My passion is to remove the obstacles to learning for all students and these free tools offer opportunities for struggling learners that promote academic success. When material is digital or electronic, it is flexible and accessible. It is our responsibility as educators to provide materials that promote success. Please encourage all educators to consider using these free tools.

When Congress reauthorized IDEA in 1997, they added the provision that ALL students on IEPs must now be considered for assistive technology. (As Dave Edyburn pointed out, 4 million more students were now eligible to be considered for AT. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 96% of students with disabilities attend schools within their districts which is the high-incidence population.)

Unfortunately, this was another unfunded mandate.

Unfortunately, this is a provision that is frequently ignored (in my experience).



Why?
Many teachers believe that assistive technology has to cost money, typically a lot of money. They tell me they are afraid to bring up AT at team meetings for that reason. Other teachers tell me that particular software or hardware is available but no one knows how to use it so it just sits in a closet, unused. Sometimes, teachers who were trained to use particular tools or devices have left the district and no one else is interested in learning how to integrate the AT. A common complaint is that the software is too complicated or there are technical issues that prevent implementation.

I hear many more issues but none of this helps our struggling learners. It's time for a change and there is no better time than now with the ubiquitous open source and Web 2.0 tools that are readily available. Change is centered upon
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
which proposes that multiple methods of :
  • Representation
  • Engagement
  • Expression
promote learning for ALL students. Flexibility is embedded within the curriculum. The book, Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice - available in its entirety at the CAST website, expounds upon these principles and this is a MUST read for all educators. The National Center on UDL offers a number of free resources and supports for educators interested in incorporating UDL principles in their classrooms, including tutorials and interactive activities.
Change is also centered on
FREE
tools that are already readily available in the classroom or that are easily accessed by Internet download.

I have assembled a number of free resources that I believe should be on every classroom computer to promote learning for all students based upon principles of UDL. These tools provide improved access and accommodate for learner differences. Additionally, they are fun and engaging!

It's Not About the Tools; It's About the Possibilities blog post by Karen Janowski

Video explaining UDL Principles and Guidelines



To learn more about UDL, check out these resources:

What is UDL?
UDL Guidelines (presented using UDL principles)
UDL Guidelines - one page PDF color coded Summary
UDL Lesson Builder
UDL YouTube Channel
UDL Learning Tools
National Center on UDL
UDL Curriculum Toolkit


UDL Learning Wheel - Interactive tool for understanding and implementing UDL Wheel.png
Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice -