Board Builder in the Classroom

Board Builder is a web based tool that allows students access to digital media related to academic material.   Board Builder allows for visual connections to the material.  Additionally, it allows for the student to work at his or her own pace within the determined timeline of the teacher.  The potential for Board Builder is great and limitless.   


As an instructor, I appreciate how it is a gateway not only to the flipped classroom, but to post secondary expectations.  As a teacher of special education seniors, many of whom are going to college, the potential for Board Builder is fantastic.  Many times, my students are not given the same opportunities as their hearing peers.   Teachers often see them as lacking the skills needed to complete work independently.   While they may think they are protecting, they are actually enabling a misconception.  Board Builders are a building block to creating a respectful mind within this setting.  Students are treated just as their non special education peers.  Students are provided an opportunity to grow and learn as a typical student.


In regards to the ethical mind, Board Builder allows students to reach outside of their comfort zone.  They are able to work on teacher created but student driven assignments.   Students can use a variety of methods to make connections on a great plain, accessing more than just what exists in their world.   This opportunity gives students the opportunity to acknowledge those around them, to collaborate and share minds.

All in all, I like Board Builder and can see the benefits of it in my classroom and for my students.  The only downside is that it requires a paid subscription.   Since I am one teacher in a pool of many, I am not sure how likely it would be that my school would head in the direction of adopting it.  However, should it become available to me as a teacher (once this program is completed), I will jump at the chance to use it.

My Board Builder is available on the Discovery Education Website under the name “Cinderella Across Cultures”.


Cultivating the Ethical and Respectful Mind

As I watched and listened to the presentation, Julie Lindsay & Vicki Davis on “Flattening Classrooms”, I could not help but reflect on how their flattened classroom really presents an opportunity for students to develop and broaden their respectful and ethical minds (Gardner, 2008).  I also realized that the “Brick to Click” theme discussed in the presentation allowed for others to examine the abuses of the respectful and ethical mind.  Earlier this year, my students threw a curveball my way and I honestly was not able to think of an answer.   We were focused citing and making sure that the appropriate people were given credit for their work, and a huge plagiarism scandal hit the news.  My students were angry.  They wanted to know why this person was exempt from the “rules” that they had to work so hard to maintain.  We talked about integrity and pride in your work as well as a job well done, but it was challenging.  In a world that seems to increasingly try to push the limits on what is acceptable, we need to focus on what is right, respectful and ethical.  


Presenters Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis  (2014) discussed how flattening the classroom really leads to a global experience.   I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to several countries in my life.   I also have had the unique pleasure of traveling as a hearing person in the Deaf world when I attended an international conference of Deaf Education in South Africa.   While I was there, I not only learned about the world around me in which I was unaware, I also learned more about the Deaf world and culture.   Additionally, I learned how this small part of the world viewed me as an American.  I was asked more than once by students what Michael Jordan was really like in person.   Students did not understand I did not know him, they thought all Americans knew famous people.  That really touched home when they discussed how a young student from the southern United States addressed her  teacher as “sir”, a huge sign of respect, but to the teacher, it was a sign of disrespect.  I have attached this Youtube video showing how “BATHROOM” is signed in American Sign Language (ASL) and in Japanese Sign Language (JSL).  While ASL is the most commonly used and understood of the world’s sign language, due to the fact that the only university for the Deaf is in the United States and all students must sign ASL to attend, the sign for “BATHROOM” in ASL is considered a vulgar sign in most countries, therefore the “WC” sign is more acceptable.  I learned this the hard way, but it was a lesson that has stayed with me.  Every aspect of the flattened classroom is pre-planned, but these moments of global misunderstanding and understandings occur and are learning experiences.  If we stay in an isolated bubble, does true learning really happen?  As educators, we need to prepare our students for the global experience, the jobs of tomorrow.   Working across cultures is one way to do it.  The more I listened to this presentation, the more intrigued I became.   I know that I need to start out small, but this idea of joining one of the programs is of great interest to me.   I know what I will be looking into this summer.  My students are already behind the eight ball, they need all the help they can get.   Not only does a “flattened classroom” provide for worldly access, it presents language in a meaningful way, which in turn provides access to a greater ethical and respectful mind.




Gardner, H. (2008). Five minds for the future [Kindle]. Retrieved April 12, 2017.


Jslvideodayo. (2012, May 09). Lesson 28/ bathroom/ Japanese Sign Language 日本の手話. Retrieved April 12,

2017, from (2014, January 16). Julie Lindsay & Vicki Davis on “Flattening Classrooms. [Video

File]. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Spotlight on Strategies: Thinking Maps

Spotlight on Strategies: Thinking Maps

My Spotlight on Strategy addresses Thinking Maps and the need for a common language for written expression, especially in relation to special education students and English Language Learners.  As a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, my students often struggle with written expression as English is not their native language.  Unlike non-English speaking students, Deaf students have no native written language.  The language that they are expected to use is grammatically and syntactically different from their everyday expressive language. This poses quite a conundrum.  Students are often hesitant to even try to use written language.  They are aware that language is out of reach for them and do not want to even try.  Thinking Maps provide a common thread in which students and teachers can speak.  Students are no longer expected to learn and maintain new expectations for each class.   Graphic organizers are the same in each class, the language and the vocabulary are all the same.  Students need to master one set of concepts which are applicable in all areas.

As technology becomes more and more available, the use of Thinking Maps also allows students to connect with one another more easily.   I often encourage students to use Google Docs or Google Drawings to complete their respective Thinking Maps.  This way students are able to make it their own yet they are able to collaborate with one another in an immediate manner.  As an example, I have a student who is sixteen.  Prior to entering my class, he literally had not written one word in two years.  He was terrified to write.  He would sign a story, he would retell, but he would not write.  Once given the option to complete his Thinking Map on a Google Drawing, he was willing to try.  He had immediate access to sign language dictionaries to locate vocabulary he wanted to use.  He was also able to immediately see mistakes and change them.  Probably the biggest plus for him was that he was able to see that his work had value.  He tested the system, but in the end, his work earned him full credit, something that he had not earned in a long time.  While he is nowhere near writing at grade level, he is writing.  When presented with Thinking Maps and access to a computer, he will attempt to write.  All in all, I believe that Thinking Maps provide access to concepts that were previously limited to students, especially those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Student Perspective on Creativity

During my 7th period today, I asked my students to help me with my homework.  Most were more than willing, a few chose to continue to work on their assignment.  My 7th period is a class of on grade level Deaf and Hard of Hearing students who utilize much technology and digital media in the classroom.  When asked to assess what they find valuable, especially when related to digital media they really struggled.  Most of the time, they were focused on how “technology” was related to their online classes.  It was clear that they found their online classes to be stifling and connected that experience to classroom technology. After redirecting the conversation, students began to assess how technology is used in the classroom.

Students discussed how technology benefits them:

*provides visual access which is valued in the Deaf community

*limits the need for 3rd party interference (video phones, Glide, Facetime)

*allows for direct access to materials, presentations can be shared

*cloud based tools eliminate the need for USBs and compatibility

*addition of video and sign language access

Students feel that digital media allows them unprecedented access to information and projects that their hearing peers take for granted, providing them access to more that normally was blocked by language.

Students discussed the negatives of technology:

*too much technology is being “taken over” by adults.   Students feel that adults are using digital and social media to police their children.

*too much is blocked and not available at school.

*teachers are not up to date on technology and they are not able to use wanted technology to share ideas.

*overuse of the same apps and tools

*unwillingness of administration to allow changes in the use of technology in the classroom

Students appreciate the importance of technology, but they wish that schools and teachers would be better prepared.