UDL, Considerations, and Effective Learning

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In my efforts to constantly reflect on and refine the “Considerations” tool that is the focus (and title) of this blog, it is important for me to consider (using my tool of course!) many of the learning sources available to all of us, using the visions thus developed to refine the concept and application procedures of the tool. In this post, I have two objectives: (1) I want to (maybe, may already be familiar) introduce readers to the notion ofn Universal Design for Learning (UDL); and (2) I want to discuss a few of planned upcoming posts to this blog that will explore UDL and its inclusion with consideration to further enhance learning.

Universal Design for Learning is an extension, as I understand, of Universal Design – an approach utilized in architecture. Architects seek to include universal access to and engagement with the structure(s) being designed from the first concept developed (as contrasted with revising near-final designs for universal access and engagement). Similarly UDL seeks to enable engagement of ALL learners in effective learning through the improved education design. I am in the midst of participation in a SOOC (Supported Open Online Course – NOTE new participation is closed) on UDL and Applicable Apps offered by ISTE. Through this learning opportunity, I am gaining the knowledge and practice that willbetter align with my facilitation of effective learning AND lead to revisions as appropriate of my Considerations tool. One important research-supported UDL conclusion that I find easily logical: ALL students, with and without special needs, learn more effectively in UDL-based education opportunities!

Let me give a brief overview of the role of considerations in effective learning. For more information, the reader is directed to the previous posts to this blog. It is my thesis that PBL (Problem Based Learning) is the optimum approach to learning. The sketch at the top of this blog, taken from a piece from George Couros, is very much aligned with PBL. Indeed, there are also many of the eight items included that are consistent with UDL as well. Via the voice of the students, their choices, the problem finding / solving, and connected learning, involvement of all students (i.e., UDL aligned) in the effective learning is enabled. Where does “Considerations” fit with this notion of classroom effective learning? Interestingly, for me at least, the one shortcoming of the sketch is the near void of learning (really only directly in the connected learning)! INDEED, after the students’ voice and choice, after the reflection, after the problem finding, and after the self-assessment, THERE ARE LIKELY NEEDS FOR CONSIDERATION: individual or sub-groups of team members addressing the hurdles identified, developing those visions to share / refine within the team, to indeed move forward with this student-controlled effective learning.

The SOOC in which I am participating has quickly shown me that I have been far too lax in intentionally and specifically including UDL components (beyond their fortunate but unplanned inclusion as noted in the previous paragraph). This tool and personal pedagogy shortcoming will be remedied and then discussed in future posts to this blog. A few ideas that I am already exploring:

1. Please note that this and all previous blog posts are all provided in text-only format. The SOOC materials provided to us participants have included text, voice-only, video (often accompanied by transcripts and/or subtitles). I will be investigating many apps (e.g., YouTube, Text-To-Speech, Grid Diary, and Today’s Meet) to broaden the options for engagement.

2. Please know that while I personally have provided Internet storage sights (through Blackboard) for student teams to save and share their files, I have much to do to broaden collaboration opportunities. One example: I intend to learn better the use of Google Hangouts (or similar) to enable teams to collaborate from different locations.

3. Please know that previously I have required teams to summarize their efforts in written progress and final reports. I intend to invest in the learning necessary to broaden the reporting options – including presentations, poster discussions, videos, and other options as appropriate.

4. MOST IMPORTANTLY, to me at least, I must investigate the more subtle concepts of UDL in both the PBL pedagogy and the “Consideration” tool. Subtle??? Yes, as I continue to learn in the SOOC, I am uncomfortable, believing that the “visible” changes such as those noted in #1 – #3 above under-represent the true importance of UDL for both in PBL and consideration! The ability to have empathy for ALL learners and to facilitate their special and individual effective needs are chief among these subtle features.

I realize this is short on new information and more on setting the commitment. I welcome the interaction with you through replies to this post or by email. For further UDL material, Internet searches have been invaluable to me. Here’s two of my favorites:  this CAST website and  this one. Stay tuned…

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