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Aug
11

Are You Prepared to Provide AEM (Accessible Educational Materials)? Ready! Set! GO!

Digital Rights Manager

By now most of us know that the 3 categories of a print disability specified by the IDEA are 1.) Vision Impaired, 2.) Physical Disability and 3.) Reading Disability, such as dyslexia. Since technology, teaching strategies, and universally designed classrooms make these disabilities navigable, I prefer to call them differences when possible. The first 2 typically are evident at birth, so the child will enter school with a good deal of documentation of their learning needs concerning the condition. 

The most frequently identified reading difference, dyslexia, is one of the most researched and documented conditions, affecting 20 percent of the population (1 in 5)  and represents 80-90 percent of all learning disabilities. 

Here in Indiana, Senate Enrolled Act No. 217 was signed into law in 2018, which requires Indiana schools to develop and implement specific measures regarding dyslexia. In response to that, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has written and posted several guiding documents to help schools and parents understand and meet the tenets of this law. 

As indicated in the guide entitled Dyslexia Programming Guidance for Schools a parent may request that the student receive a formal educational evaluation from the school. After the evaluation, if it is determined that the student requires special education services to successfully meet their educational needs, then the case conference committee (CCC) will assemble to determine if the student has a print disability, in this case, a reading disability. If the answer is yes, then the student requires accessible formats to access the curriculum. In the Individual Education Plan (IEP) a reading disability is indicated as an SLD (Specific Learning Disability) in the Area of Reading.

The following tips will guide you in serving students who have a documented print disability. Also, the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM) staff has posted a guide to clarify the AEM  process for the CCC that explains DRM (Digital Rights Manager) and teacher tasks in detail.

  • With the new partnership between the ICAM and Bookshare, ICAM staff can search the Bookshare library and place those requests for you, if a needed title is not in the ICAM repository.
  • For the ICAM to fully support Indiana schools as they meet the AEM needs of their students, all students identified with a print disability must be registered in the ICAM.
  • The PATINS Project (Promoting Achievement through Technology and INstruction for all Students)/ICAM services are free to schools and grant-funded by the state. Therefore, by using the ICAM, schools are facilitating the provision of services to Indiana schools by adding to the data that PATINS presents to the state.
  • If you are a DRM, please copy/paste this DRM Badge into your electronic signature to identify yourself as a DRM. Also, enlarge the badge, print and hang it outside your door, then take every opportunity to explain to others about AEM, the PATINS Project (Promoting Achievement through Technology and INstruction for all Students)/ ICAM, and the IERC (Indiana Educational Resource Center). Becoming a DRM requires an appointment by a school's superintendent, or their designee, and training.
PATINS Project/ICAM Digital Rights Manager Badge
  • The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) 2004 states that accessible materials must be available to qualified students in a "timely manner" which means at the same time their peers receive their learning materials.                                                                                                                                    
  • When to place orders: 
    • For VI orders of hard copy Braille and Large Print, orders should have been placed in April of this year. If you have received orders since then and for any future orders, enter those as soon as you get them. The IERC (Indiana Educational Resource Center) and the ICAM work very hard to help you meet "timely manner",  including for orders placed throughout the school year.
    • For orders of ePub and PDF from the ICAM repository, enter those as soon as possible so we can address unforeseen snags.
    • If you need a title from Bookshare and/or audiobooks from Mackin, you will order those through ICAM Web Ordering, as follows:
      • 1. As a DRM or teacher registered by a DRM, log into ICAM Web Ordering.
      • 2. Choose Make Special Request.
      • 3. Fill in all fields that have an asterisk*, indicate Bookshare or Mackin in the note field, and submit.
If you need assistance at any time, please contact the ICAM Staff. If you would like to become a DRM, we will support you every step of the way.

Thanks so much!
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Aug
01

5 Ways to Include Students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing using Universal Design for Learning

Inclusive-DHH-UDL-PATINS-Project-Poster-Print-Blog-Banner-1

Welcome back to School! While you are planning your seating charts, prepping lunch option boards, and digital homework options take a peek below at 5 easy tips to make sure you are universally including access to the curriculum and participation for all students in your classroom this year. 

Printable Poster to share at your case conferences and beginning of the year in-services. Thumbprint image of the poster below. Thumbprint DHH UDL PATINS Project Poster

  1. Flexible Seating: Students who are deaf or hard of hearing need sight of everyone’s face to follow the conversation. U-Shaped desk arrangements or kidney-shaped tables are best. 
  2. Representing Content: A visual representation (open/closed captions and descriptions) of the spoken language on all media and presentations/lectures are suggested for full access to auditory information in the classroom. 
  3. Small Groups: Students who are deaf or hard of hearing often participate and learn from peers best in small groups. Provide device for live captioning software and ear level FM/DM systems to be utilized. Allow students who are deaf or hard of hearing and their group to move to a quiet room or hallway to work to ensure an optimal signal-to-noise ratio. 
  4. Options for Repetition: Students who are deaf or hard of hearing often need options for how the information is represented and may need early access to materials before the information is presented in the classroom. Pre-teaching vocabulary and early access to reading materials and media content allow students to participate in discussions.
  5. Expression of Knowledge: Flexibility in the ways that a student who is deaf or hard of hearing can express what they have learned will increase engagement and motivation to participate in activities. Provide back channel or alternative ways to ask questions, visual presentations in slides, google draw, etc. 

If you and your team need suggestions on implementing any of the above please do not hesitate to contact Katie Taylor, PATINS Project’s deaf/hard of hearing state-wide specialist at ktaylor@patinsproject.org.



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Jul
25

C-Pen for the Win!

Student using C-Pen in magazine. Student using C-Pen.
This week, I'm excited to introduce Christina Ilyuk, AAC/AT Specialist for the Greater Lafayette Area Special Services (G.L.A.S.S.), as a guest blogger. Below she shares an inspiring story about how the C-Pen improved independence and confidence in reading for one of her 5th grade students this past school year.  

"Finding the right tools to support the needs of my students is so rewarding, and finding the C-pen was a huge game-changer for my student! Thanks to this technology, my student is more independent, confident and accurate with his work." - Christina Ilyuk


Here's the Story

When I received a referral to do an evaluation for Assistive Technology for my student, I met with his teachers right away. They both said he struggled immensely with reading. My student was in 5th grade and was reading at about a 2nd grade level.

During an observation, I watched and listened as my student attempted to read a worksheet with sentences at his reading level. He frequently got frustrated, resulting in a couple of outbursts and avoidance strategies, and had to take several breaks. When he reached the end of the worksheet, I was astonished.

The worksheet was comprised of about five sentences, and it took him about 45 minutes to get through it. I could see that comprehension wasn’t a problem though. Once he was able to get through the reading, he could answer the comprehension questions just fine. This is what made me think that a tool like the C-Pen might be a good fit for him. 

As soon as I introduced this device to him, he immediately loved it! It was almost a night and day difference for him. He loved all the features and was able to pick up on how to use the device very quickly. We trialed the device through the next few weeks, his teachers and I keeping track of his progress using the pen.

His teacher was just amazed! One-page worksheets that would have taken him at least a half an hour to complete were now being accomplished in ten minutes with satisfactory work. My student made several comments to me about how much he loved using his pen, and you could just see the boost in his confidence towards his schoolwork.

5th grader smiling while using C-pen in magazine.
His teachers’ goal was to make sure he was prepared to move into 6th grade as close to the level of his gen ed peers as possible. Before, they weren’t sure this would be possible due to his frequent outbursts and frustrations when given work, even with material modified at his level. Now, he completes work independently and is able to work through longer assignments that are closer to his grade level. He is motivated and able to focus better.

I am so happy to say that he finished his 5th grade year off strong! The C-Pen is an awesome tool that I have tried with several other students since when evaluating for the best tools to support assistive technology needs. It is absolutely in the top favorite devices among my students!

I am so thankful to have PATINS as a free resource to be able to trial devices like the C-Pen, as well as other fun technology like touchscreen Chromebooks, adaptive keyboards and bone-conduction headphones, just to name a few, to support equity and opportunity for all of my students. I find the lending library catalog on the PATINS website easy to navigate so I can always find what I’m looking for, and the borrowing process is smooth!  


“Do they want to know what I think?! It helps me to read really long sentences when I don’t want to and really big words that I have never seen before. Lots of people might think a reader pen is a useless device but not people who have reading challenges. When there are lots of little words in a magazine or a book, I can just scan them with my pen and boom, it reads them to me and that way I know what it says!” – My student

"Getting to know my student before introducing any AT tools to him was so important in helping me know which tools might be best. We met several times to talk about his preferences, likes and dislikes when it came to activities and school. By actively involving my student in his evaluation process, his use of the C-Pen was successful because it was something he was interested in and excited about trying.  Student autonomy is a must in educational programming!" - Christina Ilyuk


 

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Jul
20

Summer Birthdays and Celebrating Learning

via GIPHY

In the Sharritt family we have 70% of our birthdays in the span of 7 weeks in June through August. It’s both a joy and a challenge to buy gifts, get together to celebrate, and prepare birthday feasts and treats for 7/10 of my favorite folks on the planet. I have even celebrated my January birthday in July for the obvious reason that it won't be cancelled due to an ice storm. 

Gifts this year have ranged from a nose piercing for my daughter turning 16, power tool batteries for my son turning 33, and a train trip adventure for my granddaughter, turning 4. 

Requested (and surprise) treats this summer include:

  •  A Victoria Sponge served with local peaches for Grace who is both a fan of the British Bake Off and all the fruit
  • Brownie sundaes for Victoria turning 17 
  • Kouign Aman pastries for my daughter in law, Lisa (also BBO lover)
  • Chocolate Pie for Ben
  • Anything with sprinkles (Nevaeh and Maggie are kindred spirits on this one)
chocolate cake with sprinkles spelling out the number 16

To celebrate, we have had take-out barbeque on the porch, visits to Chicago, and one of the teenagers is going to have friends over for a giant hide-and-go-seek-in-the-dark at the farm this week. 

Each element of the celebrations connect with each individual and their personality and ongoing story. Even though these are my people, there is something new to be discovered in their identities each year.

We are a few weeks away from returning to school and if you are a teacher you will begin to discover the identities and stories of a new group of students. Edutopia  recently posted  an article and video about connecting identity to learning through language, STEM, and the arts. In the video I noticed the way that each student felt heard and respected, and thought about how each must feel celebrated as well. 



Project-Based Learning is also a great way to add Universal Design for Learning in your classroom. Our PATINS specialists can work with your district, school or department to train your team on these methods. 

Students thrive when they are known. Consider taking the time to work some celebrating into your lessons this fall. We’d love to help you plan the parties! 



 

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Jul
14

“Futura”

I recently found my high school yearbook online. It is almost 50 years old and yes, I am not a spring chicken. As you can imagine, it was interesting to take a walk down memory lane.

As I scrolled through the pages, our introduction to the yearbook caught my attention. What follows are a couple screen shots.

Once upon a time in old English font.

The text with emoji reads… there was a school called Gavit. In the school there were all kinds of students. One day a photographer came to the school and took pictures of all the students. …  and Every Picture Tells A Story.

This was followed by several photographs of high school life over the preceding year.

Even some 50 years ago there was text inserted with pictures. I can’t say this was the first time it was done. We didn’t predate cave inscriptions or hieroglyphics, but it was a different way of presenting information.

There are a variety of software programs, apps and picture dictionaries that are now available to help students and individuals grasp content.

Technology has taken it even further with the introduction of the Emoji, Bitmoji, Memoji, Animoji and just about any other Moji you can think if.

So, if this was my yearbook today, what might it look like?
The text with updated emoji reads… there was a   school called Gavit. In the school there were all kinds of students.  One day a photographer came to the school and took pictures of all the students. …  and Every Picture Tells A Story.

However, for me there’s nothing like the original.

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Jul
06

A Stained Glass Starfish

A Stained Glass Starfish Just show up and help make something beautiful. It will matter to at least one.

One of the most surprising things that happened to me last year was learning how to make stained glass art. By chance, I ran across a video of someone making a suncatcher and I immediately fell in love and bought a beginners kit.

It has been pretty easy to draw parallels between two of my favorite topics: stained glass art and accessibility, especially Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

Learning only takes place when other people are involved.

Being self-taught is a myth. No one on this planet is “self-taught” because learning takes other people and the environments they design. While I have yet to attend a formal class in stained glass, I’ve benefitted from dozens of knowledgeable people. I’ve learned through the thoughtful design of hundreds of experienced teachers through the environment and tools they created for me. Our students are no different: the support we give and the environments we design are the soil, air, and water to their growing minds. No one learns in a vacuum.

I need a lot of tools.

So many tools! Six of them are for breaking glass in slightly different ways. But that makes sense because just like in AAC ecosystems we’re supporting an environment of creativity and communication and we need lots of tools to do it. We can’t teach someone one tool, even a really great tool, and expect it to work for all situations and times.

Good tools don’t make up for good technique.

Breaking glass is very easy, it’s breaking it the way you want it to break is the difficult part. It takes practice and learning and reflection. In the same vein, predictably I will get at least six phone calls this school year complaining that the communication tool they borrowed from the PATINS library didn’t work for a student, and when asked if they modeled on it and how often, the phone goes silent and we begin the conversation about how students do not learn by osmosis and a good tool doesn’t make up for evidence-based techniques. Every single item in our lending library we provide no-cost support and training so you can hone your skills and maximize your student’s success.

Everyone benefits if we design accessibly.

I choose many of my tools because they were designed for “people with arthritis” or “if you have cataracts.” I have neither, but my own disabilities and preferences, the specialized allow me to make things. Without them, I wouldn’t be able even to try! Providing multiple ways to communicate to and with learners also makes sense, even if they don’t “qualify” or aren’t someone you’d suspect would need that tool or technique.

Forget “go big or go home”: show up and do a little. 

I’ve spent most of my adult working life thinking everything had to be in 20-60 minute chunks to “count.” Even when I feel tired and uninterested, I try to spend 5 minutes in my “creative space” even if it’s just cleaning. 5 minutes is perfect to start. Modeling 5 phrases on a device are always better than 0. Spending 5 minutes connecting with a child is always better than none. Not every day can we or our students summit a mountain. Just show up and help make something beautiful. It will matter to at least one.

In honor of that "it matters to this one" mentality, I made a starfish and shared the process. I hope you enjoy it!




Video Description: Jessica Conrad narrates the starfish story while creating a starfish suncatcher. First, she pulls out sheets of blue glass of different colors and textures. Then with a red marker, she writes numbers on each part of a paper pattern of a starfish. Placing a blue-green stained glass sheet on top of the pattern she scores the glass with a glass cutter. Then using running pliers (decorated with googly eyes) she snaps the glass into pieces along the scored line several times breaking it into the desired shape. The pieces are taken to a glass grinder where the edges are smoothed. She then lines the edge of the cut glass with copper foil tape and uses a tiny roller to smooth out the foiled edges. She then lays out all five pieces of her stained-glass starfish onto the table and brushes the coper with flux. With a soldering iron, she applies the solder to the copper and a jump ring to the tip of one of the starfish legs. Finally, the finished star fish spins in the light by a window.

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Jun
02

Banana Bird and The Rubber Chicken

Banana Bird and The Rubber Chicken Banana Bird and The Rubber Chicken

QR code to voice recording of blog text.

Artist Name - ruchick.mp3

My daughter just completed her first year of college and while chatting about papers she had to submit, we revisited the time when she was immersed in her writing creation of Banana Bird in elementary school. She used to walk around the house singing, “Banana banana banana bird, it makes the monkeys herd!” It definitely became an earworm tune and still is until this day when a banana is opened. It’s been nearly 10 years ago.

Meet the Banana Bird by then 9 yr old, Natalie Suding
Meet the Banana Bird

 

One day there was a Banana Bird. He sang this one morning: “Banana banana banana bird, it makes the monkeys herd!” He heard a noise. What was it? A monkey heard it! He started to climb a tree. “Shoo!” he said, but it didn’t work.

So, he jumped to a vine and so did the monkey. That didn’t work. Mr. Monkey was very bad. His name was Sam. So, he flew but Sam didn’t. He went down and went to the tree. He climbed a banana tree. The monkey was confused. “Which one was the Banana Bird?”

So, the monkey ate all of the bananas but the Banana Bird flew away happy. The end.

Binder of banana bird ideas

Ah, the creative storytelling of young people. She had a binder of ideas for future Banana Birds. I think my favorite one I looked forward to was “Monkey Attak” as she has written in her notes.

She wrote that story around the same time that I was making my first switch with a rubber chicken. That’s right, a rubber chicken toy. 
rubber chicken
She had a lot of questions as to why I was cutting open a rubber chicken to place wires and coins inside. This began a wonderful conversation about disabilities, access and accessibility. She decided that she wanted to make Meet the Banana Bird her first attempt to make her book more accessible for her friends. So, she did. 

I recently saw a sign in front of a rural school that said: “Small and mighty.” That is right…small and mighty. There is no but in what we typically hear people say, “small but mighty.” That statement within itself busts through mightset change, making it clear that there is nothing wrong with being small. It builds upon the word small and makes it as grand as the word deserves. 

Try not to underestimate not only your own power of change toward accessibility; but those we can facilitate with even the youngest of students. Model accessibility and inclusion. Talk about accessibility. Teach accessibility. Consider giving Book Creator a try in your classroom for student projects. The earlier our students understand the why and how of access for all, it can become the only way they know how and then ask a lot of questions when things are not accessible. Our students can be small and mighty.
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Jun
30

Assistive Technology for Vision Loss & Reading Comprehension!

If you have attended any of our recent PATINS Tech Expo events, you may have had the opportunity to talk with Greg Blackman of EYE can see, Inc. His company is located right here in Indiana and provides services, products & support for individuals with low-vision or blindness that assist them in their daily lives. As my guest blogger this week, I’m excited to give him the opportunity to let you know a bit more about his company.


EYE Can See logo.

EYE can see, Inc. started in 1998; we are local providers of Assistive Technology for low vision and blindness in Indiana, and work with schools to find tailored solutions to help students succeed in the classroom. We focus our treatment on the students’ specific needs and goals, and how these are best met in their classroom environment. We work with the entire spectrum of equipment from low vision to blindness solutions, hardware and software. We provide equipment to the PATINS Library and are happy to provide on-site demonstrations, assessments, and trainings. We have been the local representatives the top manufacturers of low vision/blindness solutions since we started including Freedom Scientific, Optelec, ZoomText, JAWS, Fusion, HIMS, LVI and OrCam. Over the years of working with schools we’ve identified a few categories of tools that work best for students and schools.

Portable video magnifiers are the most common devices that schools get for students in the classroom.  These devices range in size from a 5” – 17” screen, are battery powered and can easily be taken from class to class. They all will magnify text as much as the students needs and provide different color enhancements as well. Depending on the needs of the students, these devices can come with several advanced features such as distance viewing/magnification, text-to-speech/OCR, and the ability to save documents and record lectures. These devices are small and discreet, very easy to use and great for the classroom environment.

Another device that is very popular with schools and effective with both students with any level of vision loss or reading comprehension issues is called the OrCam READ. It’s a smart pen that will read printed text out loud. The OrCam READ is a laser pointer pen that will read any text you point it at. It reads printed text on hard copy materials and any screens such as computers or tablets. The OrCam Read is a very small, discreet device that is very easy to learn and use. It is a great tool for any level of vision loss or reading comprehension challenges. 

Lastly, for students with any level of visual impairment looking to access the computer, we provide software such as ZoomText, JAWS, Fusion and OpenBook. With these software programs, students with any degree of sight loss can do anything the need to on the computer. These programs all have free demos you can download to try and then we can provide the full product with training and support alongside the PATINS Specialists! 


With all of these products, as well as all of the others from our Assistive Technology Lending Library, PATINS provides Indiana public schools with implementation training and support at no cost! Reach out to our Specialists! Additionally, we work with EYE can see, Inc. to provide local education discounted pricing for many of these items and free on-site demonstrations of any of them. Many of the EYE can see, Inc. products are available through the PATINS Lending Library as well. We ship them to your school and we pay for you to ship them back! Please feel free to contact us directly and let us know how we can help support you and your students!

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Jul
30

Have I Been Doing It Wrong?

Have I Been Doing It Wrong? Clipart of racially diverse students

Recently, a colleague shared an article with me that threw me for a loop and spurred my thinking. Could what I’ve been so passionately sharing with educators all along be wrong? Yikes! 

Well, of course it could be. Because if what we love about teaching most is learning (and I do), then we always seek to expand our knowledge. We also keep open minds and regularly reflect on our practice and understanding. And when we know better, we have the opportunity to do better!

So, here’s what I’m wondering and questioning… “Have I as a white, middle-class American citizen been touting Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a solution that may only be designed in ways to support other white individuals?” Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes. That now put in writing, let me reflect upon why I feel this way. 

Simply based upon my race, gender, and lack of diagnosed disability, I have experienced privilege in ways that I both understand and still have yet to comprehend. Take, for example, my gender and personal experience, as an educator I have always worked with far more educators who identify as she/her than those that may identify as he/his, or they/their. Since I also consider myself to be neurotypical and able-bodied, I find myself pondering what proactive steps I must take in order to appropriately advocate for UDL when my experiences and thus my true empathy are first and foremost limited by traits I did not choose.

My new knowledge on intersectionality from Ijeoma Oluo’s book, So You Want to Talk about Race is also making me question the ways in which I’ve been promoting UDL. For example, I know that I’ve shared how implementing the UDL framework can change the game for a student with an intellectual and/or physical disability, but I have neglected to challenge myself and others to think about more than one demographic of students at a time as the philosophy and culture of UDL represents. 

This neglect has me now reflecting upon how a person of color with a disability may be experiencing their education; or, how a person who is transgender, Black, and has a physical disability may be experiencing their education. Have I been promoting UDL to specifically level the playing field for these individuals? The answer is again sadly no, which tells me that I haven’t been serving all students and that I’ve missed the mark on explicitly sharing the true definition of UDL, which does include a framework for all demographics and their intersections, with educators.  

With equitable access to education for every single student and the gaps in opportunities that have been created through well-intentioned educators like myself, I’ve begun to explore new (to me) research and changes I can make to best serve each and every student. One element I have found and believe is worth sharing is that while there is much research in support of UDL for a variety of students, it is worth noting that Indar (2018) and Azawei, Serenelli & Lundqvist (2016) point out that many studies conducted on UDL leave out specific student demographic information. 

These studies leave me questioning the general population’s comprehension of or attention to who is actually a part of our student body. Thus, I believe the time has come to put our UDL practices under a microscope in search of their demographic weaknesses and to boost true equity in our classrooms both in-person and virtually.

Some ways we can get started are to:

  1. Find and explore research studies with a critical eye for participant demographics and the potential for researcher bias - are a variety of student populations being studied or is it unknown?
  2. Don’t be afraid to admit that some changes may need to be made in your classroom.
  3. Like my colleagues, Jessica Conrad and Bev Sharritt, have mentioned over the past few weeks, explore your own implicit bias using these tests and this study on implicit bias in the early childhood setting. Finding yourself feeling uncomfortable is normal, or at least I hope so, because I certainly had my eyes opened to some of my biases and subsequent actions in and out of the classroom.
  4. Don’t forget that bias isn’t always assigned by a different demographic onto another. Many, if not all, of our students have been socialized to hold both positive and negative beliefs about themselves based upon their cultures, race, gender, etc. Check out the Doll Test to gain more perspective on this idea.
  5. Promote more racially diverse workplaces or push yourself to find more diverse educators and professionals to converse with (as a white person, I consider these tips in more difficult conversations about racism). Social media can be a great place to connect with others from more diverse backgrounds on student, classroom, and school issues.
  6. Ask your students and their families for feedback. How can you make them feel more included?
  7. Consider your shared resources and teaching?
    1. Are you including diversity in your shared images and graphics?
    2. Are you including diverse titles for reading and research?
    3. Are you using inclusive language?
    4. Are you open to constructive criticism when it comes to diversity and genuine inclusion of everyone; not just those students that look and sound like you.
  8. Consider crafting a statement on diversity and/or anti-racism for yourself as an educator or as a school/district to follow. We have dedicated ourselves at PATINS to our statement on anti-racism.
  9. Reach out for support. We are here to explore these issues together!

References:

Al-Azawei, A., Serenelli, F. & Lundqvist, K. (2016). Universal design for learning (UDL): A content analysis of peer-reviewed journal papers from 2012 to 2015. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16(3), p. 39-56. doi: 10.14434/josotl.v16i3.19295

CAST. (2020). About universal design for learning. Retrieved July 29, 2020 from http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html#.XyLDBfhKjMJ

Indar, G.K. (2018). An equity-based evolution of universal design for learning: Participatory design for intentional inclusivity. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from https://udl-irn.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Done_INDAR.EDIT_.DH_.JEG-copy.pdf

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Oct
28

Finding the Bright Spot

Finding the Bright Spot

Last week my colleague and friend, Bev Sharritt, reminded me how much I currently miss all of you and my fellow teammates. I think many of us can agree that virtual meetings simply aren’t the same no matter how much we may want them to be. Including this new way to work, this year has made me feel all the feelings and changed so many aspects of my daily life. It has changed the way I work, the way I socialize, the way I eat, the way I dress, the way I exercise, the list goes on. 

Nonetheless, I can’t help but try and find the silver lining in all of this change and unfamiliar territory. I suppose it’s the forever optimist in me, but when I encounter fear, I try to cling to the bright side. Here’s to hoping that some of what we’re learning and the adaptations we’re making in and out of the classroom are here to stay!

For example, this year has introduced me to more educators wanting to know how to make their materials accessible than ever before! As an accessibility advocate, this is incredibly exciting! Accessible materials level the playing field for all students and decrease the opportunity gap that too many of our students experience each and every year. I love hearing about educators working diligently and asking questions about how to make their Canvas and other learning management system courses accessible and their Bitmoji classrooms accessible on top of their digital and printed documents. 

To help support your efforts, a few of my teammates and I have put together a series of three 30-minute webinars that you can request via email for your school district as an Indiana public educator. This series includes how to create accessible materials from scratch, how to upload and publish accessible materials, and how to make inaccessible materials accessible from the student’s perspective.

Furthermore, this year has pushed us to not only think about our students’ access to our materials (representing our content), but the ways in which we engage our students and allow our students to show us what they know; this is the heart and soul of universal design for learning (UDL). We are stretching our creativity, figuring out how to use new tools for access, using virtual platforms for teaching and teletherapy successfully, and reaching students in ways we may have never thought possible. 

I also believe that 2020 has made us take a closer look at our work/life balance and how we care for our mental health. Not to say this didn’t happen because we overworked and pushed ourselves to the limit in some cases, but I’m hoping that it’s been a lesson learned to take with us into the future. Finding our boundaries and learning to say no is healthy! It’s a common phrase because it's true; we must take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. 

Lastly, I think or hope many of us have begun to re-evaluate how and with whom we spend our invaluable free time outside of the classroom. This year has brought me closer to the ones I love through phone calls, texts, Zoom get togethers, and sometimes in person. My quaran-team has helped me get through this year and will be there for me as we end this year and venture into what’s to come in 2021. I hope you’ve found your team and that you, too, are finding the bright spots in your experiences. 

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Jul
29

Text Consumption: Are All Options Created Equal?

Text Consumption: Are All Options Created Equal? Text Consumption: Are all options created equal? Accompanied by eye, ear, and hand graphics.

Reading or as I like to call it, text consumption, is a large part of many of our lives. People may read textbooks with their eyes. Some individuals may read audiobooks with their ears, and others may read Braille books with their fingers. Text can be consumed for understanding in a variety of ways, but are all options created equal? Please share your opinion in a one-question survey linked at the end of the blog.

Midsection of girl reading Braille book

Over the last handful of years, I’ve reflected on my own text consumption habits. I once only considered myself a sighted consumer of text, with some practice listening to text, I found that I really enjoy auditory reading. I especially enjoy having access to text when I’m driving, walking, or mowing. Not only does it stimulate my brain, it makes the minutes tick by much faster. Plus, I’m grateful that as an adult I have options and can choose how I consume text with no fear of being told that I’m not really “reading” if I consume or read an audiobook auditorily.

Have you ever taken a minute to reflect on how you prefer to access and consume text for comprehension and recall? Some questions to ask yourself.
  1. Do you consume text in different ways? What about your students?

  2. Have you investigated ways to ensure your students have equitable access to grade level text using a method(s) that provides them with an optimal opportunity to consume text for comprehension and recall, especially if they struggle to decode text visually?

  3. Have you ever limited a student’s choice of text only because you believe that their struggle to decode it with their eyes means that they can’t glean any meaning from or find joy in it?

It wouldn’t be fair if I asked you to reflect upon those questions without doing so myself. Though hard to admit, I’d have to answer yes to the latter question during my time in the classroom. My students could only choose library books to read for pleasure from within their prescribed reading level as designated by the STAR program. Ugh, what was I thinking? With the knowledge that I have now, this dreadful strategy likely only caused embarrassment for students that were reading below grade level and barriers to texts that, if offered in an alternate format, could have stimulated imaginations, told meaningful stories, and sparked a love for text.

Young student wearing headphones and reading a textbook auditorily
After reflecting upon your text consumption preferences and the opportunities that have been afforded to your previous students, how might you change what it means to consume or read text for comprehension and recall in your classroom this year? 

If you desire to make some changes in your comprehension instruction this year but need some support or ideas, reach out to a PATINS Specialist! We are here and ready to work together to ensure each and every student has the opportunity to receive and interpret text for meaning, which is really why we want students to be able to read in the first place, right? 

Are all text consumption methods created equally? Share your opinion in this one-question survey (opens new window)!

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Jun
16

Lost

Artist Name - Lost-blog.mp3

A fork on the trail leading into a wooded area.

My family and I, like many of you, travel over summer break. Exploring a new place is the highlight of any trip. Walking down mysterious streets, eating unfamiliar food, hearing the unique voices and sounds, and getting insight on the history of the region based on graffiti or architecture are a few of the reasons wanderlust is written on my heart. But pioneering a new path in an unknown place can also be terrifying. Without warning that right turn was the wrong turn, and now, everything that you know is out of sight. Loneliness and panic fill your brain and tears well up in your eyes. That feeling of being lost can seem demoralizing, making you feel helpless. Then, you turn one more strange corner and the home base comes into view. It is in that moment that you have this overwhelming rush of pride in finding a new road home. What was once obscure and complicated is now recognizable and familiar. Exploring and being lost become essential parts of the same story and are now part of all my trip agendas. 

Balancing the excitement and fear of being lost have not always been so smooth. When I was in first grade, I felt lost while the other students learned reading with ease. My classmates pronounced each of the words on the page effort-less-ly while I struggled to know the sounds and fumbled through read alouds relying heavily on images, context, and the whispers of the other students. It was scary and I felt like I was the only one who couldn’t learn to read. Those feelings of loneliness and fear impeded my reading progress and made every reading assignment feel like an overwhelming task. I had all but given up on reading until fourth grade when I turned a corner. One of my teachers, seeing my reluctance to read, suggested the short chapters of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Engulfed in the stories and all the possible outcomes, I would read the same book several times which helped build my skills. I then moved on to The Babysitter’s Club book series (the 90s equivalent to binge watching), and I devoured each one, rushing to the library for the next adventure. Being lost in the learning process of reading made me feel ashamed and excluded but exploring topics that interested me gave me a safe space to practice reading. Today, my safe space resides in historical fiction which I read either with my eyes or with my ears on a daily basis. I was lost until I found something that I loved.

This was not my sudden shift to embracing being lost. Fast forward to college decision time. As my peers began looking at career choices and college, I reflected on my understimulated time in high school. I had moved through general education classes with little connection or interest which led to an increased lack of effort on my part. I was lost in the possibilities since there was not a high expectation that I would even attend college. My grades were dismal and my confidence shot, high school did not seem like a good fit for me. Feeling pressure that I should do something with my life, I finally settled on studying business at a local community college. While I was attending this community college I turned a corner. My local church was looking for a youth group leader so I stepped into that role and found a love of project planning and working with teens. Soon I was headed off to university to study education. I thought that I had finally found my dream job until the results of my Praxis came back and I had not scored high enough to complete my course and get my teaching license. I felt I had taken another wrong turn and those feelings of being lost returned with increased hopelessness. But where Praxis said no, Spain said yes. Soon after my graduation, I took a position as an English teacher to multilingual students in Madrid, Spain. Following a month-long intensive training program, I stepped into my first classroom teaching English to adults. I followed that experience with getting my teaching license, and soon after, my master’s in education. Being lost led me to teach for over twenty years in three different countries and seven different subjects. I was lost until I found a place that was right for me.

My last experience solidified my many similar lost moments throughout adulthood. Arriving in Indianapolis after living in Mexico for 10 years, I stepped into job interview after job interview knowing that my lack of professional connections in Indianapolis overshadowed my background and education. I started in a job designed for a high schooler with low pay, long hours, and little consideration for multiple years’ experience, a master’s degree and being multilingual. Being lost and exploring work options with a small child depending on me took me to a new level of scary. I accepted those wrong turns and settled into a world of being lost. Those wrong turns seemed to be endless with each job leading only to temporary positions and little promise of a home base. The corner that seemed out-of-sight came into view when I was working as an adjunct professor at IUPUI and Jena Fahlbush and Katie Taylor came to present about UDL and PATINS. I started to see some familiarity return. Collaborating with co-workers, working with educators in Indiana, and seeing students get access to materials like those that I missed out on brought me full circle in my exploration process. I was lost until I found people who recognized that the road to success may look different for each individual.

Having access to materials that students love, creating a space that feels right for them, and recognizing various ways to get to the same target can convert feelings of being lost into an adventure of exploration. Experience the joys of being lost as you search the many titles on Mackinvia and Bookshare through the ICAM for students with print disabilities, including dyslexia. Additionally Vox books, c-pens, and livescribe pens are just some of the items available in the Lending Library that any IN educator can check out for a six-week trial period. Don’t forget the built-in text-to-speech, word prediction, and dictation features on your student’s computer. Also connect with a PATINS Specialist to explore strategies, tools, and resources to open up new routes for you and your students.

I have often been off the beaten traditional path but in the midst of a state of “being lost” I have had many opportunities to explore the multitude of ways to reach my goals. Being on the outside has its own feelings of loneliness but knowing that this path is MY path has led me to embrace and even love being lost. 

This is my story, what’s yours? Share on twitter #PatinsIcam 

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Jun
10

Tools in Your Toolbox

 

Various battery operated power tools and toolboxes with various tools

Most of us have completed a project, repaired something, helped a friend, written a letter (or blogpost!) at some point.  When planning for these endeavors we usually have a plan and/or a tool in mind.  Often everything goes well but sometimes it doesn't.  To be successful, we must have access to more than one solution or tool.  Students must be offered and taught how to use a variety of tools.  Need ideas?  Please check out the PATINS Project training calendar.

A picture containing outdoor pergola over and outdoor grill/kitchen area

My plan was to help a friend dig three post holes for a pergola (unique design).  We were warned by his neighbor that the ground was hard clay, and the preferred tool would be a towable, one-person auger/post hole digger (available to rent but would take about one hour of our time to borrow and return). I've dug many fence post holes in the past and I have manual post hole diggers.  During my site prep we measured, used my diggers to start the holes and everything looked good (i.e., somewhat soft clay and no rocks).  To save that hour of time, I figured we could use my neighbor's small, gas post hole digger.

I forgot to mention that his neighbor had just built his own pergola and successfully dug six post holes…in the clay. You know what happened next, we were forced to rent the larger one-person auger/post hole digger.  Unfortunately, we had more obstacles; three rose bushes and an outdoor grill/kitchen brick wall.  Respectively, they didn't appreciate the one-person auger’s wide wheelbase or large obtrusive handle.

It took us almost twice the time we planned, and we used three different tools.  However, we got those holes dug!  One tool did not get this task completed.

When students are assigned academic tasks, they should be allowed to choose from several tools to successfully complete those assignments. When writing, students could respond with handwriting, with a keyboard, speech to text, audio recording, video recording, scribe, etc. 

When reading, students could read with their eyes, ears (speech to text solutions), have someone read aloud to them, audio books (e.g., Hoopla or if they qualify, access digitally accessible materials from the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM)).

When communicating, students could use gestures, vocalizations, sign language, partner assisted scanning, static/paper-based communication boards, single message voice output devices (e.g., BigMack), multiple message devices or high-tech dedicated speech generating devices (SGD).

What tools are in your teacher's toolbox?  If you want ideas to fill it up, please reach out directly to one the PATINS specialist.

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May
28

That’s a Wrap! What’s Next?


IMG 2985

The school year is wrapping up for my children. The hustle and bustle of the end of the school year is an exciting and stressful time for many of us. As we consider the growth and successes of the school year, it is great to also regroup and plan for what is next. One hopes that the skills they have learned up to this point, will prepare them for the next season. 

My oldest son is graduating from high school next week. I am an admittedly proud and grateful mom. The journey from preschool to high school has been so quick and yet so long. We have had no less than one or two yearly IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings since he turned 3 years old. He has had numerous goals met, triumphs, and a few failures as well, but he was steadily learning. It took a village of caring adults to teach and encourage him along the way. We worked so hard at home to make sure he had everything he needed. He had many services for years including occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, special education, instructional assistants, counselors, assistive technology supports, and other service providers along the way. When I say he had a village, I truly mean it! As soon as he gained more skills and became independent, some services were discontinued and new ones were added when we realized there was a new area for improvement. We all worked together and that teamwork is about to pay off. As he wraps up his K-12 career, he looks toward college now.

With one season ending for him, a new season of life is beginning. As we make the transition to summer and prepare to go to college, I hope he remembers what the village has taught him thus far and he will continue to advocate for himself. One part of the village has been the PATINS Project for Assistive Technology support for his providers. As the transitions continue for my children, I am grateful for the village that ensures student success through the educational process. Here's to the next season and new adventures!

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May
10

A Taste of Anxiety

For my birthday and spring break last month, I was fortunate enough to celebrate in Mexico with my husband, Chris, and some friends. We spent the first part of the trip in Puerto Vallarta. It is a remarkable city filled with buzzing culture, delightful foods, beautiful beaches, and lovely people. As one of Mexico’s tourist destinations, many local staff speak English in addition to their native language. This was much appreciated by the majority of our group since we are English speakers trying out our tiny bits of conversational Spanish on occasion. 

alt=Friends at the beach in Puerta Vallarta. From left to right: Andrew, Chris, and Jena.

The second part of our trip took us to Mexico City to continue our vacation with our close friend, Andrew, who recently moved there for a new job. It was wonderful getting to see where he resides and to be guided through the city by someone who knew his way around. It was especially nice having a guide who is multilingual and speaks Spanish fluently. This is because I naively overestimated the number of English speakers in Mexico City based upon my previous international travels to tourist destinations in non-English speaking countries. 

Despite a language barrier for my husband and me, Andrew confidently led us through a handful of the city’s neighborhoods, to some amazing restaurants, and to some of the “can’t miss” sites to see. One of our adventures included a hot air balloon ride at sunrise over the architectural site of the pre-hispanic city of Teotihuacan. It has gone down in my book as one of the coolest experiences I’ve had to date!

Vantage point from a hot air balloon of one of the two remaining pyramids of Teotihuacan.
Overall, the trip was refreshing, enlightening, and a total blast until the language barrier came for us the morning of our flight home… 

It was 6am and we were pulling up to terminal one, the domestic terminal, because Andrew was also flying out to venture to another part of Mexico the same morning. Thankfully, before getting out of the Uber, he had chatted with the driver about taking us to the international terminal--terminal two--upon his departure.

So we said our goodbyes, Andrew walked into the airport, and we got back in the Uber. Expecting the Uber to head to terminal two per the conversation he had with Andrew, Chris and I buckled up and I said, “Terminal two,” to which the driver began responding to me in Spanish as we stayed parked at terminal one.  

My anxiety was immediately awakened, and Chris and I looked at each other with confusion. I began asking myself what are we going to do? Why isn’t he driving? How far is terminal two? Is there another way we could get there? 

I decided to get out of the car and look around for someone that could possibly interpret for us. The only language I was hearing was Spanish, and there were not that many people around. Failing to find an interpreter, I got back in the car and pulled out Microsoft Translator on my phone. Now, I wish I could tell you a success story about how this app magically saved us and opened lines of communication in this moment, but sadly, it did not. Instead, when I would put the phone close enough to the driver for my speaker to pick him up, he would stop talking. I tried asking him to repeat in Spanish (though I wasn’t even conjugating the verb correctly), but he remained silent. 

With my anxiety becoming palpable, I decided to give Andrew a call, though I wholeheartedly did not expect him to answer. Luckily, he answered my call. I explained that the Uber driver wasn’t leaving terminal one and that we were not able to figure out why. I then put Andrew on speaker phone so that he could talk to the driver. 

After a short conversation between the two of them, the call went silent. I could tell Andrew was still on the line, but he was not replying to my frantic calls of his name and asking him what’s going on. I look over at Chris and think, what are we going to do? Why isn’t Andrew answering me? At this point, I made the decision to get out of this car and be done with the ride. Chris and I got out, and I began knocking on the trunk to communicate that we needed to get our luggage out. 

Our efforts were gratefully met with the driver saying, “Hey, hey!” and pointing to his phone. This is when I noticed that Andrew had requested a new Uber ride with our driver to get us to terminal two. With some cautious relief, we got back into the car. The driver accepted the ride on his app, and off we went. 

I couldn’t have been more relieved to arrive at terminal two. As it turns out the terminals are far enough apart that we couldn’t have easily walked, and navigating a way there would likely have proven just as stressful as our Uber situation due to the language barrier. 

Heading into the international terminal and being greeted by someone who was multilingual began to tamp down my anxiety, though now I was feeling somewhat nauseated from the stress. Regardless, we had made it with enough time to get checked in, through security, and to grab a snack before our flight departed. 

I’m sharing this story with you because it highlighted the anxiety and full body stress I felt in a single experience in which a language barrier was present. Upon reflection of this moment, I’m filled with empathy for our English learners in our schools and communities. This is because as someone who knows some Spanish and how to use translation technology, all my knowledge flew out the window in a time of elevated stress. Your students and families have likely felt the same way in more than one instance. 

It is my hope that this story helps you reframe the experiences of your students and their families who are learning English. Could you be offering a more inclusive experience at your beginning and end of the year events and gatherings with Office 365’s Present Live in PowerPoint? Have you implemented apps like Microsoft Translator during conferences or meetings to support equitable communication? Have families been included in the training of their student’s assistive technology through an interpreter? 

We know there are many languages present in our public schools and not all languages are supported through translation technologies, but we are here to help you navigate those waters. Microsoft, iOS, and Google do have some great translation tools for many languages though. It would be my pleasure to support your use of any Microsoft or Windows based tool as the Microsoft/Windows PATINS Specialist. Email me any time! Plus, our passionate English Learner Specialist, Amanda Crecelius, would be happy to support language access for your multilingual students. 

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May
18

Summer Activities!

Summer is almost upon us once again and one great thing about summer is that it allows extra time for families to spend time together. Activities such as cooking can teach many skills while being fun and educational at the same time.

Families can start small and build up to bigger and better creations. While cooking students can learn many skills. The following list was on the Norton’s Childrens Hospital website entitled “Cooking activities for kids can teach confidence and skills that can prepare them for a lifetime of healthy habits.”

Here are seven skills that your children can develop while helping in the kitchen:

  1. Explore their senses. Invite children, especially younger ones, to experience the activity of the kitchen. If you’re baking bread, for example, kids can listen to the whir of a mixer, pound dough and watch it rise, smell it baking in the oven and finally taste the warm bread fresh from the oven. If it smells good, looks appealing and is easy to eat, they may just be willing to try it! Seeing you enjoy the process of cooking healthy meals can help them see cooking as fun and not a chore. Processed foods are readily available and fast; watching you take the time to make a quick, healthy meal instead of something fast can help reinforce the behavior as they grow and start making food choices on their own.

  2. Expand their palate. If you have picky eaters, bringing them into the kitchen to help cook can help open them up to new foods and flavors. Introducing new foods to children may be more successful if you introduce only one new food at a time along with something that you know your child likes. Consider trying healthy recipes from different countries and cultures to not only expand the palate, but your child’s worldview.

  3. Working in the kitchen provides kids and teens opportunities to gain a sense of accomplishment. Even if the end result is not exactly what you expected, praise your kitchen helpers for their efforts.

  4. Making healthy choices. Planning a menu and grocery list is an opportunity to explain smart food choices. Talk to your child about different food groups and encourage him or her to try new foods. Kids who have a hand in making the vegetables may be a little more willing to try a sample when they sit down at the dinner table.

  5. Responsibility. From following a recipe and learning how to safely handle kitchen equipment to cleaning up spills and putting things away, helping in the kitchen provides ample opportunities for children and teens to learn responsibility.

  6. Sharing good conversation. Share with your child or teen family stories and recipes. Or ask thought-provoking questions about food choices, school, friends and other activities. Developing these conversations while preparing dinner teaches your child how to carry on a thoughtful conversation and can enhance your relationship.

  7. Basic math, science and language skills. As kids learn to crack eggs and stir sauce, they also gain new science, language and math skills. Basic math skills (“How many eggs do we need?”) and sequencing skills (“What is first … next … last?”) give way to fractions (“Is this ¾ of a cup?”) as your child gains confidence in the kitchen. Reading recipes helps improve reading comprehension, and you can demonstrate basic science principles with something as simple as salt sprinkled on an ice cube.

I also wanted to share the following which I shared last year at this same time and it follows.

Summer is almost here,and I’m excited to share some outdoor time with my cousin who will be in 9th grade in the Fall. I work with him during the school year, helping out with his homework and studying for quizzes and tests. We work especially hard on Math, and he has shown tremendous growth and I want to keep it going. So I have been looking for ways to incorporate Math into the activities he enjoys. Here are a few ideas I have come up with so far:

  1. Having him pay with cash when we go somewhere, and then checking to see if he receives the correct change.

  2. Letting him help with navigation to the places we go. Which direction are we going? How many gallons of gas do we need?

  3. He enjoys baseball, and there are many statistics that we can talk about and how they are figured.

  4. Cooking may not be his favorite activity, but occasionally I can get him to help out. We talk about measurements and conversions. When we have cookouts, he gets to figure out how many hotdogs, hamburgers, etc. we need for everyone.

  5. When we go shopping for shoes or something he truly wants, we get the opportunity to compare prices and to figure out how much 20% off saves us.

  6. I am hoping to build a project with him, and we can use the tape measure and figure out the amount of materials we will need.

  7. I take him out to eat, and I have him look at the calories we will consume. He can also help me figure out the tip.

  8. We play board games like Monopoly, and this includes money skills and budgeting. Battleship helps with graphing and logical reasoning. Connect 4, Clue, Chess, and Checkers help with planning strategy. Yahtzee and Rummikub are fun ways to work on math skills as well.

  9. He spends much of his time playing video games, so I encourage him to play games that involve strategy and planning.

I also encourage him to read all year long, but especially in the summer. I must admit, this has undoubtedly been a challenge! These are some ideas that I have used, or that I am planning to use over the summer.

  1. I take him to the library. I can’t always get him to read while we are there, but they always have a puzzle out so we work on it, and I encourage him to find something to check out.

  2. I am also going to encourage him to listen to audiobooks over the summer to see if he would enjoy them.

  3. I buy him used comic books which he seems to genuinely enjoy. They are inexpensive, and he will usually read them. I try to ask lots of questions about them when he has finished, so we can work on comprehension.

  4. When we build our project, I will have him read any written directions that we come across.

  5. I will also take any chance I get to have him read in any activity that we do. He can read directions when we are playing games, and he can read recipes or the grocery list when we go to the store.

These are just a few ideas that I have come up with. There are many other ideas, activities, and a wealth of information available with a search on the Internet. What ideas do you use with your students or children that you have found to be successful? Please share with me via the comments section.

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May
04

Educational Interpreters: Considerations for Schools

Educational Interpreters: Considerations for Schools Educational Interpreters: Considerations for Schools

This week's blog is brought to us by our guest blogger and Language First founder, Kimberly Sanzo, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL. Kimberly's biography is at the bottom of this blog. 

Educational interpreters are an important part of the educational team and their work in providing language accessibility for Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students is critical. However, it’s important for school districts contemplating hiring an American Sign Language (ASL)-English interpreter for their DHH student(s) to consider a few vital factors. First, what is the language level of the DHH student? If the student has strong signed language skills, they may benefit from having the academic information interpreted into a visual language. If, however, the student has strong oral language skills and minimal signed language skills, then perhaps there needs to be a discussion as to the ultimate goal of having an educational interpreter in the classroom. If the goal is for the student to learn some ASL, then simply being provided an interpreter will not help them acquire a new language. Educational interpreters do not provide language instruction, and it would not be fair to expect the DHH student to attempt to acquire a new language while simultaneously trying to take in academic information. Additionally, having information interpreted into a language they barely know will likely be unhelpful. 

Most crucially, if the student has minimal signed language skills and minimal oral language skills, an interpreter may not be beneficial. In fact, providing an educational interpreter to a DHH child with no complete first language may be more harmful than helpful. As Caselli et al. (2020) assert, there is no evidence that DHH children with language deprivation can overcome their language difficulties from a single language model, even if that model is fluent in the language. School-aged DHH children without fluency in any language will not be able to simply acquire a signed language from an educational interpreter. Rather, they need intensive and purposeful language intervention in their most accessible language as well as plenty of language models and same-language peers with which to interact.

Another important consideration is the skill level of the educational interpreter. In a study by Schick et al. (2005), the authors found that 60% of the interpreters evaluated did not have the skill level necessary to provide DHH students with full access to the curriculum. This may be a result of state-by-state variation in requirements for interpreter skill levels. Many states don’t have standard requirements for educational interpreters, while others have standards that are gravely below the needs of DHH students (National Association of Interpreters in Education, 2021). Thus, it is critical that the school properly vet ASL-English interpreters who may be working with their students by ensuring they have an objective measure of adequate skill level. 

This is vital for a few reasons. First, interpreters themselves may not be able to accurately estimate their skills. This is due to a human cognitive fallacy called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, or the tendency for less-skilled individuals to rate themselves as highly skilled, and highly skilled individuals to rate themselves as less skilled. Indeed, Fitzmaurice (2020) found that the least skilled interpreters overestimated their skills, while the most skilled interpreters underestimated their skills. Therefore, a score on a standardized test like the Educational Interpreter Proficiency Assessment (EIPA) can be helpful in offering a more objective evaluation of an interpreter’s skills. Second, less skilled interpreters are less accurately interpreting information for their DHH students (Schick et al., 2005). The lower the percentage of accurately interpreted information, the less access DHH students are getting to academic content. Indeed, Schick et al. (1999) found that “many deaf children receive an interpretation of classroom discourse that many distort and inadequately represent the information being communicated” (p. 144).

Our DHH students need and deserve 100% access to academic information at all times, just like their hearing peers. It is our responsibility to ensure that a.) the student is a good candidate for an educational interpreter (if they are not, other educational placements should be discussed), and b.) that interpreter is highly qualified to provide full language access.

References:

Caselli, N. C., Hall, W. C., & Henner, J. (2020). American Sign Language interpreters in public schools: An illusion of inclusion that perpetuates language deprivation. Maternal and Child Health Journal.  

Fitzmaurice, S. (2020). Educational interpreters and the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Journal of Interpretation, 28(2).

National Association of Interpreters in Education (2021). State Requirements for EducationalInterpreters. https://naiedu.org/state-standards/

Schick, B., Williams, K., & Kupermintz, H. (2005). Look who’s being left behind: Educational interpreters and access to education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 11(1), 3-20.

Schick, B., Williams, K., Bolster, L. (1999). Skill levels of educational interpreters working in public schools. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 4(2), 144-155.


Kimberly Sanzo, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL


Kim is a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who is committed to educating parents and professionals on the neurological effects of a late or incomplete first language acquisition for Deaf and hard of hearing children. She received her M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Gallaudet University in 2012 and is a board-certified specialist in child language (BCS-CL) through the American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders.

Kim is also the founder of Language First. Language First aims to educate and raise awareness about American Sign Language (ASL)/English bilingualism and the importance of a strong first language foundation for Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children. You can find more information on Language First social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and website.

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Apr
20

Did You Want to Talk About the Weather?


daffodils in foreground surrounded by snow on the ground. Farm house in the background
It’s mid April, so I put away my husband’s heavy Carhart coats, my winter boots and all of the hats and gloves clogging up the entryway and the mudroom. It felt amazing saying “so long!” to fleece and wool. Did I mention that it’s mid April in Indiana? Right on cue, the day after my ceremonious dumping of the hats into the back of the closet, Indiana came back with an inch of snow overnight–on a Monday morning no less. 

The snow melted gradually throughout the day–gone by evening, but it left a little frostbite on my psyche. As a Hoosier, I have trust issues with the natural universe. My weather app predicts 80’s by Saturday, but I’m thinking this wild swing into sweatiness will also mess with my head. 

To quote one of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, in one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day: "Did you want to talk about the weather, or did you just want to chit chat?"



For Hoosiers, maybe it’s less chit chat, and more talk therapy. 

Predictability, in general, helps us all to flourish mentally. At PATINS, our staff has a brief weekly meeting where we report progress on our professional goals and ask for anything we might need to move forward. It has become an important ritual for me, and a way to connect with my coworkers as we work remotely all over the state. You educators reading this likely have daily/weekly rituals in your classrooms that make your students feel secure. Would love to have you share some of these in the comments!

rear car window covered in snow with the word
Indiana educators have missed out on a well-loved summer ritual in the past two years as Summer of E Learning events were canceled. For summer 2022 these are being revived as Summer of Learning Conferences. Our PATINS staff will be presenting at many of these events and excited to reconnect with you in person. 

It will probably be a warm day that we’ll gather. Or hot. A storm might blow up unexpectedly. Not ruling out an F5 tornado. I predict 100% we’ll gain some new knowledge or add to our professional network.  But dress in layers.


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Apr
28

If I knew then what I know now.

Jena and her grandmaFuture teacher, Jena, and one of the
best teachers in her life, Grandma.


We can all likely agree that teaching is not what it used to be. In fact, the profession I found myself in as an elementary school teacher was worlds away from what I envisioned.

I believe that one reason for this disconnect is that I expected to teach the way that I was taught- following along with my teacher’s lesson and directions quietly from my desk; then completing my assignment and checking it twice before handing it in. I hope that some of you can relate; however, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that my preferred method of learning couldn’t sound more like beating your head against a brick wall… Yet to me there’s almost nothing better than being given information, asked to complete a task, completing it to the best of my ability, and receiving praise for my work. Needless to say, I’m a people-pleaser.

Not only did I love being a student, I revered my teachers- such poise, such excitement, and so much love for and genuine interest in their students. They were the bee’s knees to me, and I can proudly name every one of my elementary school teachers. Of course teaching was in my future! Bee clipart

Nowadays, the education pendulum has shifted. For better or for worse, teachers face more state testing, rigid evaluations, changes in general attitudes towards the profession, and increasing daily demands. This includes planning for and meeting the needs of all students.

It is the last of the changes — meeting the needs of all learners — that inspires this blog post. There were many days in the classroom that I viewed this expectation as a mountain I could never climb, especially alone. With so many students, each one with a unique set of needs, how could I ever meet each student on his or her level?? 

If only I could have know then what I know now. You see, as a third grade teacher, I wasn't aware of the wonderfully valuable resources that PATINS has to offer until I left the classroom and found a job posting online for the PATINS Data & Outreach Coordinator. Lucky for me, the position was something I was very interested in; I landed an interview and was offered the job. Now I am able to reach out to educators, who were just like me, in order to offer them invaluable resources that would have been an immense help to me while in the classroom.


For instance, I would bet it's safe to say that every teacher has experience with a student that has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention identify 1 in 68 American children as having ASD. As educators, we know that these students bring a different set of talents and challenges to our classrooms.

One of the most common struggles for these students is social interaction and communication, which can lead to heightened frustration among the student, classmates, and teacher. Check out this video of Dillan, a student who describes himself as “autistic,” as he describes his experience with ASD. This is an incredible example of the way that we can help you meet the needs of your students. We lend iPads and other devices with text to speech software, so that you can give a voice to a student who may so desperately want one. Not sure how to implement them or use the software? We’ll come to your classroom and educate you, so that you get what you want out of the technology!

If you’re reading this, then you are probably already aware of our lending library and services; yet so many educators across the state have never heard of us, and this is my cause. I am passionate about the services we provide to the students across the entire state of Indiana. I want every educator to understand what we offer and to feel comfortable reaching out when they are in need of some guidance.

Not sure what to do to help a student who struggles with focusing on tasks? Give us a call. Need recommendations when searching for the right assistive technology? Let us know. Have you borrowed an item that you are excited about, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Reach out. The list goes on and on.

We are here for, and because of you! So please help spread the word about PATINS to as many friends, family members, and fellow educators as you can. The more educators we can support, the more student lives we can positively affect. We are here to help teachers climb the mountains that can stand in the way.



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Apr
15

A Good Novel

A long while back, prior to becoming the ICAM Technology Specialist, I dabbled in getting eBooks on the iPad, Android, Nook, Kindle, Palm, Symbian, Nokia, Sony, Ericsson, Blackberry, Franklin, Casio, Psion, Clie, Garmin, etc. I must admit, it was quite a challenge, because most had to be sideloaded. Sideloading is the installation of an application on a mobile device without using the device's official application-distribution method.

The process was trial and error. What worked for one device, wouldn’t work for another in quite the same way if it worked at all. Once they were “loaded,” it would become a game of hide and seek. I knew I had loaded it, but where did it end up? Once found, would it open on the devices app?

I enjoy a good challenge, and at that time, that is exactly what it was. Today, the process is much simpler. The devices and apps are much more forgiving. However, back to the beginning, if there was just an easier way to get content on a device, it would make the process so much easier.

I stumbled on a website that did just that. The website is freekindlebooks.org, but don’t let the URL fool you. The website is straight forward text and hyperlinks to thousands of the classics that are in public domain. The website itself dates back to 2008!

I am sure the question can be raised as to who would want digital content that is that old? Well, considering that the authors are famous for their literature, hence classic, their content is timeless. What Free Kindle Books appealed to me, however, was twofold.

Firstly, these are novels that have tested time. Read and enjoyed by millions. For many a window into our past, and for some a prediction of the future. Secondly, the unbelievable ease of getting the content on devices.

There is not a lot of content at the Free Kindle Books website, but a thing to note is the content are file format conversions of Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg has an enormous amount of content in a wider variety of formats than Free Kindle Books, but the one feature that drew me to Free Kindle Books was the Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg E-Books. If that is the only thing you take away from this blog, this is it.

Once you have clicked on Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg E-Books has two links to consider. One link is for MOBI (Kindle) Edition to the catalog and the other is the EPUB Edition. Both are hyperlinks with the MOBI format for Kindle devices and the EPUB format for all other devices.

Clicking on the EPUB Edition will download the catalog file as MagicCatalogE.epub. This file will probably be found in the users Download directory. Import this file into any app that supports EPUBs, and it will create the eBook in the device library.

Upon opening the Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg E-Books, the user has access to thousands of authors with titled novels which has a direct hyperlink that once selected will automatically download the file and place it in your device library. They can also be opened in a browser once downloaded.

In the screenshot below, this page is one of 629 pages of authors/titles.

Screenshot of page one of the magic catalog of Project Gutenberg with a brief introduction and one and half columns of hyperlinked authors with titles.

The ease of adding classic digital content from the Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg is simply amazing.

Does it have today’s popular best sellers? No, but it offers access to novels that can fit anyone’s taste that enjoys reading. It is never too late to pick up, I mean download a good novel.


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