Saturday, July 23, 2011

A New Day for All Learners

Welcome to this first entry on UDL and Mobile Apps

With this blog, I hope to introduce you to UDL and why it should be the framework in creating digital learning environments where all students can achieve.  Mobile Apps will be instrumental in supporting all learners persoanlizing the learning environment like we have never seen before.  But first, an introduction to UDL and why it will most likely create some buzz as we discover how we will innovate new learning environments for all students. 

What is UDL - Universal Design for Learning?

After being introduced to UDL some 10 years ago, I am surprised how many educators have no idea what it is and why it may play some importance in education.  Universal Design for Learning was developed by CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) from years of brain research on how we learn.

From this research, three principles have been defined:
  • Multiple  means  of  representation,  to  give  diverse  learners  options  for  acquiring   information  and  knowledge,    
  • Multiple  means  of  action  and  expression,  to  provide  learners  options  for  demonstrating   what  they  know,    
  • Multiple  means  of  engagement,  to  tap  into  learners'  interests,  offer  appropriate  [CAST],   2011a).    
UDL is the framework in which we design our lessons, instructional strategies and assessments and that  gives  all  students  equal  opportunities  to  learn  and  to  demonstrate  what  they  have  learned. It is not just about students with special needs but it is about how we teach to the diversity of learners, every day.

In the last few years UDL became defined in the Higher Ed Opportunity Act of 2008 and other federal legislation and policy.  

From the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 ...

The term UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING means a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that:
(A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and
(B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and  challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient.

 Where else is UDL showing up in Federal legislative and policy documents?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004
IDEA  is  focused  on  improving  outcomes  for  children  and  youth  with  disabilities.  Some   of  the  provisions  included  below  within  IDEA  integrate  the  use  of  UDL  as  a  means  of   supporting  the  core  principles  of  IDEA:  

  • 34CFR  Sec.  300.704(b)(4)(v)    
"To  support  the  use  of  technology,  including  technology  with  universal  design   principles  and  assistive  technology  devices,  to  maximize  accessibility  to  the  general   education  curriculum  for  children  with  disabilities. "
  • 34CFR  Sec.  612(a)(16)(E)    
"Universal  design.- The  State  educational  agency  (or,  in  the  case  of  a  districtwide   assessment,  the  local  educational  agency)  shall,  to  the  extent  feasible,  use  universal   design  principles  in  developing  and  administering  any  assessments  under  this paragraph."
  •   34CFR  Sec.  674(b)(2)(B)    
"Supporting  research,  development,  and  dissemination  of  technology  with  universal   design  features,  so  that  the  technology  is  accessible  to  the  broadest  range  of  individuals   with  disabilities  without  further  modification  or  adaptation."

U.S. Department of Education Technology Plan

In  the  announcement  letter,  Secretary  Duncan  said  the  following  about  the  Plan  (U.S.   Department  of  Education,  2010):  

It  calls  for  using  state-­‐‑of-­‐‑the  art  technology  and  Universal  Design  for  Learning  (UDL)   concepts  to  enable,  motivate  and  inspire  all  students  to  achieve,  regardless  of   background,  languages  or  disabilities.

Additional Inclusions of UDL Nationally 

  • The  Common  Core  State  Standards  developed  by  the  National  Governors   Association  and  the  Council  of  Chief  State  School  Officers   
  • The  Race  to  the  Top  Assessment  Programs  Criteria   
  • LEARN  Act  (literacy)  bills  in  House  and  Senate   
  • USDOE's Blueprint for Education Reform:  The Reauthorization of the
    Elementary  and  Secondary  Education  Act
In addition, the endorsement of some 40 national  general  education  and  disability  groups  that comprise   the  National  UDL  Task  Force  to  promote  UDL  in  federal  legislation  and  policy. See  for  a  full  list  of  members  and  information  about  the  work  of  the   National  UDL  Task  Force. 

Learn more about UDL at The UDL Center

Next post:  Mobile Apps and The UDL Principles

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