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Research - Technology and UDL
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Why implement UDL?
Research - Technology and UDL
As part of a course I completed with the University of Calgary (GDER 679.24:Technology and Universal Design), I was required to review the research into the use of technology for developing universally designed teaching practices. I developed the following annotated bibliography to evaluate the current research
regarding the benefits of technology for universally designed literacy programs.
During my search for appropriate studies and literature, I noticed that research regarding universal design is extremely limited. Therefore, keeping with the themes of universal design, I carefully chose research articles that demonstrate how technology can benefit literacy achievement for all learners. I found that the majority of research focuses upon the first principle of universal design for learning: to provide multiple means of representation (National Centre on Universal Design for Learning, 2009). A few studies that I reviewed included research that also dealt with investigating the affective aspect of the third principle of universal design for learning: to provide multiple means of expression (National Center on Universal Design for Learning, 2009).
Overall, it is clear that more empirical evidence is needed to investigate the unique benefits of digital text and speech.
Alfassi, M. (2000). Using information and communication technology (ICT) to foster literacy and facilitate discourse within the classroom.
International council for education media.
Retrieved October 19, 2009 from
This peer reviewed research study examines the use of a computerized instructional program, Fostering Communities of Learners (FCL), on fostering literacy. There are three activities central to FCL: research, sharing information, and performance of a consequential task. In this study, a group of eighth grade students participated in an annual FCL program geared toward literacy development. The students were responsible for doing collaborative research using computer technology, and electronically shared their expertise among their peers. Prior to the implementation of the FCL program, students were given a pretest measure of their current writing and reading abilities. Data for five independent variables was collected: reading rate, reading accuracy, reading comprehension, essay writing, and essay length. These results were then compared to posttest results for the same measures (see Table 1, and Figure 1). The results were indicate that the use of ICT within the classroom is significantly correlated to students an improvement in writing performance, reading comprehension, and reading rate. However, considering the small sample size, it is clear that more research is needed to verify results.
This study provides insight into the use of computers as a means of improving literacy and increasing collaboration between students. According to the principles of universal design for learning, students should be given amply opportunity and “options to foster collaboration and communication” (National Center on Universal Design for Learning: Principle III, 2009, para 9).
Atkinson, R. K. (2002). Optimizing learning from examples using animated pedagogical agents.
Mississippi State University Journal of Educational Psychology,
94(2), 416 – 427.
In this article, Atkinson conducts two experiments to investigate the benefits of a computer-based, animated pedagogical agent that provides instruction for solving word problems. The pedagogical agent used was a lifelike character that provided verbal instructional explanations as well as nonverbal forms of communication (e.g., gaze and gesture). In Atkinson’s first experiment, participants were randomly assigned to one of five groups: voice plus animated agent, text plus animated agent, voice only, text only, or control, which did not contain any instructional explanations or an animated agent. An affective questionnaire was also administered. Data was collected for pretest, practice problems, and posttest results. The results of the first experiment showed that those who received the voice-plus-agent and those given aural explanations outperformed their control peers in their performance of practice problems and posttest data.
The researcher conducted a second experiment to overcome the limitations of the first. For Atkinson’s second experiment, a larger sample population was used, and he also improved the reliability of posttest results by increasing the amount of posttest questions. This time, the participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: voice plus agent, voice only, or text only. The affective questionnaire was replaced by a 5-option lickert-type scale. This experiment concluded that participants presented with an agent outperformed their peers for all measures (see Table 3).
This study was peer reviewed and provides useful evidence into the use of technology on universal design for learning. By providing multiple means of representation (voice-plus-agent), learners were able to outperform those that were only provided with one means of representation (voice-only or text-only). Digital technology is flexible and allows for text to be manipulated, as well as allowing for the inclusion of voice. The unique addition of a pedagogical agent has the potential to reach an even greater number of learners, as the addition of gesture and movement also provides multiple means of engagement.
Beyer, F. (1992).
Impact of computers on middle-level student writing skills
. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA, April, 2002. Retrieved October 26, 2009 from
This study was presented at the 1992 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. It describes the impact of using personal computers as a tool to teach the writing process. Beyer collected data from middle schools in each of Delaware’s school districts to determine if the use of computers can improve students overall writing performance.
A pretest and posttest control group design was used to increase the validity of the findings. Data was collected for writing grade level, as well as through an affective questionnaire. The results concluded that students’ writing skills were enhanced through the use of computers. In addition to this, Beyer concludes that students also experienced more enjoyment when using computers to write.
Further, more extensive research is needed to measure the impact of computers upon writing skills before generalizing the results for students of all ages. With regard to the universal design for learning, the use of computers for writing allows for greater flexibility and means of representing text. In addition to this, students and teachers may also have the option of customizing the display of information, providing graphic organizers, and other assistive devices, such as such as speech-to-text, word recognition, spell check, etc. More research is needed to verify the benefits of using computers to assist with the promotion of writing skills.
Burnett, C. (2009). Research into literacy and technology in primary classrooms: an exploration of understandings generated by recent studies.
Journal of Research in Reading, 32(1), 22-37.
In this peer-reviewed article, Burnett examines current research into the effects of using technology to teach literacy skills. The author begins with an explanation into the recent shift in the very definition of literacy. In response to technology, Burnett argues that literacy is being redefined. With this in mind, the author suggests that schools, teachers, and other stakeholder are desperately trying to keep-up with the new and promising technologies. Despite the pressures to use technology in the classroom, Burnett explains that there has been very little empirical research done to investigate the various dimensions of using technology to assist with literacy instruction.
Burnett examines the most current quantitative and qualitative research studies and concludes that more phenomenological and ethnographic research is needed to explore the complex nature of digital text.
I chose to include this article as it speaks to the need for more research and evidence into the effects of using technology within the classroom. The current research seems promising. However, it is clear that more empirical evidence is needed to understand and promote strong pedagogical values that are embedded within technology and universal design.
Chun, D. M., & Plass, J. L. (1996). Facilitating reading comprehension with multimedia.
(4), 503-519. Retrieved October 2
6, 2009 from:
This peer-reviewed paper investigates how multimedia can improve reading comprehension for second language learners. The researchers used the program CyberBuch, which uses video and multimodal annotations for teaching difficult vocabulary items. The following criteria was investigated: (1) the effectiveness of multimedia advance organizers and reading comprehension (2) the effectiveness multimedia annotations and reading comprehension, and (3) the correlation between vocabulary acquisition and reading comprehension. The participants consisted of 160 second-year university German studies students at three universities in California. The results indicated that that the advance organizer assisted in overall reading comprehension, and that a combination of verbal and visual annotations of individual vocabulary items are the most helpful.
The multimedia program, CyberBuch, is an excellent example of a universally designed tool that facilitates and promotes the development of literacy skills. Not only does the multimedia program provide multiple means of representing information through visual and textual clues, it also provides students with a means of organizing their thoughts and previous knowledge through the use of a dynamic advance organizer.
Gupta, A (2006). Karaoke: A tool for promoting reading.
The Reading Matrix
, 6(2), 80-88. Retrieved October 28, 2009 from:
This peer-reviewed article describes a quasi-experimental project that investigates the use of karaoke as a tool to enhance reading fluency and motivation. Gupta argues that “music enhances creativity by activating usual images and thoughts” (p. 80). He outlines modified Karaoke instructional technologies, such as choral karaoke, silent karaoke, and repeated reading karaoke. Data was collected throughout an 8-day summer camp from 25 grade 2-3 students. Pretest and posttest measures included reading inventory to determine current reading level and a measure of oral reading rate. The results indicated that students were highly motivated with the activity and did not view participating in karaoke as instructional reading time. Gupta noted that struggling readers with negative attitudes were motivated and engaged with the karaoke-learning tool. The author recognizes that additional research is required to learn about karaoke as a tool for promoting reading.
The idea of using a fairly new technology, such as karaoke, to promote reading fluency and motivation is exciting and promising for literacy development in universally designed classrooms. The very nature of karaoke provides for a motivational means of representing text, as well as providing diverse learners with a unique means of engagement.
Heckler, L., Burns, L., Elkind, J., Elkind, K., & Katz, L. (2002). Benefits of assistive reading software for students with attention disorders.
Annals of Dyslexia
, 52(1), 243-272.
This peer-reviewed study investigates the influence of assistive reading software technology upon the reading performance of students with attention disorders. The researchers used Kurtzweill 3000 as an assistive reading tool to provide a visual and auditory representation of text. Data was gained through self-assessments, independent reading logs, standardized measures of reading rate and comprehension, as well as a follow-up questionnaire. The data was used to compare unassisted reading to overall attention; reading rate and time to complete assignments; stress, fatigue, and duration of reading; and reading comprehension when using assistive software. The authors conclude that their results provided consistent evidence the assistive reading software improved attention, decreased fatigue, and increase reading rate. Although the researchers did not report an increase in comprehension, they indicate that a variety of factors, such as the tools used during comprehension testing, may have affected this result.
Assistive reading software benefits students with attention disorders and can potentially provide literacy support for all students in a UDL classroom. For instance, the assistive reading software allows for students to manage frustration and develop coping skills, it provides text in a visual and aural manner, and may even allow for students to customize display through manipulation of other assistive technologies. It is clear that more research is needed to investigate the role of assistive reading software for a diverse population of students.
Higgins, E. L., & Raskind, M. H. (2004). Speech recognition-based and automaticity programs to help students with severe reading and spelling problems
. Annals of Dyslexia,
This peer-reviewed study compares the ability of a computer speech recognition-based program and a computer and text-based automaticity to improve the reading and spelling of students with learning disabilities. Higgins & Raskind collected pretest and posttest data from forty-four students (aged 8-18) that had been previously identified as severely LD (two or more years below grade level). This data was used to evaluate three academic tasks: reading comprehension, word recognition, and spelling ability. Both programs resulted in improvements for reading comprehension and word recognition. However, neither program showed any significant improvement for spelling ability. The authors note that the results of their study may be limited, since their sample solely consisted of a population of students with severe LD. More research would be needed to evaluate the benefits for other students.
The results of this study emphasize the overall principles of universal design and allow for inclusive development of literacy skills for diverse learners
By providing students with multiple means of representing language, speech recognition programs have the potential to meet a diverse group of learners. In addition to this, the nature of speech recognition would also provide options for diverse physical abilities.
Linebarger, D. (2001). Learning to read from television.
Journal of Educational Psychology,
Linebarger investigates the effects of using closed-captioned television as a tool to teach young children how to read. Closed-captioned television was originally developed for those who are deaf or head of hearing. However, Linebarger argues that the use of television captions provide a meaningful, motivating, and stimulating context for children to learn how to read. To complete the study, eighty second-grade participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: captions present with narration, and captions absent with narration, Data was obtained through pretest and posttest qualitative questionnaires, as well as pretest and posttest quantitative measures of word recognition, oral reading rate, and comprehension. The results of this peer-reviewed study indicate that the use of captions significantly increase word recognition and motivation. The author indicates that this study is limited by its small sample size and more studies are necessary before results can be generalized.
The use of closed-captioned television automatically provides students with a print-rich environment that is also visually and aurally stimulating. I can see many benefits for a UDL classroom. When students are learning to read, they will benefit from aural, visual, and text-based environments. However, as students continue to become confident and more proficient readers, the television can be easily manipulated to eliminate the aural stimuli. Once again, it is clear that more research is needed to determine the implications of closed-captioned television upon UDL classrooms.
Pearson, D. P., Ferdig, R. E., Blomeyer, R. L, & Moran, J. (2005). The effects of technology on reading performance in the middle-school grades: A meta-analysis with recommendations for policy.
Learning Point Associates.
Naperville: IL. Retrieved October 23, 2009 from:
This peer-reviewed article provides a meta-analysis of 20 research articles related to the use of technology and literacy development. The authors argue that despite the countless technology based programs and technologies available to the modern educator, there has been very little experimental research available to provide reliable measures of technologies influence within middle-school grades. The authors also note that the vast majority of technology-based reading research has investigated comprehension. In addition to this, virtually no research has evaluated the affective aspects of technology, such as motivation. The authors recommend three policies: (1) to not be persuaded by the claims of independent product vendors, (2) to carefully evaluate technology programs for struggling readers, and (3) to recognize that current reading assessments do not seem to be sensitive to the literacy interventions possible with technology. The authors conclude their meta-analysis by offering recommendations for future research.
I chose this article because it clearly outlines the need for further research in the area of technology and literacy. In addition to the need for general investigations involving technology, it is apparent there is also a need for research that justifies the advantages between technology and UDL.
Rose, D. & Dalton, B. (2009). Learning to read in the digital age.
Mind, Brain, and Education, 3(2), 674-83.
In this peer-reviewed article, Rose and Dalton draw upon CAST’s guidelines for UDL to highlight the benefits technology has upon learning to read. The authors explain how new technologies, such as brain imaging, have changed our understanding of learning and offered insight into the diverse ways that the brain processes and learns information. In addition to this, Rose and Dalton describe ways that technology can be used to create learning environments that are supportive of diverse individual differences. To support their stance, the authors draw upon conclusions from previous brain research studies to support and describe innovative ways of using technology to learn how to read. The emphasize the benefits of digital text to create universally designed learning environments, such as flexibility, separation of content and display, text-to-speech, inclusion of hypertext, and semantic tagging.
With regard to universal design for learning, the authors explain the benefits of digital text, such as offering multiple means of representation, provide flexible means of action and expression, and provide for flexible means of engagement. The authors state that there is still a great deal to be learned. However, Rose and Dalton appreciate the accessibility of digital text and view it as an effective scaffolding tool for diverse learners. This was one of the few papers that made direct connections to universal design, and provided me with valuable insight regarding literacy, technology, and universal design.
Schwan, S. & Riempp, R. (2004). The cognitive benefits of interactive videos: Learning to tie nautical knots.
Learning and Instruction
, 14(3), 293-305.
This is experimental study investigates the benefits of dynamic interactive videos when used as cognitive tools for instruction. Schwan and Riempp compare and evaluate the use of dynamic interactive video (in which video frames can be paused, stopped, accelerated, decelerated, or repeated) to the use of non-interactive video presentations of tying nautical knots. The authors gained data through video recorded log-files of learner behaviours, including overall time spent to successfully tie the demonstrated nautical knots. The results demonstrate that participants made active use of manipulating the dynamic video and conclude that interactive videos accelerate the process of skill acquisition. However, the authors point out that two major studies have negated this correlation.
Although, more research is needed before generalizing results to larger populations and situations, the use of interactive videos would benefit a UDL classroom. Videos provide a means of providing multiple means of representation. With this in mind, dynamic video may potentially provide flexible and alternative means of allowing students to customize information and aid in memory support and transfer
National Centre on Universal Design for Learning (2009).
Retrieved October 19, 2009 from:
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