- Recognition networks: the gathering of facts that enable us to identify and categorize what we see, hear, and read; the ability to identify letters, words, or an author's style are recognition tasks"the "what" of learning.
- Strategic networks: planning and performing tasks; how we organize and express our ideas; writing an essay or solving a math problem are strategic tasks"the "how" of learning.
- Affective networks: how students are engaged and motivated, how they are challenged, excited, or interested; these are affective dimensions"the "why" of learning.
Universal Design for Learning
Educators are challenged to teach all kinds of learners to high standards, yet a single classroom may include students who struggle to learn for any number of reasons, including: Learning disabilities, English language barriers, emotional or behavioral problems, lack of interest or engagement, or sensory and physical disabilities. Teachers want their students to succeed, but a one-size-fits-all approach to education simply does not work. How then can teachers respond to these individual differences and needs?
The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) has created a solution called Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which provides a blueprint for creating flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments that accommodate learner differences. "Universal" does not imply a single optimal solution for everyone. Instead, it is meant to underscore the need for multiple approaches to meet the needs of diverse learners. UDL mirrors the universal design movement in architecture and product development. Think of speakerphones, curb cuts, and close-captioned television"all universally designed to accommodate a wide variety of users, including those with disabilities. Embedded features that help those with disabilities eventually benefit everyone. UDL uses technology's power and flexibility to make education more inclusive and effective for all.
UDL is based on the most current understanding of how the human brain processes information.
- Multiple means of representation to give learners variousways of acquiring information and knowledge
- Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
- Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners' interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn
The Teaching Every Student (TES) section of the CAST Web site offers a hands-on opportunity for educators to learn about and implement UDL activities and strategies.
Our guest today is Dr. David Rose.In 1984, David Rose helped to found CAST with a vision of expanding opportunities for all students, especially those with disabilities, through the innovative development and application of new technologies, resulting in the development of the theory and practical framework of Universal Design for Learning.
Specializing in developmental neuropsychology and in the universal design of learning technologies, Dr. Rose lectures at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he has been on the faculty for twenty years. He has been the lead researcher on a number of U.S. Department of Education grants and is currently the principal investigator of two national centers created to develop and implement the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS).
Dr. Rose is the co-author with Anne Meyer of the books Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning (ASCD, 2002) and Learning to Read in the Computer Age (Brookline, 1998), and the author of numerous articles. Dr. Rose is also coeditor, with Anne Meyer and Chuck Hitchcock, of the book, The Universally Designed Classroom: Digital Technologies and Accessible Curriculum (Harvard Education Press, 2005). He is a frequent speaker at regional and national educational conferences.
An author of Scholastic’s highly successful Literary Place and WiggleworksÂ®, Dr. Rose has worked as a consultant for Houghton-Mifflin, Scholastic, Tom Snyder Productions, EBSCO Publishing, Pearson, Sopris West, and other publishers. He has also testified before the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education, and regularly advises state departments of education on policies related to the education of students with disabilities.
Dr. Rose holds a B.A. in psychology from Harvard College, a master's in teaching from Reed College, and a doctorate in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
Let's begin with the first question.
Read more about David Rose Ed.D.
Question from Daniel C., concerned parent, Long Island, NY:
I think the idea of universal design makes perfect sense. School topics SHOULD be taught in ways that are inviting and interactive and give every student a chance to learn in the style and with feedback that suits them best. What I don't understand is how, as a parent, I can get my daughter's school to 'get with the program'. If they are using printed texts and workbooks, isn't it asking too much to have everything converted into digital formats? Wouldn't this switch to teaching using technology be prohibitive in cost? And what do you suggest I (as a vocal parent) say or do?
Dr. David Rose:
We have started to reconceptualize this problem a bit. We are beginning to speak about schools as having "print disabilities." They are limited in the kinds of learning and teaching that they can do because of their print disabilities. The disability limits them in three ways:
- First, it limits them in WHO they can teach, in the kinds of students with whom they can hope to have success. Students with LD are the victims of this kind of school-based disability.
- Second, it limits them in WHAT they can be successful in teaching. Many subjects, math and science for example, are poorly taught in a textbook-dominated manner, for any student.
- Third it limits them in HOW they are preparing students for their future. Students who are taught primarily in a world of print are not being prepared for the literacies and tools that will be critical for their future. No one believes that modern technologies are unimportant for their future literacy, but schools are the one place that acts as it does.
So, schools need to "get with the program" of overcoming their print disabilities - they need to move into this century where the students are already living.
I say all this because it is not just that your school needs to "get with the program" in order to be effective with your daughter, it is that the school needs to get with the program to overcome its own disabilities. That is worth doing, for every single student.
(I will answer the specific cost question you asked in another answer, I first wanted to address what the real reason for upgrading technology is - it is not just for your daughter or students with LD, it is everyone's child.)
Question from Stewart Hudson, President, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation:
Where has the UDL approach been studied in practice such that we know it is effective with student populations such as those students who have learning disabilities? What grade levels are appropriate for UDL approaches involving computer technology?
Dr. David Rose:
There is a great deal of research and practice on UDL that is going on right now, but the field is still in its early childhood (I think it is perhaps correct to think it has left its infancy stage.) There is no perfect UDL classroom, school, or district to study experimentally.
Instead, UDL is being studied in parts. Much of what goes into UDL is based on decades of research - the new instances of UDL are merely taking advantage of that research in new formats and environments.
The problem is that UDL is not just a matter of specific tools, practices, technology or even training - it is a matter of a paradigm shift that moves away from traditional schooling in several important ways at once. Certainly there is a concentration on modern technology, but any technology is not sufficient (or even completely necessary) for UDL. What is necessary is a paradigm shift that recognizes several important deficits in the present paradigm.
First, UDL requires a shift in orientation away from the idea that we are trying to produce "standardized" students - students that emerge from schooling more alike than when they entered. Instead, UDL is based on the reality and importance of individual differences. Children really are different, and the culture as a whole values those differences even if schools don't. One of the core values of schooling has to be not to homogenize students, but to identify their unique strengths and weaknesses. The former needs to be amplified, the latter minimized. Too often only the latter is addressed in present schools and we fail to take advantage of the richness that individual students bring, and mainly we fail to prepare them for their future.
Second, UDL places the locus of disability in the environment as much as the child. Most schooling identifies disabilities in the child because they are seeking a "standardized" child that can be taught in the same way as all other children, an assembly line view of child development. UDL requires the view that the school also has disabilities, and the curriculum is the first place to look for disabilities. Where in the curriculum are the disabilities that make children victims?
There are several other important differences that will come out in these answers but let me return to your question. Since there are no perfect UDL schools or teachers, not even us, we have no definitive "whole-cloth" studies. Instead, what we have are many different approximations of UDL, all of them worth further study and improvement. Research is going on about specific kinds of programs, specific techniques, even specific populations like LD or autism. But there are yet no studies of the perfect "whole-cloth" UDL district, classroom, or teacher. Yet.
As for the grade level, there are UDL approaches being developed at every grade level throughout schooling. One of the areas growing most rapidly is post-secondary, for instance. The technology available, and the urgency because consumers are spending tens of thousands of dollars,tends to make progress at college and university a bit easier.
Question from Jean M. Buckley, Teacher, Long Branch Public Schools:
I am a PK-4 teacher with 15 students in a public school setting. 75 % of the children are Hispanic. My curriculum is very weak with support for introducing letter sounds, ID and ID of numbers and number values. I am receiving pressure from the district to get the children ready for Kindergarten. I am very interested in your work. How do I meet the needs and the learning differences of my population? Thank you.
Dr. David Rose:
Yikes, it's been a long time since I taught pre-school, but I really did a long time ago and it was the hardest teaching I ever did! There are better people at CAST to answer your question so I am afraid I will be a weak link.
Basically all of the principles of UDL apply to the preschool population, and to students who are English language learners (in fact we are now engaged in a large Institute for Educational Sciences research project on ELL students right now). What is different is the emphasis.
When we are teaching older students, we often have to scaffold the basic skills of reading and writing for struggling learners. That gives them the support they need to continue learning, and even to learn at high levels although their basic skills are lacking.
For younger students, it is often useful to scaffold in just the opposite way - that is, scaffolding the higher level skills so that they can make progress faster on the lower level skills.
We have been recently working on making supportive reading environments for students with cognitive disabilities - students who are "reading" at primer and pre-primer levels. In those books, we scaffold the meaning (like by providing embedded videos that help students understand the story, learn the vocabulary, etc.) so that they can more successfully learn to decode the words. It is really hard to learn to decode if you don't know the vocabulary, don't have any idea what the story is about, etc.
The main point is that the same well-constructed books can provide many different kinds of support for students at very different levels, helping them focus on what they need to learn, just like those expensive exercise machines that allow you to concentrate on your arms or your tummy, depending on what you need.
But these books are only in research and prototypes now, and will come out commercially only in a year or two. Luckily, you can make your own electronic books and make them talk and have embedded mentoring by digital avatars - we have a bookmaker available on the CAST Web site. It is free and, in time, there will be lots of free books for you to use from other teachers. It has just been launched and is undergoing a little fix-up, so wait a few weeks, then come use it. We've been having teachers and parents use the bookmaker for many months now and they are making really cool things.
But there are many things to do, and many curricula available, that are not electronic, or not even UDL. I'm not much help on that - but all of the publishers are rushing to meet the need for pre-K curricula that do what you ask. But the big question is what is most important for you to do right now?
The most important need is not letter sounds and letter ID (although that will be important). The most important thing you can do is to get your students engaged in, and motivated, by reading. All of the decoding skills will soon fade if students don't actually care deeply about wanting to read. So, in my opinion, the first priority is to read a lot to your children, engage them prolifically in reading, even heavily-supported reading, that makes meaning and stimulates them to read more.
In UDL, there are only three principles. The third, and many would say most important, is about providing multiple means of engagement. It is a critical principle, for without engagement, successful learning just doesn't happen. The key to teaching reading is to find things that students are really, really, interested in reading. Even the most disabled readers learn under those conditions (see research by Rosalie Fink from Harvard, a former student of mine).
Question from RP, South Bend, IN:
Now that NIMAS is officially written into federal law, I have 2 questions: 1. how is it going to be implemented? (will there be incentives for school districts to convert their curricula and materials into UDL formats?) 2. do you think it will have any immediate impact (benefit) for kids with LD? (I imagine that students with physical and sensory impairments are likely to get attention first) Thank you.
Dr. David Rose:
On the implementation of NIMAS:
NIMAS will, fortunately or unfortunately depending on where you live, be implemented differently in different states and districts. For lots of information about NIMAS, I suggest the NIMAS resource page. Most of your questions are answered there - the FAQ may be most helpful.
On LD Students and NIMAS:
As for LD students, many are clearly intended to benefit from NIMAS. Students with a reading disability clearly qualify, but only if there is an organic basis. That is, they must be diagnosed by a competent medical authority as having a reading disability. Students who have other types of learning disabilities (e.g. ADHD, dycalculia, etc.) and students who are struggling readers because of poor teaching, social circumstances, etc. are clearly NOT authorized users. (We hope that these other groups will soon have NIMAS-like versions sold directly from the publishers as part of natural market forces. Only qualified users are entitled to them without charge.)
There is clearly a lot of concern from the LD community about having a medical authority involved. And different states clearly have different views and precedents on how they vet learning disabilities. This area is a little gray now, but check out the NIMAS site for continuing updates. I am, along with others, writing a white paper on this topic right now and that too will appear on the NIMAS website.
Question from Ellen Johnson, part-time reading aide, Gr.3:
Someone told me that printed books for people with disabilities were like "stairs" because they are filled with information but not accessible unless you can use them to get to where you want to go. I can see why this might be so for people with physical disabilities, but with books on tape and other types of audio-based listening opportunities, why would universally-designed materials (is that what you would call them?) be helpful to people with LD or dyslexia?
Dr. David Rose:
I never heard that analogy before, but I like it. Indeed books for many students are like stairs that they can't use to get anywhere.
Books on tape and other types of audio-based listening opportunities are important ways to make books more accessible - they are like putting a ramp in the building so that individuals with disabilities can get to the right floor. Such retrofitting is necessary, but costly, often ruins the design or integrity of the building, and often is not very accessible.
So, as you ask, why do we need universally designed books? The advantage of universally designed books is that the books are designed to support students of many abilities right from the start. Just like designing a building with ramps and elevators right from the start - its cheaper, better designed, more accessible, etc.
What does a universally designed book do better? Well, you don't have to find a tape for it, because the book is a talking book right from the start. But more importantly, there are many options for how it can support struggling readers (it can also sound out words, provide strategy support, vocabulary help, etc.). All of these supports are built in. The downside of books on tape, etc. is that it is often hard for students to follow where they are in the book and many students stop trying to read: they just listen. Since we want them to continue learning to read, that is not a good thing.
In the universally designed version, students can point at any word to hear it spoken aloud. That helps them just when they want it. Or, if they need more help, they can have the book read aloud automatically (like the audiotape) but the words are highlighted as they are spoken. That helps students follow the text and encourages them to both read and listen, not just listen.
And, better than the audiotape, the universally designed books can read fast or slow or inbetween - at whatever pace is just right for the student.
But, we have found that the other supports than read alouds - like built-in supports that help students with comprehension strategies or building vocabulary - are just as important for students with dyslexia.
If you want to see a commercial example of what these new kinds of books are like, ask for a demo version from Scholastic, they're called Thinking Readers. Just as a coincidence, one of the books they have done is Bridge to Tarabithia, the movie version of which is just out this week.
Also, both Recording for Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) and Bookshare now produce electronic books that provide capability for both text and speech - they will rapidly replace books on tape which will seem too limited.
But iPods, and what else is ahead?
Question from Samantha Leigh, undergraduate student in education, TX:
Is audio captioning considered to be part of universal design for learning?
Dr. David Rose:
Yes. One of the principles is called "multiple means of representation" - meaning that we need to provide information in multiple ways to ensure that it is accessible to everyone. Providing captions for speech, verbal descriptions for images, and spoken language for text are examples of multiple representations. It's like providing stairs AND ramps or elevators to make sure everyone can get in the building. We're just a little behind in education.
Question from Sam Castiglione, Career Assessment Specialist, MD Workforce & Technology Center:
How can UDL practices be reconciled with recent trends from major testing companies and some colleges for documentation showing need for specific reasonable accommodations connected to specific functional limitations for LD students or test takers?
Dr. David Rose:
There are two ways to answer this question. The first way is to assume that the tests are themselves valid, accurate, and reliable instruments for their purposes. Under that assumption, then anything done to alter the test is potentially damaging to its validity, accuracy and reliability. Not a good thing. Under that circumstance, it is certainly wise to limit the number of students who have access to any kind of alteration to the test or testing situation. From a UDL perspective, that is also true; it is unwise to try to alter or accommodate the test for specific students. There is little doubt that such accommodations would undermine the test's psychometric properties and it is less likely that you would get an accurate measure of a student's progress or present knowledge.
The second way to answer your question is to stop and ask whether present testing instruments are in fact valid, accurate and reliable for their purposes. On the face of it, it is clear that they do not have those qualities for students who have disabilities - that is, they are not in fact valid, accurate or reliable. Most testing instruments have not been normed or validated for use with students who have disabilities - they are not designed for them and their use with students for whom they are not designed or validated is even more unwise. Accommodations are necessary because of limitations in the test, not students. They are a Band-Aid because the tests have problems.
So, to answer your question, the real answer is that testing instruments need to be universally designed. That is, they need to be designed and researched to ensure that they are in fact valid, accurate and reliable for the full population of students who will be taking them. Post production accommodations are not a good fix. The tests themselves are not designed properly for their purpose and they need to be revised, for everyone.
Is this likely to happen? Yes. And I will tell you why. The test publishers are already working on universally designing their test. Some of them are working with CAST because they know that their tests are inadequate to meet the challenge of diversity, out-of-date in terms of what we now know about individual differences. Even more encouraging is this week's publication of the report of the Commission on NCLB. In that document (which is not focused on students with disabilities), one of the clear recommendations is that states adopt universal design plans for their future assessment needs. You can bet the test publishers are already working on meeting that need!
Post hoc accommodations are a temporary, and inadequate, Band-Aid. It will be better for ALL students when we have universally designed instruments that are in fact valid, reliable, and accurate for all students.
Dr. Sheldon Horowitz (Moderator):
There are many fine (free!) resources available for those who would like more information about the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Here are a few:
Software-based Learning Supports for LD Students in the General Ed Classroom
This Webinar was co-hosted by NCLD and CEC in October 2006 and had more than 500 pre-registered participants. Featured experts were:
- Dr. Margaret Bausch (assistant professor of assistive technology at the University of Kentucky and co-principal investigator of the National Assistive Technology Research Institute (NATRI)
- Dr. John Castellani (assistant professor and program director at John Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education)
- Dr. David Rose (Co-founder and Co-director of CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology), principal investigator of the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) and the NIMAC, and Lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education
- Dr. Patrick Proctor (assistant professor of literacy and language arts at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College)
Topics discussed included:
- The academic needs of the LD student in the regular classroom
- The IDEA 2004 Regulations on "appropriate and accessible instructional materials"
- The meaning of "appropriate and accessible" curriculum?
- How an "accessible" curriculum works with software-based learning supports
- Which learning support helps which academic need?
The transcript of this Webinar as well as PowerPoint and mp3 audio materials can be accessed at http://easi.cc/LD/archive.htm.
Universal Design for Learning: A Lesson Building Web site for You!
CAST has recently completed the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Lesson Builder that provides educators with models and tools to create and adapt lessons that increase access and participation in the general education curriculum for all students. Visit this online resource at http://lessonbuilder.stage3.cast.org/.
Universal Design for Learning: How to Ensure That All Students Meet AYP
This is one of a number of sessions offered as part of the Moving Forward with Technology Webinar Series, an outreach collaboration between Don Johnston Incorporated and the Center for Implementing Technology in Education (CITEd), a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The March 2007 sessions will feature Dr. David Rose.
This Web site will provide an overview of the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) language within IDEA 2004, the NIMAS regulations, policies related to implementation, technical assistance and the role of NIMAS, the national source file repository. Information is available about ways to use NIMAS source files to produce students-ready accessible versions of textbooks and related instructional materials. (This is especially relevant because states and local school districts are required to implement their plans in early December, 2006).
For more information on NIMAS, see http://nimas.cast.org/. To access a listing of presentations on NIMAS topics, visit http://nimas.cast.org/center/presentations/index.html. For additional free resources and tools for educators about NIMAS from CITEd, visit http://www.cited.org/.
Of particular significance, a National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) will be established in Louisville, Kentucky. The NIMAC will receive and catalog publishers' electronic files of print instructional materials in a standard format: the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). The NIMAS was recently developed by experts across the country for this specific purpose. The center will provide these standardized files to those who have been authorized to obtain the files to produce textbooks and other core print instructional materials for blind, visually impaired and print disabled students across the country. The combination of a standard format and a central repository should significantly expedite the time frame in which instructional materials are delivered to students who need them in the classroom.
Considerations for Universally Designed Assessment Items (on LD.org)
Question from Dianne Mathews, AT Specialist, Orange Co. Public Schools, Orlando, FL:
We know that NIMAS will make a huge difference when all the textbooks are available in the NIMAC depository. Until then, how do we get our textbooks accessible for students? What do we do about books that are not in the NIMAC center?
Dr. David Rose:
This has a sad answer, unfortunately. NIMAS only applies to all books published from now on, it is not retro-active. For older books, NIMAS does not apply and there is no mandate for publishers to go back and fix all the old books. So, unfortunately, teachers and parents will have to do the same old patch-ups, with lots of duplicated effort all across the country. Unless you live in a state like Kentucky which is building a repository of all the books that individual teachers have digitized. Check them out and see if your state can do the same.
Question from Darla Hatton, Parent:
What applications of universal design do you envision being implemented in high stakes testing? Do you ever envision children being able to use digital literacy during reading portions or a computer's ability to recognize and correct spelling or grammar errors to assist children who suffer from dyslexia or other similar language based learning differences? Are we only testing specific processes? Shouldn't we be more interested in a child's ability to contribute and participate in a global economy?
Dr. David Rose:
I like the drift of your question. The important point in considering assessment is to know what the underlying purpose of items are, what are they trying to measure? Only when we know that, and that becomes a fixed or anchor point, can we effectively decide how to make sure that the item will be accurate for all students. If we want to know whether students can solve math problems of a specific type, for example, we need to make sure we are really measuring that ability and that we are not inadvertently measuring something else - like their reading ability, or even their rote calculating ability, and certainly not their vision or hearing. All too often, tests mix up lots of different abilities, and we don't know what we are measuring. This is not a huge problem of accuracy for many students who are typically achieving. It IS a huge problem for students who have atypical learning profiles - the very definition of students with learning disabilities. And yes, we should be measuring things that matter for student's future in a global economy, NOT just their skills in 18th century literacies.
Question from Brenda Matthis, Faculty/Co-Director, Technology in Education Division, Lesley University:
Many of my technology in education students are confused when they read about universal design for learning and differentiated instruction. Can you provide a concise definition of both and perhaps an example?
Dr. David Rose:
Hi Brenda!!! Here's my opinion, and others may have a different opinion. Differentiated instruction shares a fundamental set of assumptions with UDL - that students are notable for their individual differences, that those individual differences are an asset for the culture not a liability, and that optimal instruction requires differentiating instruction to meet the challenge of that diversity. The core differences perhaps are two. First, UDL is based a specific framework of what learning is, and what those individual differences in learning really are. Second, UDL takes the approach that the means of differentiation needs to be built directly into the curriculum, the materials, the methods, the assessments, not added on or accommodated later. We think that differentiated instruction is absolutely right on, but doing that differentiation on an ad hoc basis is often too time-consuming for teachers, too expensive because many teachers do the same thing, and not evidence-based enough (because teachers must make up their own differentiations and they may or may not be evidence-based.) But, that being said, we think there is a lot to learn from the ways in which teachers actually accomplish differentiated instruction and we hope to learn a lot from them and the leaders of the movement.
Question from Ms. L, Gr. 3 teacher in W. Virginia:
How much money would it take to introduce UDL activities into a school? Must every child in every classroom have access to a computer for this to really work? Are there ways to start off on a more limit basis and where would I find some models where schools have started of on a limited basis and had success?
Dr. David Rose:
Great question, one that everyone wants an answer to. Computers are not a requirement for introducing UDL to a school, they merely make the benefits of UDL vastly easier to achieve. UDL is more a set of principles for teaching diverse students than any specific technology. It is always good to start with the principles first, then use whatever technology can help the most in achieving them. That said, computers are now the literacy tools of our culture and students need to be practicing using them in schools, whether or not those schools are implementing UDL. When schools are adequately preparing their students for their future, the tools for UDL are already in place. There is a nice article in Teacher magazine by a teacher who uses very little technology. It is reprinted in the following book, which has other suggestions; A Practical Reader in Universal Design for Learning Edited by David H. Rose and Anne Meyer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2006.
Question from Rudy Molina, Learning Specialist, University of Arizona SALT Center:
I work with students who have LD at the University level. Our department is looking for ways to assess or evaluate the learning outcomes of our students. Can you suggest and resources that discuss tools or measurements or methodologies to assess learning outcomes?
Dr. David Rose:
I am going to give a short answer to a question that requires a long one. Luckily a group of us just published an fairly long article on this very subject in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability (JPED) published by AHEAD (see under Rose, Harbour et al in the issue out this winter). In that article we describe how we teach and evaluate my own course at Harvard's school of education. It is not perfect from a UDL perspective, far from it, but there are quite a few things that may be helpful and I hope you will suggest others.
Question from Stephan Cohen, Assistant Professor, Lesley University:
As teachers design classroom and school websites (used by students, parents, teachers, community members...) what universal design for learning guidelines are most critical to keep in mind?
Dr. David Rose:
I'm glad you asked this. We are in the final stages of publishing our new guidelines. They are being vetted now by quite a few people outside of CAST. If you would like to be a reviewer and help us make sure they are right, drop me an email. In general, most people think of the sensory and physical access issues, and they are well covered by the WAI (Web Access Initiative) of the WWW consortium. The more vexing, and more important because they are valuable for those students as well as a great many others, are the linguistic and cognitive issues. We are trying to focus on those in our guidelines. Here are several things we provide guidelines around that are NOT physical or sensory (and are not about things like making the text speak aloud, which we assume): 1) providing access to necessary background knowledge 2) providing ways to highlight critical features, critical relationships, critical ideas 3) providing access to vocabulary definitions 4) providing access to supports for memory and transfer 5) providing supports for strategies in how to explore and find information in a site. There are more like these, and we give guidance on the research behind them and how to do them. I think they will be out within a month or two at the latest. They'll be on the CAST website.
Question from Samantha Leigh, undergraduate student in education, TX:
Sometimes teachers provide adaptations for students and offer them assistive technologies that allow them to make use the existing materials (like textbooks) in the clasroom. The problem as I see it is that but these special adaptations can water down the concepts and skills that are part of the curriculum, and this makes it virtually impossible for these students to catch up. At a time when high-stakes assessments are required for grade promotion and graduation, it seems to me that these special provisions are not much ore than a prescription for failure. Is universal design for learning a potential solution?
Dr. David Rose:
Yes, I hope so. Universal design is not a prescription for dumbing down the curriculum but for smartening it up. And you are right that it is a very bad idea to accommodate the curriculum in ways that actually undermine learning for students. We need higher standards for students with disabilities, not lower standards. To get there, we will need much more powerful, and effective, curricula. To be more effective, curricula will have to do what good exercise machines do - they are adjusted to each individual who is working out. By doing so, they provide just the right support and resistance to maximize every individual's time. Curricula, on the other hand, are one size fits all, as if every student was the same. Think what that would be like if you came into the gym and all the machines were fixed at the same height, and all the weights were exactly the same weight. Only a few people would do well. Unfortunately, that happens to often in school.
Question from Paula Kahn, Student, UWM:
Has HeadStart addressed the need for Universal Learning? If so, can you tell me how?
Dr. David Rose:
Yes, a little tiny bit. For more information, contact Peggy Coyne at CAST, see the website.
Question from Karen Leggett, parent, Montgomery County, Maryland:
We have a large group of parents who are quite concerned that self-contained classrooms called "learning centers" are going to be eliminated. Students with significant learning disabilities are to be served instead in their home schools. The parents are concerned that their children will not receive the intensive instruction that enables them to learn high level academic material. Is UDL an "answer" for these students and if so, how can it be implemented affordably in a large school system?
Dr. David Rose:
Wow, this is not a quick question to answer. Since we are at the end of our time, let me recommend that you read a few things that might help. The newest book, called A Practical Reader is available from Harvard Education Press. It is not as practical as it should be, but it is getting closer. Ultimately, the answer is indeed "intensive" instruction. But it is not enough to be intensive, it must be well-directed in its intensity. One of the pitfalls of specialized centers is that they often get removed from the high standards of the regular curriculum (that might not be the case in your district)and students with significant disabilities become isolated in a special curriculum that lacks intensity. UDL is not the answer, but it is an important part of the answer. It demands that the regular curriculum carry part of the burden of that intensity, and particularly its direction. Those are good things that need to happen. Sorry for the short answer. More on our website and in the books listed there.
Question from Vincent J. Varrassi, Campus Director, Regional Center, Fairleigh Dickinson University:
What suggestions do you haven for ways to engage a veteran faculty in this new way of thinking about instruction?
Dr. David Rose:
As a faculty member myself, this is the hardest thing. I can't say I have been fantastically successful in virally marketing UDL within my own university. BUT, I have been getting a lot more attention from other faculty members recently. In large part because my UDL course has become huge - students are finding it helpful to have UDL applied in their own learning. That success seems to be attracting others to wonder what I am doing - my peers, that is. I'm not sure what, other than a university mandate, is more successful.
Dr. Sheldon Horowitz (Moderator):
That concludes our discussion for today. Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful questions and thanks to our expert, Dr. David Rose, for his time today. A transcript of the LD Talk will be made available shortly.
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Dr. Sheldon Horowitz (Moderator):
CAST will be sponsoring the "Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning institute." This is an Advanced Institute to Learn How to Address Diverse Needs of All Learners.
When: July 23 - 26, 2007 (M-Th)
Where: CAST, Wakefield MA (near Boston)
Tuition: $750 per person for teams of 3 or more; $795 per person for single registrants.
Who Should Attend? General and special education administrators, curriculum directors, district administrators, school principals, and teacher leaders. With a focus on research, practice, and policy, educational leaders will find useful information. Regular and Special Education Administrator Teams from the state and district levels are encouraged.
Program Description: In today's schools, the mix of students is more diverse than ever. Educators are challenged to teach all kinds of learners to high standards; a one-size-fits-all approach to education simply does not work.
If you are a state, district or school leader, attend this four-day institute to learn how to address the diverse needs of student populations. Imagine that students who have always been left behind finally have the opportunity to learn ... and to love learning. The solution, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides a blueprint for creating flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments that accommodate learner differences. More information available at http://www.cast.org/pd/institute/index.html.
For registration and lodging info, visit www.cast.org/pd/registration/index.html.