Reaching All Learners – Universal Design for Learning Summer Institute.

Boy jumping from spring board

Jumping off spring board

In a few days I’m off to spend the week at Harvard in the company of Dr David Rose and Prof. Thomas Hehir and 40+ plus students from around the world looking at Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

In these past weeks, I have been cramming the pre-reading into the small corners of my days. The online organisation of this “warm-up” is explicitly modeling a Universal Design for Learning approach, so instead of pages of text, there are videos and audio descriptions, interactive representations of ideas and multiple options for demonstrating my understanding.

The motivation and impetus to make such a trip has come from a growing interest in the work evolving at the National Center of Universal Design for Learning at CAST (Centre of Assistive Technology), particularly in their research around identifying and removing barriers to learning and the development of a framework for teachers to enable them to maximise and customise their use of new media to meet the variable needs of all learners.

This area of curriculum design feels particularly pertinent  as we on the one hand explore the potential of new technology in the classroom whilst also striving to find ways to engage and meet the needs of learners who have consistently found themselves in the margins in education. It will be interesting to hear the stories from both educators using the UDL framework and educational leaders and administrators who have implemented the use of the framework across multiple sectors.

Following my week at Harvard, I’m catching up with more experienced educators implementing the UDL framework  in New York City, then I’m back to Boston for the 1st International Roundtable on UDL at CAST. The second half of the week, I spend based at the University of Calgary, under the wing of Professor Sharon Friesen and her 4 PhD students pursuing research in and around UDL. In Calgary my attention will be on how UDL principles are being woven into strategic planning and implementation across a variety of sectors  in different states across Canada and the US and to look at what we can learn for our NZ context.

Boy dive bombing into river from spring board

In flight

But right now, in moments between the chaos of extricating myself from home and work, I feel like a small kid on a spring board. I have been flexing my knees over the last 18 months, moving the board up and down, gaining momentum for the big jump that will send me airborne.

So do keep an eye out for sporadic Passonable posts. The plan is to blog and tweet in good measure.

If you’re interested in a succinct bedtime reading, Rose and Meyer’s, “The Future is in the Margins” essay, is a gentle in. It’s just a couple of pages and makes really easy reading.

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