UDL and Born Accessible Learning Resources: What State Leaders Need to Know

In this information-packed webinar, Jamie Basham, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Special Education at the University of Kansas, co-founder of the UDL Implementation Research Network (UDL-IRN), discusses alignement of UDL framework with local resources.


- [Voiceover] Well, hello. My name is Tracy Gray, and I'm with the American Institutes for Research, and we are very excited to be able to present this webinar today with Dr. Jamie Basham. We are part of the team working with FHI 360 on the OSEP funded Center on Technology and Disability. And it looks like we have just a terrifc group here today to hear from Jamie about this critical issue related to Universal Design for Learning and Born Accessible Learning Resources: What State Leaders Need to Know. If you've had an opportunity to see the new National Education Technology Plan that was released in January, it talks about the importance of making sure that technology tools, whether they're assistive technology or they're instructional or educational tools, are born accessible right from the beginning. So Jamie's going to be talking about this issue, and giving us a lot of things to think about. Whether you are a state leader or working more at the district level, he's going to really be focusing on those key issues that will move us forward to ensure that students with special needs, students with disability have the opportunity to leverage technology to enhance their teaching and learning experience. So Jamie, take it away.

- [Voiceover] Hi, Tracy. Thanks for that wonderful introduction, and I see a lot of friendly faces on here. Some folks that know about UDL already, and they're probably just here to kind of hear about what's in ESSA, as well as NETP. Really what we're gonna do here today is provide kind of an overview of these things relative to UDL. So I hope everyone, that we're active and we have lots of questions or whatever. I'll try and keep an eye on the chat window, as well as I'm sure that people will be asking questions throughout. So today's plan, like I said, is to kind of really do an overview of UDL, really with respect to what state leaders need to know relative to ESSA and NETP. Provide like a basic understanding of UDL, and then talk about the role of accessibility within UDL because one of the things that's actually often kind most cited within UDL is the notion of accessibility, but really accessibility is only one small part of UDL itself. And so I think this is gonna be an opportunity to talk about that. Then I'm gonna get some basic sort of considerations for implementation, and then some kind of resources. But a large majority of the time I'm hopeful, as I think Tracy and her team are, hopeful that it's a kind of an interactive session, and we'll answer questions to the best of our ability. And then if we need to, we can follow up with certain people offline. So just kind of a basic understanding of UDL. Now I'm not one that puts large quotes and/or statements in a slide deck, but oftentimes I find it helpful when talking about policy, as well as any rules, regulations and /or suggestions for implementation of policy in talking to state leaders to kind of put the language directly from papers and/or policy in the document itself. So overall UDL is a scientifically based framework, as many people that know about UDL know that already. But it's a scientifically based framework for supporting variability through both a proactive and reactive design process that integrates an environment that provides for multiple means of engagement, mulitple means of representation of information, and then allowing the students themselves to take action and express themself in multiple ways to demonstrate their understanding. So kind of more basics and some of the fundamental sort of principles or foundational sort of understandings of UDL. That UDL really accepts that variability is the norm rather than the exception. The idea that every child has variability in the learning process, and that every individual, not just children, have variability in the learning process. And that's a key consideration of UDL. Oftentimes UDL is focused on individuals with disabilities, but in reality UDL is really focused on all learners, including, including learners with disabilities. So it's really kind of focused on all learners. That it works across physical, digital and blended environments. It's not really tied to a specific type of environment. Many of us that work in the world of UDL are working across all types of environments. In fact, I often work with states and districts that are going through the implementation process, and we talk about it from frames of what does it look like in a brick and mortar classroom? What does it look like in our online spaces or in blended spaces? It also works across grade bands or age bands, and across all content areas. In fact, one of the things that we find a lot of implementation with, and I know I think I saw Ron Rogers on the phone here, is that in stem areas we see a relationship between stem and UDL, and that UDL provides a foundation for doing things like stem work or steam work, depending how you're gonna look at that. It maintains that the notion of accessibility, a primary reason why we're here on the call today, that the primary notion of accessibility is the foundation by which we design these environments. And if an environment in and of itself is not accessible to all of the learners in the environment, including the learners with disabilities, then it's really not meeting that need. And that it's flexible, and that it's focused on looking at the goals, the methods, the materials and assessments that are within the environment to support learning, but that at the very core, at the very foundation it has to be accessible. It's important to say that UDL is not a specific strategy, but that it is a scientifically based framework. So when people often talk to me, or talk to folks that work in UDL, they often talk about it as an evidence-based strategy, when in reality it's an evidence-based framework, or a scientifically based framework by which we are focused on designing learning environments and learning experiences. After the implementation process, throughout the implementation process for instance, teachers often talk about themselves as designers of the environment, or what I call learning engineers. That we oftentimes are working with teachers about taking on a new role in the way they go about their daily planning and implementation within the environment itself, and take on this notion of really becoming a learning engineer. So in that we're talking to state leaders, I think it's important to talk about the legal definition. It's defined in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. It is again referenced in ESSA, which of course is the reauthorized NCLB. And it's defined as a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that provides flexibilities in the way information is presented, in the way students respond or demonstrate their knowledge and skills, and the ways students are engaged. That B, it's focused on reducing the barriers in instruction, providing appropriate accommodations, supports and challenges, and maintains high achievement and expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient. But in reality it's really kind of focused on, again, all learners. And I think if you read the language in NETP, in the National Ed Technology Plan of 2016, as well as ESSA, it really kind of references UDL in relation to kind of all learners. So kind of the current policy and guidance documents that many are out talking about right now, the kind of big elephant in the room, if you will, is the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA. UDL is actually mentioned five times, five times in the language of ESSA. And it's referenced relative to assessment and alternate assessment and the way that assessments are designed, as well as the way they're implemented in classrooms. It's implemented in literacy instruction, and that literacy based literacy instruction should have a core feature of UDL, and it should be UDL-based literacy instruction. It's referenced in the use of technology and designing personalized environments. That technology used in classrooms should be aligned to the notions of UDL, as well as then the way we think about designing personalized learning environments, where each child, each student in the environment itself maybe has their own individualized learning plan, is going through potentially a competency based or even standards based environment. They're going through at their own pace, in their own time, etc. That it's a UDL based environment. My personal interpretations, again, I'm not a lawyer by training, nor am I a member of Congress, etc., but my interpretations, or work for the Department of Ed, but my interpretations are of following. Like if I was in a state leadership sort of position, here is the things I would be really kind of focused on. That minimally, minimally all students, students with disabilities should be provided with UDL based environments. I think it's pretty clear in ESSA as it's currently written that really students with disabilities should be provided these environments. And in reality it should be all students, and that we know most of the students that are served with disabilities are served in general education sort of environments, and that we need to provide these environments for really all students. That comprehensive literacy instruction should be aligned to the notions of UDL, and that it should be a core feature in how we think about designing these environments, as well as supporting literacy instruction. That technology use, technology use again should be aligned to UDL implementation. And that kind of brings us down to the new National Educational Technology Plan, which as a core feature UDL is kind of foundationally again put into the way we think about the use of technology through NETP because the major focus of NETP was really around equity, accessibility and usability, and foundationally principled in Universal Design for Learning. If people have not picked up that document, which oftentimes we find people that have not picked up that document, I think it really provides some clarity to supporting some understandings of UDL, and how UDL could be used as a basis for what ESSA is kind of calling for. UDL is mentioned specifically in that document, again generally around technology use. Similar to ESSA, it's mentioned relative to assessment, instruction, and again personalized learning. And again, the nice thing about these two documents together is they're aligned very nicely, and that NETP provides a foundational sort of understanding to work towards implementation in both K-12 and teacher preparation environments. Now one of the core reasons why we're here today is to talk about accessibility, to talk about accessibility. And according to the Office of Civil Rights, OCR talks about accessibility as a means, accessible means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, enjoy the same services as a person without a disability, in a equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. And so this is really important to think about, that it's not just providing someone the same information and giving them the ways to go about it, but to do it in such a way that allows them to be effective about doing that, to allow them to do it in such a way that provides some ease of use. And I think this is important to think about this relative to the way that we're designing our learning environments now, and thinking about whether again, whether it's a brick and mortar environment, a blended or fully online environment, to think about are these environments, at the very foundational level, at the very basic level, are they even accessible? Because what we're gonna find out here in just a second is when we think about UDL, that's again at the core foundation of how we think about UDL and do UDL implementation. So let's look at UDL a little bit more deeply. And these are the UDL guidelines that exist, and I'm gonna give you the ways to go about downloading these, and provide you direct links to them later. But you can just go to the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, and the National Center hosted by CAST will provide those guidelines for you. It's important to think about these guidelines because across the top we have that UDL provides for multiple means of engagement, as we talked about briefly earlier. Provides for multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression. Now here's the thing about UDL, folks, that you can go on and really kind of focus on a Masters or even doctorate degree on this. So this 20-minute sort of discussion on UDL to set us up for Q&A is not gonna provide us all the details we need. So what we're gonna do is just kind of provide you enough to kind of make you dangerous. Hopefully to excite people that are not aware of UDL, for them to go and download and gather some more resources on their own, and then potentially reach out to those in the field who are doing UDL that can support the implementation of UDL. But what these guidelines provide is a way to think about the types of variability that exist in an environment. So whether we look at multiple means of engagement, representation, action and expression, and the way that we integrate these things across a learning environment, and then we, thank you, Ryan, for the link in. The way we think about dropping, the way we think about using these and integrating these principles in the environment, providing multiple means of engagement, representation, action and expression, and then thinking about how to use the guidelines, from the very basis of looking at providing basic levels of accessibility at the very basic level. So are the environments that we're designing accessible? And not just accessible for learners with disabilities, although that is obviously a core feature, something we have to consider, but is it accessible for English language learners? It is accessible for culturally diverse learners? Is it accessible, and we can do down that list thinking about where the accessibility lies in this area. And then thinking about if it's supporting the processing and developing understanding for the learners in the environment. So whether the learners are kindergartners, middle schoolers, high schoolers, college kids, etc., does the learning environment consider and design specifically to support the processing that's needed, and develop understanding that's needed to be successful? And then finally, is it dealing with some of the higher order sort of skills that are needed to be successful? What is critical to think about is that UDL is really kind of focused on developing the expert learner, and that learners that are in these certain environments, and after you talk to them you really get a sense that they understand what is going on in the environment from a perspective of being a learner, but they also understand what it means, how to operate as a learner. And so how to move them through life as an expert learner. So let's talk real briefly about implementation and kind of what implementation means. Again, what I wanna highlight to you is that this broad sort of sweep, this broad claim and sort of discussion on UDL is not gonna probably provide people enough to kind of move forward on their own, but we're gonna give you some resources to think about this. So I wanna talk about it from two different perspectives. The first one I wanna talk about it from is like a classroom sort of perspective, and then we're gonna talk about from a systems level sort of perspective. From a classroom perspective, there's a non-profit called the UDL Implementation and Research Network that I co-founded and run, and what we have worked with is teachers across the nation that are implementing UDL. And we said to these teachers, what is there very simply that's going on in these environments? What is going on in these environments? And we worked with the folks at MITS in Michigan that were doing some of this work, and we said to these teachers, what's going on in these environments that we can put on one page that we can talk to all teachers about? And it took us a while, and after about a year of work, and then taking these through different reviews from different groups, we came up with four things that are critical to implementing UDL. The first one is that both the teacher and the students have to have clear goals. They have to have an understanding of where it's going. They have to have an understanding of what they've done in the past and how to move through the future. They have to have intentional planning for learner variability, and they have to consider the learners that are in the room and the variability that exists in the room. Again, those learners could be those with disabilities. It could be learners that were out sick the week before, those learners who learn in a different language, etc. They need to consider the different types of methods, the flexible methods and materials that could be brought to bear to support the learning environment. And then they need to have timely progress monitoring. And the teachers that have been implementing this awhile, they said these are the four things that when we're doing UDL, these are always present. These are always present. It's not just that three of them are present. It's that four of them are always present. And then the UDL IRN has taken these and put them into a five-step process. It's based on the notion of backwards design where step one, we really kind of establish clear learning outcomes and define what it's gonna look like at the end. What are students gonna be able to do, know, talk about, etc.? Step two then is again to think about the learner variability. So when we work with teachers in the field on this we often talk about designing unit plans around these five steps. So what are the outcomes we wanna achieve? What is the learner variability we're dealing with in the classroom? And again, and then we get to this next one. It's like how are we gonna measure success? What are some measurable outcomes, and what's your assessment plan? And you'll note here up to this point, up to this point we've not gone through and actually designed, I mean, we've not designed the instructional experience. It's not until step four that we really design the instructional experience, that we've defined all these other things up front, and then we said, OK, now what does instruction look like? Now that we the understanding of the outcomes, the variability and what we want it to look like at the end and how we're going to assess it, what does the instructional experience look like? And then the fifth thing is what sort of reflections and new understandings, when are we gonna gather those, and when are we gonna go through the process of thinking about what did we learn here? From a systems level sort of perspective, so from really kind of a state leadership perspective, the National Center on UDL has really kind of defined this process as a five-step process where we kind of go through the implementation phases of exploration, preparation, integration, scaling and optimization. And these have really worked. There's many of us in the field that have worked on these at state level, at district level, at school level, at university level. And really there are actually even whole countries that are going through this throughout the world, but that we go through this whole process, and that we move through the process based on the data that we have at the location that we're working with. So you can't just say exploration's gonna take a year, preparation's gonna take a year, etc. It might be that exploration takes a little bit longer than a year at some places. It might take less than a year at other places, etc. And so that's a multi sort of phased process based on the stages of implementation. Just give you some resources, and I think the idea is to open it up for Q&A. We want to provide you some basic places to go as resource hubs. The two resource hubs that I would go to, and I kind of direct people to are the National Center for Universal Design for Learning, which has already gone into the chat window. And Ron has also provided a link to the UDL IRN, which thank you for putting both those in there, Ron. And both these places are kind of resource hubs for thinking about implementation, and they will both provide you guidance in different ways. We work with one another on supporting implementation and what it might look like in the environment. In fact, the UDL IRN just had its annual summit where it brought together about 160 people on the ground, and another 160 kind of different places throughout the world in a three-day sort of summit to discuss the state of implementation and research throughout the field, to help districts and states and everything that are going through it. And we're gonna have another summit of course next year at the end of March. And then if you're really kind of concerned about and thinking about accessible materials, another great resource housed at CAST. It's the National Center for Accessible Educational Materials, and that information is there for you. It's aem.cast.org, and it's another great resource that is there for you to look at. Now if you want to kind of think about what it might look like in the implementation, the steps you might take towards implementation, if you're on a college campus, there's UDL on Campus that might help support the notion of what this could look like in the implementation in higher education. And then a colleague and I, Louis Lord Nelson and I developed a kind of a blueprint to think about implementation and what this might look like. And both these resources are free for you to download at the URL provided there.

- [Voiceover] Well Jamie, this is great.

- [Voiceover] And finally, a few more resources as you're thinking about it from a digital online environment. We know that digital and online learning environments throughout the states are growing. There is the National Center on Online Learning for Students with Disabilities that is a partnership between the University of Kansas where I'm housed, as well as CAST and NASD. And the folks there, we've pulled together some resources for you, and if you go to our website there's many, many resources. I highlighted a couple of them here for you. One of them is Equity Matters, which is our annual publication that deal with kind of the state of online learning, and it has UDL discussed in there. And then my colleague here at KU, Sean Smith actually developed something on Invited In which talks about measuring UDL within these online spaces. Finally, if you wanna take some deeper dives on this, and then we're gonna get to questions, Meyer, Rose and Gordon just came out with a new book on UDL Theory and Practice. You can purchase it or go through it for free online. The URL is provided there for you. And then if you're kind of conceptually wondering where this kind of all comes from, a colleague and friend of mine just wrote a book, The End of Average, How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness, and Todd Rose. This book kind of sets up the notion of where the future of education is, and why something like UDL is critical to the way we do education. So there's my contact information if people want it. I would be free to answer questions either on Twitter or email. Obviously we're gonna have some questions here in a few minutes. And then we'll kind of go from there, I guess. Tracy, do you wanna help facilitate?

- [Voiceover] I sure do. Thanks go much, Jamie. This was really very informative, and I think it gives people a sense of the breadth and depth of the work that you and our friends at CAST have been doing. So why don't we get to the questions. It looks like Melissa wants to hear about UDL and its potential for working with students with autism.

- [Voiceover] That's great, and thanks for the question, Melissa. Actually one of my colleagues here at KU, Jason Travers, is doing some work in that area I think as we speak. But there's also a lot of work going on in Ohio on that, and OCALI had some resources on that. And I'm sure that folks from OCALI that are on the call, Ron, etc., will jump in and maybe even provide some of those resources. But it obviously is, autism is a disability, and it's one of the considerations of variability that's in a classroom, and so something that's, the evidence based practices that we know that work with autism, or even any evidence based practice that works with any sort of student with a disability, is easily integrated into a UDL based environment. And it would kind of follow that same process in that the consideration of the variability that exists, and then making sure that those go into that sort of environment. I don't know if that answers the question enough, and I'm waiting for someone from OCALI to jump in and say here's some more places that you can go to.

- [Voiceover] It looks like Ron's suggesting that we--

- [Voiceover] There we go, there's Ron. go to the OCALI, there you go, the OCALI site, and it's right there. Thanks, Ron, for adding that. I've got a question for you, Jamie, that we often hear. What do schools and districts do who have limited access to technology tools? How can they integrate UDL into their curriculum and their teaching?

- [Voiceover] Wow, and that's a, I hear that question all the time myself. One of the things that we often do if we go in to do and help with implementation, Tracy, is to start off by figuring out what resources are available in the school. And oftentimes, obviously, we're in environments that don't have the technology. It is something that can be done, and it can be done in a way that, in a way that we move through the process and consider the types of disabilities and types of variability that exists in that environment, and try to work around some of those tools. Can it be done in a low tech environment is something that we get, and I can tell you that one of the implementations that was just done is in rural sub-Sahara Africa, and they have very little technology. And so I think we think about things like, in sort of that environment even we thought about things like what were some of the resources that were available in the environment? And what we quickly found out is when we talked about mobile phones and things that were coming into the environment that weren't necessarily purchased by the district, and how we might be able to utilize those wisely in the district or in the school, it's a consideration. From a sustainability stance it becomes a little bit more difficult to fully implement UDL, and I'm trying to parse my words here very carefully. It becomes very difficult to implement UDL from a sustainable stance in an environment that has very little technology. That is not to say that it can't be done. It just puts it on the backs of the staff and the providers a little bit more. So for instance, what's happened in some of the places that are extremely rural, and what I'm thinking about is the implementation that was just done in Africa, they relied on the strong will of the parents that were involved in the school to help support some of the needs for providing multiple means of representation, action, expression, etc., and supporting the teachers in that process. So it makes it a little bit more difficult, but it can be done. It's just sustainability makes it difficult.

- [Voiceover] That's really helpful.

- [Voiceover] With that said, the other thing I would say is that there are many districts, oftentimes those of us who go through and help states and/or districts go through the implementation process, we get calls at two ends of the spectrum. One, that hey, I just purchased 20,000 iPads, and I need some help. I'm thinking we wanna do UDL now. And the other end is like we're thinking about doing a one-on-one initiative, and we want you to help us think about what that might look like, and bring UDL into play. And it's always difficult when there's been an implementation of something, and there's not been the pedagogical sort of framework put behind it to implement it. So if these state leaders, etc., are thinking about, you know hey, our state's doing large initiatives with technology right now, or I know this district that's about to undertake that, I think it's crucial to think about how we're gonna put this pedagogical sort of frame in place and use something like UDL to support that prior to just dropping a bunch of technology in schools.

- [Voiceover] Well, and as we all talk about who have been working in this area for a long time, in the end it's not about the technology.

- [Voiceover] Right.

- [Voiceover] It's really about the alignment of the curriculum and the content and the professional development. So we've got some great questions coming up here. I know that we've gone a little bit over, but I just wanna remind you, you can see in the box that Devon put the link to the Survey Monkey. It's a quick survey. We'd really love your feedback. It's a live link, so you can click on it. And so we encourage you to do that before you go. But why don't we quickly, Jamie, quick response to Pat. Pat's question, which is a great one about students with intellectual disabilities being included more, especially mild intellectual disabilities. Are they being more engaged in general ed classes? And what recommendations do you have?

- [Voiceover] Yeah, definitely they're being more engaged. And you know, again, that we have to consider students with intellectual disabilities as part of the variability that's within any environment, and that we would encourage inclusive sort of environment. That UDL is a framework for thinking about how that might happen. There are those in the field, Alisa Lowrey, who's a colleague of mine that studies this area of work within UDL, and is a great resource there. We have Swift schools that's also here at KU that is also thinking about this, and deeply about this sort of issue. But definitely it's something I, it's definitely within, in how we think about UDL implementation. Again, we think about all students. Are there recommendations for these students? Any recommendations require, so the idea that there are some that believe that if UDL is fully in place in the environment that things like assistive technology are not necessarily needed. But in reality there's always gonna be the need for accommodations and sort of one-off designs, if you will, or support such as assistive technology in these environments. I mean, if we just think about this from an engineering sort of structure. If an engineer is made to build a bridge, and they said OK, I need to get from this side of the river to the other side of the river, the engineer is gonna say, OK, what are the things I'm dealing with here? What are the variables I'm dealing with? And so they'll go through and say things like, how much weight do I have to carry on a day-to-day basis? What's my timeline? What's etc., etc.? And UDL is very similar to that fashion, so that if the engineer was going through and designing a bridge for a road that only got three cars a day on it, it would have a different design, a different sort of design than a road that was gonna get 100,000 cars through it a day, or a bridge that was outside a quarry that needed to carry a heavy load. And so there is gonna be one-off designs in absolutely everything we do in the design process, and UDL is just like that. So we have to kind of think about occasionally there's gonna be a need for one-off designs for specific students with more significant needs, and I think that's acceptable. And looking down some of the other questions that we have here, in working with the district... So some of the first steps in thinking about, in working at district that's going through this is to kind of assess and build from what you have. To kind of go through that exploration process. What do we have in place that could support UDL implementation? What are some great things that we're already doing? The idea is that you don't wanna start from scratch, but you wanna build on things that you're already doing. And you wanna kind of celebrate what you're already doing, and then build from that. And again, not that you're gonna jump in and say we're gonna do everything right away. There's gonna be an incremental sort of small step approach towards what are some quick wins that we can get? Knowing that some of the things are gonna take longer to implement. Online curriculum. I'm trying to read some of these here.

- [Voiceover] I can help you out here, Jamie. Alice is asking about your experience with increasing use of born accessible materials, particularly in the higher ed setting.

- [Voiceover] You know, Alice, that's a great question because I think that's something that's emerging as a real need throughout the country. And it's something that I know we've had conversations even on our own campus about making sure that we have accessible materials that are used throughout. I would recommend again going to the UDL on Campus sort of materials to help think about that. But I think there are conversations that could be had with your support team on campus to think about, rather than thinking about individuals with disabilities on campus, let's think about how do we deal with the variability that we have on campus? And what are the places that we can go to? What are some other places we can go to to learn about that? And again, the UDL on Campus website I think can help you there.

- [Voiceover] That's really helpful. And Eli had asked about making sure that the recording's available. Ana Maria has posted where the link is, where you'll find it, and we will be posting it tomorrow. So you'll get access to both the recording and Jamie's very informative Powerpoint presentation. I know that there are, you've really just gotten us all thinking, Jamie, and it sounds like given the interest here that we may wanna schedule another presentation. We can talk about this in terms of just doing a little bit deeper dive into Universal Design for Learning and what the implications are because clearly people are very interested, and we've got a lot of questions here that we'd like you to answer.

- [Voiceover] Right.

- [Voiceover] So my thanks to you, Jamie, and everyone who participated. We've got a great group here. And again, please take a minute to fill out the survey. You'll find that link again in the chat window. So we really appreciate your time and look forward to seeing you online soon. Thanks, everybody. Take good care.

- [Voiceover] Thanks, Tracy.

- [Voiceover] Bye bye, thanks, Jamie. Bye bye.