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November 1, 2001
Vol. 59
No. 3

Web Wonders / Understanding Learning Differences

Understanding learning differences can be challenging—and designing curriculum and instruction around those differences even more so. The following Web sites will help you to understand—and teach to—your students' learning differences.

Learning Disabilities

Perhaps the most obvious learning differences are learning disabilities. Students can have any of a vast array of learning disabilities, each with its own implications for the classroom. To learn more about these disabilities, you might start at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (www.ld.org/index.html). Visit the "Tips for Teachers" section (www.ld.org/info/tips/teacher_index.cfm) for ideas on forming parent-teacher partnerships, working with non-English-speaking families, and using technology to assist students.
Another overview of learning disabilities is LDOnline (www.ldonline.org). This site's resources include identification and assessment tools, teaching strategies, and recommended reading. Teachers can also participate in several online bulletin boards that focus on such topics as reading, mathematics, technology, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
LD Resources (www.ldresources.com) is an extensive online compen-dium of books, videos, conference information, tools, and other resources about learning disabilities. The Education section of this site has articles on homework, transition plans, taking the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), legal issues, and getting ready for college.

Gifted Students

As EL author Carolyn Callahan notes, students with learning disabilities aren't the only ones who have learning differences; gifted students also have special needs. Callahan is an associate director for the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, a cooperative of researchers, educators, and policy makers to understand the nature of giftedness and increase all students' potential. The Center's Web site (www.gifted.uconn.edu/nrcgt.html) offers a range of research-based resources on such topics as identification, bilingual education, curriculum, and underserved populations.
KidSource's directory of articles about gifted and talented students—rated by usefulness—provides lots of information (www.kidsource.com/kidsource/pages/ed.gifted.html). Among the topics addressed are ADHD and giftedness, developing math skills, technology, social and emotional development, and underachieving gifted students.
Education Week also has an online archive of articles about gifted education (www.edweek.org/context/topics/issuespage.cfm?id=33), with information on how educators can identify and serve gifted children and such alternative education programs as blending high school and college.
Some students may have both giftedness and a learning disability, which can be even more challenging for teachers. With information on gifted students, students with disabilities, and other exceptional students, the Council for Exceptional Children (www.cec.sped.org) can help teachers learn about a spectrum of learning differences, join discussion forums on curriculum and classroom management, and read articles from the Council's journal, Teaching Exceptional Children.

Multiple Intelligences

Learning differences aren't limited to the extremes of disabilities and giftedness. Howard Gardner identified eight common learning differences, or intelligences. EdWeb offers an introduction to Gardner's theory and the implications for teaching on its Web site (www.edwebproject.org/edref.mi.intro.html).
To hear from Gardner himself, check out his interview with EL (September 1997, available: www.ascd.org). In the article, Gardner argues against "the notion that there's only one way to learn how to read, only one way to learn how to compute, only one way to learn about biology." He gives his definition of intelligence, discusses how multiple intelligences can be used in the classroom, and offers advice for designing assessments.
ASCD offers many other resources on how teachers can bring out their students' multiple intelligences. Go to the ASCD Web site (www.ascd.org), click on "Reading Room," and search for "multiple intelligences" to find excerpts from many publications, such as the second edition of Thomas Armstrong's book, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, and the book by Harvey F. Silver, Richard W. Strong, and Matthew J. Perini, So Each May Learn: Integrating Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences.

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