Using Google Suite for the Universal Design of Learning

Design for gardining Website interface displays tools and supplies as icons
This Google Drawing was created for a doctoral mini project on an interface design task for developing a gardening website with one of my peers in an online course. This was created prior to my understanding of accessibility issues. Notice that not all icons are labeled. This would not be accessible to all. Additionally, alternative text would need to be embedded with each image.

Google Suite,  along with the Chrome browser’s Omnibox and useful extensions, can be used to enhance the teaching of all learners with universal instructional design principles. Google Suite is the new name for these features: Google Apps (Docs, Forms, Sheets, Slides), Classroom, and Drive. This blog focuses on the use of technology to augment instruction through differentiation via scaffolding, formative assessments, and student collaboration. Google professional development opportunities and teacher resources are also addressed.

There are several efforts to design education with universal design in mind. Palmer and Caputo (2003) proposed seven principles for universal instructional design (UID): accessibility, consistency, explicitness, flexibility, accommodating learning spaces, minimization of effort, and supportive learning environments. The UID model recognizes those needs for course design. Its main premise is equal access to education and extends this to all types of learners and not just those with disabilities. For example, all learners can benefit from multi-modal lessons. Palmer and Caputo’s principles should be kept in mind as you develop differentiated instructional learning scenarios with Google Suite. See my blog post to learn more about universal design.

My College is a Google Apps for Education campus, which means we have unlimited storage on our Drive and seamless access to Google Suite through our school Gmail. Speak with your Google Suite administrator to learn about the features and functions of your access, as some institutions like my alma mater block YouTube and Google+. 

The following scenarios address possible technology solutions for teaching all learners. For instance, scaffolding supports different learners’ preferences, as well as the needs of lower performing students. Formative assessments are important to obtain ongoing feedback on student performance; use these often. They can be formal or informal (practice tests, exit tickets, polls). Formative tests promote active learning, which leads to higher retention of information learned. Use the following list to add your ideas and scenarios for differentiated lesson planning.

Scaffold Learning Google Tools & Features Formative Assessments Your Ideas & Scenarios
Provide visuals for structure, context, or direction & just-in-time definitions Google Drawings, Docs’ Explore tool, & Drive Students make their own graphic representation of a concept or complete guided tasks with the frame provided by an instructor.
Provide authentic speaking practice prior to oral test/presentation Google Docs’ Voice Typing, Chrome Browser’s Omnibox for a timer, & Drive Students work individually or in small group turn-taking voice typing their scripts/stories on Google Doc within a timed parameter on a split screen.
Check for comprehension to obtain data to drive instruction/remediation Google Forms, Sheets, Classroom, & Drive (Alternative: Google Slides new feature allows for asking questions & polling question priority live from slide.) Students take a quiz on Google Forms to demonstrate knowledge after a lesson (exit ticket) or homework. Instructors receive Form responses in a Google Sheet. Sheets has Explore tool for analyzing data for visual display for data-driven discussions among teacher cohort/supervisors. Auto import grades from Forms to Classroom gradebook.
Students use app with embedded choices to check their own grammar Free Chrome extension, Grammarly and/or app Students correct errors in their first writing drafts on the app or within online writing platforms (e.g., wiki, blog, or email). Grammarly is also available for MS Office and Windows but not for Google Docs. Use its app to check Docs or other writing formats by pasting content to New Document.
Hi/low peer collaboration and/or tutoring Google Apps, Classroom, & Drive Students share settings on project Docs, Drawings, etc. to collaborate via text comments or synchronous video chat sessions.

Resources for Digital Literacy Skill Training

  • Did you know that Google provides lesson plans for information literacy?
  • Do you need to teach your students how to refine their web searches? See Google Support.
  • Internet Safety Tip- Recommend that students use incognito browsing on Google Chrome when conducting searches to reduce their digital footprint. See Google’s YouTube playlist, Digital Citizenship and Security, and their training site for more information.

Accessibility Resources for Assistive Technology

  • ChromeVOX – Google’s screen reading extension for the Google Chrome browser and the screen reader used by Chrome Operating System (OS).
  • TalkBack – This is Google’s screen reading software that is typically included with Android devices. Due to the design of Android and its customizability by hardware manufacturers, TalkBack can vary and may not be included on some Android devices.
  • Screen Magnifier – This is the screen magnification software included with ChromeOS. The magnification function in ChromeOS doesn’t have a unique product name like other platforms.
  • Hey, Google – This is Google’s personal assistant, which is available in the Google Chrome browser, ChromeOS, and many Android devices.

Professional Development for Educators

Other

#Google #Edtech #Accessibility #UDL

References

Palmer, J., & Caputo, A. (2003). Universal instructional design: Implementation guide. Guelph, Ontario: University of Guelph.

Universal Design for Learning

Accessibility_Logo
Logo by Christy Blew of the University of Illinois for Educause, 2012

Universal design (UD) refers to the consideration of the needs of persons with disabilities in regards to physical spaces and objects; it has since grown into an initiative for education called the universal design for learning (UDL).  The original Principles of Universal Design (1997) are equitable use, the flexibility of use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and size and space for appropriate use. See the UD poster. The Center for Universal Design described it as a design that doesn’t need adaption for persons with disabilities in perceiving the content or operating the program. Adaption is key to equal access to education because to avoid having a student wait weeks while you provide a specific accommodation such as closed captioning to a video lecture. Instead, be proactive and have your first unit and/or introductory video captioned (or audio transcribed) in advance of the start date of your course. Another UDL educational correlation with the original UD principles is providing mastery test options or dropping the lowest grade for tolerance of error in the web-enhanced course.

There are several efforts to design education with UD in mind. Palmer and Caputo (2003) proposed seven principles for universal instructional design (UID): accessibility, consistency, explicitness, flexibility, accommodating learning spaces, minimization of effort, and supportive learning environments. The UID model recognizes those needs for course design. Its main premise is equal access to education and extends this to all types of learners and not just those with disabilities. For example, all learners can benefit from multi-modal lessons.

I recently attended a webinar by Dr. Tobin in which he recommended these instructional strategies for UDL:

  • Start with the text. It can serve as the script.
  • Make alternatives available such as a PDF instead of Microsoft Word so they can use the feature in Adobe products to read aloud the text.
  • Allow students to select their type of assessment choice.
  • Go step by step to break information into small chunks and provide still images for illustration when possible.
  • Set content free. By this, he means to make sure it’s shareable and not tied to your choice of tool/software. Ex. MP3 audio file as output instead of the Audacity file, which students would have to know how to use to open/play. The benefits of these strategies reduce cognitive load for all learners.

UD for the web isn’t only for education. Legal aspects include the web design standards created by the WWW Consortium (W3C) for information technology. They produced the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG), which are promoted globally.  I use their Web Accessibility Initiative website, as a reference at work.  Additionally, US federal laws include policies for equal access to Web-based information and technologies such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Access Board standards.  The Access Board standards are based on the WC3’s priority checklist.

Here are a few resources on UD:

References

Palmer, J., & Caputo, A. (2003). Universal instructional design: Implementation guide. Guelph, Ontario: University of Guelph.

The Center for Universal Design (1997). The Principles of Universal Design, Version 2.0. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University.