Welcome to Episode 79 of the Think UDL podcast: Higher Ed and K-12 Partnerships with Mary Budzilowicz and Lauren Benfield. Mary Budzilowicz is the Director of the Center for Universal Design for Learning Technology and Resources at Cabrini University and Lauren Benfield is a Project Consultant in the Office of Professional Learning of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit in Pennsylvania. I usually interview just one person each episode, but today I am very glad to have representatives of both sides of this UDL partnership. My guests and I are specifically going to talk about the incredible work that Cabrini University and Montgomery County schools have forged in recent years to link UDL in their Higher Ed and teacher education programs with K-12 implementation by creating professional learning communities and operationalizing UDL in their local schools. This episode is chock full of resources that Mary and Lauren and their team have meticulously created and gathered over the past several years, so please be sure to check those out on the episode 79 webpage where you’ll see padlets, wakelets, curated resources, and original videos, infographics, and webpages to jump start your partnerships or perhaps start your own thinking about a UDL center on your campus! During our conversation, at one point Lauren mentions the 2018-2019 school year when the membership exploded with more and more attendees but was then interrupted by the pandemic. After our taping she corrected that to the 2019-2020 school year, and you’ll just have to stay tuned to hear how they handled, and even expanded, after that interruption! They are so creative and have so much to share! Thank you for listening and a special thank you to the folks at the UDLHE Network for their financial support of the Think UDL podcast!
Find our guests and the UDL Partners on Twitter:
UDL Partners: @UDLPartners
Cabrini School of Education: @CabriniSOE (Mary Budzilowicz)
Lauren Benfield @LaurenBenfield2
Office of Professional Learning – Montgomery County Intermediate Unit: @MCIULearns
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 79 of the think UDL podcast higher ed and K 12. Partnerships with Mary Budzilowicz and Lauren Benfield. Mary Budzilowicz is the director of the Center for Universal Design for Learning Technology and Resources at Cabrini University. And Lauren Binfield is a project consultant in the Office of Professional Learning of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit in Pennsylvania. I usually interview just one person each episode, but today I am very glad to have representatives of both sides of this UDL partnership. My guests and I are specifically going to talk about the incredible work that Cabrini University and Montgomery County Schools have forged in recent years to link UDL in their higher ed and teacher education programs, with K-12 implementation by creating professional learning communities and operationalizing UDL in their local schools. This episode is chock full of resources that Mary and Lauren and their team have meticulously created and gathered over the past several years. So please be sure to check those out on the episode 79 webpage, where you’ll see Padlets, Wakelets, curated resources and original videos, infographics, and web pages to jumpstart your partnerships or perhaps start your own thinking about a UDL center on your campus. During our conversation at one point Lauren mentions the 2018 2019 school year when the membership exploded with more and more attendees, but was then interrupted by the pandemic. After our taping, She corrected that to the school year 2019 2020. And you’ll just have to stay tuned to hear how they handled and even expanded after that interruption. They are so creative and have so much to share. I’m so glad to bring this to you. Thank you so much for listening. And a special thank you to the folks at the UDL he that’s Universal Design for Learning in Higher Ed network for their financial support of the think UDL podcast. Thank you very much, Mary and Lauren for joining me today on the think UDL podcast.
Mary Budzilowicz 02:54
Thank you, Lillian, this is really a thrill, thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about this work.
Lillian Nave 03:01
Thank you so much. I really appreciate both you and Lauren, taking the time to be with me today. And I have followed your work for quite a while and and the things that you’re doing mostly on Twitter, too. You got a great presence there to tell me what’s going on. So I’m really glad to get this out to our listeners. So I’m going to start out with the question I asked all my guests and I’ll start with you, Mary, what makes you a different kind of learner?
Mary Budzilowicz 03:26
Well, I had to really think about this. And I came up with a description for me. And I think the first word it’s not really quite a word, but it isn’t verb is I would say I’m a ponder Another words, I’m really somebody who has to stop. And many times quietly think about something thoughtfully and deeply. And that’s not always, that can be misunderstood by people. And it’s not always appreciated. And as a matter of fact, Lauren and I were talking and we were saying that one of the things that makes us such a good team together when we work is she always recognizes when I need to take that time, and she’ll pop into another room. But at the same time, you probably have noticed on Twitter because I am the person behind the Cabrini school, education, Twitter. I do love connecting and networking. So there’s that side of me that needs to take that time. But that’s there’s the other side of me that loves to be with people and have the idea to listen to them, bounce ideas off them. I like to say learn with and from them. And finally, the other thing I’m thinking of is you had a guest recently who talked about I think it was Derek broth and he talked about his love of social media. And I would say that that pretty much defines me as well, I, I love spending time on social media. I love the knowledge and the information I’m able to curate from social media. And for instance, you’re talking about Twitter? Well, you know, I’m thinking of something that I shared out probably during the pandemic last spring, and that was a Digital Commons text on resilient pedagogy. And I would never have found that resource if it had not been for Twitter and all of the different people that had been introduced to who are really producing some amazing work.
Lillian Nave 05:39
Yeah, absolutely. You know, there is the biblical Mary who pondered these things in her heart. That’s what I always think of when I have to Ponder. Ponder these things in my heart. Just give me a minute, right. Oh,
Mary Budzilowicz 05:52
I adopt that. I love that. Right? That’s right.
Lillian Nave 05:55
Really big news. She pondered it in her heart.
Mary Budzilowicz 06:00
And I’m at a university where we are education of the heart. So I think that fits me perfectly.
Lillian Nave 06:06
Right. Thank you. All right, Lauren, how about you what makes you different kind of learner?
Lauren Benfield 06:10
Um, I think probably like most of your guests, you kind of start reflecting back on your journey through the school system. And I, I know, that’s a question that you always ask your guests. So once I found about this opportunity, I said, Oh, my gosh, what am I gonna say? Yeah. And that was really hard for me to pinpoint who I am as a learner. And I think because through school, I would say I was a compliant learner. Okay, that I really tried my hardest to study exactly how the teacher wanted me to or demonstrated through a lesson. So for example, for Chapter Five test if they said, you have to study and make flashcards, I use those flashcards as hard as I could, even if they weren’t working, because that’s what the teacher said we were to do. I see. Yeah, right. So I understood the expectation of learning, I think, as it was presented by my teacher, and I kind of retrofitted myself into their model. Mm hmm. Obviously, thinking about that, if that’s how I’m trying to learn, and it’s not fitting me as a learner it school was difficult at times. Right? Right. And I don’t think it was until I moved into this position with professional development, that I really kind of came into my own learner identity. And I don’t know if it was because now I had more opportunities to conferences and professional development sessions. I’m tied to specific initiatives, inclusive practices, multi tiered systems of support literacy, so I had focus areas, and I really kind of had desk quote unquote, desktop. Now, the classroom, you’re in the, you know, teaching your students, you’ve got all the responsibilities throughout the day that how are we really growing our teachers professionally is the time they’re. So now in this new professional development role, I have all this time to dig and learn and figure out, like what’s going on in these initiatives. And I think that’s when I realized that I’m more now a collaborative learner, okay. And I make those deepest connections and some of those biggest aha moments when I have the chance to talk with others to question things that I read, to kind of grapple with content. And that’s how I really make sense of everything. So I need those thought partners and those critical friends to really debrief and kind of discuss what I’m digging into and learning. So I really think I definitely have evolved. If you know me, I’m the team out of our group of seven or eight people on our team, everybody says, I’m the rule follower, I always have to make sure that we’re following the rules. And yeah, and we don’t get in trouble for anything. And I think that’s why I was such a compliant learner as growing up because I just wanted to do what I was told. So very variation in how I could be a learner, it was really, here’s your study guide. I want you to make flashcards, vocabulary lists, not that those all aren’t great study tools. I just didn’t know what it was it meant to truly learn. Because I was just relying upon and thinking I was doing what my teacher wanted me to do.
Lillian Nave 09:17
Yeah. And you know, it’s through my association with Universal Design for Learning, that I’m finding out the difference between making expert students, and expert learners, and those students are very compliant. And that doesn’t necessarily make the best learners. Because I too, was very, I’d say very compliant. I think that’s a great word, and wanted to follow all the rules and really loved the rules. And like when the rules were in my favor, and I wanted to use those rules to my advantage, right, and until much later that I saw that there were so many other ways to learn, but it took risk and I was so risk averse, that I’ve missed out on a lot of learning. And I remember very clearly in graduate school, in an art history seminar, I went to grad school for art history. And somebody started off their paper, who had been to Yale and is a professor now of art history. I started off with like a, like flowing drapery, comma, and then a ravishing folds. And I was like, what? Like that one with the, you know, the way that we were taught how you start a sense, it was like, you would write a magazine, but I was like, well, that’s really good. I never would have done that. Anyway, it was it was breaking the rules. And I never thought I could.
Mary Budzilowicz 10:43
I think you said something really valuable there, too, though I end up, I think that I did not appreciate myself as a learner until I was in graduate school. Because suddenly, the system was designed that I could have that time, right? To think, and research. Prior to that, it was just this fast system that moved on past me in many respects. So as a graphic, it’s still difficult today, sometimes, even here. Somebody will say, give me a compliment. And I realize that those lessons are still deeply ingrained in me. Right, that I couldn’t possibly really have that expertise. It’s amazing how we carry that with us.
Lillian Nave 11:31
Yes, yes. And I’m seeing when I teach first year students, which is what I do now that they are very compliant, and they want to be told what to do. And that’s more of an adolescent learner. And when you get on to being an adult learner, you are much more competent and able to take risks. And so transitioning from that compliant, learner to an expert learner to take risks takes a lot of trial and error, it takes risk and failure and being okay with that, and providing a system that allows for that. So you’re not punished for failure, at least the first time, right, that you can keep doing it. So a lot of things I’m learning on this journey, I think,
Lauren Benfield 12:10
to this idea of what you said, like, as we become adult learners become more articulate. And we’re able to almost defend the choices that we make, in how we learn, right? So if you decided to start your paper that was essentially appropriate, you could say, No, this is exactly why I did it. And I did it for a reason. And there was a purpose. Whereas I think, even I would say, even in my undergrad work, I don’t know, if I was competent enough to be able to back up choices that I made, did I have the language and identity have the competence to be able to say no, I did that for a reason. And listen to my reason. Right? So where’s that space for, for our learners to defend? I had the situation with a student when I was teaching middle school and was in we’re doing text dependent analysis. And we were all using Foursquare, graphic organizers. Kids crossing out boxes left and right. So why are you doing that? He goes, this doesn’t work yet, but the whole school was using a graphic with that specific graphic organizer to work on text dependent analysis. And he goes, I’m using Box and dots. All right, no problem. So then he worked away, and I’ll tell you his paragraph paper from the pre edit with the graphic organizer of the Foursquare to the box and dots. They were It was miraculous the changes that he made. I said, Okay, now, here’s your learning. Why did you make that change? Why did you choose to say, no mystery, I’m not using this. I’m using something different. And then look at how you excelled. I said, So now talk to me about it. And you have to explain it to me. And he’s like, I don’t want to talk about it. No, no. You’re learning talk about why did you make that choice? I just wonder how often are we putting learners in boxes? Because we think we’re putting like, we’re putting good practices into place. But are they good for all? And where are we allowing that choice to be able to to occur?
I think the other thing, Lillian, and you mentioned that Lauren, you just mentioned it as well, is really seeing the learning that comes from making mistakes, the learning that comes from failure, right? And again, we don’t we need to start that with our youngest learners to let them know that it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to fail.
Lillian Nave 14:30
Yeah. And what do we learn from it, and then move on. That’s so much.
Mary Budzilowicz 14:34
Move on. Yeah, absolutely.
Lillian Nave 14:36
So my next question for both of you, Mary, I’ll start with you again is how did you begin with Universal Design for Learning? Well,
My UDL journey really begins with a mom hat and not a teacher hat. And I like to say that that baptism into UDL started with my own daughter’s learning journey. So I have a daughter with specific learning disorder. abilities, who came into the system very young, she was a year of age when she came through early intervention. And, honestly, when I look back, and it’s funny, because we talk about, sometimes I just marvel at her resilience, because I can still get emotional talking about that journey. And because that marginalization starts at the beginning, right, we entered into a system really focused on a deficit mindset. And all of the problems resided within her, which is just such a hurtful way of looking at a child at looking at any person. And it really did start me thinking about everything that I knew as a special education teacher, I was really starting to question, but so what happened was, you know, we were hitting barrier after barrier after barrier. And as that mom, as many parents do, or families and caregivers do, I sort of thought, You know what, I’ve got to go looking for something. And I found my way to a cast product called the thinking reader. And that would have been around 2003, I want to say my daughter was probably just entering Middle School. And I got a hold of this. And I thought, this is brilliant, perfect. I called Tom Snyder up, I think that’s who was producing it at that time. And I asked, Could I somehow get a copy because the only way they were selling it was in bundles for schools. But I thought this was such a brilliant product, because here she could be reading, or having, listening to an authentic piece of children’s literature such as, but not buddy, A Wrinkle in Time, with these wonderful embedded scaffolds and supports within the text. I was blown away by this. And by her response to it, I remember that if she was having difficulty responding to a comprehension question, a little character would pop up, and it would model some thinking for her. And I thought, this is like the best use of computer assisted instruction I’ve ever seen. So I wanted to know more, who are the people behind this product. And that in turn, brought me to David Rose, and the folks that cast and I remember reading, the one that you can access now digitally online, for free teaching, every student I think in the digital age is the title of that of that book. I read that book. And I just remember thinking, this makes so much sense to me. And this really allows a path forward for her to be fully included, but also providing her with learning experiences where she can really demonstrate her abilities and her brilliance because as parents as a family. We were seeing this at home. Yeah, right, she might have struggled to tell the story of the Constitution in words. But by golly, she could do a search through Google Images. And she could find a way to visually tell you that story. She also had a lot of talents in the visual arts with photography. So for me, it just was This is so amazing. I had to step back and really acknowledge that the system was failing her and not the other way around. Even though as many parents know, you know, you get that look that says, What are we going to do with your child? So the funny story is, of course, now I’m so excited. I want to talk about this with anyone that will listen. And I go to the headmaster of her school. And I’m in explaining to him, is it possible that we could consider maybe putting this book in her hand and the rest of the class could be reading by not buddy, but I would be happy to purchase the first section. And he stops and he says, What’s the name of this group? I said, Cast. And he says, This is adorable. He says, I have a sister whose email comes from a cast.org.
Mary Budzilowicz 19:25
Here, his sister is Dr. Elizabeth Murray, Boo Murray. She was one of their I guess you would say research scientists. And he connected me with boo. But she became a wonderful mentor. To me in those early years of the learning journey with UDL, I would meet her for lunch and you know, when I talk about universal design with her, and then eventually that led to, you know, because of my position here at the university, I was able to go digging For those UDL resources and bring them into our collection, and begin to introduce it to faculty here, and then that led in turn to beginning to attend symposiums. And so along with a couple other faculty members, we began to attend symposiums. And then we began to actually present at symposium. So that’s where our journey with UDL, but it all really started with my daughter.
Lillian Nave 20:25
And now you have a Universal Design for Learning Technology and Resource Center at your university, which is very rare. So yeah, I would love to see more of those. All right, in the United States.
Mary Budzilowicz 20:40
Yeah. And I have to really give a shout out to my Dean in the School of Education, for making that happen. That’s great. certainly knew she saw the value of it. And, you know, we as a leadership team, she actually invited us me into recommend a book title, and they ended up reading, reach everyone teach everyone. So that was also a nice way to begin to launch that journey as well.
Lillian Nave 21:07
That’s great. Thank you for that, too. And of course, Tom Tobin and Kirsten, bailing are fantastic. They’re the authors of that book. And I’ve interviewed both of them separately, on other occasions. So that’s a really, that’s a great idea to start that if you’re thinking about it on your own campus. Exactly. Lauren, how about you? How did you begin with Universal Design for Learning?
Lauren Benfield 21:26
Yeah, so my colleague, Jesse Gluckman, and I, in the Office of Professional Learning at the MC IU, we were working on a peer differentiated supervision project, which is basically just Pennsylvania’s an option of Pennsylvania’s evaluation for our teacher system. So every year you have to pick a topic and you can, you basically research the topic, and you come out with some type of actionable at the end. So we decided to work together in this was during the 17 2017 2018, school year, and we wanted to look at the effectiveness of our current inclusive practice offerings, specifically in the area of co teaching. So Jesse and I were doing a ton of co teaching workshops. And we were finding that while our workshops were really strong with theory, we talked about the practice practices and practicality and that application into the classroom, when we would go back and meet with teachers in their spaces, or we would talk with administrators from schools that with teachers that we worked with, there’s just they weren’t seeing much change in the effectiveness of their co teaching models. So we were saying, Okay, well, let’s go back to the the root cause, is it our professional development that we’re designing that’s not allowing that theory into practice transfer. So we started to kind of dig into some like current research and professional development, we landed on Dr. David Cooper’s research based professional development models. It’s a four part model, it’s theory, demonstration, practice and feedback coaching and follow up, which is, is very much like what we, I think, do a lot of times in developing our own learning cycles, right? So you learn the theory, you do some engage in some type of demonstration, whether it’s by video or in person. Yeah, your learner’s then practice and get feedback from you. And then you do some coaching and follow up. So we said, Okay, we kind of design parts of this four part model into our structures. So we did, but still, we were feeling like something’s just not clicking. Yes, we were getting out to teachers classrooms, we were giving feedback. We did some coaching cycles, but still something just didn’t feel right. We said, there’s, it’s got to be, there’s got to be something else out there. So at the time, we were actually bringing in Shelley Moore, to do some inclusive practices work with some educators in our county. And you know, she loves universal design for learning. So we said, oh, bingo, we got to learn from Shelley. So we went to our directors and said, Send us to British Columbia, so we can learn from surely more. And you can probably guess what that answer was, yeah, I know, her way. So then we we said, Okay, well, let’s really we talked to Shelley a little bit in the time that we had her in our space, when we brought her to our county. And she really kind of talked us through this idea of universal design for learning. As a teacher, I had heard of it. I couldn’t probably at the time, tell you exactly what it was. So we started to dig deeper. And we really quickly realized that that was the framework that we were missing, not only just to design our own professional development, but how we can help teachers make connections to everything they’re doing in the classroom. Right. So that’s where Universal Design for Learning then fell into Jessie and I’s lap and that rest of that 1718 school year, we were really digging into what is UDL what does this mean for us and then come December around Christmas time, Jessie was at Starbucks and happened to run into Mary who was a previous professor of his. And they started talking. And Jessie knew that Mary of Mary’s deep love for universal design for learning. And two seconds later, I get a call from Jessie who’s like, we’re teaming up with Cabrini University. We’re doing something with UDL. I’ll introduce you to Mary but silhouettes and you’re gonna love her. We’re on the road. And honestly, ever since we our tagline is, it’s happened at Starbucks. As soon as that connection happened in Starbucks, and Jessie and myself from the IU, and Mary and Dr. Ron Whittaker from Cabrini and Dr. Amber Gentilly from Cabrini, we became a five part team. And that’s really how we began this journey as UDL partners and bringing the connection between K to 12 sectors and higher education and starting to examine what does this universal design for learning, quote unquote, idea mean, for us. And then now down the road, we’ve added three more members to our team just because we keep growing the work. So we’ll introduce you to them, I’m sure through the rest of this conversation. But that’s where we’re kind of began for us.
Lillian Nave 26:18
What I love about this is, this is the first interview I’ve done, where I’m seeing the the implementation of the learning that happens in higher ed, going directly into the local school system in teacher training. And you’ve got just boots on the ground, right, that are implementing this, it’s backed up by the higher ed, resources, and teaching for the community. So it’s really well integrated. That’s, that’s why I was really excited when Mary said, Oh, let me bring my partner we’ve got to talk about. And because this is more of a higher ed, focused podcast, but and really, Lord Nelson does a fantastic job on her podcast called UDL and 15 minutes shout out, which is in the K 12. system. So this is kind of a bridge between both but so I’m so excited about how you have kind of operationalized this in your community. So I’m gonna start again with Mary and ask if you can tell me about your cohort there and your delivery models. And I know you’ve got a couple to tell us about.
Mary Budzilowicz 27:26
Yeah. So first, what I would like to say, though, is the connection with K to 12, has also really enriched our teacher preparation program. Because you know, how oftentimes you will read and you’ll hear people talk about that there can be a disconnect between what’s happening in higher ed, in terms of the preparation of teachers, and what’s actually going on in the K to 12 classroom, we have the opportunity to have such a rich connection here that is mutually beneficial for all the parties. It’s, it’s, it’s really wonderful. So, over here at the university, I’ve always been the last couple of years involved in professional development experiences. But obviously, what I did not want to have happen would be these one and done professional development opportunities. So last summer, during the pandemic, we decided, you know, we spent the first year and a half probably more focused on getting off the ground, the K to 12 aspect, okay. We always had faculty within the School of Education, who were invested in Universal Design for Learning, such as Dr. Gentilly, Dr. Whittaker, who is our Director of our Center for Urban Education, equity improvement. Dr. Gentilly also happens to be our Assistant Director of our Center for Children of trauma and domestic violence. And so we came together last summer formally when my title changed, so that I could launch my first summer UDL faculty cohort. And we spent seven weeks together virtually, and it was wasn’t a large team, I think was a perfect size of people. We had about eight people. And it was across all constituencies in the university. So the Director of Instructional Design was a member, the director of our accessibility support community. Center was a member. And then we had a faculty members from our science department. We had a faculty member from our organizational leadership doctoral program, and then some other faculty members from our postgraduate program, one of whom is stepped onto our team for literacy. We spent those seven weeks really exploring UDL, but UDL with explicit connections to social emotional learning, and culturally responsive and sustaining practices. And where that emanated from was even at the beginning of our partnership. When we all came together. For amber, Ron and I, we were coming off that 2017 conference, remember UDL for social justice? Where where there’s where we had that very powerful keynote, on cross pollinating, UDL, but culturally sustaining practices, but that, and I remember, we were sitting there listening, and talk about an aha moment, the drop the mic moment, we looked at each other. And I remember I said, at first, I’m not doing any of this. In other words, that challenge question was put out there are your students seeing themselves represented in your course in your class, and I’m thinking, I’m teaching a very diverse pool of teacher candidates. And I can honestly say, I am not explicitly connecting UDL, with a culturally responsive practices or with social emotional learning. So we definitely knew that we wanted those connections to be there. And again, from our K to 12, folks, when they came together and started to talk about where they saw their need, it was equity, they were talking a lot about issues related to equity. And as a matter of fact, that’s how Dr. Ron Whitaker designed something he calls the help framework, because he was constantly getting calls from number of these schools, asking for help, we are experiencing these equity related issues. Ron, can you come in and do some professional development, we need your help. So we recognized you know what we need to model that in our own classes here at the university. So we began to talk about learner variability. And, you know, getting this mindset out there that this learner variability is a strength, right, moving away from these deficit mindsets moving away from these comments. While the problem is with the student. Why isn’t the student might have motivated, why isn’t that student turning his or her assignments in on time? So coming from that view, let’s presume competence on the part of all of our students, they have earned their seat here at the university. It’s a design problem. And recognizing, as Lauren, I’ve talked a lot about, we know where our teachers and faculty are at the moment, we understand that they are tired. So we’re definitely heavily invested in that plus one thinking approach. What’s one move that you can make? So we I set up and designed a series of modules? First of all, I got information from them, what are the barriers that you are seeing in the classroom? And then I set to work sort of designing some modules focused around those barriers. And that’s the Padlet that I did provide to you. You’ll see how I sort of began to curate some resources for them because they also wanted to be able to go off and explore on their own. And the other thing that I wove into that summer session is I am a huge fan. And I believe you have interviewed her about Michelle McCaskey, Brock
Lillian Nave 33:23
Absolutely, yes. Oh, Humanizing Online Learning.
Mary Budzilowicz 33:27
Oh my gosh, I, again, I’m in love with it. Here you see that UDL, SEL, culture responsive practices. So we talked a lot because we are increasingly providing more courses in a virtual format, asynchronously some synchronously, how do we create that more welcoming atmosphere to our students? How do we create those spaces where they have a voice and they are co creating that class, and we are bringing in their background experiences. So you know, we started with a liquid syllabus, and really rethinking our syllabus language. And then we because we are also the other thing about this cohort in this work is that we are a very diverse community with a wonderful little video where it says we are one Cabrini family. While we are a Catholic institution, we have students, faculty, staff from all faiths, all ethnicities, all races, a part of our campus. Mother Cabrini was the patron saint of immigrants and we are very committed to social justice, our School of Education. Mission Statement really does focus on ethical leadership, a call to social justice serving the common good. And I think we see that mission further exemplified. We have recently been identified as the only Pennsylvania university that will be working with the dream USA and We will be welcoming the dreamers to our campus to pursue their higher education degree. And so that brings me around then to Universal Design for Learning. Because when we consider the diversity of our campus, I think it’s such a natural fit for the work that we want to do on our campus with regard to diversity, equity inclusion, and we include that day belonging.
Lillian Nave 35:27
Yeah. Oh, wonderful, fantastic. Lauren, I was gonna throw it to you, too. You’ve got so much to say on this part, too.
Lauren Benfield 35:35
Yeah. So like Mary had alluded to earlier when our team, our team of five, the original five came together, we said, Okay, this is stemming from Jessie and I use differentiated supervision projects. So we need an outcome. So what are we going to start with in the 1819 school year around UDL, so we decided to put together a UDL, professional learning community. So we all sat down as a five and started to think about what do we want this professional learning community to look like? And Jesse, and I really started to think about some different ways that projects or initiatives are rolled out within not even just like our county, our state and even the nation, how we are asking schools and districts to take and jump into these initiatives. Do they really even know what they’re jumping into yet? Right, like so take multi tiered systems of support school, say, Okay, we’re going with MTSS. But do they really truly know what they’re jumping into before they say yes. So what we really tried to do when we developed this professional learning community is to try to break down as many barriers as possible. So the first thing we started with is saying, this PLC is just a year of exploration. You can come in, learn about UDL, explore it in your own school or district’s context, decide if you’re ready to really jump in. Because at some points, although we know that and I truly believe that UDL is the unifier for all initiatives that are in going on in school districts and even at universities. Yeah, we know that many of us are on initiative overload, right? And so,
Lillian Nave 37:20
among other things,
Lauren Benfield 37:23
right. So you know, that makes me really think like, before you say, yes, just come and learn with us. So that was our first number one, just come and explore and see if this idea of universal design for learning is right for you. Then some of the other ways that we tried to break down barriers is there has to be multiple, multiple entry points. Because what if I’m saying yes, I want to come in and explore. We’ll start together in September. And what if I learned by December, no way, we can’t handle this, I need to leave. Okay, you should be able to exit at some point. So we have some on ramps and offer exit ramps like Andrea Fitzgerald says around her OnRamps with UDL, people can come in with us in September, they could decide to leave in December, or they can continue with us through the end of the school year. And then we would welcome new people in in January. So multiple times that people can come into the work or leave the work, okay, it’s all differentiated, depending on where you are coming into the space, we also then try to remove that funding barrier. And although we couldn’t completely do this for all, we were able to utilize some funding sources for any of our Montgomery County members, school districts to attend at no cost. Okay. So I know that’s not something we can remove barriers for all but at least it started for the 22 school districts that are in our area. And then we also wanted to have a variety of experiences in the PLC. So there was pre pandemic this was, so there was professional development that was face to face, we had networking and collaboration sessions. And then we would also visit with schools and districts on site in their spaces as well. And that was really like tailored, detailed conversations and discussions that were specific to them. So the last piece of this PLC would be our teaming structures. So while we invited both teacher and admin teams to join together to be in a supportive collaborative group to explore UDL, we did realize that not all schools or school districts were able to participate with both teams with both teachers and admin. So we did have just some full administration team. We had just some teacher teams that came together and then we had also that collaborative team. So we really tried to be very open with the structures for the PLC model. But then we also tried to break down as Maryberry as many barriers as possible, and we really leaned into cast and brought them in To our member districts in our county to really learn what is UDL from them. And then we in the PLC could be a facilitator of that learning. So learn it from the source, and then us and help you guide through the work. And then we as a UDL partners, team, the five of us now we’re co learning with them. That’s great. Right? So it’s that we’re not in a space, then we’re the experts. And you’re learning from us. No, no, no, we’re all coming together to co learn and explore. And we really, really just wanted to make sure know what you’re you’re really exploring before, you’re saying, Yes, we’re putting el into our school plan for the year. Right.
Lillian Nave 40:40
Right. I really love how intertwined to university and your local school system and how the professionals are sharing and offering so much to each other. But I also love something I don’t know if I’ve ever heard this before, so many easy exits to like, this may be too much for the bandwidth right now. And so let me hop off the team, let me come back on or that is something I don’t think we offer enough. Like, it allows more people to try it out. If they don’t feel like you they have locked into something. And you really need to come into UDL with the right attitude, as well, right, that you’re not being forced to do it that you are seeing the benefits of it. And then you know, you really catch the UDL spirit, for sure. But but being able to match your abilities and your time, and your efforts with the team, I think is really important. Something that I’m really glad you’re getting out there, allowing for people to be choosing how much they’re getting into it and what they can take out of it. And then maybe you’re going to implement something small and that changes the world, right. And it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul. But it could be that plus one that you’ve talked about before.
Lauren Benfield 41:59
And we started really small. That 1819 school year, we started with 25 teachers and four school districts. And that’s it. Yeah. And then we we progress through and we did have some teams, parts of teams that said, we’ve gotten enough. We came back from Thanksgiving break, and Jesse and I looked at our registration, and we were up to 80 teachers. So we were like, wait, what, we didn’t block that much room in our in our, like, we don’t have that much space blocked in the room for January. And so then our January PLC, we ended up being closer to 90 participants. And now we were across 11 school districts. Wow. And we did no additional advertising, it was truly word of mouth that made us feel like okay, there is something to this idea of exploration, we are not putting any commitment other than come and attend these these sessions with us. Yeah, that’s the only commitment.
Mary Budzilowicz 42:55
Come learn with us. Yeah, absolutely. And it’s the same at the university to the land, because again, we’re a small university, our faculty wear many hats. Yes. And I have to be I’m, I’m respectful of that. So consider joining us, again, we are, we are growing and learning together, whatever you take away from this, you take away from this. But know that I’m here to support you, in whatever way you choose to take this journey.
Lillian Nave 43:30
Yeah. And, you know, this is strikes me too as a different cultural approach to things like the traditional faculty group, where we need to see a product, you know, at the end of this, you’re signing up, and you’re going to go through these steps, and we need to see this come out of it. And, you know, I teach a course a little metaphor here. Similarly, that I teach a course in cultural competence. And this week, we were looking at the difference between a first date in the United States and the first state in Norway. And if you like someone, you you kind of want to make them feel special you design you know, a nice dinner and you pay for it. Maybe if you want to impress somebody and you make them feel special, I think of a few things. And in Norway, there’s this great cultural comic and I’ll add it to our resources, where the the man traditionally does not pay for the meal, does not make the woman feel that she owes him anything, and make sure that she knows she can exit at any time. And that is the traditional Norwegian first date, at least according to this, you know, cultural cartoon. I love that. A very different and very, it’s gonna you’re gonna go up more first dates if
Lauren Benfield 44:47
it sounds like a universally designed
Mary Budzilowicz 44:49
Yeah, if you can exit at any time. You can go
Lillian Nave 44:53
whenever you need. You don’t owe anything, you know. I was like, that’s a nice no pressure kind of thing. Yeah, that sure is absolutely In a different culture that we wouldn’t think about in a faculty learning community, we often have deliverables. And you know, you’re signing up for this, this, this and this, and we need to see it on your resume, or we need to see, you need to have some service or all those sorts of things, and UDL kind of breaks the mold, I think on on that and you’re offering a different way for people to enter into that. So I started to hear of what you guys are doing a lot more during the pandemic, queue social media that we already talked about before. Can you explain how you pivoted during the pandemic? And how social media played into that, specifically? Twitter, you’re all about Twitter. But but can you tell me more about what happened there?
Lauren Benfield 45:43
Um, so we we came to the pandemic and alluding to that 18 talking and thinking about that first cohort that we had, we ended up that first cohort that that January cohort, we got hit right in the middle of that pandemic, right. So those 90 participants that we had brought in all together, we had a really great first and second session, and then the pandemic hit in March, and then we lost connection. So Jessie and I, keeping in touch with our participants tried to stay tight with them over the course of the pandemic, and just saying, we’re here for you if you need anything. But we all came back from the school year and came back together at the UDL partners team, and said, Okay, how can we keep the conversation fresh? How can we keep sharing UDL content with not overloading anyone at this time, right. And we actually brought two other participants or two other project consultants from the IU onto our team Erin Berry and Sarah Meisner. And then Cabrini University had another team member, come on Lynn bear nodosa. Now we were up to our, our group of eight. And we really have to kind of tip our hats to our social media campaign with Aaron. He is our Twitter queen, and she is the one that is the face and the name behind the UDL partners handle. Okay. And so we really just wanted to get involved with Twitter, to one stay connected during this pandemic, and to start to have a platform to share this new micro PD idea that we were throwing around called name it frame to tame it. Great.
Mary Budzilowicz 47:34
All right, so Lily and get ready. Yeah. You’re going to love this. I love it. So when we were thinking about how can we continue to deliver, as we said, you know, micro PD, to our teachers, and of course, our faculty of staff here at Cabrini. I remembered something from College STAR, called a three to five minute video that I loved. Right? They are great.
Lillian Nave 48:09
Yeah. Little videos that tell you about a UDL principle, you get two minutes, one idea three principles.
Mary Budzilowicz 48:17
And I can probably name five of them for you right now. The choice board with the physics teacher, you did a Google Doc, that was a schedule. I love the tiered feedback. I mean, I think I can name them all. So I said, you know, there are these names. We can’t take the name, we can take three to one video. It’s, it’s so brilliant. But how about doing these videos? And we were ranting on that space collectively together this idea of videos. And then Ron Whittaker came up with, Alright, how about name it? tame it, frame it. And that’s where the whole idea was launched. But its origins is in the three to one College STAR video. So we have a connection. Yes. Oh, great.
Lillian Nave 49:07
Lauren Benfield 49:08
So So we created the idea of naming Haman Freeman’s from we knew that our education system was and kind of still is in that overload moment because of the pandemic. So we wanted to really think about micro small, easy turnaround strategies in bite sized formats that we can present to audiences to just keep, like I said earlier, keep that UDL conversation alive and share content in ways that people can consume. That doesn’t feel overwhelming because we know we didn’t. We didn’t even think about trying to even bring that professional learning community back again. In the beginning of that 2021 school year, like that was just not something we knew that any of our districts could handle at the time. So are nobody in for that. matter. So yeah, so the we started this idea what started as just very short videos turned into and morphed into, well, maybe not everybody wants to consume a name it, frame it, team it in video form. So can we do a resource push, if we find a great resource, can we do just a graphic that shows the resource because maybe some people just want, they just want the resource, they just want that tool, they don’t need to listen to a video to find out how to use it, they just want to explore it on their own. So we really wanted to just really focus those videos and those resources on the how of UDL, looking at barriers in our learning spaces, the environment, the methods, the materials, kind of starting to engage with our audience on Twitter, and saying, what barriers are you seeing what barriers can we bust for you?
Mary Budzilowicz 50:54
But I think that one of the things that we knew, Lillian, is that many of our teachers would ask us this question, how do I do it? Right. So we also saw those videos as a really good way to have them begin to see a strategy and make that connection. The other thing that we recognized is that, you know, in conversations with our teachers, was also really helpful. The same thing over here at Cabrini was to talk about that accidental UDL. Yes, that they were already doing. Right. And I think that that helps to make it a little less overwhelming, or something, a new initiative that I need to take on. Yeah, so we were also helping our teachers to make those connections as as well.
Lauren Benfield 51:49
So we started creating all of these name attainment, framework, videos and resources. And we said, Okay, so we’ve got all this content that we’re creating. Now, what do we do with it? Yeah. And that’s where that social media piece came into play. And why we start to say, Okay, we need to start getting our name out in Twitter, and this will be a great place to start sharing the content, we started to say, is it better over Instagram or Facebook? And we thought, you know, with the Twitter community, especially with Mary’s connections, and Twitter and her experience with Twitter, we said, this is where we really have to start. But then we also said, Well, what about those non Twitter users like myself, I’m someone that’s on there. And I believe for the first year, in this partnership, I didn’t even realize that my video or my account was private. So it was like one of those things. So Twitter
Lillian Nave 52:34
is people talking to me.
Lauren Benfield 52:38
So we just said, Well, how else can we share this information? And we really came upon in learning I mean, you know, with learning designs website, and all of the resources that they have available, from Zachary Smith created this flowchart called the UDL barrier ID chart. And really what it does is provides questioning to help educators identify the barrier in their lesson or their environment, whatever they’re examining. And then within the UDL checkpoints, start to figure out where can I break down this barrier. So we saw is there a way that we can adapt his flow chart into a pool. So we created this name it frame it, tame it tool, which essentially takes anyone through a series of questions that allows them to then drill down to the checkpoint that they really want to explore for resources. So once you get through that tool, and you click on the checkpoint that you’re interested in exploring, it just pops you out to a pad Padlet, where we have all of our name attainment fragment resources correlated and connected there. So that was just really the two ways that we are trying to house and then of course, now we share like, Oh, we’re in a conversation with a teacher and we’re like, oh, you know, we have an A metaframe. Before that, you want to check it out, and then start sharing and then now that becomes word of mouth as well. So
Mary Budzilowicz 54:02
and, and the beauty, the beauty of that tool. Also, again, Deborah demonstrates the collaborative nature of our partnership. Yeah, because we have Sarah Meisner with to give her a shout out for working on that tool. I was working on that with her, but we had our instructional designer over here at Cabrini designed it. And we have the teachers out in the counties, it’s available to them. But it’s also available to our pre service teachers here at the universities. So I teach the Course on Universal Design for Learning here. And I introduced them to that tool, because that barrier handout is a really great way to begin to think you know, these students are sitting and trying to think of a hypothetical classroom. So to be able to say, Okay, here’s this barrier handout and a lot of common barriers that teachers will say that they’ve noticed in a classroom and get them thinking Seeing from that perspective, and then using this brilliant tool that Sarah dreamed up.
Lillian Nave 55:07
That’s great. And the resources that are accompanying this episode are incredible. We’ve got Padlets, we’ve got wakelet, we’ve got Twitter handles, if you want to know what’s going on, follow UDL partners. And there’s so much that you guys have already provided that people as as you do marry, you go right to the resources before you even listen. So this is, this is a really good episode with and I’ve got start a whole bunch of these resources you’ve already mentioned. So this is going to be extremely useful for especially anyone in college of ed, or thinking about UDL center, or universal design for learning courses, and also connecting with their local school system and putting into place I mean, I love this partnership. So okay, so I got another question. What does your current work entail? Because you are revisioning? A lot. And when you say PD, that’s professional development. And I know that’s what you are working on now. So tell me more about that.
Lauren Benfield 56:12
So right now, we are really, you know, when we started, we had that PLC going, then the pandemic, we had those name attainment frame, it’s and now we’re all starting to get back to somewhat of normal, you know, work within professional development. So where are we going next? And we really now thinking, okay, maybe the PLC is still too much for some people. Okay, so we’re really trying to like envision what else is out there for people to explore Universal Design for Learning, that may not be committing to this PLC. So now we’re really trying just to diversify all the different options that we can provide. So people can start to create their own learning paths around UDL, so everything from come and explore universal design for learning with us at a state park, in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, come take a hike with us. And we actually have created a professional development session that while you’re hiking, we hiked the whole trail, we found all the barriers. And we talked about all the core concepts on this hike. Nice. That’s something that we’re doing, we created, Mary and I were the authors have two courses that an asynchronous course and a blended course that we’re going to be rolling out this March. So now we’ve got, if you just want to learn on your own, feel free to learn on your own through some asynchronous modules. And then we are really just trying to keep the connections with our school districts in schools that are connected to us, we are always trying to just be touch points for them. And it’s really starting to turn into some specific district work. So while we are trying to diversify our county professional development offerings, and of course, people from beyond our county can attend as well. But you know, intermediate units, service specific counties in Pennsylvania, we can now have other opportunities where if school district are reaching out to us and saying hey, can you do something special just for us, we are able to actually go out and do some, you know, consultative support and professional development specifically geared to schools. So while we know bringing communities together to explore UDL is really important. You want to have those options, we do know that some others are ready, and they just want to do specific work with themselves in their spaces. So we’re really just trying to think, what else can we do? We’re trying to get a network in Pennsylvania up and running for other inner you know, IU folks, I don’t even know if I’m supposed to be saying that yet. We’ll see what happens. But we’re trying to just try to get how can we just find all the different avenues to explore UDL and to have implementation opportunities in different ways, because no more are the days where we can offer just face to face professional development sessions, and expect people to come to us, right or us go right into their space, that those days are gone. And so we were really trying to just be really cognizant of what’s that next step and what else is out there and challenge ourselves to really think differently about the way that we’re delivering professional development.
Lillian Nave 59:26
Fantastic. Yeah, that was the vision too, for my podcast. Not everybody wants to read an article. So if you’re out hiking, you can listen to a podcast.
Lauren Benfield 59:35
Well, we’ll put that on our list. We’ll say while you’re hiking.
Mary Budzilowicz 59:41
We’ve selected an episode for you.
Lillian Nave 59:45
We think it’s the most brilliant episode.
Mary Budzilowicz 59:49
And on our end, Lillian, I mean, obviously first and foremost, as a part of my job description, I’m here to support our faculty, staff and all things related to UDL. Whether that’s like you said or Earlier, just a hey, I’m sort of wondering what that’s all about too. I’m ready to take a deeper dive into into UDL. And hey, Mary, can you can you help me with that? I really love designing in our learning management systems. So I’m also available within our school of education to support the needs related to learning in a virtual setting. I think two super exciting initiatives that we have going on right here at the moment to the first one is our initiative where we are introducing learner variability and universal design for learning to early childhood educators. So that they understand the importance of planning for the needs, not just of pre K. But infants and toddlers, because learner variability, you know, it starts long before the formal years of schooling as a matter of fact, not that long ago, I had the opportunity. CO developing all those courses with Dr. Chris Bowman. And we sat through a wonderful two session on Andrea Fitzgerald, where she actually is now taking her work. I think it was through sips supporting inclusive practices. And it just, you know, looking at those earliest learners, because it’s so key, when you consider the expulsion of toddlers, from preschools, and from daycare settings. Yeah, right, we should be just horrified by these statistics. So and the nice thing is that our state, Pennsylvania, it really is prioritizing educational advancement for our early childhood educators, we have a number of daycare providers who are currently enrolled in those courses. And we try to just like we talked about with our UDL core cohorts, we really are intentionally designing them, so that they work for them, because these workers at these people work long hours, as you know, right. And they can’t all just log on at five or six o’clock, to do a session. And then, interestingly enough, the other opportunity for us to expand the partnership is potentially with our first independence school. So at Cabrini, we have a field experience program, our students who are pre service teacher candidates begin to go out for 10 weeks every semester began in their sophomore year. So we work with a lot of public school districts, but we also work with a lot of independent schools. So one of our independent schools and happens to be the school my daughter attended, actually, is currently doing a PLC focused on the book design and deliver that I am helping to co facilitate. And this is a school doing a lot of accidental UDL. And I think that they are really seeing the benefit to this shared language, and this shared design, you know, all these schools are looking to have a mission that sets them apart. And I think the school is really saying what a wonderful fit this is for them. So that’s exciting to welcome our first independent school, on board as well. And then, of course, on the on our end to, I’m hoping that we can begin to look for some grant opportunities, because it’s so important to begin to be able to disseminate this work. But as you know, funding is needed to disseminate that work. So I’d like to begin to investigate that with our director of grants here on campus. And then the other thing is outside of, of the grants, and the school is, again, just beginning to continuing to build that resource collection for our university. And I think we’re also very, super excited about where the UDL guidelines are going. Right. Yes, in terms of really beginning to explicitly address those barriers that have been put in place because of identity. And, and I know we we just know that that’s going to be such a good, good fit for us. And the other thing that I do need to do in the future is we’ve got that page that we’ve given to you that is currently housed on MCI U learns, right, so that’s our UDL partners page. Well, we want to have a sister page that sits over here on the Cabrini website. Yeah. And then along with the NF T videos, our accessibility the Director of Accessibility reports Support Center has approached me I think we’re going to try to develop a few and again, just something as simple as you know, for a student who is taking an exam online and our LMS a faculty need to know how to set their use those user exemptions so that we can extend the time for that student or better yet, if a student has anxiety, how do we hide that timer from the student? So, you know, to be able to push that out in a quick little video, like you said, rather than having a faculty member who needs to dig into the documentation for Blackboard Learn to find out? How do I do that?
Lillian Nave 1:05:29
Yeah. Make it easier for faculty to be better prepared for our students. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And Lauren, how about you? What about the future of this?
Lauren Benfield 1:05:42
So I, I think, for me, we are already starting to dream up so many different ways to explore professional development, with universal design for learning that I really don’t know what this team is going to come up with next, because every week, another idea gets thrown around by the group. And then it’s like, Okay, let’s go. And we all have very distinct roles. Yo, Jesse is really our big ideas guy. Great. So we always joke around because he’ll like, drop the big idea, and then say, Okay, take care of it, like he worked, he knows that there’s the rest of us on the team that can kind of make it happen. So for me, I think we just need to keep building momentum. And we ourselves, can’t stop thinking, and being inventive about how we are providing support with universal design for learning. Because if we stop thinking about it, and we become stagnant in what we offer, and we start to offer the same things over and over again, then we are doing a huge disservice. And I really think that we need to really reflect back and say, are we really in the game? Again? Are we doing? Are we really still in this? So I really don’t know what we’re going to come up with next. But I do know, whatever it is, we have a really strong supportive team that no matter what ideas thrown around, we will make it work. And we find a way because if it’s an idea that somebody is coming up with, it’s most likely a need for someone out there. And isn’t that what Universal Design is to really design for all, and we can’t just design how we think it should be. So yeah, absolutely.
Mary Budzilowicz 1:07:24
And I think one other thing, though, is our own growth. Um, you know, we’re always learning along this UDL journey, as well. And I think that for instance, you know, when we stop and think about, well, how can we design this professional learning so that it really does model UDL? How will we develop this course. So it models UDL, and just in my own course, you know, the other day when, when the symposium came out with the idea that, okay, this is going to focus on learner voice, I really had to stop and think about, well, what am I doing? And how can I take my design further with regard to learner voice? And it dawned on me that, you know, while I make that effort to always make sure those goals are front and center, I’m not creating the space and time for their students to set their own personal learning goals. And that brings us back to what you said about the difference between being a student. Yeah, and being a learner. Yeah, right. So I think that’s the other beauty of this partnership is we really keep chugging along ourselves on this UDL journey.
Lillian Nave 1:08:33
Absolutely. Wow, what a journey and what an amazing amount of learning that you have brought into my life, and shared with all of our listeners today. I can’t believe how many wonderful resources and I have written down a ton as well, that we’re going to have ready for everybody who’s listening to this today. And I just want to say thank you so much for your time, Mary and Lauren, for being with me today on the think UDL podcast.
Lauren Benfield 1:09:01
Absolutely. Thank you. This is so exciting.
Lillian Nave 1:09:03
Thank you. 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. The 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 star.org website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey 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.