Training Ideas

Parents use the Phase 1 Offering treatment with their son during a parent training weekend.
Parents use the Phase 1 Offering treatment with their son during a parent training weekend.

There are many ways that the Active Learning Space website can be used for training, from self-study or working on specific areas as a team or small group.  We have compiled some ideas of how families, Education Consultants, and others have used the site to support trainings they provide.

From Kate Hurst, Statewide Staff Development Coordinator, TSBVI

Recently I worked in collaboration with Education Consultants Starsha Canady and Tricia Marsh in Region 9 Education Service Center (Wichita Falls area) to present two days of training for teams using or planning to use Active Learning in their classrooms. All the teams live in rural counties surrounding the larger city of Wichita Falls, Texas.

Our goal was to help teams learn a process for planning an Active Learning program for their student, one that they could begin to implement at the start of school. Team members experience with Active Learning varied widely from those who had never heard of this approach to those who had been utilizing at least some Active Learning Activities for a number of years had attended training provided by Patty Obrzut, Active Learning Study Group webinars, and/or worked through some of the Active Learning online, self-paced courses.

We utilized the Active Learning Materials and Activities Planning Sheet (PDF Version) throughout the two days. Each section of the form was preceded by a brief explanation and review of the pertinent content on the Active Learning Space website. Then, working in teams around a specific student, specific sections of the sheet were completed. These included:

Of course, throughout the training questions would come up about Active Learning, so we would explore various other parts of the website, especially the materials and equipment sections. Having the teams clarify their goals and objectives for the student BEFORE they began to think about specific pieces of equipment and materials to use, seemed to tie their understanding of “Active Learning equipment” to a broader understanding of the principles of the Active Learning approach. Understanding that the Active Learning approach can be used to teach ANY content also helped them understand that programming for a child with visual impairments and significant disabilities is not so difficult. Sometimes it does utilize specialized equipment, but if you understand the total approach, most any activity can be adapted to the unique needs and specific developmental level of your student.

Active Learning Space website was available for participants to explore prior to attending training. This helped us start with some shared vocabulary and understanding even though participants had varied prior knowledge. I also hope that having the website to refer back to and to see video examples of programming will help them throughout the school year. A series of follow-up video conferences for the teams and occasional school consultations are planned for this school-year. Our hope is to continue to support these teams to implement an Active Learning program for their students.

From Scott Baltisberger, VI Outreach Specialist, TSBVI

Scott Baltisberger and Sara Kitchen discuss Active Learning during a Study Group webinar.
Scott Baltisberger and Sara Kitchen discuss Active Learning during a Study Group webinar.

One thing we’ve been doing is to use the Active Learning Space site as a kind of preparation prior to going to an onsite consultation. That is, if through our conversations with the school and family, it appears a student may benefit from an AL approach, we might suggest that they look through some of the tabs to get a better idea of the principles and approaches. We might also suggest they complete parts of the Active Learning Materials and Activities Planning Sheet (PDF Version) as this “hands on” approach with their own student makes it less theoretical and more concrete. It helps that the site is so well organized and the information presented in such an accessible manner. This strategy facilitates everyone being on the same page and talking the same language once we do arrive onsite. I think it also helps that they are seeing the information presented in such a professional manner – it seems more “legit” than just hearing it from one or two Outreach consultants.

Apart from that, we’ve been integrating AL Space into our trainings, both webinars and face to face. Pretty much any aspect about AL that we might cover is reflected by information on the site so we try to build the habit of going to the site to find information, post-training. We talk about a topic and provide a direct link to that tab, but also project the site and demonstrate pulling up the main page and going through the tabs. It’s a big site, with lots of stuff, so walking people through it helps to make it appear less overwhelming.

From Sara Kitchen, TSBVI Outreach

We have done some flipped learning with the sections of “Active Learning Principles“, taking teams through each piece and pairing it with activities (such as filling in sections of the Active Learning Materials and Activities Planning sheet, taking video clips to share, etc.). They can try these ideas with a focus student over the course of year.  I worked with the ESC 20 (San Antonio) LID (Low Incidence Disabilities) person to do that project with a number of teams and we are starting fresh again this year with a new group. I worked with the ESC 14 (Abilene) VI Specialist to do the same thing with two teams last year.

From Parent Sarah Lundgren

We used many videos from the site, especially of non-mobile learners.  We had 6 participants and 2 were in wheelchairs. Setting up environments for them, and showing how engaged a non-mobile learner can be is a challenge, so showing your videos really helped!

We also used videos of Patty describing Active Learning and the key principles, especially Key Points and the 5 Phases of Active Learning.

We loved the video tour of a classroom by a teacher. She was very engaging and the facilitators really enjoyed that. We had the facilitators set up the classroom after the first day. This was a very good hands-on way to have them think about the learners they observed and how to tweak the environment and materials the next day.

We also used the video at Penrickton with the typical 2 year old and her aunt.

I studied the “Principles” section in depth to convey AL in simple terms and this site was exceptionally helpful distilling the gist!

From Patty Obrzut, Assistant Director, Penrickton Center for Blind Children

I point out the section of how to incorporate Active Learning into the IEP. I definitely tell everyone about the handouts on how to make things. I also point out the old webinars and ongoing training opportunities. I remind people after the training the site is a good way to refresh their memory on the items I have told them, and to learn additional information.

From Chris Tabb, Orientation & Mobility Supervisor, Maryland School for the Blind

I have shared links to videos with teachers to give them ideas that they might want to try with their students, including “The Science Lesson“.  I have also shared links about Active Learning equipment that people may not be familiar with, such as the HOPSA Dress.

From Charlotte Cushman, Web Manager, Active Learning Space and Paths to Literacy, Perkins School for the Blind and TSBVI Outreach

When people want to know more about Active Learning and whether or not it actually works, I always share the “Before and After” video of Rylan, which is found on the homepage of the site.  I think it is a very concrete way to show the difference that Active Learning materials can make in engaging a child.

Don’t Forget the Online Modules

A series of self-paced online modules on Active Learning is available from Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired. Participants who complete the courses receive certificates and the courses have been approved for ACVREP and Texas State Board of Education Certification approval. To learn more about these courses visit Online Learning on the TSBVI Website.