Open for Whom? At the Intersection(s) of UDL & Open Practice

Dr Bonnie Stewart, who will be offering the Keynote at the Conference on October 1st, offers us a preview of her presentation.

Open for Whom? At the Intersection(s) of UDL & Open Practice

When I was an adolescent, I was all out of balance with where school seemed to think I ought to be.
A classic kid with invisible disabilities – and strengths – I was too slow to recognize the warning signs of teachers’ patience wearing thin, and too quick with smart-mouthed comebacks to be able to coast under the radar of compliance-focused classrooms. The command “Bonnie, out in the hall. NOW” was a regular refrain.  I spent a memorable proportion of my junior high education sitting out on the floor by the lockers…reading textbooks. I loved learning – books opened up worlds for me – but had you told me then that I’d choose to spend my life as an educator, I’d have rolled my eyes, HARD. 
Life often has funny surprises in store.
Today I’ve been a teacher – a scholar in the field of education and a teacher of teachers – for nearly a quarter-century. But those junior high years spent in the hall really shaped my career more significantly than any of the years of formal scholarly education afterwards. They taught me that access to learning is a complex thing. They led me initially to pursue certification in Special Education – because I wanted to be the teacher that *I’d* needed, back when the hallway was where I did my learning. Over the last decade, they’ve led me to towards open education and open pedagogy, focusing on access in economic and social and digital terms, rather than in terms of individual learning needs.
But seldom do the intersections of the two concepts of access get explored together. So with the Pan-Canadian UDL conference keynote this coming October in Victoria, that’s what I’m aiming to do. 
Open and UDL are both significant trends in education and higher education right now. Access is a huge part of open, and accessibility is a huge part of Universal Design for Learning. But how do we unpack what access means in practice, in either case? And who is served – and who is made less visible – by the ways we as educators understand the complex axes intersecting to shape this conversation right now?
This talk shares stories of both UDL and open educational practices, and my own and others’ efforts to extend our own concepts of access within each of these fields. I’ll map out what and who gets included when we use both open and UDL ideas of access as our guide to pedagogy, and will try to frame a vision for access that broadens the reach that open education and UDL both currently have…in hopes that fewer learners end up in the metaphorical hallway, in the end. 

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