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Career and Technical Education with Luis Perez and Tracey Hall

Welcome to Episode 88 of the Think UDL podcast: Career and Technical Education with Luis Perez and Tracey Hall. In this episode, I speak with two CAST members. And when I say CAST members, I don’t mean a theater play or a Disney employee, but rather CAST, the non-profit that created and introduced the Universal Design for Learning guidelines to the world several decades ago. Originally, the acronym CAST stood for the Center for Applied Specialized Technology, but now they are simply known as CAST. At CAST, Luis Perez is a Technical Assistance Specialist and a noted speaker, and Tracey Hall is a Senior Research Scientist and Instructional Designer. In today’s conversation we talk about how UDL has been and can be implemented in career and technical programs in the United States. Our next episode, episode 89, will cover similar initiatives in Australia, so be on the lookout for that. I often am asked about how UDL can be applied in technical fields, and so I was very excited to talk to Luis and Tracey who have been successfully working in Career and Technical education and workforce readiness, and continuously implementing UDL strategies. If you have questions about ways in which UDL can help you and your students in practical ways, this episode will prove helpful for you!


Take a look at CAST’s website to learn more about UDL in Career and Technical EducationOr have a look at this recorded webinar for more info: New and Dynamic Ways Forward: UDL in Career and Technical Education


Lillian Nave  00:00

Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 88 of the think UDL podcast, career and technical education with Luis Perez and Tracey Hall. In this episode, I speak with two cast members. And when I say cast members, I don’t mean a theater play or a Disney employee, but rather cast the nonprofit that created and introduced the universal design for learning guidelines to the world several decades ago. Originally, the acronym cast stood for the Center for Applied specialized technology, but now they are simply known as cast. At cast Luis Perez is a Technical Assistance Specialist, and a noted Speaker I might add, and Tracey Hall is a senior research scientist and Instructional Designer. In today’s conversation, we talk about how UDL has been and can be implemented in career and technical programs in the United States. Our next episode, Episode 89, will cover similar initiatives in Australia. So be on the lookout for that. I often am asked about how UDL can be applied in technical fields. And so I was very excited to talk with Luis and Tracey, who’ve been successfully working in career and technical education and workforce readiness, and continuously implementing UDL strategies. If you have questions about ways in which UDL can help you and your students in practical ways, this episode will prove helpful for you. Thank you for listening, and a special thank you to the folks at the UDL a CI network. That’s Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education Network for their financial support of the think UDL podcast. So thank you both Dr. Tracey Hall and Dr. Luis Perez, for joining me today on the think UDL podcast, it’s just a pleasure to be able to talk to both of you.

Tracey Hall  02:43

Well, thank you for inviting us.

Luis Perez  02:44

Thank you so much. It’s really exciting to be on this podcast with you.

Lillian Nave  02:48

Well, I’ve followed your work and what cast is doing. So I’m very excited to talk about this. The career and technical education that we’re gonna get into is something that’s very close to my interests, my heart. And I see my, in fact, my son’s are dual enrolled in some of these programs at our local institution. So it’s something I’m really excited to talk to some professionals about this. So I’m gonna start off with my question I ask all my guests and Tracey, I’ll start with you. What makes you a different kind of learner?

Tracey Hall  03:24

Well, thanks, Lillian. I need time to process. And I know that that’s true for lots of learners. So I’m not sure it makes me a different kind of learner. So I thought again, and what really helps me a lot is motivation. I, for me to get into good deep learning, I need to be motivated, I need to know why. It helps me to know those reasons and to have a have a good sense of what it is that I’m learning, and it helps me to dig it down into my memory for long term use.

Lillian Nave  03:57

Yes, I am learning so much, by the way about that. The processing and motivation because I have a loved one who is neurodiverse. And that has been a major focus of kind of what the next steps are. Yeah, and knowing that you have to be motivated, or else that it doesn’t matter. You’re not going to do it, you’re just not going to do it.

Tracey Hall  04:20

Is that immediate learning? And then there’s that long term, right? Yes, me to get it into long term. Another thing that’s super helpful for me is to have examples that are both positive and negative. What is this thing? What is it not? And that instructionally is just super helpful for lots of learners. And I know it’s helpful for me too.

Lillian Nave  04:40

Absolutely. Oh, great. Oh, wonderful. So Luis, can you also answer our question?

Luis Perez  04:46

Well as as a learner, I definitely need more flexible learning environments with accessibility support, because I have a visual impairment. And my visual impairment is one that changes not only is going to change across my lifespan because I’m, there’s a good chance that I’m going to lose my vision completely. And so I need content that has been designed to work with screen readers and with text to speech. But even over the course of a day, my vision changes. So as we’re recording this in the morning, and my vision is a lot stronger than it’s going to be this afternoon at three o’clock, I see. So I need something that adjust to my vision needs with, you know, flexible display options from being able to adjust the text size to reversing the colors to adding more line spacing. So, you know, I need tools that have been developed according to the UDL principles. So providing multiple means of representation basically, the other thing is that I’m an English language learner. And I so wish that UDL had been around when I was going through elementary school, because that’s when I first had to learn English. Yeah. And I went through a very traditional schooling experience until I was much older and then was diagnosed with a visual impairment. So I definitely know personally the benefits of UDL. And then in relation to the topic that we’re talking about Korean technical education, I was the first person in my family to go to college, traditional, you know, four year institution, but many members of my family have had a chance to, you know, this kind of sounds cliche, but to live the American dream, because of Korean technical education, they were able to get an education through the union in New York City, the electricians union, so I have lots of electricians in my family. And that’s, that’s what allowed them to rise into the middle class, and have good paying jobs. So I’m very passionate about that providing multiple pathways to a career.

Lillian Nave  06:53

Yeah, oh, my goodness, I am so interested in this. I’ve seen it transform the lives of my of my family and my community. And I’m glad to hear that from you. And notice, again, that flexibility of inaccessibility that when you said your vision changes throughout the day, so having the option of reading or seeing or doing some things 24 hours like so you can choose when the best time is. And I know plenty of other students who have other commitments or family members or, you know, I get my best work done when I my three children are in school, right? That’s, that’s when I’m not distracted. Right? So to have that flexibility is so important. And it’s my introduction to UDL was a lot about the that time flexibility to do so. Absolutely. Alright, so let’s talk about career and technical education. And Tracey, I’ll direct this first question towards you. And of course, Luis, please add in. But what is CTE? And how is it different from that traditional post secondary education? And can you describe a bit of it of that culture that shapes CTE?

Tracey Hall  08:05

That is one patch question. Yes. But as you said a moment ago CTE, the letters themselves sit down for career and technical education. In lots of schools, it might have been called previously vocational education. In some ways, I think that career and tech ed has really improved a bunch over the last years. And just for the record, it’s available in secondary and post secondary schools. And so at the post secondary setting, it’s often seen in community settings, there are classes in which those career and technical kinds of skills are taught. And the differences are really that they focus on the applied skills to various different career pathways, as Luis mentioned a moment ago, electricians, right, and there are a number of different kinds of trades. And I know that we’ll be getting into that a little bit as well. But mechanics, computer sciences, culinary arts, cosmetology, those are all areas in which Career and Technical Education covers in many, many more. So culturally, I think some of the big differences are also around that notion of how the curriculum varies, and that it’s very focused on the applied skills. And so rather than learning math, to learn math, the things that you’re learning how to do may require math. And so you apply those skills that you need to to that new skill area. So there’s a whole lot of geometry and hair cutting a whole lot of math in in carpentry. There’s a whole lot of mathematics and a lot of the career skills that are out there. Rather than learning everything there is to learn in isolation about those math skills. The learner is applying those directly to that career vocational kind of an area.

Lillian Nave  09:51

Right, yeah, so everything has a really closely aligned usefulness to

Tracey Hall  09:58

purpose and hopefully that Motivation we were talking about a little bit earlier to

Luis Perez  10:02

write. And I would just add that there’s opportunities to learn lifelong skills, that even if you don’t go into the field that you’re learning about, and Career and Technical Lead, you will pick up skills that will stay with you for life. And I wish I had taken an electricians course. So I don’t have to call my brother so much. Yes. And in fact, I will still call him because he, I know that he will do it in a safe way. So, you know, our place doesn’t burnt down. But there’s so many for everybody. So career technical education should not just be for people that intend to go into more specialized fields, it has something to offer for everybody in terms of learning valuable skills that would be useful throughout your lifespan.

Lillian Nave  10:44

Yeah, I am amazed at what my sons are dually enrolled. So as you mentioned, Tracey, you can do this as a, as a secondary education. And there are plenty of community colleges that have these programs that are teaching high schoolers, at the same time in these dual enrollment courses. And my son learned how to weld, you know, at age 17, and I was incredibly excited about this, because he’s also a very hands on type of learner, he is motivated by doing, you know, things. And that became such an interesting course for him. And it helped him to think much more widely about Yeah, about what he’s learning in his program is in mechatronics, and he eventually wants to be a commercial pilot, so he’s gonna go to an aviation school. But you know, I think it’s probably good that he knows how a airplane is held together, too.

Luis Perez  11:41

And as we just learned, from something that was in the news recently, where someone blacked out in an airplane, and another person had to take over and actually land it, you never know, when some of these skills will come in handy.

Lillian Nave  11:54

Exactly, I definitely copy that and send it to my son, because it was the air traffic controller who had to guide, you know, the person who’s pilot was incapacitated, I was like, Oh, those air traffic controllers also have to know how to fly a plane, I didn’t realize that. So very interesting, and skills that save lives, that’s for sure. There are also some

Tracey Hall  12:15

good career skills that get taught in the in the CTE types of courses, you know, that responsibility to get to work on time, and be ready on time to use of your cell phone, perhaps the time management is a huge part of it, though. And I think that that’s a big component of some of those career skills that are just really key to success. And those are lifelong skills.

Lillian Nave  12:41

Right. And I think we used to call things like that maybe some soft skills are, you know, kind of outside of that, but they really are essential skills, I’ve heard that that name, that that really is a misnomer. It’s not really soft skills, those are essential skills for for anyone in the workforce or going through life. And we mentioned a lot of times already, that these are often at community colleges, and these are community endeavors. And I’ve noticed too, that it’s just a different field than our usual or let’s say, traditional post secondary ed, where you go away from your family, you go away from your home, you’re living in dorms, and this is very much integrated into the community, people living with their families, it’s less expensive, and then they eventually are serving their community. So it’s a very different I think cultural understanding to about what education is for.

Luis Perez  13:36

And beyond that. There’s different ways that you can finance that education. Yeah. So in my brother’s case, his education was paid by the union. And it really followed more of an apprenticeship model. Yeah. So so it combined, you know, formal classes at the community college along with working with other electricians and learning on the job. And the end result. And when we talk about higher education, and the costs going up and up, the end result is that he has an education without any student debt. Yeah,

Lillian Nave  14:09

that’s amazing. Huge. Yes, absolutely. So okay, so let’s talk a little bit more. And Luis, I’ll start with you on question number three I have for you is, well, who’s teaching these courses? And can you tell us a little more about the students? We’ve heard a few about few of your family members. Let’s hear about more.

Luis Perez  14:29

So I would start by saying that as with anything in education, there’s going to be great variability. Yeah. There’s going to be great variability in who teaches these courses and who takes them so we need to keep that in mind. And so part of that is, you know, again, not sort of pigeon holing people or saying you know, you belong in this track, and so on, because it’s going to be great variability. But as you mentioned, since a lot of these courses are often taught in the community, that often with CTE, we have people that come from industry. And they don’t follow a traditional path to becoming a teacher or an instructor. And that’s both good and bad. It means that they need a little bit of help sometimes in terms of the instructional strategies, because they may not have had the background in education and learning. But it also sometimes means that they don’t have to learn as much. Right, right. So so they’re open to new approaches, new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. And so and that’s, so that’s important. They can also be great role models, because they’re coming from industry. And so if you have a student who wants to become a mechanic, you know, they can ask a person who’s been a mechanic, what it’s like, what what does it take to go into that career, in terms of the students? Well, again, like I said, it’s going to be there’s going to be great variability. But I’ve also found that often students for whom the more traditional model doesn’t work, this is another pathway, this is another way that they can go. And that in some cases really plays to their strengths. Whereas in other channels, other pathways, it’s always been about, like what you can’t do, like if there’s a big emphasis on reading, and writing, and so on. And that’s something that you struggle with, and you may not get the support you need. Then you might in another pathway where it’s more focused on hands on practical application, and so on.

Tracey Hall  16:33

The only thing that I think I’d add to that is that, you know, it’s like, how are the teachers different? I think there’s some pros and cons to how are the teachers different, because they are experienced, usually in the trades that they’re teaching or the skills that they’re teaching, but they’re inexperienced in education. So they don’t have some of the pedagogy and some of the teaching strategies that a traditional teacher might have, that can be a good thing, as well as be a challenge. And so when challenges come up for them of a learner being highly variable in the way in which they learn best, or take tests and those sorts of things, it might be difficult to help them to see and learn how to apply these principles that we’re speaking of in UDL to their work. But on the on the side, that’s really good, is it? Here’s how I learned it. And here’s how I do it. And there’s a lot of that modeling and showing and care, because they’re proud of their, their skills and want to share it with others.

Lillian Nave  17:28

So yeah, it’s an up and down. Yeah, and I must say, with all of the work I do in faculty development in traditional higher education, there is not a lot of there are many professors who come without that educational training. Like they know their subject matter. They know how to research they know how to write, but they don’t know necessarily how to teach that subject matter. So I think we’ve got it in both in both places, as well. So, so cast, you both work at CAST, and Cass is doing a lot to integrate UDL approaches into career focused education. And I was hoping you could help us understand what, what that’s like and give us some examples. And Tracey, I’ll start with you.

Tracey Hall  18:15

Sure, thank you. So interestingly, cast has recently like within the last two, three years started, what we’re calling our workforce group. And what we’re really doing is exactly what you’re saying, Lillian, and that is to focus on the the career pathways and really good ways in which we can apply the strategies of universal design for learning to higher education, post secondary education kinds of settings, as well as some of the middle school and high schools that offer CTE types of courses. And applying the principles of UDL there and showing people the, you know, the value of knowing about human variability, the value of flexibility, and the application of the principles of universal design for learning. And so we have a lot of different types of ways in which we are approaching that, some of which is developing some coursework, for higher education, in which we are teaching the principles of universal design for learning and applying that to all sorts of areas. Accessibility is a huge one. Yeah. And Luis is our professional. There, he really, really helps us all my particular areas assessment. So helping people think about how do we develop assessment, in a good way for whatever it is that we’re teaching, that has the flexibility and the applications of universal design for learning that are so critical to so many learners because lots of people can’t necessarily respond well or demonstrate their understanding because of the way in which the test is given. Or the way in which the learner is supposed to respond versus their actual knowledge. Yeah, so other areas that we’ve really been involved Have are directly with CTE courses. And really working in applying the principles in the instruction for students again, thinking about flexibility, and the variability of those humans and ways in which those humans, those people. And the ways in which we can approach and have those multiple means to be able to help people get that motivation to get in there and do what they want to do, but to also be able to demonstrate their understanding, and then have access to what it is the information that they’re supposed to be learning. So it’s not all reading and writing lots of ranges of ways in which that can be made available to them. So that is a broad stroke. I don’t know, maybe you want to give some more specific examples?

Luis Perez  20:42

Yes, I can. One of the things that we’ve done a cast is develop a range of different e portfolio applications that really provide options for how people can demonstrate their skill. So instead of just, you know, writing an explanation of how you build a circuit, or how you put something together, you can take a photo and upload that you can record a video, you can respond through audio. So again, we’re providing multiple means of action and expression to use the UDL language. But also thinking about when we are evaluating something that is a little bit more practical. How do we provide a mobile first application so that you can access it from your mobile phone, and then document your learning in place, right. So you don’t have to wait until you get back to your computer and sit down and write something or record something, you can document it at the moment, at your job site, wherever it’s the most convenient. So that’s really important, again, in the spirit of providing that flexibility about where learning takes place, as well, that you’re able to document it with these ePortfolio tools that are developed to be mobile first. And that was actually co designed. Yeah, cool. Design is a big part of the approach to the development of tools I cast. And the idea of having that be mobile first. That’s something as designers we may not have thought of. Yeah, but but the people that are actually performing the skills, they said that’s important to us. And I think that available, right, exactly. So I think that’s a big part of UDL that we need to emphasize more is that it needs to include that core design component. So it’s not just we come in and drop content on you, and you take it in, and then you kind of spit out something in some way. But that rather we’re like cold designing the learning environment to include the flexibility that everybody needs.

Tracey Hall  22:44

I can’t thank you enough for mentioning that Luis, developing that new portfolio program and the the iterations of it that we’ve made, it has just been a really, really exciting thing to do. And I just want to add one more bit on to it. And that is that many times in CTE types of programs, learners are having get the opportunity to earn licensure like a food handlers license or tools, mechanic’s license type of thing. And the portfolio is a place in which they can take a picture of that certification or licensure. And then they have a record of it. They don’t have to keep track of that piece of paper forever, or have somebody keep track of it for themselves. It’s on their phone, or it’s on whatever device they are, it’s in the app so they can access it from their phone or whatever device that they’re using. So that’s a career skill, right? Hang on to those certifications and licensures that you’ve earned, OSHA, all of those lovely, and important types of certifications for career skills and different career pathways.

Lillian Nave  23:43

We are being shaped constantly by our learners. And what I’ve loved about UDL is that I’m thinking co conspirators, but that’s has not exactly the ring I want, but but the CO conspire together to learn. Well, and I have learned so much from my students. And it’s because my interest in and my connection with Universal Design for Learning has opened me up to find new ways. And they end up being better ways than I could have even thought of on my own because I I learned in a particular way, right? And I have this traditional background, and my learners are very different. And they are so much better on mobile devices than I am and they teach me and they have, they have bettered so many of the projects that I had come up with because they, they just had so many more skills that honestly I hadn’t learned because I hadn’t grown up at the same time that they had, right. So they’re pushing me to be a better teacher because they’re like, oh, that that works so much better than the whole complicated mess I had come up with and they kind of made it a lot easier.

Tracey Hall  24:57

Well, that’s just as an illustration of that. We are all lifelong learners.

Lillian Nave  25:01

True. True. Exactly. And they teach me so much. So, you mentioned things like licensure, right? This is, there’s a lot that goes into the technical education and career education. And when I am talking to faculty that have very specific end goals that might have like a licensure exam, I hear it a lot with things like nursing and, and other things like that. There’s a criticism that I hear that wait a second, there’s like specific things, you can’t provide flexibility, you can’t provide lots of options, because you have to demonstrate a certain skill in a particular way. Or like you don’t get you shouldn’t get that flexibility. So, Luis, I’ll start with you on this one and ask what is your answer to that kind of criticism.

Luis Perez  25:56

So it’s interesting that you mentioned that because this actually came up in a conversation that I was having with a group of faculty this week. And they had to do with licensure related to construction. And sometimes there are constraints. So the constraint was, the particular skill that you had to demonstrate for this assessment is building a wall, where the mortar will sit within a specific time. Okay, so in other words, you have limited time to actually get it done, or else, it’s not going to work, because the mortar is going to set and then it’s not things are not going to work. But if you were to do something like a task analysis, and think about what led to that point where you’re, you know, putting the mortar in, and then what do you have to do afterwards, I bet you we can find some places where you can provide some flexibility, okay, in those other actions that need to take place before and after. The other thing is, even for someone who might be able to perform that skill, they may be able to perform that skill, like in a limited amount of time, like they may grow fatigue, and so on. So providing some supports that help them. They can still demonstrate the skill, but you know, they need some supports leading up to it and leading afterwards, or following up afterwards, that that might be helpful. I think this has also come up often, because I do a lot of work with students who have visual impairments. And it comes up to the question is like, Well, what about neurosurgery? Like, how is someone who has a visual impairment going to do neurosurgery? And my response is, they may not be able to do an actual neurosurgery now. Yeah, but who knows, in the future with robotics? Yeah, if they might be able to do that, because at that point, the Neurosurgery is going to be performed by a robot that you program. Yeah. Right. And so these fields change over time. So I think, you know, exposing people to the skills and the content in a given field at least opens up the possibility. And for that person who is interested in neuroscience, maybe they don’t perform neurosurgery. But they become a neuroscience researcher. And that we can definitely do, right, we can provide support so that they’re able to accomplish that. So I think it’s just kind of stepping back. And rather than having that response, that kind of immediate response of like, that person can’t do that. Let’s pause and like, actually analyze what’s involved with this task. Yeah. And let’s look at where are the places where we can provide that support? And then where are the places where there are some constraints, because let’s be honest, with that example of the mortar, there’s no way around it, that mortar is going to say it and things are not going to work, we’re not going to have the wall. But that’s usually the exception rather than the rule.

Tracey Hall  28:55

That’s a great example, Luis. And if I could just add in some thoughts around how we actually ask a student to perform and demonstrate their understanding. Are we asking them to read a whole set of directions and then do that skill? Might there be ways that we could provide that information, the directions differently from having to read it, or looking at multiple means of representation? When you think about having to do a task, like a test item, there are usually some directions, then you have to interact with whatever it is that you’re supposed to be doing. And and then you demonstrate that, that knowledge and so we have to look at each of those component pieces, how are we getting the instructions or the directions to that person that’s going to be needing to take the test? And are there supports and scaffolds we could provide for that? Again, that’s the accessibility type of a thing. Could it be read aloud to them? Could they use text to speech? Could they you know, have have the directions instead of one little line of directions. Could they have bullet points? I mean, there are lots of variations on Add that might be helpful for learners because demonstrating the skill is what you really want to see not how will they read? Right? Right, exactly. So I mean to think about the way in which we’re asking to to act upon some sort of stimulus, and then actually doing that kind of a skill is really important. And then the other piece of it that I think is really interesting that we don’t think of often is that when we’re doing assessments or tests of some sort, we, as the instructors or whoever is scoring, that thing, has to do some kind of subjective sorts of thinking and working on that, knowing what kinds of supports and scaffolds a person may have needed or used is going to help influence how we think about that. Yeah, so we got to look at that whole series of events that takes place when we ask a person to take a test,

Lillian Nave  30:45

right? You know, I often think about something like public speaking, which is something my my sons are duly enrolled in as a communication skills and their, you know, career technical path. And the, you know, the end goal is you need to speak in front of other people. And so that’s like, that is the, you can’t get around it. Like you can’t Well, I don’t speak in front of people, I’ll just write it like, no, no, no, this is the actual skill. But what you said support and scaffolds, like, Okay, well, let’s try to figure out, maybe you talk first, maybe you write your ideas down, and it’s a written communication, and then maybe you talk to one person or you’re in a small group, and then maybe, or maybe you record a video, and that’s a way to, to communicate, or maybe you’re talking to a larger group, you know, and as you move forward throughout the semester, you’re getting more skills, you’re, you know, making your way towards that. And so kind of figuring out what it is that we need to teach the novice learner, to get to be that expert learner is, was just a change in my thinking, understanding those supports and scaffolds rather than being the judge and evaluator all the time. I’m learning a lot more about how to be that support, create the scaffold and say, what do I really want? What what is my actual goal, right? So is the goal to write a paper? No, the goal is to synthesize this information. And you can either write it or write a podcast or, you know, speak it or, or whatever, but it really helped me, I think, it’s like, we’re asking the wrong questions like, what is it that I really want? And that’s what you do is continuously teaching me he’s trying to ask those new questions.

Tracey Hall  32:25

Well, and I love what you were saying to Lillian about the goal, we as the instructors, or the teachers, or whatever we might be, in this in develop developing an assessment need to know what is the goal of this item? Yes, I want to find out about this learner. And look at the ways in which that person might be able to retrieve the information that they need to act on to do that thing, and then actually demonstrate it. And like you were the the range of of examples that you gave was excellent there, there’s more than one way or in straight understanding. And that’s what we need to be flexible enough as instructors to accept.

Lillian Nave  32:58

So this is a lot that I’ve learned from Cass, that you know, the are the providers of the UDL guidelines that I that I have I should Brahms them or something because I have them all the time in front of me. And I really appreciate how you’re integrating this in in every possible way. I know you do a lot of K 12 work, and my interest is in that secondary and post secondary and workforce readiness. So what do you think other colleges and universities and these career training organizations can learn? From what you’re doing now with implementing UDL in career technical education? And Tracey, I can start with you on that one?

Tracey Hall  33:43

Oh, that’s a full question. I don’t know, it’s very exciting. You know, one of the places to start is to think about that, that, you know, there really are Higher Education regulations to apply the principles of universal design and all of our higher education coursework, and so forth. The actual implementation of that is going to vary for everybody, for every institution and for every person teaching in those institutions. But with that, there’s been more openness to be considering Universal Design for Learning and cast has had an opportunity, and people are taking the opportunity to learn more about universal design for learning and applying in their classrooms. I think that from the CTE courses, and the range of ways in which we can do just what we were speaking about, and having, you know, a lot of ways in which a learner can demonstrate their understanding many ways in which you actually provide the learner with information to move forward. You know, it isn’t all reading and writing, and tradition and education. And a lot of people think about teaching and about about learning, you read information, you gather that information, or you hear it, and then you speak about it or you write it and we need to break that mold. And we really need to think about ways in which we can do that. And because CTE is a wide ranging area and because there is so much practical application of it I think it becomes a really, really nice model for all people in post secondary education to think about ways in which we can, you know, provide these alternatives and provide a range of ways in which we work with college students. We’re all students of post secondary students. Right.

Luis Perez  35:16

And I will just add to that, I just want to make clear like, it’s not that we are ignoring, reading and writing in Korean technical education, right, it’s just that we’re framing it within the context of like, here are some relevant skills, some things that, you know, will help you move into careers are in high demand, and that our society needs in order for us to remain innovative and competitive. And within the context of that we’re going to teach you reading and writing because you’re going to have to be able to read and write Yeah, when you go out into the field, but we’re going to teach it in a more contextual way, like, how does it apply to this specific field. So reading, writing, public speaking, at some point, you might be someone who rises up within your field, and you’re teaching others about that field. So hopefully, you’ll be successful in CTE in the workforce. And then you’ll be one of those people that returns and teaches others about the skills that you’ve mastered the career that you’ve mastered. And so we’re not ignoring those skills. It’s just that we’re contextualizing them within a career setting,

Lillian Nave  36:24

I must say that when I was an undergrad, and in, in in graduate school, there was such an emphasis on, you know, really, academic writing, right. And I think we see that a lot in our and we do I mean, that’s when you go to the academy, you’re learning how to do great research and write well. And I noticed that it seems like it was just training people to then continue on in the same circle of okay, and then you’re going to be a professor, there you are in a very small company of people who write and act and think this way. And it dawned on me later on that there are so many other ways of being ways of talking waste of writing, that, you know, you that I was only really taught a very academic, you know, type of rigorous writing. And there’s just so much more learners are so variable, people are so variable, that it works in certain contexts. Certainly, it works for me, I’m still in higher education. It’s like I never left school I never did, I’m still here, right? So it works for me. But I’ve also noticed, after having three very different children, it doesn’t work for everybody. It works very differently. And there’s not a less than type of thing. In higher ed, there’s a, I think, some judgment and some cultural capital that goes with like a specific kind of writing or speaking. And yeah, and we have far too many people who come from very many walks of life, to say that there should be that hierarchy still, right. So I really appreciated the the idea that both of you’re saying that, we put that in context to what’s really going to work for you for in your community, for you to be able to communicate what you need to, but also in the place where you are, that makes the most sense. And it just, it makes so much sense to me that I was living, I felt like living in a very small sliver of what all learning could be. And that’s why I love UDL. And I love talking about career and technical education. Because I see the the man I trust to fix my HVAC is brilliant. And he takes much more fabulous vacations than I do. When when he found out I was a Greek Arcus art historian, he said no way I was on this fantastic tour of the Mediterranean. I was like, really? That’s amazing. That’s so wonderful. You have made better life choices that I anyway, it just it seems to work. So, so much better in in context. And that that culture I see is very different. And I think I would love to see us change the mindset that one is better or more so or one is less than because it’s just different. It’s just different.

Luis Perez  39:35


Lillian Nave  39:38

And one of the things you’ve mentioned before I’m now going on a little bit more about culture is, you know, why do we go into education and in that traditional, higher ed background that is learned a lot about cultural approaches to teaching. It’s a more individuated approach. Like I go into education to better myself to To do things for really for my own learning, and it’s often seen as competitive, like I have to get a better GPA or higher grades than someone else. And I’m doing it for myself. And there’s also on the other end of that spectrum, and it’s just a spectrum, there’s not a higher or lower is the integrated approach where what can I do to benefit my, my community, my family, the place where I live, that it’s more of a, I want to give back to this place and be a part of this place, rather than I’m gonna go across the country. I’m gonna get letters after my name, and do the things for me that’s a little bit more ego oriented. And, you know, that’s like the purpose of education, which is maybe individual betterment, versus community. Improvement, right? Something like that. So I just see that our community and technical education, college community colleges are just making our community so much better and they providing so many opportunities. Okay, so, Luis, I’ll start with you on on this one. This next question about how do these UDL infused CTE classes, teach students how to learn or do become expert learners? I’ve, I’ve heard you speak about this in the past. And I appreciate your saying this. How does UDL infuse CTE? Help students to learn how to learn themselves to become expert learners as opposed to teaching students? I’ll say what to know. Yeah, I

Luis Perez  41:39

think there’s a quote from Alvin Toffler don’t quote me on the name. But it basically the quote is that the illiterate of the future inactive people that don’t know like how to read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn, and relearn. So the ideas with these fields are changing so quickly. You have to be able to be adaptable, and you have to be able to continue to grow. And I think that’s not just important for CTE, that’s important for all of our fields, whether you go to a traditional four year university, or a two year community college, or you finish a CTE program, and you decide neither one of those works for you. And that’s fine as well. But just that idea that, you know, you have to be a lifelong learner. Because with technology, many of these fields that in the past were not technology driven, in the future they might be, and similar to CTE. One of the things that I’ve seen from just talking to people in CTE, how much more of the work that they do now involves computers, yeah, and sensors, and data analysis, and so on. So it’s not like your mechanic, the person who used to be able to work on your car 20 years ago, if they were to open a vehicle nowadays, they would be like, I’m looking at a big computer with a huge battery. Yeah, and, and all kinds of with that engine that you know, that typical engine that I’m used to working on. So I think that’s one thing that CTE really emphasizes is that, you know, these things are going to continue to change and evolve, and you need to change and evolve over time. So you need to learn relearn, on learn. And in all those different permutations, I would say one thing about CTE that’s always impressed me is how much at least the CTE instructors that I’ve worked with, they really emphasize the motivation aspect of learning. And I think you mentioned this already, Lillian, but one of my favorite classes in school that I saw this in action is there was a computer networking class at my school, and the teacher knew that the students really love gaming. And so what he had them do is set up a local area network to play a multi game multiplayer game. Oh, nice. So that’s what they did is they learn networking fundamentals while setting up a network where they could carry on a multiplayer game. Now, of course, the game was very competitive to get to your question that you just mentioned. Yeah, it was very much, you know, it’s a first person shooter. Yeah. Well, how can we think about making that more inclusive so that there would be different kinds of games that would appeal to different people, people who want to cooperate on building something? Yeah. And there are games like that, right? We could have used the Sims, for instance. Yeah. Well, we’re building an environment. So right idea in terms of like, let’s use something that it’s of interest to motivate people to learn specific skills and show that But they’re mastered those skills. Yeah. But then let’s think about the broader population of people. Let’s make sure that we make it more inclusive so that women are able to participate. People who speak English as another language. All kinds of people can can participate. Yeah. So that’s when we think about expert learners like, it sounds like elitist in a way. But really, it just refers to the process of learning, right? That you’re taking an iterative approach, you’re always seeking to improve yourself. So I think the term may be gives people the wrong impression. Because they focus on like a goal to reach like, you become an expert. Right. But as opposed to, like, I’m building expertise over time. Yeah. And then like you said, I’m gonna turn that input expertise into something that my society can use, as opposed to just me it’s something I’m contributing back to society. And I think that’s what’s so important about CTE. These skills, like you said, make a difference in our community, they keep us safe, they keep things running smoothly. So you are impacted by CTE every day, whether you realize that or not just by the place where you live, yeah, your house or your apartment buildings. So it’s important to keep that in mind. So well said Luis,

Tracey Hall  46:21

the only thing that I just want to emphasize two things there. And one is that that goal is always in mind, right? We want to capture that goal, we want to move to that thing. And it’s usually more than letters behind the name as you were saying Lillian. And so helping to make that goal really clear and understandable to all the learners in whatever range of ways that you need to do that is really, really key. And then demonstrating or modeling all of the ways in which that learning can take place, there isn’t one way to demonstrate there isn’t one way to show. And so what you’re doing by, by having multiple ways in which you’re teaching, is you’re showing your learners that there are multiple ways in which they’re picking up that information. And then they become more self regulated and knowing ah, this is going to work best for me. And they can share that with others, they can continue to practice that in their lives to help them continue to be lifelong learners. So it isn’t just knowing that particular skill, it’s how they learn that skill, or those sets of skills, and what worked best for them to then continue to make use of that as they continue their learning and growth.

Lillian Nave  47:28

Yeah, it’s like being a continuous novice learner, you know, you’re always learning new things and new ways. Yeah. And I, I have been very humbled by the, the continuous learning I need to do right. Things like my goal was to have a podcast and I knew nothing about podcasts. So that was a big learning curve for me. And luckily, I have, you know, a mentor, Tanner, who knows about sound and microphones and, and although

Luis Perez  48:00

they lynnium Welcome to, you know, welcome to The Club. I, we just launched a podcast this year, cast, and I did not know anything about podcasting. So I’m learning as I go.

Lillian Nave  48:11

Yeah, it is. It’s humbling. And, and I must say, I have to rely on so many other experts in and that community focuses. It’s just key, and I learned so much from others. So this, what advice then if you’re going to be and you do as cast, you teach the world? So what advice do you have for instructors in CTE and other higher ed settings? Who want to incorporate UDL in their classes, and maybe they don’t know where to start? And and Luis, I’ll start again with you.

Luis Perez  48:47

So I would say is just really start small, start with a lesson and activity. And again, we want to model for learners that iterative approach, right? Have you try something, you try a strategy, and then see what the results are? Does it work for, you know, for you, this is something you could do differently. So start small, implement some UDL practices, and then over time, build your repertoire of different strategies that you can use to make learning not just more inclusive and more accessible, which is the next point that I want to make is that with UDL, we often emphasize the flexibility and providing options. But we also need to emphasize accessibility. Because if we provide a range of different options, but none of those options are accessible, then we’re really not providing much choice to the learner. Yeah, and accessibility. I think what often happens, and maybe this is the case for UDL as well is that we want to be perfect. And so perfect becomes the enemy of good or better. Yes. And so with accessibility, the same thing, just, you know, take those initial steps and keep building your skills over time like you don’t have to master it all at once. And you also don’t have to be perfect. But you just got to continuously keep getting better. That’s really the goal is better, more inclusive, more accessible, because there is no such thing as 100% accessible, just because of the variability that we know exists. And then another tip that I have is Don’t ignore writing as a choice. Because too often people say, Oh, I’m gonna give him a range of options, and you can speak it, you can record yourself, but for some people, and I think Tracey, you mentioned, you’re one of those people as well. My mind works better when I write something down. It’s it just helps me think it’s almost like I’m thinking as I’m writing down something. So just make sure that those options are not, you know, they’re expensive, like writing should be part of those options, and even provide a wildcard where it’s like, as long as we meet the goal, to go back to the discussion we’ve been having about the goal being so important. As long as you meet the goal, what works best for you, what’s a way that you can demonstrate that skill that still meets the goal? So those are some some ideas that I have, but I’m sure Tracey will have a few more?

Tracey Hall  51:17

Well, I think you said that really beautifully. Luis and I totally agree with everything that you stated. The starting small is just critical. And it the all the UDL guidelines can be overwhelming. I mean, there are three principles and lots of guidelines and lots of checkpoints below those. And that can just be overwhelming, you don’t have to do everything at once. You know, starting small is fine and have those guidelines at hand. Like you were saying your bronze copy of them. Sounds good. But you know, that’s, that’s a there’s, there’s a starting point for everyone. And you need to choose your own starting point. I worked with a bunch of teachers in high school and you know, we looked at the principles and was like, ah, where do we start? And so many people started with recognition. These teachers wanted to start with engagement. Yeah, I need to get my kids interested in this book on Shakespeare, you know, they’re really not too hot on it. So what can I do? So it was really fun to generate ways to look at ways to get students interested in that as a first goal, and then kind of dive into it and get into a lot more interest. So that was great. i The other thing I think I’d like to add is that you know, what you said a moment ago, Lillian is rely on others learn from others. And you do that a lot of times by building a community, a community of practice. And so if if we are all CTE teachers and a community college and even though we might be doing very, very different coursework, we can still rely on one another to think about ways in which we’re asking students to demonstrate their information, how we are delivering information to the students, what kinds of activities we can do to practice those sorts of skills, and then look for things that are common across those courses to, to just build those threads, to, for learners to understand that. So I think that the community of practice that we create, and trusting and relying on others is going to be another really great way to build skills and build your coursework.

Lillian Nave  53:16

That’s fantastic advice. I’ve learned so much from my colleagues. And even when I’m like being the workshop leader and saying, you know, I give an idea, I often hear back oh, gosh, that’s a better idea than what I thought. So add one more step that I never would have thought of. My favorite is when I knew I wanted to work a lot on infographics and now also very accessible infographics, so multiple means of representation, and shared that with my colleagues. And then one of my colleagues came back and says, Yeah, I did that I gave it to the students and asked them to make the infographic and bring it back. And I was like, Oh, well, that’s brilliant. That saves me a lot of time to it, spending three days to make this infographic

Tracey Hall  54:01

great minds. Put those thoughts together. And it’s really interesting because you start spooling off one another and really building something exciting.

Luis Perez  54:10

Yeah. And that’s part of our recommendations, when we look at images and how to describe them is, you know, get input from multiple people, because you’ll, if you want to see variability in action, just give people an image and say, How would you describe this, and everybody’s going to come at it from a different perspective, based on the background experiences, their expertise with that topic. So I think collaboration, it’s really important to approach things as, you know, an opportunity to learn from others as well. And, and like you said, Be humble, too. You’ll be humbled at times, but that’s part of I think, to being receptive to learning.

Lillian Nave  54:50

Yeah, you know, you make me think of one of the cultural activities I do with my first year students, and there’s actually every week I believe it’s the New York Times but I I’ll add it on to our resources here. But it’s what’s going on in this picture. And you get a photograph. And it’s from somewhere around the world. But it has no tagline. It doesn’t say who it is or where it is. And then people just discuss it, you have secondary students post secondary students talking about what’s going on in this picture. And it is very culturally contextual, you know, right. So what looks like sand may look like snow to somebody else. And maybe you’re picking out clues that are because of what they’re wearing or not wearing. And that variability is something that I bring into our cultural communications classes, to try to understand those multiple perspectives. And I think if we as educators approach our learners that way, well, yeah, we’ll be able to more readily add that room for the flexibility and room for hearing those voices. And I just think it makes a much richer community of learners when we do that. Well, thank you both. Dr. Luis Perez and Dr. Tracey Hall, I have really enjoyed talking to you. And and after following what you do a lot, and being inspired, I’m so glad I got the chance to talk to you today. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Tracey Hall  56:18

This was a real pleasure. And it’s always fun to talk about Universal Design for Learning and with those who are also interested in to help more learn.

Luis Perez  56:27

Absolutely, this has been a great opportunity. So really appreciate the invitation. And I look forward to listening to even more episodes of this podcast.

Lillian Nave  56:38

Yeah. And I’ll put a link to to the cast podcast so maybe people can add on the more more podcasts, the better I think. All right, well, thank you so much.

Tracey Hall  56:47

Thank you, Lillian.

Luis Perez  56:48

Thank you, Lillian. This was a lot of fun.

Lillian Nave  57:01

You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the think website. The think UDL podcast is made possible by college star. The star stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the college website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an appale at-cha. The music on the podcast was performed by the Oddyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez, our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The think UDL podcast.

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