Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an aspect of education that focuses on how best to construct daily lessons in each content area for all levels of students. Each classroom is comprised of students from different ethnic, academic, socio-economic, and personality-wise backgrounds. Educators have to learn how to create a year-long curriculum that addresses all student strengths, especially for English Language Learners, IEP students, and 504 Plan students. There are three components of UDL: multiple methods of presentation, multiple options for participation, and multiple means of expression.
Students learn the most content knowledge and develop conceptual skills and understandings if educators present information and theories in different presentation formats. Giving a lecture to students using a Power Point presentation is the traditional way to teach students using technology. However, lectures can also be given without the use of technology to enhance the lesson. Students absorb and apply information more efficiently if, for example, historical phenomenon is explained through verbal and visual representation. In the 21st century, students are surrounded by media devices that give them easy access to television shows, films, and documentaries that can help them expand their academic proficiency in all subject areas. History teachers in particular can select from a plethora of documentaries to further elaborate upon specific historical phenomenon, such as the impact the temperance movement had on the passage of the Prohibition Amendment during the Progressive Era of the United States.
UDL’s second component, multiple options for participation, refers to how teachers can design lessons to allow students to be verbally engaged with their classmates. Participation can come in the form of giving an oral presentation to the class, providing students the opportunity to ask and answer questions, and especially participate through the use of various technologies. Teachers can harness various technologies, such as Poll Everywhere and Kahoot, to encourage students to become excited about learning new academic topics. Giving students the option to pick what technology they want to use to showcase their comprehensive knowledge can elicit increased student participation in the classroom during discussions and other aspects of learning. History teachers, for example, can use Poll Everywhere to introduce a lesson about propaganda usage during WWI by having students respond to Poll Everywhere questions by simply texting in their responses about specific questions about the media. The class can see their results, interpret their results, and have a discussion with their colleagues and the teacher.
I kind of have tied the third aspect of UDL, multiple means of expression, into the previous paragraph. Students are more responsive and attentive in the classroom when they are given multiple options to express their knowledge and comprehension about various academic content. Technology plays a huge role in providing students different means to express themselves. Students who are great with digital art can create a well constructed digital presentation about some scientific phenomenon. An individual who excels at video projects can create an excellent parody of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to showcase his/her understanding of the play.
Teachers must keep all student abilities and personalities into account while designing lessons. Universal Design for Learning provides almost a home base for teachers to build off of when creating lessons for each unit of study.