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Reflections on 2020's Learning Landscape: A Retrospective on Dyslexia Presidential Address, 71st IDA Annual Conference; Beijing, 2020

Here is an exquisite example of talking and writing about Universal Design for Learning and modelling it in action. It is a spoof retrospective from the 2020's on how students with dyslexia used to be taught in our schools.

I love the article for many reasons:

  • It is humorous and clever 
  • There are useful insights on ways we can more effectively support students with dyslexia
  • It models a UDL approach to sharing a text document in an online context ( a skill valuable for all of us who work in blended environments).

For a more detailed look explore the 2020's Learning Landscape article yourself.

Example of UDL designed research article

Ways to use the article to build knowledge and understanding:

  • Experience a deliberately designed flexible environment. Read the article and explore all the different ways to access the content. 
  • Map the UDL guidelines to the article to increase your understanding of UDL in action. 
  • Compare the article to text based material you share online. Identify one area you could increase the flexibility of your content and support the engagement of readers. Then give it a go and get some feedback.
  • With colleagues, glean all the tips to more effectively support students with dyslexia and apply them to your context.

Let us know how you go :-)

Visit Dyslexia and learning on the Inclusive Education website for more information on creating flexible online environments.


  • Tara O'Neill

    Wow, I love this. Thank you so much for posting it.  I have written a blog post myself in the last two days about my son's experience in a modern learning environment and in fact a class with many Universal Design for Learning examples.

    My son has  dyslexia.  He still has very limited ability to read and very limited ability to write.  However, as you will read in the blog post, this is no hinderance to his learning in an inclusive modern learning community. It shows this beautiful balance between, using technology and using modern learning techniques where subjects are not split up but where learning is integrated.  You will also see how learning has no time limits on it and can happen seamlessly between school and home.  Also, learning isn't dependent on text based textbooks, as other means of gaining and interacting with information is encouraged.

    I should explain a little about myself.  I am a teacher at Te Karaka Area School in Gisborne.  I teach Year 1/2.  All my four students attend this school with me ranging from 7 years old to 17 years old.  I guess this has given me an unusual perspective on the learning at this school. I hope you find the story encouraging.  

    It is called Flow Learning and Dyslexia.   By  Tara O'Neill    Onwards and upwards towards the 2020's I say!









  • Chrissie Butler

    Twitter post

    Kia ora Tara.

    Yes I have seen the post on http://www.tkaslessons.blogspot.co.nz. It's a wicked post. In fact I posted it on Twitter last week to support Dyslexia Advocacy week. 

    It would be great to hear more about how you are applying UDL in your classroom and the impact it is having on the way you teach and how the students are learning.

  • Tara O'Neill


    I'm sorry, I have been a little busy of late, but here is my response to your questions.


    I teach Year 1 and 2 students and that is another story in itself, but I want to outline my son's learning environment from his perspective so that you get a good idea on how it supports his learning.


    Multiple means of engagement.

     He likes learning because he gets to choose what he learns.  Firstly, he chooses a flow inquiry.  His flow inquiry this term was on coding.  

    The other inquiry Zone is a teacher led inquiry which the students choose.   This is where NCEA credits will be gained.  NCEA credits can be gained from a flow as well as negotiated with teachers.    Josiah has been inquirying into climate change.  This week he will film himself presenting an key note and send this to his teacher.  By using a rubric he can assess where he is in gaining credits.  The school uses Solo Taxonomy to base its rubrics on, this aligns well with NCEA.

    The last inquiry is Groove and this is now Houora which is outdoor education and fitness etc.  One teacher takes classes across the school from Y1 to Y13. 


    He is purposeful and motivated


    Multiple means of representation


     He was motivated and could access the information needed for his learning however he wanted.  


    For example, for his flow inquiry, coding, the output is his website which will be his portfolio outlining all his learning and reflections for the year.  This shows how Josiah used a coding technique to create his own portfolio.

    Josiah says that he doesn't have to present as text at any time, but if he wants to or if it is logical to he can ask a Teacher Aide to help him.   All the students at the school have a device.  The school invested in these and the students have them for the year.    

    Josiah has learnt to use text to speech and now can use his iphone to speak onto notepad and then copy and email to his laptop.   He also uses Dragon, although this has been difficult for him.  

    He is at the moment listening to his Dad read to him some information about a Massey University course which he asked to be sent. 


    He is a resourceful, knowledgable learner.


    Providing multiple means of action and expression


    This relates to the learning muscles which track throughout the school.  Based on Guy Claxton’s muscles with a couple of new ones to suit the learners at Te  Karaka Area School, these are the foundation of what it means to be a future focused, lifelong learner.  These muscles are used to reflect the learning against, and become goals for improving executive function.  They include, experimentation, stickability, curiosity, empathy, etc. 


    Here is a screen shot of one of Josiah’s reflections from last year…

    Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 9.09.09 pm.png

    The school uses ‘The forum’ as a platform to interact with over learning.  Each student has their own page/s.  This is where learning tasks are placed, reflections made and timetables are created.  Again, he uses a teacher aide to help him, or Dragon or type it himself.  Teachers respond to these pages, they are living and used regularly.


    Josiah is a strategic goal directed learner.


    The actual learning space, is a modern learning environment, with flexibility to be moved around as needed depending on the task at the time.  The Year 7 to Year 13 learn together in one big community.  They can choose where they learn depending on what they are doing.  They write a timetable for the week and for the day before they start.  The students have responsibility to be at a workshop at a certain time.    Technology supports the how, when, why and what of learning, but the students direct it.  The curriculum is changed to fit the student not the other way around.   For example, Josiah was able to spend time one day on taking part in a ‘coding’ task.  At times during the day, you can see students, learning the guitar, practicing Kapa Haka, drawing etc.


    Students do use text books if that is appropriate for what they need to learn.  My daughter is in Year 13 and she is studying towards NCEA 3.  She taking two classes through correspondence. 


    The teachers in this learning community work very hard.  They don’t just teach a certain subject, they teach many subjects, actually they teach learning. If they don't know, they ask a colleague.  They teach as a team.  They plan as a team, the reflect as a team, they teach as a team.  No one owns a student, or owns a room or owns a subject.   It is their job to help ‘pullout’ NCEA credits from the students learning.  Also, they create certain inquiry courses around a topic supporting multiple subjects that have multiple credit opportunities.  They are seen teaching a workshop with a group of students, conferencing with students and making sure the student’s have everything they need to complete their flow inquiries. Talking with students, building and maintaining genuine relationships.


    It certainly is a different way to teach, but the impact on the students is incredible.  Do we have problems – you bet!  It takes time for students to learn to self-manage and to direct their own learning, students arriving from other schools have to be inducted in and supported. 


    Here is a link with some of our school in it.  We are the green ones!



    I hope you find this useful.