UDL and Technology

Laptop and notes

  • 'The goal of education in the 21st century is not simply the mastery of content knowledge or use of new technologies. It is the mastery of the learning process. Education should help turn novice learners into expert learners--individuals who want to learn, who know how to learn strategically, and who, in their own highly individual and flexible ways, are well prepared for a lifetime of learning. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) helps educators meet this goal by providing a framework for understanding how to create curricula that meets the needs of all learners from the start.' - National Center on Universal Design for Learning, UDL Guidelines-Version 2.0.
  • Key UDL principles and guidelines guide how teachers and learners can master the learning process by creating flexible curricula and learning environments supported by evidence based practices for learning and classroom technologies.
  • 'Learning and demonstrating effective uses of technology is itself an important instructional outcome. Technology has permeated all aspects of our economy and culture. Every learner now in school needs a range of literacies  that are much broader and more inclusive of our changing culture. Furthermore, an understanding of these technologies leads to a greater understanding of the possible non-tech options that can be utilized.'
  • 'However, it is important to note that these technologies should not be considered to be the only way to implement UDL. Effective teachers should be creative and resourceful in designing flexible learning environments that address the variability of learners using a range of high-tech and low-tech solutions. The goal of UDL is to create environments in which everyone will have the opportunity to become expert learners, and the means to get there, be it tech or non-tech, should be flexible.' National Center on Universal Design for Learning, UDL and Technology.

UDL Guidelines 2.0 Using 'Technology Less' Supports

I. Representation

II. Expression

III. Engagement

The tables below can also be downloaded separately by clicking on the links above.

I.     Representation


Perception Language Comprehension
Flexible features to display content
  • Text size, images, graphs, tables, or other visual content
  • Contrast between text/ image and background
  • Use of color used for emphasis
  • Control of volume or speech rate
  • Controls for speed or timing of video, animation, sound, simulations
  • Layout of visual or control elements
  • Font used and style features

Alternatives for auditory information (spoken language)

  • Text equivalents, e.g.. captions or automated speech-to-text (voice recognition to convert verbal presentations to text)
  • Visual diagrams, charts, notations of music or sound
  • Written transcripts for videos or auditory clips
  • American Sign Language (ASL) for spoken english
  • Visual representations to show emphasis and prosody in speech
  • Visual or tactile equivalents for sound effects or alerts, e.g. vibrations
  • Visual and/or emotional description for musical interpretation

Alternatives for visual information

  • Text or spoken descriptions for all images, graphics, video, or animations
  • Touch equivalents (tactile graphics or objects of reference) for key visuals that represent concepts
  • Physical objects and spatial models to convey perspective or interaction
  • Auditory cues for key concepts and transitions in visual information
  • Apply accessibility standards when creating digital text
  • Human reader to read printed text aloud
  • Text-to-speech software for reading digital text
Clarify vocabulary and symbols
  • Pre-teach vocabulary and symbols, to connect learner experience and prior knowledge
  • Use alternative text descriptions for graphic symbols with alternative text
  • Highlight simpler words or symbols used to compose complex terms, expressions, or equations
  • Support key vocabulary and symbols with footnotes or hyperlinks to definitions, explanations, illustrations, previous coverage, and translations

Clarify syntax and structure

  • Alternative to clarify unfamiliar syntax (in language or in math formulas) or underlying structure (in diagrams, graphs, illustrations, extended expositions or narratives)  to:
    • Highlight or make structural relations explicit 
    • Make connections to previously learned structures
    • Make relationships between elements explicit, e.g., highlight transition words or links between concepts

Supports to decode text, mathematical notation, and symbols

  • Text-to-speech for digital text
  • Automatic voicing with digital mathematical notation (Math ML)
  • Digital text with human voice recording, e.g, Talking Books
  • Multiple representations of notation, e.g, formulas, word problems, graphs
  • Clarify notation through lists of key terms
  • Use manipulatives, simulations, and related demonstration of key concepts for understanding across languages

Understands content across languages

  • Key information in dominant language is also available in first languages for learners with limited-English proficiency and in ASL for learners who are deaf
  • Link key vocabulary words to definitions and pronunciations in both dominant and heritage languages
  • Define domain-specific vocabulary using both domain-specific and common terms
  • Electronic translation tools or links to multilingual glossaries on the web
  • Visual and non-linguistic supports for vocabulary clarification

Illustrate through multiple media

  • Link key concepts in one form of symbolic representation to an alternate form
    • Represent expository text or a math equation with illustration, dance or movement, diagram, table, model, video, comic strip, storyboard, photograph, animation, physical or virtual manipulative
  • Identify links between text information and any corresponding representations in illustrations, equations, charts, or diagrams



Active background knowledge
  •  Visual imagery, concept anchoring or concept mastery routines to anchor instruction and link to relevant prior knowledge
  • Methods to advance organization with concept maps,  organizers, and charts, e.g., KWL
  • Pre-teach critical and prerequisite concepts through demonstration or models
  • Bridge concepts with relevant analogies and metaphors 
  • Make cross-curricular connections explicit, e.g., teaching literacy strategies in the social studies classroom

Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships

  • Emphasize key elements in text, graphics, diagrams, formulas
  • Highlight key ideas and relationships using outlines, graphic organizers, unit organizer routines, concept organizer routines, and concept mastery routines
  • Emphasize critical features using multiple examples and non-examples
  • Draw attention to critical features using cues and prompts
  • Solve unfamiliar problems using previously learned skills

Guide information processing, visualization, and manipulation

  • Explict prompts for each step in a sequential process
  • Options to organize methods and approaches with tables and algorithms for processing mathematical operations
  • Interactive models to guide exploration and new understandings
  • Graduated scaffolds to support information processing
  • Multiple entry points or options to explore big ideas through dramatic works, arts and literature, film and media related to content
  • 'Chunk' information into smaller elements
  • Progressively release information using sequential highlighting
  • Remove unnecessary distractions unless essential to the goal

Maximize transfer and generalization

  • Checklists, organizers, sticky notes, electronic reminders
  • Visual imagery, paraphrasing strategies, method of loci as mnemonic strategies and devices
  • Explicit opportunities for review and practice
  • Templates, graphic organizers, concept maps for note-taking
  • Scaffolds to connect new information to prior knowledge, e.g., word webs and half-full concept maps
  • Embed new ideas in familiar ideas and contexts using analogy, metaphor, drama, music, film
  • Support explicit opportunities to generalize learning new situations
  • Revisit key ideas and linkages between ideas over time


II.     Expression

                                                      Expression and Action

Expressive Skills &Fluency Physical Action Executive Functioning
 Vary methods for response and navigation
  • Alternatives for motor actions required to interact with instructional materials, physical manipulatives, and technologies for rate, timing, speed, and range of movement
  • Alternatives for response or selection by pen, pencil, keyboard or mouse control
  • Alternatives for physical interaction with materials by hand, e.g. alternative keyboards, alternative pointing devices, switches, voice controls

Accessible classroom tools and assistive technologies

  • Alternate keyboard commands for mouse action
  •  Switch and scanning options for increased independent access and keyboard alternatives
  • Access to alternative keyboards
  • Customize overlays for touch screens and keyboards
Multiple media for communication
  • Compose in multiple media with text, speech, drawing, illustration, design, film, music, dance/movement, visual art, sculpture or video
  • Physical manipulatives, e.g., blocks, 3D models, base-ten blocks
  • Use social media and interactive web tools (e.g., discussion forums, chats, web design, annotation tools, storyboards, comic strips, animation presentations)
  • Compose in multiple media such as text, speech, drawing, illustration, comics, storyboards, design, film, music, visual art, sculpture, or video
  • Solve problems using a variety of strategies

Multiple tools for construction and composition

  • Spellcheckers, grammar checkers, word prediction software
  • Text-to-Speech software (voice recognition), human dictation, recording
  • Calculators, graphing calculators, geometric sketchpads, or pre-formatted graph paper
  • Sentence starters or sentence strips
  • Story webs, outlining tools, or concept mapping tools
  • Computer software to compose in various content areas for design and construction, music, scientific measurement or mathematical notation
  • Virtual or concrete mathematics manipulatives (e.g., base-10 blocks, algebra blocks)
  • Web applications

Graduated practice levels for fluent performance

  • Differentiated models that demonstrate outcomes using differing approaches, strategies, or inform
  • Scaffolds that gradually fade with increasing independence and skills
  • Customized feedback for individual learners
  • Multiple examples of novel solutions to authentic problems
Guide appropriate goal-setting
  • Prompts and scaffolds to estimate effort, resources, and difficulty
  • Model the process and product of goal-setting
  • Guides and checklists to scaffold goal-setting
  • Post goals, objectives, and schedules in obvious places

Support planning and strategy development

  • Prompts to 'stop and think' before acting and arrange adequate space
  • Prompts using portfolio review, art critiques, or learning walks to 'show and explain work'
  • Checklists and project planning templates to understand the problem, setup prioritization, sequences, and schedules
  • Coaches or mentors that model 'think-alouds' about the process
  • Guides to break long-term goals into reachable short-term objectives

Manage instructional information and resources

  • Graphic organizers and templates to collect data and organize information
  • Prompts for categorizing and systematizing
  • Checklists and guides for note-taking

Enhance capacity for monitoring progress

  • Ask questions to guide self-monitoring and reflection
  • Show representations of progress with before and after photos, graphs, charts, and process portfolios
  • Prepare learners to identify the type of feedback or advice that they seek
  • Apply templates to guide self-reflection on quality and completeness
  • Differentiate self-assessment strategies through role-play, video reviews, peer feedback
  • Assessment checklists, scoring rubrics, and multiple examples of annotated student work





III.     Engagement


Sustaining Effort and Persistence Self-Regulation Recruiting Interest
 Optimize individual choice and autonomy
  • Provide choices for learners when possible for:
    • Level of perceived challenge
    • Type of rewards or recognition available
    • Context for practicing and assessing skills
    • Tools used for information gathering or production
    • Color, design, or graphics for layouts
    • Sequence or timing for completion of sub-components of tasks
  • Learner participation in the design of classroom activities and academic tasks
  • Involve learners in setting their own academic and behavioral goals

Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity

  • Vary activities and sources of information to:
    • Personalize and give context to learners' lives
    • Be culturally relevant and responsive
    • Be socially relevant
    • Be age and ability appropriate
    • Respect different racial, cultural, ethnic, and gender groups
  • Design activities that are authentic, communicate to real audiences, and reflect a purpose that is clear to the participants
  • Design tasks for active participation, exploration and experimentation
  • Invite personal response, evaluation and self-reflection to content and activities
  • Include activities that foster imagination to solve novel and relevant problems or make sense of complex ideas in creative ways

Minimize threats and distraction

  • Create an accepting and supportive classroom climate
  • Vary level of novelty or risk
    • Charts, calendars, schedules, visible timers, cues, etc. that can increase the predictability of daily activities and transitions
    • Establish class routines
    • Alerts and previews that help learners anticipate changes in activities, schedules, and novel events
    • Options that maximize the unexpected, surprising, or novel events
  • Vary the level of sensory stimulation
    • Variation in the presence of background noise or visual stimulation, noise buffers, number of features or items presented at a time
    • Variation in pace of work, length of work sessions, availability of breaks or time-outs, or timing or sequence of activities
  • Vary social demands required for learning or performance
  • Involve all participants in whole class discussions
Heighten salience of goals and objectives
  • Ask learners to formulate or restate goal
  • Display the goal in multiple ways
  • Distribute long-term goals into short-term objectives
  • Demonstrate the use of computer-based scheduling tools

Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge

  • Differentiate the degree of complexity for assigned core learning activities
  • Provide alternatives through permissible tools and scaffolds
  • Vary the degree of freedom for acceptable performance
  • Emphasize process, effort, improvement in meeting standards as alternatives to external evaluation and competition

Foster collaboration and community  

  • Create cooperative learning groups with clear goals, roles, and responsibilities
  • School-wide programs for positive behavior support with differentiated objectives and supports
  • Prompts to guide learners with when and how to ask peers and/ or teachers for help
  • Support opportunities for peer interactions and supports with peer-tutors
  • Construct communities of learners engaged in common interests or activities
  • Create expectations through rubrics, norms, or student work samples for group work

  Increase mastery oriented feedback

  • Encourage perseverance, focus on developing efficacy and self-awareness, and specific supports to face learning challenges
  • Emphasize effort, improvement, and achieving a standard rather than relative performance
  • Provide frequent, timely, and feedback
  • Provide substantive and informative feedback
  • Model how to evaluate performance for error patterns, omissions, and inaccurate information to identify positive strategies for future success

 Optimize motivation with high expectations
  • Use prompts, reminders, guides, rubrics, checklists that focus on:
    •  Self-regulatory goals
    • Increasing on-task behavior despite distractions
    • Elevating frequency of self-reflection and self-reinforcements
  • Coach and mentor to model setting appropriate goals based on strengths and weaknesses
  • Promote activities to encourage self-reflection and identification of personal goals

 Personal coping skills and strategies to

  • Manage frustration
  • Seek external emotional support
  • Develop internal controls and coping skills
  • Recognize how to turn academic challenges into learning opportunities to gain self-knowledge
  • Use real life situations or simulations to demonstrate coping skills

Self assessment and reflection

  • Offer devices, aids, or charts for learners to collect, chart, display and monitor data about changes in their own behavior
  • Learners may need timely, understandable feedback and alternative scaffolds (e.g., charts, templates, feedback displays) to understand their progress



Example of Technology-Less Lesson

Many teachers who are attracted to UDL as an idea are unsure whether they can actually imple­ment it in view of their limited access to technology or their limited fluency in its use. This paper examines the question of whether technology is central to the foundations of UDL or whether UDL is useful as a pedagogical framework that goes beyond technology.

Based upon a lesson that is famil­iar to most elementary school teachers, the following paper from the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, uses the UDL guidelines as a structural framework through which to examine these questions.


Last modified: 3/10/2015 12:03:01 AM