Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Putting the Pedal to the Metal to Share Inclusive Learning and Design!

 Excited to share about an epic adventure the four co-authors of Inclusive Learning 365 have planned. It's always an experience attending #ISTE, one of our favorite conferences. So we had to be a force for inclusive learning and design and have planned a road trip from TextHelp Headquarters in Woburn, MA all the way to New Orleans for #ISTE.

Our mission is to accelerate awareness of inclusive strategies among educators, everywhere! We need you to add your favorite traveling songs to our Spotify playlist, give us podcast ideas and participate in WISH (Wonderfully Inclusive Scavenger Hunt), and of course, spread the word!

To learn more, check this out.

#ISTElive #InclusiveRoadToISTE #EdTech #inclusivedesign #educationalleadership

Sunday, June 12, 2022


Register and join the fun with the co-authors of Inclusive Learning 365 as we share more details about the #InclusiveRoadToISTE!


Thursday, June 09, 2022

Road Trip to ISTE!

We are excited to announce that we (the four co-authors of Inclusive Learning 365: EdTech Strategies for Every Day of the Year) are going on a ROAD TRIP! 

We want to spread the gospel of Inclusive Learning to educators everywhere. What better way than to have an epic adventure with my besties on a road trip from Boston to the #ISTE22 conference in New Orleans at the end of June!

Stay tuned for more info. There's lots to share and look for more information this next week. 

In the meantime, check out the website and the details here

 We are putting the pedal to the metal to accelerate awareness of inclusive strategies at ISTE 2022!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Ten Minute Teacher Podcast with Vicki Davis - 365 Inclusive Learning Strategies

Image of Karen Janowski on right side with text that says 365 Inclusive Learning Strategies that Help every child.
Excited to share this podcast recording with Vicki Davis, Cool Cat Teacher. Loved discussing Inclusive Learning Strategies with Vicki, another passionate educator who makes a huge difference!  

365 Inclusive Learning Strategies to Help Every Child @coolcatteacher

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Learners are Amazing

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

Check out how to turn on and customize closed caption/subtitles in YouTube.

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

Inclusive Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Resources to Reach All Learners (Middle and High School)

     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
The short video below demonstrates several of the features. 

    There are texts supporting all content areas for working with learners in grades three through twelve. I highly recommend CommonLit to add to your inclusive instructional materials toolkit. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Awesome Tools for Connecting With Your Learners During Remote Learning

The ability to communicate and connect with your learners with ease is essential during this time of remote learning. You know how important it is to build community and reduce stress and anxiety, even from a distance. But how is that possible when you are no longer able to be in the classroom with your students? The loss of face to face connections is disruptive and difficult, especially for some of our youngest learners. 
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
2.  SeeSaw - SeeSaw allows you to quickly create a video announcement to send out to your students and families. To do this, Select Add (+) > Send Announcement > Add Attachment, Record your Video and then send it out to your students and families. 
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

4. BookCreator - Book Creator offers the opportunity to embed videos in a book you create and share with your students. Book Creator has made collaboration available at no cost for the rest of the school year. There are unlimited ways to use this feature to help your students connect with you and each other. 

5. Embed a video message in any presentation tool you use such as Google Slides or PowerPoint in Office 365 and share it with your students using Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams. 

You may also offer office hours to offer synchronous connections with your students. Asynchronous contact can be just as vital for check-ins and positive messages.
Please share any other ideas you are using. We are all in this together, sharing our great ideas to reach all learners!

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Technology for Specific Learning Disabilities - Save the Date - August 26th

Recognizing the need for a specialized conference addressing the unique needs of learners with specific learning differences, Mike Marotta and I have decided to pioneer a new conference and you are invited to attend. IDEA defines SLD as follows: 
Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
Disorders not included. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
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....

Just because you don't know how to use BookShare or Learning Ally doesn't mean your students don't need these resources to independently access grade-level books.

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

Accessing BookShare Texts

My last blog post was all about Bookshare - who qualifies, how to enroll students, how to use the digital text repository (now with over 671, 000 books!), and how to provide your students with their own "library" of preferred books within the website. It is important to know what options there are to access the digital text. The website offers information here.

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
voices available using this free tool which offers dual color highlighting for students as they follow along with the text. It is possible to change the voice and voice rate setting. This method can work well during silent reading time (with earbuds).

Voice Dream Reader icon

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 icon
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

Bookshare: A Necessary Resource for your Students with Print Disabilities

We are several weeks into the new school year and I want to make sure all your students who qualify have been provided membership to an outstanding free resource. Have you signed them up for, a digital library of over 656,000 titles and counting? If not, it has NEVER been easier to enroll students who qualify.

Who qualifies for 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

Changing the Default Settings in Google Docs

Here's a short video I created to demonstrate how to change the default setting in Google Docs. It's not an intuitive process so make sure you watch it and share the technique with all your students.
Three reasons.
  1. 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.
  2. More WHITE SPACE. Google defaults to 1.15. Change it to 1.5 or double spacing, especially for elementary age students.
  3. 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. 

Hope you share this tip with all students!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


It's been too long.
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

Not all Crutches are Bad

Have you ever heard teachers (or parents) disparagingly call the use of assistive technology a crutch?

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:

Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Best Job

Have I ever written that I absolutely LOVE what I do? That the ability to impact students through the use of technology is the greatest job ever? That effective technology implementation removes the obstacles to academic success and promotes independence? That it doesn't matter what a student's evaluation scores show, we still presume competence and can change lives through technology?

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

Does (Assistive) Technology Make a Difference?

Does assistive technology make a difference? Don't take my word for it.

Ask the fifth-grade student who typically took four months to read one book and was finally able to read four books in one month because of her use of technology (VoiceDream Reader with Bookshare membership). She recommended books to her friends. How do you think she felt being able to do that for the first time ever?

Ask the high school student  with written expression challenges who received support through the Insert Comments feature in Google Docs. He stated, "I'm getting help when I'm writing instead of after I'm done." 

Ask the high school autistic student who up until that time was dependent on others for being his voice since he wasn't provided with the technology he needed. For the first time, he could use his device and finally tell someone, "Leave me alone!" 

Ask the elementary age student who had a meltdown any time he was asked to write. He used recording technology and was able to independently record his thoughts instead of needing to dictate to an adult (which promoted dependence).

Ask the student who is now able to use vocabulary which reflects his superior language skills when composing text instead of using words that he was able to spell independently. (Word prediction or spellcheck built-in Google Docs)

Ask the student who is now recording his thoughts for the first time instead of having to be dependent on someone else who scribes for him. 

Ask the 18-year-old student who struggled with significant reading issues (reading at a second grade level) but felt successful when he read grade level text by adjust the visual presentation and reading rate to what worked for him. (Very large font size and focused reading screen with only two words on a line).

Ask the ninth grade student who saw the font size in the print copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and dreaded trying to read through the text on his own and then was introduced to a reading app. He listened to the book while he followed the text and described it as the best book he ever read.

Ask the senior in high school who attends a very prestigious school for students with learning disabilities who was introduced to assistive technology the summer before his senior year and asked, "Why didn't anyone show me these things earlier?"

Ask the middle school student who doesn't want to be seen as different but realizes the use of technology makes learning possible. Why is he in an environment where he is "different"? Why don't we make technology available to everyone, embedded, proactive, universal, adjusting to variability within our classrooms? This is Universal Design for Learning.

Ask the brilliant high school student with dysgraphia resulting in illegible handwriting which interfered with his ability to demonstrate his learning in AP calculus. He was introduced to technology which bypassed his challenges and excelled (Efofex).

Ask the student who was given packets and packets of worksheets and information that was paper-based and was provided a device (iPad with specific apps) which stored all his materials. He no longer struggled with managing his materials and kept them organized in folders on his device. No more zeroes for failing to hand in completed assignments.

Does (Assistive) Technology make a difference in the lives of students? It's a resounding, "Yes!" So why don't all students who need it have access to it? I will try to answer that question in another post. 

It is time to ensure all students have access to the technology they need. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Wonders of Wonderopolis: Great Tool for Universal Design

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 customizable text to speech added to every article using RealSpeaker, text to speech. There are videos and a word bank with definitions for every article. It is created with universal design features which can benefit all students.

Take a look and share with your families. It's a great site to explore. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Almost Best Collection of Apps and Extensions for Special Education

Do you spend a lot of time searching for the most effective apps/extensions for your students? With thousands to choose from, how do you decide?

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:

  • 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.
  • AzTech Crazy for Chrome - A Symbaloo collections of recommended Chrome Apps and Extensions for struggling learners. 
Of course, when considering tool recommendations, it is essential to ask What tasks does the student need to perform that are difficult or impossible? How do we build upon the student's strengths to promote engagement, success, independence and a joy for learning? It's not just about the tool, but for many students, the tool makes things possible. 

Are there any outstanding lists I've missed? Add your recommendations in the comments section. I love to learn from others.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Our classrooms are the only places where our students still live in the 20th Century. -  Dave Warlick

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. 
- Albert Einstein

Fair doesn’t mean giving every child the same thing, it means giving every child what they need. 
- Rick Lavoie

Spelling is the spoiler of thought.
- Richard Wanderman

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Teaching Note Taking Skills

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 -

Monday, August 04, 2014

Reaching the Quiet Ones

Class participation. Often included as part of a student's cumulative grade. How do you ensure student participation?

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:

  1. They may need additional time to process the information you are requesting. And additional time to process their response. #processingspeed
  2. They may have anxiety about speaking in the classroom. #anxiety 
  3. They may be afraid of embarrassing themselves if they say something that is "incorrect."#avoidhumiliationatallcosts
  4. They may have developed a fixed mindset which prevents them from feeling they have anything of value to contribute to the discussion. #mindset
  5. 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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. Use resources such as Socrative or Nearpod which allow all students to participate using a variety of devices. 
  5. Allow for alternative methods of expression to demonstrate learning, using multimedia.
  6. 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 -

Saturday, June 07, 2014


Are you dependent upon glasses to read this post? Great! Hope you have them on because I want you to read it, especially if you are someone who thinks it's a bad thing when students need a tool to help them read the curriculum.

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.
 No issues.

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 -

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Is it Time to Just Say NO?

(disclaimer: the following views are entirely my own)

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

Tools Matter

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

Awesome Tools for Cognitive Rescaling

There are numerous options for meeting the needs of all learners in our classrooms. One area that teachers often find challenging is how to adjust the reading level or adapt the content for students who are English Language Learners, have intellectual disabilities or need information cognitively rescaled for any reason.
Here are some free tools to try:

1. When conducting a Google Search, did you know you can adjust your search by reading level? Learn how to do that here. This can be invaluable for many students.

2. Did you know Wikipedia offers a more user friendly version for students who need information simplified called Simple English Wikipedia? Here's the home page to explore more.

3. Auto summarize tools scale back the amount of information a student must decode and comprehend. Two free autosummarize tools are TextCompactor and TLDR - Chrome  (Too Long, Didn't Read) TLDR - Firefox.

4. A fantastic tool which modifies language in classic books, online articles or web sites is Rewordify. " is powerful, free, online reading comprehension and vocabulary development software. It helps people understand difficult English faster, helps them learn words in new ways, and helps teachers create high-interest learning materials from any English text passage." There are several customizable features worth checking out. DEFINITELY watch the video to learn more about this amazing tool.  You may want to insert the text you autosummarized and then rewordify for your students.  

5. Of course, online videos also provide a multisensory approach to teaching skills and should be utilized to help students understand new content. Don't ignore these resources (YouTube, Vimeo, etc)

6. Screencasts are great resources for students who require preview, review, and repetition (typical IEP Accommodations). Some of my favorites are Jing for my Mac and EduCreations and Explain Everything ($2.99) for my iPad. 

Finally, I have to mention an excellent resource from Don Johnston called Start-to-Finish Books. Now that it is available as an online (paid) subscription, it is more accessible to more students who need this type of text adaptation. It's an excellent library of about 95 books for inclusive classrooms. 

This is just a starting place. Please add your favorites.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Letter to my Teacher

Dear Teacher,

I want to learn

I want to be independent, but
Sometimes your curriculum is the disability.

When you give it to me in paper form, I can’t access it.

When text is digital, I can manipulate it. I can make it bigger, pick the right font, 
add more white space – it’s easier to read.

When text is digital, I can add a voice and listen to it.
I don’t have to struggle with reading each word.

Please don’t make me read outloud;
I work so hard to avoid humiliation.

Do you know,  I have great ideas…but I can’t get them down on paper?
Please give me another way to share them. Paper just doesn't work for me.

I need you to know……I’m  not stupid……I want to learn
You just have to remove the barriers for me.

I can’t read my own writing but there are other ways…..  
Give me other ways to show what I know.

I can’t sit still….so let me move.

Do you know, I really, really want to learn?

If you make videos of your instruction, I can review them at home….as often as I need to.
I want to learn
I want to be independent
Don’t put me on the bell curve, put me on the J- curve – it shows you want me to learn, too.
Will you teach me
                        Reach me
                                    Engage me                              

  in a way that works for me?