In this project, we use principles from Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a flexible approach to teaching defined by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). This approach has had considerable success in teaching the language arts. In this project, we extend these ideas to science, developing technology-rich science curriculum modules for grades 3-6 involving probes, sensors and computational models and centered on learning of energy concepts.
Our goal in this project is to use UDL principles to create practical science materials for students and teachers in inclusive classrooms. We are creating inquiry modules around the theme of energy to address questions such as “Why are there clouds?“ and “What do plants eat?“ Probes and sensors in the curriculum support lab investigations, and computational models allow students to explore virtual environments.
One of the most exciting aspects of the project is the development of graphing software that expresses data and relationships in text and spoken form. The software can recognize patterns that experts see in the graphs and scaffold student investigations into the graphs.
Twenty-five classrooms in Acton, MA, Anchorage, AK, Maryville, MO, and Fresno, CA, have field-tested the materials. A careful research design tested learning gains of this approach and compared them to traditional approaches. We hope the research, modules, and supporting technology will inspire additional development of computer-based UDL science materials.
The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) project completed its fourth and final year at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. During that school year, eleven teachers in two large school districts, serving a large number of students from low-income families, each used two units with their classes. Teachers reported spending an average of three weeks on each unit. Electronic data were collected from nearly 500 students who used the activities. Students’ uses of features such as text-to-speech, glossary, and lab book usage were logged automatically.
The UDL features were widely used. Seventy-three percent of students looked up at least one word in the glossary, with many students looking up 20 or more words per unit. Across all units, 98% of students used text-to-speech at least once. The mean number of uses was 41 times per unit, indicating that students are not just trying out the feature once or twice, but using it extensively. Also, 98% of students accessed the lab book at least once, with a mean of 15 accesses for each unit.
Teachers and students believe that using the UDL features was a useful and positive experience overall. Teachers felt the glossary, models, drawing tools, and the lab book were the most useful features. Students agreed that the glossary, text-to-speech, and coaches were helpful to them. In all these cases it was students reading below grade level who found the features most helpful.
This project demonstrated the value of digital curriculum materials that incorporate a variety of UDL features. These instructional materials were more accessible to low achieving, ESL, and special education students than most materials because the UDL features provide alternative ways for students to access the curriculum. The project succeeded in its goals: to create sufficient materials to test the effectiveness of this approach to implementing UDL, and to provide an exemplar that can inspire additional content and further development.
This project developed four modules to investigate energy concepts with UDL support:
Each of these modules are available at a Beginning and Intermediate level. See previews or download and launch these modules in our project portal.
Links for Teachers
Four steps to Getting Started
1. Sign up
To make full use of the Portal, you need to create an account. Or, if you just want to try the activities, click the link to View our unit previews.
To create a new account, click the link to Sign up as a teacher.
- Enter your name, email address, and password.
- Choose your school from the list. If your school is not listed, select “Other“ and add the required information about your school (name, address, and so on).
- Click “Continue.“
2. Add class
You’ll need to complete two fields when you add a class:
- Class name: Create a name for your class (e.g., Science Period 2 or Science Grade 5).
- Sign-up word: Your students will use this word to sign up in this class. All students in your class will use the same word, which allows them to be directly registered into your class. Students use this word only if they will register themselves. Note: the class word must be unique in the system (e.g., pickle, plasma).
Click the button titled “Save this Class.“
3. Select activities
It’s time to select various activities associated with your class. You may choose from any of the available activities.
When your students log in, they will now see only the units you selected.
After you’ve selected one or more units for your students, click the button titled “Save this Class.“
You can preview what your students will see by going back to the home page, selecting the class that you’re interested in, and clicking this icon:
4. Add students
Now that you’ve created a class and selected the activities for your students, you need to add students to your class. Return to your home page.
Click the Add a new student link, and enter the following information for the first student on your list.
- First name
- Last name
- Password – must be at least 4 characters long.
- Class – select the class from the list
- Interface – choose between Vernier Go!link and Vernier LabPro
After entering one student, you can:
- Add another new student
- View the roster for this student's class
- Edit this student
- Return to your home page
Continue to add students one at a time until you’ve completed your class roster.
You can then view the class roster to confirm you’ve entered all your students.
Portal for your students
Have your students access the Portal by going to this website.
Because you added students, they do not need to sign up as first-time users. They can immediately log in with their username and passwords (use the class roster to give each student his/her information). Note: usernames and passwords are not case-sensitive.
When students run an activity from the Portal, a Java window will pop up.
Students should choose to open the file.
Depending on the connection speed, it may take anywhere from a few seconds to a couple minutes for the activity to open.
Student data is saved when a student closes an activity. They do not need to click any special button!
Reviewing student work
A few extras
Features and Icons
The Portal allows you to do several different things – from adding classes and students to viewing reports.
These different features are available by clicking various icons. To learn about these icons, expand the icon legend in the upper-right corner of the Portal home page by clicking the plus (+) symbol. Close it by clicking the minus (-) symbol. Or hold your mouse over an icon to read the short description.
When you’re signed in to the Portal, you’ll notice on the left below your name that there is an option to “Sign out.“ This is important if you’ve signed in on a student’s computer, for instance, but don’t want that student to have your access. In that case, be sure to sign out.
Sign out after your work session.
Changing your information
You can change your name, email address, or password.
If you need additional assistance or have a question that has not been answered here, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org