Saturday, March 24, 2007

CAST UDL Book Builder

The website for today is the new CAST Universal Design for Learning Book Builder. CAST is the Center for Applied Special Technology out of Massachusetts. CAST explores various applications of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), works with software and technology engineers to make new products accessible to all, lobbies for UDL and supports educators and other professionals in using UDL in schools and other settings.

Book Builder is CAST's newest endeavor. It is an online program that aides teachers and others in writing, illustrating and displaying on a computer or in print a text for learners. There are two sample books to explore, information on creating books and, of course, information on UDL and literacy.

One of the best features of this website is not the actual ability to write books and illustrate them, but the ability to have online characters aide students in reading the book. Three animated "strategy coaches" offer support to readers. Pedro the Penguin offers prompts that cue students to think critically about what they are reading. Hali offers hints that make comprehending the story easier. Monty models expert reading strategy's that will increase understanding.

Book Builder is a great concept with interesting applications for the classroom. Not only does it do what some other (pricey) software does just as well (making books), but it also provides the supports many learners need when they are reading. And all that for free!

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