I found the cartoon (see link) that my web-conference colleague Joel posted regarding UDL, very thought provoking. It is so clear that the “class” of animals using their own natural abilities, will not all achieve the goal to “climb the tree” without some extra tools to get there.
In our Skype Web Conference on March 3, 2014, I enjoyed benefiting from Joel’s knowledge and expertise regarding disabled students. Joel introduced me to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and its historical roots which came from Differentiated Instruction (DI). These were new terms to me and both cover the concept of accommodating people with disabilities or specific challenges in the adult learning environment. It was obvious in our web conference that Joel has a passion for reaching out to people with disabilities and wants to use what ever tools could help them have phenomenal success in their journey to learn. This maps well to my own goal to help individuals use the best tools to achieve the maximum benefit to each individual learner.
Joel explained, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational practice that provides flexibility in the ways information is presented. This reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate support and challenges for all students, including those with disabilities or who are limited in English proficiency. Differentiated instruction (DI) and assessment is a framework for effective teaching that involves providing different students with other avenues to learning. DI develops teaching materials and assessment measures so that students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability. Joel provided me with the Center for Applied Special Technology CAST Website and the UDL Center Website both of which have fascinating examples of how to use technology and adjust or shift learning materials to accommodate ALL students of varying abilities.
Joel also discussed an example of how two dsylexic learners in the UK achieved success using PebblePad technology (offers scaffolds for creating reflective records of learning,
achievement and aspiration). The learners were able to create E-Portfolios and were active participants in the learning process with their professors. I paused to reflect how these two students (like the elephants from the cartoon) could be equipped with scaffolding (steps) to help them reach the top of the tree. In effect, the learners and professors were all participating together as researchers, instructors, facilitators, analysts and content creators.
In the March 3rd, web-conference I learned, “The American No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB, 2002) has been a catalyst to both UDL and DI increasing in prominence in North America. Joel pointed out that because of different financial and staff attitudes UDL and DI has been slow to be implemented in the post secondary learning environment. However I have no doubt that Joel’s passion and determination will drive him to achieve his stated goal to explore these ideas further and help expand the reach of UDL with his peers in adult learning.
I found that being involved in Web-conferences with Joel was a tremendous help to me. We were both interested in seeing technology used to help students with varying abilities achieve success in learning and understanding themselves better. The change in technology and it’s effects on adult education to help personalize learning is accelerating at a startling rate. The concepts we discussed together reinforce the idea we all need to continue to be “Life Long Learners”. These concepts also show how the role of instructor and student becomes blurred as both groups can be seen as researchers, instructors, facilitators, analysts and content creators. It is interesting to note that both Joel and I were involved with all of these roles. We used technology to teach each other during our web conferences and also to post reflections on both websites.