Welcome to Episode 113 of the Think UDL podcast: Equity Frameworks in a UDL Course in Context with Joanna Friend. Joana Friend is a Professor in the School of Early Childhood and Faculty Facilitator in the Teaching and Learning Exchange at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Over the last several years, she and her colleagues have put together a fantastic course on Universal Design for Learning that is couched within their own context and within larger equity frameworks. In today’s episode, we discuss the context surrounding the impetus and creation of the course as well as what has been learned through various iterations of the course in the last several years. If you are interested in creating a course for your college or university, you will be enriched by this discussion which provides a step by step process including questions to ask, ways to facilitate the learning experience, stakeholders to consult, and general advice on how to attempt something in your particular area. Everything is context specific, so we will delve into George Brown College in particular, but this discussion is helpful to replicate in any context. You’ll find several resources about this course, Universal Design for Learning: Inspiring Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education, on our web page for this episode.
Report on our course from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO): Improving the Accessibility of Higher Education with Universal Design for Learning: An Example from One Ontario College.
Link to eCampus Ontario course: Universal Design for Learning: Inspiring Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education.
George Brown College News: George Brown releases UDL e-course for educators across Ontario.
Say Yeah is the company Joanna mentions that helped create the accessible format.
Joanna also mentions that they were very much inspired by Fred Fovet’s article:
udl, learning, context, accessibility, learner, work, cohorts, people, disability, educators, college, create, design, ways, students, george brown college, faculty, experience, podcast, framework
Lillian Nave, Joanna Friend
Lillian Nave 00:02
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 113 of the think UDL podcast, equity frameworks in a UDL course in context with Joanna friend. Joanna friend is a professor in the School of early childhood education, and faculty facilitator in the teaching and learning exchange at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Over the last several years, she and her colleagues have put together a fantastic Course on Universal Design for Learning that is couched within their own context and within larger equity frameworks. In today’s episode, we discuss the context surrounding the impetus and creation of the course, as well as what has been learned through various iterations of the course in the last several years. If you are interested in creating a course for your college or university, you will be enriched by this discussion which provides a step by step process, including questions to ask ways to facilitate the learning experience, stakeholders to consult, and general advice on how to attempt something in your particular area. Everything is context specific, so we will delve into George Brown College in particular, but this discussion is helpful to replicate in any context. You’ll find several resources about this course, Universal Design for Learning inspiring equity and inclusion in higher education on our think UDL webpage for this episode. And as always, thank you for listening to this conversation. Thank you to our sponsor, Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood, it has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace, and education sectors, including K 12. right through to higher education for the last three decades. Thank you, Joanna for joining me today on the think UDL podcast.
Joanna Friend 02:45
Well, thank you for having me.
Lillian Nave 02:46
I’m really excited to talk about a course that you and your colleagues have put together. It’s really fantastic. And before I do that, I’m going to ask you what makes you a different kind of learner?
Joanna Friend 03:00
Well, I had to learn that this is actually a thing that people learn differently and that this difference is not only okay, but something that makes us unique, which is a really good thing. Like many I grew up in an education system that did not understand learner variability. I did not feel successful or feeling engaged in elementary or high school. I used to daydream constantly. I struggled to read in my early years, but it took until really the great the end of grade three. For my teachers to identify this I also did not feel acknowledged or supported by my teachers. And so my engagement dwindled even more as the years progressed and ended up finding personal recognition and value in the work environments. So I left I left high school before graduating, and worked full time in many different types of places between the ages of 16 and 24. Everything from retail and telemarketing and hospitality and ultimately, I found a part time job in an after school childcare center. This was I guess, my first entry into thinking about the possibility that I could actually make school enjoyable for others and accessible for learners. So at 24, I entered university as a mature student studying full time pursuing an undergraduate degree in education and psychology. Many people are surprised to hear about this journey because I am a lover of learning and always am seeking ways to challenge myself to think about things in new ways. And I really enjoy talking about how people learn what is the role of the educator, and how it has evolved. And so through immersing myself into this area of study, I’ve come to appreciate the unique ways I learned and how they can empower me to pursue more knowledge. I really know. I realize, and I know now that my daydreaming in early years was my way of stimulating my brain through story creation. I learned best through hearing stories, watching stories, reading stories and imagining stories. So perhaps this is one of the factors that I think may have made me an empathetic person. I have practiced the art of imagining being in another’s shoes many times so. But learning is contextual, right? So I do find that there are many instances where I learned best by doing and I build a sense of efficacy through trying and failing, and then trying again, of course, so perhaps this is what I intuitively knew what I needed at the age of 16. And why abandoned, you know, sort of traditional high school education for work life. So, yeah, trying and failing used to frustrate me, but now I see them as opportunities, of course. And I’m a strong reader now. And so that doesn’t hold me back. But sometimes I do find myself struggling to keep myself focused, depending on the cognitive load or eye fatigue, I’m experience experiencing, I may choose to flip to Texas speech software, or use an immersive reader function in Microsoft products. So I appreciate it when text is broken up into chunks are structured with clear headings and predictable patterns. But I think it was through Universal Design for Learning Framework, and philosophy that I finally appreciated my learning differences and see them as strengths. I know. Now, I know how to be an expert learner. So the transformational power of UDL is professionally and personally meaningful to me.
Lillian Nave 06:49
Wow. Yeah. That’s amazing. I never would have known I didn’t know that about you, and what incredible experience then you bring with that the past and knowing how, how best you learn, I mean, recognizing that about ourselves is, I think so important to our journey. And no, yeah, knowing how we can and will engage with, with anything and in learning anything. And I must say, in a traditional learning environment, that storytelling part was not part very much of a part of how I learned. And I remember having a value judgment on like, oh, stories, that’s not learning. That’s like fluff actually, yeah, that’s not appropriate, even like, that’s not helpful. And it wasn’t until much later that I really started to understand a cultural value about how, yeah, information is transmitted, and how stories and repetition of stories and how cyclical are hearing things over and over again? Yeah, and yeah, and just growing up learning that how important that is to hear the same stories again, and to have that much richer understanding. Each time I hear them, you know, so yeah, yeah, things I just didn’t understand or recognize at all, and really had a poor, and like a derogatory understanding of them, which was completely wrong.
Joanna Friend 08:17
Yeah. There’s a hierarchy in academia to that, yes. Sort of prioritizes the written word as being Yeah–More legitimate intelligence than others. So yes, I totally recognize and relate to that.
Lillian Nave 08:31
Right. Yeah, little abstract bullet points. Let’s learn this first and not have a practical application right away or anything, you know, just I’ve learned that myself that that was the preferred way of teaching things, and it may not really work that well, for everybody. So. So wow, what a great entrance into the very good work you and your colleagues have been doing to make this UDL course. So I wanted to ask why did you decide to create this course? What was the impetus for the course you’ve created?
Joanna Friend 09:07
Well, I think maybe I should give you a background on George Brown College to begin with. So George Brown has about 27,000 full time students 52,000 Continuing Education students, about 35% of those are international students, and 40% are first generation students. It probably closely resembles a community college in the United States. It’s located in downtown Toronto, Canada, which is a large urban city with about 6 million people. There are 550 full time faculty and about 3000 part time faculty. There’s three main campuses and three other satellite campuses. So it’s very large, diverse, and it’s like a city within a city. Wow. Yeah. And so for some time, probably as back as you know 2013 At least, we were working on building UDL capacity across the college, and wanted to ensure faculty educators had access to UDL professional development. And we’re thinking critically about inclusive curriculum and the impact of a learner centered approach. We had also been offering UDL 101 webinars had one to one coaching sessions available and shared a lot of UDL resources in a variety of modes. But there was still a gap, and we concluded there was a need for specific UDL role to support it in furthering the work. So a new role was developed at the college it was called at the time access and inclusion coach, but it later evolved into manager of UDL integration. And so as we were continuing to build capacity, we realized some faculty wanting to go on to the next stages of UDL learning, while others were still getting acquainted with the terminology, the framework, and many were also somewhere in between those bookmarks of exposure to UDL, so wanted to provide, we wanted to provide training for all and a place for community and opportunities to bridge theory to practice. So the new designated UDL role helped us utilize change management strategies, leveraging people strange building different onramps, which helped to advance capacity across the college. And so shortly thereafter, the pandemic hit, and barriers to education became salient to so many people, there was this collective thirst for ways to tackle these teaching and learning challenges as we all shifted to remote learning. And so we use this as a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how the UDL framework can support educators who are now at a crossroads. You know, where they are, where they need to reevaluate how they are doing things. And so often going back and asking themselves, Well, what are the outcomes of my course? And what are my goals? And how can I build different pathways or options for students to get them there. So the college was really primed for a rollout of more comprehensive course on UDL AR. And and so our goal was to establish this sort of baseline knowledge for a community of practice, which is both local and provincial. So that’s how it started.
Lillian Nave 12:41
Yeah, wow. Well, and I appreciate the background you gave us on George Brown because that’s, that’s like a ginormous to create another word here, community college with varying levels of preparation for our students. And, and you said a huge amount that our first generation students and and international students, so talk about learner variability, yes, that’s going to be a wide gamut. So we can’t be teaching to the so called average, which we know doesn’t exist. You’ve got to be thinking of many ways to reach all your learners. So I can see why you decided we needed this.
Joanna Friend 13:20
Absolutely. Yes. So learner variability, but also educator variability. Yeah. So that’s something that we had to really keep in mind as we were developing.
Lillian Nave 13:33
Yeah, yeah. So okay, well, speaking about developing this course. What was the process that you use to develop the course? Yeah, so the process to develop the UDL certificate from the onset was very collaborative and interactive. We had a college wide UDL Committee, which comprised of a variety of stakeholders across the institution that supported and guided the work.
Joanna Friend 13:58
I will also I think, I should briefly explain to you like a timeline associated with the development so to illustrate how it was also an iterative process into creating the course what it is today, which is not just a UDL course, it takes an intersectional approach to looking at barriers. So we have inter woven, many other equity frameworks that partner really quite well with UDL. So to begin with in the summer of 2020, the first UDL PD course for faculty at GBC was developed and so the first cohort a pilot group participated. This group provided such rich feedback it was a largely made up of faculty from the center of preparatory and Liberal Studies. The Dean of this division, was leading the UDL work at the college for some time and had created the designated UDL role and so many of the faculty in this division of the college had varying degrees of exposure to framework, and the framework and philosophy prior to even beginning the course. So, a large part of them also have a lot of rich experiences to draw upon. They teach in a lot of the Access Programs and Foundation Certificate programs at the college programs developed for students who are looking to upgrade their skills, and find pathways to programs and careers they’re interested in pursuing. And so many students at GBC have experienced a lot of barriers in this program in these programs and related to unrecognized or undiagnosed disability, poverty, racism, trauma, homophobia, and discrimination. There was a lot of discourse within this group specifically that expanded upon UDL, philosophy and the social model of disability. And the funding also allowed us to reach out to external experts in accessibility and instructional design, multimedia design, and we hired a fantastical a fantastic technical team called Siyar to develop a custom coded course, which truly prioritized accessibility at every step of the project, which was super helpful. We then launched another three cohorts, one of these cohorts was made up of faculty and educators from across Ontario. This helped further inform our process of redeveloping our course to be meaningful, relevant and responsive to the needs of educators in the greater provincial area as well. So we did this through focus groups and surveys that span the length of the course, we also devoted some time to redeveloping the course and again, and we are once again launched to field tests of the newly designed province wide course we fine tune the course and incorporated the many insights from the field test groups and launched more cohorts at the college and our new revised UDL course, finally got launched in the spring of 2022. And it’s called Universal Design for Learning, inspiring, inspiring equity and inclusion in higher education. We’re so proud of this course. It’s a success story. To date, we have had over 600 educators take take part in the course. And additional three other post secondary institutions are currently running their own core cohorts independently. So it’s a it’s been a long journey. It’s been an exciting journey with lots of iterations and lots of feedback. And we’re very proud of it.
Lillian Nave 19:32
Well, you should be. It’s amazing. I’ve been able to take a peek at it. And I’ve talked to Yeah, a lot of folks who are making UDL courses and what’s amazing to me is how different all of them are. And I noticed in yours that equity frameworks that you just went through. That’s before you get into the you know, three principles of UDL. It’s all in this baseline. And that’s very different than that. Other examples I’ve seen, you know, some take much more of an accessibility route. And it’s all context dependent. And you know, the more you’ve told me about George Brown College, and your location and the people you serve, and your connection with indigenous communities, and you know, the anti racism, anti racism and your, you know, adult students that are first generation, you know, your urban setting, it all makes a lot of sense. And as you were discussing or telling me about this whole process, it made me think this sounds like an article, like if I wanted to go find out how I can make a UDL course at my university, you’ve just gone through like, this is the article, I would go look up in a database and find out what are the steps in order for me to do that in, let’s say, my particular context. So I think it’s going to be really helpful for folks who are UDL practitioners or working in centers for teaching and learning or other sorts of things that can kind of follow that process or say, Oh, I never would have thought about, you know, having this iteration or working with these outside entities and things like that. So I really appreciated that a very thorough answer, because I think that’s really helpful for other folks who might want to try to do this themselves. So okay, now we know about the development, I wanted to ask if you can tell me more about the structure of the course. And you also employ a lateral leader ship model. So can you tell me about those two things?
Joanna Friend 21:39
Sure. So in each UDL certificate cohort, we included educators from different areas of the college, with different expertise, but who all had a connection to UDL in ways to apply the framework into their own practice. So these are all learning spaces, whether it be a classroom or a counseling office, or the tutor, tutoring and Learning Office, they’re all learning spaces. And so this collaborative model helped each educator learn from each of their respective expertise in a safe and collaborative place. And it helped them support each other and to better understand each other’s work, which was we felt was really important as well. We believe it, it is a shared responsibility to create an inclusive learning environment. And so it’s fundamental to learn how other roles at the institution can support that ecosystem of UDL at the college. So educators involved in taking the course may be from a variety of areas like professors from different disciplines and departments, elearning specialists, instructional designers, librarians, accessible learning consultants, mental health counselors, academic quality and program review specialists, curriculum consultants, assistive technologists, learning strategists, faculty, or educational developers, and many more, I mean, as you can see, inclusion touches every aspect of the college, right. So it’s important to include everybody’s voice and see how UDL can can be implemented in all of these spaces. So creating a space where interdisciplinary cohorts can together learn through professional development really creates a rich learning experience. And people can begin to understand the nature of each each other’s work, learn how to better support them have a shared understanding of the framework. And so it counselors can hear firsthand the experience of his other instructors and vice versa. It helps to dispel myths about each other’s works, too. So it often breaks down silos, there’s often a misunderstanding about what might a counselor say in a counseling session and what what instruction, an instructor actually said to a student versus what it gets reported. One of their shared frustrations, people speak about it a lot at George Brown, I mean, given its size is that it tends to create these silos where people never really know what other parts of the college are up to, you know, what’s being communicated to students, what supports are out there, and what initiatives are being piloted, or who’s developing resources and you know, a lot of these resources can be shared across departments and divisions. So it’s, it’s helpful to know what other people are doing. Another unique way the certificate is structured is that it is set up to be like a train the trainer model, where each is led by our Center for Teaching and Learning. It’s called the teaching and learning exchange where I work and academic quality departments. So again, a variety of roles leading cohorts. It’s a shared response. stability, we can no longer say go there for accessibility go there for UDL go there for anti racism. It is our responsibility in all our all of our roles to adopt an understanding of accessibility UDL, learner centered, inclusive curriculum. So once someone has taken the certificate, they become what’s called a UDL champion. And they then may choose to support the next cohort as a learning consultant. And then as they build capacity can go on to co facilitate a cohort, and the cycle continues. Yeah, so just to to also explain the structure of the course there’s a lot of choices in the way it’s facilitated. It’s a hybrid model, there are four asynchronous modules with collaborative and independent interactive activities throughout each module we offer, there’s, you know, we alternate it with a week where there’s synchronous, interactive webinars, where we get to discuss and hear from colleagues how they are applying their theory into practice. And the course is also designed to include a lot of other supplementary materials if folks want to explore concepts more. So we also have a really neat library that can be organized by themes and frameworks, and people could just go on and explore as they like.
Lillian Nave 26:27
Wow. Yeah, I was fascinated by your structure, and it’s so thorough, and so much information that is super accessible, of course, do UDL course. Yeah. But I really appreciated how easy it was to get around in it and, and understandable. So anyway, I’ve, I’ve appreciated, yeah, I’ve appreciated being able to kind of noodle around in there. And think it’s a really excellent example. So further on, I wanted to ask about if you can explain a little bit more about context, the context of the course, and his facilitation and your emphasis on disability being contextual. And I know this is kind of a double question, and how each iteration of the course can be different.
Joanna Friend 27:20
Okay, so first, to explain the iterative process, we applied the actual reflective practice of UDL to the work, and so we applied UDL to UDL. So UDL right begins with asking ourselves, what do we know about the learners? What is the context in which they are learning? What are we here to do? What’s our goals? What’s the potential barriers? They may experience? What could interfere, provide a hindrance? And what are some known Universal Supports, we can embed into the design, and then we reflect, we ensure that we’re considering all learners we run the cohorts we get feedback, we review, we revise and then again, start a new and so we ask ourselves again. Now, what do we know about the learners and the contexts? And what are our goals, etc, etc. So with regard to disability, being contextual, we want to ask ourselves, you know, the contexts in especially in the context of learning, if you don’t experience a barrier, are you disabled. And second, is disability can be experienced by everyone, it really depends on the environment and the conditions. So if you need to use technology to be able to complete a test or read a text and the system is set up for everyone to have access to it, are you disabled. And because it is really the barriers in the systems and the structures that are disabling which is really the social model of disability, the heart of the UDL philosophy, you have to think about disability as always contextual. as well. If you find yourself suddenly spending your entire day learning in front of a screen as result of experiencing as a result, you experienced eye strain and increased cognitive load issues, repetitive eye strain or back issues. You may now find yourself in need of accommodations or assistive technology or tools that you might never have needed before. So the rise in people who actually use text to speech software now since the pandemic is a perfect example. So it’s it’s interesting, it’s like it’s like coming full circle, the, you know, casts mantra that’s essential for some but you know, benefits all disability drives innovation that benefits the world at large. It’s now normalized now to and no longer associated with being a specialized tool used solely by people with disability. So this is an example of disability is contextual, if the technology is readily available, and it’s normalized, and everybody’s using it and contest content is digitally accessible, we’re not really experiencing barriers. So but to the second part like, but context matters in so many other ways, too. So society, societal institutional School Department classroom, you know, with regard to individual experiences as well like of oppression and discrimination, trauma and safety. So it’s important to understand like the context of what was happening around the time that we were developing this course. So for folks who are not familiar with the political contexts in Canada, in 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission put out 94 calls to action. The 9494 calls to action are actionable policy recommendations meant to aid the healing process in two fundamental ways one, acknowledging the full, horrifying historic history of the residential school system. And this was the systematic removal of Indigenous children who were taken away from their families and sent to live in schools where they were stripped of any culture, language and heritage. The second intention was to ensure that these recommendations were there to create systems to prevent these abuses from ever happening again. And so, in May 2021, archaeologists detected that they believed to be hundreds of unmarked graves at an old residential school in Saskatchewan. It brought a new attention to one of the most shameful chapters of our nation’s history, and many more, unfortunately, have been discovered since all over the country. So it’s not a surprise for indigenous people. They’ve been calling for investigations for some time. But perhaps it was a real shock to the larger public. And we have we have a national day of remembrance, September 30, has been declared orange shirt day annually, in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self esteem, and well being and as an affirmation for our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters. And you know, also that around the same time as well, a Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, after George Floyd’s murder, also had spread to Canada, we have a long history of anti black racism as well in Canada. And then, of course, as I mentioned, COVID 19 pandemic hit it made salient the context of learning and determining whether barriers exist for people as well. inequities that had already existed were further exacerbated by the pandemic. But then also within the UDL world, the sixth annual cast symposium in 2020. The UDL rising, had called for a revision of the Cast framework through a more equity lens. So there were also some key publications that were making some real waves at George Brown. We had two book clubs, sorry, more than two, I think there were three actually three or four book clubs at the time. Looking at Andrew, Tasha Fitzgerald’s book, anti racism and UDL as well, equity by design had come out with by Kim Novak and Mirko chardan. And our own institutions response to the social political forces that were happening at that time, too, which was an increase in funding for both our anti racism and Indische indigenous initiatives. So strategy and new roles and learning events and resources have been developed in this time. There’s been a result as a result of greater awareness of black excellence and indigenous contributions on campus. So all of this was the context of which these cohorts were running. And of course, it was very reflective. The courses and so making revisions and fine tuning and adding content, which helped it maintain currency and relevancy to the nature of our work. That’s sort of this the story of the context. It was designed.
Lillian Nave 34:49
Yeah, well, and that iterative process is something you and I’ve talked about this. Every time you teach the course you’re changing it, you’re matching the context and the time that each each one is taught because as we were moving through some very tumultuous times in higher ed, especially 2020, on through 2022, it really did call for major changes in the way we approach teaching and the way we approach learning and who our students are and understanding how that context matters, who they are who end learner variability. So absolutely, yeah, yeah, I really appreciate it. Again, that framework that you start with, even before getting into kind of what is UDL, you really have to be looking at those multiple frameworks to understand the how we would use UDL in context. Yeah,
Joanna Friend 35:45
yeah, yeah, we really wanted to understand learner variability in all of its possibilities. And so that’s why we began at dissecting what learner variability is beyond disability. So that intersectional approach is really important. Yeah, yeah.
Lillian Nave 36:03
I’ve certainly found that the intersectional identities the, the ways people are more than one sided or one dimensional, is what we really mean by that learner variability, right? It’s not just are you dyslexic? Right? That’s not fact, that is not even 100th of a part of who we are in and how we learn and how we enter into an educational environment, because we bring our whole selves. And just like we talked about in the very beginning of this conversation, I and you and I both grew up in a system that did not value storytelling, or thought it was right fluff, I would say, Yeah, or not, yeah, not valuable. And it turns out, that can be just as valuable and more valuable and interesting and engaging and helped me to see the world in a more full and nuanced way. Absolutely. And I didn’t even give myself a chance, you know, for to do that for so long. So anyway, I appreciate all of those things that you put into. Yeah, the kind of the foreground, not even the background, the foreground of the UDL understanding. Yeah. So, okay, so this is a lot of wonderful work. And as you have outlined here, it’s taken years, in order to refresh it to go through several iterations. So let’s say somebody else listening here today is interested in creating a course, an educational environment, right? Somehow that they want to share universal design for learning with their particular context in their university, their community college, their small liberal arts college or their large state university. What advice do you have for others who would like to create a UDL course for their faculty and staff?
Joanna Friend 38:09
Wow, okay. Well, first, I would ensure including different stakeholders, people with different backgrounds, races, intersectional identities, really ensuring that you’re including first person accounts of people with lived experience, I would say that’s very important to the work. Second, I would ensure that your partners are also all committed to accessibility, and that there’s a shared understanding of what that means. I think it takes on different meanings that different people think different things are accessible. And so you have to and you have to make sure you take the time to dissect what does accessibility mean, in the context of your learning and the course or whatever platform you’re using? It’s really challenging to find somebody who knows all areas, an instructional designer who understands how to make everything accessible. So you might need to create your own sort of Dream Team where you have specialists who understand the importance of good image descriptions, video captioning, ASL translation, described video editing, as well as different ways people navigate. Let’s say a website, you know, they might use text to speech or speech to text they might use their keyboard or eye tracking. And so you it’s really also important to include people with disabilities in the testing of that site. In order to fully embrace UDL principles in the making of this project, we have to begin with the goal of accessibility I have learned so we happen to have found an amazing technical team who can Some built or core sites, I think I mentioned them before a company called say, Yeah, they really prioritized accessibility. And it’s important to align with other industry industry professionals who designed with this value perspective. So making accessibility, the priority of which all design features are built upon, we realized how important it is to take the time to discover who those teams are within the industry spend the time to process with them what that means with respect to bringing your content to life in an online course, for example. So ensure that they’re committed to accessibility first, and that all designs are developed with this at the center point with which creativity can blossom really, this is the test of how creative individuals, we as individuals, and educators can be like how well we’ve developed content with regard to problem solving and imagining things that are outside the box. How can you develop content that will speak to the varying needs of your users? So this is, you know, how are you employing UDL in the design process, really. And the last thing I would recommend is to maintain humility, be ready to make significant changes as you receive critical feedback from participants. We’re continuing to fine tune and make changes as we learn for from our community of educators. So for example, our contents evolved quite a bit because language evolves. And the feedback from each step along the way, assured us that we are keeping up with this, we established that not only is accessibility, the center point of design of ideas and creation, but also to is the sense of inclusion, we really must ensure that there’s no use of language that could seem othering or exclusionary. And so, you know, we we learned a lot about our own unconscious bias through allowing other voices to come in and share what their experience was, you know, these biases are likely legacies, you know, as you mentioned before, of growing up in a system that uses like this mythical norm as the center point of comparison, so, so we worked with consultants and people from equity deserving groups, content editors, who pointed out things like, you know, our use of language, we piloted and tested it with community partners outside and around the province to get a view from outside our own ecosystem. And even our own design team that we hired wasn’t afraid to point out that we may have missed, you know, the representation of certain marginalized groups like at first run, there was not enough representation of neurodivergent learners somehow that, that just what didn’t get in there. So this afforded us to continuously use the reflective practice of UDL to address these areas, and we are still using it. So for example, currently, we are now considering how the word decolonization is being used or even misused and are looking at ways to remedy this. So you know, that’s, that’s really that humility is super important. But I also have to acknowledge that really, at the center of it all is making sure that you have a strong team lead some good project management skills, with good communication, who can facilitate the collaboration between SMEs and design teams. And and, you know, what was really incredibly helpful was that we had a lot of commitment and support from leadership, and that UDL steering committees that supported us along the way.
Lillian Nave 43:54
Wow. You know, you mentioned several times that whole reflection idea, and which is a major part of the UDL guidelines, and is also kind of like storytelling, for me, at least in my experience, that was not prized either, as I was going through my schooling, in fact, reflection was, was sort of a lazy man’s way of of going about things that it was really what was prized was going forward. Okay, you finish this, go to the next thing, you finish this, you go to the next thing, and you don’t really think about what you did or didn’t do. What exactly yeah, what was wrong or what you could have improved. And so like, building in time for reflection in a classroom, or in a curriculum was something that was looked upon as really not needed, and not helpful, like you should have just gotten it right the first time. And if you didn’t, yeah, you get It marked off. And that just tells you how smart you are or, or how dumb you are. Right?
Joanna Friend 45:05
Like sets up such high consequences for, you know, error. And it, you know, reduces the likelihood that people are willing to be okay with vulnerability and demonstrate that they don’t know something I mean, you know, and I see that I see that still today. I it’s very hard to to, to be open about what you don’t know. And people are very reluctant to do that students are very reluctant to do that. So it still prevails. But that’s where the learning happens exactly where the learning happens is in that reflections.
Lillian Nave 45:39
I agree. I agree. And I’ve done talks, and certainly in interviews about that reflection being so important, and probably because it was so discounted for me. And it’s been such a revelation in my teaching yours about how reflection is where the learning happens. The other thing is, whoever’s doing the work is doing the learning. So if I’m the one who’s lecturing all class, and and all students are doing or listening, then I’m the one who’s doing a lot. Right. And they’re just sort of they could be zoning out, you know, I haven’t actually asked anyone to, to, you know, to tell me what they’re thinking or to participate? Yeah, yeah. But those were like kind of those old ways that didn’t serve the real learning. And I was, I kind of internalize that. And so I really appreciate when I see things like the storytelling, things like reflection being really given an important role, because it is so important in that whole learning process. So I think that’s a great piece of advice that you have for others who are trying to do this. That’s great. So Well, thank you so much. This is like, instead of searching a database article, we can listen to this podcast and I know exactly what we need to do step by step to create a homegrown UDL course, which takes a long time and some humility and reflection. And I really appreciate your vulnerability and your ability to explain all of this for us and for the thank you to listeners. So thank you very much for coming on the podcast to talk to me about it.
Joanna Friend 47:18
Thank you so much for having me. I’m a big fan. I I love this podcast, and it’s an honor to be here to speak with you.
Lillian Nave 47:25
Thank you so 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 udl.org website. Thank you again to our sponsor, Texthelp Texthelp is focused on helping all people learn, understand and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Texthelp and its people are working towards a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers to learning and succeeding, with over 50 million users worldwide. The Texthelp suite of products include Read and Write equates to an orbit note, which work alongside existing platforms such as Microsoft Office and G Suite, and enabling them to be integrated quickly into any classroom or workspace with ease. Texthelp has changed the lives of millions worldwide, and strives to impact the literacy and understanding of 1 billion people by 2030. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an apple-atcha. The music on the podcast was performed by the Oddyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Coachez and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The think UDL podcast