Program 6: Helpful Technology


Technology is not necessary for implementing universal design for learning (UDL) in the classroom, but it can be helpful. We're here in the Iowa Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research (ICATER), the center that Noel consulted with to determine what might be useful to implement universal design for learning in the classroom.

Noel, can you tell me what you decided on?

We decided to use the SmartPen and Browse Aloud.

Now what exactly is the SmartPen?

The smart pen is a pen that records and stores over 200 hours of audio and video. While recording, it links the audio file to the notes that the student is taking in the special notebook. Then when the student wants to review their notes, all they have to do is tap on the notes that they've just taken, and it will automatically play back whatever was said at the moment they took that note.

Can this be loaded on the computer?

Absolutely. The students can just load that into their computer, and be able to share it amongst each other as well.

How did you incorporate this in the classroom?

Well I encourage all my students to take their notes. I assign each student one day in class where they can use the SmartPen. They took their notes and then after class I was able to upload their notes from the audio file into the computer and make everything available on the course site.

And why did you decide to use that in class?

Well I wanted to incorporate more of the principles of universal design for learning in the classroom, specifically that of making available class notes, and also making available materials in different formats. I think, by using the SmartPen, I was able to do that.

Also I think that using the SmartPen allows students who have difficulties taking their own notes, or students who have difficulty concentrating while taking notes, you know, being able to use those notes for reference or comparison, also students who, for any reason, were absent from the class would still be able to get the material that was covered.

That sounds like a really great tool. Can you tell me about the other tool you used, BrowseAloud?

Sure, BrowseAloud is software bought by the university to be used at the university website. What it does is allows the student to point to any text in any given website that is under the, and it will read out loud and highlight whatever is on the screen at that moment.

Does that include things that are connected to the website, like word files or PDF documents?

Absolutely, anything that is under the website will be able to be used under BrowseAloud.

Is there anything else students can do with BrowseAloud?

Yes, you can take all the text and also transform that into an MP3 file, so students can load that into their I-phones or cell phones or whatever, and be able to review and listen to that wherever they are.

So that benefits students both with disabilities who have difficulty reading, and students who may learn more in an auditory manner.


Were there any concerns with using this technology in class?

Not in my class, but I know some instructors don't feel comfortable being recorded in class; I think as far as it helps students learn, I'm okay with that.

Well thank you very much Noel for sharing the tools that you used in class.

These aren't the only two technologies that can help implement universal design for learning. Teachers are encouraged to seek out and look for technology that can help create a universally designed environment, and make learning easier and better for students.

Implementing UDL