UDL or Universal Design for Learning is a concept based in architecture. It might seem strange that a post about educating students comes from this area, but it will make sense. By using Universal Design, architects plan, from the beginning, a space that allows access to persons with all abilities. The same can be said for Universal Design for Learning. By planning our instruction from the beginning to be accessible for all students, we will be able to reach more students.
CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) has been promoting the concept of UDL for quite a few years now and they’ve put together an excellent video explaining UDL – UDL at a Glance. This 5 minute video explains the basic concept of UDL and the 3 main areas of focus: Multiple Means of Representation, Multiple Means of Action & Expression, and Multiple Means of Engagement.
Let’s take a look at these 3 areas:
Multiple Means of Representation – provide information and content in new ways
By providing information in different ways, you allow students with different abilities the chance to experience it. Some of the simplest ways are to provide visual supports for curricular materials or to use audio or video to support the materials. There are tons of web tools that can help educators provide these supports. Tools like Prezi, Glogster, Youtube, Teachertube, Animoto or Wordle can be used to help students see information in different ways.
Multiple Means of Action or Expression – differentiate the ways that students can express what they know
There are quite a few reasons a student may not want to present what they know in a traditional form. Test anxiety, presentation anxiety, and communication difficulties are just a few that come to mind. Allowing students different ways to express what they know is one of the easiest ways to implement UDL in a classroom. Again many Web 2.0 tools are available to give that option to students. I would suggest checking out Animoto, Glogster, Voicethread, Wordle, Tar Heel Reader, Corkboard.me, EyeJot, Vocaroo or Garageband.
Multiple Means of Engagement – stimulate interest and motivation for learning
Allowing students choice, thinking of different ways to share the information, and by using unique materials to teach the content educators are more likely to engage learners. While this is not necessarily a new concept, it is an important part of the UDL structure. While many of the tools previously mentioned can help to engage students in new and different ways, educators will also want to think outside the box with everyday tasks. The National Center on Universal Design for Learning has a great set of examples of different ways to implement UDL. The section on engagement is particularly good – UDL examples.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, I hope your curiosity has been piqued and that you check out the wonderful resources at Cast.org and The National Center on Universal Design for Learning. You can also check out some great resources on this wiki – http://UDLplayground.wikispaces.com where there are a ton of resources organized by type and principle as well as a slideshow explaining the basics of UDL.