Fighting the Anti-Guidelines: Bringing Your PD to the Next Level

Get your teaching PD to the next level

Alanis Morrissette penned the song, “Isn’t it ironic?” Not to date myself, but when I was in high school, my friends and I rocked out to that song. If I could go back in time, I would tell Alanis to add a line about UDL professional development. It would go something like this, “It’s like rain, on your wedding day.  It’s a free ride, when you already paid.  It’s the sit-and-get of UDL PD. Who would have thought? It figuuuuures.” (It’s catchy, isn’t it?) Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is best practice for all students because it focuses on providing

Inclusive Education: It’s Not the Students Who Are Disabled

Inclusive Education Part 3

The first organization to address the personalization of instruction for all students was the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). CAST is still going strong today. Their research on increasing outcomes for students with disabilities began in 1984, when they explored benefits of using emerging technology to make traditional education more accessible for all students. Working in classrooms with students, researchers at CAST quickly observed that these technology-based learning supports not only fostered inclusion and allowed students with disabilities to be educated with their peers, but the supports benefited the other students as well. In the early 1990’s, they began

UDL vs DI: The Dinner Party Analogy

UDL Provides a Buffet of Options

When I am presenting on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an education framework routed in offering options to students to help them take control of their own education, teachers often tell me they have been doing it already for years. I ask them to explain. What follows is often a description of Differentiated Instruction (DI). Like UDL, DI is also an education framework based on providing options to students. However, there are some critical differences that differentiate (pardon the pun!) the two frameworks from one another. The Dinner Party Analogy I like to explain the differences by asking teachers think

How UDL Will Capture a Classroom

Capture Your Classroom

  I grew up in a little town called Seekonk, Massachusetts. My childhood home was built on a dead end, abutting a forest perfect for a game of Capture the Flag. On summer nights, our neighborhood crew divided the woods into two territories and strategized for the ultimate prize, an old tattered towel fastened to a glow stick. We played the game night after night, perfecting our offense and defense, getting more confident and audacious as we navigated the woods in the dark, eventually climbing trees and jumping mosquito-laden streams to reach our goals. Eventually, I’d see the porch lights

A-Ha Moment about Assistive Technology

When working with educators on UDL implementation, there is one question that always comes up. “Is UDL effective for students with significant, intensive needs?” Today, Joy Zabala provides an emphatic “yes!” And believe me, if anyone knows this with certainty, it’s Joy. As the CAST web site notes, “Joy Zabala is a leading expert on the use of assistive technology (AT) to improve education for people with disabilities. As a technologist, special educator, teacher trainer, and conference speaker, Dr. Zabala has earned international recognition for her work on AT and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).” Although it’s critical that all students receive

UDL Engagement: Honoring Cultural Identity

“The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades…” Oh,Timbuk3, how right you were. Today, Dr. Liz Berquist asked us to don sunglasses as a metaphorical lens to see where our learners are coming from, understand them and the culture that defines them, and value who they are as people. After hearing her message, I am confident that if all educators could see their students through the cultural lens that Liz defined, the future would be much brighter. The essential question that guided this work, “How does your cultural identify connect to how you connect to your students?” The answer may be uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation we

Becoming an Expert Learner: Wait, What?

“Wait. What?” Wait. What? Translation: Stop for a moment. My brain needs some time to take this in, build comprehension, and determine what exactly is possible and what resources I need to get there.  Wait, what? is a moment when our minds feel blown, because they are. Our neural pathways, as they are currently constructed, need to take a detour. Neuroscience calls this brain plasticity. Educators, we call this learning. Today’s keynote at the BCSC UDL Institute was given by rockstar teacher, Dr. Jon Mundorf, aka, Fundorf (check him out on Twitter). His message – becoming an resourceful, knowledgeable learner is best exemplified by

UDL, Expert Learners, and the 36 Ton Machine

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to the fabulous Loui Lord Nelson, author of Design and Deliver, discuss the characteristics of an expert learner – by sharing an analogy about the “Best. Birthday Present. Ever.” To provide some background, UDL is all about teaching students how to become expert learners. Knowledge is at our fingertips – Google, Siri, and countless other apps can provide us with knowledge that used to be reserved for only the “great students” of their day. Now, we live in a world that “knowledge” in isolation is rather meaningless. Our task, as educators, is to teach students what to

Gent: Laying the Foundation for UDLL

Tomorrow I have the opportunity to keynote the UDLL Conference: A European Perspective on UDL, in Gent, Belgium. This collaboration, which includes 170 ambassadors from 11 countries in Europe, is a testament to what Universal Design really means. The principles and Guidelines of UDL apply to all learners around the world and prove that best practices in education have no geographical borders. UDL is built on a foundation that all learners are different, and yet they are the same. Regardless of variability or place of origin, all learners need a motivating environment with embedded options for engagement, representation, and action and expression. The European perspective,

UDL and Growth Mindset

We are all familiar with the classic child’s tale, The Little Engine That Could. Her mantra, which has become a cliche in the world of perseverance, “I think I can, I think I can,” is a valuable message that we, as educators, need to embrace. Our district is finalizing our five year district strategy; one area of focus is the importance of growth mindset for all stakeholders, and I’m taking this to heart. Growth mindset, the work of Carol Dweck, renowned Stanford professor, is based on the simple premise that as humans, we are much more likely to succeed if we believe that