The Universal Design for Learning: Come Again?

The Universal Design for Learning is, simply put, a guideline to design a curriculum that addresses students’ needs.  The UDL can be broken down into three principles :

  1. Provide Multiple Means of Representation
  2. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
  3. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement

These principles serve as tools for teachers and learners to overcome limitations and allows teachers to plan goals, methods, and assessments to accomodate all.  For example, the first principle explores the different ways to make learning accessible and comprehensible for all different types of learners while the second and third principles explore the different ways students can express and motivate their learning.

In exploring the UDL, I selected checkpoint 3.1 – Activate or supply background knowledge.  This technique allows learners to connect the newly acquired information with knowledge they are already familiar with and understand.  This enables them to learn faster and understand more thoroughly since they are linking it to previously acquired and mastered information. This technique is applicable to all learners since not one student has the same “baggage” of acquired information.  Each will make original and authentic connections to certain information they deem useful based off their prior knowledge.

For example, I taught myself to use the Windows Movie Maker this semester for the purpose of my Media Project.  Having no prior knowledge of the software (and of all of its limitations …), I was able to carry over most of my knowledge from Filmora (video editing software) I had acquired though high school and managed to apply it.

The Importance of Media Literacy

Being literate nowadays goes beyond the traditional understanding of how to speak, write, and use arithmetic.  Literacy opens doors to many opportunities and allows us to be free and express ourselves.  With a constant evolving world that surrounds us, we need to be able to process information faster than ever.  Literacy is embedded in everything we do.  It is the basis of human culture, knowledge and social connections.  Learners need literacy to be able to explore, learn and share their knowledge with the world.

Nonetheless, being able to speak through computer programming has become today’s literacy.  As learners and educators, media and technology is starting to creep into the education system and we need to be prepared to face this change.  From building e-portfolios, creating photo essays and video projects, the digital platform in education is omnipresent.  This media literacy ranges from music, TV, video games, magazines, etc.  Media education, as defined by the dictionary, is the process through which individuals become media literate – able to critically understand the nature, techniques and impacts of media messages and production.  The ability to read many types of media has become an invaluable asset for learners and teachers, however, careful attention must be put into critically analyzing the media source.

With the growing popularity of easy media access on social media, we need to teach students to be smart and aware of where they inform themselves.  It is our duty as educators to make our students be able to recognize bias, spin, misinformation, and lies when gaining information of the Internet.  In my opinion, media education is the way we should approach education in the 21st century since children need to be able to access media, analyse media in a critical manner and evaluate it to come to a clear and concise conclusion.

Learning Statement #2

As a teacher, I will need to be prepared to handle different behaviors and learning styles in order to bring the best out of all my students.  Each and everyone deserves to understand and excel the subject being taught to them.  Having studied the basis of multiple intelligenges, learning styles, and motivational tools in my introductory educational psychology course, I know where I stand in order to accommodate most of my students.  Writing this paper made me realize how much influence I will have on my future students’ everyday lives.  It is crazy to say but, I will be in charge of shaping the minds of tomorrow.  These young bright minds will be listening to what I say, observating my every move, but most importantly, be influenced by me.  It will be my goal to positively motivate all of my students in order for them to reach their full potential no matter the task given.

Competency #1: To act as a professional who is inheritor, critic and interpreter of knowledge or culture when teaching students.

(Here’s the link to access my response: How Teachers Can Improve Their Students Motivation)

Learning Statement #1

As a teacher, I need to be informed and  comfortable on many issues and problems facing modern day society.  For example, globalization and the effects of global warming are problems that our future generation will need to urgently address in the coming years.  In order to formulate my opinion on the matter in written words, I decided to make it the topic of my final article at Dawson College.  Inspired by Kip Andersen’s documentary Cowspiracy, I explored the issues behind our populations’ mass consumption of meat and its consequences on future generations.  This article adressed why we, as a society, fear the idea of change and the idea that humans were not anatomically designed to consume meat.

Competency 2: For my message to get accross to my audience, I had to clearly communicate using the language of instruction my opinions on the topic, linking it to information on the topic from different ressources.

Competency 4: To pilot teaching/learning situations that are appropriate to the students concerned and to the subject content with a view to developing the competencies targeted in the programs of study.

(Here is the link to access the article: Packaged at a Price)

Packaged at a Price

Packaged at a Price

When you have nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon, do anything but open up Netflix.  By the end of it, you’d have gained 10 pounds shoving orange Doritos down your throat, and that essay of yours will still be due for tomorrow.  As I was ready to start thinking of a thesis, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Effect had made its way to my ‘must watch’ list.  With all that had been said about it by my friend, I decided that my essay could wait just a little longer.  My bag of teriyaki Jack Link’s to my left and my Oasis apple juice to my right, I was ready to be educated; one heck of an education that was.  Kip Andersen had managed in the span of 90 minutes to wake me up from my carnivorous lifestyle and spark the beginning of the new and improved Javier Amoretti-P, the vegetarian one.

With gas emissions increasing at an alarming rate every year for the past decade, with football sized land plots being cut down in the Amazonian rainforest every minute, with our seas being emptied out to a point of no return, what exactly are we doing right you might be asking yourselves.

Have no fear, COP21 is here.  This UN Climate Conference held in Paris this past autumn brought a certain breath of fresh air in discussing ecological issues and the future of our planet.  One major obstacle the conference was faced with before even getting started was the goal given to it; 190 countries from across climate-changethe globe after these talks were supposed to come to a consensus on objectives, regulations and laws to prevent an increase of the global temperature of 2 degrees, and by doing so save the human race.  With this goal in mind, I was ready to start a movement at Dawson to really make this thing heard, as I had seen how the Kyoto Protocol had been a disaster.  One important point brought to the table by our own Minister of Environment & Minister of Fisheries, Catherine McKenna, was that a full-grown adult produces over 450L of CO2 a day.  Problem is, with the human population exponentially increasing, those 450L quickly become a problem.  As we’ve seen in the past, everything in excess causes problems, or as the SAQ would say, La modération a bien meilleur goût.  Humanitarian and governmental organizations are quick to blame the production of CO2 as the main reason of climate change, but even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2 limit by 2030, all from raising animals.  Let’s just do a quick factual check.  Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.  US methane emissions from livestock and natural gas are nearly equal and that methane has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame.  With these striking numbers brought up in Cowspiracy, I was surprised to notice that the agricultural problem was not being mentioned as much as it should have in a conference of this importance. This brought me to think… This industry is like that alcoholic uncle in the family.  Everybody knows about the problem and the consequences it’s causing, yet we kind of keep it quiet and secretly wish it went away.

The way I see things, the Earth is battling with type-1 diabetes.  The body’s own cells are attacking the pancreas, a vast ecosystem of enzymes.  They mistakenly see it as foreign, and destroy the insulin-producing cells found within.  Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter.  Without insulin, there is no “key.”  So the sugar stays, and builds up, in the blood. The result: the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose.

With the world population now at a staggering 7.4 billion, the agricultural industry has the biggest market at its disposition.  No wonder that in the span of only 75 years, the industry exploded.  Its market grew over 400% and is set to keep on growing.  With high demands of cheap beef in China, the industry has started to strip naked parts of the Amazonian rain amazon-rainforestin order to graze cattle.  But yet, with all the evidence right in front of us and proof that the agricultural industry is the number one cause of the growing climatic problems, why isn’t anybody openly speaking up about it?  Inspired by Andersen’s documentary, I wanted to see if the local environmentalist groups were willing to answer my questions concerning this industry.  With the number of calls made and emails sent, my phone bill ate up my credit limit.  After realizing I was in debt due to my phone bill, I decided to do it the old fashion way.  Offices were visited, as well as headquarters, time and time again.  Hell, I was ready to jump on a plane to Vancouver and speak with David Suzuki directly.  But by the end of all this, after asking over 8 different environmentalist groups – The David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace Montreal, Oxfam Quebec, Equiterre – I experienced the same phenomena Kip did while shooting his documentary: silence.

Maybe I had spoken too soon.  A week after sending 9 emails to Julia LaRose, spokesperson for Greenpeace Montreal, she returned my wish of an interview granting me 45min minutes of her time.  At this moment, I felt as though I was the chosen one. Entering her office at 9:02am, I waited patiently over 35min on a chair facing the secretary.  9:37am, her door opened, and there she was.  The interview could not have been going better — if the topic of my article were tar sands.  Boy did she have a lot to say about tar sands.  After listening and continuously nodding for 9min, I decided to go unscripted.  “How about the agricultural industries Miss LaRose?  Any particular thoughts on it?”  Stumped, you could see with her fidgeting fingers and wide-opened eyes that she was incapable of answering my question.  “I do not have sufficient data to have any particular thoughts on it” she responded with a look of destress.  The interview quickly turned ugly.  Without even knowing it, I was out of her office and had probably been banned to life from Greenpeace Montreal.  What exactly had just happened?  Why would one spokesperson of the biggest environmental group kick me out of her office just for asking about the agricultural industry?  Something was simply not right.

“Their image is at risk when clearly targeting a specific group” says Maxime Bastien, coordinator of external affairs for the SPCA.  He went on to say that “No matter what actions are posed in today’s world, it’s one man’s battle against the world and these groups have caught on to that.   But the minute shit starts hitting the fan, environmentalist groups will be the first to embark on the denouncing meat industry train”.

This interview not only led me to reconsider my opinion on these environmentalist groups, but also ask this question to myself; why exactly do we eat meat?  To my surprise, this question is to this day unresolved.  Many anthropologists have spent their entire careers trying to figure out what exactly our ancestors ate.  Some depict the diet of our ancestors as being meaty with the occasional gathering of berries here and there while the more liberal ones depict their diet as being rich in fruits, nuts and legumes.  One important aspect in figuring out what our Homo erectus cousins ate is to analyze their
guts.  Instead of taking the quickest way from point A to point B, your gut zigzags from A through points C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K before finally reaching B.  I was always told that humans were carnivores.  We are meat eaters and we are supposed to be doing this. When looking closely at the organs thattheory-of-evolution make up our gut, for example our stomach, it behaves almost exactly like the stomachs of herbivores.  The stomach of a cow is a kind of giant fermenter in which bacteria produce huge quantities of specific fatty acids the cow can easily use or store; sound familiar?  If I decided to plop a human and ape gut side by side in front of you right now, trust me, you would not be able to differentiate both.  We are designed to be herbivorous.  Our large intestine is humongous – about 7 to 13 times the length of our torso – compared to a carnivorous intestine which is about 3 to 6 times the length of their torso.  Carnivorous intestines are designed to quickly push through decaying and rotting animal flesh, animal proteins, cholesterol and saturated fats.  It is impossible for this reason, and I mean impossible for a genuine meat eater to ever clog their arteries.

We don’t pant like dogs and lions to cool ourselves, we sweat though our pores.  We possess carbohydrates digestive enzymes in our saliva to be able to break down tones of carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables.  If we truly were carnivorous, why don’t we rush towards that squirrel in the park, shove it down our mouth and eat everything.  Carnivores do not pick and choose what they eat.  “But wait, dude” you might say, “you haven’t considered the fact that without an early diet that included generous amounts of animal protein, we wouldn’t even have become human”.  Ok, I got to give to you, that’s true.  Being an herbivore 2.6 million years ago was all nice and dandy, but you didn’t know when the next meal would come.  It could have been in a couple of hours, like it could have been in a couple of months.  That’s when meat came into effect.  Root foods such as beets and potatoes were packed with nutritional goodness but were not very tasty (at least raw) and required a lot of energy to be chewed and churned.  Meat on the other hand provided a much more calorie-rich meal with much less chewing than root foods.  It was a win-win
situation.  Meat is the reason we have been able to create IPhones, “The Office” and sweatpants, all crucial to modern society.  But we can’t simply continue on eating meat just because it made who we are as species today.  If Darwin was still alive, I’m pretty sure he would want us to revise his work and apply it to where we stand todavegetablesy.  Saying no to meat does not mean we are neglecting our past; it’s simply a question on whether or not we want to thrive as species.  The agricultural industry releases over 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.  By eating products originating from this industry, we are technically supporting climate change.  So why would it be so hard for us to go back at eating what was designed for us to be eaten?  Every vitamin, nutrient, protein have a natural source.  Everything our body possibly needs originates from that soil in our backyard.  When we’re born, young and growing up, we’re all born vegan.  We have acquired a taste for meats, cheeses, dairies and eggs after they were forced down our throat during childhood.  Why would it be so hard to simply go back to our herbivorous Neanderthal diets?

Change, that’s what.

We have been napping for far too long, and now, that pork roast we had put in the stove has burned half of our house down and we are starting to smell the smoke.  It’s not only that people fear change, it’s the fact that we genuinely believe that if something has been done for some time, it must undoubtedly be good.  What I’m trying to say here is that, yes our global population is going to continue growing, yes the agricultural industry is Goliath and I am David, and yes, I am aware that you are probably going to have an Angus burger after reading this article, but concrete actions and questionings need to happen now.  No one is to blame for where we stand today, but it is up to us to decide where we will stand tomorrow.

_________________________________________________________________

Works Cited

  • Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Effect. Kip Andersen, Keegan Kuhn.  DVD. 26 June 2014.
  • Cañete, Miguel Arias. “Paris Is Much More Than The Deal”. Vital Speeches Of The Day 82.2 (2016): 40-42. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.
  • Dunn, Rob. “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians”.  Scientific American.  p.  23 July 2012.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/human-ancestors-were-nearly-all-vegetarians/

  • Halvorson, Heidi Grant. “Explained: Why We Don’t Like Change”.  Huffington Post.  p.  5 November 2011.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heidi-grant-halvorson-phd/why-we-dont-like-change_b_1072702.html

  • Kluger, Jeffrey. “Sorry Vegans: Here’s How Meat-Eating Made Us Human”.    N.p.  9 March 2016.

http://time.com/4252373/meat-eating-veganism-evolution/?xid=newsletters

  • Mills, Milton R. “The Comparative Anatomy of Eating”.    N.p.  21 November 2009.

http://www.vegsource.com/news/2009/11/the-comparative-anatomy-of-eating.html

  • Robertson, Joshua. “Dangerous global warming will happen sooner than thought – study”.  The Guardian.  p.  9 March 2016.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/10/dangerous-global-warming-will-happen-sooner-than-thought-study

  • Sterbenz, Christina. “7 Reasons Why I Refuse To Stop Eating Meat”.  Business Insider.  p.  30 September 2013.

http://www.businessinsider.com/reasons-to-eat-meat-2013-9

  • Unknown Author. “The Natural Human Diet”.    N.p.

http://www.peta.org/living/food/natural-human-diet/

S.M.A.R.T Goal

S – Formulate and state a clear and concise teaching philosophy 

M – Knowing who I am as a student and what I want to become as an educator

A – Weekly readings on the subject will facilitate this task

R – Formulating a clear philosophy of my teaching methods will only be beneficial for my ongoing future

T – At the end of this semester

UPDATE

With the completion of my first semester here at McGill, I have formulated my first draft of my beliefs about teaching and learning.  This draft was heavily influenced by the works of psychologists such as Albert Bandura and Lev Vygotsky, which I had the pleasure to read up on and discover over the course of this semester.  Nonetheless, I am well aware that my beliefs on the matter will continue to evolve as I continue my studies in education.  This exercise not only helped me write down in a clear and concise way who I was as a learner and what I believed in, but provided me with a starting guideline of what I aspire to be as an educator.

My Learning Network and Community

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Family:  My parents have taught me the importance of never giving up on what matters to you most.  It is because of them that the values of perseverance, independence and self-worth have shaped me in becoming the person I am today.  They showed me how important it is to be emotionally strong and simply to believe in yourself.

F.A.C.E School:  One value that this place gave me was the importance of a strong sense of family.  It is here that I met most of the people (friends, teachers) that have influenced me in becoming the person I am today including (but not limited to) William Hesselink, Rita Saad, Ella Sparling, and so many more.

Hockey Community:  Most of my best childhood memories have been on an ice rink.  It is throughout my 14 year career in hockey that I discovered the importance of teamwork and hardwork.

This network is, of course, a brief overview of all the people that have been apart of my life and have taught, influenced, and prepared me for what awaited me with valuable lessons and advice.