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Books of the Future

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Late last year I wrote an article on "universal design for learning," an educational philosophy that promotes using technology to supplement teaching materials and make them accessible to all types of students. UDL had found support among several disability advocacy organizations, who wanted the concept included in the reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Ricki Sabia, an advocate with the National Down Syndrome Society, just sent me a link that shows an example of universally designed texts created by the Center for Applied Special Technology in Wakefield, Mass., which has spearheaded the UDL movement.

This is really quite cool. As Ricki noted, the site offers text-to-speech technology, pop-up definitions of words, comprehension questions at four levels of difficulty, links to encyclopedia entries and translations between English and Spanish. It's a great example of the promise that UDL offers to make educational materials broadly useful. And it's fun, too -- I'm enjoying going through "The Tell-Tale Heart," one of my favorite spooky stories from middle school, and clicking on all the extra resources included as part of the text.

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Hi Christina:

UDL approaches also extend to large-scale assessment design. The National Center on Educational Outcomes has written a guide for states to help begin thinking about designing assessments (UDA) with all students in mind ~ just as UDL attempts to design curriculum accessible to the widest range of students right from the start. (see www.nceo.info)

It would be most unfortunate for UDL to take hold without UDA coming along at the same time. We would be yanking away lots of accessibility aspects in the most important arena - testing what a student has learned - the results of such tests are used BOTH for school accountability (NCLB) and student stakes (exit exams) ... so its important to promote UDA along with UDL.

Candace Cortiella
Director
The Advocacy Institute

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