This study explores “Addressing Learning Disabilities with UDL and Technology

This study explores “Addressing Learning Disabilities with UDL and Technology: Strategic Reader”; can technology-enhanced learning environment and experience. Technology has brought about many changes in today’s society. We interact, exchange information, and socialize in whole new ways that were not even possible twenty years ago. These changes apply to all areas of life, and can even be incorporated into the classroom to bring about positive results in students, especially students with disabilities. The use of technology in the classroom for cooperative learning, personalized learning, and group learning have the potential for great impact on the way learners learn and teachers teach.
Throughout the study the goal was to incorporated an educational perspective, which is flexible and supportive for all learners, (Hall, Cohen, Ganley, 2015) including those with Learning disabilities so that instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials are usable and accessible by all (Hall, Meyer, ; Rose, 2012).
Article Summary
This study was intended to answer three questions (1) would implementing digital CBM (Curriculum-Based Measurement)-UDL Universal Design for Learning) be more efficient and effective for teachers and students, compared to the offline implementation in a reading environment? (2) Would a technology-based approach effectively improve performance on standards-based measures of reading comprehension? (3) Does implementing technology-based CBM in a UDL reading environment help teachers to inform instructions central to state standards? In today’s digital society there have been tremendous advances in communication and comprehension in a school environment. Throughout this study, there was growth in literacy experiences in functional activities, made signs of progress with the connection between reading, writing, prior knowledge, and cognitive processing.
Four middle schools, grades sixth, seventh, and eighth participated in the study, each was selected from a district outside a larger metropolitan area in the Northeast. All schools applied an inclusion model for providing services for students with disabilities. Two schools used models of general and special education teachers working as a team in a general education classroom. The other two schools provided support for students with disabilities with special education teachers or paraprofessionals in the general education classroom.
Ten teachers participated in the study, eight females and two males, seven were general education English Language Arts (ELA) certified teachers, whereas the other three were special education teachers. Ten teachers with fourteen classrooms, seventy-three students were identified with disabilities (learning, hearing impaired, attention deficit, and ADHD) as well as struggles with literacy. Two hundred and eighty-four students participated in the study, English was the primary language for 88% of the students. Boys made up 50.7% of the group at 144 compared to 140 girls at 49.57%.
Three main components in the design of strategic reader (a) support and interact with users in a digital reading environment, (b) ongoing teacher-to-student and student-to-student discussions and interactions, and (c) embedded CBM to monitor student progress (Hall, Cohen, Ganley, 2015). The Strategic Reader presented access to both teachers and students with options and flexibility to meet the needs of all its users. It provided students with different reading abilities with simplified steps and embedded prompts that allowed the use of prior knowledge and instructional goals. By creating a digital reading environment students had access to support features, including text-to-speech, a dictionary and multimedia glossary, (Hall, Cohen, Ganley, 2015) creating flexibility to change font size and contrast, text highlighting and bookmarking.
In generating two treatment conditions, where one embedded the progress of implementing and monitoring measurements into the digital reader, whereas the other relied on a traditional approach using the digital reader, but using paper and pen to monitor measurements. Teachers were randomly assigned to a condition, conditions were based on treatment versus control structure of an entirely digital experience. (Hall, Cohen, Ganley, 2015) Treatment 1, online CBM versus digital reading with traditional CBM Treatment 2, offline CBM.
In order to continue to monitor and track students’ progress a set of three measures (oral reading fluency, maze, and reciprocal teaching strategies) was taken for each CBM measure in both treatment conditions (online and offline). Researcher and teachers using assessments, students’ abilities and comprehension, were able to develop performance goals for each reading measure. Using the data allowed for analysis of the rate of growth for each student throughout the study (Hall, Cohen, Ganley, 2015). In addition researchers and teachers conducted classroom observations that included positive/negative interactions with the program, student engagement and affect while using the UDL reading environment, student ability to navigate through the system, user-machine comfort, and use of features with urging (Hall, Cohen, Ganley, 2015). These observations were used to help students that were struggling with their understanding and interactions with the program.
Throughout the study teachers’ involvement was vital in determining student’s growth in comprehension. Treatment 1 students prove to be at an advantage; the technology-based approached to monitor students’ performance in reading verified to be more efficient and effective. Results indicated that students with LD who were in the online treatment group had an increase of more than 10% in contrast, with students with LD in the offline group increase by only 6.58% (Hall, Cohen, Ganley, 2015). In fact when asked, students with disabilities were more engaged by and with many aspects of the Strategic Reader compared to students without disabilities. When analyzed students preferred scaffolds, whereas students in Treatment 2 (offline) reported they did not make connection between the measures they were taking and their work in the Strategic Reader (Hall Cohen, Ganley, 2015).
UDL Design
The Strategic Reader used within this study, supported a wide range of UDL guidelines and checkpoints.
Engagement known as the why of learning, used checkpoints to stimulate interest, and motivate students. Checkpoint are used to spark interest, as well as tackle challenges, while sustain efforts and persistence. (7.1 ; 7.2) Optimize individual choice, relevance and value; ensuring instructions are age and ability appropriate, standards were easy to understand and interpret. As Provided strategies allowed for active participation, exploration and experimentation. (9.1 ; 9.3) Promoted expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation, self-regulatory and reflection. Students had opportunities to address new ideas and questions, activities within the program allowed it’s user to receive feedback and on demand support.
Representation aligns with what of learning, it uses checkpoints to ensure there are options for perception, language and symbol understanding, and comprehension is universal, allowing students engage with materials in different ways. (1.1, 1.2, &1.3) Customized information; information is displayed in a flexible format, as well as offering alternatives for auditory and visual information. Embedded CBM to monitor student progress, accessibility and flexibility to change font size and customize features, as well as embedded cues for key concepts. The study overcame barriers by generating different forms of presenting information, by creating clarity and comprehension for all learners. (2.2, 2.3, & 2.5) Clarify syntax and structure, decode text and symbols, and illustrate through multiple media. Struggling students are able to make connection to previous learned strategies, along with tools to support students with disabilities in text-to-speech, and enlarged fonts. (3.1 & 3.3) Allows students to activate background knowledge enabling comprehension, overcoming barriers by anchoring instructions, linking embedded models, scaffolds and feedback. By having interactive models it allows exploration and new understanding to content.
Action and Expression is the how of learning, it uses checkpoint to differentiate the way students can express what they know and have learned. It’s important to not accommodate each individual learner’s style, instead create flexibility to address the needs of all learners. (4.1) Develop and act on plans to interact with accessible materials and tools. Students are able to compose and share ideas using tools presented in the Strategic Reader. (5.1 & 5.2) Uses expression and communication to overcome barriers that of students with disabilities, but in using these checkpoints, it increases opportunities for all students to develop their expressions, to problem solve and improve their critical thinking skills. As well as provide flexibility and accessibility with a spell checker, dictionary and reading strategies to understand and interpret text.