Thursday, April 13, 2017

Universal Design for Learning / Assistive Technologies

The world isn't equally accessible to all people. There are many challenges that we have to be able to function and succeed in our worldly activities.  In the past, people have tended to emphasize the deficits in others' ability to function in the world. This has led to people being labeled as handicapped and disabled. This can cause a great divide between groups and cast negative stereotypes on challenged individuals. 

Having Special Needs
Consider, if you will, that all humans have special needs. It is just a matter of degree. People may need glasses for reading. Some may need an auditory reader because they have serious vision problems. Individuals may require an alternate means for communicating because they have Lou Gehrig's disease or cerebral palsy.  As we get older, we might review articles on our computer screens at 150% so that they are easier to read.  It's all a matter of degree.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a combination of pedagogy and techniques that acknowledge the different levels of needs. UDL uses brain-based research to identify the need for addressing multiple methods of representation, expression, and engagement of learners with information and knowledge. It involves instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments. 

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) is a leading organization in the field of UDL. Here is a 5-minute introductory video on UDL.


NOTE: This video has been enhanced using EDpuzzle. It includes explanatory voice-overs, multiple-choice quiz questions, an open-ended question and a link to a website.  This EDpuzzle enhancement has been included to demonstrate how you might enhance a video as part of the Interactive Learning Tool that you are creating for your final project. 

This is NOT your final quiz for this module.  You will still have to complete the module quiz as you have been doing all semester.  

An essential part of UDL is to use Multiple Means of Representation. This means that if you learn things better by reading than watching information, you may not have learned much from the video you just watched.  You might do better if you visited this website and read about UDL.  The National Center on Universal Design for Learning has a wealth of information about UDL as well

Differentiated Learning
Recognizing that students have varying backgrounds, levels of readiness, preferences in learning, and interests is important if you are going to be able to address their needs. You have learned about Differentiated Learning in your other classes. Often you must  differentiate your teaching style to address your individual students' learning needs. You try to meet students where they are educationally. UDL is a strategy that is based upon differentiated learning and teaching.  Read this article, What is Differentiated Instruction?, to see how these strategies work together.  

Assistive Technology
While UDL involves strategies to benefit all learners, Assistive Technologies (AT) are devices (some electronic and some not) that increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. UDL is a teaching practice while AT is something that you can touch. UDL will often involve technology but it is not reliant on technology. Visit this website about UDL and Technology. The text is short, but use the links in the text to gain a deeper understanding of technology's role in UDL.

There are many Types of Assistive Technologies.  Not all AT are electronic, but this list includes a variety of ways that people can interact with technology to function in the world. They may involve input devices that control computers using a variety of methods. They may be output devices that allow computers to communicate with people through Braille, voice, visual representation or even physical activity. 

iPad Helps Special Education Student to Learn
This video shows how an iPad has helped a special needs students read, write and communicate.

Aimee Mullins: Running on High-Tech Legs (10-minute video)
In this TED archive video from 1998, paralympic sprinter Aimee Mullins talks about her record-setting career as a runner, and about the amazing carbon-fiber prosthetic legs (then a prototype) that helped her cross the finish line. (This a video of a presentation from TED Talks. We STRONGLY suggest that you visit to hear some of the greatest minds on the planet present their ideas and visions.)

DOWNLOAD FREE UDL SOFTWARE - One of the most sophisticated programs for helping learners read and write is called Read Write Gold.  The best part about this is that you can download it for FREE at UNI.
  • For Google Documents - Add Read Write Gold to Google Chrome. Go to the Apps Web Store and add it to your Chrome browser.
  • For Computer-Based Tools - Go to UNI ITS website and download it. Read Write Gold - Home (bottom of the page.)  Use it. UNI has purchased a license that allows students and faculty to download it for free to use for themselves or with students.
We are all different and we all learn through a variety of methods and approaches.  UDL and Assistive Technologies provide strategies and tools that are designed to differentiate learning in a way that will benefit the greatest number of learners.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great assignment. As an ICT guy I've always been very interested in technology in the classroom (primarily interactive white boards), but I often neglect to consider students with special needs. I look forward to seeing these new ways of assisting these students and look forward to reading your post.