Saturday, February 1, 2020

UDL Project: Universal Design for Learning in English Composition

To provide new resources for my students, I've started a new website that applies Universal Design for Learning to Writing Courses like English 101.  Much as I love Blogger, I'm finding that Google Sites offers somewhat more flexibility in terms of layout and organization, so I've been starting the site from scratch rather than continue on my Intro to Fiction and Poetry website at IFP.12Writing.com.

What Is UDL?

Universal Design for Learning is prefaced on the fact that each student has unique interests and learning styles.  Rather than attempt to create a single "best" way to convey information, UDL focuses on providing a variety of resources and activities designed to introduce and reinforce concepts while also providing students with rewarding opportunities to apply new knowledge.

For more information about UDL and how it applies to teaching, I recommend checking out the CAST UDL Website for a quick introduction to the main concepts.  Also, the Heartland Community College UDL Page gives additional insights about how we apply it at my own institution.

Why Not Blend with the Intro to Fiction and Poetry Site?

I've really enjoyed Blogger quite a bit over the past years, and I'll continue using it.  However, Blogger is best for creating ongoing updates, and it doesn't work as well when you need a growing website that weaves together lessons on writing and usage with concerns of research and culture.  When it comes to naming pages and linking things together, Blogger can be a bit clunky - Google Sites has a far smoother interface.

On the downside, Google Sites don't offer a native blog function.  I'm still looking for a way around this -- after all, "Sharing the Journey" still benefits from an episodic approach to website design.  But without keyword tags or a native blog interface, I may well be researching RSS feeds and iframes.

How Does It Help with Online Teaching?

UDL is more than simply a teaching framework -- it's also a mindset for teaching and learning.  It forces you to consider how exactly students take in the information you're presenting, particularly questions about whether they'll be able to access it or apply it to prior learning experiences.

Is It Working Yet?

So far, I've only just begun my personal UDL journey.  However, I am much happier with the results I've put together so far.  Since the Google Sites interface is inherently more visual than Blogger, it's easier to move around the information to make it visually appealing as well as textually informative.  I can add custom headers and sidebars to each individual page without having to delve into the HTML.

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