ChatGPT & Generative AI

Using AI to Enhance Universal Design for Learning

Generative AI can make educational content and instruction more accessible, helping teachers meet a breadth of student needs.

April 1, 2024
Stuart Kinlough / Ikon Images

Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an essential framework for enhancing accessibility, helps teachers design inclusive instruction. The framework supports students’ accessing content in varied formats, expressing understanding using multiple modalities, and engaging with high-interest content—all of which enhance equity. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an emerging technology that can help educators create a more UDL-friendly environment. Though many teachers are skeptical about students’ use of generative AI, instead of viewing it as a quick answer generator, we can teach students about ethical use by helping them view it as a research assistant, brainstorming collaborator, and tutor. Student- and teacher-facing AI tools can enhance engagement, representation, and expression in the classroom. Below, I showcase two such tools and how I use them with students in my English classes, though many others are rapidly evolving.

Using AI for UDL

SchoolAI is one such tool that enables students to access information in a variety of ways and allows teachers to customize AI chatbots (called spaces) for specific learning opportunities. For example, using the historical chatbot generator, teachers can ask students to interact with a chatbot that assumes the role of an author or historical figure available, and teachers can also create their own. 

Instructionally, when students interact with a chatbot, they not only acquire information but also learn how to engage in effective conversations with AI. Asking and refining probing questions is a future-forward skill. 

My students choose how they synthesize the information they learn from AI; some employ a note-taking method, others use graphic organizers. Every student’s chat is unique and yields different outcomes that make for compelling collaborative conversations among peers. Post-chat, I guide students to fact-check and examine information for biases before drawing conclusions from AI interactions. This step is essential for building capacity as students learn how to utilize AI responsibly, and there are helpful frameworks for students working to evaluate the information they glean. 

Enhancing Individualized Learning

Equitable, personalized learning is the ultimate goal of UDL. SchoolAI is UDL-friendly, because it has an embedded text-to-speech function that allows students to hear AI conversations read aloud. Additionally, an embedded speech-to-text tool enables students to respond verbally instead of in writing. This multimodality means every student is able to participate, even those for whom reading or writing is challenging, which facilitates inclusive learning and deepens engagement. 

Though SchoolAI offers different types of chatbot-based spaces to customize, perhaps the most exciting for UDL is the Sidekick—a personalized tutor that you can tailor for specific content or processes. When my students are writing narratives, I create a Sidekick that can assist them in the writing process by offering concrete suggestions and clarifying concepts (such as figurative language or how to write dialogue correctly). I also limit the type of assistance that my Sidekick will provide, such as prohibiting it from helping students “too much.” That way, the AI is not allowed to write for students and can only give them concrete examples that are unrelated to the plot of the narrative they were crafting.  

Leveraging Teacher-Facing AI Tools

MagicSchool is a teacher-facing platform that includes more than 60 AI tools created specifically for educators. One essential aspect of UDL is ensuring that students can easily understand instructions and success criteria. To do this, I use MagicSchool to generate clearer, more concise directions for tasks, as well as exemplars and non-exemplars. 

A UDL environment also offers more than one pathway through which students can access content. To fulfill this goal, I use MagicSchool to generate multiple explanations for concepts, to generate questions in response to YouTube videos, and to level text so I can provide students the opportunity to read “just right” material no matter their current grade level. These uses are especially beneficial for accommodating students with specialized instructional needs, as well as students for whom English is a second language. 

To increase engagement, I also use AI to convert traditional content into other formats. For example, when teaching the myth of Hades and Persephone, I used MagicSchool to generate several other versions of the text, including a rap battle and breaking news brief. Students choose which representation they want to read, and everyone discusses the theme and showcases their understanding. 

To help brainstorm varied modalities for student expression, I utilized the MagicSchool choice board generator to come up with ideas to populate my favorite choice board template. MagicSchool’s group work generator was also useful for brainstorming collaborative activities, because some of the most effective UDL-friendly classrooms allow students to choose how they like to learn and create. Students who prefer to work with others are able to gravitate toward team tasks, while students who prefer to work alone are able to select an independent option.

Enhancing Inclusivity

An inclusive classroom is full of choice, allowing students to self-select instructional materials and options to demonstrate mastery. With so few hours in the day and so many considerations involved in planning, leveraging AI tools can optimize teacher workflows and provide focused assistance. 

Whether adapting existing lessons to be more UDL-friendly or crafting an entirely new unit, AI places truly personalized learning within greater reach than ever before.

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  • Curriculum Planning
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  • Technology Integration

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