Saturday, November 27, 2010

Application 4 UDL video

I was unable to close caption the video, so please find the text below:

Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, exists to ensure that resources including buildings and educational content are accessible for all.  Initially an ambition of architects to design with varying needs in mind rather than retrofitting pre-designed buildings, UDL has been translated to the educational setting.  At the heart of UDL is the notion that though some resources and/or technologies exist to help people, like stairs into a building, those are not sufficient for all people.  To accommodate for these varying needs, architects incorporated resources including ramps, sidewalk cuts, elevators, and wider doorways.  The byproduct of meeting the needs of people with specific requirements was the ease of use for others with non-prohibitive, yet complex needs.  In providing for those in wheelchairs, for example, parents with strollers also reaped the benefits of ramps and elevators.  Education realized that this concept of universal design, or thoughtful preparation for various needs, helps to enable all students to learn in ways that respect and accommodate for varying needs, preferences, and styles.
The three main principles of UDL are Representation, Action and Expression, and Engagement.  Together these concepts ensure that differentiation occurs throughout the educational process.
Representation speaks to the need to provide information in varying manners.  From educational thinkers like Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences we know that not every student learns the same way and Lev Vygotsky let us know that students need to build upon their prior knowledge and learn within scaffolding structures.  UDL acknowledges these thinkers and encourages teachers to provide information and instruct in varying manners and with multimedia incorporation.  More than just lectures, UDL incorporates dynamic student interaction, videos, music, interactive games, self-paced explorations, and tiered instruction.  The intent is that one or more method of instruction will meet the academic needs of a student and they will have the opportunity to learn in the manner that best suits their learning style and preferences.
Action and Expression are the goals of providing students with multiple venues for demonstrating their understanding of concepts and ability to complete skills.  Student selected projects allow ownership and personal investment in the work.  Even simple projects and assignments can be open to modification and interpretation, but UDL also encourages the inclusion of student selected problem-based and project-based learning.
Engagement is what makes the learning experience meaningful for the students.  Student interest and enjoyment lead to meaningful and thus lasting educational experiences.  Whether the students select their foci or the teacher uses their knowledge of their students to create activities the match the interests and lives of their students, it is the meaningful engagement that sparks interest and encourages effort.
Technology affords educators with the abilities to be in more than one place at one time, brings resources from various places into the classroom, and can enable students to bring the classroom home.  The mission of UDL is to encourage student specific instruction, review, and assessment.  Through technology and virtual resources, teachers can differentiate for students while still allowing and encouraging students to work independently.  Multimedia including podcasts, academically centered music videos, online games, and tutorials can aid in the dispersal of information while students can use various software and online resources to help with the communication of what they have learned.  Inherent in the medium of technology there is increased interest and entertainment, lending itself to engagement for students.
As our school is just beginning to incorporate SmartBoards into our classrooms, we have a unique opportunity to jump in with both feet.  Using our new technology to its best advantage, we can provide our students with various multimedia exposure, improve engagement and interest among our students, and utilize the technology as a showcase for student work.  Internet enabled technology is a portal to a wealth of information and resources that can help to provide unique learning experiences for our students.
Brain research supports the concepts underlying UDL and seems to parallel the three principles of UDL.  The brain networks that support learning are, first, the recognition network that partners with the UDL principle of representation as they both deal with the intake and understanding of concepts from patterns and images.  The strategic networks of the brain learn by doing and thus mirror UDL’s action and expression focus of creating and sharing what you have begun to understand in a manner that makes sense to you.  Finally, the third network, the affective network, deal with the emotional connection to the content and hence matches the goal of encouraging engagement in UDL lessons.  Each student has strengths and weaknesses in each of these areas, but lesson planning with an understanding of what brain research tells us and adherence to the concepts of UDL will allow students to make the concessions and decisions that allow them to be successful.
UDL seeks to ensure that although they may take different pathways, all students are heading to the same goal.  It differs from traditional lecture-based instruction in that students are encouraged to work in accordance with their preferences, learning styles, and strengths.  Variables like demographics, language skills, and academic readiness can be addressed or removed as a factor via the use of creative instruction, assignments, and assessments.  Students whom are differently-abled in any way can form their work around their skills rather than be forced to conform to standard expectations.
Technology can individualize an educational experience via real-time feedback, various means of sharing one’s understanding, and the sheer volume of educational resources available.  Though technology is not without its complications, it brings the 21st Century Skills we hope to share with our students to the classroom in an authentic and meaningful manner.
The website, offers a variety of tools and resources for students, parents and predominantly teachers to incorporate UDL concepts into classrooms.  The “Learning Tools” section of the webpage provides multiple links to resources both on and beyond the CAST offerings.  The Book builder site allows teachers to create their own online books so that students can use the benefits of technology, like text to speech, to aid them as they read.  Not only can you create your own books, but you can also access books shared by other educators.
The National Center on Universal Design for Learning’s website, exists to share the justifications for incorporating UDL into the classroom.  Their videos, information and exemplars help to make the general concept of UDL come to life and make sense.
The Tom Snyder Productions page, in association with Scholastic, shares among other things ways to use technology to create student specific learning experiences.  The technology allows students to work on topics with the added benefit of visuals, interactive activities, and skill responsive problems.
These resources, among the others offered can allow our students to meet curriculum requirements while receiving the academic support they need to be successful and challenged appropriately.  We cannot meet with each student for individualized instruction and/or create educational experiences that match each child’s learning style, however we can use technology to support our goals and our students.  Universal Design for Learning seeks to ensure that every child is successful and will help us meet that goal as well.

Sunday, November 14, 2010