Options and UDL: Make Learning Perceptible

photo credit: Priya Saihgalphoto credit: Priya Saihgal on Flickr

I have been a teacher for a long time. My first teaching experience was 1985 teaching 9th grade English. My memories of the experience are few … I remember the students, the belt I wore, and what I learned. I still remember when it dawned on my that I was quickly losing the attention of my students as we read together The Old Man and the Sea and that I needed a new plan of action. I changed my approach, my unit — just about everything except my students — and it worked.

According to Universal Design for Learning Principles, learning is impossible if information is imperceptible to the learner, and difficult when information is presented in formats that require extraordinary effort or assistance. To reduce barriers, it is important to ensure that key information is equally perceptible to all learners.

Those are big words — learning is impossible and equally perceptible. We have to provide options for perception — options for learning and understanding. We must provide the same information in many different ways so that our students will learn.

Visual: Offer ways of customizing the display of information.

Try a variety of visual tools. PowerPoint seems to be the most prominent software used at our university. Within PowerPoint, try a different font,color or size to gain attention. Add images, video, or animations. Give one of these other visual tools a try:






…or create an infographic!

Auditory: Offer alternatives for auditory information

We all know it’s true that after a while of hearing someone talk, all we tend to hear is wha wha wha. Change the tone and emotion of your voice. Add space. Whisper.

How about trying your hand at a podcast? Add some music if you want. Or, try a screencast with TouchCastKnowmia, or ShowMe.

Touch: Offer alternative ways to learn and turn in work

Give students more hands-on learning — even in the higher education classroom. Even though I teach a Technology for Teachers course, this week we are using large post-it papers in groups for rotating group work. Get up and move around every now and then. Next semester I am working on including more hands-on technology activities. My students enjoyed each time I used NearpodPoll Everywhere or Socrative. Not only that, I am working in a new way to add choices to what they turn in for assessment. This past week I let my students know they could turn their observation report in to me however they wanted — email, Moodle, paper and through a variety of options — written document, video, etc. I am hoping that I will see some creative efforts!

Offer your students the ability to discuss topics in class — through a variety of means (online chat, Google hangout, webcast). Differentiate your discussions to extend beyond the classroom. When in the classroom, try creating small discussion groups, then get up and switch groups. Move around the room.

Finally, I want to share with you that I am trying out something new as I type this today! I have been creating this post through Medium.com . Medium takes away the distractions of formatting and provides a blank white surface. Did it focus my thoughts? Perhaps. I did enjoy it, though! Visit the original post HERE.


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