Universal Design for Learning at the University of Vermont

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Videos Accelerate Community Learning. Can Higher Education “Sign-In” to this?

This TED talk intrigues thought to using shared videos to enhance and communicate learning in ways that print can not.  Video’s and the web are accelerating the ways in which we spread ideas and communicate.  Videos can be translated into any language. There are computer programs that automatically put videos into words.

Direct Link to Video :http://video.ted.com/talks/podcast/ChrisAnderson_2010G.mp4

ZACK’S Takes Away’s from Video.

Videos packs more data, and our brains are uniquely hardwired to decode it.

We (our planet) watches 80 Million Youtube hours/day

Rise of web video is leading to “Crowd Accelerated Innovation”

Business/Organizations are wasting Billions of dollars on Print

The crowd dictates desire through shared videos and in turn pushes innovation/learning forward.

Reflection/Discussion Prompt

The concepts that Chris Anderson speaks of makes me think of open learning communities where all information is shared for the better learning of the group.  One concern that I have heard voiced on the topic of  open source and education is that it is not credible and it has no way of being made official.  And to an extent I agree with this.  Information should  be a credited, especially in higher education.  However, this does not mean that higher education organizations should shudder at the thought of sharing intellectual property.  There is a huge amount of value in this structure.  Chris quickly addresses this topic in his video as he champions the use of video as a better medium for transferring information.  He states that organizations are wasting “billions” of dollars a year wasting there time with print.  A bit extreme but his point is clear that videos, especially when used in a cooperative manner, have the tremendous ability to push learning and “Crowd Based Innovation” forward in faster ways than academia and society has seen before.

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Trends in Disability Education

Learning-Disabled Enrollment

Dips After Long Climb

Students Served Chart

Percentage of Students Served (click enlarge)

After decades of what seemed to be an inexorable upward path, the number of students classified as learning-disabled declined from year to year over much of the past decade—a change in direction that is spurring debates among experts about the reasons why.

The percentage of 3- to 21-year-old students nationwide classified as having a “specific learning disability” dropped steadily from 6.1 percent in the 2000-01 school year to 5.2 percent in 2007-08, according to the most recent data available, which come from the U.S Department of Education’s 2009 Digest of Education Statistics. In numbers, that’s a drop from about 2.9 million to 2.6 million students.

Positive Trends (Article Excerpt) – About 80 percent of children who are classified as learning-disabled get the label because they’re struggling to read

To Read More Go to Edweek.org website.

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Teacher Innovation in the Face of Fear

picture of book image

“It was Jane who introduced us to the notion of “cat people.” Cat people are those of us who like our routines and generally stick to doing things the same way unless someone makes us, or convinces us, to do things differently.  There’s nothing wrong with being a cat person; in fact, most of use fall into this category, and most of our students do, too.  The problem is, tendencies, habits, and comfort zones can sometimes get in the way of productive teaching and learning.  Somewhere in our resistance to change lurks a fear.

Fear of failing is the elephant in the teachers’ classrooms – the question we secretly harbor but rarely utter aloud.  Fear of our students’ failure keeps us locked in the same practices that have become comfortable and familiar.  It’s also what keeps teachers in front of the classroom lecturing instead of turning learning over to the learners.  WE can speak of the student-centered classroom, but the worry that students lack the skills to pull it off can prevent teachers from taking those first steps toward productive group work. ” ( Pg 109. Frey, Fisher, Everlove. (2009) Productive Group Work: How to Engage Students, Build Teamwork, and Promote Understanding. ASCD)

In business, innovation and risk taking are the lifeblood of success.  In a constantly changing environment adaptation is key for the survival of a business. Without this, there would be no profit. Education, how ever always seems to take the blame for being the innovation laggard, stuck stagnant in the box of tradition.  I would like to challenge this assumption by challenging our educators to blend what they feel they must teach into the desires of their students.  The learners, these  so called “digital natives” are graduating into this ever changing, ever the more competitive work environment.  That is what they expect. There is no reason to NOT try new approaches to their education.  There is a reason to fear failure but, that is not reason enough to deprive today’s “learners” with a chance for an innovative and progressive educational experience.




Good Technology, Bad Study Skills for College Students

Computers, highlighters, notebooks, flashcards, ipads, pens and pencils are all used to help students study.  But how does someone study?  This article explores research done by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that finds that more college students are using their computers to study, but they are doing it mindlessly.  Furthermore, just because a majority of today’s college students have the tools to study, does not mean that they know HOW to study.

Universal Design for Learning places an emphasis on letting students gain access to more structure to help support and manage their learning experience. Tools such as webspiration.com can help students break down  information into meaningful chunks.


I feel that it’s important for educators to not take for granted that students may not be the best decision makers when it comes to studying.  A lot is going on in the worlds’ of young college students and keeping this research article in mind is important you look up and see a classroom  of eyebrows peering over the backs of laptop screens.

Article Link:
College Undergrads Study Ineffectively on Computers, Study Finds: Students Transfer Bad Study Habits from Paper to Screen

Tool Link:


UDL Consultations and a 12 year old scrutinizes teachers, education and creativity – do you see similarities? .

I feel that this video provides a unique look at the architecture of education, in a way that is not formally addressed. It questions play and imagination. I think, if anything these thought processes are important to keep in mind when generating ideas. Children and their creative imagination place no value in judgement. They are thus more apt to create free flowing ideas and unique ideas. Children are not expected to be bound creatively by the limitations of practically. Or, as Adora points out in her example of the children that created glass art in a public exhibit; their designs were not influenced by the difficulty of actually creating the subject yet professionals now go to this exhibit to use these exhibits as inspiration for their own work. This example highlights the uniqueness of the child imagination. Something that I think is definaley lost in higher ed.
I had a teacher in entrepreneurship who encouraged such thought. It was clearly difficult to do correctly, because it made her lectures sometimes appear aloof and near laughable. Her attempt to apply imagination to real world context was hard to do. This teacher urged us to disregard all practicality when thinking of business ideas or marketing campaigns. This first year class is based on this theme of creative invent-ism. It ends as a senior with an in depth analysis of the market and 5 year financial forecast of one specific business. During this process this teacher encourage a looseness of creative thought that is generally associated with children. The objective was to not be bound by obstacles but to remain creative, resourceful and imaginative in the face of challenge while still being able to apply the solution through an effective business strategy.
In regards to UDL and our consultations I feel that this video falls right in with the faculty implementing more engagement and student expression. It may not be easy for a more traditional lecturer to embed multiple means of expression into their course or their assignments because it is not a customary thing to do, it may not even be practical. But at the same time it is like giving all of your students one color crayon to complete an assignment. As a child you get a whole box of crayons with 64 DIFFERENT colors. The analogy that many people take for granted make when it comes to creativity, childhood, and education is that; as we get older, our colors are taken away from us. UDL principles and its applications, when done correctly are akin to bringing these colors back.

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An Educational Journey for Students with Disabilities

Often students with disabilities have a difficult time adjusting to college life. The main adjustment problem arises from the differences between the high school and college experience for students with disabilities. High school students with disabilities are actively supported by their school, their teachers, and the administration. Once a student with a disability enrolls in college, they find that they now have to advocate for themselves. There is often minimal support for students in the college experience. In an effort to explain the difference between high school and college, Academic Support Programs (ASP) at UVM developed the following chart. This one page analysis of what a student experiences in high school as opposed to college easily defines the differences.
Download a Disability Service Comparison of K-12 and University Word Document

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Universal Connections for UDL @ UVM

I am struck repeatedly by how the Universal Design for Learning principles at the core of our project reach so far and so widely into the fabric of the university. We knew at the beginning that we would be deeply involved with faculty and their courses and with students with disabilities. But we have quickly learned that we are connected with other constituencies and furthering the mission of the university in many more ways. Among the connections are:
• the challenge to retain more of all students who are admitted, not just students with disabilities;
• the obligations of teacher education programs to incorporate UDL into the preparation of pre-service teachers, so graduates are prepared to use them in their own teaching from pre-school through high school;
• the goal to increase the number and success of first-generation college students;
• improving the university’s ability to serve the needs of the growing number of immigrant and refugee families and students in Vermont;
• the effort to increase the number of international students at the university, the traditional one or two semester visitors, but especially those who will be completing degrees at UVM;
• the desire of staff and student services generally to be more welcoming of the increasingly diverse students, staff, and faculty in our community, and more successful in meeting their needs on campus;
• the obligation of the university to provide accessible facilities and services to all, in every area;
• the connection between Universal Design for Learning and effective marketing and communications within the university and from the university to prospective students, staff, and faculty, and to alumni;
• the desire of department chairs and deans to promote effective faculty development;
• the deep-seated desire of most faculty to be excellent teachers.
I suppose we could say the usefulness of learning UDL is universal in the university. It really is better to Design for Universal Learning.
Larry Shelton

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Kudos to Holly

OK, all you UDL@UVMers, let’s all cheer Holly for setting this blog up for us. 3 cheers, Huzzah!!! And then let’s figure out what we want to use it for. I will be interested in hearing from each of us about what we’re running into in the real world of our work, issues that we discover or realize, puzzling questions or situations, gaps in our knowledge or skills, and related resources. And I would like to hear ideas about what we might do as additional projects or activities if we had additional funding. What else?


UDL @ UVM blog is live!

Welcome to the UDL @ UVM blog! The UDL team is hoping this blog will serve as a discussion board and repository of all things related to UD.
Universal Design (UD) in Learning is about applying Universal Design guidelines to the teaching environment. The guidelines put simply:
Use Multiple Means of Representation
Use Multiple Means of Expression
Use Multiple Means of Engagement

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