What’s Happening with Active Learning, Part 2

Authors: Scott Baltisberger and Sara Kitchen, VI Education Specialists, TSBVI Outreach Programs

Keywords: Active Learning, international, assessment, Education Service Center, ESC, TSBVI, Penrickton Center, Perkins School for the Blind, Lilliworks, Low Incidence Disability, LID, Functional Scheme Assessment, resonance board, Lilli Nielsen, online learning, Continuing Education Unit, CEU, Communication Matrix, INSITE, Train-the-Trainers

Abstract: The authors provide an update on the expanding knowledge and use of Active Learning, a technique designed to provide education for students who are functioning within the developmental range of 0-48 months, in Texas and beyond. Part One of this series was included in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of TX SenseAbilities.

Active Learning Online Modules

TSBVI Outreach, in conjunction with the Perkins School for the Blind and the Penrickton Center for Blind Children, has completed a set of Active Learning online courses! These courses offer a guided, self-paced approach to become familiar with the massive amount of information contained on the “Active Learning Space” website ( and will help learners become familiar with the basics of Active Learning. They also offer credit (CEUs) for your time. A link to sign up can be found at Currently, there are two Active Learning courses available online: “Principles of Active Learning” (12 CEUs) and “Functional Scheme” (3 CEUs). Additional courses are currently in development and include topics such as program planning and implementation, documenting progress, materials selection, and the proper use of perceptualizing aids. Currently, 421 people have enrolled in “Principles of Active Learning”, and 125 people have completed it. So far, 68 people have enrolled in the more recent addition, “Functional Scheme”, and 16 people have completed that course.

Here is what one teacher shared in an email regarding the “Principles of Active Learning” online course:

“The lessons I’m doing are so eye-opening and revelatory. This experience is a Godsend for me…I have 9 students that are benefitting from this training.”

New postings on

Developing District Capacity in Active Learning

Educational Service Centers in Texas and TSBVI Outreach continue to support a number of districts around the state in ways to incorporate Active Learning techniques in their classrooms. Teams continue to share videos, meet in person or via videoconference, and review sections of the current offerings from the Active Learning Space website, Each team continues to learn and grow along with their students at a pace that works for them.

Photo Caption: A young boy interacts by looking at and reaching for an object while playing independently in an Active Learning environment created for him by his team of educators. This team is involved in developing active learning skills with guidance from their Education Service Center Consultant and TSBVI Outreach.

TSBVI hosted “Active Learning: Train-the-Trainers”, designed and presented by Kate Hurst on January 31st, 2019. Participants familiar with all things Active Learning were presented with materials to to help them facilitate training and use of Active Learning throughout Texas; 19 out of 20 regions in Texas were represented. Potential trainers from other states, including Kansas and New England, were also present. Training materials included a notebook, electronic powerpoints, and guidance on how to use theses materials in conjunction with the Active Learning Space website and the online courses. TSBVI hopes to continue to facilitate this training as the need arises.

Active Learning Equipment Available for Loan!

The TSBVI Tech Loan Program has ordered and received new Active Learning equipment to provide more opportunities for use by districts. These materials can be borrowed by any district in Texas for up to 3 months, free of charge. This is a great way to determine whether a particular piece of equipment is appropriate for a student prior to purchase. Available items include:

  • Bead chain holder
  • Essef board
  • Essef board stand
  • Grid holder
  • HOPSA dress size 1
  • HOPSA dress size 2
  • HOPSA dress size 3
  • HOPSA dress crossbar and link
  • HOPSA dress block and tackle
  • Small Little Room
  • Full Little Room
  • SPG Board
  • Support Bench
  • Tipping Board

For more information about these items, visit and click on the “Materials” tab and then on “Things You Can Buy.” To make a tech loan request for an available item, download an application on our Tech Loan Program page and fax it to TSBVI Outreach, Attn: Tech Loan at 512-206-9320. Note that you will also need to provide a tech evaluation that demonstrates student needs. The Functional Scheme Assessment works very well for this!

You can also find information on purchasing Active Learning materials from LilliWorks, the only authorized dealer of these items in the United States, at their website,, under the tab, “AL Items”. For more information, contact Sara Kitchen at emailProtector.addCloakedMailto(“ep_f81a9c99”, 1);.

Notes from the International Active Learning Forum

The International Active Learning Forum met again on November 8th, 2018. If you are unfamiliar with this group and its mission, please see the previous Active Learning Update article in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of TX SenseAbilities: During the November meeting, plans and updates were discussed regarding the following priorities:

  1. Updating the Functional Scheme; making it accessible and understandable to today’s teachers.
  2. Getting the word out regarding Active Learning online training materials available for credit.
  3. Looking into and bolstering efforts to provide research that supports the efficacy of Active Learning.
  4. Connecting those who specialize and train others in Active Learning.
  5. Share training resources that have been developed.

Scott Baltisberger and Sara Kitchen, TSBVI Outreach, will continue their exploration of developmental assessments that align with the Functional Scheme in the area of communication, a section of the Functional Scheme that Lilli Nielsen herself defined as a work in progress. Currently, they are comparing skills and developmental milestones from the INSITE checklist and the Communication Matrix with the communication section of the Functional Scheme. They will share their findings with the international group for review.

Active Learning Face-to-Face Training Events:

  • Active Learning at the Statewide LID Conference

Scott Baltisberger and Sara Kitchen, with the assistance of educational teams from Regions 11, 13, 14, and 20, presented on Active Learning at the Low Incidence Disability Conference in Corpus Christi on March 2nd and 3rd, 2019. Topics included an overview of Active Learning as well as resources for building Active Learning in local education agencies.
Active Learning at TAER in San Antonio
Kate Hurst and Charlotte Cushman will present sessions on Active Learning at the annual conference hosted by the Texas Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, “TAER 2019 Conference: Be the Light”, on March 28-30, 2019 in San Antonio. For more information and registration information please visit

  • Annual Active Learning Conference in June in Dallas

Region 10 Education Service Center is hosting the annual Active Learning Conference on June 10-11, 2019. Patty Orbzut of the Penrickton Center for Blind Children will be presenting. This is a great opportunity to hear and interact with one of the foremost Active Learning practitioners in the country. Details, as they become available, will be posted at

  • Active Learning Training Opportunity in July in Wichita Falls

In Region 9, Tricia Marsh and Kate Hurst will be presenting a two-day training on Active Learning at ESC Region 9 on July 30-31, 2019. This will be posted to their website in the spring. Check their calendar for information:


Previous Article

Kersten’s Story, Part II: Why Relationship-Based Instructional Programming Works

Effective Practices
Next Article

There’s an App for That…

Effective Practices