Saturday, April 6, 2013

Learning Disabled Students...NO, Learning Disabled Curriculum!

With UDL- Let's shift our perspective!

As educators, we all have students with varying learning needs in our classrooms. The traditional view is that we have to accomodate these students so they can understand the curriculum. But if we shift our thinking to  UDL- Universal Design for Learning,  the focus changes from the varying learning styles of students to the varying styles of curriculum.   From a UDL point of view, the focus for change is on the disabled curriculum and not on the student

The curriculum, the goals, methods, materials, and assessments are assessed for their strengths and challenges, rather than the students. Our curriculum is designed, enhanced, or tweaked meet the needs of a diverse group of kids.

By definition, UDL is a the design of the instructional materials and methods we use to make our learning goals achievable for all students, regardless of the range of abilities and learning styles. Universal design is realized when there is flexible curricular materials and activities that provides  alternatives for our kids. The curriculum design takes into consideration the scope of students' abilities and learning styles.
This can include students with varying levels in these skills:
  • seeing
  • hearing
  • comprehension
  • speaking
  • moving
  • focus
  • understanding or speaking English
  • organizing
  • engaging
  • retention
So, probably most of your students!


As with all things-- there's an App for that! Tools are out there to get you thinking about the changes in your curriculum design.


  • Mobile kids’ audiobook service 
  • Thousands of name-brand audio books and stories
  • Play on desktops, laptops and mobile devices   
  • Professional readers 
  • Subscription Service
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (FREE) 

Bookz PDF Voice Reader

  • Text-to-speech for PDF files 
  • Files retain original page formatting with images, diagrams, etc.
  • High quality voices--male or female 
  • Text tracked as read  
  • Import PDFs from Safari, email attachments, or DropBox 
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($4.99)


  • Re-formats web pages to reduce clutter
  • Adjust font-size, contrast and margins
  • Save articles in Readability to read later, whether online or not
iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (FREE) 


  • Easy to  use voice recognition, no training necessary
  • Use Speak Selection to read back dictated text aloud
  • Copy work to clipboard for use in other apps
  • Share dictated text via email, send directly to Facebook/Twitter
  • Internet connection required
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (FREE)

Nebulous Notes

  • Text editor that works well for anyone, and especially for individuals with low vision
  • Large font and variable contrast between text and background are available
  • Text to speech available with Speak Selection
  • Integrates with DropBox, prints, emails
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($4.99) 


  • Create audio recordings up to three minutes in length
  • Add images, tags, and location
  • Share on devices, Twitter/Facebook or email
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (Free)
  • No Optimized for ipad 


  • Attach audio recording to image
  • Extensive range of options for editing image in app, including opportunity to add text
  • Share via Facebook, Twitter, or email
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (Free) - not optimized for iPad 


Make Dice

  • Select individual students for a task
  • Help the class make a decision
  • Create sentences or sentence fragments based on the words shown
  • Take turns selecting teams in a game
  • During a test review, select the category a student answers a question from.
  • Write math equations using the numbers shown (similar to that old "24" card game)
  • Decide which activity students will participate in for P.E. that day.
  • Practice foreign languages using the Languages available on the iPad
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (Free for lite version)

  • allows you to record 30 second audio clips in three easy steps: push, speak, and share
  •  A unique url is automatically created for your recording
  •  Share with others - just paste the link into an email, webpage, or QR code creator 
  • Assess students' reading abilities by having them record themselves
  • iPad/iPhone/itouch (free) 


  • online networking application for teachers and students
  • Think Facebook, but in safe, controlled environment
  • Promotes class communication
  • Place digital resources for student access and downloads
  • Creates polls for students
  • Post Homework
  • iPad/iPhone/iPad Touch (Free)



  1. Andi- The idea of a disabled curriculum and not a disabled student really resonated with me, so I was glad to see you write that in your post. You listed a lot of great apps, some I've never seen before. Thanks!

  2. Andi, I like how you state the fact that its not the students who are disabled, more so it is the curriculum that hinders the exploration process. A big problem that we continue to struggle with is the idea of being flexible and changing our curriculum to meet the needs of the learners. The way students learn to do is nothing like the way students have learned in the past. It is time for a necessary change. Great post!

  3. Andi-
    I always like to read your blog. You really caught my attention when you talked about a disabled curriculum instead of focus on the students. I think I am at a point where change and flexibility is easier then it would be in a couple years. (only my second year in my position) You listed some great apps...some I have tried and others I will be trying! Thanks!

  4. Andi-
    Great post! My favorite part of your post is that the curriculum is disabled, not the students. Our curriculum should fit the needs of all students, including the students in the margins. Thanks for sharing the apps. There are a few I have used, and a few that I'm going to try.