Active Learning Update

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

Keywords: Active Learning, online learning, Penrickton Center, Perkins School for the Blind, Lilliworks, Active Learning Space, Low Incidence Disability, LID, Functional Scheme Assessment, Lilli Nielsen, Continuing Education Unit, CEU, Sensory Support Network, SSN, Community of Practice, CoP

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.

What’s Happening with Active Learning, Spring 2020: Free Online Training, Support for Active Learning Trainers and Practitioners, and Assistance with Active Learning Equipment.

Training Opportunities

Introductory Training

New to Active Learning? Check out this new (free!) webinar on the Perkins School for the Blind website: “Active Learning Is More Than a Piece of Equipment!” with Charlotte Cushman and Kate Hurst

This webinar provides a brief introduction to Active Learning, which is an educational approach created by Dr. Lilli Nielsen of Denmark designed for learners who are functioning below the developmental age of 48 months (4 years). Basic principles are discussed along with resources to help families and practitioners get started implementing this approach.

Deeper Training: 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 becoming 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. Please go to Course Listing to register.  These courses are provided free of charge at this time.

  • Active Learning: Principles (12 CEUs). This course will give you an overview of how to implement Active Learning strategies and techniques with students in your classroom. Correctly used, Active Learning helps you provide your students with opportunities for building social and emotional skills, fine and gross motor skills, and cognitive skills.
  • Active Learning: Functional Scheme (3 CEUs). This course will take you through the correct way to use Lilli Nielsen’s Functional Scheme developmental checklist to enhance and refine your instruction for your students.
  • Active Learning: Program Planning (1.5 CEUs). This course will show you how Active Learning can be included in the IEP, the PLAAFP, goals and objectives, addressing the ECC, aligning the IEP with the standard curriculum, placement, transition plans, and more!
  • Active Learning: Implementation (1.5 CEUs). This course will provide guidance in using Dr. Nielsen’s FIELA curriculum, classroom organization, considerations for students with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), and implementing active learning at school, home and in the community.
  • Active Learning: Documenting Progress (1 CEU). This course will give teachers ideas for data collection formats that will provide a method for verification of students’ skill acquisition.
  • Active Learning: Equipment (1.75 CEUs). This course provides more specific information about using various pieces of equipment (both things you buy and things you can make) to meet your student’s needs in developing motor, cognitive, social, emotional and perceptual skills.
  • Active Learning: Materials (1 CEU). This course provides additional guidance about how to select the most engaging and enriching materials for your student’s learning environments.

That’s almost 22 CEUs you can earn while gaining information about how to provide the best instruction for your students!

Personalized Support for Practitioners of Active Learning

Active Learning Case Studies: Student Centered Planning

Free TSBVI-sponsored Active Learning Webinars were held four times in the 2019-2020 school year, and the plan is to have four more Webinars during 2020-2021. The same format will continue; they will be from 3:00-4:00 p.m. Central Time and will be held every other month.

These webinars examine specific students using the Active Learning Planning Form (, which is filled out by the student’s instructional team, and videos of that same student engaged in independent as well as interactive activities. Each session requires one volunteer team to share information and video clips of one of their students. When their student or child is the subject of the webinar, we ask all team members to attend. This is a no-pressure situation in that the webinars are not recorded. Webinar participants include leading authorities in Active Learning such as Patty Obrzut, Charlotte Cushman, and Kate Hurst, who are the creators of the wonderful resource, Attendees collaborate to design effective and meaningful instruction using Active Learning strategies. Even if your student isn’t a case study student, we encourage all members of the Active Learning Community to attend. We can all learn from discussions of each other’s students!

Take advantage of this opportunity and contact Sara Kitchen () or Scott Baltisberger () if your team would like to feature your student during the 2020-21 school year! To register either as a participant with a case study student or as a fellow learner in the Active Learning Community, log in at, and search for “Active Learning Case Studies: Student Centered Planning.”

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
  • Resonance Board 4×4
  • Folding resonance Board 4×4
  • 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 at Tech Loan Program, fill it out, and fax it to TSBVI Outreach, Attn: Tech Loan at 512-206-9320. Note that you will also need to provide an assistive technology evaluation that demonstrates your student’s need for Active Learning equipment. Dr. Nielsen’s Functional Scheme includes fine and gross motor sections which can be used for this.

You can also find descriptions and 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 .

If you are working with one of our Active Learning Trainers in Texas, your team may qualify to access limited funds through the Sensory Support Network to purchase Active Learning materials. Talk to your trainer for more information.  If you would like to connect with someone to help guide your team through the process of implementing Active Learning, contact your LID (Low Incidence Disabilities) Specialist at your Regional Education Service Center to find out if there is an Active Learning Trainer in your area.

A young girl sits in front of a piece of peg-board and uses both hands to explore objects attached to it, including chains, items with holes, and containers with tops.

A student explores a position board.

Support for Active Learning Trainers

The Texas Sensory Support Network (TxSSN) has developed an online Community of Practice (CoP) for Active Learning Trainers to come together, share ideas, and support each others’ efforts in helping teams learn this valuable skill set. The first meeting was held on January 14th, 2020 from 2-3pm. Trainers were familiarized with each other as well as the online CoP. Contact Hillary Keys (t) or Perkie Cannon () if you are interested in joining our Active Learning CoP. Our goal is to keep growing Active Learning in Texas and beyond!

New postings on 

  • Check out the Active Learning Space Newsletters for great information on all things Active Learning! Topics include things you can make, training ideas, active learning for families, fine motor skills, and the list goes on!
  • Current Active Learning Trainers share how they get teams started on Active Learning on this new page that was recently added to Active Learning Space:
A young girl sits in an adult’s lap, laughing. She holds a piece of paper in one hand and explores the actions of the adult’s hands with the other.

A student and teacher explore tearing paper together.

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