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Active Learning and UDL in collaboration with Technology

Labo : Active Learning, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in collaboration with Technology - Step 2

How sharp is the distinction between Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology?

By Hajer Chalghoumi. The 8 January 2014


With moves towards inclusive education, more and more students with special needs are placed in the general student population (Marino, Sameshima & Beecher, 2009). Advances in technology are considered by many as a promising track of solution for these students as it provide them with new options to participate in and accomplish tasks in an inclusive educational setting (Edyburn, 2010; Rose & Meyer, 2002). In this context, Assistive technology (AT) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) stand at the forefront of the technology-based efforts to create access to education curricula for all students, either with or without disabilities (Peterson-Karlan & Parette, 2008; Rose, Hasselbring, Stahl & Zabala, 2005). AT is technology solutions specifically designed to assist individuals with disabilities in overcoming barriers in their environment (Rose & al., 2005). UDL is an educational approach to curriculum and instruction that benefits of the inherent and nearly limitless flexibility of technology to enable students with diverse learning needs to be successful in the classroom (Lee, Soukup, Little & Wehmeyer, 2009; Special Education Assistive Technology (SEAT) Center, 2006). Because of the size and growth of numbers of students classified as special needs students, AT and UDL solutions in schools are also growing in importance (Cavanaugh, 2004; Judge, 2008; Marino & al., 2009; Edyburn, 2010).

We consider AT and UDL different but completely complementary (Rose & al., 2005; Edyburn, 2010). In fact, AT is “unique, personal (travels with the individual), customized, and dedicated.” (Rose & al., 2005, p. 507) and UDL is “universal and inclusive, accommodating diversity.” (Rose & al., 2005, p. 507). Both kinds of solutions are needed (Hitchcock & Stahl, 2003). Advances in one approach prompt advances in the other and that this reciprocity will evolve in ways that will maximize their mutual benefits. On the one hand, an exclusively AT using setting may not be integrated with the learning goals and may cause more harm than benefits in terms of inclusion. On the other hand, a totally UDL solution that exclude AT may fail to consider the customized adaptations that many students need and will build environments that are too complex and expensive (Rose & al. 2005; Peterson-Karlan & Parette, 2008).

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