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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Implementation
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UDL in 15 Minutes with Brandy Major and Lauren Holcombe

The Right Tool in the Right Environment

In this episode, Brandy and Lauren share their use of a HyperDoc doc to inspire and educate their freshmen about the research process. As Lauren stated, that’s a hard topic to teach because it’s so overwhelming and it can be dry. They were really excited about the outcomes their students experienced and how they’ve updated it each year. A copy of their hyper doc is at my website with their podcast recording.

Jennifer Gonzalez at the Cult of Pedagogy put together a fabulous piece, “How HyperDocs Can Transform Your Teaching” which gives wonderful guidance and links and includes a podcast where she interviews the authors of The HyperDoc Handbook. It’s all worth your attention.

What I want to talk about more, though, is the point I made toward the end of this podcast. The HyperDoc, or any teaching tool for that matter, is only as good as the environment in which it exists. Whether that environment is online or face-to-face, there are key structures that need to be in place and UDL helps us remember those.

A simple walkthrough of the guideline Recruiting Interest under the principle of Engagement helps us remember that we need to: help our learners know they have real choice when it comes to learning (individual choice and autonomy), connect with what they are learning in a meaningful way (relevance, value, and authenticity), and feel secure (minimize threats and distractions). All of that (plus more) is under that top guideline! I could walk through the rest of them, but I’m going to stop here and empower you to do this work.

Let’s say you haven’t dug into UDL much yet. You have some favorite teaching tools (maybe it’s the HyperDoc), but those tools aren’t necessarily benefitting all learners. Or, what you’ve determined as poor attitudes and behaviors are getting in the way. Many times, it’s because you’re asking the tool or strategy to do the heavy lifting. Instead, always look at how you’re giving your learners emotional access to learning.

This tool, developed by the Search Institute and is specific to the COVID-19 crisis, provides some quality relationship-building steps you can take with your learners. These will help you build the kind of environment all students need to flourish, especially now, whether you will be teaching face-to-face or via distance learning. Some of the questions are specific to distance learning, but it’s easy to either shift them to focus on the face-to-face environment or pull them out. I encourage you to do a side-by-side analysis of this tool and the principle of Engagement. You will find deep connections and some places where you can add to the tool and make it even more effective!

There is a lot of uncertainty right now, but learning must and will happen. I want you to get really excited about strategies and tools, but I want you to get even more excited about the design of your environment and how you’re going to make it accessible (emotionally, academically, and physically) to all of your learners. Afterall, that’s how we can help them become expert learners.