The National Center on Universal Design for Learning has established several basic principles for Universal Design for Learning. Each principle is designed to optimize learning for students of all backgrounds and abilities. One such example is Principle I - Providing Multiple Means of Representation.

Think for a moment about classroom assignments that you may give. Reading text is one of the most common assignments educators give students, yet it is a challenge for many kids. Some struggle with the context. Some students are reading at a higher level than the rest of their classmates. Others struggle with decoding skills. Many just hate reading! Yet, by taking the Universal Design for Learning approach, we can give students multiple ways to get to the same goal.

For kids who struggle with reading, providing a way to listen to the text can be an excellent way of completing the same task, just in a different way. Sites like Voki, have allowed this to happen. It's very much like using driving directions. Some people like maps, others GPS, and still some like to have hand-written/drawn directions.

Just this week, I found an awesome audio / visual online encyclopedia called Qwiki. Simply type in your search and Qwiki will provide an audio-visual presentation with links to other resources. This site could be very useful for students who struggle with research skills. Using Qwiki along with a graphic organizer, could help these struggling students master the art of research. Even if you don't have students who struggle in this area, Qwiki is an awesome tool to use! I encourage you to use it!

Google Search Tricks

Helping our students find quality information on the Internet is one of the biggest challenges that we face in the 21st Century! I recently saw a sign that said "laptop free classroom." But can we truly stop technology and education? Fortunately or unfortunately, technology is here to stay, thus using the Internet to find information will never truly go away. I do not foresee going back to opening dusty old encyclopedias!

Instead of ignoring our students or just telling them to blindly conduct an Internet search, why not help them refine their results? How do we get our students to look beyond the first ten items on a Google search? Or how do we get our students to use valid sources (Wikipedia can and cannot be a valid source)?

I came across an excellent site, which offers 100 Google Search Tricks for the Savviest of Students. I found this information to be very useful. Perhaps it can help you and your students, in the quest to find valuable information!

aMap - A Great Way to Debate

I recently came across a site out of the UK called aMap, which is an online debate tool, with a unique twist. It is a visual argument map, where students can express whether they agree or disagree with a certain topic, in a unique visual format.

I really like how it helps you with the structure of your argument, when you reply. Check it out!

Misc. Ideas

Over the past few days, I have been bombarded with some great ideas. Maybe you could use a couple!
  • 10 x 10 - every hour 10 x 10 scans the most up-to-date RSS and news-feeds across the globe, ranked according to importance. It presents it in a visual 10 x 10 cube with pictures relating to the news stories. Along the right edge of the screen are listed the corresponding top 100 words, one for each image. When you click on the picture, it provides you with links to popular new stories relating to the keyword. Some of the sources come from ABC News, CNN, and MSNBC.
  • SnipSnip.It - Have you ever wanted a way to show a "snip-it" of a YouTube clip? SnipSnip.It gives you a simple way of doing this. Simply copy and paste the URL of a YouTube clip to the site, choose the start and end time of the clip, and it will generate a URL for your "snipped" clip.
  • PuzzleFast - is an instant puzzle maker. Although it does not give you as many options as Puzzlemaker.com, it is easier to generate word searches and crossword puzzles.


Google is one of the most - if not most - powerful search engines in the world. The capabilities are impressive: video, documents, articles, etc.

After doing some research, I found a really unique search engine that can enhance a particular topic you (or your students) may be searching for. It's a "real-time encyclopedia" called Mashpedia.

Mashpedia has some very unique features, which make it similar and different compared to Google.

When conduct a search you have several options:
  • It has the capability to search for video, pictures, news articles, books, etc. just like Google
  • It has a Twitter tab, which searches Twitter feeds from the keyword you are searching for.
  • It has a Wikipedia tab, which filters out Wikipedia results.
  • It has a Slides tab, which automatically looks for slide show presentations containing your keyword.


If you like Wordle, then you will like Tagxedo.

Tagxedo creates "word clouds" just like Wordle, but with a twist - STYLE. One of the best features is the ability to form words into shapes. Simply looking through the gallery of images is quite impressive. Tagxedo also gives you an opportunity to upload your own images to the site and use in your word cloud.

It is also easier to save word clouds than Wordle. You can choose various sizes of images / thumbnails.

One word of caution, according to the FAQ's, some features of the current Beta version may not be "free" in the future. Keep this in mind.

Go Animate for Schools

Go Animate is a great way for students to express a story in a video / cartoon format. One of the focuses of Universal Design for Learning is providing multiple means of expression for students. This is a great way for kids to express a concept or summary in a non-traditional way!

The original Go Animate had a few "non-kid-friendly" options. Now there is a new educational version for students to use called Go Animate for Schools! Check it out and let me know what you think!

The Text Rendering Experience

How often do you feel frustrated having students discuss an article? I would highly recommend checking out the National School Reform Faculty site for ideas. "The Text Rendering Experience" is one idea that I found of great use.

Here's how it works. Have students read through the article looking for the best word, sentence and phrase that describes the text.

Now the fun begins! Break students into groups and assign 1 person to act as the "recorder." Round 1 begins with each student in the group sharing the most important sentence of the text with an explanation. Round 2 requires students to share the most important phrase of the text with an explanation. Finally round 3 requires students to share the most important word of the text with an explanation.

After the groups have had time to discuss, you can now transition into a group discussion. See link above with more detailed version of instructions.

5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

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