Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Assistive Technology Goes Mainstream!

This is also posted at TechLearning

While thinking about a plan for this blogpost and preparing for a summer week of professional development for my staff I came upon Karen Janowski's website and UDL toolkit.

I thought I would start out with the challenge. Read further and find out why. As chefs we have a toolkit of our favorite resources in our kitchens, as bloggers we have our favorite links and feeds, as learners we have our favorite resources, so why not start a toolkit for our challenged learners and be explicit about the tools. Karen explains what Universal Design for Learning is about:
Change is centered upon Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which proposes that multiple methods of :

* Representation
* Engagement
* Expression

promote learning for ALL students. Flexibility is embedded within the curriculum. The book, Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age available in its entirety at the CAST website, expounds upon these principles and this is a MUST read for all educators.

When I was consulting with some special educators at my school and I shared how to use a couple of online tools to help the students with their writing, the special educator asked me if all the regular educators knew about these tools and resources. My flip answer back was did you already know about these tools? Now that you have learned this you need to share! This prompted my developing a week long course, this post and the challenge!
If you knew that this all existed and didn't do anything to promote this, then you and I are NOT change agents. This is the right thing to do for all our learners.

Check out what Lisa Thumann,Senior Specialist in Educational Technology CMSCE,
Rutgers University , is doing in her work with teachers.

Lisa Thumann is also working with schools in New Jersey in her work as part of Rutgers University outreach and you will find her toolkit represented here.

Finally, if you needed one more reason to engage in this work of promoting tools for assistive technology for all learners here is a testimonial I heard yesterday.

I met an occupational therapist recently who explained how a student of hers began using VoiceThread for her school projects. This may not seem remarkable until you learn that the student, although able, would not speak in the classroom. Once VoiceThread was added as a tool in the classroom toolkit, the student was empowered to make changes with much peer support.The student recorded her school projects in VoiceThread, her peers were thrilled to hear her voice. Make change happen for your students in need of these tools.

What is your toolkit? If you make a toolkit page of resources please share it here.(Send your link to assistivetechtoolkitATgmail.com) I will make a page and share the resources with all.
Here is my first attempt at making an assistive technology tab in igoogle. I will explore other ways in Netvibes and Pageflakes. I am looking for ways for students to create their own toolkit using some web 2.0 tools.

Where did I learn all about this? I attended the Edubloggerconeast, unconference, yesterday in Newton, MA. I highly recommend this type of unconference to anyone looking for professional learning. You can check out how Liz Davis made this happen. You can see the organization here at the wiki.

Huge thanks to Alan November for recognizing the importance of unconferences and sharing space before his Building Learning Communities 08.

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