This week the focus of our efforts was to explore UDL, Universal Design for Learning. Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn (http://www.cast.org/udl/). This is important in the classroom because educators want all students to be successful no matter what physical or learning disabilities they may have. The goal for this week was to revamp my Maker Experiment #1 to meet the guidelines provided for UDL (View guidelines here: https://sites.google.com/site/udlguidelinesexamples/home).
I have the advantage that the college I teach at has a whole department devoted to disabilities. The disabilities services department provides any resources that students may need in the classroom or at home. They also facilitate communication with instructors so that the instructor knows the specific challenges a student may have and what resources the student needs. In the case of deaf students, ASL interpreters are provided for deaf students in the classroom.
I currently make all lecture materials available to my students in audio format, written format, and provide images or examples. The written format is pdf, which is accessible for text readers (Find out more: http://wwwimages.adobe.com/www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/accessibility/products/acrobat/pdfs/acrobat-xi-accessibility-checker.pdf). This allows all students to have their choice of method to view the information. Additionally, students are provided with a weekly reading sheet each week that focuses on what vocabulary, people, and other highlights are important for the week. I would add an electronic resource that would include written definitions of important terminology along with images and audio files to support all learning styles.
In general, I believe the activity I designed meets most of the UDL guidelines. However, I would make some key adjustments to better facilitate learner success.
- Add more explanation of the Makey Makey including hands on demonstration in class and showing a completed project from start to finish.
- Break the project into four stages: initial concept, planning, production, and final presentation. This will help make the task more manageable and allow them to have smaller success along the way. It also allows for more self-regulation.
The activity itself was flexible enough to allow customization for each group’s individual skills and abilities and was designed to be hands on. By working in groups chosen by student interests and skill levels, the students have the ability to choose a solution that interests them and perform the tasks they excel at while having group members to perform the tasks they may not enjoy or excel at. Students will receive feedback from myself along the way as well as assistance at the level and frequency each individual group needs.
The biggest change to the activity was to add additional resources at the beginning of the activity to better introduce the Makey Makey in order to increase student success. The activity itself was already flexible enough to tailor it to individual students and groups based on their interests and skill sets. Design assignments are generally open enough for students to tailor to their own perspective. I encourage students to pursue solutions that interest them. However, we do discuss the role of clients and having to work within constraints.
Overall, the exploration of UDL has triggered some thoughts on how to better work with the students that are extreme outliers on the low skill set end. The high performers were always easy for me to work with, but the other extreme pose quite a challenge. I identify better with the high performers than the other so I am better able to adjust for them. It was good to see that many of the tools I use with my students by providing multiple ways to get the material are actually beneficial from a pedagogical standpoint. Unlike many others in my class, I do not have the same pedagogical training. I do follow my instincts and actively seek feedback from students to help improve my classes. I evaluate what is working and what isn’t. It also helps that I have department on campus to support me when dealing with students with disabilities. I look forward to putting this to work in the future.
“CAST: Universal Design for Learning.” CAST: About UDL. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cast.org/udl/>.
“UDL guidelines examples.” UDL guidelines examples. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <https://sites.google.com/site/udlguidelinesexamples/home>.
“Using the Acrobat XI Pro Accessiblity Checker.” Adobe.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <http://wwwimages.adobe.com/www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/accessibility/products/acrobat/pdfs/acrobat-xi-accessibility-checker.pdf>.