How was my summer?

My summer was great because I got to travel to and through Singapore. Since I travelled to see and stay with a very best best friend (my heart, walking around outside my body) I got treated to special and secret places. We scooted down fragrant paths in Tiong Bahru, walked over a forest bridge (watch for monkeys) somewhere only my Runkeeper app knows, ate bak kut teh in a sweaty colonial soup house near Clarke Quay, and drank iced lime jelly with dinner in Sembawang. I also developed a raging bubble tea problem but that’s not for now.

Of the gazillion things I loved, one was the Singaporean approach to informing. Information is everywhere and readily available from giant signs on roadways, byways, buildings, MRT stations, restaurants and bathrooms.

There are signs posted everywhere reminding you not to forget your stuff, like a gentle mum who wants the best for you always – did you remember your phone? Keys? Bags? Please don’t forget them on the very convenient shelf we provide in every bathroom in our city!

There are signs to tell you how many spots are available at each underground parking venue so you don’t have to drive around searching and searching (wasting important bubble tea time)!

There are signs showing places to stop your car in case there is a torrential downpour and driving becomes too perilous.

Lost in the MRT (subway) system? Turn anywhere and you’ll find not one but three large colour maps. Still lost and confused? There are always people to ask (“Auntie, please where is Chinese Garden?”)

Dengue fever outbreak? Giant neighbourhood signs let you know.

There was even a notice that trees are being trimmed along the motorway so you can plan accordingly.

I found that having so much information and notification relieved me of the worry of navigating and allowed me to focus on relishing my surroundings and plan for my steadily intensifying Tiger Sugar cravings.

I feel this is an important key in planning our courses. Start by thinking about the load students carry in figuring out interpersonal expectations, assignment parameters, structure, and location of information. Is the effort going into FINDING or is it going into PROCESSING and LEARNING. If an assignment was a delicious cold milk tea, how much time is the student spending finding the shop as opposed to sucking back the pearls?

These ten tips can help you be more informative about your course to move students from hunting for information to savouring the content. 

  1. Start with a clear syllabus that solicits feedback on accessibility in particular;

  2. Organize materials meaningfully rather than dumping information into Moodle;

  3. Use captioned videos;

  4. State your expectations about grading and honesty but also interpersonal and email communication;

  5. Provide multiple communication options, list them, and be explicit in helping students exploit them;

  6. Create a climate of sharing content through multiple communication channels;

  7. Build in reminders for due dates, concepts, and goal setting;

  8. Use colourful maps; appoint “aunties” or “uncles” who are responsible for verbally clarifying written material;

  9. Check in with students to see if they feel lost, lost with a map, or on the right track;

  10. Review where you’ve been and where you’re going frequently.

If you try out some of these aspects of providing information and feel this was a good start for you in mobilizing UDL principles, please let me know. And if you get stuck in a rain shower, pull safely to the side and call me for help.