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U is for Universal Design

is for
       Universal
                     Design

Teachers look at your classroom:  No REALLY TAKE A GOOD LOOK!

Look at all of the diverse learners in your classroom:

  • Cultural 
  • Gender
  • English Language Learners/English as Second Language Learners
  • Learners with Physical Disabilities or Impairments
  • Learners with Cognitive impairments
  • Students with Learning Disabilities
  • Gifted and Talented Learners
How many of the above labels fit students in your classroom.  How do you teach them?  How do you diversify your instruction among the students so that they will do well on the state tests?  Well enough so that you will not have to worry about your job next year?

I have always bought into the theory that we teach students in the manner that they learn best.

Which is differentiated instruction, right?  Not really. 

 “Differentiated instruction is not a collection of teaching strategies. . .there is not now way to differentiate instruction.  Instead, successful differentiation is grounded in strong content knowledge, effective pedagogy, and knowledge about the individual differences of your students. (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2012).” 



I know my students, my content and how to teach. Great!  How do you teach and when you do how many of your strategies are effective for your students?  Differentiated insertion is personalize and customized learning. “The key to differentiation is providing flexibility and choice in terms of the content and processes you use in your classroom and the products that the students creat to demonstrate their learning (Cennamo,. . 2012).” Technology is a great asset, a great tool to use when a teacher needs to differentiate among their students, especially when there are 30 of them and 1 of you.

The Center for Applied Special Technologies (CAST) has been promoting universal design (UDL).  It a concept that was originally a building concept.  People began designing building so that all types of individuals could access the building.  A ramp was included in the design so that people who use wheelchairs could access the building, but also parents with small children, parents with strollers and people who, for some reasons, had a hard time using stairs.  As you can see, the purpose was to use the ramp to help people in wheelchairs and other people who has special needs used it as well. 

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences proposed that people had many different types of intelligences (ways they learn best), even though they had a dominant intelligence.  UDL expands on that concept by basing their guidelines on the multifaceted nature of the brain, specifically the recognition, strategic, and affective networks, (Cinnamon, 2012) As a teacher you develop learning goals for your students either individually, as a team, or as part of an individual education plan. True differentiation does not “dumb down” the curriculum or make a plan for each student. UDL “emphasizes that achieving outcomes should not be contingent upon the media or methods used to achieve them, but focuses on removing  barriers to learning. 

Assistive Technology  continuum provides low tech devices such as shelf liners, clothespins, sticky notes,  med tech assistive technology that require some sort of chargers such as tape recorders, CD players, all the way up to high tech assistive technologies that can be customized to fit the students needs. (think Stephen Hawkins wheelchair and communication devices)

Cast and the National Center on Response to Intervention provide many ways to customize and personalize instruction.  The set up on the front end takes a lot of time, but benefits of UDL outweigh the time and will provide you with more time to work with the students in the long run.

Resources:
Tomlinson, C.A. & McTighe, J. (2006). Integrating Diferentiated Instruction: Understanding by Design. ACSD publishing Alexandria, VA

Cennamo, K.S., Ross, J.D., & Ertmer, P.A.(2012) 2nd Ed. Technology Integration for meaningful Classroom Use: A standards-based Approach. Wadsworth Engage learning.

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