Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"The Textbook Industry Deserves to Die"

When marketing guru Seth Godin enters the fray, people listen. His Textbook Rant blog post today focuses on the expense, impracticality, and lack of engagement textbooks provide and stresses how quickly they become outdated. He declares, "As far as I can tell, assigning a textbook to your college class is academic malpractice."
And he concludes,
This industry deserves to die. It has extracted too much time and too much money and wasted too much potential. We can do better. A lot better.
What didn't he say?

He never mentioned that textbooks are inaccessible to many students - those with physical, vision or other print disabilities.
But he offers a digital solution that offers accessibility at no cost to the student.
The solution seems simple to me. Professors should be spending their time devising pages or chapterettes or even entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online. (it's part of their job, remember?) When you have a class to teach, assemble 100 of the best pieces, put them in a pdf or on a kindle or a website... and there, you're done.
Teachers, professors are you listening?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Special Education and ARRA Funding

We have an unprecedented opportunity to wisely invest in "high-quality" assistive technology and the professional development necessary to ensure effective integration and implementation due to the ARRA funding for special education. The site includes this information in the fact sheet American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: IDEA Recovery Funds for Services to Children and Youths with Disabilities:
Some possible uses of these limited-term IDEA ARRA funds that are allowable under IDEA and aligned with the core reform goals for which states must provide assurances under SFSF include:
  • Obtain state-of-the art assistive technology devices and provide training in their use to enhance access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities.
The Center for Implementing Technology in Education (CITEd) has created a comprehensive resource to guide technology investment decisions using ARRA funds. They offer:
  1. Tech Matrix: Technology Supports for Learning - Align your technology to the struggles of your students (math, reading, writing and assistive technologies. Generate a matrix of all 261 software products that are detailed at this site. Read the research that supports each area.
  2. EdTech Locator - Use this tool to help your colleagues, Technology Coordinators, Professional Development Coordinators and administrators determine where they stand with their knowledge about technology integration. Take a self-assessment, score yourself on the rubric, develop a strategic plan and then review the resources that will help you implement your plan depending upon your roles and responsibilities.
  3. Archived Webinars - Watch the online "just-in-time" pertinent professional development. Registration is required to view or download.

Need additional background information about ARRA and Special Education? Click here for answers to a multitude of questions.

We MUST make wise, informed decisions to meet the needs of all our learners with special needs. IDEA 1997 and 2004 both include the need to consider Assistive Technology for all students on IEPs. The appropriate assistive technology is rarely available. Stimulus funding provides a unique opportunity to ensure that students with special needs have access to the technology they need to obtain a free, appropriate education and make effective progress.

Get involved in the decisions your special educator leaders are making as they spend the ARRA funds. Advocate for the needs of your students. Ignorance of available AT is no excuse. Spend time exploring the CITEd Tech Matrix to become knowledgeable about the possibilities. And explore the STAGES Curriculum Software Search Charts which align with the seven stages of cognitive and language development. These are incredible resources for just this purpose.

Remember, too, assistive technology can be free - refer to the Free UDL Tech Toolkit for additional tools and strategies.