This past week I read through the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). It’s one of those simple-sounding theories that actually requires an awful lot to unpack and apply. If I can try to boil it down to one sentence, it’s all about doing whatever is possible to individualize curriculum so that every student can access it, no matter what learning differences or disabilities they may have. And just like sidewalk ramps were intended for wheelchairs but are useful for many other types of people (e.g. someone pushing a baby stroller), if you make your curriculum accessible to students with learning disabilities it will be better for different types of learners as well (UDL Center 2011, p. 3). It’s helpful to think that it’s not the learners how are disabled but rather the curriculum. The best way to get a better handle on UDL would be to explore this website.
So how do I cut some sidewalk ramps into my Current Events Video Game Console Project and make it more accessible for everyone? How do I “power up” my project? (Read more about the project here and here.) While using these UDL guidelines to assess my Maker Experiment, I realized that this project has many strengths already but still has room to improve.
The first thing that I realized is that my project is already a great fit with many areas of UDL. For example Guideline 5 focuses on giving students multiple opportunities for expression and communication. This project relies on group collaboration (which will be both written and verbal) to produce an extremely multimedia product (a video game that is housed inside of a custom-designed console). Guideline 7 is about giving students multiple options for interest; how much more optimized can choices get than “choose anything from current events to focus on”, and how much more relevant that current events can Social Studies be?
But I also have some areas to improve the UDL of the project. First, I need my students to be aware of all the different types of options that they have for accessing information about current events. They could watch a video, view a photo slideshow, or even access events in different languages! But I think that most of them still view the process as one where they have to read an article. So I will make sure to encourage the use of different media when finding events to link up with Guideline 1 (provide options for perception) and Guideline 2 (provide options for language, mathematical expressions, and symbols).
Here’s an annotated screencap showing all the different options for accessing information that I’m talking about – click on the image to view the annotations.
The second area where I want to adapt my activity revolves around executive functioning. I will ask each group to complete the following initial check-in before they start to work on their final project:
1) What type of approach will your group take? ADDIE or Rapid Prototyping? (Guideline 6)
2) What extra research about your topic have you done to make sure that you have a strong background knowledge? (Guideline 3.1)
3) How will you measure success? (Guideline 9.3)
4) How will you stay on track as an individual to help the team? (Guideline 9.2)
Answering these questions at the initial phase of the project will help each team develop their own internal checklists for monitoring progress and measuring success.
I have to admit that when I first drafted this project idea I didn’t think that there would be any chance that I would actually do it. It seemed like it would take way too much time and effort and was a bit too “far out there” even for me. But the more I tinker with it based on Instructional Design and now UDL I am really hoping that I will have the chance to do it. But that means I need to spend a lot more time with my Raspberry Pi! What a great problem to have!
UDL Center. (2011). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.0. National center on universal design for learning. Retrieved February 23, 2013, from http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/UDL_Guidelines_Version_2.0_(Final)_3.doc