I struggled with UDL and I wanted and needed to simplify things so that I could better understand its principles. I differentiated the 3 in the following ways:
* Representation – different ways learners perceive and comprehend information, allowing them to make connections to the big ideas
*Expression – ways in which learners navigate their learning environment and express what they know; involved planning (strategy), practice, and organization
* Engagement – various ways learners are engaged or motivated to learn
And since my optimal learning takes place when things are organized and easy to follow, I thought I would outline the seven guiding principles of UDL and provide an explanation of each character as well as demonstrate how I have applied it to my lesson re-re-creation.
7 Guiding Principles of UDL
#1: Flexibility in Use – “evident when teachers design instruction that accommodates a wide range of students’ preferences and abilities” (King-Sears 2009).
The subject of this project is the individual student and there are no specifications as to what they need to use in order to present their information. The assignment is created to work with an easy subject matter, one that students will not find to difficult. It is also used to assess how versed students are in technology use. This project welcomes all range of students preferences and abilities and celebrates that while helping to make the connections to the big idea, which is about the culture and expectations of the learning community.
#2: Equitable Use – useful for learners with diverse, varied abilities
One element I find helpful to me personally is a map of a project telling me the plan – expectations, goals, deadlines, etc. Students are given an information handout which is also available on the web and discussed in class. This project utilizes a plethora of methods so that it is accessible by all types of learners. The emphasis is on working at ones comfort level/abilities but also being challenged and working through areas of discomfort in a safe environment.
#3: Perceptible Information – “varied ways to present and practice curriculum content, including the use of illustrations, tactile experiences, visible contrasts of essential content from supporting details, and precise and clear language” (King-Sears 2009).
Information is presented clearly in a visual, verbal, and technological manner in order to support different learners. Students are also welcome to present information in any way they choose. There are no regulations or requirements about how they use and incorporate technology either. The emphasis is on the connection made from their project to understanding how they contribute to the culture of a strong, healthy learning community and what the expectations are to maintain it.
#4: Tolerance for Error – “design that takes students through instructional processes when errors are made” (King-Sears 2009).
While there are no errors to be made in this project, students can easily get off track. Students can be geared back and refocus by the accountability of the project mapping sheet. Another means used is assessing student progress and direction through polleverywhere.com. With it being the beginning of the term, students are likely to be more shy and not ask questions in clas. Using something like polleverywhere.com allows students to openly ask questions for understanding and make comments while saving face and protecting themselves. The time in the computer lab also lends itself to be a perfect time to touch base with each student to assess how he or she are doing with the individual project.
#5: Simple and Intuitive – “content is presented in ways that are straightforward and considerate of students’ background knowledge, language skills, and concentration levels” (King-Sears 2009).
Since the subject is the student, there is nothing too difficult. Students can choose to use visual images in their presentations or use words. It is up to them how much they want to challenge themselves with the activity. Students will be given access to a number of different examples, if needed. The various ways the content is presented helps make this simple and accessible to most all students.
#6: Low Physical Effort – “designing activities and materials that are efficient and comfortable to use, so that students are not needlessly fatigued when learning” (King-Sears 2009).
This activity is a great term opener that excites students. It is not overwhelming and it can be completed using existing knowledge. The activity is not too long nor is it too short. It incorporates different means of communication and exploration and guides primes students so that they can successfully present their materials and connections.
#7: Size and Space for Approach and Use – “ensure that the size of the content is large enough for students seated in different areas of the room to see the content” (King-Sears 2009).
Students will be shown the videos and examples on the class projector, which can be viewed from every seat in the classroom. Students will also have access to all the information presented in class on the class website to be able to review them subsequently.
New, Improved, Revised Re-Re Creation “Who I Am” Activity
My conclusion about UDL: this was probably the most difficult task because it made me think about things in such different ways. We are so creatures of habit that to analyze things from a different perspective completely shuts us down. This course is intended to re-wire us in a sense, so it should be challenging. While struggling through this, I thought that this was necessary because it allowed everyone to have equal opportunity and equal education. The difficulty came because I was attempting to retrofit. I kept thinking over and over again if all of this would have been easier had I followed the UDL guidelines and checklist to begin with. I remember reading in one of our readings that retrofitting in design is much more difficult, much more costly, and is not as aesthetically pleasing as something creating using universal design. I do think there is truth in this.
My takeaway: Instead of retrofitting, I will attempt to use universal design in the creation of new lessons, projects, activities, etc. I will also work on revamping and restoring some of my already existing lessons and units so that they do meet the needs of the universal learning community.