Friday, August 20, 2021
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
You've heard this issue before. A parent is frantically trying to help their child receive the assistive (inclusive) technologies they need to independently access content or demonstrate their learning. But there is pushback....
I won't bore you with the details of the denial of the tools or the pushback. Instead, let me share with you how resourceful and resilient the student was.
The student needed access to an accessible version of the book the class was reading to bypass her reading decoding and fluency challenges. She searched on her own and found the book on YouTube with human narration and discovered Closed Captioning on her own to follow along with the audio supports!
She was thrilled to share this discovery with her mother who shared the strategy with me, an excellent approach that allowed her to participate in class discussions and have independent access to the book.
I've written about turning on closed captioning in videos in a previous blog post. How fantastic when a learner discovers that strategy on their own and uses it to bypass their learning challenges! What an incredibly resourceful learner whose initiative should be applauded and encouraged!
|Example of customized Closed Captioning|
Do you have stories to share about learners who thrill you with their creativity and ingenuity despite the presence of obstacles and learner variabilities? Please share in the comments.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
As we teach the significant work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, it is essential to provide resources that support all learners. CommonLit, a free digital tool, offers a variety of inclusive instructional materials to commemorate his important contributions to society. It includes the following embedded scaffolded supports:
- read aloud (text to speech) features
- ability to adjust the font size,
- side-by-side translation into thirty-three additional languages
- ability to highlight and/or add annotations,
- guided reading mode with additional supports to help readers better understand the text
- paired texts to provide background information, build knowledge and provide context
- embedded definitions of more difficult vocabulary
- related media resources
Monday, April 13, 2020
There are options that can help. Consider trying one or more of these tools to reach out to students so they can see you and hear your voice, repeatedly, if necessary:
1. Flipgrid - Flipgrid allows you to make "Shorts." "Shorts allows you to use the power of your camera to share videos with anyone, anywhere!" This is especially important as a quick and easy way to reach out to your students. Learn more here.
3. Clips iOS App - One of the most fantastic, fun ways to send out a message to your students. It can even automatically add closed captioning in any language for your ELL students. Check this out if you haven't ever explored it.
Wednesday, June 05, 2019
With this in mind, we have organized the first annual Technology for Specific Learning Disabilities (TSLD) conference which will be held August 26th at the Four Points Sheraton in Wakefield, MA (just north of Boston). The audience is innovative educators or those who would like to think outside the box to reach every learner. We hope to see many General Educators, Special Educators, OTs, SLPs, AT Specialists, Innovation Specialists, and Instructional Technology Specialists attend the event.
Save the date and start the new school year inspired to implement a new educational technology toolkit designed to reach all learners with SLDs for the 2019-2020 school year.
To learn more and register, please visit the TSLD website.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Just because you read all text to your developing (struggling, dyslexic) readers doesn't mean this promotes independence.
Just because you are a "(insert preference) district" doesn't mean your students will not need access to a variety of devices and features as part of their free and appropriate education (FAPE).
Just because you are a "Chrome district" doesn't mean your students will not need access to iOS devices for specific unique features which promote student learning, success, and independence.
Just because you are a "Microsoft district" doesn't mean your students will not need features of Google Docs/Drive/Classroom or features in iPads.
Just because you may be comfortable with paper worksheets and holding books doesn't mean that's what works best for your students.
Think different. Your students depend on it.
Monday, November 26, 2018
I would like to point out a few features and tips that you may miss if you are unfamiliar with the read-aloud tools. The first option is the Bookshare Web Reader. This is a quick and easy way for a student to get immediate access to their customized bookshelf created by a teacher using the Read Now feature. Many schools offer students access to Chromebooks. Unfortunately, the text to speech voices installed in Chromebooks are often not the highest quality. Instead, use the Read & Write for Google Chrome Extension combined with the Bookshare WebReader. There are excellent
A more comfortable option, if you like to curl up with an iPad, is the use of either the Voice Dream Reader ($14.99) or Dolphin Easy Reader (free, with in-app voice purchases) apps. Voice Dream Reader is absolutely the best option due to it's numerous customizable features and advanced visual settings. You can learn more here. In addition, it is possible to highlight text and add notes and extract the highlights and notes to a Google Doc or other app. This can be especially helpful when students are looking for evidence within text.
Dolphin Easy Reader has many customizable features and is an excellent choice as well. One of the options it offers which is unique when considering read aloud/text to speech tools is the ability to add text notes AND voice notes. This can work well for students who want to leave a quick comment or reminder or use other active reading strategies.
I hope this information helps you in providing students what they need.
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Who qualifies for Bookshare.org membership? Anyone who has a print disability or significant reading barrier as defined here. To get started, check out the Training and Resources link. Then explore the Educators Get Started detailed step by step guide. It is excellent, no need to create your own guide, unlike in the past.
Bookshare added a Reading Tool Wizard to help you identify the best device to use when accessing Bookshare books. Easily assist your students as they determine the optimal device to use.
Let's be honest; how many students who struggle with print disabilities, especially reading disabilities, enjoy reading books? Let's promote reading enjoyment and a new incredible feature encourages that. As always, it is still possible to search for a specific book. Additionally, Bookshare has added Special Collections; you can find out the preferences of your students and then assign books from the Special Collections. When they log-in, all the books that are part of that collection will show up for them. Students then select a book "off their bookshelf" and decide what they would like to read. Offering collections of selections is invaluable, as research shows book self-selection is the best indicator of reading success.
There are currently 307 collections ranging from ALA Award Winners - Children's and Young Adult, to the Magic Treehouse series to Super Heroes to the Survivor series by Erin Hunter. There is something for any struggling reader with whom you work.
Use this post to help you enroll your students who qualify. It has never been easier to provide access to grade level content.
Friday, April 27, 2018
- The defaults are not appropriate for most students. Who likes Sans Serif? Who works with font size 11 and how about the spacing? Our students need a larger size. The younger the student the larger the font size. At a minimum change it to 12 for MS and HS and anywhere from 14 to 18 for elementary school. Also, let your students customize the font to what works best for them.
- More WHITE SPACE. Google defaults to 1.15. Change it to 1.5 or double spacing, especially for elementary age students.
- This saves time. Your students may be changing the font, size and spacing when they open Google Docs. They won't have to waste time doing this any longer. Also, what if they forget to change the settings? Customizing the settings works best.
Wednesday, August 09, 2017
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Can't say I'll be back with regularity but I have to share something I read this morning, eloquently written by Richard Ellenson, advocate for equality and equity for all students. He writes from a parent's perspective and shares this:
My kid is different than your kid.
He is sixteen; smart, self-aware, kind, funny, loves his friends, loves the Yankees, loves Broadway even more…. and Apple products even more than that.
He’s also in a big electric wheelchair. He can’t speak words, and instead he talks using an app on his iPad. He loves big rare steaks but needs help to eat them. When he goes on a date, someone has to accompany him. And, of course, he needs to deal with the big psychological impact of all that – which he does with amazing grace.
He’s a wonder.
But not everyone sees that. Instead, teachers are often stopped short by the more obvious manifestations of his disabilities. They don’t see his challenges; they see their own.and this:
...It’s not the kids that are disabled; it’s the educational system. But maybe what’s broken isn’t the process, but the belief system: the one that is incapable of processing information like that in this chapter: the one that reacts instinctively to the notion of UDL or inclusion with a tingle in the gut that says, “Hey. I need to be honest with myself. These kids can’t really cut it. And I don’t want to fail…. so how do I change what I teach… not how I teach.”
How do you change a belief system? What parts of the brain do that?Read the rest of his words and challenge yourself to be that educator who recognizes the challenges of your students, and not your own. Who implements instructional methods that reach all learners, no matter their variability. Who starts with the belief system that every student can learn.
Learn more by reading Chapter 3, in the book Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice.
Summer is the perfect time to reflect on your own practices and model a love for lifelong learning. Learn how you can reach all learners using principles of UDL, multiple methods of engagement, presentation, and expression. Have questions? Leave them in the comments or email me directly.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Can we still see the "crutch" as a negative when it allows a student to read TEN TIMES faster in HALF the amount of time? True story.
I worked with a high school student who "eye" read ten pages in four days on her own and then used text to speech (VoiceDream Reader) to "ear" read ONE HUNDRED pages in two days. Do the math. That's an impressive difference. And she was independent.
Not all crutches are bad. Let's embrace what works and give all students what they need.
photo attribution: http://fortyfiedbeauty.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/stock_crutches_guy_sm.jpg
Thursday, January 07, 2016
I love my job.
Two IEP team meetings this week highlighted what I continually experience.
During the first meeting, the excellent special education teacher shared the results of the implementation of a recommendation I made in the AT Evaluation she had received two days earlier. (She is that good; she wanted to try it BEFORE we discussed the recommendations in the IEP team meeting!) The student struggles with pencil control, letter and number formation and often dictates to a scribe. He completed half the math worksheet using pencil (putting random numbers in correct order). The result was illegible and incorrect. She then gave the student the shared classroom iPad, as she had installed SnapType. He took a picture of the worksheet, cropped it, added text boxes and correctly completed the rest of the worksheet. It was beautiful and CORRECT. Removing the difficulty with number formation reduced the COGNITIVE LOAD and the student completed it CORRECTLY! Not only that, he didn't need any prompts, something he needed constantly to complete his work.
Technology made an instantaneous difference!
The second student I evaluated is a high school student who scored poorly on cognitive testing. With assistive technology, it doesn't matter where evaluation scores fall. Instead, what matters is, what is it we want the student to do but they are unable? How can we use this student's strengths to promote success and independence? This student is highly motivated by and exceptionally proficient with technology. He told me, "Technology has changed my life!" He is so confident with his use of technology he stated, "I could definitely help my ELA teacher with technology because she doesn't use a website." Not only that, he has his own YouTube channel and uploads self-made videos daily!
So let's capitalize on his technology proficiency and confidence and help him use that skill in his role of a student! Fortunately, there is an AT Specialist who works full-time at the school who understands how technology integration strategies promote learning and academic success.
Technology makes a difference!
Are you offering technology to your students with special needs? Or are you withholding it with the belief that remediation is more important? Please reconsider your position - it is essential that accommodation (with effective technology implementation) and remediation occur simultaneously. Help me work myself out of the job that I love, because AT Consultants/Specialists will no longer be needed!
Until that happens, I will continually strive to ensure all students have access to the technologies they need.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Have to share about a great tool I just learned about via Twitter and #spedchat. Someone mentioned Wonderopolis. The name intrigued me so I checked out the website and loved what I discovered. Wonderopolis - "Where the Wonders of Learning Never Cease, a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages." What was so exciting? Have you ever wondered:
Why Castles have moats?
Why does it rain?
What is static electricity?
How does a suspension bridge work?
Do frogs freeze?
How is yogurt made?
Why is grass green?
Can chocolate be good for you?
Lots to wonder about and find answers. Students can add their questions to the "Wonder Bank" and vote for their top wonder questions.
But, what is especially wonderful is the built-in multimedia features and audio supports. There is
Take a look and share with your families. It's a great site to explore.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
The web is filled with collections of recommended apps for special education. Some of the "Best of" lists are better than others. Some are categorized using a system that is difficult to follow. Some Top Ten Apps for Special Education include apps for the widest possible range of special needs, rendering the author's recommendation of the top ten apps meaningless.
Instead, I've compiled helpful collections of resources for educators working with students with special needs. Here are recommendations I believe to be excellent compilations of apps and extensions to use with students with special needs:
- Apps for Special Education - compiled by Spectronics. An extensive list with detailed information about each recommended app
- Friendship Circle Apps - Excellent app reviews and recommendations by category - Communication, Social Skills, Education, Life Skills, Behavior, Speech and Language and Scheduling
- Learning Works for Kids - Well designed and an innovative way to search for apps by Thinking Skill, Learning Skill or Learning Challenge.
- Bridging Apps - Extensive Search capabilities, search by keyword.
- Chrome AT Toolbox - Apps and Extensions for the Chrome browser
Crazy for Chrome - A Symbaloo collections of recommended Chrome Apps and Extensions for struggling learners. AzTech
Saturday, September 13, 2014
The ability to synthesize information into its essential and most important components is a skill many struggling learners fail to grasp. Vicki Davis has written a fantastic post called, "Note Taking Skills for 21st Century Students" that I can't recommend highly enough. Even if you just focus on effectively using the Cornell Two-Column Note Taking system, you are ahead of the game. If you are interested to take it to the next level, explore Visual Note Taking which helps connect ideas combining drawing and text.
Interested to learn more? Check it out here.
Image - https://31.media.tumblr.com/8d6feed12bde5c24830029f0d718a38f/tumblr_inline_n2p1wuiaVL1rpt8u5.png
Monday, August 04, 2014
Do you depend upon the student's who voluntarily raise their hands to answer your questions or participate in discussions? Or, do you recognize there are many reasons why a student will look the other way when you are looking to call on a student?
Why do students not willingly raise their hands?
There may be several reasons:
- They may need additional time to process the information you are requesting. And additional time to process their response. #processingspeed
- They may have anxiety about speaking in the classroom. #anxiety
- They may be afraid of embarrassing themselves if they say something that is "incorrect."#avoidhumiliationatallcosts
- They may have developed a fixed mindset which prevents them from feeling they have anything of value to contribute to the discussion. #mindset
- They may be afraid to look "too smart" in front of their peers. #peerinfluence
I may have missed a few, but these are typical reasons why students choose not to actively or voluntarily participate in class.
If we presume competence, we know that every student has something of value to contribute, and has beliefs, opinions and thoughts to share. So, what are the options? How can we ensure that all students have the opportunity to contribute?
We have choices:
- Promote a culture of acceptance, a classroom growth mindset, where all opinions are valued, encouraged and promoted. Students are acutely aware of your response which can be encouraging or demoralizing.
- For the slow processor, give them advance notice (a day ahead), so they have time to process your question(s) and their answer. This is critically important for students who use speech generating devices.
- Use tools such as Google Docs or Padlet where students can contribute asynchronously. You can have students use their names or contribute anonymously, or assign students numbers and you have the key. That way you are hearing from all students, regardless of the issues which prevent their class participation.
- Use resources such as Socrative or Nearpod which allow all students to participate using a variety of devices.
- Allow for alternative methods of expression to demonstrate learning, using multimedia.
- Work in small groups which can be less threatening to students who are concerned about whole class humiliation. Assign collaborative small group work so that the groups contribute to the class Google Doc or Padlet.
Presume competence. Promote acceptance and a growth mindset. Explore participation options. You will have a chance to hear from all your students.
Any additional ideas? Please add them in the comments section.
Image - http://www.ambergristoday.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/page_full/image/Guidance_Councelor_Class_Participation.jpg
Saturday, June 07, 2014
No one thinks twice about the need for glasses to read, drive or see the world, right? Glasses help bypass visual acuity issues. We can all agree on that.
So, why is the need for technology to access grade level curriculum such a bad thing?
At a recent IEP team meeting, the special educator stated she didn't want the student to "depend upon technology" to access the curriculum. Instead, she reads the material to the student since the student is reading below grade level due to a reading disability.
Funny. She failed to see the irony.
She was promoting dependence upon the adult.
What's worse, dependence upon an adult to access grade level material or "dependence" on technology, which allows the student to independently access the curriculum, once they know how to use it? If they need to listen to the material again because they don't fully understand it, they can.
Assistive Technology EQUIPS and EMPOWERS students for success and INDEPENDENCE.
We must never lose sight of that reality. While students are receiving the remediation, let's give them opportunities for success and independence by accommodating for the learning challenge. Why does anyone think that depending upon an adult and withholding assistive technology is beneficial?
I don't get it. Let me put my glasses on.... maybe I'll see it a little clearer.
Image credit - uxcell.com
Sunday, February 23, 2014
In reviewing my twitter feed yesterday morning, I came across several articles objecting to "Ed Reform," (what does that term really mean in 2014?), high-stakes testing, Common Core and RTTT. In reading the articles, it repeatedly struck me, none of this benefit kids. Isn't that the point of education - to benefit kids?
What if we simplified our local, state and national education agenda instead to state, "The mission of public education is to ensure all students graduate with a love for lifelong learning?'
How would that change what is happening with educational policies?
Immediately, we would have to do away with high-stakes testing. All the money going into the pockets of the "common core aligned" textbook, curriculum and testing publishers could be diverted to local schools to support whatever it takes to promote a love of learning.
One term we hear repeated is evidence-based practice. How does high-stakes testing support evidence-based practice? How does high-stakes testing promote individual student's love for learning? If you have evidence, please leave it in the comments section. I imagine there will be crickets....
We may feel helpless and hopeless when considering the billions supporting a move away from what is in the best interests of kids. But I have a proposal:
It is time to OPT OUT of the field tests.
It's time to just say "No!" This spring, the PARCC and SBA tests are undergoing field testing. What if we all unite and JUST SAY NO? Why should the testing publishers have free access to our students with no benefit to the students themselves? Compliance never produces anything positive. Isn't it all about critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving and innovation?
It is time to OPT OUT of the field tests.
The PARCC website states, "The PARCC Field Test represents a critical milestone in PARCC's work toward building assessment for the 2014-2015 school year and will give students and local educators the opportunity to experience the administration of PARCC assessments. The Field Test will be conducted in a random selection of schools across PARCC states."
What if we just say no, we don't want our students to experience the administration of PARCC assessments? Where is the benefit for our students?
It is time to OPT OUT of the field tests.
Let's stand up for our students for a change.
Thoughts? Please RT this if you believe this is possible.
Articles that were tweeted by others yesterday:
Statements by CAST about high-stakes testing
Common Core is Tough on Kids with Special Needs
Does CommonCore's focus on close reading make sense?
Boasts about Common Core Aligned Textbooks a Sham
Common Core: Education Without Representation
Sunday, February 09, 2014
In schools, it is about the tools. Are you intentional about your tool choices. Do your students get a say?
When they have trouble writing their ideas because of difficulty forming letters legibly and you only offer paper and pencil, you may be preventing many learners from demonstrating what they know. Some students have difficulty with spelling and their printed word choices don't reflect their vocabulary. (You've said it, "They have great ideas, but they can't get them on paper.") So do you insist that the students in your classroom continue to show you what they know with paper and pencil and worksheets and packets? Do you realize you may be inhibiting their learning?
When you choose to use an interactive whiteboard and do not record the video from your lesson you may be preventing students from learning. When they need repetition and review and all you do is repeat your instruction verbally, you may be preventing students from being in control of their learning. When you have access to an iPad and choose not to create screencasts for later review by students who need previewing, repetition and review, you are missing an opportunity to promote success and independence.
When you repeat your instruction the same way, you may be preventing your learners from engagement and learning. Give options; use multiple methods of presentation and engagement to reach students. They learn best that way.
Be intentional. Offer options. Use a variety of tools to reach all the learners in your classroom.
(To access a list of free tools, check out the UDL Tech Toolkit)
Friday, November 15, 2013
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Please don’t make me read outloud;
Monday, February 04, 2013
If you care about kids please read this. This is an urgent request. The deadline for public comment is today, February 4, by 5:00 PM EST.Today is the last day for Public Comment on Reading Accommodations on the PARCC. Click here to access the accommodations and here to answer the survey. (if you agree with me that this is an important issue, please consider voting NO on the three questions).
The Promise - "When the Race to the Top (RTTT) Assessment applications were announced, all applicants were asked to describe how they would use the principles of universal design for learning (UDL). In the application that won them the grant, PARCC made a commitment to universally design its assessment at every stage." (1) Many educators who work with students who have learning disabilities were excited when we heard the new assessments would be delivered using digital text. The playing field would be leveled using principles of Universal Design. Tools like Text to Speech would be embedded, not an add-in. Students would finally have access to the tools which bypass their challenges, so essential on a high-stakes test.
The Reality - A review of the Proposed Reading Accommodations reveals principles of Universal Design are ignored. Eligibility is very narrowly defined and ignores IEP (Individualized Education Program) team decisions altogether.
The Outcome - Students with disabilities will be set up for failure, especially at the middle and high school levels.
Why Should You Care? - Because your students' futures are at stake. Because we are adding new burdens students need to overcome and ensuring they are unable to achieve a standard diploma.
(The most recent data shows that about 57% of all students on IEP's do NOT graduate from high school with a standard diploma. We will ensure that number remains unchanged if we remove the tools students use to help them bypass their reading challenges and perform successfully on high stakes tests)
Rick Lavoie says, "Fair doesn't mean giving students the same thing; fair means giving students what they NEED." (emphasis mine)
High-stakes tests are a runaway freight train. I can't stop that. But I can implore anyone reading this blog post to do what is right and force PARCC to embed Universal Design principles into their tests.
I envision a day when all students get what they need. Please help this to be more than a pipe dream. This is the right thing to do.
Additional Posts from others:
1. No Walk in the PARCC
2. Under Attack: Your Child's Testing Accommodations (written by the National Center for Learning Disabilities)
(1) - passage from a letter to PARRC from the National UDL Task Force Co-Chairs.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
What does a "good" Assistive Technology evaluation for learning look like?
How does the model used by other special education professionals (Psychologist, Speech and Language Pathologist, Special Educator, etc) influence the current AT Assessment model?
How does the federal mandate that evaluations must be performed in all areas of suspected disability affect our assessments?
Is it time to rethink Assistive Technology evaluations/assessments and create our own model which includes the fact AT consideration/assessment and implementation must be a dynamic and a team process?
Is this too huge a paradigm shift for special education which expects an assessment format to which they are accustomed?
Is this too huge a shift for those of us who specialize in assistive technology to take on?
Should we move away from an "expert" model to something else? What does that look like?
I thank Brian Wojcik for continually challenging my thinking which stimulates more questions and fewer answers.
Monday, January 14, 2013
I've read Alfie Kohn (The Homework Myth).
I've read the counterpoints to his thoughts.
I do understand the importance of math practice, which helps solidify the process of understanding.
But 15 problems?
And the double method for every single problem?
How about this idea - Three problems one method, three problems the other method and then finish three more problems using the method that works best for you. That way, you have time to reflect on what works best for you.
Isn't that the point - we want to help students understand that there is more than one way to reach the solution. Let's help kids identify what works best for them, and encourage them to use that method.
Sunday, December 02, 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
The Read & Write toolbar offers:
- Dual highlighted Text to Speech
- Picture Dictionary (with symbol support for cognitive rescaling)
- Fact Finder (research information)
- Vocabulary Lists
- Collect Highlights
Watch the video to learn more and see how easy it is to help your students access the toolbar and the empowering features.