Sunday, July 20, 2014

Learning is Unique for Everyone!

Teachers have the responsibility of ensuring progress in academic standards, while still protecting and addressing the individual needs of students with disabilities. There were 87,233 students serviced with learning disabilities in the 2010-11 school year in the state of Colorado from ages 3 - 21.  This number continues to increase yearly and clearly indicates that learning is unique for all students.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) seeks to improve instruction for all the needs of diverse learners by building flexibility into the curriculum.  This improved instruction includes a blend of technology capabilities that need to be readily available in schools.  Learning about the principles behind UDL and applying them can change perceptions among educators.  All students can benefit from teachers using this UDL model.  UDL training has impacted how educators viewed accommodations and their impact on all learners.  Specifically for general educators, UDL training influenced how they viewed the impact accommodations can have on all students. (Wyndham, 2011)
The technology tools available today provide a range of opportunities for teachers to meet the needs of diverse students within inclusive environments. Using the UDL framework provides students with more accessibility and opportunity for academic success. This broad framework focuses on building choice and flexibility within instructional practices that are used for all students.  Capitalizing on available current technology tools can help meet these goals.  UDL looks different in each classroom where it is implemented based on the strengths and needs of individual students. UDL is based in neuroscience and brain research and utilizes technology advances to improve instruction, but it is not a technology-only approach. Teachers without the latest technological tools in their classrooms can still embrace and apply a UDL approach.
The three key components of universal design for learning are: multiple representations of information, alternative means of expression, and varied options for engagement.
An example of using multiple representation of information would be captions on video or text for audio material as well as the use of video and animation to convey concepts. This is demonstrated in my video about getting ideas for student’s personal narratives.  I used the closed caption tool from YouTube’s editor to complete this process.  Examples of alternative means of expression include options to record oral speech, to draw, or to present ideas through a dramatic presentation. This is demonstrated in my presentation lesson of students telling of their story, retelling story and finally recording their story.  Students can be motivated if content, level of challenge, and the supported activities involve choice or can be changed. Effective feedback using formative and summative assessments can also provide multiple ways for students to see success, stay engaged and challenge their learning. Part of the lesson I developed adds the formative assessment of reflection by peers and by self to improve their story even before they begin to write.  
Universal design can enhance performance for all students in the classroom.  However, it can become a bridge for students with mild disabilities to participate on a more level playing field than peers who are more successful with printed text.  For students with severe disabilities, universally designed lessons can mean the difference between participation in the classroom setting and a pull out scenario.
    Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age:  Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Wyndham, Scott M. (2010). School faculty perceptions of the use of technology to accommodate diverse learners: a universal design for learning framework pg. 197-212
      U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, selected years, 1992 through 2006, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, retrieved May 12, 2013, from National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal