UDL stands for Universal Design for Learning. UDL provides a framework for creating flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments that accommodate learner differences.
“Universal” does not imply one solution for everyone but instead, it is meant to underscore the need for multiple approaches to meet the needs of diverse learners. We all are really diverse learners, i.e., we have strengths and weaknesses in how we best learn and retain material.
UDL mirrors the universal design movement in architecture and product development. Think of speakerphones, curb cuts, and close-captioned television–all universally designed to accommodate a wide variety of users, including those with disabilities and have been adopted by unintended users. Think of curb cuts and how they are embraced by everyone from wheelchair users, to parents pushing baby carriages, and to bicyclers using the sidewalks (CAST, 2007)
UDL is about flexibility and identifying barriers that are preventing students from accessing the content. Digital media, including electronic text, surpasses traditional media in its ability to meet diverse students’ varied needs in a variety of instructional contexts.
A universally designed curriculum is designed to meet the needs of the greatest number of users, making costly, time-consuming, and after-the-fact changes to curriculum unnecessary. The end result is that the playing field is leveled and students are able to more fully participate.
The key principles of UDL are:
Principle One- Provide Multiple Means of Representation
Principle Two- Provide Multiple Means of Expression
Principle Three- Provide Multiple Means of Engagement
Looking closer at UDL’s first guideline: creating multiple means of representation for your students; the three guidelines are:
➢ Creating different options for perception
➢ Creating different options for language and symbols
➢ Creating different options for comprehension
UDL is about flexibility and identifying barriers that are preventing students from accessing the content. Digital media creates the space where these conversations can happen as well as support diverse learners. There are instructional strategies that include tapping on and developing background knowledge, collaborative learning, and project-based learning which all support diverse learning needs but digital media can, including electronic text, surpass traditional media in its ability to meet diverse students’ varied needs in a variety of instructional contexts. This does not mean that you need to have a computer lab at your disposal but that a few thoughtful choices of key digital media tools integrated into the curriculum can open up exciting learning opportunities for all learners.
Features in digital media that can save text, speech, and images can offer tremendous flexibility in how and where those text, speech, and images can be redisplayed. The same content that is fixed in a traditional medium can be flexibly accessed in a digital medium and changed or adapted. This is very useful to a teacher with a diverse classroom and benefits all learners.
Great educator websites, wikis or blogs
Take a look at following monthly sample(s) of educator focused webites that explore ways to integrate technology with content and that have a particular focus on supporting diverse students. Bookmark them if you like them or find them helpful or better yet, save them in your Delicious account (another subject for another day) so you can share them with other teachers.
This site was created by educators as a social network for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education. For those you have not tried a social network, this is a great beginning place. They ” hope that those who are “beginners” will find this a supportive community and a comfortable place to start being part of the digital dialog.”
This site is run by the Maryland Assistive Technology Network and has a ton of UDL resources that cut aross all content areas. A great way to see how UDL is being integrated into the classroom.