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Usable Knowledge

Tools of the Trade

An innovative organization provides free tools and resources to make learning accessible to all students

Bring universal learning ideas to life in your classroom by creating and sharing your own educational materials. Find innovative games that teach critical thinking and math skills. Help your students learn to write a better lab report.

Educators can do all of that with a set of free tools created by CAST, a nonprofit research and development company dedicated to breaking down barriers to learning.

At CAST, making curriculum accessible to all takes many forms, including the production of resources and tools that break down barriers to learning.

Working under the motto, “Until learning has no limits,” and co-founded by Lecturer David Rose, CAST developed the concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which drives much of today’s theory around the different ways students learn.

“UDL really aims to focus on the goal, which is to help learners become expert learners,” says David Gordon, CAST’s director of publishing and communications. “The goal of learning is not to all learn to do something the same way. There are multiple means of representation, of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement. Those three principles are all aimed at helping learners reach that goal of becoming expert learners.”

Building on its research into how students with disabilities learn and how technology can be harnessed to advance learning within a flexible UDL framework, CAST has developed nine helpful tools for educators seeking to incorporate UDL principles into their classrooms.

  • UDL Book Builder. Educators can create digital books to engage learners at varying levels. They can input text, images, and even audio to create their own stories with any number of literacy goals in mind. And they can access a library of more than 20,000 user-created books available free for anyone to use.
  • iSolveIt Math Puzzles.  Two iPad-based research games that teach essential math reasoning and problem solving, designed for students in 6th grade and above. They aren’t tied to specific math topics, so they can be taught during any classroom unit.
  • UDL Curriculum Toolkit. Designed to assist teachers of any level develop their curriculum with the principles of UDL in mind.
  • UDL Guidelines. A resource center that lets educators learn more about UDL principles and how to bring them to life. 
  • UDL Studio. Educators can create their own dynamic educational materials.
  • UDL Exchange. PreK–12 educators can create, mix, and share instructional resources based on UDL and aligned to Common Core.
  • UDL Science Writer. A tool that scaffolds the process of composing science-class and lab reports.
  • UDL Curriculum Self-Check. Helping preK–12 educators build options and flexibility into each element of the curriculum.
  • UDL Editions. Offering educators a model for presenting classic texts from world literature in a flexible online interface with individualized supports for struggling and expert readers.

“At CAST, we’ve always felt it important to offer whatever learning tools we could to the field to help educators and parents and students experience the power of flexible learning environments,” says Gordon. “It’s part of its mission to bust barriers to learning wherever they exist.”

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