Rows of Owls
Just a bunch of teens hanging' loose.
Credit: Charles Fergus, Penn State Research, 1996


As its creators, our visions for the Universal Design Learnsite are:

* Increased knowledge and positive attitudes about Universal Design within entire communities made up of individuals with widely varied abilities, life experiences, and perspectives;

* Increased UD adoption rates as young teen change agents diffuse the concept to their friends, families, and communities;

* Productive dialog between generations, races, and diverse cultures as they work together to develop a more user-friendly world.

We're already seeing glimmers of these visions, and are sure that they'll emerge in their full glory in 2006-07! We're counting on you and your YoYos to lead the charge! To prepare teachers and leaders to serve as "Guides on the Side" who communicate positive images and attitudes, we offer some steps to facilitating interactive learning-as applied to Universal Design.

The "ole professionals" among you probably already know the drill. But for newer youth leaders and teachers, plus those who (like us) have their "Senior Moments," the steps below offer a snippet of applied educational methodology to supplement your experiences. IF you're really gung-ho, check the optional bit of Rogers' Adoption/Diffusion theory at the end of this section. Rogers' work is the unseen force behind voluminous extension education efforts and marketing moguls' launches of new products!


Young teens' involvement with their teachers and leaders, siblings, parents, and grandparents is likely to influence their rate of positive learning about Universal Design. Here's how you start to make that happen AND get "all of the above" involved! The following steps assume that you've browsed through the UDLS AND this Guidesite, so you can be correct and convincing....

Use the "steps" below to get the right people together to plant the idea and get approval to use the UDLS with youth in the local middle school, Junior High, or selected senior high curricula and/or an after-school program. Time permitting, the unit's most important outcome is guiding your young charges as they implement a community-wide Universal Design Awareness Campaign.

1. Create a Universal Design (Unit) Action and Support Team

First, gather a diverse "team" of interested young teens, parent-volunteers, and (other) enthusiastic teachers, leaders, or community members to introduce the Universal Design concept and its importance in creating a user-friendly world for ALL people, regardless of age or level of ability. Your real purpose, of course, will be to propose that they work with you and local young teens in using the UDLS to learn about UD AND serve by creating community-wide awareness of the UD concept.

For the introduction, use a hands-on interactive pre-quiz to identify small UD products from a UD sample suitcase (see GS-1) and/or match example images and clipped from magazines to a few, selected UD Principles. Then show them bits of selected UDLS lessons and learning activities as the basis for proposing the site's use by young teens in local classrooms and/or after-school settings, WITH their support and cooperation.

Once they're "hooked," move on to the details of appropriate curriculum or after-school program placement, time available cum level of participation (Basic, Lite, or Full), technological backup, and community receptivity. Then you're ready for step 2 (if you didn't already do part of it to "prove" that local teens are already interested in Universal Design).

2. Assess Young Teens' Current Awareness of UD

Whether you're trying to determine whether to use the UDLS, OR are ready to introduce the UD Unit AFTER the decision, you need to assess young teens' current level of knowledge and interest in the UD concept. One good way is a hands-on interactive pre-quiz-before they get distracted by the technology. First, have PARTNERS pass around example images and products and match them (with minimal discussion) to all or selected UD Principles listed on a handout. When they've completed the task, collect their answer sheets.

Next, have EACH PERSON write an individual 3-minute reflection about the examples and the UD Principles. Once the reaction papers are collected, encourage discussion as each pair exchanges and corrects another pair's pre-quiz answer sheet. Have teens alternately raise or try to answer questions about UD Principles that puzzled them or examples that didn't seem to match the principles.

By matching the pairs' pre-quiz scores with individual reflections or reactions, Guides can gauge the initial extent and clarity of the youths' understanding of and attitudes toward UD. If the results suggest changing your planned UD Lesson Lineup, so be it! After the first two MANDATORY lessons, the remainder can go in OR out of order...

After the pre-quiz, the YoYos could begin to diffuse the UD concept by displaying the example images or products on/in a secure bulletin board or shadow box in a nearby hallway, titled, "Whazzit?!" After 3-4 days of puzzled looks and questions from their cohorts, your people can add product labels and an "Introduction to UD" sign. Thus, the items can silently reinforce the pre-quiz information and "hook'" passersby until the early UD lesson outcomes are ready for public posting.

3. Develop the Teaching and Learning Plan

Combine your notes from the Action/Support Team members' responses to the proposed UD unit with your analysis of the targeted teens' pre-test results and reactions. With the school calendar in hand, determine what level of participation is possible, if not all ten lessons. UDLS Lessons 1 and 2 provide the foundation for UD (Basic Participation level), whether or not the youth complete additional lessons.

Beyond the basic level, choosing one of every two remaining lessons will provide an intermediate level of UD awareness and knowledge (Lite UD) AND reduce the time commitment by almost one-half. You and/or the youth may reach consensus on which four lessons (beyond 1-2) complete a Lite UD Unit. The Full Participation level (obviously) requires completion of all ten lessons and implementation of a Community-wide UD Awareness Campaign.

The GS-9 detailed lesson overviews can serve as quick studies to help select any optional lessons and determine lesson order. Once participation level and any optional lessons are specified, you're ready to prepare lesson plans. We provided the GS-9 detailed lesson overviews so you can print and attach objectives/missions, vocabulary, learning activities,etc. to each lesson plan. The overviews also permit selection of the learning activities and outcome-based assessment measures most appropriate for the level of your class or group.

Did we mention studying each lesson and obtaining needed learning resources and materials IN ADVANCE? The first time out, practicing lessons at home with your children or significant other can prevent interesting surprises or computer glitches that are beyond your level of literacy... We certainly got OUR share in developing the sites.

4. Guide Students in Interactive, Small Group Learning

Plan to have youth work in rotating pairs or threes (at the computer and in discussion) to maximize their learning and share both the work and fun involved in completing the UDLS lessons. After you prepare them to step off, step back to become the Guide who cruises by each pair or small group to throw in an 'off the wall' question. Make it one that really causes them to think and work together toward a composite response to toss off when you cruise back again.

After the small groups read and discuss each lesson and complete selected learning activities, assemble the entire group to answer questions and give initial reports, assign and prepare for the larger learning activities, and discuss their tentative conclusions. Your approach is likely to vary with the lesson and type of learning activity. We're sure that you will build on and improve on these minimalist suggestions.

In addition to the initial SAMPLE DESCRIPTION and final EVALUATION DATA COLLECTION forms (mostly closed questions) for UDLS website users, we urge YOU and the YoYOs to use the email-back LESSON FEEDBACK FORMS to ask questions, suggest changes, or share related info... You may even assign small groups to prepare and submit collective lesson feedback on one email-back form.

Since we've designed both the lesson and UDLS website forms to be completed online, we hope they'll produce a high return rate with specific, measurable data. We may be able to answer repeated or crucial questions via lesson revisions. When we recover from developing these sites, we MIGHT consider a UDlearnsite listserv...

5. Evaluate and Revise Your Lesson Focus, Methods...

Increasing student involvement usually requires continuous improvement and a long-term commitment to success. (We HAD to say that). Therefore, after completing the first two lessons, work with the youth to evaluate their progress in writing and/or via small group discussion.

Feel free to implement (and improve on) some or all of the outcome-based assessment suggestions at the end of each lesson in the GS-9 detailed overviews (they ARE NOTon the UDLS). Writing "Student Learning Outcomes" is new to us, but they may just be an old idea with a new name?

Before presenting additional lessons, revise your teaching/learning methods or depth of detail/content as necessary. Before using the lessons again with the same OR another (age) group, do an overall analysis that includes (more) learner feedback.


As noted earlier, Guides can organize the UD Unit's lessons to capitalize on student interest and personal involvement in the topic. Your guidance, youths' efforts, guest speakers, out-of-class activities, and the educational setting ALL can contribute to the relevance and success of each lesson and the unit as a whole. Since educational presentations generally have three stages. we've organized the following tips under Introduction, Body, and Closing.

Stage 1: Introducing the Unit and Each Lesson

During unit planning, Guides should recall their own experiences, self-knowledge, and attitudes related to Universal Design (now that we've clarified what it is and ISN'T). After an initial introduction to the concept, assess the teens' prior knowledge and understanding of, and attitudes toward UD. Then open the first discussion with your own perspective on UD and its importance in your life.

While defining the concept and allowing the youth to take an introductory peek at various lessons, Guides can help their charges develop general or specific questions to investigate during their study of UD. This is also the best time to encourage the young teens to discuss the concept with friends and family, and share the relevant (nonconfidential) experiences, memories, and ideas gained from peers with their class or group as the UD Unit progresses.

Stage 2: The Body of the Unit (The Lessons)

For each lesson, highlight the most appropriate related resources, and perhaps have youth Google-up additional Links and info sources. Suggest ways for teens to personalize their study based on individual interests, and recommend that they capitalize on their favorite learning styles and try new methods.

For possible guest speakers or field trip sites, contact local designers and builders who practice UD in home remodeling or construction, or representatives of stores that sell a variety of small, medium, and large UD products. Disability and fair housing advocates also know the UD Score, as do activists who focus on the many facets of Aging in Place. Don't forget multi-cultural representatives (see Lesson ?)

Once the lessons are underway, use small group discussions and reports followed by peer critiques. Draw straws every few days to select one or two groups share their "work in progress." Following each lesson, have the learners demonstrate their new knowledge via Learning Activities that they choose or you assign. We developed the choices to apply what they've learned in a wide variety of ways: Artistic creations, bulletin boards, games, model products, news article collections, roleplaying, skits or stories, and NOT-boring research reports.

During both individual and group reports, Guides, guests, and presenters' peers may complete a simple lesson evaluation form used for all reports. This will enable consistent assessment, specific feedback, and rapid turn-around of (graded) outcomes. At the most logical point(s), wrap-up discussions should involve the entire class or group.

Every few days, you might want to (re)state the question:, "Now, what and how could we use this information in our UD Awareness Campaign?" By the time the "Lite teens" complete their six lessons, they should have identified their target, theme or focus, and objectives, and outlined their campaign plan.

When the "Full Participants" reach their last lesson, their campaign slogans, artwork, posters, media announcements, and public event schedules and arrangements should be IN USE or ready, with "not much extra work" just before the campaign kick-off.

Stage 3: The Grand Finale: BROADcasting the UNIVERSAL DESIGN Message

As the UD Unit winds down, Guides can help the teens implement their "final exam" (in other words, implement their Community UD Awareness Campaign). If the school year and the UD unit end together, a summer campaign targeted to the entire community is optimal. Unleash teens' creative spirits, and rein them in only if the action threatens to get out of control.

By time their lessons are done, the YoYos will have applied their communications' skills to UD--repeatedly. Thus, their unique and original campaign can soon be off and running to bring UD education and excitement to their parents and families, the whole school or youth group, and the community as a whole.

Student-executed campaign events could take various forms. An all-school program or a club family fun night could highlight UD Learning Activity projects or present original skits that demonstrate UD products over the lifespan.
Audience participation is GOOD; perhaps a humorous piece that pulls unsuspecting models (of all ages) from the audience to test UD products that are especially appropriate for EVERYONE?

If youth can spread the UD word while providing additional community service (e.g., to older homeowners), Bravo! In addition specific audiences, your newly-minted marketing experts may choose to create UD awareness via various public activities (e.g., bumper stickers or signs hung over Main Street). A public UD poster competition could have all entries displayed at one location [a bank lobby?] for public voting on the best. Anyone for designing and wearing UD T-shirts?

With a bit more effort, the young change agents may collaborate with local home products' dealers on store window or aisle UD displays, or even in-store workshops to demonstrate selected UD products. Or the tackle the Ultimate Challenge: A Street of Dreams tour including a few new and remodeled dwellings, ranging from VIZ to full Universal Design.

Don't forget to send us a few jpegs that we can share via site revisions or an online newsletter as we Rock and Roll down to the 'old folks home'-- feeling SO proud!

Credit: Cambridge Educational Systems