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Daniel C. Gonzales Universal Design with My Opinions University of South Alabama (June 7, 2012) ISD 582 - Dr. Lewis


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Abstract This paper is designed to inform on the subject of Universal Design, UD, in education. The topics that will be discussed are: (1) transforming UD for learning and teacher education, (2) online learning for students with disabilities, (3) listening technologies, and (4) learning through multimedia. Various learning disabilities will be discussed, and in some cases a technological solution will be provided. Each paragraph begins with my opinion on the specified topic.

Transforming UD for Learning and Teacher Education Universal Design for learning will continue to grow as technological tools continue to improve and expand in availability and affordability for learners and teacher education. Universal Design for Learning, UDL, incorporates the theories of Universal Design, an understanding of the learning brain, and the theoretical framework of Lev Vygotsky to address the issues of access to the curriculum for all students by identifying and removing barriers in the curriculum from teaching methods and materials (Rose, Meyer, Strangman, & Rappolt, 2002). UDL simply states that a curriculum should allow students with disabilities alternatives and varied learning contexts. These principles include using technology to teach and provide learning opportunities to students. The technology that is used include the appropriate tools on an “as needed� basis in the classroom. The educators that will be providing and using these tools will need to be trained, which can be made available in professional development days. UDL is made necessary and possible due to legal mandates, new brain research, increased understanding of learning, and the availability of new technologies (Howard, 2003). Educators will be afforded the opportunity to reflect on their own learning styles as well as the students through what is labelled


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action research. Action research has the potential to transform professional development and change the social system in schools so that learning is both expected and supported (Calhoun, 2002). It can provide depth of knowledge and generate data to measure the effects of methods on student learning by “seeking to understand and acting on the best we know� (Calhoun, p. 18). It allows educators to inform and improve their practice by asking them to study their practice and its context; explore the research base for ideas; compare alternatives for action; participate in needed changes; and study effects on themselves, students, and colleagues (Calhoun, 2002).

Online Learning for Students with Disabilities Online learning is a great way to allow all students, including those with disabilities, an opportunity to gain knowledge on many subjects. There are many students living with at least one learning disability. The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics, and Statistics Administration estimates these numbers at approximately 26 million Americans (DOC, 2002). Four categories of focus of disability impairments are: Visual, Hearing, Motor, and Cognitive. Designers of online learning need to identify the types of visual impairments such as total blindness, low vision, and color blindness (Bohman, 2003). These learners have disabilities that vary from not being able to see at all, images being unclear, and people with color blindness find it difficult to differentiate colors. Designers of online courses should be aware of text and images that affect visual impairments, and provide the material in multiple ways. U.S. Law protects individuals with hearing impairments that are involved with online learning. The law states that audio information must be accessible to them. Motor impairments include disabilities involving the use of hands. Multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and loss or damaged limbs are a few


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examples of motor impairments. An online learner with motor impairments would have difficulties with navigational devices, such as a computer mouse and keyboard. The final impairment to be discussed that will affect online learners is cognitive, which affect memory and thinking challenges. Some examples of these learners include autism, retardation, and other conditions that affect the impairment of the brain’s function. Learners with cognitive disabilities should be considered when designing online material by making the material organized, easy to navigate, as well as avoiding images that could over-stimulate the learners.

Listening Technologies Students with hearing impairments should be afforded the same opportunities to learn as any other students. Assistive technology is an important part of educating individuals by allowing students with disabilities, specifically hearing impairments, to be assisted by acoustic technology in information transfer inside the classroom. Assistive technology is available through a process of evaluation of a team regarding the needs of the service. Assistive technology devices are defined as “any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities� (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1997). Funding of listening technologies is allowed to school districts though a survey and assessment. Listening technologies include acoustic variables such as background noise, signal-to-noise ratio, reverberation time, and speaker-to-listener distance. One helpful way to help students with hearing impairments is classified as classroom amplification. The teacher wears a microphone and his or her voice is transmitted and amplified by an amplifier inside the


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classroom. There are multiple technicalities that can affect the use of classroom amplification, but if the proper precautions are taken, it can be affective for the student in learning the material that is being taught.

Learning Through Multimedia Many students can learn in the classroom by listening to lectures and taking notes, but the use of multimedia can help those that struggle in this area. Learners with disabilities can benefit by the use of multimedia that is easy to access and manage. A growing number of universities support using devices to download recorded lectures on students’ iPods or MP3 players (Typre, 2005). These recordings of speech can help students with alternative learning styles, such as auditory learners. As video and speech become more common components of online learning materials, there is a need for captioned multimedia with synchronized speech and text, as recommended by the Web Accessibility Guidelines (Web Accessibility Initiative, 1999). The access of multimedia devices can be limited, however, due to high monetary costs to the teachers and other providers. Ebooks are becoming more available to classrooms, but making the files that compose the books involves text and audio being “synced�, which is time consuming and overall expensive to produce. Multimedia devices also include captioning. Many people are most familiar with captions being available on their television. Captions involve a transcriber of audio into a readable text. It should be recognized that the transcribing fails to reproduce the feelings that speech can convey, such as the tone. Mayer and Moreno (2002) developed a cognitive theory of multimedia learning from dual coding theory to assist learners. Dual coding theory with multimedia involves presenting the information in two ways to the learners. This assists


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auditory learners as well as students with disabilities by preventing “information overload� to their working memory.

Conclusion All students need to be recognized as important to the educational system, even though some have special needs. Students with learning disabilities can be afforded opportunities to learn through the use of various technological tools. Visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive impairments can be disabilities of some online learners. Simply having access to the online information can be one hurdle that these learners may face. Fortunately, the U.S. laws have recognized these special needs and mandated that the information should be accessible to them. Visual impairments may be recognized by the online course designer by making images and text available in larger forms. The information may also be alternately recorded using multimedia formats and made available in audio. Listening technologies allow learners with hearing impairments the ability to hear the teacher in the classroom through the amplification of sound. This service can be offered on a limited basis, but can be invaluable to the learner. Motor skill deficiencies can be addressed in UD by the use of mouth sticks, where the user puffs into a straw-like device to accommodate for clicking a mouse button. Cognitive impairments can be a broad area to discuss due to the fact that this area of focus involves brain conditions. Some general solutions to cognitive impairments include the consideration and organization of the web-design and navigation. Some students in this category, such as autistic students, may be over-stimulated by large, colorful images on a web page; however a student with mental retardation may find the same images fun to learn. Multimedia is a way to use technology in


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education to provide learners the opportunity to obtain the information that is being taught in multiple formats. Transcribing text from audio can provide some special learners the opportunity to read what they can not hear. Proper teacher training and preparation can help in educating these special students.


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Bohman, P. (2003). Introduction to Web ac- cessibility. Retrieved November 25, 2005, from http://www.webaim.org/intro/ ?templatetype=3 Calhoun, E. F. (2002). Action research for school improvement. Educational Leadership, 59(6), 18–24. DOC. (2002). A nation online: How Americans are expanding their use of the Internet. Retrieved January 28, 2006, from http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/ html/anationonline2.htm Howard, J. B. (2003). Universal design for learning: An essential concept for teacher education. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 19(4), 112–117. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Amendments of 1997 (1997). 20 U.S.C. 140 et seq. Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2002). Visual presentation in multimedia Learning: Conditions that overload visual working memory. Retrieved June 7, 2012, from http://www.unm.edu/~moreno/PDFS/Visual.pdf Rose, D. H., Meyer, A., Strangman, N. M., & Rappolt, G. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD Press. Tyre, P. (2005, November 28). Professor in your pocket. Newsweek. Web Accessibility Initiative ([WAI], 1999). Retrieved June 7, 2012, from http://www.w3.org/WAI

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My opinions are included at the beginning of each paragraph.

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