Tag Archives: Education

A.T.TIPScast Episode #149: Designing Awesome Experiences

Driveway shoveled to spell A.T.TIPSCAST

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This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp, provider of the award-winning Read&Write software solutions. Click on the banner above to learn about the amazing Read&Write products.

Episode Overview –

Episode #149 explores the idea that the cultural perception of school is a miserable experience that people need to trudge through rather than actively enjoy and suggests ways to change that perception.

A.T.TIPS in this Episode –

A.T.TIP #476: The C.U.R.R.E acronym (Curiosity, Uniqueness, Risk-Taking, Real World, and Enjoyment)

Also Mentioned In This Episode –

Research on special education turn over rates

Upcoming Live Presentations

The Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference in Orlando, Florida – February 2016

One-day Pre-conference – Universal Design for 21st-Century Learning (with Beth Poss) REGISTER NOW!

One-day Pre-conference –Evolution of an AT Team: Real World Experiences Shaping Practices (with Sally Norton-Darr, Stacy McBain and Mark Nichols) REGISTER NOW!

ISAAC Conference in Toronto, Canada – August 2016

AAC Practitioners in the 21st Century: Leveraging Our Efforts through Social Media and Digital Technologies (with Carole Zangari)

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A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #135: ScreamEd

Image of Chris holding face with the text "screamed" at the bottom.

ATTips-Summer-2014-concept

This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp, provider of the award-winning Read&Write software solutions. Click on the banner above to learn about the amazing Read&Write products.

Episode Overview –

Episode #135 is the 2014 Halloween episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST.
Don’t answer the phone.

A.T.TIPS in this Episode –

A.T.TIP #438: http://kidpresident.com
A.T.TIP #439: Common Craft Videos
A.T.TIP #440: Why Open Education Matters Video
A.T.TIP #441: Voice Messages in iMessage
A.T.TIP #442: “Hey Siri” Voice Activation
A.T.TIP #443: Brains On! Science for Kids Podcast
A.T.TIP #444: Word Cloud Generator http://tagcrowd.com
A.T.TIP #445: Word Cloud Generator http://worditout.com
A.T.TIP #446: Annotate a picture in Google Drawing
A.T.TIP #447: Designing lessons without a worksheet

Also Mentioned in This Episode

A.T.TIP #239: Word Cloud Generator http://tagxedo.com
A.T.TIP #240: Word Cloud Generator http://tagul.com
A.T.TIP #127: Word Cloud Generator http://wordle.net

Upcoming ATIA Webinars

Low Cost Ways to Provide More Options To Help Students with Reading and Writing – 3:30pm – 4:30pm ET on November 12th, 2014. Webinar for the Assistive Technology Industry Association
Getting Your AT Party Started: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Program Building with Sally Norton-Darr – 3:30pm – 5:00pm ET on December 11th, 2014. Webinar for the Assistive Technology Industry Association
Social Media for Beginners: Twitter 101  with Beth Poss – 3:30pm – 5:00pm ET on April 22, 2015. Webinar for the Assistive Technology Industry Association

Upcoming Live Presentations

Be A Digital Detective with Beth Poss – 12:45pm – 3:00pm on November 18, 2014. PATINS 2014 Conference.
Twitter 101 with Beth Poss – 10:15am – 11:15am on November 18, 2014. PATINS 2014 Conference.
Technology Driven Data Collection: Using Digital Tools to Document Progress –  One-Day Pre-conference – January 28th,  2015. Assistive Technology Industry Association One-Day Pre-conference. Register Now!
Multiple Presentations – January 29th – 31st,  2015. Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference.
TBD – Keynote Speaker –  February 4th, 2015. Utah Center for Assistive Technology

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A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #134: Able To

ATTips-Summer-2014-concept

This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp, provider of the award-winning Read&Write software solutions. Click on the banner above to learn about the amazing Read&Write products.

Episode Overview –

Episode #134 questions the usage of the phrase “able to” when reporting on the abilities of students. This is the Season 8 premiere.

A.T.TIPS in this Episode –

A.T.TIP #436: Banning the R Word and http://r-word.org
A.T.TIP #437: Elevateapp.com

Upcoming ATIA Webinars

Low Cost Ways to Provide More Options To Help Students with Reading and Writing – 3:30pm – 4:30pm ET on November 12th, 2014. Webinar for the Assistive Technology Industry Association
Getting Your AT Party Started: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Program Building with Sally Norton-Darr – 3:30pm – 5:00pm ET on December 11th, 2014. Webinar for the Assistive Technology Industry Association

 

Upcoming Live Presentations

Be A Digital Detective with Beth Poss – 12:45pm – 3:00pm on November 18, 2014. PATINS 2014 Conference.
Twitter 101 with Beth Poss – 10:15am – 11:15am on November 18, 2014. PATINS 2014 Conference.
Technology Driven Data Collection: Using Digital Tools to Document Progress –  One-Day Pre-conference – January 28th,  2015. Assistive Technology Industry Association One-Day Pre-conference. Register Now!
Multiple Presentations – January 29th – 31st,  2015. Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference.
TBD – Keynote Speaker –  February 4th, 2015. Utah Center for Assistive Technology

 

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A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #131: Providing Accessible Instructional Materials, Story 2

cartoon of teacher pointing at a laptop saying how impressed she is at the number of free ebook resources there are.

This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp, provider of the award-winning Read&Write software solutions. Click on the banner below to learn about the amazing Read&Write products.

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Cannot be combined with other offers. Offer expires June 30, 2014.

Episode Overview-

Episode #131 features the second in a series of episodes which share stories of how educators supported the needs and preferences of students by selecting instructional materials that were provided in a digital format. This episode references materials based on a question from an educator working at the secondary level. You are encouraged to share your own stories in the comments below!

A.T.TIPS in this Episode –

A.T.TIP #420 – Search the LCPS AT Diigo Group for E-books  http://bit.ly/lcpsatdiigoebooks

A.T.TIP #421 – Providing Notes Prior to Lessons

A.T.TIP #422 – Let’s Get Down to Earth…Science Podcast

A.T.TIP #423 – Students recording audio versions of text for other students

A.T.TIP #424 – Zorba Publishing E-book Guide

A.T.TIP #425 – http://manybooks.net/

A.T.TIP #426 – http://openlibrary.org

A.T.TIP #427 – http://booksshouldbefree.com

A.T.TIP #428 – http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu

A.T.TIP #429 – http://online-literature.com

A.T.TIP #430 – http://gutenberg.org

A.T.TIP #431 – http://bit.ly/literacyzone

A.T.TIP #432 – http://bit.ly/lit2go

A.T.TIP #433 – http://dailylit.com

Upcoming Presentations –

VA Training and Technical Assistance Center Region 5 –

REGISTER NOW! AT, UDL, and Me, Oh My! with Sally Norton-Darr

Tuesday, April 8th  – 8:15am – 3:30pm

Texas Assistive Technology Network – 

Tuesday, June 10th

UDL 2.0 – with Beth Poss (3 Hour Session)

Indiana Jones meets the Internet: Becoming an Assistive Technology Archaeologist – with Beth Poss (3 Hour Session)

ATIA Webinars

Low Cost Ways to Provide More Options To Help Students with Reading and Writing – 3:30pm – 4:30pm ET on November 12th, 2014. Webinar for the Assistive Technology Industry Association

Getting Your AT Party Started: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Program Building with Sally Norton-Darr – 3:30pm – 5:00pm ET on December 11th, 2014. Webinar for the Assistive Technology Industry Association

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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

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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