Category Archives: Universal Design for Learning

A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #119: Assistive Technology Movie Review – Man of Steel

A picture for Chris wearing black-framed glasses pulling open a white shirt to reveal a super hero logo resembling the A.T.TIPSCAST log on it

Episode Overview-

This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp, provider of the award-winning literacy solution Read&Write GOLD. To learn about Read&Write Gold and Texthelp’s suite of web apps click on the banner below!

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Use promotion code ATTIPS13SAVE10 to get 10% off online orders of Read&Write GOLD!

Cannot be combined with other offers. Offer expires July 31, 2013.

Episode #119 features a review, including spoilers (you have been warned), of the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, and how it relates to contemporary assistive technology and educational practices.

Special thanks to Carrie Baughcum from the blog, Hold On To Your Chair, for creating the super picture at the top of the blog post!

A.T.TIPS in this Episode –

A.T.TIP #360 – http://bit.ly/lcpsatdiigolearningstyles – List of resources pertaining to student Learning Style Inventories/Profiles/Assessments.

A.T.TIP #361 – http://bit.ly/studentprofilesurveyingoogledocs – One example of a student learning style inventory/profile/assessment.

A.T.TIP #362 – Tools Checklist

A.T.TIP #363 – Use gestures or symbols and limit auditory input when calming a student.

Upcoming Presentations –

300lbs of Brain Power (Keynote) with Mark Nichols & Chris Bugaj. July 19th, 2013 at Bridging The Gap.

Can You Hear Me Now? Integrating Audio in the Classroom with Melissa Bugaj & Chris Bugaj. July 19th, 2013 at Bridging The Gap.

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Check out my bio at About.me

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A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #118: Implementing Edmodo

edmodo logo

Episode Overview-

This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp, provider of the award-winning literacy solution Read&Write GOLD. To learn about Read&Write Gold and Texthelp’s suite of web apps click on the banner below!

Texthelp Advertisement

Picture of Michael MillimanEpisode #118 features an interview with Michael Milliman, a 2012 Teacher of Merit from Amherst, New York at Smallwood Drive Elementary, who describes his implementation of  Edmodo.com with his fifth grade classroom.

A.T.TIPS in this Episode –

A.T.TIP #358 – Social Media Practice with Edmodo.com

*Edmodo.com also previously appeared in Episode #86: Strategy Smackdown @ VSTE 2011 as A.T.TIP #236

Upcoming Presentations –

Mission Possible: Proliferating a Culture of Universal Design for Learning with Beth Poss & Chris Bugaj. June 11, 2013 at the Texas Assistive Technology Network Regional Conference in Houston, Texas.

300lbs of Brain Power (Keynote) with Mark Nichols & Chris Bugaj. July 19th, 2013 at Bridging The Gap.

Can You Hear Me Now? Integrating Audio in the Classroom with Melissa Bugaj & Chris Bugaj. July 19th, 2013 at Bridging The Gap.

Contact Information-

About.me/chrisbugaj

Twitter.com/attipscast

attipscast@gmail.com

Register as a fan of the show to receive e-mail alerts for new episodes

A.T.TIPSCAST Episode 101: UDL NEXT

An arrow pointing to the right made up of many little green UDL's

Episode Overview-

Cover for The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public SchoolsThis episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by the book, The Practical and Fun Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools.

Episode #101 of the A.T.TIPSCAST features a brief discussion about what comes next in one’s personal quest to learn more about the implementation of the Universal Design for Learning framework. Download a .PDF Transcript of this episode.

This is the first episode of Season 6 of the A.T.TIPSCAST!

A.T.TIPS in this Episode-

A.T.TIP 288 – SpiderScribe.net – Web-based Graphic Organizer

An example of a graphic organizing web made using Spiderscribe.net. Features UDL Next logo, small google maps picture of Orlando Florida, and two text bubbles with links to presenation information about ATIA 2013A.T.TIP 289 – UDLResource.com by Paul Hamilton

Upcoming Presentations

REGISTER NOW!

Logo for ISTE's Course on UDLUniversal Design for Learning – ISTE 6 Week Online Course – Starts September 10th, 2012.

Mission Possible: Proliferating a Culture of Universal Design for Learning with Beth Poss & Chris Bugaj. January 29th & 30th, 2013 at the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Contact Information-

About.me/chrisbugaj

Twitter.com/attipscast

attipscast@gmail.com

Register as a fan of the show to receive e-mail alerts for new episodes

A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #98: Captions On!

Attipscast Logo with closed caption logo

Episode Overview-

This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp Systems, provider of award-winning literacy solutions including Read&Write GOLD and Fluency Tutor. To learn about these products and their new suite of web apps go to www.texthelp.com.

Read & Write Gold, TextHelp, and Fluency Tutor logos

Episode #98 features a discussion of how literacy skills can be improved by simply turning on the captions while watching television and other videos.

This episode also features a bumper from Dave Hohulin, from the http://myinfinitec.org recorded during ATIA Orlando 2012.

A.T.TIPS in this Episode-

A.T.TIP 285 – Turn on Closed Captioning while watching any video to improve literacy skills

Read Captions Across America Campaign – The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) initiative launched in association with the National Education Association’s (NEA) annual “Read Across America” campaign meant to spread the word about the benefits of captions for all readers.

captionsforliteracy.org – Research, posters, and instructions pertaining to the benefits of turning the captions on for learners

Upcoming Presentations

REGISTER NOW!

Mission Possible: Proliferating a Culture of Universal Design for Learning with Beth Poss & Chris Bugaj. January 29th & 30th, 2013  at the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Contact Information-

About.me/chrisbugaj

Twitter.com/attipscast

attipscast@gmail.com

Register as a fan of the show to receive e-mail alerts for new episodes

Assistive Technology Movie Review: The Avengers

I’m a super hero geek and proud of it. I didn’t just grow up reading comics. I played games about super heroes, watched super hero cartoons, created robust fight sequences and narratives (often in that order) with super hero action figures, and pretended I was the one taking down the bad guys.

It was “Super” fun!

Today, I get to relive those adventures with my two little ones by fighting giant robots, thwarting the plans of treacherous villains, and protecting the lives of the innocent baby dolls scattered around the room.

Picture of Chris and his kids dressed like generic super heroes (masks and capes)

This is “Super” fun!

Over the past few years, the folks at Marvel have been releasing movies starring some of their most popular super heroes.  Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor have each had their own summer blockbuster movie (Iron Man actually had two).  These movies set the stage for the ultimate super hero team up, bringing all of them together in The Avengers.

Without even asking me about it, my wife made babysitter arrangements and pre-purchased the opening night tickets. She had watched all these movies with me, loving the Iron Man movies the most. She wasn’t nearly as excited as me to see The Avengers but when I told her it was directed by Joss Whedon, creator of her favorite show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she was all in.

As you can probably guess, on the night of the big event, I found myself grinning from ear to ear, mesmerized for over two hours.  Despite the fact that I was ten years old again, I couldn’t help but draw some parallels between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and contemporary practices in the world of education and assistive technology.

SPOILERS FOLLOW
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

The Tesseract as Curiosity and Engagement-
The movie starts with an action packed sequence of events where the villain of the movie, Loki, steals the Tesseract; a powerful energy source with the potential for creating sustainably clean energy for the planet. Loki plans to use the Tesseract to create a portal into space through which he can bring an invading alien army.

It comes to light during the movie that Loki has not been the only power looking to use the weapons for less than peaceful purposes. S.H.I.E.L.D. (a government agency) works to exploit the power of the Tesseract to create its own set of unique weaponry which can be used to keep the peace. Good intentions to be sure, but by keeping this fact a secret they cast a nefarious shadow of doubt over the entire organization.

The Tesseract is unharnessed energy, not unlike the enthusiasm of students entering school. Have you seen the overflowing brightness behind a kindergartener’s eyes before the first day? It is brimming with hope, eagerness, curiosity and a desire to learn. The raw energy is palpable. Students come to school, en masse, already engaged. Therefore, keeping them interested in school should be as easy as saying some incredibly cool catch phrase. Unfortunately, somehow, it’s not.

Educators, throughout the entire span of students’ educational careers, have the massive responsibility of helping students continue to feel engaged in their learning.  It is not the fault of the Tesseract that people are trying to exploit it. Likewise, it is never the students’ fault if and when they become disengaged with learning.

Students DO NOT CHOOSE to be bored.

The power of the Tesseract is like that of curiosity in students. Curiosity can be kept flowing through students by providing them with options about how they’d best like to learn. Curiosity will continue to drive student’s engagement when they get to make choices about how they’d best like to learn.

For now, the curriculum is set, static, and determined, but the ways for students to experience that content is changing, dynamic, and flexible. By providing students with options, you give them freedom, much like an Avenger keeping the world safe from a race of invading aliens. If educators approach each lesson plan by saying, “What’s the best way I can engage each learner?” and then successfully execute those lessons, they will have taken a heroic first step.

A Group of Individuals Does Not a Team Make
The Avengers brings together a group of individuals, each with his or her own set of unique traits and abilities which add something to the whole. Each character has a skill set that makes them a valuable asset and which makes them vital to the success of the mission. When an Individualized Education Program is being developed, individuals from different disciplines and perspectives come together for a common purpose. Each individual member brings his or her own set of talents to the table to formulate a plan which outlines the instructional needs of a student. However, a group of individuals working toward the same cause does not necessarily make it a team.

Throughout the course of the movie, the Avengers learn that individual feats of strength and demonstrations of skill might be impressive (and fun to watch) but don’t necessarily equate to getting the job done. It isn’t until the end of the movie, setting egos aside and learning to work together, do the Avengers truly form a team. Likewise, when developing and implementing an Individualized Education Program, the team should work synergistically, not separately. It is not the job of the speech therapist to work on goals related to communication, the job of the occupational therapist to work on fine motor goals, the job of the physical therapist to work on gross motor goals, the job of the parent to work on things at home, the job of the general and special education teachers to work on academic goals, or the job of the administrator to ensure that everything gets done. Rather, it’s the job of everyone, to work on every aspect of every goal, collaboratively. When this happens, the individual skills of professionals blur into something cohesive, a true team forms and the student is the one who ultimately wins.

Character Before Technology
Each hero in the Avengers utilizes a weapon that matches their individual set of skills. Captain America uses his iconic shield. Iron Man is outfitted with a suit of armor. Thor wields Mjolinir, a mighty hammer. Hawkeye shoots a bow. Black Widow uses acrobatics and firearms. And the Hulk is a weapon all unto himself.

In this movie, just like in all of the other Marvel movies, the focus is on the character, not the tools they use. The weapons support the characters, not the other way around. In this way, the weapons used by the heroes are similar to the process of selecting a device or strategy for a student.

When Steve Rogers was becoming Captain America, the plot wasn’t the discovery of some shield made of Vibranium and how someone could use it. Rather, it was about a man who stays true to himself while facing incredible circumstances. In Iron Man, the story isn’t about a man who sets out to develop an invincible suit of armor but rather, creates one out of necessity. Thor’s hammer serves as a symbol for doing what is right, but the story of Thor centers around humility.  Bruce Banner’s main conflict comes from an internal struggling for control not about the ramification of experimenting with gamma radiation. In truth, what gets to the core of all of these characters has nothing to do with the tools they use, but rather, who they are as people.

Device selection happens in much the same way. When selecting an intervention for a student or class, the question should be centered around who the student is and what they needed to accomplish, rather than the idea of having a tool and wondering who could use it. For Marvel, it’s not “We have this shield, suit of armor, mystical hammer, gamma radiation, bow, etc. We should give them to someone”. Instead, it’s “There’s this complex character who faces intense problems. What type of tools should we provide this person to help solve these problems?” For selecting specific assistive technology for students, it shouldn’t be “Look at this shiny cool tool, who should use?” Instead, it should be “This student (or groups of students) has a problem. Which tool(s) can this student (or these students) use to help address that problem?” When devices are selected based on the character of the student, rather than the other way around, one can be sure that the student is getting what is needed.

Sacrifices –
Agent Coulson has been described as the glue that holds the various Marvel movies together and helps to maintain continuity. The character makes an appearance in many of the other Marvel movies. He is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who helps to bring the individuals together because he believes in the idea of forming a cogent team of Superheroes. Agent Coulson makes the ultimate sacrifice to provide the final catalyst for driving the group to work together as a team.

Many educators do this too. Many live for their students, providing countless hours way beyond the limits of the typical work day to provide the very best service they can. They believe they are making a difference, investing in the future, and truly impacting the lives of students in a positive way. Coulson died because he believed in the Avengers. Educators sacrifice money, resources, and (most importantly) time to the idea that students, no matter their ability, can and will learn.

Also like the Avengers, educators perform these selfless tasks with mixed levels of support. At the end of the movie, the director makes the point to show how the public reacts differently to the knowledge that heroes exist. Some embrace the heroes, thanking them diligently. Others question their true intentions. Some even outright blame the heroes for the invasion. Educators, despite their passion and sacrifices, receive this same mixed response from the public at large, however, educators shouldn’t be chastised or scorned. Rather, they should be respected and revered for being the heroes they are.

Fun
Overall, the Avengers is a fun, action-packed thrill ride that brings a helicarrier-load of laughs and smiles. Engaging characters drive a compelling plot all supported by the backdrop of a fascinating universe. Working in the field of education is much the same. Teaching, and supporting students, is one of the most enriching and rewarding professions. It is filled with memorable, meaningful, jaw-dropping moments that leave an impression, move you to tears, and can make you feel like you’re the hero you always wanted to be.

Chris's face superimposed over the Avenger's faces

The Avengers Movie Poster

Assistive Technology Movie Review – The Hunger Games

My wife doesn’t read books. She devours them. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was no exception. I, however, find it difficult to read a book during the school year. My literature consumption primarily takes place in the form of audiobooks or podcasts during my commute.  That said, when my wife circled last Friday on the calendar and said, “We’re going to see The Hunger Games” I felt the urge to read the book before seeing the movie.

As luck would have it, my in-laws came to visit the weekend prior to the movie coming out. In an effort to give them some alone time with their grandkids, I barricaded myself in our bedroom and went to town on the novel.

I knocked it out in two days; a record for me.

I was eager to experience the phenomenon in the same way as my wife so I could have something intelligent to say when the inevitable discussions comparing the film adaptation to the literary work occurred.

Once again I couldn’t help but see correlations  throughout the story to the implementation of technology following a Universal Design for Learning framework.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

The story, which is mostly the same between the book and the film, is, at its core, one of rebellion, defiance, and self discovery. It involves 24 children between the ages of 12 and 18 placed within a large, outdoor arena to fight to the death for the purposes of entertaining the masses.  This annual death match, known as The Hunger Games, was established to keep the working class in line as a reminder of the power of the ruling class.  The contestants in this gladiatorial bloodbath are known as “tributes.”

The tributes in the story have a diverse set of backgrounds, skills, and traits, making each one unique and special in some way. My brain immediately equated the tributes to students within a classroom, struggling to survive through the arena of school, trying to win at education, competing with one another for acceptance into college or for scholarships. Just like in the story, despite the cut-throat competition, alliances and friendships are formed. In both the story and within schools, individuals realize that collaboration and teamwork prove more successful than standing alone.

If the tributes in the arena represent students, then the supplies and weapons used to kill opponents would represent the technology necessary to complete a task. The tributes make decisive choices about what tools they need to accomplish their objectives of staying alive and killing others. Likewise, students within an environment following the principles of Universal Design for Learning utilize an array of tools to accomplish their mission of learning the content and achieving educational goals. In the arena, the wrong set of tools could equal pain, suffering, or even death while the correct set of tools matched to an individual’s skills could prove most effective. In school, choosing the wrong set of tools could equal the loss of precious time but the right set of tools, matched to an individual’s abilities, could make a significant impact in student performance.

Blazing hot days, freezing cold nights, swarms of deadly insects, wild mutated animals, and poisonous vegetation are just a few of the hazards prevalent throughout the arena. These conditions are controlled by the gamekeepers in order to provide the maximum entertainment value for the audience.  Like in the arena, the school environment itself can be manipulated to shape the challenge facing a student.  Educators should engineer environments with the educational goals of students in mind. For instance, if a student has a language goal of making requests then placing desired objects out of reach provides the student with an opportunity to communicate. Likewise, if a student is physically having difficulty accessing something within his environment, like a computer or interactive whiteboard, the educator must manipulate the environment to provide access.  Either way, the educator molds the environment in a manner conducive to the needs of every learner.

The protagonist of the story is a character named Katniss, a 16 year old girl thrust into the midst of the carnage. She is provided a mentor named Haymitch who has the primary task of preparing her for the battle royale. During the actual event, Haymitch is also responsible for garnering “sponsors” for Katniss who will fork up cash to provide additional necessary tools not already in the environment.

In this way, Haymitch works like an assistive technology trainer guiding students in ways to successfully utilize the technology already present within the environment. Likewise, when that technology proves too restrictive or limiting, it is up to the assistive technology trainer to provide additional possibilities for the student. Haymitch goes to sponsors asking for additional supplies while an assistive technology trainer goes to vendors looking for tools that might meet the needs of students.

When Haymitch obtains a sponsor who provides supplies, he sends it to Katniss via parachute with a note attached with advice on how to best use it.  In similar fashion, when assistive technology trainers acquire a new device to help students they provide training and tutorials.

In the end, Katniss teaches the establishment of the ruling class a lesson that despite attempting to control the chaos, something unpredictable can occur to upset the rhythm of the status quo.  Educators attempting to provide and implement a variety of technology options to students should recognize this very same fact. A universally designed classroom strives to provide an atmosphere of controlled chaos and insulated entropy.  Students provided with a multitude of choices about tools and activities they wish to use to best demonstrate their knowledge or which best engages them in the learning process might get messy. Almost always, something can go wrong. The unexpected will occur.  Unlike the Gamekeepers in The Hunger Games, educators should expect this. Even more so, they should embrace it.

Providing a universally designed environment, at times, might feel like a difficult task, but remember no one is alone.  Anyone can call out to others, like the song of a Mockingjay, to ask for help. Perhaps a model of a peer is all that is needed for the spark to begin Catching Fire within a colleague. Educators across districts (way more than the 12 outlined in the story) are working toward accomplishing similar goals. Sharing accomplishments and demonstrating successes is the best way to spread the culture of universal design for learning.

As you move forward, continuing on your own mission to provide options for students, I only have these words of encouragement: May the odds be ever in your favor.

Profiles of characters from The Hunger Games with an embedded picture of Chris as one of the characters

 

A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #93: The Traitr Feature of Toondoo.com

Cartoon character wearing grey T-shirt, blue jeans, and white sneakers with a voice bubble that reads welcome to Episode 93 of the A.T.TIPSCAST. This episode is all about using the Traitr tool of Toondoo.com to help support students with social-emotional goals.

Episode Overview-

This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by the book The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools. Learn more at http://iste.org/chewat.

Episode #93 features a discussion of how the Traitr feature of Toondoo.com can be used to help students working on social – emotional goals.

This episode also features a bumper from Marsye Kaplan, the Assistive Technology Team Leader for Baltimore County Public Schools.

A.T.TIPS in this Episode:

A.T.TIP 273 – Toondoo.com

four panel comic with each character saying something about universal design for learning. The first panel features a young caucasian woman with blonde hair saying I can use comics to present content to students. Panel 2 contains a woman from India saying I make comics to express what I know. Panel 3 features a caucasian boy wearing an A.T.TIPSCAST shirt that says I like comics because they are engaging. Panel 4 features an little green alien saying Comics are fun!

A.T.TIP 274 – Traitr feature of Toondoo.com

Example 1 – Students create their own avatars based on the traits in the picture.

Screenshot of the Traitr tool with a digital picture of a 4 yo girl uploaded next to a comic avatar of the same girl.Example 2 – Students use uploaded picture to learn about an emotion. By practicing how to create the emotion, students learn how to identify the emotion represented in the picture.

Screenshot of Traitr tool with picture of chris making a sad face next to an avatar of a man who looks like chris making a sad face.

A.T.TIP 275 – ThinkPort.org – Educator tools including downloadable graphic organizing templates, how-to tutorials, a lesson plan builder, and more.

Contact Information-

About.me/chrisbugaj

Twitter.com/attipscast

attipscast@gmail.com

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