“What’s new? Who’s new? I can’t wait to see the students!” Every school year starts with an enormous wave of enthusiasm and curiosity that, if we pace ourselves, can carry us straight into the midterm. This year, the answer to the first question, “What’s new?” is obvious, artificial intelligence (AI). The “wow factor” of AI is undeniable, and many of us have tapped into the endless ways that AI can increase our efficiency. However, AI integration will not be truly effective and impactful in the world of education unless it helps us to augment and amplify excellent pedagogical practices.
Could AI be a catalyst to create the conditions for every learner to become an expert learner? For many schools, implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is already a driving force for designing engaging, agentic, and accessible learning and learning spaces. UDL is both a method and a lens, based on the neuroscience of learning, that supports the systematic identification and reduction of barriers while maintaining high standards for all learners (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014). Today, UDL is an essential driver of inclusive pedagogical practice worldwide as we work to honor the explicit guidance of the United Nations “to adopt the universal design for learning approach, which comprises a set of principles providing teachers and other staff with a structure for creating adaptable learning environments and developing instruction to meet the diverse needs of all learners” (United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2016).
As lifelong learners, many educators face hurdles in developing their capacity as UDL implementers. “UDL feels like one more thing, and I am not even sure where to start.” “I already have a lot of demands on my time.” “It sounds great, but how do you do Universal Design for Learning?” Responses like these are common and, we have to say, valid. In a nutshell, a trifecta of barriers can deter us from deepening our understanding and utilization of the principles of UDL: context, complexity, and our readiness to leap over the great “knowing-doing” divide.
In our quest to quell this trifecta, we have leveraged the power of machine learning, natural language processing, and generative AI to create an accessible pathway for connecting the Universal Design for Learning framework to designing instruction and learning spaces.
Meet LUDIA! LUDIA is without limits, accessible anywhere, anytime.
LUDIA QR code. (Photo source: Jérémie Rostan and Beth Stark)
Partnering with LUDIA gives educators a new way to think through, adapt, and plan for challenges that create barriers for learners in their care. Platforms for open exploration (POE), developed by Quora using Open AI, has made the power of complex technology accessible for creators and users alike. LUDIA provides valuable insights and options that apply to each unique learning context based on the UDL framework. By doing so, LUDIA can become your partner in ongoing professional learning about UDL, and support educators in making meaningful progress towards our shared goal of reaching and empowering all learners!
The UDL Mindset Shift
Universal Design for Learning is both a method and a lens. Beyond the specifics cited in checkpoints, UDL asks us to examine and unlearn mindsets about learning we may have internalized. Partnering with LUDIA gives educators a new way to identify and reduce barriers in instructional design. It also reinforces the key mindset that barriers do not originate in the learner. When we focus on strengths and embrace learner variability, we create space to identify and reduce barriers in the learning design and environment.
LUDIA can support educators in replacing feelings of hopelessness and helplessness with a sense of what is possible for all learners; and the adaptable barrier-reducing options LUDIA offers are in response to their unique context and within their circle of influence as learning designers.
The AI Mindset Shift
LUDIA invites educators to envision their problems of practice, not so much as problems, but as puzzles to solve. Although LUDIA suggests potential explanations and strategies, connections happen in the creative back-and-forth, the subsequent tinkering and tweaking, evaluating, and adapting for learners and the unique context in question. Through this process, educators can grow through professional play, develop their competencies as learning designers, and notably, their mastery of AI for learning. Contrary to what one might expect, this does not mean acquiring technical skills, such as “prompt-engineering,” but developing an understanding of how to best use AI for accessing excellent pedagogical practice, and how it can help us grow as educators. An important lesson to share with our learners is that AI can certainly enhance but not replace our thinking as educators.
Part of this AI mindset means moving forward with the knowledge that LUDIA retains all the limitations of generative AI. The richest learning happens when LUDIA's responses serve as scaffolds and entry points. Educators can benefit when they engage in analyzing and adapting the provisional options LUDIA is ready to offer.
Educators can try LUDIA and see how it can support them in identifying and removing barriers for their learners. Beyond this tool, we envision a movement by creating online spaces for educators to share their stories, successes, and recommendations. To find out more, please email us at: [email protected].
CAST (2017). UDL Tips for Fostering Expert Learners. Wakefield, MA. Retrieved from https://www.cast.org/products-services/resources/2017/udl-tips-fostering-expert-learners.
Drake, Allan. “POE AI.” Quora, Quora, 5 Feb. 2023, https://poeai.quora.com/.
Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and Practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.
Organization, International Baccalaureate. “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement.” International Baccalaureate®, https://www.ibo.org/about-the-ib/diversity-equity-inclusion/#:~:text=The%20IB%20will%20embrac e%20diversity,and%20as%20an%20educational%20organization.
“PZ’s Thinking Routines Toolbox.” Project Zero, https://pz.harvard.edu/thinking-routines.
United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (2016, November 25). General comment No. 4 (2016) on the right to inclusive education. United Nations Human Rights Oce of the High Commissioner. https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/crpd/pages/gc.aspx.
To share your stories of successful AI integration in pedagogy write to TIE at [email protected].
For the past 15 years, Jérémie Rostan has helped international schools combine academic rigor and student experience through the development of transformative programs. A prolific author, his holistic and innovative approach is regularly featured in leading publications, as well as on his website, where he creates resources for school leaders and educators. Jérémie recently wrote a new e-book, AI-Powered UDL Strategies, and is the incoming High School Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator at International School of Panama.
Beth Stark has been an international educator since 2007. Her passion for reducing barriers and centering engagement and accessibility began during her early years as a teacher of students who are blind and visually impaired. Based in Dresden, Germany, she now partners with international schools through Beth Stark Consulting as a UDL expert and inclusionary practices strategist. She is a certified International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) educator and serves as the co-chair of the UDL implementation and research network (IRN) special interest group.