicable to the students I have. This school year I will be teaching 7th & 8th grade learning disabled students through direct instruction in reading and writing. I have had tese two grades for the last 6 years for DI in language arts. I did a lot of academic soul-searching this summer...what am I required to teach them according to standards, how have I been teaching them, what will they truly need to be able to do and how can I help prepare them to do it??? When I finally sorted it all out, I decided that their highest needs and priorities were: social ability, reading ability, & communication (written & verbal)ability and technological ability.

#1 - They need to be able to follow directions on the job and get along with co-workers. They need to be able to make some decisions when working with others, but they also need to be able to go along with a group, accepting responsibility in both areas.

#2 - They need to be able to read all text types, fluently and with successful comprehension, at as high a level as possible for them!!!

#3 - They need to be able to ask questions in an appropriate manner and form to get the answer they will need to complete the job at hand. They will need to be able to speak and write at a level that is appropriate to their occupation and that is easily understood by others.

#4 - They need to be able to utilize technology effectively to assist them with all of the above.

As I have been planning for this year, I am stepping outside my comfort zone into a world of the unknown by integrating technology into my lessons in ways I am not sure my students or I may be ready for, but we are going to try!

I spent a great deal of time looking at my current caseload of 18, examining their career goals at this point, their interests, abilities and disabilities. As I did, I realized that even the most "menial" jobs they may have in 5-7 years would require ALL of the above for them to find success. I am attempting to step away from the worksheet/paper & pencil safe zone to work our way towards using the technology we have in place to expand our collective horizon!

We are beginning the year with a PBL short unit on Using Technology to Learn Better. I am going to have them assit me in developing it all...their individual questions/topics, rubrics, assignments, creations, evaluations, etc. For the most part, I have a very mature group, who hate the "read section 1 and answer the questions at the end" type of instruction. Most have ADD/ADHD and are TK learners that span all across the Multiple Intelligences. Soooo....we are going to hit the ground running. The first day (next Monday) I explain I have gone insane and so instead of beginning the year with the typical grammar/sentence structure review, we will be doing Wordles on the required material. :)

Wish me luck...this is either sheer genius or just plain crazy! :)

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