10 is a big number -- and to celebrate our 10th episode we invited a special guest -- our very FIRST guest -- to stir things up. One name is synonymous with Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The. Dr. Katie. Novak. She literally wrote the book -- 7, in fact, if you’re counting -- including the best-selling UDL Now and Innovate Inside the Box with George Couros. Pouring her expertise over our continually evolving educational environment, Katie shares her manifesto of firm goals, flexible means and how this guiding principle fuels equitable, engaging, and effective practices. Offering a sweet take on the many sour situations, Katie offers a buffet of practices that support variability and portability (aka F2F, socially distanced, remote, online, hybrid, etc) while keeping equity and empathy at the heart of learning. Katie shares so much great stuff! In fact, it was worthy of more than one episode so this is part 1 of 2. We will get part 2 out to you as soon as possible.
Katie Novak, EdD
Hey y'all, it's Bri and Lainie.
And this is a very special episode. We have our very first guest ever and it's a get.
I'm not even kidding, like big, big deal and I'm just going to embarrass you really quickly.
We have Katie Novak who is an expert, international expert
I should say, in Universal Design for Learning.
She has written seven books including the bestseller UDL Now and Innovate
Inside the box with George Couros and we're so excited
you're here. Thanks so much Katie. I'm
so this is kind of like a it's like a ladies lounge right now.
We're just like living it up. I know right?
All right. So Bri, I let you started off,
We're gonna all of a sudden have to have some like Beyonce in the background.
I can feel it. You're right.
[singing] If you like it then you better put a ring on it.
That is… there's really no editing here Katie.
I should warn you and I would never take that out no matter what.
No, I mean that right there, I might be a backup singer soon
for Beyonce when she hears that. I think the phone's going to be ringing soon.
You heard it first right here. I love it. Alright,
so that said, kind of one of our formats Katie, is that we like to
share the sweet-and-sour that happens.
So we've got lots of choices out there right now,
but we want to hear from you. What are your what's kind of the sweet that's happening.
What's the sour that's happening in your world professionally, personally,
whatever that might look like around learning?
Okay, so I'll do a little bit of both here. So like the sweet of of my week,
you know, professionally is as much as this is like this crazy unprecedented time and you know,
there's just so much being thrown up in the air.
It gives me hope for the future of education that people are really
talking about the barriers of one-size-fits-all design
and that's something that I have been trying to share,
you know for my entire career of this one-size-fits-all thing just like doesn't work.
Like we can't just be robotically following these scripted curriculums
and expect humans to have these like great outcomes.
Like we need relationships. We need pedagogy. We need art
and I think that the thing that gives me hope is that more people are starting to
recognize there's a lot of different ways to learn,
you know, the pacing can be changed. The flexibility can be changed
and I think that that is exciting
and I'm hoping that we don't lose that that
when suddenly there's a vaccine and suddenly we're back to you know,
something that is more aligned
with what we remember and
so I honestly think it's a really good thing because people are starting to say,
you know, not all of my students to have access to technology.
We need other options for teaching
and learning or not all students have support at
home and it's almost in some way like the variability that used to maybe be
invisible is incredibly visible… very, very, very visible
and we're having conversations about that and what's really sweet.
personally is right now is that I'm fostering the cutest puppy of all time.
I Foster for the Big Fluffy Dog Rescue
and this is this cute for those of videos little be Chihuahua mix.
Who's the cutest thing her name is Ida and I just love puppies and babies.
So that makes me happy to snuggle puppy
and I think that what is really hard one of the things that is
disappointing is there's a lot of talk about remote learning
and re-entry and safety.
and I don't hear a lot of conversations about professional learning
and I don't know how we can expect all of these individuals.
You know, we have educators we have, you know,
service providers. We have administrators. How we can expect an entire entire group of
professionals to make all these changes without investing in them.
There's a lot of investment in PPE. There's you know,
the protective equipment. There's a lot of investment in technology,
but I Here a lot of conversations about like what's our
plan for building the competency
and creating balance and resilience in our best investment in like are our most important resource.
So I really hope that the conversation begins to think about how do we support
educators in actually teaching not just wiping desks.
Like we're not hiring, you know, camp counselors that are gonna be wiping off tables.
Like these are highly trained, skilled professionals and no one's talking about or very few people.
I'm talking about. What are we doing for the educators?
This is all about what we're doing
for students and we need both of those lenses and I think on a personal level,
you know, a real downer is you know,
I don't paint my nails. Well, I don't paint my toenails well and kind of you know,
I know this is small potatoes here, but I could use a pedicure real bad.
I think that all of those are valid absolutely.
Amen. I think we're all ready for some some beauty treatments.
I don't know if anyone can see the roots as well as I can but… But it's ombre, it's ombre.
It's super stylish. That's very generous of you,
Katie. I don’t feel like it's a look I'm going for but I will accept it.
Thank you very much. Thank you very much. And I think Bri and I really a lot of what you know,
everything you said really strikes a chord with us.
That's a lot of stuff that we've been really thinking about
and the professional learning especially right?
We have these amazing like the most important thing we have is humans,
right? Our kids and our teachers
and all the staff and all these amazing people
but we're missing this opportunity to leverage those
experts and and really have this work the best it can
so I want to I want to give you the opportunity Bri
and I talked about this we want you to really be able to explain
what UDL is because there might be some people listening who are not familiar
and we really think that this is critical in fact,
I believe there's been some some talk out there about how this is absolutely critical.
So, can you talk a little bit about… Yes.
So the the Universal Design actually came out of architecture this concept of Universal Design
and in the 1960s,
there was his architect and Ron Mace and as we started,
you know with this, you know Americans with Disabilities
and civil rights movements, all federal buildings had to work for all individuals.
So you can't have a federal building that is not accessible
for people who might use like a mobility device,
you know, wheelchair and strollers
and visual impairment and hearing impairment
and what Ron Mace recognizes we had all these like big historic buildings
and they just didn't work for everybody.
And what happened is we had to kind of tear them apart to make them accessible like
we compromised the rigor of the design in the building
because it's like you got a slap on a ramp we got to put in an elevator
and we're just going in and we're like deconstructing this building
and so principle of Universal Design
for Learning is that every lesson really should allow every learner regardless of variability
and I'll come back to that term very ability to enter into that lesson to be supported to be
challenged to feel like it's authentically relevant to them.
And what often happens is we get these one-size-fits-all lessons that were designed
before really valuing the the diversity of human experience
and the value of inclusive practice
and we take them and we kind of strip them down to become quote unquote accessible
and we lose the rigor,
you know, we we're lowering the floor
and we're creating these negotiated curriculums
and these watered-down curriculums and and it's you know curricular chaos,
essentially and Universal Design is essentially saying that we can't just try to make
what we used to do work.
They do we have to build different buildings that are accessible from the beginning and to do that.
We have to think about what is the variability that we can predict
so I know if you're listening if regardless of where you are an educator
or what level of student you serve whether it's Pre-K,
whether it's high school or higher ed or whether you're a professional learning provider,
you know, I know that your your learner's are going to be very different from each other
what interests them is going to be different.
Some of them we can predict will have experienced trauma.
Some of them we can predict or not going to have English as a first language.
Some of them we can predict are going I already know
what you're going to teach in summer going to be so far from that.
They're going to need additional supports
and if we know that why are we providing a one-size-fits-all lesson
and some people like get really confused between
what is Universal Design which is I'm going to design a lesson that can
work for the largest number of learners
so that those learners despite this variability will be able to meet a goal.
And with differentiated instruction which differentiated instruction is.
I'm going to label learners and individually provide them with what they need.
So if I’m Universally Designing a class it's kind of like Universally Designing a
dinner party. If I was going to invite all you listening which I
mean what now are you in the millions, millions of people are listening to this right now.
After today, Katie. Yeah, manifesting.
So millions of you are listening and I'm going to invite all of you to my house,
right I am I'm going to serve a casserole that would be ridiculous
because I can predict the variability.
I can predict that if I invite everyone if it's a universal invitation that anyone can come I
know that there's going to be some of you who are vegetarian
or vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten sensitive, on the diet.
We can predict that and knowing that I can predict that I'm not going to give you all a casserole
and the differentiated instruction lens would be like,
well, I'm going to find out who's vegetarians and I'm going to make a meal for the vegetarians.
I'm going to find out who's gluten-free
and I'm going to make a meal
for gluten-free and I'm going to find out who's on Weight Watchers
and I'm going to make a dish that's you know,
5 points that's exhausting and I come and I say hey,
I'm not a vegetarian but could I have that vegan dish?
No, that's for the vegetarians and you're like wait what so Universal Design is a buffet.
It's saying what options and choices need to be present
based on the barriers that I know to be true.
So if I know I know that I'm likely to have learners who are going to be or
diners who are going to be lactose intolerant.
I need options that are dairy free
and I'm going to say like go to the buffet make yourself like a pasta dish and you know,
there's some dairy free options and the same thing happens in my classroom.
I was an English teacher. If I can predict that I have students who don't speak English
or are not reading at grade level,
then when I say we're going to closely read a text.
I have an audio version. I have an electronic version that can be translated
and I say look at what your options are think about what's the best way
for you to learn and now way more learners can be accessing that and so why is it so necessary now?
Why is having that flexibility of how they're going to learn
and how they're going to share
what they know so critical and it's because as I said at the beginning,
we recognize the variability,
we know some students don't have devices at home.
We know students don't have support at home. We know some students,
you know are are significantly above grade level some students experience,
you know dysregulation for whatever reason and so I have to design a lesson
that's not like oh this will work if we're in person
or this will work online but this will work
for any learner regardless of where I'm teaching
and so when I'm thinking about how can students learn I'm going to say,
Well, we have a textbook and I'm going to provide the option of the textbook
and but I know that some students,
you know printed text is incredibly disabling to a lot of learners so,
I'm also going to make sure that I have an electronic text that students can have it read aloud
or they can translate it and I'm going to provide those electronic options to students.
Even if we're teaching in person. I'm going to say,
you know, here's a device in the classroom, you know, you can either read it in hard copy
or you can you know plug in your earbuds
and listen to a Chromebook or I'm going to read it out loud over here,
but I can do the same thing if I have to do it remotely.
I just say, you know here is I'm going to send home textbooks just in case you get the hard copy
or you can go online if you have a device
and you can listen to me reading it on Zoom or you can read the article or you can translate it.
And so when we design learning we have to design something that works flexibly
so that if we're in person if we're remote if we're half and half if we're going back and forth,
we've designed the lesson
so it will work for the largest number of learning environments
for the largest number of students despite the variability of those Learners
and the they face and I don't think there's another way to do
it because if you say everything is done on a Google Classroom,
you're serving a great big old casserole to a bunch of students who may
not be able to eat that you have to have internet.
You have to have a device if I'm saying at the same time if I'm saying,
you know, I expect everybody who has a device.
Let's say all your students have a device and you say everyone has to be on at 9 a.m.
I can predict that some of my high school kids are essential
workers some students are going to share
a device with multiple siblings and they all can't be on a call at 9:00 a.m.
So Universal Design allows you to plan any learning experience by proactively identifying
the barriers, creating a buffet of options that would help to eliminate
or minimize those and then providing them as options for all learners.
Oh my gosh. I love that Bri, I want you to talk about this
because we talked about portability last week didn't we this
this idea of not that we're just trying to
recreate what happens in the classroom,
but really being intentional in the experiences that we offer to our kids
and could they work in either situation?
I love that. Bri, What do you think? First and foremost,
like I'm just in awe at this point of thank you
so much for explaining all that
because from there so many things I'm like I want to talk about this one is like this,
but first and foremost the thing that jumps out at me is your explanation of universe
because so often we hear people think of it from that
perspective of like universal one right like this.
This is the one thing that we're going to do just like you said
for everyone so that way as an English teacher myself as a you know,
specially from that secondary lens. We often hear that fair, that equitable, right?
Like everything has to be to where it is without judgment that that everyone can access it
but instead of thinking about the universal opportunities that are out there really expanding that
universe to say where are all of the you know the opportunities
where the access points all of those things to
truly identify the multitude that's out there in the universe
and then provide that from
for people to look at is something
that so many times we don't do
and we don't think about we just say here's that one size fits all that that comes into that.
So I really appreciate you you really breaking that down
because it is it's that overwhelming feeling
that that so many people have
because they're not sure how to approach that in a way that looks like it's going to be universal
for most people one of the things that I often say
because so many of our districts
and so many of our schools are focused on personalization like we want to be providing these,
you know personalized learning
for kids, but how can we have personalized learning in a generalized situation
and it becomes you know,
it's so contradictory so I love hearing you say that and really,
you know, kind of building that in
so that said one of the the questions that I have is how, do you have some tips
for people to start to identify
what that looks like because I can also feel the stress of planning all of these things
and how in the world am I going to find all of these opportunities
for my kids when I'm designing this in my classroom,
and how do I not? Just you know say okay.
Well, here's a PDF. Here's an online version here is that you know,
how where do I start? If I'm in the classroom trying to take this on
knowing that we've got school that starting,
you know, eminently for many of us.
I think step one is UDL. One of the things we say in the field of udl is firm goals, flexible means
and you cannot universally design something if you cannot articulate
what it is that all students need to know
or be able to do and your options and choices that you provide on said
buffet are very much dictated by the outcome that you need.
So if you're a math teacher
and you say I need every learner to solve an algebraic equation, you’re not
putting a choice board out where kids are doing
skits and like making like dioramas. Like whatever I provide, it needs to be
How do I make sure that the widest variety of learners can learn how to solve an algebraic equation.
What materials do they need to be able to solve an algebraic equation and how will I know
that they can solve an algebraic equation.
And so the first step is again to articulate the goal.
What exactly is it a content standard vs. what is a method standard?
So your content standards is something the kids have to know,
you know, the life cycle of a star the causes of the Civil War,
you know, you know what the three branches of government are and how they work, right?
It is knowledge. And when we have knowledge,
there's a lot of different methods that you can use to learn it.
There's a lot of materials you can use
but there's so much flexibility
for how you share what you've learned
because like if I say, how will I know that my students understand the three branches of government
and they could take it you could say,
well you could take this quiz that already comes with the textbooks.
You can answer the question in an essay. You can answer the question in a podcast.
You could make a video you can make an infographic.
There's so many different options
for expression because there's the means is not attached
but a lot of us have you know scientific writing and you know how to you know,
solving and graphing and you know,
there are really particular skills.
And so that would be a method standards
and when you're thinking about a methods you're thinking about like,
how do I have to scaffold it? So in that previous math example,
I would say okay. The first thing is I look at the firm goal all
students will solve an algebraic equation.
Okay, great. How will I provide opportunities
for all students to learn how to solve an algebraic equation?
Well, of course, I'm going to do a mini lesson
because direct, explicit instruction should be a part of every learning experience,
you know, no robot or curriculum can replicate a really brilliant teacher explaining
and connecting and using analogies
and providing opportunities for active engagement within 10 to 15 minute well-designed lesson.
So we're going to have that lesson
and again, we might need to record that lesson if we're going online,
but they'll be some aspect of teacher instruction
and then you start saying how else could they learn this?
Well, they have an online textbook or in person.
Look, there's a Khan Academy video.
They can log onto a site like a Zearn,
you know, there's a lot of different free sites ABCya,
for example, these are always methods that students can learn
and then what materials do they need to actually solve them
and that might be you can use a calculator.
Here's a math reference sheet. You can use Desmos so you can visualize it. Here's a done problem,
you know with me actually going through step by step how to solve it.
You have an option to join a live Zoom
for example and then ultimately, how will I know that you solve this?
Well, here's 10 problems. Choose five.
You can solve them either, you know online using like an EquatIO
editor or you can do them at home and take a picture of it and upload it to Google Classroom.
You can do them. Hold them up and explain to me in a video exactly how you solve them.
But in that I'm really saying what is the barrier,
you know, some students might not be able to do this
because because they don't have access to the internet.
Therefore, there's an option to use the hard copy of the textbook
and to write them out in person and to take a picture with your phone and text him.
I know some students are going to not feel like it's interesting at all.
So I'm going to provide a gamified option to do it like Zearn
and where the differentiated instruction comes in
is once I have evidence from that assessment and I say,
all right, these six kids
do not yet know how to solve an algebraic equation.
I am now going to differentiate instruction for those 6.
I'm going to say I need an opportunity with those six to provide tier 2 intervention,
targeted instruction to address the fact that they are not there yet.
And I'm going to help them to recognize that there are different tools.
They may not have selected that would allow them to move forward more than next time.
So, I think it's really thinking about goals, methods, materials
and assessments and professional collaboration can insanely minimize the amount of time it would take to do
that because if let's say that we're all 7th grade math teachers,
right and we're in the same district or we go on Twitter and we're like,
hey is anyone in seventh grade math teacher
or we go to the National Council of teachers of math chat
page and say any seventh grade math teachers want to make an online curriculum with me.
Like I promise you they'll be droves and when you do that you say okay.
Listen, how about I create the methods?
I'll find really reputable, really good videos and I'll record mini-lessons,
okay. And all of you can use my mini lessons,
but you do the done problems
and create those videos you create the math reference sheets for each unit.
And then you, third person, create the assessments,
you know provide a couple of different options that could be done,
you know in you know in person
or in hard copy and and the more that we divide
and conquer this we all have very similar outcomes that we're working to towards
and we're all working in isolation,
which is exhausting so step one, ask yourself,
what is it that every student has to know and be able to do next.
How will I know if every student can do that?
What options can I provide knowing that if I provide only one, there will be barriers
and then what materials do they need and how are we going to teach it?
And if you go through that process all the time,
it's you're not designing
for the learner sitting in front of you you're designing
for any learner who could sit in front of you.
I love that. I love that. Oh my gosh so much to process.
I'm just thinking through like how incredibly relevant this is to our current situation
and just how we do have to be able to prepare for anyone who could be sitting next to us.
And I love what you were saying about,
you know, we are better together
and for me and I'm sure I speak
for for anyone who has a background in online learning like you
you really want to focus your energy on being
the human and making the individual connections
and making the peer-to-peer connections, facilitating up peer-to-peer learning
and giving that high-quality feedback.
And so you really do have to get smarter and work together.
Otherwise you can you just can't do it all it would just be
exhausting like you said impossible exhausting
and we really want to focus on what do we need to be to our students?
And so I love the firm goals, flexible means I think that's that's really critical.
Well, I've just seen some absolutely out of this world terrible
choice boards in my day, which is like you're looking at a choice board
and and so here's a really relevant one,
you know, or I've seen this a lot right kids are going to read a book.
They do this across the board. It could be a scientific article.
It could be a primary source document in history,
but they read something right
and then there's this choice board
and it would look something like this, write about your favorite character, make a movie poster
if this was a movie, what are five vocab words you didn't know
and what do you know now and I'm like,
what are you measuring? Like what was the point of reading this book?
Because if the point was really understanding theme every single thing on that board you
have to be able to say if a kid shows that I would be able to say.
Yes, they understand the development of theme over the course of a text or no,
they don't get it yet and then I would need to provide some sort of intervention
or support or additional resource. And where often times,
we're doing choice for the sake of choice, not
what options do I need to provide
so that every student, regardlesss of the variability, would be able to understand theme
and show me that they understand
theme and so if once you start looking at Choice Boards through that lens,
I'm going to ruin you. I'm going to ruin everybody
because I want you to look at a choice board, articulate one standard
and say could the teacher literally say in like a competency-based
or a standards based learning environment,
Oh, yes, every student will know this
or be able to do this and the answer 90% of the time I look at these things is no it's
just like how many more choices can we provide?
I’ve got one extra box. I need to fill it.
I don't care what goes in there
as long… diorama… I need 3 by 3 so I'm gonna get something in there if it kills me.
So I hear you and I do think we have to be super careful that there are,
you know, people proposing frameworks
and ways to do things without…
and maybe it looks really pretty and maybe it sounds like a great way to go.
But if we don't actually vet these things
and and truly evaluate them
and hold them up to like, is this going to get us where we need to go?
Am I going to be able to see that they understand
what I need them to understand. That's a huge waste not only of our
time but more importantly of the learner’s time.
So Bri, what do you think? That's why it's valuable to start with a
very high-quality evidence-based curriculum.
It's not the be-all end-all by any means
but it does provide a lens to say if I did teach this what barriers do I still know will exist,
but at least you know have something in front of you that is like this is high-quality,
you know? Okay. So this is a great text. I know that some of my students
are not going to read that text at grade level
so I'm gonna have to record my voice reading it
or give students an option to work with me in a small group
because I know that some students will not be able to
comprehend it if I just hand this out in hard copy,
but I think that too many people try to create a curriculum from like scratch as opposed to like,
how do we look at high-quality resources?
And recognize that it's not going to meet the needs of everyone
but it's a really good place to start.
So, you know, if I open my pantry and I see that I have a bunch of staples,
I can make a lot more options
and you know to just say like I'm going to start with some of these uncurated,
you know, your Pinterest, your Teachers Pay Teachers.
It's just not curated and not to say that there's not really great things on there,
but you can't depend that everything is standards-based, that
everything is aligned, that the choices that are equally rigorous
and you know equally scaffolded.
And so when you start creating curriculum through the lens of how do
I put materials together without first saying
what is it that every student really has to know be able to
do and then given what I have
what barriers can I predict if I were to use this that's the lens to
begin to universally design an experience.
That makes sense. So I'm just loving all of them.
Like my little curriculum nerd heart is
exploding like nobody's business because it is one of those things where you know,
I talk about this, my grandmother was was raised on a self-sustaining
farm and when I was in fifth grade
and I was spending the summer with
her and I was the fifth grader was really into baking at that point right now,
like walked into her kitchen and was like,
I'm going to go make brownies
and I run in there and I open up the cabinets and then I came out and I announced well,
we can't make brownies and she was like why
and I was like because there's not a brownie mix and she you know,
how could how could that be?
And so she brings me into her kitchen
and she's like this is how you make brownies
and I've used that analogy
so many times when we talk about curriculum because that's what we've done.
Right? We've made brownie mixes where people just grab them
and you can only make brownies with the brownie mix, right?
That's such a good analogy!
And instead, like you were talking about this staples where it's like okay if I
have cocoa powder I can make a bajillion different things with that.
Hey friends, it's Lainie.
Sorry for the interruption, and I hope you're not too mad,
but we had such an amazing conversation with Katie.
It was more than one episodes worth. So we're stopping now.
We're pausing and we're going to work on getting you the second part out as soon as possible.
Thanks for listening.