Shauna Hanna

UDL-IRN takeaways: Bigger than the Beatles, the Stones, Lady Gaga and Beyonce


Every single individual that attended UDL-IRN, all 400+ of them, a true family, share an inspiring vision for the future of education. While they are all working towards that vision in their own unique ways, they are all connected by the end goal. And really, isn’t that what UDL is all about? 




There’s something unique about the UDL-IRN conference. At first glance, you may think WOW! pineapple suits, sparkly outfits, surprisingly good lunch buffets and food trucks that sets UDL-IRN apart. But, after two and a half days of UDL Talks, breakout sessions, End of Average Talks, and invigorating networking, it becomes clear it’s much much more than that. 

Every single individual that attended UDL-IRN, all 400+ of them, a true family, share an inspiring vision for the future of education. While they are all working towards that vision in their own unique ways, they are all connected by the end goal. And really, isn’t that what UDL is all about?

After all, the UDL framework encourages educators to provide students with multiple means of engagement, representation, and action & expression to help reach the common goal of making education accessible, reducing barriers and supporting students in their journey to becoming “expert learners.”




The variability that comes with the UDL framework is both a blessing and a curse. As Loui Lord Nelson explained in her UDL Talk, we will minimize the power of UDL and misrepresent what it is if we define it as a strategy or a practice. As a framework, “the what and how of UDL continues beyond [the] description”, giving you the freedom to apply the guidelines anywhere - even to the physical seating of the classroom.

This freedom, however, can also make implementation challenging. Where do you begin? What if you try something new and it doesn’t work? What if you lose your focus? How do you know you’ve been successful? Luckily, several speakers had advice for those scenarios.

In Katie Novak’s UDL Talk, she discussed all the failures she’s had over the years while implementing UDL. As she explained, it is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to go slow, and you will fail. But you can’t succeed without the failures: “Success and failure are braided together...but when we get it right, it’s so worth it!” 

There was also a lot of discussion about losing your focus - whether that be getting discouraged by the failures, struggling to find new ways to implement UDL, or succumbing to the latest fad even if it doesn’t really support UDL. 

In her session on Leveraging Technology to Remove Barriers (Not Create Them), Brenny Kummer encouraged attendees to “wear your UDL thinking cap whenever you are deciding what technology to integrate in the classroom.” In doing this, you can weed out the fads from the tools that truly support valuable learning.

And if all else fails, as several speakers including Liz Berquist reminded the audience, “We need to take our work around #UDL back to ‘our why’, which is disrupting inequities”.

 

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