SWIFT Talk Blog

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UDL + Technology Tools From the Fringe

Whether you believe that UDL and technology go hand in hand or that they are separate entities, the fact remains that the digital world is littered with great tools for creating differentiated outputs of student work. Tools allow for, and facilitate, student choice and voice. This blog is not about the tools we typically associate with UDL. We won’t be discussing another Padlet or Poplet, though they are great sites. Our focus is on the guerrilla technology—tools that are in the fringes and hit you by surprise. I’ve rounded up just a small sample of unique Web 2.0 tools that I believe embody “UDL-ness” — engaging students and promoting multiple means of representation and expression. Here’s the list:

Here’s the scenario: you’ve assigned a really great video for homework in your flipped classroom. You want students to watch the video and take notes that they can share in class the next day. The dilemma arises in the process of annotating the online video. is here to help! The site allows users to upload a video and take notes while they watch it. Here’s the slick part: it connects to your Google Drive, automatically saves the notes, and creates a timestamp of where the note corresponds with the video. The timestamp then becomes a hyperlink that takes the user to the exact point in the video. Now students can not only share their notes, but the context in which the note was taken! Combine it with a voice recognition extension and you have a true powerhouse. Check out the tutorial below:


Looking for a way to find that perfect digital resource or tool? Find your current search options either too limiting or too large? Then EdShelf is the gem for you! What I love about EdShelf is the depth of searching you can do. Search by category (from 3D printing to writing tools), subject area (e.g., want a tool to teach Farsi?), age, and platform(from iPads to physical tools). The resources are curated by other educators and you can gather them into collections to maximize their usefulness. Definitely a must explore! Check out the tutorial below:


StoryboardThat is just what the name implies: an online storyboard creator that helps visually communicate ideas, concepts, and stories. It has extensive templates in which you can create your stories in a comic strip style and boast a robust library of scenes, characters, and text bubbles to add to your storyboard. It is free and as easy as “drag and drop.” Check out the tutorial below:

PowToon Slides

“Death by PowerPoint” and “Prezi motion sickness” are real epidemics that face educators and students, but what’s the alternative? How about PowToon Slides? PowToon used to be known for its slick animations and ease of use, but the problem was that you would have to pause your video at just the right spot in order highlight your talking points. Well, PowToon heard our cries for help and created a great presentation tool that harnesses the power of their animation suite, adds new templates, and combines it all into presentation magic. Still want to turn your slides into an animated movie? No worries! They’ve seamlessly integrated that, too. Check out the quick slide show that I made for a lightning talk in a district. Tutorials can be viewed on their site.

This is by no means a comprehensive list and certainly doesn’t incorporate every facet of UDL. What these tools do is combine several pieces of the guidelines and deepen your digital toolbox.  If you like them, I encourage you to explore them and share with colleagues. 

- Bryan Dean

Bryan Dean is a Special Education Consultant at Oakland Schools ISD in MI. Bryan promotes the UDL movement by designing professional learning around UDL and working with districts, buildings, and teachers towards implementation of UDL. He is the co-founder of #PLN4UDL, a virtual community of practice for educators implementing UDL and co authors a blog with the same name. He is a member of the CAST PL Cadre, a facilitator for the Harvard Graduate School Summer UDL Institute, a member of the UDL-IRN Board of Directors, and a moderator for the #udlchat bimonthly twitter chat . Find him on twitter @drrevdean.