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Forum: Universal Design for Learning

Started by Nathaniel Louwrens 28 May 2015 11:47am () Replies (17)

Each class of students that we teach contains great variability. Not only in culture and ethnicity but also in the ways each individual learns. We know that what works for one student may not work for another. So how can we design learning that allows all students to access and participate? The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework can support us in doing this.


What is UDL?

“Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based framework that helps teachers plan learning to meet the diverse and variable needs of all students.” http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/universal-design-for-learning/


Watch the video below for an overview of UDL.

Universal design for learning from EDtalks on Vimeo.

A key aspect of UDL is that it requires design from the outset. Rather than taking a learning activity and redesigning it as required to cater for those who can’t access it, UDL requires that the learning is designed so that everyone can access it from the start. It is designing the learning for the range of variabilities in a class.


The UDL principles

UDL follows three main principles:

  1. Provide multiple means of representation: Present information and content in different ways to support understanding.
  2. Provide multiple means of action and expression: Offer options and supports to all so everyone can create, learn and share.
  3. Provide multiple means of engagement: Stimulate motivation and sustained enthusiasm for learning in different ways.

Each of the principles has a set of corresponding guidelines: UDL guidelines



  • How are you designing learning for your class to ensure inclusion of all students?
  • If you are have been specifically using the UDL framework, how has it impacted your teaching and the learning of the students in your class?

  • What role has digital technology played in ensuring that all students can learn?


Further reading/resources

Enabling e-Learning & TKI




  • Nic (View all users posts) 02 Jun 2015 4:19pm ()

    We have been trying to give our students more choice about what they learn and how they present their learning. We also try and represent what we are teaching in different ways.

    We have been sharing the UDL principles with the students and have been asking them for feedback on our teaching. It has been great to get children to explain what has/ has not been working for them. This has enabled us to change aspects of our teaching according to the needs of the learners.

    We use iPads and chromebooks at school. Children can choose technology to assist them and are using a variety of different applications for different purposes. Sometimes, there is not enough technology so we have started BYOD in our senior classrooms. The use of GAFE (Google Apps for Education) alongside the Hapara dashboard has also lifted the learning ceiling. the use of Hapara has enabled us to monitor everything that the children do with their Google Accounts.

    Students are able to share their learning with teachers, parents and other students. This has led to a more collaborative approach to learning, giving feedback, working on the same documents etc. Google Apps is a student-centered tool and is shifting the classroom toward a more student-centered environment.





  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 05 Jun 2015 11:06am ()

    Thanks Nic for sharing this. What an exciting class to be in! In yesterday's webinar, Linda Ojala mentioned "choice + autonomy = engagement". How true. You might be interested in a summary of yesterday's UDL webinar as well, as it reflects your classroom practice as well smiley.

    Universal Design for Learning or UDL is not a new ‘thing’ or a ‘one-off thing’. It’s part of an on-going inquiry, a disposition, a way of being, a away of approaching learning in a spiral process.

    UDL is and is not

    Think about a traditional classroom... things have changed, our learners have changed. UDL looks at the design of the curriculum; the design of learning rather than the fault of the learner. It is usable spaces, learning environments, tasks and opportunities that cater for ALL learners - not just the 'average learner'.

    Traditionally designing tasks for the ‘average’ meant having to change for the few. UDL is about designing learning for flexibility (rather than adaptation) from the outset. Designing equitable learning opportunities for those on the edges - then everyone gets access to learning.

    In this webinar Lynne Silcock elaborated on the principles behind Universal Design for Learning, while Linda Ojala shared specific examples of how she uses the guidelines for UDL when planning for learning in her classroom.

    Linda says, “Disengagement is when learning is too hard or too easy. If they're not engaged, learning doesn't happen." UDF framework is about providing multiple means of engagement, representation and action/expression. In Linda’s classroom, in addition to text, images, numbers and visuals are used to support main ideas and key concepts. Technology is also an important part of UDL. Offering digital tools and multiple ways of processing or representing understanding is important because choice and autonomy equals engagement in the classroom.


    Planning for the edges, + being flexible + being aware of learning intentions and means = Universal Design for Learning. WATCH THE RECORDING HERE >>>

  • Kaye Gillies (View all users posts) 05 Jun 2015 8:41am ()

    Thank you for sharing Nic.  You are the second person to mention Hapara dashboard and lifting the learning ceiling with it. As a relative newbee to ICT discussions I am wondering if you could explain what Hapara dashboard is??

    I look forward to hearing

    Kind Regards
    Kaye Gillies 

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 1:02pm ()

    Hi Kaye

    Hapara's Teacher Dashboard is a tool schools can purchase to help teachers manage their classes through Google Apps for Education. You can find a basic explanation of the tool on their website: Hapara Teacher Dashboard.

    I haven't used it myself, but know that many others have.

    Here's a brief discussion you might find useful: Teacher Dashboard.


  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 1:12pm ()

    Hapara's Teacher Dashboard is an online tool where you can see a preview of all your students last few doc's, email, blog posts.    Here is an example of a class folder called 'MI Plan".


    Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 1.05.57 pm.png 

    Its $3 per students for the base features, and you can add on others like live view, where you can see the students screen live.  

    TD (teacher dashboard) is also used to manage your students.  You can upload a google 'sheet' with students names, user names, folders, and who has access to these (teachers/students)

    It creates them in seconds.  (takes about 10 minutes for the uploaded sheet to be applied to your teachers accounts)

    We use it for 80% of our school, and is certainly a time saver for me as administrator, but gives a quick overview of students work and activity.   For a 1:1 school it should be considered.    

    I tested 'google classroom', but for us in an, open, collaborative environment where students govern the learn it wasn't useful. 

    If you are in a single cell classroom, 1:1 computing and want to set assignments online, then that would be a good choice.

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 1:19pm ()

    Thanks for that information and real-life example, Hamish! laugh

  • Kaye Gillies (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 7:36pm ()

    Hi Hamish

    I have one other question regarding Dashboard- you said 80% of your school use Hapara - is it 80% because some teachers aren't willing to adopt or is there some other reason?  Is this system used in NE Year 1 classes too?

    Thanks again for your willingness to help expand my understanding

    Nga mihi nui

  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 7:55pm ()

    Hapara has grown into quite a large company supporting heaps of schools in NZ.  I used to work with Lenva who is the lead educator at Hapara.  She is great to talk to and extremely knowledgable with IT, is apple and I think google certified too, and she runs the TD stand at ULearn conferences.

    Here is her email if you want to talk with her: lenva.shearing@hapara.com 

    We have 260 students currently, from Y0-8.  We are 1:1 from y5-8, and have a lot of school devices in the y2-4 area, with iPads and macMini's in the Y0-2.  

    TD is used from Y3 right through to Y8.  All the teachers use it, and love its ease of use, and the way you can get an overview of every student in your class/homeroom.  The school has been 1:1 for 4 years, and also with TD for the same time.  Our Y0-1 students don't have google accounts, and mostly use the iPads.  Some of the y2's have accounts.  This depends on where the students are (If they are more able Y2's they are in a collaborative space of Y2-4)

    I would recommend it, but as always with IT tools, it depends on what your vision and direction is with the school.  For 1:1 you definitely need to look into TD though.  : )

  • Kaye Gillies (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 9:37pm ()

    Thanks Hamish.  
    This gives me a clear picture.
    Cheers Kaye

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 1:05pm ()

    The Connected Learning Advisory has recently published a post relating to UDL: How can mobile digital devices be used to cater for every learner.

    In this post you will find information about how learning can be expressed digitally in order to help students access it; and how to remove barriers to learning through using technology.

  • Kaye Gillies (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 7:24pm ()

    Thanks Nathaniel and Hamish.  I've followed the links and had a look at this info plus what you have placed on the page Hamish.  This has been most helpful.  I can see this is the type of system that will assist our school when we get into google docs.

    Do you know what sort of uptake Hapara has had in NZ?

    Kind Regards 

  • Nic (View all users posts) 08 Jul 2015 7:53pm ()

    Hi Tessa,

    Thanks for sharing the webinar with Linda Ojala. I love what she has been doing in her classroom. We have also been trying to give our students more choice. 

    Lynne Silcock introduced me to UDL at Ulearn a few years back. I was blown away and I was sold. I was doing lots of this stuff already, but now I had more of a focus and something that I could share with the rest of the staff. 



    Kaye- let me know if you need to know anything more about Hapara  

    Hamish- thanks for helping :)



  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 21 Jul 2015 10:25am ()

    Thanks Nic, on a practical level, I'd love to hear how you're managing the variety of choices in learning and providing feedback.

    Where are YOU in the picture, are you spread thin, do you need a 'clone' or are there some practical ways to help facilitate personalised learning through UDL?

  • Lynne Silcock (View all users posts) 13 Jul 2015 9:40am ()

    Thanks Nic you have made my day!

    I can also recommend the new NZC pages on the Inclusion principle. It includes Tools, Examples and Resources to support schools to meet the needs of every learner.

    It is a great place for school leaders and educators to go and see the support that is available and examples of what is working well in NZ schools.

    I am now at CORE Education and am part of the Connected Learning Advisory team. This means if your school is interested in using the UDL lens to support your learners you can contact the Advisory for free advice about the many ways that technology can be used to help everyone succeed.

    I will also be back at ULearn this year with the other two members of CORE's awesome Inclusive Education team: Chrissie Butler and Linda Ojala. Hope you can make it.



  • Nic (View all users posts) 13 Jul 2015 11:26am ()

    Thanks Lynne,

    I will check out the Connected Learning Advisory team. Thanks for sharing NZC pages on the Inclusion principle too. I will have a read. I am not sure if I will be at Ulearn this year...



  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 21 Jul 2015 12:53pm ()

    Chrissie Butler has just published this blog post on the CORE Education blog:

    Ask your students how you can become a better teacher

    It's well worth reading (and watching of the included video).

    Chrissie recommends interviewing/questioning our students in order to become a better teacher. She talks about having a universal approach where we "deliberately seek differing perspectives".

    To be universal in our approach to teaching and learning, and to be challenged in the way we do things, we need to be listening to the voice of our students.

    Read the blog post to find out some recommendations of how you can do this.

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