DESIGN OF DIGITAL EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS UNDER THE UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING FRAMEWORK: STUDENTS PERCEPTIONS AS A TOOL TO SUPPORT THE LITERACY LEARNING PROCESS
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a pedagogical and curricular planning framework to understand learners differences in order to address student diversity in the classroom. This approach has been developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), to create a universal learning environment and design a flexible, equitable and accessible curricula to support all students educational needs (Rose & Meyer, 2002). The goal is to provide equal access to learning, not simply equal access to information (Council for Exceptional Children, 2005), considering the four main components of the curriculum: goals, methods, assessing and materials.
UDL is based on neuroscience research about the primary brain networks that come into play in the learning process - recognition, strategic and affective-, and in the development of digital media and digital technology and its educational potential – versatility, transformability, capacity for being mark and to be networked -. The underlying framework is built on three principles: provide multiples means of representation (the “what” of learning); provide multiples means of action and expression (the “how” of learning); and provide multiples means of engagement (the “why” of learning).
The present stydy is part of the research project "DUALETIC" - Implementation of Universal Design for Learning and use of accessible digital materials: Implications for literacy instruction and Teacher Training - funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (EDU2011-24926).
This paper aims to analyze the students perceptions about how the UDL framework and the application of digital materials designed according to its principles are able to support the literacy instruction process. Twenty –four reading materials were digitized, using the Book Builder software - developed by CAST -, and they were implement during the 2013-14 academic course, in 1º and 2º Year of Primary Education (4 classrooms) , in the Language Area. Teachers received initial training in UDL and an accompaniment and support process, that was collected and systematized in observations records and feedback sessions about the incorporation of the UDL principles and guidelines to their teaching practice. The digital readings were applied in both, the group class through interactive whiteboard (IWB), and autonomously, accompanied by the teacher's guidance in the ICTroom.
With a sample of 38 students, through individual interviews as data collections instrument, various issues related to the characteristics of the digitized readings and how students perceived these materials support their learning process, were collected. The data were qualitatively analyzed by Atlas Ti software, and quantitative by SPSS program.
The results show three principals conclusions:
• Students identify and value the materials in the different dimensions involve in the literacy instruction process, identifying them.
• There are differences in the perceptions between the 1 or 2º Year group, and these differences are linked to the phases of reading skills acquisition .
• The students are able to recognize metacognitive strategies allowing them to identify which elements are most useful in their learning process, distinguishing didactic or motivational elements.