Dr Alan Bruce, Director Universal Learning Systems

"Web2.0 in Education"

At a time of fundamental transformation in the international labour market and social relationships, we are now witnessing the pervasive impact of globalization and advanced technologies as twin drivers of an altered socio-economic reality. From every level - ecological, social, economic, technological and political - we are moving towards a set of conditions where access to education, resources and valued life outcomes can no longer be assumed to be automatic or linear. In fact, one of the startling outcomes of recent years (accentuated since the economic crisis and banking collapses of 2008) is the startling increase in inequality and evermore differentiated access to resources. This poses significant challenges for those excluded, particularly for those impacted by the experience of disability. Creating a platform for inclusive engagement for those marginalized by disability and the stigma of low expectations is an imperative not only in terms of rights for equal participation but as a key part in a transformed educational and learning agenda required for all citizens of a new and unfamiliar global milieu.

This presentation will examine the insights, principles, techniques and technologies of the exciting field of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Emerging in the United States in the 1980s, UDL was originally grounded in the experience and context of disability and rehabilitation. It has evolved rapidly to be a dynamic tool shaping a new understanding of pedagogy, learning design, advanced technologies, adaptive environments and energized critical reflection. The presentation will examine the UDL tools and techniques emerging as well as placing them in the context of recent innovative projects in the European Union. It will examine how UDL principles and techniques, richly supplemented by Web 2.0 technologies and social integration, enable a dynamic interchange between learners and learning facilitators to promote a new set of inclusive paradigms, informed by a mutually liberating discourse. It will outline some recent research and projects (in particular the UDLnet consortium) on embedding a rights based approach to access, design and learning in a context of emancipatory practice and transformative education in disability. But the UDL focus does not end with disability. It goes to the heart of the potential new role of the school and education in a transformed Europe. UDL holds significant potential for a renewed focus on learning that is relevant and accessible and located in the needs of all who are motivated to learn and derive benefit from new knowledge.

Universal Learning Systems is an international consultancy firm specializing in research, education, training and project management. ULS undertakes projects for a number of clients in the educational, development and management sectors. Based in Ireland, ULS also has offices in Prague, Leeuwarden, Helsinki and Chicago. Dr Alan Bruce is a sociologist who undertook his academic studies in Los Angeles, Galway, Amsterdam and Hull. He has lectured in universities in France, England and Ireland and worked in policy research for the European Commission in Brussels. In Ireland he worked for the government agency responsible for disability policy and was responsible for the education of specialists working in vocational rehabilitation in collaboration with a number of Irish universities. Current projects include:
  • Innovative learning interventions in migration and social inclusion
  • Equality, human rights and diversity training for police services (Ireland, Norway, UK)
  • Research on labour market outcomes for ethnic minorities in Finland
  • Post-war conflict transformation training in Northern Ireland
  • Vocational rehabilitation development training in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary
  • Post conflict VET programs in Kosovo and Bosnia
  • Postgraduate course development for rehabilitation staff (US/Ireland)
  • ICT supported learning design using digital repositories
  • Diversity management programs for private and public sector
  • Competence based learning in schools (Greece)
  • Inter-ethnic training and research on conflict (Cyprus and Ireland).

He collaborates with various universities in the United States in research and program development. He is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Counselling with the University of Wisconsin-Stout and an adviser on international relations to the University of Memphis. He coordinated the Diploma in Professional Studies (Managing Diversity) operated by University College Cork and Waterford Crystal. He teaches with the National University of Ireland Galway on learning policy, diversity and systematic training. He is a Senior Research Fellow in the University of Edinburgh. He lectures on the International Master’s in European Project Management in Florence. In 2013 he was appointed a specialist lecturer in the conflict reolution program of the Campus for Peace in UOC, the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona.
He has been an adviser to the Commission of the European Union’s DG Education and Culture in the Adaptability Strand of the Equal Program (Paris 2005) and has been the research coordinator for disability in the Equality Studies Unit of the Equality Authority of Ireland. He has conducted research for the Training and Employment Authority of Ireland (FÁS) with particular reference to community employment, standards, best practice and labour market outcomes for marginalized groups. He was author of the FÁS commissioned Bruce Report (2005) on integrative interventions for those with substance abuse In Ireland.
He is academic adviser and course development specialist for equality and diversity training programs developed for An Garda Siochana and the Police Service of Northern Ireland under the EU Peace II initiative. A columnist with New Security Learning journal in Berlin, he is also a member of the Garda Siochana National Diversity Strategy Board. He is President of the Irish Chapter of the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals (IARP). He is Academic Coordinator for the Conflicts of Interest program on conflict transfomration in northern Ireland accredited by Queens University Belfast and has worked extensively with post-conflict community building initiatives in Kosovo, Bosnia, Cyprus and Romania. He is a member of the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) in Cyprus.
He is a long-standing member of EDEN, the European Distance and E-Learning Network, the Irish Institute of Training and Development, the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, the National Council for Rehabilitation Education – he was appointed to the Board of NCRE in 2014. He has lectured and published widely on the social impact of disability, labour market policy, innovative education, distance learning, social inclusion, conflict transformation, strategic change and managing diversity. He is centrally involved in innovative educational development, transformational school systems and enhanced use of ICT in schools and is National Coordinator for the Open Discovery Space program in Ireland. In 2010 he was elected Vice-President of EDEN.