Microsoft Studies AT for Education

PowerPoint logoMicrosoft recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact™ Analysis of Microsoft Accessibility And Assistive Technologies For Education to quantify the benefits of Microsoft accessibility tools for students, teachers and schools.

According to the news release from Microsoft, “Forrester conducted numerous interviews across K-12, Higher Education, and an alternative school.  These schools were using the built-in accessibility tools that are offered with our Microsoft 365 platform, including Office 365 and Windows 10.  These schools represent over 90,000 students and 5000 faculty and staff.”

The research showed the following barriers to implementing Assistive Technology in schools:

  • Existing solutions could not be widely deployed and often had a stigma associated with them
  • Learning experiences could be disjointed and distracting
  • Technology costs and effort were too high.

Microsoft reported that “the study revealed that by deploying and using Microsoft Accessibility and assistive technology tool… schools can improve student learning, reduces costs and effort, and save time and be more effective.”

Read the complete news release from Microsoft…

New EdTech Publications Emphasize Inclusion

From State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and National Center for Learning Disabilities:

June 7, 2019 – Eleven national organizations have come together to outline a new vision for education technology in a series of publications that explore conception, design, procurement, use, and continuous improvement of ed tech initiatives.

The collaborative publications build off a central report, “Inclusive Technology in a 21st Century Learning System”, by Ace Parsi, Director of Innovation at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). The report lays out a new inclusive vision for educational technology and considerations to ensure technology closes educational, economic, and civic opportunity gaps for individuals with disabilities.

The complimentary local and state/national briefs were developed in collaboration between the following organizations:

  • Policy and Research Organizations:  The American Institute for Research, Digital Promise, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, and The Learning Accelerator
  • Associations Representing Local Policy Leaders: CoSN – Consortium for School Networking, the School Superintendent Association and Association of School Business Officials International;
  • Associations Representing State Policy Makers:  National Association of State Directors of Special Education, the State Education Technology Directors Association, and the National Association of State Boards of Education;
  • National Policy and Advocacy Organizations: The Alliance for Excellent Education, the Future Ready Schools initiative, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

“Working together with these 10 other organizations sets a prime example of how all decision makers should be working together to ensure the needs of all learners are truly being met,” noted Lindsay Jones, CEO of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

“These publications provide information and guidance to educational leaders to effectively leverage education technology to meet the needs of all learners, particularly those with disabilities,” said Tracy Gray, Managing Director at the American Institute for Research.

Use this link to read the entire news release and learn more about this topic..

Accessible Media and Services for Students

Blind person walking in mall with guide dogThe Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) is a leading national 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. DCMP’s Learning Center contains a wealth of information related to education, accessibility, deafness, blindness, and other related topics. DCMP provides Media Accessibility Guidelines through our Captioning Key and Description Key, used by media professionals as well as amateurs around the world.

The Described and Captioned Media Program provides premium media designed for students with disabilities and leads as a resource for families and teachers, supported by the federal Department of Education.

A recent additions to their website, Is Your Student Ready for What Comes Next? provides a set of resources to assist students in the Transition process. Some of the resources include:

  • Map It: What Comes Next is a free, online, interactive training designed for transition-aged students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • The Getting a Job! online training was developed and designed for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and the professionals who work with them.  Focusing on the transition from school to work, the training offers a series of activities, supporting documents and topical videos designed to help the job seeker prepare for the world of work.  All the videos in the modules are presented in ASL, and are also voiced in English and captioned.

Additional videos and resources include:

  • Real Life 101: College Prep – With college just ahead of them, the hosts visit with some people who help students prepare for this milestone.
  • Real Life 101: Vocational Training – In this video a career planner discusses how to find the right career for the right person.
  • Paying Your Way Through College – This video helps viewers understand four-key financial aid sources: scholarships, grants, work-study, and student loans.
  • Biz Kid$ – Public television’s Emmy Award-winning financial education series of 65 videos for teens and preteens. Each video has a lesson guide, and the Biz Kid$ website has many additional ideas for learning activities.

Most of the resources on the website require a FREE DCMP membership which may be applied for on the site.

New Report Providing a Snapshot of Trends in State K12 Instructional Materials

Updated Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS) Online Portal

Student using iPad to readApril 1, 2019 (Washington, D.C.) – SETDA, the principal membership association of the U.S. state and territorial digital learning leaders, today announced the release of a new report, State K12 Instructional Materials Leadership Trends Snapshot and updates to the free, online tool to support the implementation of digital instructional materials, Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS). Educators, policy makers and the private sector will benefit from organized and accessible information highlighting trends regarding the acquisition of digital instructional materials, including state guidance, definitions and policies, procurement practices, review processes, funding options, and digital learning resources for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. New for 2019 is the topic of professional learning, highlighting the opportunities states provide teachers around the selection, creation and implementation of quality, digital instructional materials. This work supports state and district leaders’ understanding of state policies and can impact policy changes related to instructional materials (including non-traditional instructional materials, such as digital content) to best meet the individual needs of all learners.

“The selection and implementation of digital instructional materials is a top priority in K-12 education environments,” shared Candice Dodson, SETDA’s incoming Executive Director. “SETDA’s newest resource for this critical work, State K12 Instructional Materials Leadership Trends Snapshot, summarizes the current state policies and practices of this process utilizing 2019 updates to our powerful Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS) online portal. This portal provides opportunities for collaboration between state and district leaders across the country to bring quality resources to digital teaching and learning for all.”

Both the Snapshots report and DMAPS were developed through the expertise and efforts of state leaders responsible for procurement, instructional materials and educational technology and in collaboration with experts in the field.

For a comprehensive overview, access this recent webinar, Navigating the Digital Shift: Leveraging Quality Instructional Materials for Learning

This work was made possible by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About SETDA

Founded in 2001, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is the principal non-profit membership association representing U.S. state and territorial educational technology leaders. Our mission is to build and increase the capacity of state and national leaders to improve education through technology policy and practice. For more information, please visit: setda.org.

Reaching Accessibility Goals for Higher Education

Accessible Information TechnologyA new article in Inside Higher Ed magazine Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals details the fact that many institutions of higher education fail to have “coherent policies around accessibility. ” And, they note that there has been “…a recent uptick in high-profile lawsuits alleging failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act…”

While the reasons for this situation are many, the article suggests “time constraints” make be a factor. Quoting Cynthia Curry from the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (NC-AEM)“Part of the problem is that people don’t have the time to do something systemic around accessibility within their institutions…” Curry said. “Most institutions, of course, aren’t looking proactively at accessibility. They’re looking at it more as a retrofit, or they’re being reactive if something litigious comes up.”

Maine CITE’s own resident digital accessibility resource person is John Brandt. Brandt’s own 25-year experience in web development and accessibility suggest that the perceived high cost to make web content accessible is probably the largest single factor in the equation. “Most organizations look at accessibility as expensive because they are approaching it from a mitigation perspective. They often fail to look at the costs associated with NOT having accessible content – lost student admissions, lack of student retention, etc.”

While most web accessibility experts will talk about the importance of “adding accessibility in at the beginning” of a web design process, colleges and universities are often not able to do this since they were among the first organizations to have websites in the 1990s – they have accumulated lots of content.

But even if an institution is committed to improving accessibility, they often don’t know where to start. To that end, the Inside Higher Education article promotes a new set of quality indicators for accessible educational materials developed by NC-AEM designed to “help institutions ensure, at scale, that all students have the same learning opportunities in face-to-face classrooms and digital learning environments.” The article focuses on the NC-AEM’s recently published  “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies” which promote seven quality indicators (QI), each containing specific criteria needed to achieve each QI.

For colleges and universities just starting out with the process, these quality indicators can provide a blueprint and structure of the thinking process that need to be considered. Tom Tobin, one of the people interviewed in the article, encourages “institutions (to) focus accessibility efforts on the potential impact on student access and learning outcomes, rather than merely on ‘legal-compliance arguments.’”

“While the description of the quality indicators alludes to the broad access benefits for all learners when accessible materials, tools and interface are adopted, the actual indicators and critical components are focused squarely on meeting the needs of learners with disabilities — only a part of the access conversation,” Tobin states in the article.

Read “Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals”

Read/view the NC-AEM – “Higher Education Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies”

Promoting the Integration of Universal Design into University Curricula

Information TechnologyThe following appeal comes from Howard Kramer of the University of Colorado Boulder (hkramer@colorado.edu) and is addressed to university faculty and staff in the areas of computer science, digital media, environmental design or other technical or design-related programs…


Dear Colleague:

We are contacting you because of your interest in web accessibility and Universal Design or because of your interest in teaching about these topics. As part of a grant project for Promoting the Integration of Universal Design into University Curricula (UDUC), we are conducting a survey to gauge the benefits to students of taking college level courses that include accessibility and Universal Design topics.

Our goal is to have the survey sent out to current or recently graduated students by departments or colleges that have a focus on Computer Science, Digital Media, Environmental Design, or other technical or design-related programs. If possible, please ask your department or school to send out the student survey invite (see below) to current students and recent graduates (up to 3 years since graduation) from the program.

If this is not possible, please consider sending out the student invite to students who have taken and completed your courses; and passing along this email to fellow faculty (this can be any faculty within our outside of your university) who teach courses in the areas described above.

More information on the study can be found in the student invite below. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at hkramer@colorado.edu or 303-492-8672.

Sincerely,

Howard Kramer, PI, UDUC

[Student survey invite:]

Dear Student:

The URL below points to a survey for students who have taken Computer Science, Digital Media, Environmental Design, or other technical or design-related courses.

The purpose of this survey is to gauge the usefulness of accessibility and Universal Design topics in college curricula. (Note: these terms are explained below and within the survey). All responses are anonymous.

If you are a student who has taken a technology or design course, please consider taking the survey at this URL.

Note your responses from the survey will not be shared with your school or with any other institution.

This survey is part of a project for Promoting the Integration of Universal Design into University Curricula (UDUC). It is partly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

If you have any questions, please contact Howard Kramer at 303-492-8672 or hkramer@colorado.

[/Student survey invite:]

Definitions:

Accessibility

Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s Assistive Technology (for example, a wheelchair or computer screen readers). [Footnote 1]

Universal Design

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities. [Footnote 2]

 

 

Maine DOE Launching a New Website

Maine DOE logoThe Maine Department of Education will be launching a new website on Friday, September 28, 2018. Over the course of the summer months, Department staff have been working on updating and re-writing website content for a new website that features an improved search function, a user-friendly interface, and a content management system which will allow Department staff to keep content updated and timely.

The new website will replace the current website found at maine.gov/doe. It will have a similar, yet new, look and feel.

It is important to note that those who have bookmarked links to the Department’s current website may need to re-save their bookmarks when the new website is released because there will be some pages that have a different website address.

To ensure that the field and the public can find information on the new website on Friday and going forward, please send all inquiries, comments, concerns, and questions related to the website to doe.webmaster@maine.gov.

For further questions about the launch of the new website, please contact Maine Department of Education Director of Communications, Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Resources to Support Adaption of Assistive and Instructional Technology

The Center on Technology and Disabilities (CTD) recently published a newsletter highlighting some of their publications related to education. Among those resources:

Implement Assistive Technology and Instructional Technology

EducationFuture Ready Assistive Technology: Fostering State Supports for Students with Disabilities – This report provides insights into the current state and future of assistive technology as well as resources to support your work.

AT and IT: Where are we headed? – This new infographic outlines the technology landscape, and what it means for state and district leaders, and teachers.

Technology Implementation Strategies that Work! – Watch this video series to learn more about the critical processes necessary to effectively support technology implementation in your district or school.

Understanding Assistive Technology: Policy and Implications for State Leaders – Assistive technology (AT) is an essential part of your overall technology plan. Watch this webinar to learn more about the legal requirements for AT, different types of AT supports, and the role of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Contact the CTD Technical Assistance Lead for SEA/LEA support, Kristin Ruedel – KRuedel@air.org.

For more information, visit CTD on the web!