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Where I am heading? Day One (Linda Ojala)

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Started by linda Ojala 05 Aug 2013 3:51pm () Replies (17)

The week ahead, working alongside the UDL team on the VLN is going to be one of exploration, questioning, re-thinking and taking time to delve into Universal Design for Learning in a way that I haven’t been able to do to date.

My initial thoughts as to what I would like to come out with at the end of 5 days I guess are pretty much centred around developing my own personal knowledge and practically how Universal Design for Learning is embedded within my class and teaching practice. I’m the kind of person who needs to have a deep understanding of why I am doing things, the process that sits behind and the theory or knowledge to back it up.

  1. What does it look like?
  2. What will I see the children doing?
  3. What changes will I see in my own planning and implementation of daily and weekly lessons?
  4. How different is this to what I do already?
  5. Exploring the difference between “differentiation ” and “Universal Design for Learning”
  6. How to effectively use technology to support Universal Design for Learning

Many teachers would say that “It’s about really knowing your learners”, I totally agree with this but I am wanting to explore in greater depth “ok so I know my learners but how I am really providing a learning environment that truly supports who they are?”. I find it easy to see what isn’t working but it’s making the sustainable changes that bring about positive change and learning that I often wrestle with. We have students in our class who can really push what we may label “expectable boundaries” or those who are hard to engage and find learning difficult and stressful. We work on the premise that it isn’t “one size fits all” in learning but when it comes down to it how well am I really meeting their needs and celebrating, harnessing their strengths and abilities? Challenging thoughts!

I came across this video a couple of years ago which outlined the principals of Universal Learning Design and I felt a strong sense of connection. Being able to identify and breakdown the barriers to learning and offering a range of choices and ways to engage students seemed to be the central part of where my planning and teaching should start.

To view the video UDL At A Glance with its interactive transcript visit Utube.

I am in a class space that is flexible with a small range of technology. I see the engagement and motivation that technology offers but I also feel like I am just scratching the surface around how effective it can be in supporting and transforming learning, especially with my students who struggle in areas such as reading and writing.

So, at the end of my five days I would like to think that I am entering our shared learning space with “new eyes”, with “new ideas” and “practical tools and knowledge” that will ensure our learning space is one of equable access, a space that as teacher I feel as though I am able to enfold all learners and work in a way that supports how they learn best.

I really love to hear what other teachers are doing, especially in the area of effective use of technology for learning and also if anyone else is exploring Universal Design for Learning.


  • Karen (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 4:18pm ()

    I really like that video Linda.  It gives a clear idea of what UDL is, particularly with the breakdown of what each word means.  The recap is really helpful too. 

    It sounds like you have an exciting week ahead!  Good luck and I look forward to following your progress. Smile

  • Chrissie Butler (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 4:40pm ()

    It's great to have you on board Linda and I'm really looking forward to throwing around ideas. One thing that has come up a lot in our conversation today has been about using technology to keep learners busy vs. extension and inquiry driven explorations. It will be interesting to see what other people think. 

  • Leigh Hynes (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 5:00pm ()

    Awesome blog, Linda.  I will be pointing teachers in this direction for some more pd around UDL, thank you!

  • Anne Sturgess (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 5:14pm ()

    Thanks Linda, I'll also make use of the video in my work in schools. A clear presentation and a powerful statement: "We need to go beyond access and build in support and challenge." Much appreciated Smile, Anne

  • Patrick Pink (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 6:35pm ()

    Kia ora, Linda,

    So glad you're sharing with us your experiences with UDL within your classroom.  I think we are in changing times with how we view education and how our young people express what they know.  I can't wait to read the experiences, the thoughts and the insights that these discussion threads can offer.  I believe any time we can take the time and reflect on ourselves as learners and our students that we work alongside we gain so much on how our practice can become more relevant.  

    Looking forward to the week

    Ngā mihi nui! 

  • Anne Kenneally  (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 7:06pm ()

    Hi Linda, what an awesome opportunity and a wonderful chance for us to grow through your journey.  I think the real aha for me was when Chrissie used the analogy of a boat floating - the front of the boat as technological support to engage and act as an on ramp to success; the back of the boat as the skills and practice of reading and writing. Both are essential for us to avoid a titanic! Tomorrow I am presenting to a large group of teachers and I am sharing some UDL insights including the video.  I am also modelling and encouraging a range of brainstorming and sharing from drawing to writing to google docs to posts it and clothes lines... exciting times... I am excited to encourage others to explore/delve into UDL as I continue to explore it and develop my practice.  Thanks for sharing your journey!

  • linda Ojala (View all users posts) 06 Aug 2013 2:10pm ()

    Kia ora Anne,

    Thanks.  I remember watching your video on EDtalks 'Student Designed Learning Spaces' and felt really inspired with your thinking and openness to different learning spaces. Again, after your short response I'm reminded again how easy it is to offer different, quick and varied ways for students to plan and brainstorm ideas.  I know I have some in my class who need to draw an incredibly detailed picture before starting a writing session or those who can capture their main thoughts in just a few words. Before I started thinking about this generally students all planned the same way,  writing brainstorms looked the same for every child. Would be keen to know what your 'clothes lines' are.


  • Anne Kenneally  (View all users posts) 06 Aug 2013 8:01pm ()

    Hi Linda, 

    Thanks for your reply!  I would love to visit your classroom sometime.  I really miss my class but now I'm loving working with a whole range of educators.  I got the clothes line idea fro Chrissie and Emily last week.  Popping up a string across an area allows you to pin up ideas for all to see and makes it easy to shift and organise ideas.  Co-incidentally I always had clothes lines in my class for pinning up artwork, or pinning up brainstorming, or hanging the thinkers keys on!  Like you, everyday my world grows and I am so much more in tune with the need to give learners choice and agency!  Sealed

  • Chrissie Butler (View all users posts) 06 Aug 2013 7:58pm ()

    Hey Anne, I hope the workshop went well.

    Brainstorming - supporting the thinking of all learners

    Linda and I had a good laugh about brainstorming today. We chatted about how often in the classroom we offer students one model for brainstorming or we say lets all use Popplet or some other tool.

    sticky noteThe other day, my friend and colleague Patrick Pink pulled me up short when we were doing some planning together. I invited Patrick and a couple of colleagues to put some ideas down on stickies, one idea per sticky. Patrick stuck a whole host of the stickies together and wrote across them.

    He said, I don't think like that, one idea at a time. I need big paper to think, so I can draw and loop ideas together.

    Patrick's brainstorming looks like his pen has danced all over the page. But it really made me think about knowing the learner and then providing the tools they need to do the job.

    The 3 UDL principles nudge us to know the learner (the Engagement principle) and then provide the supports so the learner can express their thinking (the Action and Expression principle). I blew it a bit, but learnt heaps.

    design thinking

    So all you Design Thinkers out there running workshops with stickies, just check you don't have a dancing thinker in your midst!! Thanks for the learning Patrick :-)

    Image credit man with stickies

  • Anne Kenneally  (View all users posts) 06 Aug 2013 8:08pm ()

    Teehee, laughing out loud!

    Have a little bit of a funny story to tell myself.  I got as far as Green Island on my way to the session today when I remebered I'd forgotten my newly created UDL box of tricks so back I went!  I would love to say my group used it all... but alas today was to be a trial run... but that's okay too!  Today was a lot more about talking about it!  I made some notes and drew a few diagrams!  Lots of great discussion!  And lots of laughs with the gorgeous video clip!  

    Thanks for the insight and continued learning with UDL!  Looking forward to another session tomorrow!!!!

  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2013 10:25pm ()

    Hi there Linda

    We are looking forward to seeing how you put the principles of Universal Design into practice in your classroom.

    I am thinking already about how I can better apply UDL principles to leading adult learners too.

  • Mark Maddren (View all users posts) 06 Aug 2013 10:36am ()

    It seems so wierd that buildings have to comply with the non averages eg with building ramps etc but schools can treat all learners as average.  I will be using the video in the future very easy to understand.

  • Brett Cribb (View all users posts) 06 Aug 2013 10:47am ()

    Kia ora Linda. E mihi ana ki a koe me oū whakaaro mō te kaupapa nei. Looking forward to hearing what UDL looks like in your setting with an awesome video to start the journey off.

    Mō te wiki nei e hoa mā.

  • Karen Spencer (View all users posts) 06 Aug 2013 11:48am ()

    Kia ora and welcome, Linda.

    jacket seamDelighted you're here! We are so lucky to have you here this week - and wonderful that you (and others in this thread) are opening up the walls of classrooms so we can all have a peak inside. Making our thinking visible like this - putting the seams on the outside -  provides 'lift' in ways we couldn't have managed a few years ago.

    Looking forward to reading your reflections and those of others in response. :)

    [Image credit: CC lululemon athletica]

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