It’s Not a Crutch: It’s UDL.

17 02 2017

The past couple of weeks I have encountered some interesting thoughts regarding the use of technology for helping students access learning. I’ve especially heard some thoughts regarding the use of text-to-speech, speech-to-text,  and word prediction for students to better access learning on grade level.

Here’s what I’ve encountered:

  • A belief that allowing a child to access Accessible Instructional Materials is a crutch.
  • A question of why a child would even access tools such as text-to-speech, speech-to-text, or word prediction because that individual felt it was a “crutch”, making the child forever dependent on the tools, therefore diminishing the learning process.
  • A belief that by introducing technology as a support that educators would be “done away with” and technology would replace “good instruction”.

These encounters have made me think, take some deep breaths, send these people some love and understanding, It’s also strengthened my resolve to spread the word about how technology can be leveraged to support learning, make learning fun, and give students support when (and if) they need it.

Perhaps these statements are FEAR based. Fear that a child would be labeled. Fear that we are enabling our children. Fear that technology will replace the art and science of teaching. Perhaps it’s more of a lack of understanding or awareness on how technology can eliminate barriers to learning.

The role I play is a truly unique one. I spend time researching tools and methods to help students with special needs access learning. I use Assistive Technology to help with this practice. I have seen students flourish using technology as a TOOL to reduce or eliminate BARRIERS TO LEARNING. Learning becomes FUN for students. Or at least, not as hard.

I also see students that do not have special needs that could benefit from these tools before it’s too late. Before they are referred. Or labeled.

In the past 7 years of this work, a common theme emerges:

How can we provide strategies and supports as a forethought, and not as an afterthought?

The answer is UDL. Check out the video below:

Think about your Smartphone. If you access voice typing to compose an email or text message, you are accessing a tool that’s originally intended for a student with a disability, but you have access to it. Is it a crutch?

Or, do you use closed captioning when you watch TV in bed so that you don’t disturb your significant other who is sleeping next to you, you are also accessing a tool that’s originally intended for a student with a disability. Will you make the nightly newscaster obsolete by accessing it? Hardly.

Educators have a tough job. One where they are charged with ensuring that children are learning, growing, thriving, and flourishing. They work hard to ensure that this happens. But, what if we took a moment and looked at how we can support all learners, as well as support all teachers, of making sure that the necessary strategies and supports were put in place first, and not afterward? How would that look?  Would we be empowering our students and teachers? Why wouldn’t we want to give strategies and supports first and not later on when a student or teacher is frustrated, overwhelmed, or it’s too late?

In short, it’s not a crutch, it’s UDL.

If you would like to learn more about UDL:

http://www.cast.org

http://www.udlcenter.org

 





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:

iPad   og.jpg

Notability App  Notability_for_iPhone__iPod_touch__and_iPad_on_the_iTunes_App_Store.png

iScanner App       Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 11.48.01 AM.png

Targus Stylus     2e352d32-ee23-475f-91ca-e7582fadf2bf_1.7fc20ab9015756e78e505a2ceb43b599.jpeg

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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):

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 12.46.54 PM

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!





Top 10 Apps for Children with Autism

14 06 2016

Part of the work that I do as an AT Specialist is to help teachers and therapists select, acquire, and use apps for children in their programs. I was honored to present to the SimpleK12 learning community a webinar on the Top 10 Apps for Children with Autism. \

Here are my Top 10 Apps for Children with Autism (in no particular order)

  1. Proloquo2Go
  2. TouchChatHD
  3. Pictello
  4. Choiceworks
  5. Visual Schedule Planner
  6. Autism DTT Pro
  7. The Social Express II
  8. Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box
  9. The Zones of Regulation
  10. Autism Tracker Pro

Here is the link to the presentation.

To view the webinar on Simplek12.com, Click here 

Have an app that makes your top 10? Leave a comment! I hope this list is helpful as you work with children with Autism in building independence!

 

 





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!