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Leveraging Technology to Meet the Needs of All Learners

In 2023, to better meet the needs of their community, the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) in Indiana began its journey with UDL, a research-driven framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning by reducing barriers in instruction and addressing individual differences, learning preferences, abilities and backgrounds. The goal of creating more inclusive and accessible learning environments for all learners now serves as the foundation of all the district’s work. In recent years, the district expanded its UDL implementation by adopting a district-wide learning management system and a 1:1 student-device ratio in grades K-12.  

UDL has helped guide the purposeful, innovative use of edtech in BCSC. UDL practitioners regularly reflect upon the learning environment and consider what additional options could make the environment more accessible, engaging, and meaningful to learners. Rather than integrate technology for its own sake in a one-size-fits-all manner, UDL encourages teachers to implement technology to provide options for engaging learners, present content that supports diverse languages and sensory needs, and demonstrate understanding. When entering a BCSC classroom, it is common to see students using options the teacher has designed to accomplish their learning goals. These options could include reading, working with manipulatives, listening to audiobooks, watching videos, going through modules on their devices, working with other students, or having time with a teacher or assistant. The goal, not the means of how students accomplish it, is always the priority.  

Additionally, UDL, coupled with technology, has transformed how students demonstrate their understanding by creating an environment where learners have options and act as the architects of their learning. In one history class, UDL and tech empowered BCSC multilingual learners to show their understanding of topics by creating multimedia-rich eBooks with text, audio, and video recordings in multiple languages. Other learners created a series of explainer videos, while other students opted to write an essay on the same history topic with speech-to-text tools. The students not only had flexible, engaging options to display content knowledge beyond a traditional assessment but also could share their knowledge with a broader, relevant audience by publishing their work for viewing by parents, families, other teachers, and the community. 

To ensure the consideration of UDL in the procurement process, the BCSC developed UDL-based evaluation rubrics for all curriculum, textbook, and technology adoptions. The district uses rubrics to evaluate resources for critical accessibility features such as text-to-speech, language and translation options, font adjustments, color contrasts, and additional web accessibility standards. These rubrics have led to the adoption of accessible paper and digital resources for curriculum, devices, and other learning materials, ensuring that stakeholders consistently focus on the variability of end users.  

Collaboration and regular meetings between different technology department subdivisions have helped ensure all staff recognize and value the district’s commitment to UDL. The technology department regularly collaborates with key district leadership groups to better support each other’s work, such as elementary curriculum, secondary curriculum, multilingual learners, and special education. In addition, diverse stakeholder groups that mirror BCSC’s ever-diversifying community populations are critical players in the success of their UDL implementation. When exploring edtech, the district solicits input from teaching staff, classified staff, students, and families in its stakeholder engagement process. 

Beginning more than 20 years ago, BCSC began the systemic, intentional work of closing the digital use divide for all learners.