Sunday, December 4, 2011

Designing So the Universe Can Learn

image from

This week I have delved into the world of leveling the playing field in order for everyone to learn. For work, I was able to go to a wonderful professional development workshop in Des Moines this past Tuesday where the topic was Designing a Differentiated Lesson Plan. And, I have been studying UDL (Universal Design for Learning) in a class for my master's degree. The topics of differentiated instruction and UDL have a similar goal; for everyone to learn--everyone to win--no matter the path followed to get there.

The theory of differentiated instruction believes that teachers should differentiate content, process, product, affect, and learning environment according to student readiness, interest, and learning profile. The theory of UDL believes that teachers should provide multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement. As the definitions of all these words unfold in their own context, it becomes apparent that they bleed together into the same stream.

Given my interest in technology, I decided to take a look at some iPad apps that support universal design for learning in these ways. If you take a look at my Google Doc, you will find that I took two fairly common teaching situations in the world of elementary education. I described several possibilities for representation, expression, and engagement, including the implementatin of some iPad apps.  I "show and tell" some of the apps on this iTunes clip.

I strongly believe that almost any app could be considered "UDL," depending upon how it is used. I mentioned some basic recording apps, which could be used for students who are not able to type very well, students needing to record a lecture because they do not take notes well, auditory learners, shy students needing to vocalize, and on and on. I also mentioned some drawing apps, which could be used for students not working well with pencils, tactile learners, students needing something to "fidget" with, and on and on. Check out my Google Doc to see how I envisioned other apps being used, as well. Although all are not "traditional" assistive technologies, their purpose throws them into the realm of UDL. Helping the Universe to learn!


  1. I enjoyed your narrative and the video, Sara. And the situations and related apps you describe in the Google Doc should be very helpful for first and third grade teachers! There do seem to be a lot of similarities between UDL and differentiated instruction, as you mention. UDL does not recommend differentiating content, though, does it?

  2. Sara, what a coincidence that you had the two opportunities at the same time to learn the same content. I guess you are a winner since you get to learn about the some material with people with different approaches. I like the way you have outlined the different approaches that one would go through in different situation teaching different thing in your Google document. I agree with you that almost every app. could be used as a UDL tool, since there main work is for easy and fast access to information. This information is very interesting and educative. Thanks for sharing Sara.