Over the course of the last eight weeks, I have had the pleasure of working with a competent group of individuals to improve my own teaching ability. Rather than simply learning by absorbing information presented by our instructor, we each contributed to the learning environment by locating, researching, and describing various resources to help transform our classrooms into completely differentiated learning spaces that are governed by the guidelines of the Universal Design for Learning. While many of the resources discovered through our combined research centered on the CAST website (http://udl.cast.org/udl/), which provides professional educators with innumerable resources to implement UDL practices and ensure equal access to the curriculum by all students, many other diverse resources, from professional journals to personal blogs, allowed each of us to gain a better understanding of our students, and the process of moving our classroom into the 21st century. Working together, each member discovered various aspects found within this website and it should be the base point for any educator looking to implement UDL into their classrooms. Beyond the CAST website, other members also located http://ebscoweb.com/uploads/thisTopic-dbTopic-1073.pdf and http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines. Both of these sites focus on the research basis of UDL and how educators can combine UDL with other, research based, approaches to instruction. Both of these sties provide a great many ideas of how to amend various lessons throughout different subjects and will be incredibly helpful as I continue to modify my instruction and learning environment to meet the needs of my students.
Beyond these sites, many of my colleagues also pointed out various independently constructed digital resources from teachers around the country. The wiki, http://udltechtoolkit.wikispaces.com/ and personal blog, http://teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk/index.php/2007/05/04/5-ways-teachers-can-use-educational-technology-to-engage-students/ are both excellent resources for any teacher. Unlike the previous resources, these personal websites are from a teacher’s perspective and do not delve as deeply into the research origins of UDL or DI. Both the wiki and the blog provide common sense steps and solutions to challenges teachers face day-to-day. The tools presented do not necessarily require multiple technology tools to implement and guide the reader through the process, pointing out possible pitfalls and how to avoid them. These sites will become regular nightly reading as I continue to transform my teaching style and explore new instructional strategies.
Each of the various resources compiled by my colleagues will prove to be invaluable as I work to move my classroom into the 21st century. Starting now, there are many concrete steps that I can take to implement UDL and DI into my classroom. First, I will begin to adapt my lessons to meet the needs of all the students in my class. In the past, and even recently, I have pushed forward with lesson plans that had been moderately successful in the past. Now I will modify each lesson by focusing more on a student centered learning environment with instructional stations throughout the classroom. Each station will incorporate various technological tools (software and hardware) to ensure that every student can access the material in a way that is comfortable. Also, I will continue, more heartily, to lobby my school administrators to bring more technological tools into the classroom. With more tools, such as a mobile laptop cart, wireless internet, and web based software that promote creative thinking (Webspiration, VoiceThread, etc) my students will have a multitude of ways to demonstrate their understanding of concepts discussed in class. Not only will these technological tools promote creative thinking within my students, but they will also allow me to expand my instructional repertoire and include new techniques, outlined through various Walden courses, for the benefit of each child.