Saturday, April 6, 2013

What is the Universal Design for Learning? There's an App for That!

Maryland Learning Links
According to, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is defined as "is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn."  UDL can be compared to "differentiated Instruction", with the ideas and goals to create a unique learning environment that is beneficial to the individual learners.  Of course whenever we talk about differentiated instruction, it is important to consider that the students inside classrooms today, are far different than the students that were there two decades ago.  

There's an App for That!
For the rest of this post, I am going to identify and discuss a number of Applications (apps) that are available for iPads and other mobile devices.  For the most part, the apps that are described are geared towards an interactive and collaborative classroom where students have choices and equal opportunity to enhance their own learning environments.  Some apps will also benefit students who need additional attention based on their needs.  

1. Dragon Dictation is voice recognition app that easily converts speech-to-text.  The user speaks into the iPad or iPone and the app converts it into text on the screen.  The text can then be saved and used as needed.  Although Dragon Dictation converts speech-to-text, editing is still needed.  The user can see as Dragon Dictation writes what they are speaking in a text format.  

  • The UDL that this app best represents is Principle II - Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression - Checkpoint 5.1 - Use multiple media for communication
  • This meets the criteria for Checkpoint 5.1 because Dragon Dictation helps the learners meet the goals.  Perhaps there is a student who is unable to type efficiently,  Dragon Dication would allow the student to succeed and meet the learning goals by assisting them throughout the writing process. 
  • Perhaps, to keep students accountable, you could still have them write a final paragraph after they have edited the draft created by the Dragon Dictation app.
2. Educreations is an interactive whiteboard directly in the hands of the learner.  This app allows students to create a series of drawings or diagrams with the ability to enhance with color.  After the student has created a series of "slides" they can then record a description, or interpretations, of their drawings.  For simplicity reasons, consider the picture of the app itself.  A sixth grade student could create and label a triangle.  They could then give examples of how to find C, if A and B are given.  Third grade students could create a diagram of a volcano, and then label parts on the pictures, and then share facts and information using the audio feature.  
  • The UDL that this app best represents is Principle I - Provide Multiple Means of Representation - Checkpoint 2.5 - Illustrate through multiple media 
  • This meets the criteria for Checkpoint 2.5 because Educreations allows students to express a variety of content based on their individual needs or desires.  The students are able to be creative and draw what they want, but they also need to interpret and share what they are trying to accomplish.  
  • This app satisfies those students that that are visual learners as well as auditory learners providing for various learning environments depending on the user.  

3. GoogleEarth is an amazing tool when used effectively in the classroom.  There are a plethora of tasks and activities you could do with the World at your fingertips.  For more ideas on how to use GoogleEarth click here.  

  • The UDL that this app best represents is Principle I - Provide Multiple Means of Representation Checkpoint 2.5 - Illustrate through multiple media 
  • This meets the criteria for CheckPoint 2.5 because GoogleEarth allows the users to zoom in and explore areas from around the World!  This idea of exploring places is beneficial to students students as they can connect with a "subject" by viewing imagery.  Imagine how hard it is to explain to elementary students how large the Great Wall of China really is?  Start from a zoomed out position, and slowly zoom in and see if the students can locate it.  This will put the size of the wall into perspective for the students, who can then continue learning more about it.
  • This app helps students who benefit from using visuals when learning new information.  Some students don't benefit from reading about information, rather they would like to explore and see things for themselves.    

4. Skype! is a wonderful tool to lower the classroom walls and explore possibilities that seem endless!  Skype is like a digital "phone call" where people use their Skype accounts to make phone calls.  Once the subjects are connected, a video and audio broadcast are available to enhance the experience.  Skype uses internet streaming to connect people across the globe.  

  • The UDL that this app best represents is Principle III - Provide Multiple Means of Engagement - Checkpoint 8.3 - Foster collaboration and community
  • This meets the criteria for Checkpoint 8.3 because Skype allows students to explore subjects beyond their classroom walls.  They are able to connect, and collaborate, with students from different districts, or even states.  
  • Skype is one of the best ways to foster collaboration among a group of people.  Face-to-face contact brings an authentic route to meaningful learning.  
5. Glogster is another tool to allow students to be more creative when sharing their information.  Similar to a poster, Glogster lets students design the layout and add any necessary information. 
  •  The UDL that this app best represents is Principle III - Provide Multiple Means of Engagement - Checkpoint 8.3 - Foster collaboration and community
  • This meets the criteria for Checkpoint 8.3 because Glogster provides students with choices, and freedom to create unique masterpieces.  Students collaborate as they insert videos and embed links, and create a multimedia visual to communicate ideas.  
  • Glogster allows the user to utilize their creative talents transform a blank poster into an interactive informational system!  This allows for a variety of students to create whatever they wish, based on their needs and desires.  Some Glogsters may contain text and a few pictures.  Others may possess videos, charts, links, as well as, text into an interactive mecca.  Their freedom stretches as far as their imagination.
6. Wikipedia allows for a cross-cultural exchange of information.  Wikipedia provides its services in 41 different languages which can be beneficial to a variety of learners.  Another feature which Wikipedia provides is the ability for collaboration.  The data and information that makes up the articles on Wikipedia are actually created by individuals and professionals before being confirmed by members of the Wikipedia Community.  
  • The UDL that this app best represents is Principle I - Provide Multiple Means of Representation - Checkpoint 2.4 - Promote understanding across languages.  
  • This meets the criteria for Checkpoint 2.4 because Wikipedia offers its website in a variety of languages.  This is great for multiple reasons, for example, when students are learning to speak English, it will be helpful to them when trying to complete school work, if they have content in their native languages.  They would still be able to learn the content without fully understanding the English Language.  Students who are also studying another language, such as middle school Spanish class.  They could read information in English, and then see if they can understand the information in a real-world context such as an article.  
  • Providing this choice for students who may be learning the English language is priceless.  Students are still able to develop vocabulary skills as well as sentence structure.  
7.  Worlde may not be an app on the iPad, but can certainly be used with the Safari or Puffin internet browsers.  Worlde is a word cloud generator that can enhance any learning environment containing new vocabulary.  
  • The UDL that this app best represents is Principle I - Provide Multiple Means of Representation - Checkpoint 2.1 - Clarify vocabulary and symbols
  • This meets the criteria for Checkpoint 2.1 because Wordle lets students create works of art using key vocabulary words.  Instead of writing a list of words on their own, students can develop creative images displaying new or unknown words.  This is a very creative way to make vocabulary lists and can be motivating for students.  For more ideas on how to use Wordle in the classroom click here.  
  • Worlde allows the teacher to pre-teach vocabulary and symbols.  The students can get familiar using the word in the classroom and as they create their Wordles, the teacher can ask questions and spark discussion among students.  Students can also write the definition of the words on a different sheet for more practice.  
8.  Starfall is another interactive website that can be used similarly to Wordle and the internet.  Starfall is designed for elementary students and provides a variety of games and activities to enhance early reading skills.    There are activities that involve listening, comprehension, and creativity, just to name a few.  
  • The UDL that this app best represents is Principle I - Provide Multiple Means of Representation - Checkpoint 2.3 - Decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols.  
  • This meets the criteria for Checkpoint 2.3 because Starfall provides students with a variety of activities to enhance students' ability as they proceed through early reading stages.  More specifically, Starfall encourages students to use decoding skills such as pairing sounds and letters.    
  • Providing the variety of activities is beneficial to students as they have a choice of which they want to learn more about.  Not every student needs to be doing the same thing on the same website.  As the students progress based on their needs, the teacher is there for encouragement.  

10.  Digging for Answers is another web-based game.  3.1


  1. Tyler - You've got some great apps here. A few that for sure cross all boundaries and make complete and total sense. It does appear that #9 and #10 need a little completing though! However, I do really love how you approached the UDL assignment. Now, the big question is, will researching any of these apps now allow them to show up on your iPads? Why or why not? How are those going anyway...

  2. You have a great start to your ongoing list. Were you going to add more for #9 and 10 to follow your same progression. There are a few iPad apps and Web 2.0 based do they all work on an iPad or what other type of mobile device were you thinking?

  3. I like your clarity in your list, targeting how it fits into those 3 principles. I also explored a couple of the resources I hadn't know about before. Thank you for sharing you list.

  4. Tyler - great list of apps. I particularly like how you provided apps that appeal to different grade levels. As a secondary teacher, I never really think about apps that may be utilized at the elementary level such as Starfall. Also, I think that some of the apps you suggested could be used universally at any grade level such as Google Earth. Have you used Skype much on a mobile device? How well does it work compared to desktop versions?