Increasing Accessibility and Fostering Inclusive Classrooms

The following announcement of this free webinar is from edWeb.net…

Tuesday, March 26, 2019
3:00 pm
 – 4:00 pm ET

Accessibility and Inclusive Classrooms. Boy using tablet.

The goal of this edWebinar is to discuss what inclusive classrooms, employing accessibility, look like from the standpoint of reading, writing, math and communication. The presenters will be sharing examples from Microsoft Education’s free accessibility suite of tools and including the stories of teachers who have worked with students of all abilities in an inclusive classroom setting.

Attendees will learn about:

  • The benefits of inclusively designed lessons and classrooms employing assistive technology
  • Improving learning outcomes for all learners powered by assistive technology tools
  • Current updates on Microsoft Education’s reading, writing, math and communication tools
  • The power of built-in assistive technology and its impact on both social and normative constructs of today’s classrooms

This presentation will be of interest to special education teachers, K-5 educators, reading specialists, TESOL or ELL teachers, librarians, speech pathologists, and school leaders. There will be time to get your questions answered at the end of the edWebinar.

Presented by Mike Tholfsen, Principal Product Manager, Microsoft Education; Lauren Pittman, Graduate Assistant, Vanderbilt University, and former special educator teacher; and Beth Dudycha, Senior Manager, Content Development, Insight2Execution, and Former Educator. Hosted by SETDA and Sponsored by Microsoft.

Use this link for more information and to register for this event…

 

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”

UMF Educator Preparation Program receives national and state accreditation

Loraine Spenciner
The late Lorraine Spenciner for whom the AT Library is named, shown her holding a modified keyboard.

FARMINGTON, ME —The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) educator preparation program is proud to announce that it has received national accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). UMF is the first institution in the state of Maine to meet the new, rigorous national accreditation standards. UMF has also received full approval for state accreditation, including several commendations, from the Maine State Board of Education.

A longtime leader in Maine and one of the premier teacher education programs in New England, the UMF program has been noted for providing pre-service teachers with a unique educational experience that maximizes career preparation and post-graduation success.

The CAEP review recognized the UMF program for providing students with effective learning opportunities in and out of the classroom that help prepare them for a career in teaching. The UMF program passed the rigorous peer review on all five CAEP standards, which are based on the principles that its graduates are competent, caring educators and its faculty have the capacity to maintain and enhance the quality of the professional programs.

CAEP is the sole nationally recognized accrediting body for educator preparation. UMF’s accreditation runs from 2018 to 2025.

Notably, CAEP recognized UMF for its strong relationship with the community and how this mutual commitment enriches the student experience through activities, resources and support for educational improvement. In addition, the review applauded the UMF teacher preparation program for the quality of its candidates from recruitment through certification.

UMF’s teacher preparation program provides students with field experience, early and often, with student teaching, practicum and internships boasting an average of 329 students in formal placements in schools around the state annually.

These experiences prepare educators for the real classroom and create a statewide demand for UMF graduates while helping to support educational partnerships at more than 130 Maine schools annually, not including early childhood and infant centers.

According to UMF’s 2018 teacher education unit alumni survey, 84 percent of respondents indicate being employed as a teacher in the field and a majority being hired within one year of graduation. In addition, 98.9 percent of graduates responding to the survey said they were very satisfied or satisfied with the UMF program.

In its overall approval of the UMF program, the Maine State Board of Education also commended UMF for its commitment to staff its educator preparation program with full time faculty. It observed that UMF is unique in the fact that all field supervisors who mentor and oversee pre-service teachers in schools around the state are full time faculty that can model the best in professional practices.

The Maine review also commended UMF for its dedication to assistive technology within the Spenciner Curriculum Materials Center. The center, connected to the Maine Department of Education’s Maine CITE Program, houses an extensive collection of assistive technology devices such as adaptive gaming controllers and 3-D printers that are available to loan to students, educators and the general public.

These resources can help all children, including those with disabilities, succeed in the classroom. The report noted the facility is “a remarkable resource for the students, faculty, and the larger community encouraging inclusive practice with state of the art materials and equipment.”

More on University of Maine at Farmington

A nationally recognized public liberal arts college, UMF enjoys a 150-year tradition of providing a quality academic experience combined with the personal attention and close student / faculty collaboration that help prepare all students to be successful. Rooted in a tradition of teacher preparation, UMF offers top quality programs in the arts and sciences, teacher preparation, and business and pre-professional studies. UMF is located in the heart of Maine’s four-season outdoor recreational region and is a welcoming, close-knit academic community that prepares students for engaged citizenship, enriching professional careers and an enduring love of learning.l careers and an enduring love of learning.

Articles: Assistive Tech for Students with Dyslexia

Student using iPad to readTwo articles appeared recently on Edutopia, a free on-line education resource supported by the George Lucas Foundation. 

In The Benefits of Ear-Reading bDana Blackaby, a dyslexia specialist discusses the assistive technologies she uses to help students with dyslexia make gains in reading. In the article, Blackaby discusses her observations of several of her students with dyslexia using a technique she called “ear reading.” She describes this as, “a key strategy…having (the students) read along with audiobooks, which is beneficial in tying their emotional belief system directly to their academic performance.”

Blackaby goes on to note, “These students have made marked improvements in their reading skills and social behavior as a result of our structured literacy curriculum, my high expectations for their achievement, and their use of supplemental assistive technology resources. Through the structured literacy curriculum, I teach students to decode words in an explicit and systematic manner that focuses on phonology, sound-symbol association, syllable types, and syntax. In addition, this instruction is delivered in a multisensory way that is proven to build pathways to improve phonological memory.”

As a benefit she notes the following results:

After using these resources with fidelity, my students performed higher on state testing and demonstrated large strides in self-confidence. In our state assessments, 97 percent of my students who utilized audiobooks and text-to-speech software met the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) reading standard.

Read the full article The Benefits of Ear-Reading on Edutopia…

The second Edutopia article Accommodating Students With Dyslexia, Jessica Hamman describes “five easy-to-implement accommodations can make class less stressful and more manageable for students with dyslexia.” The five accommodations include access to audio books, note-taking apps, as well as encouragement for students to utilize text-to-speech technologies.

Read the full article: Accommodating Students With Dyslexia on Edutopia…

 

How to Check A Website for Accessibility – webinar resources posted

Website - construction sceneThe video and resources for the October 29th webinar, “How to Check A Website for Accessibility” have been posted. Here is the link to the recording and resources…

The webinar utilized the newly acquired Zoom Webinar platform and captioning services of Kaltura streaming. We are continuing to refine and enhance the quality of this service.

If you have difficulties with the content, please feel free to contact us for support.

Described and Captioned Media Program

Blind boy using Braille embosserThe Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) provides premium media designed for students with disabilities and leads as a resource for families and teachers, supported by the Department of Education.

DCMP’s mission is to promote and provide equal access to communication and learning through described and captioned educational media.

The ultimate goal of the DCMP is for accessible media to be an integral tool in the teaching and learning process for all stakeholders in the educational community, including students, educators and other school personnel, parents, service providers, businesses, and agencies.

The DCMP supports the U.S. Department of Education Strategic Plan for 2014-2018 by committing to the following goals:

  • Ensuring that students (early learners through Grade 12) who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind have the opportunity to achieve the standards of academic excellence.
  • Advocating for equal access to educational media as well as the establishment and maintenance of quality standards for captioning and description by service providers.
  • Providing a collection of free-loan described and captioned educational media.
  • Furnishing information and research about accessible media.
  • Acting as a gateway to Internet resources related to accessibility.
  • Adapting and developing new media and technologies that assist students in obtaining and using available information.

The Described and Captioned Media Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the National Association of the Deaf.

Please visit DCMP for more information…

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!

Online Toolkit Supporting the Selection of Quality Instructional Materials

SETDA Releases Updated Online Toolkit Supporting the Selection of Quality Instructional Materials

From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials

refreshable braille displaySeptember 11, 2018 (Washington D.C.) Today, SETDA, the principal membership association representing the U.S. state and territorial digital learning leaders announced the release of updates for the online tool, From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials. Developed in collaboration with state and district digital learning leaders, instructional materials directors and academic officers, this guide provides states, districts and schools with research, resources and exemplars to support selection of quality instructional materials for learning. The Guide to Quality Instructional Materials provides information to establish or enhance state level review processes and provides guidance to districts for both core-content and supplemental resources, including print and digital resources. In this toolkit, SETDA identifies and explains the key steps in this process — planning, considerations, selection, professional learning, effectiveness. In addition, comprehensive state snapshots provide an overview of the state instructional materials review process for multiple states.

“Expanding this useful tool provides additional resources for states, Local Education Agencies and schools regardless of state procurement policies so that every student has access to quality materials for learning,” stated Dr. Tracy Weeks, Executive Director, SETDA. “Collaborating with state leaders from a variety of agencies, the private sector and other organizations helps ensure quality materials are purchased and procured to best meet the needs of all students.”

“As school districts and educators in Oregon shift to innovative, well rounded and personalized learning experiences, high-quality digital instructional materials are critical. SETDA’s guide supports state and district leaders to help ensure that digital materials are high quality, equity focused, and aligned to state standards,” shared by Colt Gill, Director, Oregon Department of Education. To access the most recent webinar highlighting the tool’s updates visit “From Print to Digital: Discover and Implement Quality Instructional Materials for Learning.” 

Online Community: Complementing this resource is a new online community of practice to provide policy makers, school administrators, leaders and educator with a better understanding of policies and practices related to digital instructional materials. The community, Essential Elements for Digital Content, is free and open to the public. The community will engage in and encourage dialogue about the shift to digital including the vetting process, accessibility, professional learning, OER, procurement, implementation and infrastructure. Use this link to access the online community…

About SETDA

Founded in 2001, SETDA is the national non-profit association representing the interests of U.S. state and territorial educational technology leadership. SETDA’s 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.