Ghost of Classroom Technology Past: A Lesson in UDL

I teach at a small, independent arts school in the middle of downtown. We are so small, in fact, that we share spaces with other organizations in the area, one of which is a gorgeous church. Thus, no one has a “classroom”; we share space with each other and with the church.

If we desire a projector or screen in our room, we reserve it ahead of time on Google Classroom and then retrieve it from our tech closet. On my first day of in-service, a fellow new teacher proclaimed, “So I have to hope that the projector will be available to check out for my class? What if I plan to use a projector every day?” I feel you, sister.

Despite our initial skepticism, the system actually works. We have enough flat-screen tv carts, Elmo carts, and projectors that we seldom “steal” them from another teacher. My department even bought a portable Hue for me so I can cast a worksheet to my tv cart.

Now, here’s the twist: the tech closet is on the second floor. I teach on the third floor. What technology is actually the most essential in my pedagogy?

The elevator. You are who I forgot to be grateful for, and you came back to haunt me.

On Monday, the elevator broke. I could not transport my screen to my classroom. I couldn’t cast my Google Slides, use my projector, show a video, or demo images of student work. My entire lesson plan was thrown out the window.Even more importantly, we have students who struggle to make it up and down stairs—that is a far more concerning scenario than me without my tv!

Without much grace under pressure, I tried to do my lesson plan anyway. I held up my laptop and slowly walked around the room. Students watched a video on my 12-inch screen, and then I wrote the corresponding questions on the board. Here’s what I noticed:

  • My students who have poor eyesight couldn’t see the screen.
  • My students who have poor hearing couldn’t follow the words.
  • My students who have impulse control couldn’t adjust their position in the classroom, as I was moving.
  • My students (including ELLs) who need to hear and see clear instructions, were struggling with my hasty handwriting on the board.

Universal Design for Learning’s core tenet is that “what’s good for the margins is good for the whole.” While I had realized that technology is convenient, I didn’t grasp that this “Ghost of Technology Past” showed me a future of lessened accessibility.

Let’s give a shout out to that unsung hero, the elevator! Glimpsing a future without you—and the accessibility you offer—made me indeed more gracious.

How is the technology in your room widening your margins? How is your tech elevating your practice? Let us know at!