Universal Design for Learning Series: Boring Classes? Not Here!

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. In 2017, with support from the Davis Educational Foundation, Goodwin College established its first cohort of instructors to re-examine their teaching methods and to stretch themselves creatively in working with students of wide-ranging learning differences and educational experiences. Several of those instructors have agreed to be contributors to the Goodwin College blog.

Universal Design for Learning Series

by Rebecca Soto, LO, ABOC/NCLEC

Boring Classes? Not Here!

Recently, I participated in the Goodwin College Universal Design for Learning project, funded through a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation that gave me the opportunity to improve our students’ learning. Well, not only do I implement what I have learned in the classroom, I also have utilized these improvements when teaching at the national level.

At Vision Expo East last month, Opticon and the National Federation of Opticianry schools combined efforts to provide free American Board of Opticianry basic exam review courses. I had the pleasure of teaching the American Board of Opticianry basic exam review course at Opticon in Orlando, Florida, and then in New York.

You are probably asking yourself, what does Universal Design of Learning have to do with an American Board of Opticianry basic exam review course? Well, I am going to tell you. We all know the feeling of sitting in a boring class, where most people in the room are scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, and others are just thinking about what is being served for lunch. Inattention is common in our fast-paced society. The average attention span for a presentation is seven to ten minutes. Therefore, educators must think of ways to keep students engaged and active in their learning.

As an educator, I try my best to create an environment that is engaging and interactive. When I taught the ABO Basic review courses at Vision Expo in March, we had a great time. Instead of standing in front of the room and talking, I had the students take ownership of their learning. Did I lecture? Yes, but in short bursts with activities in-between. When a participant in the class said to me, “This is the least painful class I have ever taken,” I took it as a compliment. I know the feeling of sitting through a course and counting the minutes until it is over. Who says we have to stand and lecture for an hour or two? If we get participants actively engaged in their learning, it means they are participating and collaborating with each other. This can convert learning into an exciting experience.

During the course, we had large Post-its all over the walls, where students were able to practice transposition, calculate oblique meridians and prism. They worked in groups, so they were not only learning from me they were learning from each other and working together to complete a task.

This is a great way for participants with more experience to share and “teach” participants with less experience. One student said, “This is great! The best way to see if you know something is to teach someone.”

The best part of the class is we danced! I love dancing. We had Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” blasting, and I made all participants get up because I couldn’t just look like a fool myself. I teach the dance to remember canceling and compounding prisms. Come to one of my courses, and you will love it! Trust me, you will remember me when you are dancing at the lensometer inspecting a job with prism.

Being an educator is a rewarding career. The feeling of helping someone gain new insight and become excited about learning is an unexplainable feeling, especially in a career I love, Opticinary. Every time I teach a course on the national level, I want someone to learn something, to be excited about what they have learned, and share what they have learned with others. Opticians are a community of amazing people who can grow and learn from each other.

Reprinted from Pro to Pro, Jobson Medical Information LLC.

Rebecca Soto

Rebecca Soto is a Licensed Optician in Connecticut and the Practicum Coordinator of the Vision Care Technology Program at Goodwin College. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Southern Connecticut State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Education from the University of St. Joseph. Rebecca has worked in the optical industry for 17 years, fitting, fabricating, and dispensing eyewear, and was a manager for Pearle Vision for 10 years. She is a member of Connecticut Latinos in Higher Education and is passionate about helping students pursue their dreams. Rebecca was also an academic advisor for Southern Connecticut State University. In her free time, Rebecca loves watching basketball and enjoying time with her daughter.