Universal Design for Learning at the University of Vermont

Reform or Transform: What is the vision of UDL?


Wil Richardson is one of my favorite bloggers.  He’s a 2o year veteran teacher who now oversees instructional technology and communications at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, NJ.  He’s my favorite visionary these days on all things learning.

In this reflection, he draws attention to the NYTimes magazine article this past Sunday on the Quest To Learn school in NYC, a school organized around gaming.  The school involves sixth and seventh graders and will add a class a year until they are grades 6-12.  Pay particular attention to the video that is linked at the end of his reflection.  This man’s vision for the activity based, collaborative learning that goes on at Quest is a transformative vision, one that contrasts nicely, and somewhat discouragingly,  with the vision of reform advocated in Time magazine’s theme issue on education this week.  The two futures laid out couldn’t be more different.

I think we who work to make University teaching more accessible to a wider range of students need to be tweaked by transformative examples such as Quest.  I don’t know about you, but so often it just feels like we are playing the higher education game, making learning more easily attainable for our UVM students when perhaps what we should really be thinking about is how to change the game, not how to improve the game.  Some questions for us:

Should we be thinking about how to help faculty change the game?

Does gaming itself play any role in what we should be advancing to faculty?

Is gaming so much a future vision that it creates a learning setting beyond UDL?

How can we advise faculty on the facilitative uses of technology when we ourselves are relatively limited in our own use of it to serve our needs and purposes?

Is UDL a reformative practice or is it a transformative vision?  What should it be?

If our goal were to be transformative, what technologies and web-based programs would be useful for us?

It’s questions like these we should be considering from time to time, and it’s people like Will who can help us think through our responses.  When you get into his blog, scroll down through it and read the statements from parents who attended back to school nights at their sons and daughters schools.  Ouch.

Author: Charles Rathbone

Retired. Emeritus. Conducts a seminar on university teaching to doctoral students in the Rubenstein School of Natural Resources once a year. Board Member Vermont Interfaith Action, volunteer and advocate Burlington Bike Project, UDL consultant VSA Vermont, photographer, married, four children, five grandchildren, and one Golden Doodle. Embracing life, all of it. "Today is tomorrow's past."

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