The Maine Department of Education has partnered with T-Mobile to expand efforts to provide internet access and devices to Maine students through their Project 10Million initiative. If they choose to participate, the program provides mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices directly to school districts for student use.
“We are thrilled to partner with T-Mobile to continue providing opportunities that allow Maine students to stay connected to their teachers, peers, and school communities,” said Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. “The partnership helps to expand our own Connect Kids Now! initiative which supports Maine schools by providing internet connectivity through the pandemic.”
The Connect Kids Now! initiative began in the spring of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic when it became abundantly clear that technology resources were critical in closing the equity of access gap for continued learning for Maine students. In line with this these efforts, T-Mobile’s Project 10Million initiative provides the opportunity for districts in Maine to participate by signing up and choosing from three tiers of service which they can pass on to students at no cost: up to 100GB per year per device for free, or low-cost options for 100GB per month or unlimited data. Part of the commitment of the partnership will be to provide additional devices from T-Mobile over the next five years. T-Mobile will distribute these devices directly to districts and all student households with at least one student participating in the National School Lunch Program are eligible for the program. The Maine DOE will look to include districts based on economic factors such as Title 1 schools, National School Lunch Program eligibility rates, and distressed county designations. Districts can complete an online interest form to participate in the program.
“Partnering with the Maine DOE helps us identify districts and students that will benefit most from Project 10Million and get them the devices and connectivity required to fully participate in school,” said Mike Katz, executive vice president of T-Mobile for Business. “We are grateful to be a part of the solution that Commissioner Makin and her team have put in place to make sure ALL students can access the resources they need to succeed.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently adopted a “Report and Order” that established the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to help lower the cost of high-speed internet for eligible households during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
Benefits of the program include:
Up to $50/month discount for broadband services;
Up to $75/month discount for broadband services for households on Tribal lands; and
A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per eligible household.
A household is eligible if one member of the household:
Qualifies for the Lifeline program, including those who are on Medicaid or receive SNAP benefits;
Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019- 2020 school year;
Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers;
Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year; or
Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
The FCC expects the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to be open to eligible households before the end of April, 2021. Please check the FCC’s website regularly for the latest information. Once up and running, eligible households will be able to enroll through participating broadband providers or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).
Located near Boston, CAST is a nonprofit education research and development organization that created the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and Guidelines, now used the world over to make learning more inclusive.
Register now for the 7th Annual CAST UDL Symposium!
2020 was a year for the history books, challenging us to make dramatic, unexpected changes quickly. We also confirmed that radical change in teaching and learning is possible. But 2020 also illuminated barriers to learning like never before. How do we ensure that the future is intentionally planned in a way that achieves the outcomes we hope for?
The 7th Annual CAST UDL Symposium will highlight promising work taking place in the field and will also serve as a forum to think about how we can begin to intentionally design for a better future right now. This year’s event is not about UDL as it has always been done. It is about the dramatic changes that we hope to see in the future and the innovations that can lead us there. Join us for a learning and networking experience filled with connected conversations that elevate our thinking around UDL and the future designed.
Apple has published a new resource for educators about using iPad for learning. Separated into four sections: Connect, Collaborative, Creative, and Personal, the resource PDF provides information on topics such as accessibility, productivity, creative projects for learners and apps for education. In addition, the resource provides links to free curricular and learning resources and professional learning opportunities.
The American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project (ACB-ADP) and the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) are cosponsoring an exciting opportunity for young people who are blind and visually impaired: The Benefits of Audio Description in Education (BADIE) contest. Students aged 7 to 21 can participate in one of four categories.
Multimedia experiences are integral to public, private, and special education curriculum. Audio description provides access to all the visual images of the films and videos that young people who are sighted enjoy.
Students can choose a described video from the thousands of titles available through DCMP, libraries, or video streaming services.
Reviews can be submitted in writing, in braille, or via an audio recording. Entries can also be submitted via email or postal mail.
Deadline for entries is Friday, January 22, 2021. Contest winners in each category will be chosen by February 19, 2021, and the grand-prize winner will receive an iPad Mini! Each first-place winner will receive a $100 iTunes gift card. Second-place winners will receive a $50 iTunes gift card, and the third-place winners will receive a $25 iTunes gift card. Each supporting teacher who has a first-place winning student will be awarded a $100 Amazon gift card.
Meet CAST’s team of friendly Technical Assistance Specialists at the AEM Café!
Every first Thursday of the month 4:00 – 5:00 pm ET
How are you approaching accessibility in your learning environment? Are you stuck in a rut? Need some new ideas? Struggling with a challenge? Eager to share a new idea or strategy with others?
Every first Thursday of the month from 4:00 – 5:00 pm ET, we’ll focus on a topic, share some little-known resources from the AEM Center, and the rest is up to you. Show up, chat, ask questions, or just listen to the conversation. The AEM Café is open and ready to welcome you!
Some schools are offering blended learning where students spend a few days in down-sized classrooms and the other days doing online classes from home. Still other schools are starting with 100% distance learning and then phasing in on-site classes to small cohorts of students in “learning pods.”
No matter what the school environment looks like, the stakes are even higher for students with learning differences. How can teachers provide books in alternate formats so students with reading barriers like dyslexia, blindness, and cerebral palsy can complete assignments, no matter where and how learning is taking place?
To help teachers prepare for a successful back to school, the Bookshare staff has assembled a collection of valuable resources, tips, step-by-step guides, video tutorials, curated reading lists, and webinars. Visit the back-to-school resource page for details…
Recent federal statutory developments have impacted the provision of accessible educational materials, specifically those sourced from NIMAS files. The following changes mean that certain aspects of the AEM Navigator are now outdated:
Definitions of key NIMAS-related terms have been updated.
The NIMAC is now permitted to accept NIMAS files sourced from digital instructional materials.
Second, the U.S. Department of Education recently published a Notice of Interpretation in the Federal Register permitting the NIMAC to accept NIMAS files sourced from digital instructional materials. Previously, as reflected throughout the AEM Navigator, the NIMAC was permitted to accept NIMAS files from print instructional materials only. We are currently working with our stakeholders to develop new guidance and technical assistance to support educators with navigating a student’s need for accessible materials, whether those materials start as print or as digital.
We look forward to providing you with a new version of the AEM Navigator. The timeline primarily depends on when the Library of Congress publishes procedures related to the new term “eligible person.” While we don’t expect to be able to replace the AEM Navigator Online Tool due to the technology now being outdated, we will certainly build the best experience possible for you and your team.
If you have questions or comments regarding upcoming changes to the AEM Navigator, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Described and Captioned Media Program is the nation’s leading source for accessible educational content, providing services for students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.
Families and school personnel with early learners through Grade 12 students can register for free access to over 6,000 Educational Media titles on-demand and on DVD. The DCMP Learning Center contains a wealth of information related to education, accessibility, deafness, blindness, and other related topics. DCMP provides Media Accessibility Guidelines through their Captioning Key and Description Key, used by media professionals as well as amateurs around the world.
DCMP membership provides unlimited access to thousands of accessible educational videos. We’re fully funded by the U.S. Department of Education, so there are no costs associated with any of our services. Family members, school personnel, and other professionals who work with early learners through Grade 12 students with a hearing or vision loss do qualify for membership.
Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by Hero Images