Putting together a lesson plan in the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) format for Week 3 of my Teaching with Technology class was challenging and rewarding. I have been out of the classroom for a few years, so I felt a little rusty at formal lesson design, but the UDL model was easy to follow. The challenging parts were striving to address all three of the UDL brain networks and finding quality resources in a variety of formats to incorporate into the lesson.
I was amazed at the amount of time it took me to hunt down quality resources to address the recognition, strategic, and affective networks. Providing multiple media and formats addresses both the recognition and strategic networks while offering choices of content and tools addresses the affective network. With the Internet, these types of resources are abundant, but the time investment it takes to screen the resources for appropriateness regarding quality and level and type of content is large.
The recognition network was addressed by supporting students' background knowledge and providing multiple examples of critical features in multiple formats. I imagined myself working with students and moving seamlessly from displaying and discussing a diagram under the document camera to manipulating an interactive website on a whiteboard as we began to investigate food chains and webs together. I hope students would be as engaged as I imagined they would be.
The strategic network was addressed by providing opportunities to practice with multiple media and formats. It was also interesting to imagine students getting to decide if they wanted to read from a book (would any really pick that nowadays?) or view movie clips or play interactive games on the computer. Would they work in pairs or solo?
Addressing the affective network by offering choices in content and tools, rewards, and levels of challenge was most engaging for me to think about, though. One of the goals teachers often have is to turn their students into lovers of learning. How much more frequently would we achieve that goal if we strove to connect more with students' feelings about learning through methods that address affective networks?
If I were still in the classroom, I know I would feel challenged to plan all lessons to this level all of the time. And I know logistically that would be impossible. But I hope these principles will stick with me as I design staff development for our teachers. I hope to integrate some of the UDL principles into our staff development offerings, so they become less focused on technology skills and more focused on solid pedagocial practices.