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Inclusive by Design Playground: Exploring Connections Between UDL and Design Thinking

Explore and create

Explore and create : Playground

Tuesday, June 25, 9:30 am–1:00 pm
Location: Playground B, Level 2, Grand Hall

Sean Arnold   Helen DeWaard   Jennifer Edge-Savage   Dr. Timothy Frey   Kendra Grant   Rhianon Gutierrez   Mindy Johnson   Dr. Luis Perez  
Come for hands-on professional learning experiences in using technology to reduce barriers and increase engagement for all learners. We'll focus on the intersection of design thinking and Universal Design for Learning.

Audience: Teachers, Professional developers, Library media specialists
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Special populations/assistive and adaptive technologies
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Special education
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
For Educators:
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Participants with be able to describe key principles of Universal Design for Learning - providing multiple means of engagement (the "why" of learning), representation (the "what" of learning), and action and expression (the "how" of learning).
Participants will be able to describe the steps of the design thinking process: empathize (through a series of hands-on activities that allow them to experience technology from the perspectives of learners with different abilities and needs), define, ideate, prototype and test.
Participants will be able to explain at least one way in which UDL and design thinking support the creation of flexible curricula, including the iterative development of learner-centered goals, methods, materials and assessments.
Participants with apply Universal Design for Learning strategies and accessibility best practices to promote inclusion in the design thinking process for all learners by providing multiple options for how learners engage in activities, acquire information, and representing their emerging understandings and solutions to design challenges.


I- What is design thinking (digital handout with resources, accessible via QR code and AR), available on website prior to the conference as background knowledge
II- Building empathy - experience design through a variety of learners’ perspectives and experiences:
A-Empathy Prompts for understanding how different people experience the Web, including Funkify for reading on the web
B-The NoMouse challenge
C-Take a selfie without a screen
D-Tweet with your voice only
III - Brainstorming activity - “What bothers you about learning with technology?” - participants identify issues and they then categorize them into categories: motivation, environment, training, money, etc. (not finding a solution here, just trying to create mindset of problem solving)
IV-Creative problem solving - Experience a design thinking activity and reflect on any barriers.
V-Brainstorm solutions to instructional activity - how can everyone participate?
VI - Reflection Station
B-Clips - could be done as a selfie station - design your selfie story
C-Book Creator (iOS and Chrome)

Supporting research

Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014) Universal design for learning: Theory and practice, Wakefield MA: CAST

Dam, R., and Siang, T. 5 stages in the design thinking process. Interaction Design Foundation. Retrieved from

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Sean Arnold, NYC Dept. of Education

Sean is a special education teacher and STEM coach in New York City’s District 75, citywide special education and is committed to reaching ALL STUDENTS through innovative technology and practices. He has won the ISTE Outstanding Teacher Honorable Mention, the ISTE Inclusive Learning Network Outstanding Educator Award, the NYCDOE Excellence in School Technology Award, and the EDxEDNYC Excellence in Technology Award. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Innovator, and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, along with many EdTech certifications. You can learn more about his efforts at

Helen DeWaard, Lakehead University
Jennifer Edge-Savage, OT/AT Consultant
Dr. Timothy Frey, Doane University
Kendra Grant, Kendra Grant Consulting
Rhianon Gutierrez, Boston Public Schools
Dr. Luis Perez, National AEM Center, CAST

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