Some Ideas and Thoughts on Universal Design for Learning

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As I work through the course Integration of Technology into the Classroom, along with my teaching partner, Chantelle Davies, we continuously reflect on our past year and consider our upcoming year to come up with ways to improve what we have done.  We have created some work that we are proud of but we seem to ask ourselves the same question at the end of the planning.  Will our struggling students be able to do this?  Our answer to this is usually to add assistive technology for the struggling students.  The problem is that this can further isolate these struggling students because they have been "made to use" the technology.  At the same time there may be a number of students that become upset because they do not get to use the technology.  To overcome this problem we need to apply the Universal Design for Learning Theory.

Universal Design is the idea that assistance targeted for specific group can help or have benefits for all.  According to Education For All, Universal Design for Learning or UDL's aim in education is to make curriculum accessible to everyone regardless  of age, skill or situation.  Each student in unique and as a result, the idea of UDL helps provide a pathway for each student the reach learning goals.  As we move forward, Chantelle and I need to keep the ideas of UDL in mind in order to create content that is flexible, supportive and adjustable in order to ensure access to content and to success for all students.  

As a result of reflecting on the past and looking to the future, Chantelle and I have created a list of teaching strategies/ideas that use technology in order to enhance learning for all students not just struggling students. 

1.  Recorders of Learners 

We have discussed this strategy in a previous post  Recorder of Learning - Using Photo Editing Apps.   This ideas is that students will document key learning moments in the classroom to share with the class at the end of the week.  All students will benefit by having a peer created documents that sum up the weeks learning to reflect and refer to in the future.  It will make learning accessible to all anytime they need it.  

2.  Deliver instruction through multiple forms.  

One way we plan to try this in the upcoming year is to embed lessons into Desire 2 Learn.   Prerecording a short lesson or sharing a clip allows all students to watch and learn at their own pace.  The students can watch the clip several times or refer back to the clip if they need as they work on tasks and build new skills.  This also allows the teacher to work with small groups in order to give further support if needed. Finally, this strategy will engaging as we access the students and communicate with them on devices they are more comfortable with.  We will no longer isolating the struggling group by making them use technology. Once again, learning is accessible to all students.

3.  Gather information and give immediate feedback.

Exit cards are a great strategy to help gather information and allows teachers to see where further instruction is needed.  In D2L, a quick way to do this is through the quiz feature.  One nice feature about this is that you can set up your quizzes in a way that will not open new content until the student receives a satisfactory mark in the quiz.  As the instructor, you have the option to have the student take the test over until the reach that mark.  Another option, which works well for all students in the class is to create a test that sends students on various paths according to their quiz result.  For students who reach a satisfactory mark, the instructor may add an extension task or may have students move on to the next skill.  Those who may have not met the required mark may be given a task to support the learning that needs to be down.  In either case, the students are receiving the support they need and are continuing their learning.

4.  Use technology to define key terms.

As new units begin we always wonder how to introduce vocabulary?  Many times the dictionary can be confusing and true meaning is difficult for many students to grasp.  A way around this that would make vocabulary terms and definitions engaging is to let students use technology to show meaning.  There are many tools and formats that could be used to display. Some tools to display meaning include GlogsterEDU, Pic Collage, VoiceThread, MindMeister, Lino.  With many option and ways to present terms students can use tools they are most comfortable with.  Students who may struggle with reading tasks will have many options on how to show their learning.  An engaging activities for all that will be available to all students to refer back to when the term comes up within a unit.

5.  Use of audio recording tools to capture learning.

Capturing learning by allowing students to record their voices is not a new idea for those who struggle.  This is a great way to get around the frustration many students have in getting the ideas they have on to paper.  One way I have debated on using this type of tool is when doing DRA.  For some, writing down ideas gets in the way of what they truly want to say.  If the student is allowed to orally express their thinking they may be able to give greater details to support their thinking.  The idea of getting thoughts on paper is one that most students struggle with so again this is an idea that can work for the whole class. If the response must be written then the students can use their recorded answer to help them recall key ideas.   

Chantelle and I are wondering how UDL has enhanced the learning in your classroom?

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