How 1:1 Initiatives Transform Accessibility, AT, and UDL

24 05 2017

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Many school districts have 1:1 technology initiatives. I am SO blessed to work in a school district that has 1:1 devices for students in grades 1-12. When I started as an AT Specialist almost 8 years ago, we only had 1:1 initiatives in grades 7-8. In those 8 years, we have built capacity to provide a device for EVERY student in grades 1-12!

While 1:1 initiatives offer access to technology and a whole lot of other cool things, what our 1:1 initiative and subsequent expansion has done for the population that I serve has been nothing short of amazing. AT doesn’t become an “afterthought”. In fact, supports such as dictation, speech to text, word prediction, screen zoom, display resolution, and highlighters have become available to EVERY student in the district. EVERY student has access to these tools regardless of IEP, disability, learning style, or need. This means that if a student needs a particular strategy or support, it’s there.  This, quite simply, is UDL. To have a device that can be easily customized, that is the same as every other student takes some of the “stigma” out of having something that is perceived as “different”, which can lead to device abandonment.

For students that require speech to text, text to speech, word prediction, accessible educational materials (AEM), or some other support as is required on an IEP, 504 plan or another learning plan, having 1:1 technology makes it super easy to customize, and also helps the student build confidence in their skill set as they age. The younger a student has access to and employs a particular tool (ie dictation), the more comfortable and proficient they become when they are older. Practice and consistency of device have helped us in this way. In some instances, I have witnessed students that have used dictation or word prediction no longer need to use the tool because it’s just “clicked” for them. For students that may not have an IEP of 504 plan, but can benefit from providing access to text to speech, dictation, or word prediction, having these strategies and supports in place, as part of the 1:1 Initiative, provides equity. Not everyone may need to use the tools, but they are there if they are needed.

Who decides who should use a particular tool and who shouldn’t? It’s a team-based decision, really. It’s a philosophy of providing strategies and supports FIRST that will best benefit our children. Careful thought and consideration should be given, but it’s really cool to see a student that once detested writing suddenly have a voice and want to write. There’s power in empowerment, and it’s super cool to be able to provide that for students.

It would be foolish of me to just say “Hey! Go 1:1 and all of your problems will be solved!” That isn’t the case. Sometimes the device that the district provides is not the right tool for an individual student. That is where a comprehensive Assistive Technology Evaluation will help teams determine the most appropriate device will be for a student.  Matching tool to task is a critical piece of the process. That is where we are also fortunate in this district to have a 1:1 iPad initiative for our programs for our most significant learners.

1:1 initiatives are benefitting students in more ways than simply providing a device. It’s providing access to learning. It’s providing equity. It’s engaging students in the learning process in a way that is amazing to witness. It’s not necessarily the initiative itself- it’s HOW that initiative is leveraged to help meet the learning needs of ALL students.

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How to use the Dictionary, Picture Dictionary, and Screen Mask Features of Read and Write in a Google Doc.

3 02 2017

This is Part 2 of a series of tutorials to assist staff and students in accessing and using Read and Write for Google.  The first tutorial covered how to use prediction, text to speech, and voice typing. 

Below is a quick tutorial on how to use the dictionary, picture dictionary, and screen mask features of Read and Write.  Enjoy!

I hope this tutorial is helpful as students and staff continue to use Read and Write for Google. The next tutorial- how to use Highlighting Tools, Collect Highlights, and how to generate vocabulary lists using Read and Write will be coming soon! Stay tuned!

 

 

 





How to use Prediction, Text-To-Speech, and Dictation Features of Read and Write for Google Chrome

27 01 2017

Read and Write for Google Chrome is our District Solution to assist students of ALL abilities with reading, writing, and researching. This is a first in a series of tutorials that will help students and staff access and use the Word Prediction, Text-To-Speech, and Dictation features of Read and Write for Google Chrome. 

Having a student access these tools are intended to support gaps and weaknesses in skill sets, while providing access to grade level content. Research is emerging that shows placing these strategies aids in improving learning outcomes for students, including listening comprehension, grammar, syntax, and written output. It is exciting to see a student that is shown a tool that can aid in reducing or eliminating a barrier. It literally opens a whole new world to them. If you’re not sure, look at these pictures of students that were shown word prediction, text-to-speech, and dictation on their Chromebooks.

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Learning should be fun and providing strategies and supports first will only help to improve the quality of the learning experience for students. Read and Write for Google Chrome is available to every student as needed to access grade level content. I hope this tutorial is helpful!

 

 





Make Worksheets Accessible and FUN!

1 11 2016

Do you have a student that struggles with worksheets? Do they struggle with writing? Vision?  Do you have access to an iPad? You can easily transform your worksheets into an accessible format that will transform the learning experience for your students. Here’s what you need:

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Here’s what you do:

  1. Take a picture using iScanner of the worksheet(s) you need. Make sure that your image is not blurry by tapping on the iPad screen prior to taking a picture.
  2. Edit the picture and rename the picture in iScanner.
  3. Using the export option, send the worksheet to Notability.
  4. Notability will automatically open the worksheet. You will have options to rename and organize the file.

Now you have an alternate way for students to access worksheets using touch technology. A student has reported that they now “enjoy math” since having their workbook on their iPad.

Creating opportunities for students to learn in a modality that makes sense for them doesn’t have to be too tricky or cumbersome. Transform and create accessible content easily using an iPad with Notability and iScanner apps. Adding a stylus gives an opportunity for students to interact with content that is similar to paper and pencil, but is more engaging and fun, yet still allows for that critical activation of the brain/motor that is essential for learning

 

 





Making Curriculum Materials Accessible for All Students: An Overview of AIM

4 08 2016

Educators are challenged to provide curricum materials that are accessible to all learners. It can be quite a challenge in providing this without any prior knowledge, resources, or processes. Ensuring that all curriculum materials are accessible to all students requires careful planning, consideration, timely delivery, and a team-based decision making process. Curriculum Materials should be accessible to all students as a forethought, not an afterthought. There are those instances where a student will require a specialized format (ie large print, braille, digital or audio text) to access the curriculum. This is known as providing Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) or Accessible Educational Materials (AEM).

I’ve created a simplified flowchart of AIM and the decision-making process for IEP teams (for those visual learners out there):

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There are a wealth of resources regarding AIM/AEM. Recently, I have had the honor to present on the topic for MaineAIM and SimpleK12.com. I offer these resources to you, the reader, to help you better understand the AIM process and provide resources in te selection, acquisition, and use of AIM for your students.

Check out the webinar from MaineAIM regarding AIM/AEM, Assistive Technology, and the IEP here

Check out the webinar on AIM from simplek12.com here! 

Providing AIM for your students in a timely manner will help keep the content accessible, ensure FAPE, and provide your students the opportunity to learn grade-level material regardless of disability.  I hope these resources are helpful to you as you navigate the AIM/AEM process for your students!





Read and Write for Google PDF Editor

11 04 2016

Read and Write for Google has recently released an update which allows the user to edit PDF documents using word prediction or speech-to-text technology. As long as the PDF file is a non-scanned PDF file, this will work. If you have a scanned PDF file, you’ll have to convert the file using Snapverter as scanned files are images, not text (this is another lesson for another day). No longer are teachers limited to using Google Docs to access these accessibility tools for Read and Write. Overall, it’s a pretty nice update. The one feature I noticed when I tested this update was that a user has to allow the microphone each time they want to use the speech-to-text option regardless of device. I’m sure that issue will be resolved in a future update.

Check the video to see how this new update of Read and Write can work with your students that require writing support!





App Wheels

21 11 2013

I stumbled across some really cool blogs and wikis. One is by Alan Stewart, who shared this app wheel for apps for students with Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities.
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The other wiki I’ve known about for a while is apps4Stages. Started by Madalaine Pugliese, who is the Program Director for Assistive Special Education Technology; Associate Professor of Practice in Special Education at Simmons college, she and her students have come up with some amazing app wheels that contain a wealth of information regarding the relationship between apps and bloom’s Taxonomy, as well as seven developmental stages of app use for children with significant disabilities.

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For those that are visual, these would be great to post in classrooms, or to use on a bulletin board, or to just add to your list of bookmarks/pins/diigo lists!