We both enjoyed the book and found it helpful in our practice. The book opens by dispelling myths and then sharing about the legalities around meeting the needs of those with a disability. The next five chapters were most useful, helpful, and illuminating for us as each shared a different invisible disability. These chapters included background information, co morbid disorders and support recommendations for each disability. These chapters helped to illuminate the challenges that those with each disability face and tangible recommendations for supporting those with a particular disability. The last few chapters launched into a discussion around universal design, universal design for learning, and consideration for administration. While informative my colleague and I did not find this section to be as helpful as the last. The recommendations here were a bit too general to be helpful.
In my work at Lawrence University this work will be a great resource for instructors helping them to better understand the students they teach. As we embark on a journey toward inclusive excellence the information in this book will help instructors exercise compassion toward students with a particular disability as well as have a better understanding of the legalities around disability. we plan to use this book in a faculty reading/discussion group in a near future term.
I had the opportunity to attend the UDL-IRN’s UDLHE Digicon. (So many acronyms!) This was a one-day, web-hosted, virtual conference. It is amazing to me how these virtual conferences retain the best parts (and some of the running-between-sessions feelings) of a face-to-face conference.
The day was full of informative sessions. My motivation for attending this conference was to learn strategies for faculty to implement universal design for learning (UDL), strategies to communicate and teach others about the benefits of UDL, and support my current ID2ID project. I am participating in the current cohort of the ID2ID program. The goal of this program is to pair instructional designers together to facilitate a collaborative professional growth opportunity. Each pair is tasked with creating goals to work toward by the conclusion of the program. The goal that my partner, or buddy in ID2ID-speak, are working toward broadly, is to use the UDL framework to support faculty in creating inclusive teaching and learning experiences. This conference directly supports that goal by providing a learning opportunity centered on the topic of UDL.
There were two sessions that resonated with me that I will highlight here. The first was titled “Emphasizing Student Choice, Engagement, & Flexibility in Hybrid Courses.” In it, the presenter Lauren Tucker, outlined the methods and tools that she uses with her students to help them internalize the philosophy of UDL and provide them opportunities to use technology to support a UDL approach. One of the things that Dr. Tucker provides her class and individual students is a UDL Toolkit. This facilitates an opportunity for her students to experience the tools themselves, and to see how they might leverage these tools with their own students (Dr. Tucker’s students are teachers or pre-service teachers.)
The second session that resonated with me was UDL, My Choice: Perspectives and conversations on scaffolding choicemaking, with Denia Bradshaw and Andrew Dell’Antonio. This session resonated with me on a number of levels as I have a music education background. Recalling back to all the hours I spent in lessons and practice rooms made Denia Bradshaw’s portion, talking about how she provides students choice in their one-on-one lessons, more impactful to me. Andrew Dell’Antonio shared about how he increases student choice in his music history course. The students are given four options for how they can show mastery in a course capstone project. This session is particularly pertinent to my ID2ID project goal as my institution has a conservatory. I look forward to sharing and discussing this with the conservatory faculty.
I write today to share a link to a number of resources. Since coming to Lawrence I have begun curating a number of guides in the “Teaching and Learning” category. The purpose of these guides is to provide resources for instructors and their students. This list of guides is chosen to support instructors in making their courses more active and inclusive; and supporting students in their coursework.
If you are interested in viewing other guides you may do so by navigating to the Library’s main page (https://lawrence.edu/library), and then clicking the “research guides” link located on the right under the “Research Guides” heading.
Rather than providing a summary for each guide in the teaching and learning list, I prefer to call out a few that I think are most important.
The first in this list is the Universal Design for Learning, Neurodiversity guide. Universal design for learning (UDL) is a design framework for reducing and removing barriers in the teaching and learning experience. Its purpose is to make the learning experience more inclusive and to produce self-directed and engaged learners. This guide provides an overview of UDL, explanations for each of the three principles (Representation, Engagement, and Expression), and an overview of what neurodiversity is and implications for teaching and learning. UDL has great potential to better the teaching and learning experience, particularly in the areas of student agency and executive function. One increasing issue faced on our and many campuses is clinical anxiety. UDL provides the means for an instructor to support a student by providing the structures and tools to help the student manage their work in a more digestible manner.
The third and last guide in this list is the Digital Media Toolbox. This guide was created with the purpose to be a resource for instructors and students in the creation of digital media. Among other things this guide provides information on copyright and citation of media, finding media that may be re-used in projects, and campus resources for creating projects. Digital media projects are a way to provide students options in how they show what they know (a tenet of UDL and the principle of Expression). They also allow the students to express creativity and participate in something that may be perceived as fun. These are all positives in a learning experience leading to increased engagement.
I invite you to review these guides in particular and the rest in the list too. Please feel free to reach out to me through comments or contacting me directly. I am happy to discuss the content in these guides and how it relates to the teaching and learning process.
In her article on Edutopia, Beth Holland mentions the following:
“In a blended environment, students take advantage of the different modalities afforded by both the online and in-person contexts. I have argued in the pastthat neither digital workflow nor the dissemination of digitized, teacher-driven content constitutes blended learning. As Michael Horn and Heather Staker write in Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, the proper role of digital technologies in true blended learning is giving students control over the time, path (e.g., type of content), place (online or in person), and pace of their learning. The online environment affords students with choice and control over their learning, and teachers gain opportunities for meaningful interactions with their students. “ [Emphasis mine]
This second part of the paragraph sounds very similar to a universal design for learning (UDL) approach. The article mentions differentiation but I would argue that UDL is not the same thing as differentiation. I appreciate the comparison made by Loui Lord Nelson in, Design & Deliver: Planning and Teaching Using UDL where she compares differentiation as creating separate meals for each student versus providing a buffet of options (UDL). the latter environment allows the person to choose the things that work for them.
One common question that I receive is, “How can I transcribe this audio or video file?” Providing transcriptions for media make them more accessible and searchable. The list below offers some options that I have gathered over the years.
These use machine learning to produce the transcript.
Trint.com – $15/hr. (they offer a 30 min free trial)
I have been thinking and talking a lot about universal design for learning (here and here) and looking for ways/tools for instructors to share with students. Texthelp offers a platform called Read&Write (RW). While providing a number of capabilities (see the full list here,) RW is a text-to-speech (TTS) tool. The tool is available for a number of platforms, but I will be talking about the Chrome extension. Before going further I do want to point out that our Center for Academic Success can make the full version of this application available for students who need it. Tools like this are certainly beneficial for those who need them, but they can also provide helps for English-language-learners as well as provide another way for any student to interact with the material.
What we will be looking at here is the Read&Write for Google Chrome extension. As a Chrome extension it will only work in the Chrome browser and can only interact with content hosted on the Internet. By way of comparison the desktop application can open and read PDF documents saved to the computer.
Once installed the extension lives with all the others in the upper right of the browser. Once you are on a page you would like to be read aloud you can click the extension o bring up the toolbar.
The full toolbar looks like this:
It is outside the scope of this post to talk about all the functions of the toolbar. We will only be talking a small subset, which you can see below.
The three buttons on the left are the play controls for the TTS function. The next tool is a screenshot reader. You can take a screenshot of some text and then RW will read the text to you. The latter buttons on the right are highlighting controls.
Reading web pages is all well and good, but much of the reading students will do is from the humble PDF. This format in and of itself is not accessible. There are processes, namely optical character recognition, or OCR, that renders the text and make it searchable. OCR is the process by which a computer determines what the underlying text in a document is. There are many factors that play into the success of the OCR process. For a deep dive into OCR watch this video. once this has been done a number of options open up for manipulating the document. One major option is that the text may be read aloud.
As mentioned before the RW Chrome extension will only read documents/text that are on the Internet. This is where Microsoft Office 365 comes into play. Any OCR’d PDF that lives in OneDrive may be read aloud by the RW extension. In addition one can use the highlighting tools to highlight the text contextually – assigning an idea to a color, e.g. yellow for all main ideas and green for supporting arguments. Once the highlighting is complete all the highlights can be pulled into a single Google Document*.
*This unfortunately does require a Google account and access to Google Drive.
“Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. ”1
UDL has its beginning in the universal design architectural movement which came out of “barrier free” movement. The term universal design was coined by Ronald Mace (North Carolina State University) in the 1960’s. Some examples of universal design are:
Smooth, ground level entrances without stairs
Lever handles for opening doors rather than twisting knobs
Universal Design for Learning was created by David H. Rose, Ed.D. of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the 1990’s. UDL, based on research in neuroscience, uses three principles. These principles are to provide: 2
Multiple means of representation
Multiple means of action and expression
Multiple means of engagement
The three UDL principles are based on three learning networks. The three networks are recognition, strategic, and affective.
The recognition network deals with, “how we gather facts and categorize what we see, hear, and read.”
The strategic network deals with how we plan and perform tasks,” and “how we organize and express our ideas.”
The affective network deals with how, “learners get engaged and stay motivated.”
There are other uses of universal design in teaching and learning:
UD for Instruction (UDforI)
UD of Instruction (UDI)
While similar, they are not the same as universal design for learning. UDL is distinctly focused on the student experience and attending to varied ways students may approach a learning experience.
Two common ideas and terms withing the UDL framework are the ‘myth of the average‘ or ‘learner variability.’ These terms point to the idea that students vary (in strengths, background, experience, perspective, and many more) from context to context, and from day to day.
UDL is meant to address this variability by providing as many on-ramps to the course material as possible, and as many means for the students to demonstrate what they have learned. You may be saying, “Well isn’t this just differentiated instruction?” One analogy in, Design & Deliver: Planning and Teaching Using UDL3, by Loui Lord Nelson, compares differentiated instruction to creating single meals for each student while UDL is a buffet. The buffet allows each person to choose those things that the like and that work best for them.
Here is a link to the guidelines. The way that this chart is organized is by principle. Under each principle are three guidelines. Each guideline then has a few supporting checkpoints. Each of the checkpoints in this chart are linked to further explanation. The three levels on the left-hand side, access, build, and internalize, speak to increasing levels of engagement of students with the learning materials. The checkpoints are what we use to identify the specific strategies we will employ as we design a specific learning experience. I have attached PDF copies in the “resources” section of the guidelines and the graphic organizer to this post.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the checkpoints to see how we might apply them. Some examples are below.
1 – Provide options for perception.
The mighty PDF. Quite ubiquitous in the higher-ed environment and at the core and inaccessible file. The PDF file format is technically an image. Even though we can see text, there isn’t any underlying text that may be manipulated. Optical character recognition, or OCR, is the process of identifying or extrapolating the text within an image. Adobe Acrobat Pro is one example of software that can do this for PDF documents. Once this process has been completed other options for interacting with the document become available. Such affordances are:
having the document read aloud – providing another mode of interaction. Toward this end there are programs, web tools, and mobile apps that can help facilitate this.
searching the text – making the document a study/research tool.
Redeeming time – the ability for a student to listen to the document on a mobile device allows the student to listen when they have time e.g. student athlete traveling to/from and event.
3.3 – Guide information processing and visualization.
Mind mapping or concept mapping provides a way for the student to organize information and make connections between the ideas.
5.1 – Use multiple media for communication.
Providing the student audio or video feedback allows tone and non-verbal cues to be communicated. Making this an option for students can provide assistance to those students who are better explaining ideas verbally than in writing.
5.2 – Use multiple tools for construction and composition.
Allowing students to create a podcast as an option to writing a research paper gives the students a creative alternative.
6.1 – Guide appropriate goal setting.
Providing time estimates for readings/materials supports the student in managing their own work, planning and prioritizing for when works best for them.
6.3 – Facilitate managing information and resources.
Chunking, or breaking a larger task or piece of information supports the student in managing the task and/or understanding the larger idea.
6.4 – Enhance capacity for monitoring progress.
Helping students to see their progress in a course can allow them to better assess their work and the learning they are doing. Course completion tracking in Moodle is a tool that could be leveraged to support this.
7.1 – Optimize individual choice and autonomy.
Providing alternative formats of course materials and providing options for assignments and activities support this checkpoint. Other strategies that may do so also are creation of class norms, collaborative assessment/rubric design in which the instructor and class work together to create the assessment or rubric.
7.2 – Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity.
Whose voices are represented? Are the materials relevant to all the learners? How can they made to be relevant?
8.1 – Heighten salience of goals and objectives.
The more an instructor can deliberately share of the “why” of the task/assignment/activity/process, the better the students will understand the importance of the said task/assignment/activity/process, and most importantly be more engaged and motivated in the learning process.
8.3 – Foster collaboration and community.
Shared class notes are a way to foster collaboration and to support students who may not be as strong in this area.
8.4 – Increase mastery-oriented feedback.
Providing learners feedback that a particular response is correct or incorrect really only provides limited information. Creating feedback that guides a student toward discovering the correct answer supports this checkpoint. Utilizing Moodle quiz feedback and the question bank are examples of a tool that an instructor might use.
9.3 – Develop self-assessment and reflection.
Including metacognitive prompts – “What worked?,” “What didn’t?,” “Why?,” “What would help you learn?” – Can support the student in taking control of their learning, knowing themselves better and provide them the means to identify and search after those things that help them the best/most.
Some things to keep in mind or questions to ask as you consider adapting a learning experience within the UDL framework:
What does this design change require? Technology? Time? Funds?
What are challenges against this design change?
How easily could this change be implemented in a course?
How might you assess the impact of the change?
The hour for the workshop went by very quickly. Everyone was able to get something out of the time together. One common thread was appreciation for the analogy of UDL being a “buffet” – providing options for the students to choose what they like and works best for them, versus differentiated instruction where you are making separate meals to fit each student. Others from the workshop voiced appreciation for the time and space to talk with peers about what colleagues are doing and realizing that they are dealing with a lot of the same issues.
This workshop was a great experience for me as a facilitator and I look forward to discussing these ideas further and working with instructors to implement these and other strategies into the teaching and learning experience.
Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom: Practical Applications (What Works for Special-Needs Learners) 1st Edition – Tracey E. Hall, Anne Meyers, David H. Rose Available in the Lawrence Library.
I am so excited to begin my work at Lawrence University! For the past eight years I have worked at Beloit College as Manager of Instructional Technology. In that role I administered and supported the college learning management system (Moodle), supported classroom technology, and assisted faculty in the planning and implementation of technology into the teaching and learning process. I am excited to work more closely with instructors in the planning of teaching and learning experiences. My goal is to create empathy in teaching and learning experiences. Creating empathetic learning experiences increases student engagement and sense of belonging.
The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework is one that can help instructors create empathetic experiences. I will be facilitating a UDL workshop Wednesday November 28, from 2-3 pm in Main 401. Stay tuned here for a workshop summary and resources.