Saturday, May 18, 2013

Three-Wheeled Motorcycles and UDL: What is essential for some is beneficial to all.

I saw this ad on TV for this really cool 3-wheeled motorcycle.  As opposed to traditional 3-wheeled motorcycles, this one had the two wheels on the front.  It looked really sexy as the commercial showed the motorcycle zooming around and really hugging the curves.  It was a very slick commercial, and as I watched, I wondered, "Wow, that's cool.  Who is it meant for?"

And then I saw one on the street.  It was being driven by a guy who looked well into his 80s.  Yes, it still looked cool and it made him seem a little more hip, but it made me wonder what drew him to this particular bike.  That's when I looked a little closer. 

The old gentleman was not too tall and not very strong looking.  We were stopped at a light and I realized he didn't have to put his feet down to keep the bike in a resting position.  Actually, I'm not sure he could have reached the ground on a two-wheeled bike.  And there is no way he could have held the weight of a bike as he put down a kick stand, but three-wheeled motorcycles are always standing.  As he started to go (and not too quickly), I also realized that he did not have to think about balance in the same way he would on a two-wheeled motorcycle. 

That's when I realized that he wasn't really riding a motorcycle, he was riding a kick-ass, street legal mobility scooter capable of up to 200kph.  ("Clear the road, suckers, I'm going to Bingo!")   

Was this the target market the motorcycle company was aiming for?  Clearly not, based on their commercials.  But I love the fact that some of the unique features of the bike make riding accessible to a wider audience. 

At my school, for years we have been investigating Universal Design for Learning.  UDL looks to provide struggling students with multiple ways to receive their learning, multiple ways to express their learning, and multiple ways to engage students in learning.  Some of us have been looking at how technology can accomplish these ways.  Others have been looking at Self-Regulation techniques to help students be in a suitable frame of mind to be ready to learn.  And me, I've been looking at how the environment helps students to learn.  But all of us are looking for ways to make learning accessible for all students. 

My friend and UDL mentor, Anita Strang likens the concept of UDL to sidewalk ramps.  People who travel by wheelchair meet a challenge when they come to the end of a sidewalk and have to cross a street.  If the sidewalk or an entranceway has a square blunt edge or a step, there really isn't a safe way for a person in a wheelchair to access the street or doorway.  With ramps or rounded sidewalks, people in wheelchairs can travel safely across.  But ramps are also useful to moms with strollers, people with shopping carts, and delivery people carrying heavy loads on a hand truck.  What is essential to the wheelchair travellers is beneficial to all kids of other travellers.   

The 3-wheeled motorcycle is an interesting design, but it opens up motorcycling to a older demographic of riders.  Ramps are essential to people in wheelchairs, but also help others.  UDL (along with adaptive technology, differentiated instruction, classroom environments, self-regulation, etc.) helps struggling learners but really makes learning accessible to everyone.

UDL helps learners go Vroom!

1 comment:

  1. You made me laugh and think:) I recently posted me own practical examples of differentiation. This time of year is a good time to reflect on, not only how the students are doing as we start putting all our assessments together; but also how we are doing in our instruction - are there strategies for us to adopt, change, throw out?