Deena Kimmel, Marketing Specialist

A Key Takeaway from ATIA: The Importance of UDL

A couple weeks ago, we attended the ATIA 2017 Conference in Orlando, Florida. There were a ton of fabulous sessions on a range of interesting and important topics, all of which we wish we could share here with you. But, there was one topic that really stood out: UDL.

At this year’s ATIA conference, we saw an increase in sessions that focused on implementing UDL (Universal Design for Learning) in schools and districts in order to support a wider range of students. Several presenters shared their own UDL stories, offering guidance and best practices based on their experiences.

Our friends Beth Poss, an Administrator for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, and Chris Bugaj, a founding member of the Assistive Technology team for Loudoun County Public Schools, led a wonderful session on the importance of UDL in the 21st century. As they rightly observed, some of today’s educators still practice 20th century teaching. However, these traditional learning tools present significant barriers to students with diverse learning needs. UDL, however, is a framework that removes barriers by “anticipating the needs of all students”.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from their presentation was that educators need to stop seeing themselves as Teachers, and start recognizing themselves as Educational Experience Designers. With this new title, educators provide educational experiences for their students that are geared towards those students’ preferred learning styles, helping them to enjoy learning and to understand the material on a deeper and more comprehensive level. 

Beth and Chris concluded their presentation with a list of great tools to help implement UDL in the classroom. Click here to find this list, along with the full presentation.

For those schools and districts considering a larger transition to UDL, there were two great sessions at ATIA that highlighted specific best practices for district-wide implementation. The first was run by Rhianon Gutierrez and Mary Shannon Marcella from the Boston Public Schools (BPS). In their presentation, they highlighted the importance of collaboration between the Instructional and Assistive Technology Departments in order to successfully implement a UDL approach to learning across the district. 

These two teams not only collaborated in choosing the appropriate assistive technology tool for their district, Read&Write for Google Chrome, but they also worked together to put on an extremely valuable event, The Technology Expo for Diverse Learners. This event effectively educated BPS teachers and staff on the technology available to them to support diverse learners and UDL.

Another awesome presentation, run by Peter Bertram, highlighted Webster Central School District’s journey to UDL. One of the key best practices from Peter’s presentation was keeping students at the center of their vision at all times. In doing this, all decisions were made with the students in mind, ensuring that students would truly benefit from a district-wide transition to UDL. 

If you’d like to learn more about UDL or how our tools, including Read&Write for Google Chrome, can help you implement a UDL approach to learning in your classroom, school or district, contact us today!


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