Monday, November 30, 2015

Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Tips (intermediate)

Following on from the Top Ten UDL Tips for beginners, here are ten more tips once you are comfortable with the first ten to help in Universal Design for Learning, remembering that the ultimate goal is to ensure multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement:


Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Intermediate Tips (intermediate)

1. Start each lesson stating a set of learning outcomes you want the students to achieve in this class (and link these outcomes to material they have already covered in previous lessons where possible).

2. Provide sample assessments with solutions, and annotate these solutions with advice on answering questions and study tips.

3. If you are using videos and audio files, include a transcript. If it's a pre-existing video normally if you goggle a distinctive phrase from the video/audio, there's usually a transcript of it somewhere on the web.

4. Consider checking your materials using an accessibly tool where applicable.

5. Consider incorporating a peer reviewing element into your assessments, but make sure you teach students to be supportive and respectful of each other and their work.

6. Once a semester do an activity that gives the students some choice in the activity (it could be for example in terms of doing the activity individually or in groups; on-line or paper-based; in the classroom or as fieldwork; or some combination of these).

7. Instead of having a single large assessment, consider breaking it down into a few parts, and provide some quick feedback after each part to help the students understand what you are looking for in your assessments.

8. Give your students marks for participation in class (this is very easy to do on-line with discussion boards).

9. Create an anonymous comments box for students, you can do this on-line using SurveyMonkey

10. Give assessment instructions both orally and in written format, and remind students frequently of deadlines and delivery dates (Consider creating a class calendar also).

Friday, November 27, 2015

Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Tips (beginners)

A colleague recently asked me for my top ten tips to introduce people easily to Universal Design for Learning, now we know that the ultimate goal is to ensure multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement, but we have to start somewhere, and here it is:


Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Tips to Begin With

1. Use a minimum of 14pt font size where possible in all documents

2. Colour the document backgrounds with off-white/cream (for PowerPoints and other documents)

3. Try to break sentences into short readable units

4. Explain new terms when you first use them (consider creating a glossary)

5. Use bullet points, or better yet numbers, rather than long passages of prose

6. Include Pictures and Graphics to support text (e.g. flowcharts) and get students as an activity to create their own graphics/visuals for your topic

7. Make sure all handouts and notes are available well in advance of class

8. Try to break large documents (PowerPoints, Word docs, pdf, etc.) into multiple smaller documents, or at least create clear section breaks

9. Avoid Idioms, colloquialisms, and figurative language; also avoid examples that are too culturally specific, or gender biased

10. Consider using a font kind to people with dyslexia, like OpenDyslexic and Dyslexieotherwise stick with sans serif fonts such as Arial, Comic Sans, Verdana or Sassoon

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Does the SAMR model privilege the technology-enhanced classroom?

The SAMR model was popularized by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, it proposes a four-stage model of technology-enhanced teaching. The four stages are presented below:

  • SUBSTITUTION: Technology directly substitutes for existing practice.
  • AUGMENTATION: Technology substitutes and augments practice.
  • MODIFICATION: Technology allows for significant task redesign.
  • REDEFINITION: Technology allows for creation of new tasks.


Some researchers have criticised the SAMR model as it does not appear to have been documented in peer-review literature. Other researchers mention a lack of clarity of the the meaning of the phases (thus making it difficult to evaluate), particularly the middle two phases, and propose the more effective RATL model.

An open letter to Dr, Ruben Puentedura reiterates the lack of peer-reviewed material concerning SAMR, as well as suggesting it is an over-simplistic model. The problem of the hierarchy of SAMR is discussed, and a claim that it is hyperbolic is made.

There are some peer-reviewed materials on SAMR (in the last few years):

For me, a useful comparison to make is with Moule's eLearning model (2007).


Moule's model sees the integration of technology into teaching as a means of changing the type of teaching practice, moving from an Instructivist to a Constructivist model. In contrast SAMR seems to see the integration of technology as an end unto itself. Its focus on the technology as the key driver within the process seems to privilege technology as paramount in teaching. And suggests that it would be possible to create previously "inconceivable" tasks with SAMR. Should this be "impractical" as opposed to "inconceivable"?