Embracing Universal Design for Learning with Ginny Simmons
June 13, 2023
Embracing Universal Design for Learning with Ginny Simmons

We know that every child deserves a quality education, but did you know where the roots started to form for universal design for learning (UDL)? This week on the podcast, I’m talking to a powerhouse in education about the power of teaching different students in different ways. Something just makes sense when you consider how very different we all are.

In this episode, Dr. Virginia (Ginny) Simmons, an advocate for UDL, shares her journey of transforming education to create inclusive classrooms that cater to the unique needs of every student. Reflecting on the limitations of traditional special education, Ginny emphasizes the importance of recognizing different “brain prints” and implementing innovative teaching methods.

UDL shifts the focus from textbooks to empowering teachers as they tailor goals and objectives to meet the individual needs of their students. By embracing multiple intelligences, incorporating personal interests, and integrating technology, educators can create engaging and inclusive learning environments that foster higher-order thinking skills. Ginny’s insights inspire educators to harness the power of UDL, ensuring that every student has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential in the classroom.

About Dr. Virginia Simmons:

Dr. Virginia Simmons makes over achievers look like lightweights. Not only is she serving learners and supporting educators fully well past when many may have retired, but she has more degrees than a room full of educators. Ginny has undergrad degrees in elementary ed, English, social studies, four master’s degrees in mental disabilities, behavior disorders, learning disabilities, gifted and talented, and then a doctorate in special education and admin.

Jump in the Conversation:

[2:24] – Her accomplishments started when a principal told her to go to college
[5:07] – Think in an open way; don’t close the door
[5:48] – Where Ginny started in special education
[8:50] – Educators looked at reasons for universal design and applied it to learning
[11:50] – We were creating isolated worlds
[14:12] – Research started to show the way to teaching special education
[15:38] – Universal Design for Learning is caring for every student in the classroom
[16:46] – The textbook is just a book; the teacher is who implements the goals and objectives
[18:30] – How many intelligences can you include in one lesson
[19:19] – Higher-order thinking skills and technology
[24:21] – Teaching prosody
[29:03] – How teachers can implement universal learning in their classrooms
[32:16] – Turbo Time
[43:30] – Ginny’s Magic Wand
[44:53] – Maureen’s Takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Hi, Ginny, it is so good to have you on Education Evolution.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 1:12
Thank you so much. It’s such an honor to be here.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:16
And listeners. today I’m chatting with Dr. Virginia Simmons. She makes over achievers look like a lightweights. Not only is she serving learners and supporting educators fully well past when many may have retired, but she has more degrees than a room full of educators. Undergrad degrees in elementary ed, English, social studies, four master’s degrees in mental disabilities, behavior disorders, learning disabilities, gifted and talented, and then a doctorate in special education and admin. So recently, I caught up with Ginny when she was a keynote her and I was presenting at the South American inclusion schools conference, Ginny schooled all of us on special education and including learners. And I want her to be able to share that with you as well. sighted. Oh my Gosh, seriously, Ginny? I’m like, Yeah, I have a masters and a doctorate. I’ve worked hard and like you have tripled the number of degrees that I have. It’s, it’s awesome.

Speaker 2 2:23
What I did, it was interesting. And this is one I would say to people. I grew up in a very small bubble, where many people grow up in a larger bubble. I mean, I grew up in a very small unincorporated city in West Virginia, not city ism, wrong word to use. Village is not even a good word. The part I lived in was actually owned by a company called Union Carbide. We lived in company housing, almost everybody went to the same church. Almost everybody thought the same. And I will tell you growing up, it was quite interesting. A lot of people I talked to they had goals, they had ambitions, and things they were going to do with their life. You know, they knew they weren’t going to they, they were going to move away from where they were. None of that ever crossed my mind. And it was so interesting. Whatever I did, my parents were okay with it. But ever happened. My parents were okay with it. When I was in high school, my high school principal saw me in the hallway and my maiden name is Gil. And he said, Ginny Gil, and I said, Yes, sir. Because that’s what you said to your high school principal. He said, You need to go to college. And I said, Okay, kind of like a blonde shaking my head, but okay. And you need to go to Glenville State College, which was a Teacher’s College where he had gone and I said, okay, they’re telling me to college. Oh, my gosh, all these things you’re talking about that I have done in life. Day, it was just I think maybe because no one was critical of me. And even when I made horrible mistakes, I was not really put down real bad. It just That’s why life is. I’ve just been open to everything that’s come along. So when something comes along, it’s like, yeah, let’s do that. Let’s try that. And I have no fear. I still have a fear of failure. I have no fear of failure. And yes, I have failed. freshman year in college, I made an A in a one hour class, a B in a two hour class, a C in a three hour class eau de in a four hour class and my mom’s response was, Thank goodness she’s not taken a five hour class. I love it. Okay, so that’s kind of like, I try to encourage people to think in that way to to be open. Don’t don’t close the door on something. Just be open to everything in. Yes. I have now been to 43 countries. I have taught for long terms and lived in five countries. Well, let’s count the United States to show Yes, all of those things have just happened, because I’m just ready for them to happen.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 5:39
I love it. Ginny, you explained at the conference, what UDL was and why it’s important? Can you explain that for our listeners, please?

Speaker 2 5:49
Sure if I can go back a little bit, I want to go. Because being my age, I have lived through a lot. And I will tell you, when the special ed classes started coming around, I got my that first master’s degree was in 1969. And I’m almost afraid to say this out loud, but it was called for mental retardation. And I only got it because it was time to renew my teaching certificate. And I knew I had to do it in something. And my next door neighbor worked at a rehab center. And he said, Have you heard of this new thing called Special Education? And ask, well, kinda, and he said, Well, he said, Why don’t you think about that? I said, I love working with regular kids, I don’t know. But the alarm went to some kind of exhibit and saw some things people had done. And I’m thinking, Wait a minute, these kids that they’re calling retarded, are doing very similar to work to what regular kids would do when we’re talking about artwork and design. So the first class and my world changed, my world changed. Okay. But anyway, because I have lived through all of this out. Let’s start with universal design. Okay, so universal design really came. It came because of baby boomers, if you want to know the truth, actually, the the law passed, where we started recognizing people with disabilities in the United States that were adults in the 90s. That law passed, because we had a lot of people getting older. And it was it was, yes, it, it recognizes everyone with disabilities. But we had a lot of adults that were that were baby boomers that were starting to have trouble walking down the street, and walking up steps and having all these issues. And a lot of people were already going into wheelchairs, and could not access things. So out of the University of North Carolina, one of the gas has created this thing called universal design, and which meant everybody had equal access to something. And when a building was being changed, or a building was being built, it was let’s take into account people who would have trouble doing this, or people who might, because they’re on crutches would have trouble walking into this. Okay.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 8:27
Well, and again, we would like to say, Oh, we did, because it was a great idea for a law. No, it was because it’s not so many things were happening in the United States theme, okay. And it kind of changed the way we started looking well, educators started looking at these reasons for universal design and saying, Wow, we need to start thinking about this called Universal Design for Learning. And what is it we can do, because we finally started moving to the point where we felt separate was, was not equal. Now, way back in 1954. Brown versus Board of Education, and then it was about the black and white issue. And they said at that point, separate is not a equal the federal the federal law said, but that didn’t really apply to people with disabilities. Okay. That was that, as everybody as education saw it, we saw it something differently. So then in 75, we finally passed the law, say everybody needed to be educated because we had millions of people not educated at that time. They there wasn’t room for him in our schools. There wasn’t a place for him. It was too much teachers were already having crowded classrooms. How could they take somebody who had some sort of fifth How could they take somebody was blind or how because they can’t take someone who couldn’t hear? Or how could they take someone who had some sort of mental issue? Okay. So that in 75, we changed now, don’t think it was easy in the United States, because some people think that, oh, we just accepted them. There were states who said, No, we’re not gonna do it. We’re not gonna do it. And the federal government said, Okay, if you don’t do it, then you don’t get any federal money for your highways, for this for that for the other. So at that point, and I remember, all of this is the worst part. That’s when we started changing. But we went from there to having separate schools. And when I go to other countries, that’s what I see a lot of now. It’s just wonderful habit and separate schools, it’s that we can offer so much to them, if they’re in separate schools, they can participate so much in things in separate schools. We have all of this reasoning that goes on with what we’re saying, okay. Now, believe me, I’m getting to Universal Design for Learning. And we got to go through this, because there are still some places where we have separate schools. And I will tell you, that that was in Kanawha County, West Virginia, that the court was saying, No, you cannot have separate schools. It wasn’t the educational system. It wasn’t those of us who had a degree in special ed. Okay. It was the court who said, No, you cannot do this. So at that point, they were closing the school, I went to the meeting where they were closing the school, because I felt like those teachers and I felt like those parents, why are we doing this? Why this is the best place for these kids.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 11:45
At that point, a herd of mothers say, I don’t want my child to go to their high school. If my child goes to that high school, my child cannot play basketball. Well, I said there was kind of like a slap in the face for me. I thought, if my son goes to their high school, and he’s not good enough, he will not be on the basketball team, either. What type of fake world? Were we setting up for the students? And it was a fake world that only happened in school? Because where was that student gonna go? When they finish school? So that was kind of my awakening, and realizing, Oh, my goodness, yeah. You know, if we’re, if we’re and And besides that, what about all the kids over in that high school who’ve never ever been with a child with disabilities? Two separate worlds? We were creating isolated worlds. Well, then in the United States, we went from that we didn’t move him to the schools then because in that area, in that area, there’s still places that haven’t done that yet. Because different courts are our United States is divided up into different court systems. So but in that area, then we moved him to scope, but we put them in outside buildings. We thought, hey, they’re in the school. They’re at the school. Now they ate lunch at a different time. They did all that stuff differently. But but but we have them differently. Well, nother court case, sometimes these things were even settled out of court, because the school system knew they were going to lose. Yeah. Okay, so then we move from there. So now what we did we put them in separate classrooms in a separate hallway. Now, people listening to this, they may be at one of those levels right now. They may be in some kind of level where we’re talking about at right at this point. Okay. So, this, this still wasn’t working. But at the same time, we started having some great research, and some great leaders in special education who were helping us, okay, so that we could learn how to teach special ed. And then we could learn how to teach special ed in the regular classroom, which was kind of exciting. And it was people like Gardner and his multiple intelligences.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 14:33
And all at once we’re finding, whoa. A brain is like a fingerprint. If you’re, if you have a different thumbprint for every person, you have a different brain, everybody can’t come in and do page 16 And then answer the questions on page 17. So we started looking at Gardner and his multiple intelligences. We we started looking at a lot of different people who were trying Beginning us who were teaching us different things about teaching, okay? And that it was so helpful. But this, the other thing we started finding out, is if we had special education students in the classroom, and we started maybe teaching musical, or maybe teaching physical, and teaching a lesson in a physical way, there were kids who weren’t identified as special education, and we had no idea. And our once they started blossoming. So when it came along, and we heard this thing, a universal design, this universal design for learning was like, yes, if we’re going to start including students, and even if we don’t, and we care about every student in our class, this is where we need to go. It’s not about what we teach. It’s about what the student learns. And that’s John Hattie, from Australia who’s telling us that, okay, so one of the things that that whole idea incorporated that we had before was begin with the end in mind. Now, again, Universal Design for Learning isn’t just a piece all in a bubble by itself. Many of the things about Universal Design for Learning and why we can incorporate it have been things that have built up from the past for us, okay. So, when we talk about Universal Design for Learning, first, we got to start with the end in mind, what is it? What is our goal?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 16:49

Dr. Virginia Simmons 16:49
it’s not what the tech is. The textbook is just a book. The teacher is the person who implements the goals and objectives. Okay. So that textbook is a guide, nothing more. So. So if you’re picking up a textbook, and you’re doing page one, and page two, and page three, and page four, and page five, you’ve forgotten you’re a teacher?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 17:17

Dr. Virginia Simmons 17:18
So we go with the universal design, we’re learning we start with the end in mind, well, once we get the goal. And again, it may not be what that textbook is saying. Because the goal that we have, may be what we know is needed for our students, and this is what we must teach. Then we come backwards from there. And we say, How am I going to implement this? And how I’m going to teach this, where I’m including all the kids and all those brains in my classroom. Because the other thing that’s so hard for us as teachers, it was always before, if the student didn’t get it, it was the students fault. It was right, it was the students fault. So we need to retrace that. So one of the things that I do when I’m doing teacher training, is I do use Gardner’s multiple intelligence a lot. And I’ll say, Okay, that’s pretty tin, even though you want to use as many of those eight intelligences and by the way, sometimes we look at them, and they’re nine, and he’s also working on T and but he’s doing the research. But for right now, I’m gonna say eight. Yeah. How many of those can you incorporate into a lesson? And we usually when I start out working with teachers, I’ll have them do one like this group will do musical, this group will do physical, this, this group over here, we’ll do a did a different one. And then they all get up and present for a few minutes a lesson. Once they do there, they realize how really easy it is. The problem is you cannot do everybody turn to page 17 and read it and do the answers on page 80. Now the other thing that that we look at for universal design for learning, is this whole thing about higher order thinking skills. Yes, we and, and technology. Okay? We live in a different world. Way back in 1905. It was said, If we teach today’s children, like we did yesterday, we rob them of tomorrow. And in today’s world, I would almost say we’re robbing them of today. Yeah. So when when I hear teachers that are so afraid to use technology in the classroom or don’t want to use it, they think it’s really important for kids to read out of a book. They think it’s really important for kids to put a pencil in their hand and write down the answer There’s, that’s not the world they live in. Agreed. And it’s not. It’s not the world we live in either. We just haven’t analyzed the steps we have taken. So it the other thing is, if we’re teaching them on the lower levels, okay, uh, none of technology, but the lower level of thinking, for they just have to memorize something. Why would we ever do that? Huh? Why would we say, what are the 50 States and the United States, you need to memorize it? When all they have to do it, bam, catch a baton, and I can tell you the answer. We need to do our job as teachers, we need to get them to think and to analyze, and to see what’s going on with this. Is this, just because I read something just because I hear something? Is it correct? How do I analyze things? How do I move to another level where I am creating? Because that’s what that’s what the world is now? Yes, the world is no longer just just reading and memorizing things. So that we must incorporate. Now I do have to tell you one funny story. And I won’t tell you which country would happen. It could be any country to tell, okay, I was doing teacher training. And as in, it was all about universal design for learning things they had never heard of. Okay. There wasn’t a moment when I was doing teacher training that someone didn’t have something they had to do on their cell phone. And I didn’t question it. Because, you know, lots of important things are going on. You got to talk to your family. Yeah, maybe they were working. They were having to deal with somebody. I didn’t question him.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 21:56
But the end of the second day, I said to him, so how do you feel about these lessons? You feel like, these are important? Are these things you can use in your classes? Oh, my gosh, yes. It’s wonderful. It’s the best thing. We’ve never heard of these things. We had no idea who Gardner was. We had no idea who John Hattie was, and you’re giving us all this. This is really great. And are you learning a lot? We’re learning everything you’re saying? And I said, well, great, because you know what? I’ll tell you what gets on my nerves is when I go in a classroom with kids. And some of those kids are they’re on their cell phones.

Speaker 2 22:36
Teachers jumped on that. Now, and I’m saying this, so if teachers are listening to this, evaluate yourself evaluators. Okay? Because the teachers really, oh, yeah, I don’t even let them have a cell phone in my classroom. I take those cell phones away when they walk in the door. No, and we don’t do Kahoot. We don’t do any of those things in my classroom, they need to be they need to learn to read books, they need to love books, they need to do this, they need to do that. So then I said, Well, this is really strange. Because this whole class, there hasn’t been any five minute period, when there one of you was not on your cell phone. But yet, you’re still telling me how much you’ve learned?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:19

Dr. Virginia Simmons 23:23
I think at and I have gone, I have done training on integrating technology. And I’ve had people come up to me to say, man, it’s so good to see someone your age talking about this. Because usually it’s the young men who talk about integrating technology. And I feel so strongly about it, that I just can’t imagine running a classroom without technology. So that when we talk about universal design for learning, that whole technology piece is going to reach a lot of brains in our classroom. And it serves almost anything you’re teaching. It is so easy to integrate technology to that. Now what I got to talk about one more thing, you got to tell me if I’m getting close to my time, I will, because that’s one of the other things I want to talk about, that we often ignore in teaching, especially for teaching English as a second language, or we’re teaching in another country or even if we’re teaching young children in our schools is the word prosody. And regretfully, I don’t, I don’t get a lot of adult teachers who have had any training in prosody. Now prosody is like the flow that the InterNations the musical part of the English language, which English is very musical. If we’re teaching for instance, English as a Second Language And we don’t include prosody in our teaching. Then what we have done is we have taught a bunch of robots how to talk. And regretfully, I know you’ve probably heard people who’ve learned English. My name is Virginia Simmons. Hello, what is your name? And that’s when they haven’t had any other porosity. And porosity is so I mean, you can do porosity, you can go into books. And there’s web pages where you can actually where they mark words with pencils, about prosody, but the easiest way to teach prosody is teach things with music with songs with rhythm, instead of my name is Virginia Simmons, I would say my name is Virginia Simmons, so that they even have declare and get it as it’s going along.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:56
And for me, I’m going to stop you for a second because I haven’t heard the word prosody before I understand the concept. How do you spell prosody? I don’t know it be R.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 26:05
Oh, isn’t that now. Your PR o s o d, wha?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:12
Okay. I was picturing it like city like a town prosody,

Dr. Virginia Simmons 26:16
prosody. prosody. I probably said it that way with

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:19
no, but either way. I’m not familiar with this word. So thank you the the concept I get, but it’s not something that’s even been in my forefront.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 26:27
There’s I actually was special ed students, with a lot of our special ed students, we’ve got to teach prosody. We’ve got to teach it. They don’t have that natural, even if they listen to you talk. They don’t have that natural rhythm. In many of our schools are kindergarten, preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade teachers are teaching prosody.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:51
I just looked it up the science or study of poetic meters and verses. It makes sense and we practice it but unconsciously, I’ve never done this deliberately because it’s a new concept for me. Thank you.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 27:04
Oh, I’m glad. I’m glad we talked about it. And I’m glad because it for me, it’s all part of that Universal Design for Learning. It all comes into UDL.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:15
Because it says, this is obvious that you’re the one that has multiple degrees here, you’re schooling me yet again.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 27:23
Well, and, and I have heard, I’ve been to conferences where there have been people talk about prosody. I learned about prosody again, in special education. But regretfully, I’m I’m meet too many special education teachers who’ve never heard of it. Then, for us that are teaching English as a second language, it’s extremely important for the process of it. But and I even with my adults, even I do the head and shoulders, knees and toes does, because we know we know from way back from commercials on TV. If people learn things with songs, they would remember them. So I’m hoping that my English as a second language students, if they go to the doctor, and they have hurt their shoulder, that song is going to come into their head so they can say my shoulder is hurt. Because I didn’t know go head and shoulder. My shoulder is hurt.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:27

Dr. Virginia Simmons 28:28
We said there’s so many. There’s so many really clever things we can do with with props to the injustice part of everything we’re doing. Part of everything we’re doing.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:40
Agreed. Yeah, and I’ve seen song use I actually used it with my daughters. Yeah, yeah, I do use a bingo tune so that they could spell O’Shaughnessy Ross their last name. It worked. We music does help us remember things? That’s right. So Jimmy, if our listeners could take two or three baby steps to really be increasing that universal design in learning, what would be a couple of steps? Some people might say yeah, I don’t have that training. I can’t do that. But my guess is yes. So what would be some starting place? People?

Dr. Virginia Simmons 29:18
First of all, I’d get real comfortable with Gardner’s multiple intelligences? Yes. Okay. And, and don’t worry, yes, you want to incorporate as many as you can. But for your first lesson, what are you most comfortable with? Are you most comfortable with music, then? Then incorporate something about music in a math lesson you’re teaching. Okay, now, or are you more comfortable with this thing of interpersonal where people work together? Okay. And they learn, you know, there’s people out here that when when we talk to each other, we get it, we understand it more Okay, so maybe, maybe it’s dividing kids up into groups, okay. Or maybe it is some kind of physical thing where they have to move, like, one of the things we were doing in Ecuador for the conference, to go through this is they were learning the shapes. And so instead of just drawing a square that four people had to get down and do a square on the floor,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:31
use the bodies, the physical, I love that.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 30:34
Yes, yes. So there’s that, once you do one, you’re going to feel more comfortable. And then you can do something more advanced than that you’re going to feel more comfortable. Another thing is, let’s go to higher order thinking skills. And instead of saying, you read a book, and it says, John Brown’s body was aligned and agree, that’s something I can think of right now. Your question would be, where was John Brown’s body? Okay. So instead of doing that, say, setup, use the words. And this is easy to get into higher order, compare and contrast. So they so compare John Brown’s body to Abraham Lincoln’s body, okay, or contrast what happened with the two bodies?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:26
I’d like that, that right away, my brain is kicking you

Speaker 2 31:29
another way, they can go right to those higher order thinking skills. Okay? Another thing, they they have got to be able to read the the unit or the chapter or whatever or the page they’re on and decide what it is, is the goal. What what are they really teaching? Don’t look at the headlines in the book. The book is a garnet, you’re the teacher. So those three things would be a great start for anybody.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:01
Thank you. I always feel like we can start somewhere. But sometimes it’s hard to know where. And that’s a big help. Jenny, I’d like to pivot. I think it’s always important to get to know the person behind the expertise. May I ask you a few turbo time questions?

Dr. Virginia Simmons 32:20
I’d love for you to.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:22
Awesome. What’s the last book you read?

Dr. Virginia Simmons 32:25
It was called the Soviet sisters. Now, it’s by a woman named and a Nika Scott,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:34
and you just worked in the Soviet Union. So this probably really resonates with you.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 32:39
I have never worked in the Soviet Union. I’ve only worked in Russia.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:43
Thank you. Thank you. I needed that correction. Absolutely,

Dr. Virginia Simmons 32:47
as well. And it resonated with me because it was two sisters. And one was it was during the Soviet times, and one fall of the Soviet Union and worked for it and believed in it. And the other one was the rebel, who in it. So it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t just about the Soviet Union. It was like any, any issues that come up in our world. And the difference was it was two sisters and what their whole life as they went through it. And I will tell you, since I just got back from Harbor vos gratia and Vladivostok, that area, and I went there when the Ukraine issue started, okay, but I thought it was going to end real quickly. But it didn’t. But since I was when now that I’m back, the first question everybody asked me is like, how do you feel the Russian people are feeling about this? What do you what are their reactions about the war in Ukraine? Well, it’s the Soviet sisters. There are Russians who are very supportive. I believe it’s the right thing, because a lot of things happened in Ukraine that we as United States citizens didn’t even know about beforehand. Like a lot. A lot of Russian, like communities were invaded and people were killed and all that kind of thing. Okay. So, there are people that are supportive of Putin, there’s people who say, if I’m if I’m called for the draft, I will go because this is my country and I need to support my country. There are people who are so anti that in and no matter where you are, they’re going to talk against it. Okay. A lot of people say oh, the Russian people are afraid to speak up now they’re not No they’re not just because just because we don’t hear him every day that no and then there’s people who are just middle of the road it’s like I’m gonna hidden live my life. This is gonna go by. It’s reminds me a lot of us like about Afghanistan or About It reminds me a lot of there. That’s right. Another thing is that a lot of the people in the United States are misinformed and feel like, well, the Russians don’t know what’s really happening. And I’ve had people write to me on Facebook and ask, I want to use several words, but I try to be very calm. And I say that you know, more than you do. Of course, every Russian has a VPN on their cell phone. So whatever is blocked is not blocked. Okay? Even the little kids I’ve taught had VPNs. But the other part is that many of the people that I knew they have relatives in Ukraine, most of the people I knew back in start, you get a little history here. I can’t I can’t do in the US. I’m sorry. Loving installers, Tom Stalin opened up the Far East, because he wanted people to go settle in. And he said, If you will go saddle, where you can have free land. So a lot of people from Ukraine, a lot of people from Georgia, a lot of people from Russia, but a lot of people from the Soviet Union countries went there to live.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 36:14

Dr. Virginia Simmons 36:16
When I read the Soviet sisters, it’s not just about them. It’s about everything I’m seeing in the world and daily life in the world. That’s why I loved it so much.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 36:28
Oh, thank You that’s incredible? I’m gonna have to get that from the library. Yeah. How about Ginny, two inspirational folks that you’d like to meet? And that can be passed in history, they can be fictitional. But personas,

Dr. Virginia Simmons 36:42
you asked me that question before and I forgot who I said.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 36:47
Does anybody come to mind?

Dr. Virginia Simmons 36:49
That too, but yes, of course, one very inspirational person that I would like that I would like to meet would probably be Abraham Lincoln. Excellent. I think most of the stuff in history that we heard about Abraham Lincoln is not the truth, the whole truth. There are stories about Abraham Lincoln doing a lot of different things, how he really struggled with even signing anything that said this slaves would be free and people would be equal, that that wasn’t just a real easy thing for him, how he came from such a poor background, and yet became so prominent and so intelligent, or anything he did. So yeah, that would probably Abraham Lincoln would probably be one of the people I would like to meet. Maybe another person I would like to meet, maybe I would like to meet Jesus. Okay, and one to see if he really was a real person. And now the reason would be if he was really a real person, what his life was really like, because I have a feeling we, we don’t have, we don’t know a lot about that. We know what human beings have written about that. And we just, we accept all of that.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 38:18
I agree. What is your favorite thing or fun fact that you learned about Russia? In your recent work there in my recent work in any of your work there, but tell us something about Russia that we might not know or that’s fun.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 38:33
Okay. Okay. So when I was in Harbor, Wasko went, I went for about an hour and a half’s drive above harbor Vasa to this village. And in this village, there are actually stones that were carved 12,000 years ago. Now, I don’t know why I never thought about because, you know, now, scientists are telling us that humans started in in Africa. And then they that there’s that trail that they came across? Yes. It had to go through Russia,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 39:11
of course, to go right over to the North America.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 39:13
You ever think about it before? Did you? Me neither. And so when I went to see this one village, then one of my friends that I had met said, this is nothing. And then they were telling me about a cave in Siberia, where they had finally found a nine year old. That was 40,000 years old, which also then made me start thinking, this wasn’t like one group of people that went across. I mean, it just it made me really go deep into my thought. And when I first saw them in this one village in in Russia, I’m thinking maybe that was the path. Maybe that was part of the path. But then I went to the country of Georgia, and went to the museum there. or, and they had a map of the path. And it did go right through that area.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 40:06

Dr. Virginia Simmons 40:08
So the other thing when I went into Georgia, this is what I love about about travel and about living places. immersing myself in the culture, because there’s so much we don’t know, there’s so much that we have. So I’m, I’m in Georgia, and I’m doing a tour. The first thing she says, Yes, this is the crossroads of the silk hallway. And I’m thinking, that can’t be I was I was over, I was over in Greece, and I was over in Turkey, there was a silk highway. Okay, the Crossroads was in the country of Georgia. The other thing is, and I don’t know, this may have changed already. Scientists are now saying the first white humans appeared in the country of Georgia. So for me, our technology that we’re developing our technology that we have, is going to open up so much of of history to us that it’s going to be it’s just going to be our heads are just going to be spinning all the time. Being from West Virginia, one of the things that I did, I took my students to where the radio scopes are, you know, the radio scripts where you hear from space, because you can hear so much further than you can see. And then I went as a teacher and studied there for three weeks just because just because because it was there. That one of the things the scientist told us there is when you’re talking, your voice just doesn’t go out there and disappear. Just because we can’t hear it doesn’t mean it’s still not there, that your voice is still out there somewhere. And what they’re trying to do with radio scopes, is they’re trying to take the radio scope, so they can decipher what words are watch.

Speaker 2 42:06
So if you’ve ever said anything bad about your mother, it’s out there somewhere. Or if you have a husband, and you’ve been nesting, it’s out there somewhere. For me, that’s going in, whenever they get to that point where technology can do that. I think what that’s gonna mean, because then we can see did, was there really a Jesus? And did he really talk on the mound? And what did he really say?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 42:32
Yeah, and what did Abe Lincoln really say about slavery? We could really have, think about it, access to the true conversations. That’s incredible.

Dr. Virginia Simmons 42:42
It is incredible. It is totally incredible. I agree. I agree.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 42:49

Dr. Virginia Simmons 42:50
so that for tomorrow, I’m talking to a school, some schools they’re having Career Day, and I’m talking to about being an international teacher and what it means to talk about teaching at all. I’m going to talk about what it means to immerse yourself in cultures to be in other countries. learn so much to make friends in other countries.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 43:16
Absolutely. Oh, good for you. That’s something really important. To me, I wrap up the podcast with a magic wand moment. So I am going to hand you the education evolution, magic wand. And in the realm of UDL, what wish will you wish for?

Dr. Virginia Simmons 43:38
Oh my gosh. Go back to a couple things. It’s not about what we teach. It’s about what children learn. If we teach today’s child like we tie yesterday, we robbed them of tomorrow. We should be teaching children not how to memorize things. But how to evaluate things. And at some point, we need to stop stop looking at children on their ages and start using because we’re developing so much into technology. We need to start using other means of how we teach children. That several issues is

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 44:30
Brilliant, GinnyOh my gosh, you are such an inspiration. Thank you so much for being our guest today.

Speaker 2 44:38
Thank you for having me. You know I love you can tell I love talking about all this.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 44:44
It shows Yes.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 44:55
Isn’t it fantastic to get such a historic perspective on the evolving nature of special education in the United States. Ginny is definitely a pioneer of Universal Design for Learning. How she frames the conversation and weaves in the history really enhances our understanding. I’m putting links in the show notes to Howard Gardner and John Hattie. Both are amazing resources for looking at learning in a much more inclusive and comprehensive manner. And I really did teach my girls how to spell their last name using music. It’s a wonderful method. The Diddy I used was, oh, S H. Au GHNESSY, Aro SS O’Shaughnessy Ross, who? I think I’ve sung on another podcast showing how music helped me teach indirect and direct object pronouns. Using the jingle bells tune. I love multiple intelligences. I’m also going to put a link for the definition of prosody. Maybe you all had heard this word and understood it. But I am always learning something new from Ginny. Ginny does a great job of holding educators accountable. It’s not up to textbooks to clarify the goals and objectives or to get to higher level thinking. Her simple steps for moving us ahead in UDL are straightforward. Apply the multiple intelligences let the children choose how they want to demonstrate their knowledge. Maybe it’s creating a skit, or doing something artistic, or motion or intrapersonal. And they’re reflecting deeply or interpersonal and they’re creating something, maybe a podcast with a friend. Using all of the senses in learning also gets us to multiple intelligences. And we definitely need to be intentional in our questions. If we ask a yes or no question or tell me the X of something. We’re looking for single word repetition memorization. When we add words like comparing contrast, we are moving it into higher level thinking. Also, we need to look at our content and get clear on what is really being taught what are the priorities. If we use reverse engineering, which is understanding by design, we can look at a big theme. Determine the key concepts and skills we want the learners to take away, determine how we’ll assess and then design learning activities that move us in that direction. We have to have that roadmap. We have to know where we’re going. Or as they say, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. And that is not good enough for our learners. Ginny’s magic wand reminds us that we need to focus on what the students are learning and teaching students to use every resource possible to make them ready for the future. Finally, we need to look beyond the artificial grouping mechanism of age. Why should all five year olds have the same lesson? Multi age groupings and mastery based learning can help us move beyond restraints such as number of days a child has been alive. Talk about artificial, so much wisdom, Ginny is an inspiration. I want to grow up and be a powerhouse well into my retirement years. Just like Ginny is thank you all for being a part of the education evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 49:09
I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit educationevolution.org/consult for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together. Thanks again for listening to support the education evolution. Subscribe so it lands in your podcast app and gets out to more decision makers. Then rate and review it for more information and shownotes go to Ed educationevolution.org. Education Evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We are in this together and we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.


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