Dedicated educators always find ways to design curricula that meets the needs of all learners, whether they are using technology or not. However, powerful digital technologies applied using UDL principles enable easier and more effective customization of curricula for learners. Advances in technology and the learning sciences have made “on-the-fly” individualization of curricula possible in practical, cost-effective ways, and many of these technologies have built in supports, scaffolds, and challenges to help learners understand, navigate, and engage with the learning environment.
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. Further 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.
It is also important to point out that simply using technology in the classroom should not be considered implementation of UDL. Using technology does not necessarily enhance learning, and many technologies have the same accessibility problems that non-tech options might have. Technology needs to be carefully planned into the curriculum as a way to achieve the goals.
However, there is an important exception. For some students, the use of personal assistive technologies – e.g., an electric wheelchair, eyeglasses, or a cochlear implant – is essential for basic physical and sensory access to learning environments. Those students will need their assistive technologies, even during activities where other students may not use any technologies at all. Even in classrooms that are well equipped with UDL materials and methods, their assistive technology neither precludes nor replaces the need for UDL overall. (For a more elaborate discussion of the complementary roles of UDL and Assistive Technology see Rose, D., Hasselbring, T. S., Stahl, S., & Zabala, J. (2005))
In short, technology is not synonymous with UDL, but it does play a valuable role in its implementation and conceptualization.
Last Updated: 07/31/2014