Professor Sherry Lambertson
EDUC-6714D-2 Reaching and Engaging All Learners Through Technology
November 28, 2010
Universal Design for
What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?
Universal Design began in the field of Architecture (Laureate,
2009b) when builders realized that current methods for creating
access actually hindered certain groups of people, such as
the physically handicapped, from moving freely from place
Builders, encouraged by state and federal mandates,
began retrofitting buildings with elevators and access ramps,
and revamping sidewalks with curb cutouts in order to remove
barriers to access like stairs and curb walls. It was a very
expensive process and much more productive and cost
effective to incorporate Universal Design from the
beginning of the building process.
What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?
Adopted by the Center for
Applied Special Technology, or
CAST, Universal Design morphed
into the Universal Design for
Learning, or UDL, as a means to
transform the traditional one-size-
fits-all educational schema that is
designed to meet the needs of the
large middle, but tends to exclude
those with more diverse abilities,
learning styles and preferences, or
What is Universal Design for Learning
CAST understood that current educational practices
failed “to provide all individuals with fair and equal
opportunities to learn” (Cast, 2009a, p. 3) and that it
was not the students who needed to be fixed, but rather
it was the way in which they were being taught that
needed to change. Instead of maintaining the status
quo, UDL “focuses educators on developing flexible
curricula that provides students with multiple ways of
accessing content, multiple means for expressing what
they learn, and multiple pathways for engaging their
interest and motivation” (Howard, 2004) and, in turn,
increasing achievement because teachers are not just
imparting knowledge, rather the students are
constructing it themselves.
What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?
UDL has three guiding principles:
I) provide multiple means of representation,
II) provide multiple means of expression,
III) provide multiple means of engagement,
In this way, UDL allows educators to meet the
needs of all learners by building more flexibility
into materials, techniques and strategies so
that, from the beginning, the needs of
the greatest number of users are being met;
thus eliminating expensive and time-
consuming changes to curriculum
unnecessary once it is implemented.
Principle I: Provide Multiple Means of Representation
Because students differ in the way they view and comprehend
information, teachers should provide options for:
o Customizing the display of information through both visual and
• Graphic organizers
• Text to speech devices
o Defining and clarifying language and symbols
• Electronic dictionary
• Non-linguistic representations
o Implementing strategies that increase comprehension
• Activate prior knowledge (KWL)
• Highlight big ideas, key features, and important relationships
Principle II: Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
Because students differ in the way they navigate through any learning environment and in the way they
are able to express that they know, teachers should provide options for:
o Physical action and navigation through tools and assistive technologies
• Student response systems such as clickers or buzzers
• Manipulatives such as tanagram puzzles
• Interactive white boards
• Touch screens and keyboards
o Increasing expressive skills and fluency through scaffolding, tools, and problem solving
• Oral vs. written reports
• Digital storytelling
• Dioramas or visual art
• Concept mapping
• Spellcheckers and word prediction software
o Implementing executive functions
• Teaching how to set goals through guides and checklists
• Support planning and strategy development via templates or think-alouds
• Managing information and resources with organizers for data collection and guides for note-taking
• Ways to monitor progress using guided questions, charts or graphs, and self-reflection templates
Principle III: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement
Because students differ in the way they can be engaged and motivated to learn, teachers should provide options for:
o Recruiting interest through
• Providing choice and autonomy to increase self-determination, pride, and connection
• Enhancing relevance and authenticity to increase real-world value that means something to students
• Allowing active participation, exploration, and experimentation
• Reducing threats and distractions by increasing predictability of daily activities, using anticipation guides,
and varying the level of sensory stimulation
o Sustaining effort and persistence by
• Creating persistent display of goals
• Visualizing and scaffolding of desired outcomes
• Scheduling tools
• Fostering collaboration and communication
• Providing frequent feedback that emphasizes effort, improvement, and models positive strategies for future
o Allowing self-regulation by
• Guiding personal goal-setting and expectations
• Teaching coping skills and strategies
• Developing self-assessment and reflection skills
The “What” of UDL:
Key Ideas (Rose & Meyer, 2002):
Increased student diversity means a greater emphasis on standards and accountability and
makes it harder for teachers to help all students achieve.
Research into the learning brain exposes learner differences and how to effectively use
technology to increase motivation, engagement, and learning.
UDL maximizes rapidly evolving communication technologies to create flexible methods
and materials that can reach various types of learners in ways that are more effective.
By making methods and materials more flexible, learning opportunities are maximized not
just for students with identified disabilities, but also for every student.
UDL is not "just one more thing;" it is an vital element in improving student learning and
it is well-suited to be incorporated into other types of education reform.
“How” Do We Do It?
Technology, technology, technology
Children are diverse learners and need materials that adapt to their needs in ways that printed materials often cannot.
o Text to speech
o Digital highlighting and tagging
Using technology, learning experiences can be scaffolded and personalized so that students are learning content in ways that are most
effective for them.
o Digital storytelling
o Drill and practice software
o Hands on or kinesthetic learning
Technology allows more flexibility by providing students with alternative ways to engage with the content as well as ways to create
products and contribute to the classroom collective.
o Book blogs
o Pod casting
o Presentation software
Technology prepares students for the global marketplace by creating real-world connections with which they can apply what they are
learning to relevant contexts.
o Go to meeting or virtual meeting applications
o Online collaboration
How does UDL impact
UDL falls in line with Greater Southern Tier BOCES as an education service
organization driven by customer need and a commitment to excellence,
whose mission is to ensure the success of our diverse learners, parents, community
members, schools and businesses by providing collaboratively inspired,
cost-effective, quality program in an atmosphere that is safe and supportive. By
incorporating UDL into what we are already doing through career and vocational
programming, we can increase our ability to reach and teach every learner. In addition,
UDL will give teacher the knowledge, flexibility, and resources to build lessons that engage
and motivate even our most at risk students by providing them with the maximum
opportunity to learn
Brain Research and Learner Differences
Every student is different in the way that they learn. Some are
auditory; some are visual and some are kinesthetic. They can even be a
combination of two or more. These modalities affect how each is able to
access, comprehend, and apply the content being taught.
In addition, learning involves three connected networks (Department
of Education, 2010) within the brain that uniquely facilitate the learning
process based on an individual’s abilities, experiences, and modality of
learning: the recognition network, the strategic network, and the
affective network. Based on the type of task and the level of mastery,
the brain distributes information processing through these networks.
UDL Supports Diversity
UDL’s purpose is to reduce any barriers to the educational process and provide accommodations for
the needs of individual learners through the widest range of curricular materials possible
(Department of Education, 2010) in addition to flexibility in teaching approaches by
Providing multiple means to access the content
Providing multiple ways to express knowledge, opportunities for practices, and timely feedback
Providing students with choices of content and tools, activities and rewards
Word-processing vs. handwritten
Technology plays a central role in UDL’s ability to address and support the brain’s various
•Enable the learner to identify and recognize patterns in the environment in order to
attach meaning to them. Technology enables the teacher to provide multiple examples
through multiple modalities
•Tells the learner how to do things by carrying out specific actions. Technology enables
teachers to provide scaffolding through the use of various models and gives the student
more flexibility to show what they know via various means of expression
•Determines order of importance and provides motivation for learning based on student
emotional connection with the content. Technology provides a means to offer more
choice as well as a way to adjust the level of challenge for each student individually in
addition to providing a real world context for communication and collaboration.
Tools and Resources
CAST UDL Book Builder
Enables educators to develop their
own digital books to support reading
instruction literacy learning.
CAST UDL Lesson Builder
provides educators with models and
tools to create and adapt lessons that
increase access and participation in the
general education curriculum for all
•UDL Editions by CAST
•UDL Editions takes advantage of the
flexibility of digital media to reach and
engage all learners through leveled
supports. The Texthelp Toolbar balances
challenge and support for each learner,
ages 10 and up.
Center for Applied Special Technology. (2009a). UDL guidelines, version 1.0. Retrieved Nov. 18, 2010 from
Center for Applied Special Technology. (2009b). Educator Checklist. Retrieved Nov. 18, 2010 from
Department of Education. (2010). The access center: Using a universal design approach to find barriers and solutions in the curriculum.
Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved Nov. 26 from h
Howard, K. L. (2004). Universal design for learning: Meeting the needs of all students. International Society for Technology in Education, 31(5), 26–
29. Retrieved from the ERIC database.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009a). Brain research and universal design for learning: Reaching and engaging all learners t
hrough technology. Baltimore: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009b). Universal design for learning: Reaching and engaging all learners through technology.
Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision
and Curriculum Development. Reprinted by permission of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development via the
Copyright Clearance Center. Located at http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/