learning about udl

by MrsJeffers
Last updated 10 years ago

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learning about udl

What is UDL?The inspiration for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) stems from the universal design movement that we find in architecture, urban planning, and product design. This movement has been responsible for such innovations as curb-cuts, automatic doors, speaker phones, and closed captioning televisions. All of these features were originally designed to provide access to all, including those with disabilities. According to the CAST website, "Embedded features that help those with disabilities eventually benefit everyone" (CAST, 2010). UDL brings this principle to education.

What Does Brain Research Tell Us?Brain research has shown us that all students learn differently. It has also shown us that different regions of the brain are responsible for different types of learning. Recognition NetworkAll of the sensory input we receive goes to the back half of the brain. This is where we process input to recognize patterns. This network allows us to recognize sights, sounds, smells, etc. In education, this is the part of the brain that allows us to recognize letters, shapes, people, music, etc.Strategic NetworkAfter the brain processes the patterns received through sensory input, the brain can process for actions and plan for actions. This is accomplished in the strategic network. For instance, after the recognition network has recognized that the squiggly lines on a paper are numbers, the strategic network allows us to add or multiply them as the operation sign dictates. Affective NetworkThe affective network allows us to evaluate the patterns of the other networks. It lets us decide what is important and what is not. It is responsible for our emotional response to both the information we take in and the plans and actions we make ourselves. The challenge of this network in education lies in helping our children see the value in what they are learning. For instance, if we tailor our lessons around our students' interests, this learning network will be positively engaged.

What are the Three Principles of UDL?According to the CAST website, Universal Design for Learning calls for ...•Multiple means of representation, to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge, (For example, the teacher presents information using illustrations, sound, text, and movement to reach all students in the class.)•Multiple means of action and expression, to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, (For example, the teacher allows students to choose from various means to demonstrate their mastery of concepts. These might include a written paper, digital storytelling, or another project.)•Multiple means of engagement, to tap into learners' interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase motivation.(For example, the teacher would present lessons geared toward the interests of the students. The information would also be presented in varying difficulties to accommodate various abilities.)

Learning about UDL

What is the Role of Technology in UDL?"UDL uses technology's power and flexibility to make education more inclusive and effective for all" (CAST, 2010)."UDL uses computer technology to create an educational environment that allows all students, including those with learning disabilities, to succeed in general education classrooms with minimal use of assistive technology (AT)" (GreatSchools, 2010).Technology is a wonderful tool to provide multiple means of representation for our students, thus activating their Recognition Networks. We can use video representation, audio representation, graphics, music, and more with our students. Kinesthetic learners can also take an active role in the representation through mouse clicks and keystrokes.Technology also helps us reach students' strategic networks. Our students can also use technology in various ways to interact with the material and to demonstrate mastery of skills and concepts. For instance, students might complete a digital storytelling project, record a skit on a Flip camera, or type a paper on a word processor.Perhaps one of the most powerful uses of technology is as a means to engage and motivate students. This activates the Affective Learning Network. Technology can provide an authentic audience, provide anonymity, or just provide variety to lessons.The use of technology really is an effective tool to reach all three networks.

What Impact Will UDL Have on Our Students?UDL is the best of differentiation, which has been a focus in our district. Because UDL is designed to make learning accessible to everyone, we can expect to see our students achieve more. Test scores will improve. The students' confidence will rise. Discipline referrals will decrease because students will be actively engaged in lessons that are appropriately designed for their academic levels and interests.


How Does UDL support Cultural, Ethnic, Linguistic, and Academic Diversity?What we have come to realize through brain research is that there really is no such thing as a "regular" student. Because we all have different experiences, abilities, interests, etc., we all receive and process information differently. For example, some students need lots of stimulation and novelty to keep them engaged while others thrive on sameness of routine.The three principles of UDL are designed to accommodate differences in these learning networks among students. Providing multiple means of representation accommodates different students' recognition networks. Multiple means of expression accommodates different strategic networks. Multiple means of engagement accommodates divergent affective networks. By following these principles, teachers can be more effective at reaching all of the students in their class.

More information on Universal Design can be found at the AARP website.

What Online Tools and Resources Can I Use?The CAST website has a number of helpful tools for teachers. They can be found at http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/. One of these tools is the CAST UDL Lesson Builder, which is helpful in incorporating UDL principles as you create new lessons and modify old ones.Another helpful tool on this site is UDL Book Builder. This site allows you to create digital books that have built-in learning supports such as text-to-speech, integrated glossary with pictures, and English-to-Spanish translations. A tool that I would like to use with our fifth grade students is the Strategy Tour. This is a free program for fifth graders and above that walks them through the process of online research and strategic reading. And finally, the UDL Guidelines and the UDL Online Modules on this site presents a more complete explanation of UDL than is offered here.

Want more information about UDL?Check out the videos in the CAST Screening Room.


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