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  Teaching Every Student


This book is the result of 15 years of thought, research, and development conducted by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) and a number of collaborating individuals, schools, districts, and states. CAST was founded in 1984 with a mission to develop and apply technologies that would expand learning opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Our premise was clear: Students with disabilities should be equipped with particular technologies-new tools and approaches-that would help them access a print-based curriculum.

In the years since CAST's inception, however, we have undergone a Copernican shift toward a new position: the use of technology to transform the nature of the curriculum itself. In the rapidly expanding capabilities of digital content, tools, and networks, we see the possibility of conceiving, designing, and delivering a curriculum that will accommodate widely varying learner needs. Essentially, this will transfer the burden of adjustment from students to the materials and methods they encounter in the classroom.


The path to CAST's new viewpoint began to emerge more than a decade ago. In 1989, we created Gateway Stories (see Figure P.1) and Gateway Authoring System, a series of electronic books with numerous built-in options for students with disabilities. Students with learning disabilities could opt to have text read aloud; students with physical disabilities could navigate text with a switch attached to the computer; and students with low vision could have the book's controls (such as page turning) read aloud. Each setting was optional, making it possible to customize the books for each user. In addition, both Gateway Stories and Gateway Authoring System included templates for creating additional books with the same easily customized features. Contributing to CAST's receipt of the 1993 Computerworld Smithsonian Award for Innovation in Education and Academia, Gateway Stories proved to be intriguing and helpful, not only for our intended users-students with disabilities-but also for students just learning to read, those who spoke English as a second language, and those who simply found it engaging.

Gateway Stories Screen shot.
- Figure P.1 -
Gateway Stories
From this selection screen, users can click on an image to select one of four stories.

Suddenly, the light dawned! We realized that barriers to learning are not, in fact, inherent in the capacities of learners, but instead arise in learners' interactions with inflexible educational materials and methods. The flexibility we were able to build into digital "books" could be used to make all curriculum adjustable so that one electronic edition could meet the needs of extremely varied learners. Further, the benefits of customization would be available not only to students with disabilities, but to every student.

Thus began CAST's commitment to Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Universal Design for Learning is a research-based set of principles that together form a practical framework for using technology to maximize learning opportunities for every student. UDL principles draw on brain and media research to help educators reach all students by setting appropriate learning goals, choosing and developing effective methods and materials, and developing accurate and fair ways to assess students' progress.

Content and Format

The book is divided into two sections. The first addresses the concept of Universal Design for Learning; the second addresses the practical application of UDL in the classroom. Each chapter opens with a summary of key ideas and a graphic organizer that illustrates how the concepts fit together.

We have also decided to represent this book through a companion Web site (, shown in Figure P.2). In our view, publishing this work in both traditional form and an online version is the best way to make the material accessible to the maximum number of readers and to accommodate the growing, changing nature of the concept, resources, and examples of UDL. The online version also offers readers the opportunity to give us feedback and exchange ideas with one another. Finally, publishing an electronic version seems the most appropriate way to demonstrate the flexible, interactive nature of networked digital materials.

Screen shot of TES Home page.
- Figure P.2 -
Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age Companion Web Site

On the Teaching Every Student Web site, hosted and maintained by CAST, you will find the text of this book and an expanding set of related Web links, organized into the following categories:

  • Resource Links connect to collections of information and materials such as curriculum resources and online sources for digital text and images.
  • Background Knowledge Links connect to related content such as more in-depth information, interviews with experts, and glossaries.
  • Example Links connect to examples of concepts or techniques in use, such as videos or pictures from classrooms, ways to use software or Web sites, and student case stories.
  • Activity Links connect to interactive experiences that offer you the opportunity to learn more through experimentation and practice.
  • Forum Links connect to online discussions of key topics.
  • UDL Classroom Template Links connect to forms and graphic materials that support classroom implementation of UDL. Some of these templates are also available in the Appendix (see page 176).

Web Link Icon.
- Figure P.3 -
Web Link Indicator
As you read the print version of this book, you will encounter references in the margins to each of these kinds of Web links (identified with the symbol in Figure P.3 and a short caption). These form a core set of resources that CAST will enhance and expand over time. We plan to build an extensive library of models and examples of UDL in action, developing momentum and a shared vision of UDL that will help educators and learners meet the myriad challenges they face.

Throughout the book, we name and discuss a number of teachers and students. These individuals are composites inspired by those with whom we have worked. The exception is Donna Palley, whom you will meet in chapter 1 and learn more about in chapter 8. Her work implementing UDL in the Concord, New Hampshire, school system is very real-and it is ongoing. Because this work requires the full concentration of Concord personnel, Donna and her colleagues cannot accept telephone calls or e-mail messages directly. Instead, we invite you to visit the Teaching Every Student Web site, where you will find a variety of lessons and implementation examples from Concord and from other CAST research sites. In addition, we hope you will participate in the site's online forums, where you can pose questions for us and for the personnel in Concord. We look forward to ongoing discussions on the concept and practice of UDL.

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