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Three cheers for Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Submitted by Sam at SMART on March 22, 2012 – 6:01 amNo Comment

By Alex Dunn

In my post on Tuesday, Three cheers for inclusion,  I told you about my wonderful experience at the 10th Annual CESA 5 School-Based Speech-Language Pathology Institute, in the Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, where I spoke to more than 500 Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) and fellow educators as part of a professional learning community.  It was a complete “thrill of a lifetime” for me to be invited to present on Smart Inclusion[1], alongside gurus in the profession, including Barbara Hodson, SLP from Wichita State University, Michael McSheehan, SLP from the University of New Hampshire and Rachel Arntson, SLP from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Judi Cumley Assistive Technology Consultant for CESA 5/WATI (Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative).

Here are some of the popular questions that were asked, along with with my answers:

How can my iPad work with my SMART Board?

This was by far the most popular question and I have a printable handout that summarizes the five options I am aware of, with links to videos for those that learn best by watching:

All of these options allow for display of the iPad2 to the SMART Board interactive whiteboard but teachers and students can’t manipulate this content yet on the SMART Board.  In the comments section at the end of this post, I welcome any more ideas and will, with permission, add them to our growing list.

I noticed you using tricks like the Magnifying Glass to reveal information that looked hidden on your pages.  How did you do that?

When I took my SMART Notebook Certification course with the “amazing” Todd Zimmer from SMART Technologies, he showed us a few tricks to take your SMART Notebook lesson from “blah” to “yah” in just two minutes.  He also led us to free Training Videos at smarttech.com.  I did explain to the group that I completed my SMART Certification only very recently.  I told them that SMART Technologies also offers universally designed for learning training resources free of charge on their website as they are very committed to supporting products with accessible training.  If you are someone who likes to read a manual, the .pdf is there to download.  If you are someone who likes to watch a video or speak to a live person, all of these options are available free of charge on SMART’s website.  This enabled me to learn all about all of the SMART education solutions, on a tight budget, from the comfort of my own home and at a pace that was right for me.

As SMART Notebook collaborative learning software is not switch accessible, how can students who can’t access the SMART Board directly participate with their peers in lessons?

There are a few options within Notebook software for students who use switches.  When you provide a student with a wireless switch and plug the receiver into switch interface that has a double click (e.g., the Hitch from Ablenet) the teacher, a fellow student or the student themselves, with a joystick, can move the cursor over an object like the dice and have the student hit their switch to roll the dice.  Here is a demo video.

A second option is to use the Transparent Background Tool in SMART Notebook software to layer the Notebook page on top of a switch accessible program like Classroom Suite 4 or Boardmaker +.  Here is a demo video.

A third option, which I use often in my classrooms is to take a picture of or screen capture Notebook page and save as a .jpg.  You can then bring this picture into the Scene&Heard App.  It is then quick and easy to add hotspots to the area/s that you want the student to be able to select from on the iPad.

For those interested here is one more demo video on alternative access to the SMART Table interactive learning center.

How can SMART products help my students who have visual impairments as bigger is not necessarily better?

This was a great question that I did not have time to answer at the Conference but it is an important one to include here.  There will be a reference guide from SMART Technologies (available shortly) that will give much more detailed information, but we recently had a group of teachers from around Ontario visit our District who teach students that are blind or with low vision and we began to play with different options, as many of us had the same question.  Some basic tools within Notebook software include:

  • Being able to re-size objects and/or text
  • Using the Magic Pen to draw a circle gives you a movable spotlight, and drawing a square magnifies content that appears within the square
  • With SMART Notebook 11, available this spring, it will be very easy to embed audio into lessons
  • If a teacher has written or printed information in SMART Notebook, it can easily be converted to text and then read using a text-reader.  We had groups at Council for Exceptional Children in Washington last year trying to convert whole pages of writing with good success
  • What was most exciting to me was the use of SMART Sync classroom management software, a product I feel is often underutilized.   If you install SMART Sync teacher on the computer attached to the SMART Board and SMART Sync Student on the student computers, this will enable the student to follow along with the lesson in real-time.  They can manipulate content using programs such as Zoom Text or if they are nonverbal and using a voice output device (VOCA), which allows software to be loaded, the VOCA will act just like a computer.  Using the “Pass the Chalk” feature, students can respond on their computers or VOCAs.  I am also impressed by the collaborative features present in SMART Sync


Last, but certainly not least, I would like to extend a huge thank you to the organizing committee of the 10th Annual CESA 5 School-Based Speech-Language Pathology Institute, which you can see in the photo to the right. I can certainly understand why you have many SLPs who have attended every year of the conference. The people who make up the committee, from left to right are, in the back row: Jamie Bartlett, Kathleen Colwell, Vivian Weber-Pagel, Betsy Schulz, Gary Cumley, Rebecca Johnson, Fred Wollenburg.  In the front row: Andrea Schneiter, Karen Lietzow, Barb Hesselberg

Read part one of this post: Three cheers for Inclusion


[1] Smart Inclusion is an initiative that began at Upper Canada District School Board in 2007, out of a need to try something different to support some of our neediest students.  The Smart Inclusion team uses educational technology (e.g., SMART Solutions, iPads, Nintendo DSi) in conjunction with what is generally thought of as “special needs” software/hardware, as a catalyst for inclusive classroom practices – necessary for some, good for all.  Technology, coupled with traditional teaching methods is situated within the context of Universal Design for Learning, Participation Model, and Aided Language Stimulation.  Combining technology with good instruction enhances educational and social participation for all students including those with disabilities.  For more information please contact alexdunn@smartinclusion.ca SmartInclusion@Twitter or visit us smartinclusion.wikispaces.com.

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About the Author

Alex Dunn is a Speech-Language Pathologist for the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), located in Oxford Mills, Ontario. She has been devoted over the last 16 years to exploring creative service delivery models to ensure ALL students, including those with severe communication challenges achieve the goal of meaningful educational and social participation. Most recently Alex has spearheaded the creation of Smart Inclusion, an initiative that combines assistive technology with emerging technology and pedagogy to support inclusion – making the impossible, possible for ALL students. Visit SMART Inclusion at smartinclusion.wikispaces.com. Canada’s 2012 SMART Exemplary Educator of the Year, Alex has shared her passion for the inclusion of ALL students across Canada, United States, UK, Spain, Germany and Puerto Rico.

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