What Is UDL?
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a method of teaching and learning that focuses on accommodating the wide variety of learner variability in classrooms. UDL takes into account individual learners’ abilities, as well as any measures that help them to learn more effectively. A teacher working with UDL in mind understands that, while providing additional support to students with specific disabilities is important, those same measures will ultimately benefit all students.
Instead of simply providing additional support for learners with hearing impairments, closed captions on video and audio recordings are likely to improve comprehension for all students. Providing additional support for all students ultimately places more critical time in the teacher’s hands as students gain autonomy and independence. For more information, check out our What is UDL blog.
The Three Principles of UDL
With a focus on flexibility, UDL has a clear set of principles that help to articulate the ways in which teachers can help support all learners in the classroom. The objectives of the three UDL principles are to increase motivation, remove barriers, and provide options for accessibility to learners. The three principles are:
- Multiple Means of Engagement
- Multiple Means of Representation
- Multiple Means of Action and Expression
These principles are explored more generally in our UDL Principles blog, but let’s explore each principle in more detail and take a closer look at how the tools within Kami can support teachers who are designing digital learning environments for all learners.
Multiple Means of Engagement
The first principle is Multiple Means of Engagement. In order to engage learners and motivate them to want to learn new concepts, teachers using UDL are encouraged to allow opportunities for students to make choices about how they take in information.
When possible, allowing students to listen to an audiobook or a podcast in addition to text-based learning is an excellent way to recruit and sustain interest. Utilizing the multimedia features within Kami can provide strong alternatives to text.
To begin, instructions can be shared with students via audio or video. Typically, to successfully complete an assignment, students are expected to listen to teachers explain directions for an assignment once or twice or read instructions on a document or activity. With Kami, teachers can design and build additional supports by recording themselves explaining directions within a Kami activity using a Voice Comment. Additionally, they can use the front-facing Video Comment or Screen Capture Comment tool to create a video of themselves or the computer screen to create a video lesson and demonstrate the steps to completing the assignment.
Additionally, using these same audio or video tools in Kami, teachers can also more easily give timely, authentic, and effective feedback to students after or as they are completing the tasks set forth. When students are able to listen to feedback, in lieu of reading it, they are more likely to successfully internalize what needs to be done in order to improve their work.
Another Kami feature that can help teachers to engage students as they work on sustaining effort and persistence is the Kami Questions tool. With the Question tool, teachers can design and embed low-stakes formative assessments in the form of multiple-choice or short-answer questions. These types of questions can be inserted into any Kami Activity for students to check for understanding. This type of formative assessment strategy helps to lessen student frustration that comes with doing poorly on a summative assessment. Formative assessment is less punitive as it focuses on assessing throughout learning instead of after learning. By utilizing this Question tool, teachers have the opportunity to learn more about how well their students are grasping new concepts as they are working through the learning process instead of waiting for the results of a summative assessment.
Multiple Means of Representation
The second principle of UDL is Multiple Means of Representation, which is about how teachers design lessons and display information on a page.
Instead of simply offering a textbook as a visual means of sharing new information, teachers can offer the same information via audio or video. Many of the aforementioned tools such as the Voice, Video, or Screen Capture Comment tools can be utilized by teachers. Teachers can create recordings for students where they read or verbally explain passages of text. But additionally, Kami’s Dictionary and Read Aloud tools are ways for students to be able to get support as they read text. With these tools, students can define words as they read that they are unfamiliar with, as well as read aloud individual words or entire passages of text. When empowered with the Read Aloud and Dictionary tools, students can practice reading and better understand what they read.
Multiple Means of Representation also refers to the way that text and images combine to support students. Specific fonts, colors, and size of text can be visually beneficial to students. Kami allows teachers to design and format an activity in a way that is easily viewed and understood by students. Many students benefit from the use of images and symbols that accompany text in order to better describe concepts. Kami’s Add Media tool allows teachers to add images, symbols, graphs, charts, and much more to a Kami Activity. Additionally, the drawing tool is available for teachers who wish to use Kami as a digital whiteboard to create a diagram to better illustrate an idea. Teachers who prefer to draw on physical paper can also use the Add Media tool to quickly and easily take a photo of their drawing and turn it digital for their students.
Multiple Means of Action and Expression
The third principle of UDL is Multiple Means of Action and Expression. Using this principle, teachers design learning experiences that encourage students to demonstrate understanding in a variety of ways.
Some students might excel with a written test or a traditional essay, whereas others might prefer to give a presentation, create a video, or simply record themselves answering questions instead of writing or typing. The multimedia tools in Kami can create opportunities for students to record their voice, their face, or their screen as they create an audio or video recording that might illustrate their comprehension of a novel, a new social studies concept, or the steps to solving an equation in a math or science class. They can also use Voice Typing, Kami’s speech-to-text feature, to dictate ideas into a text box.
Instead of expecting students to type a response to a question, teachers can encourage students to utilize the Voice, Video, or Screen Capture Comment tools to respond. They can also use these tools to do reflection activities after they’ve completed their work. Reflection can be a powerful tool to help students discover what strategies help them learn best. As they reflect, their teachers can learn more about how to support them. Additionally, within any Kami activity, a YouTube video with a timer can be embedded to help students pace themselves as they work through an activity or assignment. As they do, teachers have access to ongoing monitoring of their students’ digital work in the Kami Activity which provides the capacity for them to monitor progress in real-time in order to offer ongoing support and feedback.
The Action and Expression principle also encourages teachers to guide students with executive functions such as goal-setting, planning, and managing information. The Kami Library has hundreds of ready-made templates including goal-setting charts, planners, and graphic organizers to help students make sense of larger projects or new information. Students can utilize the audio and video tools as a means of demonstrating an understanding of new concepts within a template from the library.
The wide variety of tools available in Kami offers endless opportunities for accessibility and flexibility. Students can access information in a variety of formats, with support for reading and understanding available at all times. Teachers can design learning environments that are intentionally supportive with opportunities for multimedia instructions, lessons, and feedback. Just as each student is unique, so is each Kami activity. By utilizing the tools within Kami, teachers can remove barriers to student learning, creating opportunities for all students to succeed.