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Accessible Instructional Materials: Past, Present, & Future
There’s no doubt that the process surrounding the consideration and acquisition of accessible instructional materials (AIM) can cause a person’s head to spin faster than a set of Goodyear tires on Dr. Emmett Brown’s Delorean DMC-12 racing to 88 miles per hour. Over the past 7 years I have immersed myself with the policies and procedures for provisioning AIM to qualifying students within Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). It has been a wild ride filled with many challenges and even more ...
Bleeding Hearts for Accessibility
Some asked, “Will the Internet collapse?” Now just over three weeks into the public’s awareness of the Heartbleed Bug, the collapse brought consciousness to millions about the need for increased protection. The panic has subsided, but the undercurrent of worry still persists, especially for our students who rely on technology for their academic success. From our perspective, a network security’s focus on keeping people out seems at odds with accessibility’s focus on inclusivity. How do we ...
Getting Educated from the Educators: The CSUN Conference
While we were ecstatic to beat the East Coast winter by traveling to San Diego, the conference is more than just a warm destination. It’s an experience that creates channels between technology developers, accessibility experts, skilled testers, educators, and people with disabilities. More formally known as the 29th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego, it is a gathering unique in its foundation of inclusivity and innovation. CSUN is the fusion ...
Calling All Early Childhood Special Educators: What’s in Your Assistive Technology Toolbox?
We have had the opportunity to visit many Special Education Early Childhood classrooms (ECSE)and talk to many teachers in our district. Assistive technology (AT) plays an essential role for student participation and success. The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) provides many toolkits for educators (visit ). Although many classrooms have individual students that need specific assistive technologies written in their IEP that ensures their individual success wouldn’t it be proactive ...
Creating MATHLIT Kits: Math Assistive Technology Hands-On Literature Integration Tool Kits Part II: High-Tech Tools
The work of Marilyn Burns supports linking math instruction to children’s literature to spark interest in learning mathematics by building confidence of students who are wary of math, providing real world contexts that bring meaning to math ideas, stimulating student’s imagination, and offering a natural way to connect the abstract ideas, language, and symbols of mathematics to a context that they understand. (For more information visit ) MATHLIT Kits : Math Assistive Technology Hands-On L...
Creating MATHLIT Kits: Math Assistive Technology Hands-On Literature Integration Tool Kits Part 1: Low-Tech Tools
We hope you’ve had a chance to read last week’s outstanding posting to this Microsoft Hot Topics Accessibility blog by our colleagues, Judith Schoonover and Sally Norton-Darr, titled See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Hear Me: Adapting Books for Diverse Learners. They described a wide variety of ways to make books accessible for all learners through multisensory adaptations. Using these strategies, our Loudoun County Public Schools Assistive Technology Team has created numerous adapted book kits that ...
Get Funding for Mobile Whiteboard Technology: A Portable and Effective Solution for Students with Disabilities
Benefits of Going Mobile Academic curriculum requirements for students moves rapidly and nobody wants to be behind. The conventional method of presenting lessons in a classroom through visual and auditory means isn’t always the most effective method for students, especially those with disabilities. Fortunately, in this era of rapidly changing education, mobile whiteboard technology plays a key role in providing educators with the tools and skills to address the multiple modalities needed to ...
See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Hear Me: Adapting Books for Diverse Learners
We just flew in from ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association) in Orlando, and boy, are our arms tired (ba-dum-bump). But seriously folks, we had a great time presenting with Mike Marotta on Building Books Page-by-Page: Becoming Your Own Digital Publisher! Adapting books has been a passion of ours since our first ATIA Conference in 2007 when we attended a session by the Jessamine County Assistive Technology team called Buckets of Literacy™. This session introduced us to buckets filled ...
Introducing our guest bloggers, Karen Dietrich and Stacy McBain, from Loudoun County Public Schools!
We are pleased to introduce our latest guest bloggers, Karen Dietrich and Stacy McBain, who are members of our Loudoun County Public Schools Assistive Technology team. Check out their posting on What are Digital Portfolios and How Can We Use Them (More Effectively)? Their links include their presentation that describes how educators can create digital portfolios to document their students' progress, and quick tutorials on tools and resources to help create the portfolios. These tools have been ...
Introducing our guest blogger, Dr. Kristine Neuber, from George Mason University!
If you haven't had a chance yet to read Kristine's wonderful posting on Strategies for Improving Organization and Time Management for Students with Executive Functioning Deficit, please do so now. You'll be glad you did! These are very "timely" topics. It's jam-packed with important and practical information that can benefit us as educators, as well as our students! Here's her bio: Kristine is a faculty member at George Mason University and teaches courses in the Assistive Technology Master’s ...
Thinking Outside the Touchscreen Box
“Vision Free Users”. I encountered this phrase on a message board, and I paused. The phrase ‘hands free’ is commonplace, especially with driving laws. ‘Vision Free’ is more than a pitch to sell headsets and earpieces—it’s an identity. Earlier, I went on a quest of using tablets with Ease of Access. Yet, “Vision Free” describes a specific person—a powerhouse user of technology. Despite the seeming importance of a visual display, it can be bypassed through assistive technology. Touchscreens are ...
2014 Trends in Assistive Technology for Schools and Parents
Along with the dizzying pace of technology adoption in the classroom, we’re excited about the progress in using Assistive Technology for special needs students. More students will benefit from the tech advances if schools and parents are constantly looking for and tracking new tech devices and new ways to use the devices to make sure that special needs children truly maximize their individual learning experience. Here are four AT trends to follow this year: Sensory enhancers: Depending on each...
Happy New Year! Thanks for a Great Year in 2013 and More to Come in 2014...
What a wonderful year for the Blog in 2013! In 2014, there is even more great information and discussions planned for you on accessibility, assistive technology and universal design for learning! We would like to take the time to reflect and thank all of our guest bloggers who made this blog a success in 2013! We started out the fall season with Chris Bugaj spreading the professional development virus in October. Then Dr. Kathleen Puckett shared wonderful ways to build leadership skills! Chris...
Part 2: Tablet Accessibility Tips for Students with Disabilities
You can find Part One of our post : --My journey begins with locating Ease of Access. Typically, I would get there by swiping my fingers. Not today. I first traveled using a shortcut with the On-Screen Keyboard. A timesaver for some, shortcuts are a boon to students who are blind or have cognitive disabilities. Keeping keyboard shortcuts standardized ensures that Windows Key + U always Ease of Access, whether you’re on a tablet or notebook. I’m now in Ease of Access, as announced audibly by ...
Tablet Accessibility Tips for Students with Disabilities
Tablets are the curious, in-between, middle ground of computing technology. Papa Bear can be the desktop or laptop--Too hot! Mama Bear can be the smart phone--Too cold! Our protagonist, Baby Bear is that ‘just right’ tablet. Tablets are a wonderful compromise of size, portability, and power; and as a result, tablet ownership, especially in education, has never been more popular. They are becoming a classroom accommodation that offers learning potential not just in school, but as tools at home. ...
Time to Vote! EduBlog Awards -Best Group Blog!
EduBlog Awards- Best Group Blog! The voting has begun and we appreciate your support! Take a minute and vote for the Partners in Learning Hot Topics Accessibility Blog to win the Edublog Best Group Blog 2013. The link below will take you to The EduBlog Best Group Blog finalist page. Scroll to our entry that looks like this... Once you vote for Best Group Blog be sure to vote for all those other wonderful resources that we menitioned by visiting EduBlog Awards main page ...
How Assistive Technology Can Benefit Students both in the Classroom and at Home
When we discuss assistive technology in schools and at home, we might think first about children with special needs. However, assistive tech can help both students with special needs like those with difficulty speaking or students without special needs but who have difficulty with reading, communicating or typing. The best assistive tech is built into computers, tablets and other mobile devices that can help teachers to accommodate all students in one setting. Including students with different ...
Follow Up Fridays - Quick Solutions for Providing Feedback to Professional Development Participants
New initiatives in schools range anywhere from a quarterly to an annual event. Some welcome the constant change while others wonder why they are moving on before the previous initiative had a chance to take off. Regardless of what new initiative may be coming next, one necessary component that is almost always involved is professional development. Professional Development for staff has historically been thought of as a face-to-face event that occurs during the work day or after school once ...
Happens Once a Year!
Edublog Award Nominations 2013 ====================================================================== No, we are not talking about Thanksgiving! Thanks should be given every day throughout the year! We are talking about the Edublog Awards. The purpose of the Edublog Awards is to promote and demonstrate the educational value of social media. We wanted to share this information with you because it is a great way to learn about Top Blogs! Chris Bugaj was our first guest blogger, with amazing ...
Multifunctionality in the Accessible World
The time has come for a union of technology that enables access to information from the non AT world. Single devices covering many functions and combining size, cost and access to standard equipment is quickly becoming the norm. This includes multifunctional software and hardware. Three things to consider when adapting new technology: • Multiple Uses • Learning Curve • Life Cycle For instance: Does your Braille printer have graphics capability? Does it have ink and color? Will it print two ...
Visual Access Using Zoom and Magnifier
We recently had an opportunity to explore assistive technology (AT) supports to help a first grade student who has a visual impairment access the Internet. She already had some wonderful supports in place. Her teachers had set up the Display options on her PC with a lower screen resolution that increased the size of the screen elements, including desktop icons, folders, and font size. They had increased the default Zoom level for viewing web pages to a higher percentage and increased the text ...
Dr. Kathleen Puckett: On the Road to Building Leadership Skills - 10 Positive Steps
The Partners in Learning (PIL) Hot Topics blogs designated the topic of Leadership as the theme for the month of October. Good leadership is essential to success! All throughout the PIL Hot Topic blogs, you will see a common thread or discussion of leadership. It is so important that there is even a Leadership Hot Topics blog. Cindy and I would like to introduce you to Dr. Kathleen Puckett. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Kathleen on national presentations and see her leadership in ...
Chris Bugaj: Spreading the Virus - Professional Development So Easy, a Zombie Could Do It
Can you believe that the end of October is almost here? Halloween is just around the corner! We are just getting back into our routine after attending one of the best professional development opportunities – the Closing the Gap assistive technology conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We had a wonderful time meeting other professionals in the field. We also did a presentation on MATHLIT Kits: Math Assistive Technology Hands-On Literacy Integration Tools. It is always great to learn and share ...
A Successful Blog = Collaboration, Ongoing Conversation, and Mutual Sharing of Resources!
We are thrilled to have this opportunity to be moderators for the Microsoft Partners in Learning Hot Topics Accessibility blog and to build on the foundation that former moderator Valeska Gioia has set. In this blog, we plan to share information and resources on incorporating Assistive Technology (AT) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to help learners with diverse learning styles, skills, and challenges in accessing their education. We’d like to start by telling you a little bit about our...
Back to School: Personalizing technology for individual needs and preferences
This month the nation’s children head back to school—many equipped with powerful new technology unimagined a decade or two ago. Technology plays a huge role in both teaching and learning, and is becoming more and more adaptable to personal needs and preferences. Students now routinely use technology to gather information, complete and submit school work, and enjoy interactive and stimulating lessons. For students with disabilities, computers are often the most essential tool they can employ for ...
Built In Microsoft Accessibility Options for Students with Visual Impairments
Working as an Assistive Technology Specialist, I’ve helped many students with visual impairments find the right technology to help in the classroom and at home. Visual impairments range from mild to profound and many of Microsoft’s Accessibility Options can make a big difference to an individual with a visual impairment. We will look at these various options, how they can be implemented, and what students prefer in the academic setting. Signs of Visual Impairment: Eyes that don’t move together ...
Thanks Tara and Cindy!!
I just want to follow-up on Dr. Tara Jeffs and Dr. Cynthia Feist's blogs on how to access science and math with the use of various assistive technology resources. It’s amazing what students can accomplish with the technology that is readily available in their classrooms now. Tara and Cindy have us excellent examples of Universal Design for Learning and giving students multiple ways to represent what they have learned. We need to get past the basic paper and pencil testing and realize that all...
New Accessibility Resources available for Educators from Microsoft
With the release of the new , we are excited to tell you what our new products offer in the area of Accessibility. This 4th edition covers Windows 8, Office 2013, Office 365 and Kinect for Xbox360. In addition, this version includes some best practices as shared by some of our valued PiL educators who have also blogged her on the PiL Hot Topic of Accessibility. The Guide has been published as a download and links have been updated on: • • • In celebration of the new guide we’ve decided ...
Using Microsoft Tools to Provide Access to Math and Science for Diverse Learners Day 5
UDL and OneNote Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles are the foundation for reaching and teaching diverse learners. Val shared in earlier posts: Universal Design for Learning - Providing Options for Action and Expression and Universal Design for Learning - Multiple Means of Engagement. If you haven't read them take a minute to do so! Microsoft Office Suite offers amazing tools that enable us to integrate the UDL Principles. One of the newest tools that we are excited about using this ...
Using Microsoft Tools to Provide Access to Math and Science for Diverse Learners: Day 2
Creating Item Banks Virtual Manipulatives and Customized Graph Paper in MS Word Individuals who have motor or sensory challenges may have difficulty with pencil and paper activities or handling math or science manipulatives, making it difficult for them to express their knowledge. Microsoft Word has wonderful features that enable you to easily create adapted lessons, worksheets, assessments, and other learning materials for individuals to independently access and manipulate. These UDL features ...
Introducing Two Guest Bloggers, Dr. Tara Jeffs and Dr. Cynthia Feist
I am thrilled to introduce two new guest bloggers, Dr. Tara Jeffs and Dr. Cynthia Feist. They have made quite an impact to those they have worked with in regards to assistive technology and continue to research the best assistive technologies that can help students in all academic settings. Thank you Tara and Cindy for contributing to Microsoft Partners in Learning! To all of the readers out there, please spread the word about our Accessibility Blog for it is so important for all educators to ...
Assistive Technology is CRUCIAL for Struggling Readers!
When we think of assistive technology, we usually think of students that have moderate to profound disabilities or individuals that have limited mobility, such as those individual that have suffered spinal cord injuries. Assistive technology is extremely important for people with moderate to profound disabilities for access to everything, but what about the students with learning disabilities? The high-incidence group that is in every classroom? Do they need assistive technology and ...
Don’t Be Scared of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan
The Individual Education Plan (IEP) can be overwhelming for all those involved in the educational community. General education teachers that haven’t received adequate training in this area are sometimes lost when they attend IEP meetings and when they have to read and implement an IEP for a specific student. Some of the best advice that I can offer is to make sure that if a student in your classroom has an IEP, try to become familiar with the contents and if you are unsure about anything, talk...
Successful Individuals with Disabilities and Disability Awareness for All of Us
It was such an honor to be featured on Edventures and I really think that more individuals are looking at this blog because of it. There was a post by a gentleman named Daniel Hubbell and it was so good to see. He was writing about how important assistive technology is, especially to students, and how this technology is ever-changing but necessary to keep up with for the success of all our students. Though education is my major focus, we will all need some type of assistive technology in the ...
WHY SHOULD EDUCATORS EVEN CARE ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY?
In your classroom, you will have students who struggle, students who are not yet diagnosed with various disabilities, such as Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, Autism, mild-to-moderate visual impairments (even color blindness), and many more disabilities that impede their learning process. These are the children that just seem to “get by”. What we don’t realize is that these students just need the opportunity to learn to show that they are capable! One of the problems is that these disabilities are "invisible...
How Can we Teach Our Students the Best Way They Learn with Assistive Technology?
Last week in my post, I wrote about Universal Design for Learning, what it was and how you can use it in the classroom. I also explained that there are many teachers that are already using this concept without even knowing it. What I love about Microsoft Accessibility Options is that we can give students accessibility in the classroom without much cost, for most of us have computers and Microsoft has continually improved their products throughout the years. When I conduct workshops for ...
What Exactly is Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom ?
What’s great about educators in this day and age is that they really want to help all students to achieve success academically. One of the ways to do this and to make all the difference to a student who is having problems is to use the Universal Design for Learning. Cast.org is a wonderful website where educators can go to learn all about UDL. It has a myriad of articles and tutorials and research studies all about how to level the playing field for all students. What UDL focuses on is Multiple ...
Investigating assistive technologies
Greetings!! My name is Valeska Gioia and I’m an Assistive Technology Specialist and have been in this field for approximately ten years. I’m originally from New York but relocated to South Carolina about seven-years ago and my background is in special education. I’ve worked with many students with mild to profound disabilities and I know that all students can experience success if they have the right tools to help them. Assistive technology is growing by leaps and bounds and I love getting to ...