Creating a #UDL Toolbox: Tools to Overcome Barriers (Part 3)

So I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea of creating a "UDL Toolbox" for my room. Last week, I described several ways I integrate different presentation tools into my classroom. You may want to see my growing list in my Symbaloo webmix. Feel free to use any of these tools and to offer me suggestions!

What do you do when students are not very comfortable with using the new technologies or with content in class? This is a common barrier that occurs in any classroom, regardless of whether you use technology or not. You need to think of some supports to help your students overcome these learning barriers, so that they can fully participate in their learning. I want to offer several common barriers students face and some tools to help them "get-it."

Barrier / Excuse: "I don't understand"

This is a common excuse that you hear from students. Maybe they legitimately don't understand how to do a homework assignment and need your help. Perhaps they legitimately can't follow your step by step written instructions. If these students are visual and need to see how to do something, I have 2 solutions for you:

Option # 1: Screencasts

Screencast-O-Matic is a free screencasting program that records anything on your computer screen. It places a yellow circle around your cursor, so that users can track where you are moving your mouse to. You can upload clips to your own library, YouTube, as well as a variety of other options. In the free version, you can record up to 15 minutes worth of material. Here's how I use it to help my visual learners and confused students:

  • I created1-2 minute tutorials for my students on how to complete or submit an assignment. Check out my most recent video on how to turn in a Prezi to Edmodo
  • When students are not very familiar with how to use new forms of technology, I usually explain how to use it in class; however, students often have the most questions when they are not in your presence. I created a brief tutorial on how to use Prezi
  • Perhaps you gave a PowerPoint presentation in class or went over a math problem. You could create a brief screencast to help students, who were absent or confused, understand material. Check out my Accounting screencast
Option # 2: iPad Apps

I also like to diagram materials for my students. I use the free Educreations App on the iPad to diagram and record myself. I like how easy it is to draw a concept on a whiteboard and share it through a hyperlink, social media post, or email. You may want to check out one of my most recent clips on the Accounting Equation. 

Barrier / Excuse: "I don't like reading" 

Many of our students don't like to read because they don't understand vocabulary terms, hate sitting still to read a book, or need to "hear" content being read. With this in mind, I have used several tools to help my students with their reading.

Option # 1: Audacity

One tool in particular is a free audio recording tool called Audacity. I downloaded this program, so that I could record myself reading to my students. Now you may be thinking, "wow! Good for you, but I have a life and don't have that much time!"

I would have to agree, but once you have recorded your voice, you no longer have to worry about doing it again! Also, we all have those brilliant students who are done with assignments early. Why can't you have these students record themselves reading an article? This is a great way to quickly build up a library!

I use Audacity to provide my students with different reading options. To read a text version, to listen to an audio version, or do both. To my surprise, my students really enjoyed these options. One of my students would listen to reading assignments on his way to sporting events. Another student would listen to the reading assignment, while following along in the book or article. You know what? I found that their comprehension of reading assignments went through the roof!


Overcoming barriers in learning is all about front-loading curriculum with supports to provide access to students. It is impossible to plan for every barrier that will occur in our classroom, but if we can provide a toolbox of supports, we can overcome each barrier as it occurs.


  1. Matt, you are the bomb diggity and my technology in the classroom guru. That being said, I have some questions for you! It seems that the purpose of UDL is to make learning more accessible by providing different ways of accessing information and demonstrating knowledge. I've used a lot of your strategies in the classroom already, but my questions are these:

    - Do you make every worksheet accessible electronically? I have a student whose PLP suggests allowing him to type class assignments, which made me think that maybe I should do this for even simple classroom activities. However, how do you manage making every worksheet writing- AND typing-friendly (and posting it to Edmodo, etc.) on a daily basis?

    - Does making a reading available in audio format undermine any of the ELA standards for reading? The only thing I can see in the PDE standards for my grade level is that students should be able to read grade-level texts "independently and proficiently." I know that your'e not an ELA teacher so you don't need to worry about this one, but do you see using audio recordings as working against that particular standard? Will it set them back for independent reading in college or career, or is this something they'll be able to replicate in the future through technology?

    You're the best!

  2. Great info, Matt :-) Since all videos should be captioned, I wanted to mention when you use the Screencast software, you can caption when you upload to YouTube. There are other accessibility issues that always arise and we are all learning. Podcasts should provide a script. We have to keep accessibility in mind when we create any media. Thank you for sharing. I notice this Web page hasn't been updated since 2013. I wonder what you've learned since then!


The SCARF Model and Reflections on Leadership and Teaching

  When I was a young high school teacher, I had a student named Scott in one of my classes. He and I usually got along, but there was always...