Shauna Hanna

Re-thinking UDL: an Educational Operating System?

Educational consultant and thought leader Bryan Dean is sharing some provocative new ideas about learning at this year’s UDL-IRN International Summit in Orlando from April 25-27. We asked Bryan to give us sneak preview of his ‘End of Average’ showcase session. 

Bryan Dean

What is UDL? An initiative? A framework? An idea? Or something else? Ask ten teachers and education experts to define what ‘Universal Design for Learning’ means to them, and you’ll get ten wildly different answers. So why the apparent breadth of opinions? To throw fresh light on a very interesting question, we asked UDL-IRN Executive Board member Bryan Dean just what’s going on here. 

“In our practise as educators we’ve spent a lot of time telling anyone who’ll listen that UDL is ‘The Thing’”, says Bryan. “But after nearly ten years of implementing UDL, I’ve been wondering if there’s something else – something deeper – that we haven’t managed to articulate as a community.”

That something, Bryan suggests, could be a completely fresh understanding of what UDL actually means, and its true role at the heart of learner-centred design:

“When I switch on my computer each day, I don’t get excited about the Macintosh operating system it’s running” Bryan observes, “but maybe I should. “That OS controls absolutely everything, regardless of the task I’m performing at a particular instant. It totally shapes my experience as a user, even though I’m not conscious of what it’s doing in the background.

“If I’m a graphic designer, a biologist or a poet I’ll give you a different response to the question ‘What do you use your computer for?’. And of course all of those possible answers are equally valid. The Operating System – read UDL – oversees everything. What you elect to do with its assistance is totally your call.

“UDL’s value for visually impaired students may be totally different from its application for gifted learners, or young people with emotional or behavioural needs” notes Bryan. “Maybe it’s time for all of us to take a broader view on appreciating what UDL really ‘is’”.

Ready for your own UDL reboot? Then come along to the UDL-IRN International Summit in Orlando to learn more.


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