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Edtech Advocacy &
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Get In-Clusive! Accessible, Adaptive and Empowered Learning

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Location: La Nouvelle Ballroom, Table 17
Experience live: All-Access Package

Participate and share : Poster

Dr. Boris Goldowsky  
Sherri Wilcauskas  

COVID-19 increased our reliance on digital learning materials and reminded us of the barriers that digital materials still present to too many students. This session offers a walk through of Clusive, a free, online e-reader that helps struggling learners access, comprehend and interact with engaging and challenging texts.

Audience: Coaches, Teachers, Library media specialists
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Innovative learning environments
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Language arts, Special education
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergency school building closures during 2020 and 2021 have highlighted the importance of making high-quality and accessible digital materials available to students with disabilities and other struggling learners. This hands-on session will offer a walk-through of Clusive, an innovative, free, open source e-reader.

Clusive is designed to be a “digital backpack” that helps learners---particularly those with disabilities and other learning needs---use digital materials in a flexible, engaging, accessible and empowering way. Clusive is an adaptive, web-based reader that includes accessibility features (e.g., display preferences, text to speech, vocabulary support) and UDL learning supports (e.g., highlighting, leveled text, adaptive vocabulary, affective prompts).

Clusive is an adaptive tool. Its onboarding experience helps students learn about features in a student-centered manner. It also provides learners personalized vocabulary support, providing ongoing evidence of growing mastery and motivation for further work.

Clusive supports many of the file formats used in schools today (e.g., accessible EPUB files, Microsoft Word docs PDF. Users can upload any type of compatible file into their library. Clusive also has a Central Library that contains hundreds of files from the Common Core-recommended ELA & social studies texts, as well as short readings from Tarheel Reader, SERP and the Library of Congress. We are also integrating it with Bookshare so that qualified students can use Clusive with all of their class materials.
There has been a long-term trend towards greater use of digital materials, technology mediated instruction and learning management systems. This accelerated dramatically during the pandemic and the importance of these tools and materials are likely to continue to grow. Therefore, it is important for educators to have tools that provide a rich variety of features to support the variability in their students and to help them succeed. Clusive provides such support to meet student needs, combined with engaging, standards-aligned content, the capacity to support teacher-made content, as well as dashboards to view student progress and self-assessments.
Clusive brings together features that are known to be effective along with several new and innovative ones, all designed to flexibly support a wide range of learner variability. It works in multiple settings including home, fully virtual hybrid, and in-classroom settings, Clusive is highly customizable and encourages student choice. In addition, Clusive learns from student interactions and makes transparent recommendations to support learning and self-awareness of strengths and needs. And as Clusive empowers learners, educators also gain information to help support their students.
Participants will leave this session with: increased awareness of the importance of accessible digital materials for their students; immediate access to a technology tool they can use with their students; and guidance about the many ways that teachers across grades and subject areas have used Clusive.


1) Brief introduction of presenters and CISL project. 5 minutes
2) Describe one challenge you’ve seen students face when they access digital content. 5 minutes
3) Introduction/demonstration of Clusive. 10 minutes
4) Hands-on exploration of Clusive, either trying a scavenger hunt or self-guided. 10 minutes
5) Discussion of scenarios--consider a few example students with a variety of reading challenges. How might a tool like Clusive be used to help that student? What would and wouldn’t work for them? 15 minutes
6) Demonstration of content finding and authoring tools. 10 minutes
7) Final comments and impressions. 5 minutes

Supporting research

Evidence for our overall approach comes from multiple sources including the research on online learning for students with disabilities (Schiller et al., 2018), the principles of online accessibility (Hashley & Stahl, 2014), Universal Design for Learning (Rao et al., 2014; Meyer et al., 2014), and educational technology integration in K-12 classrooms (Delgado et al., 2015).

On our project website we have begun documenting research literature and practical examples supporting each feature in our software tools; these research summaries can be found at To take one example: having keywords bolded or highlighted increases knowledge retention for students with dyslexia (Chen et al., 2015). This type of research informs tool features, as do our student co-designers.

Chen, C.J., Keong, M.W.Y., Teh, C.S., & Chuah, K.M. (2015). Learners with dyslexia: Exploring their experiences with different online reading affordances. Themes in Science and Technology Education, 8(1).

Delgado, A. J., Wardlow, L., McKnight, K., & O'Malley, K. (2015). Educational technology: A review of the integration, resources, and effectiveness of technology in K-12 classrooms. Journal of Information Technology Education, 14, 397-416.

Hashey, A. I., & Stahl, S. (2014). Making online learning accessible for students with disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 46(5), 70-78.

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

Rao, K., Ok, M.W., & Bryant, B.R. (2014). A Review of Research on Universal Design Educational Models. Remedial and Special Education, 35 (3), 153-166.

Schiller, E., Blackorby, J., Bakia, M., Friedman K., & Gardner, S. (2018). Emerging digital technologies in STEM learning: A research agenda for improving success of students with learning disabilities or with autism spectrum disorder. Arlington, VA: SRI International.

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Dr. Boris Goldowsky, CAST Inc

As the Director of Technology at CAST, Inc., Dr. Goldowsky develops technology solutions based on Universal Design for Learning to increase flexibility and options for students to engage, learn, and show what they know.

Sherri Wilcauskas, CAST, Inc.

As Director of Federal Relations and Project Director for CAST, Sherri Wilcauskas brings more than 20 years' experience in education and non-profit management to support CAST's mission of fostering effective and engaging learning experiences for all. Sherri has devoted her entire career to the cause of education, working at a variety of institutions including universities, museums, and K-12 professional development organizations. She is glad that being part of the CAST team allows her to continue advocating for the design of equitable and inclusive learning experiences across the many educational sectors she cares about.

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