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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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Apr
07

Who's Afraid of AAC?

Who's Afraid of AAC? When someone says “AAC is not my thing,” what they're really sharing is that they are scared.

Somehow being an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) specialist with PATINS has put me in the position of listening to the confessions of school staff:

“I’m not good with technology.”

“They didn’t teach any of this when I was in school.”

“AAC is not my thing.”

It’s usually said in a hushed tone when they think no one else is listening.

“I have nothing but good news,” I’ll often say. “90% of what we’re talking about is just good instruction for all students that you already know, we’re just framing it in a new way to support non-speaking students. The rest I’ll put on a cheat sheet, and I find cheat sheets helpful too.”

But what I want to say is “AAC wasn’t my thing either and look at me now!” At one time, out of the things that SLPs had to learn, I would have ranked AAC dead last. Even below the paperwork.

I had “The AAC Class.” In one semester I was to learn everything I needed to know about AAC and I would be set for the rest of my career (haha!). However, there was one little snag: the professor who taught the AAC class took a sabbatical and another staff member was wrangled into covering it so we could graduate on time. This is what I learned that semester:

Nothing.

At least, nothing which was practical or helpful in the real world. I was given my first “real job” caseload with several non-speaking students, a binder for PECS, a Boardmaker CD, and released into the wilderness. My class notes were worthless.

I was in trouble and these students needed something I didn’t have: the knowledge of how to “do the AAC.”

Of course, AAC was definitely not my thing. But it had to be because there was no one else. I adopted a simple plan that has kept me afloat to this day: just keep saying “yes” to every opportunity. Every training and app I could find to practice with, every opportunity to attend or present at conferences and network. None of this came naturally or from a book or college course. Yes, I will pilot it. Yes, I will learn it. Yes, I can teach it. It was just years of chasing ideas and tools for students that made them light up inside when they found their voice. I made mistakes, forgave myself, and tried to learn and do better. Yes, yes, yes.

Exactly none of us started life as “technologically gifted” or imbued with the knowledge of AAC or any technique or educational principles. We all had to start at zero and learn.

When someone says “AAC is not my thing,” I think what they're really sharing is that they are scared.

They are scared of failing. They are embarrassed by the idea of not being enough for the task. They are traumatized and work-worn from so many evaluations and tasks, and worried that their work won’t be enough. 

And you know what every scared person wants?

A friend, a light in the darkness, and some tools.

At PATINS we have lots of those. Did you know that if you are an Indiana public PreK-12 staff member and one of our events on our training calendar isn’t at a time that works for you or your team, you can request it at another time? If you were hoping to talk about that topic but wanted 1:1 personalization or a deep dive into a special topic, we can set up that consultation at no cost to you or your district.

In particular, for those who are ready to say “yes” to trying out AAC tools and techniques, we have a process just for that. For a no-cost PATINS AAC Consultation, please fill out this referral for each student. This 2 minute video is a brief overview of our process.

The scariest thing that could happen is doing nothing.

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Mar
31

Routines and Comfort Zones

I recently attended a Professional Development Webinar from edWeb.net the presenter is a high school biology teacher in Massachusetts named Bonnie Nieves. Check it out,  "Increase Student Engagement: Decrease Your Teacher Workload."

The very beginning of her presentation really got the wheels in my head spinning. Getting kids to have more ownership in their learning is an important first step - it gets students more engaged too. The hook for me was her discussion about routines and how vital routines, plans, and expectations are for students.

Students must feel safe before they can engage and learn. They need to know what content to expect, classroom rules/expectations, daily schedule, quiz/test schedule, modules of learning, and throughout all of these routines - there must be a clear beginning, middle and end. You can start with Visual Schedules - It's good practice. If your student has a visual impairment, review the schedule aloud or offer an accessible format.

Reach out to PATINS staff on our Educator Support page for assistance.

classroom visuals for schedule listed vertically. Each activity includes and image and word.  For example, the topmost item is morning announcement snad has computer winrdo with a magnifying glass.  Further down the list is pack up with a backpack.

We all have routines (e.g., wake up, (some exercise early), let the dogs out, start coffee, feed the dogs, get dressed, eat, brush teeth, go to work/school, etc.). Each of us has a morning routine and it's hopefully something that sets a good mood for the day. It's comfortable and known.

Alarm Clock

Routines can be stressful if they don't occur as planned. Morning routines can vary depending on planning from the night before, work schedule, and more. Stress can factor in when the routine is disrupted…overslept, allergies kicked in full force, spilled coffee, out of coffee filters (solution = use a paper towel), no clean socks, or forgot lunch at home. What if your students don't have exposure to positive routines at home (e.g., inconsistent food, disrupted sleep, minimal/no homework support, etc.)?

You can't control your students' routines outside of school but you can at school!

Discovering Your Inner Peace - rock cairn on water

It's a beautiful, sunny and warm day. You arrive at work early, find a close parking spot, all is well. Upon arrival to your classroom, it's clean and organized, you prepare for your students with the lesson you created last night. You feel good. You used the PATINS Project UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Lesson Plan Creator

Using the Lesson Planner can help with your teaching routine to ensure that you consistently consider the needs of all students in the areas of EngagementRepresentation and Action & Expression. Your students will feel safe because they know you have optimized your teaching and their opportunities for learning for every lesson you create. It's part of your routine and thus you have increased their independence and success.

Be clear in your routines (e.g., time, expectations, lesson format, options for response formats, access to Accessibility Tools, organization, etc.), use the resources that are available to you and you will also decrease your workload.

postcript: I did not initially follow the PATINS guidelines/routine for posting this blog as shown below:

Proofread, proofread, proofread

  1. Have your screen reader read it back to you
  2. Have at least 1 other staffer proofread your blog 
  3. Grammarly extension helps to identify mistakes
  4. Hemingway helps clarify wording
  5. Print it out and read it on paper

I had a fellow staff member proofread and was ready to publish...I thought I should review the guidelines!  Practice what I'm preaching here. Original word count in MS Word was 450...good. [updated word count is 595]. Below is a screenshot of me using Read&Wrtie to read aloud the content I was preparing to release. Yikes! Numerous errors, mostly you/your substituions. What an eye opener!

portion of text highlighted with Read&Write from Chrome. Sentence is highlighted in yellow and current word is blue.

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Mar
24

Did You Miss Us? Tech Expo 2022 is In-Person!

Did You Miss Us? Tech Expo 2022 is In-Person! Teacher and student smiling at one another. Tech Expo 2022 PATINS Project with IN*SOURCE. April 14, Carmel IN.

Almost one year to the date, I wrote the blog “PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE - Exciting Updates!” about our second virtual Tech Expo. Fortunately, we are back 100% in-person in Carmel, Indiana for PATINS Tech Expo 2022. We are excited to partner with IN*SOURCE for the fifth time!! It’s quite apparent over 400 of you are looking forward to hands-on time with assistive technology, face-to-face conversations with resource organizations, and fun and networking too!

The presentation schedule has been set with 20 excellent sessions from knowledgeable experts, including representatives from Apple, Don Johnston, Inc (makers of Snap&Read, Co:Writer, uPar), Texthelp, Microsoft, and many more! All sessions will show you how to boost accessibility in your classroom without adding more to your plate and provide valuable information to share with parents/families about their child’s future. Nearly all presentations tie into a big topic for educators - literacy!

In addition to the presentations, there are over 40 exhibitors available throughout the day! They will answer your questions, provide resources for supporting Indiana students both in and out of the classroom, and introduce you to their transformational products and services. Attendees will not want to miss the live Exhibit Hall to find out how to win educational door prizes from our generous donors!

Check out the presentation Schedule-At-A-Glance and Exhibit Hall List now.

There is still plenty of time in the school year to make an impact on that one student who needs better access to communicate, read, write, and/or socialize. Tech Expo 2022 is the spot to find your a-ha solutions.

Only two week’s left to register for a no-cost ticket. This includes free parking and complimentary breakfast and lunch, plus you can earn up to four Professional Growth Points (PGPs)/Contact Hours for attending.

I hope to see you on April 14 in Carmel, IN!


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Mar
17

How to Incorporate MTSS into What You're Already Doing

Welcome Cassie Weaver of Cowan Community Schools, as our guest blogger today!
We are fortunate to have Cassie share her experiences with us. Cassie is a military wife and mother of two children, which she adores. They lived in North Dakota for three years and Alaska for four years before moving back to Indiana. She currently works as a special education teacher at Cowan Community Schools and in the past she has worked at the K-12 level for about three years. Prior to that she ran a daycare for four years. She has a contagious passion for working with kids and teaching them through STEAM activities, allowing to spark their creative and involvement in their own learning. Cassie is an advocate for Universal Design for Learning, students in Special Education, and students who are English Language Learners. She shares that she decided to write about MTSS because she found lots of resources that tell what MTSS is but not as many resources that say how to use MTSS in the classroom. When looking at the big picture of MTSS it can be overwhelming and Cassie felt like many educators might not know where to start. So she wanted to try to put a resource out there that shows how to build off of what the educator might already be doing. She also wanted to talk about how to make material more accessible for all learners, since that aligns with her educational philosophy. We hope that our readers find this information helpful.  

How to incorporate MTSS into what you're already doing. 

Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is a framework for making data driven decisions. When developing a corporation's MTSS framework, it’s important to take into account universal screeners that are already being used and utilize those as the first step in the process. 

Teachers are currently overwhelmed with making up for the learning loss due to COVID-19 and students being quarantined. This is why it is crucial to use the tools already in place to make MTSS effective. If your corporation gives NWEA in the fall that should be step 1 of MTSS. Use that data to identify the students who may be falling behind more than others and have not already been identified under IDEA. Additional assessments for the MTSS students need to be conducted to determine skill deficits. 

EasyCBM lite, is a free resource that allows you to assign benchmark assessments for K-8th grade students. When deciding what interventions or accommodations the MTSS teams would like to put in place it is important to make sure you are using evidence-based practice. 

Let’s talk about how to simplify MTSS. 

Adding in academic support to your daily routine doesn’t mean completely throwing away your current lesson plan. When examining your lesson plan, look for areas that you can add to it. For example, if you are preparing a lecture, you can add closed captions using Google Classroom, or add pictures to help illustrate a concept. Another option would be when teaching using multiple steps or directions, have each step listed out in order for students to refer back to. You could also add an extension for creating audio recordings, such as Mote, so the directions or content can be read aloud as needed. 

Use independent work time as intentional re-teaching instruction for students identified as needing MTSS. Rather than counting on the students to come to you for assistance, go to them. Engage with them 1 on 1 and have them explain what they heard from the lesson. This gives you the opportunity to correct any misconceptions or reinforce any positive behaviors or processes.  

Goal and progress monitoring

Create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) goals for your MTSS students. Don’t expect a student to produce a year's worth of academic growth in 6-8 weeks. Set a skill specific goal that can be met in the 6-8 week timeframe. For example student A will create a checklist of assignments and meet 8 out of 10 assignment deadlines per subject.  

Conclusion

Incorporating MTSS doesn't need to be time consuming, nor should it require you to rework your lesson plan. Use the resources you already have available. Make your material more accessible to students, by incorporating visuals, hands on materials, or written text paired with oral support. Use guided practice as a time to focus on breaking down objectives into smaller steps to help build students skills. I hope that this helps you in your journey with MTSS in the general education classroom.

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Mar
09

"There is No Cure for Autism:" A Mother’s Journey with Her Son


Photo of Daniel with student Dylan back in the year 2001

Audio version of this blog
 (8 minutes 35 seconds)


Derek would scratch, hit, scream, and was unable to remain still for more than a fraction of a second at a time. It was May of 2000. It was 22 short years ago and it was the beginning of an experience that would shape the next two decades of both my professional and personal lives and would help to continually reignite the passion in me to keep going in this challenging educational work, year after year. 

I was still an undergrad at Purdue and my side-jobs as a paraprofessional, respite worker, camp counselor, and Big Brothers volunteer all had me so frustrated in the missed potential I perceived in many of the older students and adults I worked with, that I quit all of my part-time jobs and started a behavioral consulting service for young children on the autism spectrum. One of my very first clients was Lianna, the loving, smart, determined, caring, patient, and strong mother of Derek. It is with great honor that I welcome Lianna as my guest blogger this week who graciously shares a portion of her journey! 

Young Derek holding a purple stuff bear
Things were normal until just after he turned two years old. He started displaying some odd behaviors, like staring at his hands and flapping them. If he didn't recognize a person, he would start screaming until the person left. When his dad took off his eyeglasses, Derek would start screaming and it would take a considerable amount of time for him to settle again. There were a lot of behavioral issues, including scratching himself and hitting his siblings because he still couldn't talk. I thought he was just a late talker, and I expressed my concern to his pediatrician, who gave us a referral to a neurologist. At the next doctor’s appointment, the pediatrician gave us the diagnosis of “Severe Autism with Mental Retardation.” That was 1998 and I had never heard of autism before, so I asked his pediatrician what the cure for it was. With a sad face, I remembered what he said to me vividly: “Mrs. Dawson, there is no cure for autism, you have to prepare yourself that your son might live in an institution because he will be hard to handle for you later on.” That was the last time we saw his pediatrician or any doctor.

I immersed myself in finding a cure or at least, how to help improve my son’s berserk behavior. I lived and breathed autism. The Barnes and Noble bookstore became our favorite place to visit until I stumbled upon one particular book on behavior intervention for young children with autism. That book became my bible. Luckily, we lived one town away from Purdue University and I put an ad in the Purdue Exponent newspaper. I started hiring Purdue University Special Education pre-service teachers and Speech, Occupational Therapy, and art students. This is when I met Daniel McNulty, a special-education pre-service student, along with some other bright students who were willing to make a difference in Derek’s life. Daniel McNulty facilitated the Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) with Derek when ABA was not even known or accepted in a school setting. It is not easy to implement, especially with a child who lives his own little world. Pulling him out of that world and his autism-related behaviors, I pictured was like pulling him out of a darkness filled with repetitive and odd behaviors. This was not an easy task for Daniel McNulty or for myself. Daniel seemed a miracle worker, rewarding Derek’s positive behavior with popcorn and other tangible items that Derek preferred at the time. He started sitting at the table and doing the short tasks that he was prompted to do, starting with things like clapping his hands, pointing to letter sounds of the alphabet, and identifying colors.

It was a long, dark, difficult road ahead, full of twists and turns. I was a desperate mother who was desperate to give my son the best chances in life that I could! I integrated different approaches, as to not leave any stone unturned. Applied Behavioral Analysis, Auditory Integration training, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and Gluten-free and Casein-free diet. Following his diagnosis, I started seeing a naturopathic doctor who did some biofeedback along with lots of vitamin therapy. It turned out that Daniel McNulty accepted a classroom teaching position in the school corporation that would be where Derek attended Kindergarten through 12th grade, which meant that Daniel wrote Derek's Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and ensured that the appropriate accommodations and assistive technologies were in place! This also meant that Derek never had the same sort of summer vacation as many other kids. His school sent a teacher to our house all summer long for extended school year services to help compensate for the lack of progress during the school year. We were very lucky to be living in a good school district that wanted the best for Derek, as we did. 

Derek standing in wrestling stance, facing an opponent in high school wrestling

Fast-forwarding through substantial behavioral therapies and other educational services, and never-ending hope, high expectations, and perseverance; Derek graduated last year with a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology at the age of 24 from one of the best engineering schools in the country, Purdue University. There were a lot of challenges along the way, but somehow, we managed to get through them, one by one, and to conquer that uphill battle. I always told Derek that he was a warrior and I called him Victor. From the background, in the stands, I always cheered him on with “Go, Victor!” I'm sure some people thought I must have had two sons out there! Derek always asked me why I called him Victor, especially when he was wrestling (his favorite sport, which he was great at, and perhaps channeled some of his aggression onto the mat). I told him I called him Victor because he is my warrior and while this road is full of barriers, he will be victorious. I told him he is one in a million and he is very lucky, that not all kids with autism are afforded the opportunity to overcome their challenges and function independently as he does. I thank God, that I met his angels like Daniel McNulty, Shelly K., and Betty R., who introduced me to a holistic approach to autism. Without these people who helped pulled him out of the dark, he probably wouldn’t be living independently now. 

Derek sitting in Purdue University cap and gownDerek standing in front of a massive Caterpillar dump truck
Autism is not a life sentence as I once thought it to be and as our pediatrician made it out to be. It may not be an easy journey and there will be times of seemingly insurmountable challenges, but those make the victories that much sweeter as well. Derek is now working in engineering for Caterpillar, the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, off-highway diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives, and lives independently out of state! When I talk to Derek on the phone now, he complains that he has a lot of meetings and big projects at work. I just smile in deep gratitude for that, and in my mind, I scream, "yes, Victor!

Derek standing with his mom, Lianna, in front of the Purdue Engineering fountain
For all the parents, family members, and educators that are a part of the critical team supporting a "Victor," do not give up. You are probably the strongest advocate and the biggest voice for your children. There is hope!  Derek is the living proof of it. Seek out resources and help, as it's out there for you! Search for Daniel McNultys, the Shelly K's, the Betty R's, and the many tools and resources that are available through organizations like PATINS

Derek's IEPs always included accommodations for text-to-speech (TTS), word-prediction, graphic organizers, reduced verbal instructions, extra time, and additional non-verbal prompts when needed, and others! While some people viewed these accommodations as "cheating" or "lowering expectations," Derek's amazing success as a young adult and highly productive professional member of society is proof that these accommodations actually facilitated setting and achieving incredibly high expectations for a once young, non-verbal, physically aggressive child who was not able to focus!" 


PATINS
1. Lending Library of Assistive Technology 
2. Training and Professional Development Specialists
3. AEMing for Achievement Grant (Open now, Closes May 30th)
4. Statewide Conferences in November and April (Tech Expo Registration Open Now) 


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Mar
03

You Have The Superpower!

Turtle Drawing of a turtle

Guest Blogger! I cannot thank Mark Pruett enough for sharing his personal experiences on the power of what educators can bring to the classroom that can change the trajectory of students’ lives. The recording of him reading his blog definitely makes this blog an experience through storytelling. ?

Mark resides in Nashville, TN and is a successful editor for television for over 36 years. Along the way he bought a farm in Tennessee and has fallen in love with working outdoors. These days he splits his time between the computer and the table saw…continuing to be creative.

 Mark Pruett sitting on rock with a dogMark Pruett sitting on rock with a dog             QR code to audio versionsQR code to audio versions

Artist Name - Turtles.mp3

It’s been almost fifty years, but I’ve never forgotten what it was I wanted to paint. The why of it is lost to time and the odd fixations of an eight year old, but I definitely remember wanting, more than anything, to use that particular art class to paint a turtle in the rain. To this day, I can still recall my childhood vision, a heroic turtle on a rock in the pouring rain. Why a turtle, why heroic, why for heaven’s sake in the rain? Go figure. For some kids, it’s their dog or a firetruck or a lego set. Let’s just say that at eight, my thing was turtles. It’s at this point my mother, if she were listening to me tell the story, would chime in to tell you about the time I lost a turtle on an airplane. “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, please do us a favor and check under your seats. It seems a young man has lost his turtle.” Some things you never live down. 

Of course, at eight years old I knew very little about art and what it might take to make my vision of a heroic rainy day reptile a reality. Some of my friends constantly filled margins of notebooks with doodles, but that wasn’t my thing. I’m not even sure I was what you might have described as an “artistic” child. So, I wasn’t terribly aware that the log of a paint brush, larger around than my childhood thumb, wasn’t a good instrument for fine art. Not that a better brush would have made a big difference, but equipping a kid with what was essentially a house painter’s tool certainly didn’t help. And we didn’t have a huge variety of paint colors to choose from, jars of mostly primary hues along with some eye searing tones like Pepto-Bismol pink. There were plastic jugs with blue and black on my table, other jars scattered around the classroom to experiment with, and I remember going at the project with gusto. 

I hate to say it, but childhood gusto and a paint brush better suited to whitewashing fence posts didn’t get me where I wanted to go. I ended up with a dark un-turtle like mess in the middle of the page and big blue “dots” of color blobbed all over for rain, but that’s not why I really remember that day. My teacher, Ms. Allen, asked me what I was trying to do and then she took my work and held it up for all the class to see, as a failed assignment. It seems that I was supposed to fill the page with color and not leave any white, so she showed my painting to the class and told them I couldn’t follow direction. Oh, and she said that I might not have much skill as a painter either.

It took another fifteen years and a close friend forcing me to go through “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” for me to realize that I actually could learn to draw or paint. That one experience in grade school made me believe I had no talent.

Everyday, when you walk into the classroom, you have more influence than you realize. You might call it your superpower. The things you say and the care you invest can have an impact that lasts years, perhaps a lifetime. At eight, I was a painfully shy child. My parents had split a few years earlier and I didn’t have the best sense of self esteem. Like the young person I was fifty years ago, there are children in your classrooms, at this very moment, going through life events they aren’t equipped to handle. You really can make a difference and every class is another opportunity. Your presence can be the difference that helps a young person feel better about themselves, and maybe helps a child discover something in the learning process that sparks a new sense of enthusiasm. 

Be that spark, as a teacher embrace your superpower. It doesn’t always take a lot, a supportive word at the right moment or taking some extra time for one-on-one interaction. Think back for a moment to the adults who were kind influences on you as a young person. Be that person and pay it forward, one day a young adult may look back and realize that you changed their life. You can make that memory one to treasure.

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Feb
27

The Lenses Adjust The View

Photo collage of four pairs of glasses:  paper 3D, yellow lenses in reading glasses, round rimmed glasses and safety glasses


This week I was reminded that the lenses one looks through, adjust your view. Each year, I visit the optometrist to check my eye health and see if the vision in my eyes has changed any in the last year. The results are typically one of 3 things: 

  1. Vision unchanged and no new prescription
  2. Vision improved, new prescription needed
  3. Vision worsened, new prescription needed

I could even consider new or colored contacts, at this annual visit, which adds another type of lens to consider after my annual check up!

While watching a photographer/videographer friend’s YouTube channel, as he was showcasing a Stream Deck for streaming and productivity, I realized the lens I viewed this equipment with had changed over time. Originally, I used a Stream Deck with OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) for live streaming, for projects unrelated to school based therapy. Then, I moved to the option of using shortcuts to allow a student to press one button and land on the page they needed during instruction, rather than typing out the most common web pages she needed in class.

After viewing my friend’s video, I am reminded of all the options that are available for productivity and shortcuts that can be set up with a Stream Deck by Elgato. Using a device as the manufacturer intended is great, but what if it can be used to increase productivity or increase access to a student’s curriculum? One tip he reminded me of was that one can set up a group of websites that will launch in one window. Another is that a user can have a direct link to their storage drive or email that would allow the student to already be logged in. As an educator or therapist, do you have students that shortcuts like this would work well for? 

I am thankful for a different lens to view this valuable technology! The PATINS Project Lending Library has both a Stream Deck 15 and a mini available for loan, along with thousands of other resources to help Indiana’s students. Indiana’s educators are able to check out resources for a 6 week loan to gather data and see if the tool is a good fit for the student’s needs.

Myself or any of our PATINS Specialists are available to assist with set up and training for use of a Stream Deck, or any other Lending Library loan that an Indiana educator would like to trial as Assistive Technology or use the view of the Universal Design for Learning lens. Reach out to us today!

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Feb
19

Music is Good for the Soul!

Music heals the soul graphic

You might have heard the saying “Music heals the soul.” I have always believed this, now according to the evidence, it’s good for your health as well. Psychology Today states on their website: 

“Study after study has found that music therapy has a positive effect on a broad range of physical and psychological conditions including dementia, anxiety, depression, and cancer."

Music therapy is a service that can be delivered by psychologists, therapists, or caregivers in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and even outpatient clinics. The goal is to improve people’s health through music experiences such as free improvisation, singing, and listening to, discussing, and moving to music.”

This comes as no surprise to me that music had and continues to be a big part of my life. I have always loved a variety of music, but the musical genre of Rock has always been my favorite.

My pre-teen and teen days were spent at the roller skating rink when Disco and the beginnings of Rap kept me bouncing and dancing as I went round and round. When the skates came off, we would head to the floor and dance the night away doing the Bus Stop and other popular dances at the time. 

For Christmas one year, my parents purchased a stack music system from Sears for me as a present. I was so excited. It had a record player, an 8-track tape player, and dual cassette players. My first 8-track player title purchase was The Eagles and one of my first records was Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell. In prior years for Christmas, I was always so excited to receive my K-Tel records which were a compilation record of the various hits at the time.

Sears Stereo   K-Tel Record


In high school I discovered Rock music and I continue to enjoy it even as I grow older. I have attended countless concerts with my best friend, my cousin and my daughter. Many of these concerts are out of town and we always have so much fun being together, listening to great music, and making great memories.

Sandy and her music friends


Music is also a mood changer for me. If I am feeling down, I can listen to a good dance tune and the next thing I know I am dancing around and feeling better. On the other hand, when certain songs come on they can instantly remind me of a sad time in my life. It always surprises me how hearing a song can take you back to a moment in time.

The next time you need a boost, put on your favorite song and dance around the room, trust me you won’t be sorry!

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Feb
09

The ramp AND stairs

The ramp AND stairs The ramp AND stairs

Next time it snows, I invite you to take a look at your ramps outside of your school buildings. Are the ramps AND the stairs shoveled and salted or just the steps? One sign that your school or district is fully inclusive is that the ramp is included in the clearing of snow. Every staff member needs the mindset that ALL of our students are included in ALL of the classrooms and buildings. This means the ramp is included. After all, who can use the ramp versus the stairs? EVERYONE. 

I am calling on each one of you to have this very important discussion with your staff on behalf of each one of our unique, bright students. As we are charged with educating ALL of our students as they come to our buildings, let’s not make accessing the building their first barrier to their education. 

The photo below was captured at an Indiana school the week of February 7th, 2022. ramp with snow and stairs shoveled and salted entrance into a school building with text ramp and stairs

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Feb
03

Creating Accessible Learning Environments for All—Questions That Can Guide Our Design

This week I would like to introduce guest blogger, Matt Brenner, District Technology Coach for Southwest Allen County Schools (SACS) and SACS AEMing for Achievement grant team member. Each year as part of the grant process, all the teams meet in January to share positive outcomes thus far and goals for the remainder of the year. As the representative for his team, Matt shared four guiding questions they are using to drive their team's and district's discussion on accessibility. Because many other teams were finding the use of these guiding questions to be insightful and inspiring during the meeting, I'm grateful and excited that he agreed to share the four questions in this blog just for you!


Educators have always believed that variability exists between learners, yet our instructional practices do not always address this belief. While this gap between our educational beliefs and our practices was already worthy of attention prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a renewed awareness of it because of the many struggles students, educators, and families experienced during the past two years. These common struggles have created an opportunity for us to re-examine our beliefs, continue to ask questions about our instructional practices, and work together to determine how to make learning more accessible to all students.

Making learning accessible for all is the goal of educators. While accessibility is a simple concept in theory, it can become more complicated as it is put into practice. We need to acknowledge its complexity by modeling the practice of asking questions to gain a better understanding and to frame our conversations about accessibility. This will lead to logical, purposeful, and well-intended discourse to occur and to better outcomes for all of our learners. Let’s explore what questions we can use to guide our conversations around accessibility.

Four Fundamental Questions About Accessibility

  1. To whom are our learning environments truly accessible? A learning environment includes more than just the physical space of a classroom. We need to expand our understanding of both where learning can take place and what needs to be available for learning to take place. A learning environment includes the physical location of the learning, the resources and curriculum available to the students, and the lesson design. Let’s quickly examine a typical curriculum or lesson materials. Most curriculum and educational materials are designed and developed to address the needs of the so-called ‘average student’ and the ‘average brain.’ Through modern educational neuroscience, we have learned that there is no average student, nor is there an average brain. But because the majority of our curriculum and instructional practices are implemented through this lens of designing for ‘the average,’ we unintentionally make learning inaccessible by placing barriers within our environments.  This means that for many of our learners, much of their learning is not accessible because of a barrier that was inadvertently placed within the lesson design. For example, we may introduce a concept to a student and assume that they have the background knowledge necessary to become (and remain) engaged throughout the entire lesson. However, their lack of background knowledge to the topic is actually a barrier to them engaging in the lesson. To reduce that barrier, a teacher can activate or supply background knowledge through providing visuals, demonstrations, or models. By doing so, that barrier has been reduced and students are more likely to engage and persist in their learning. We need to acknowledge that the barriers to learning are not within the learner, but in how the learning environment is designed.

  2. Under what conditions are they truly accessible? Educational neuroscience has also made clear that learners do not have one global, or fixed, learning profile. Instead, they have jagged learning profiles that may shift depending on a variety of factors. Context truly makes a difference. Simply put, what may be accessible to one type of learner in one setting may be inaccessible to the same learner in a different setting. We need to be mindful of this reality as we consider the accessibility of our learning environments. We can design for variability within our learning environment by embracing flexibility in our design. Flexible resources and tools can be used in several different ways to express understanding over the same information. For example, flexible resources are used within a learning environment when a teacher allows students to use a resource in a way that is meaningful to the student rather than requiring the resource to be used in a specific, predetermined way. Based on its inherent flexibility, technology can also offer opportunities for students to make their learning more accessible, regardless of their context. As an educator, it is not as important to know why a particular student would need to experience this level of flexibility; it is more important to offer the flexibility to all your students based on our classroom’s variability and jagged learning profiles so that they can all have access to their learning.

  3. What if we saw accessibility as the ‘main course’ of our design decisions instead of the ‘leftovers?’ Accessibility is often discussed through the reactive response of special education versus the more proactive approach of general education. General education teachers may see it as “one more thing” to worry about or that “we do not have time to worry about making everything accessible.” These are natural responses given educators’ heavy workload and limited time. However, when taking a more proactive approach in our design, we usually discover that “What is essential for some, is useful for all.” If we did a little digging, we would find that there is an inherent, common, and yet incorrect assumption that “general education students” learn similarly to each other. Based on educational neuroscience, we know that is not true because of learner variability. Because of the variability that exists within the “general education” population, there are likely students that could benefit from greater accessibility. By increasing access for our specialized populations, we are actually increasing usability for everyone because so many hidden learning barriers exist in our student population. This subtle, yet profound shift in our design has tremendous implications in improving learning outcomes for all. Accessibility should not be viewed as “one more thing,” it should be viewed as “the thing.” It should be our SWAG…the stuff we all get.

  4. What if we viewed greater accessibility as an opportunity for us to raise the bar for all learners instead of lowering it? As educators, our goal is not simply to make information accessible to all learners, but to make learning more accessible. Accessibility is not about lowering expectations, in fact it is the opposite. When we make learning more accessible, that means we are providing learning materials, tools, and environments that make it possible for all students to be challenged to their fullest extent. This is accomplished by allowing students to choose flexible tools within their learning environment that are meaningful to them to express their understanding of the teacher’s learning goals. This will provide students with the opportunity to truly demonstrate what they know within a learning environment with fewer barriers in it. It is essential to know our students, their learning profiles, and our instructional goals so that we can determine when to provide support and when to challenge them. With this mindset, balance, and alignment, we can continue to raise the bar for all of our students by making their learning more accessible.

There is no doubt that every learner learns differently and has different needs. Educators will continue to search for instructional practices that will enhance their ability to reach all learners. As educators we can proactively address those needs by adopting a mindset focused on making our learning environments more accessible to all. If we do this, we will discover and unlock the potential of all our learners.

Resources:

Nelson, Loui Lord. Design and Deliver: Planning and Teaching Using Universal Design for Learning. Brookes Publishing Co, 2021.

Ralabate, Patti. Your UDL Lesson Planner: The Step-by-Step Guide for Teaching All Learners. Brookes Publishing, 2016.

Rose, David H., et al. Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2002.

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Jun
24

Realizing Student Capability

As my first year at PATINS wraps up, I reflect on all the beautiful relationships that were built solely via Zoom. Not meeting people in person has taught me that the heart behind the screen is bigger than circumstances and that educators utilizing PATINS has made an impact in the lives of their students. Our guest blogger, Erica Telligman, is one of those educators. She has been teaching for 16 years in second grade, junior high special education and currently first grade at North Knox, one of our AEM teams. She is currently finishing up her administration license this summer and she works with her teaching team to utilize tech tools to enhance her teaching by reaching all students. She has two kids, 13 and 10 years old. They enjoy fishing, riding four-wheelers, and playing in the mud on their farm. Erica’s enthusiasm for having a UDL focused classroom has helped her students engage with materials and build their confidence in their work and with their classmates.

Realizing Student Capability
By: Erica Telligman

As a teacher, have you ever stood in the middle of your classroom feeling like the plates you are spinning could all come crashing down at any minute? I have been in this scenario so many times. There would be 20+ of them with their hands in the air staring at me and only one of me available to answer their questions. They aren't able to access all the components to be independent... or so I thought!

Enter Snap&Read and Co:Writer to the rescue! If you have never heard of the Don Johnston resources, you are missing out. I teach first grade. The thought of my students being able to utilize their technology to seek out information and understand that information when it more than likely is above their comprehension level made me seize up like an old rusty motor every single time I thought about trying to get out and use Chromebooks.

The journey of implementing and using these extensions was slow and steady for me. I knew after last spring being sent home due to COVID, we had to have more resources in place to help our students reach their full potential and our instruction to make the most impact. Phase one of implementation began in small groups. Two groups were taken and shown how to use both Snap&Read and Co:Writer. Apprehension was a major understatement. I couldn't sleep at all the night before this lesson. I just knew there was no way this was going to go well at all. I couldn't have been more wrong. These students were like sponges. It only took us 10 minutes to have all of theirs completely customized to their preferences. I was shocked. I decided to press on to the planned lesson for the next day of accessing information online so that they could use Snap&Read.

child on ipadWe picked the generalized topic of animal facts for kids for the students to type in for their search. I am quite sure I looked like a deer in headlights when my students typed that in, found an article they wanted to read, clicked on it and used Snap&Read to listen to the article. I actually went numb. I was partly excited because they could do it, but mostly I was terrified my students were going to come up with questions I wasn't prepared to answer. My fears were in vain. My students didn't have questions. Instead, they had facts they learned that they wanted to share with me and their classmates. It was so exciting!

Phase two was where I literally felt like my brain might actually explode. I now had two small groups (10 students) who knew how to use Snap&Read. These students were now my resource and allies. They partnered up and showed another student how to use Snap&Read. I stood useless in the middle of my classroom. We had done it!  They were independently working without an ounce of help from me. They were actively engaged and learning all kinds of facts that we would turn into a story later using Co:Writer. That was the day that changed my students' education and my instruction forever. I had now equipped them with the knowledge and access to the world at their fingertips in a classroom.

woman instructing children in classroomThe discussions and conversations we had in our classroom from this point forward were never the same. My students were able to make deeper and more meaningful connections to concepts. They could find and report facts to extend thoughts and defend answers they had come up with.  Because my students were able to do fact-finding independently, it freed me up to be an active participant in conversations.

I continued pulling my level of support back and gradually released my students to initiate the process of discovering they had questions that they needed answers to, finding the answers to those questions, and stretching their thoughts even further. We even used Co:Writer to write our letters to Santa this year. Due to COVID restrictions I couldn´t have parent volunteers come in to help me write all 20 letters, so I turned on the topic of Christmas and away we went. My students were so proud of their letters to Santa. It took all the frustration away from students not being able to get their thoughts down on paper due to struggles with spelling.

Children are truly not given enough credit for the power they have for their own learning. I know I was probably a teacher who never truly realized the potential my students had for taking control of their own learning or their abilities to seek out and obtain information independently. I know I learned just as much from my students this year as they learned from me. I pray they realized their own potential the same way I realized the capabilities of them.

Photo Credits: Tricia Hall
Photos used with permission.

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Dec
30

Recharged and Raring to Go!

Battery with lightning over it with the word charging

Recharged and raring to go!

Winter break often cannot come soon enough. Up to this point in the school year, we have been depleted by so many things such as lack of connection with family, daily workload, testing, grading, COVID worries, our own health, unexpected changes, and advertising. Advertising is all around us knowingly or unknowingly shaping our behavior and not necessarily for the better. So, we strive to counteract these forces in the new calendar year by planning new goals for personal habits, health, finances, professional growth and more.   

Change is inevitable, growth is optional. Considering the number of ads we encounter on a daily basis, how easy it is to neglect our physical health and how we may not make time for professional growth, I ask you to pick three things to change for the next year and choose to grow.

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Figure 2 Man running away while looking over his shoulder at advertising icons chasing him.

We are bombarded with advertising on TV, Radio, Billboards, emails, social media and more. Just yesterday while I was trying to enter and update my password on the vendor’s website, I had to close pop-ups from the vendor inviting me to enter my email to win $100!

In 2004, “The advertising industry spends $12 billion per year on ads targeted to children, bombarding young audiences with persuasive messages through media such as television and the Internet. The average child is exposed to more than 40,000 TV commercials a year, according to studies.” – Protecting Children from Advertising, American Psychological Association 2004

In 2007, it was reported that on average, people were exposed to 5,000 ads per day.

In 2021, that number is estimated to be between 6,000 and 10,000 ads per day!

#1 Reduce the amount of time you spend on social media and talk about social media's impact and effects with your students.

To Do: 

  • Connect with a family member or do something active that brings you joy (i.e., electronics break). These are actions that can recharge you mentally and physically.
  • Block ads (Android, iOS, WIN, Mac, Chrome)
  • Use built-in tools to reduce website distractions [great to help with focus]:
  • You can also use 3rd party solutions to improve focus like:

Figure 3 Before using Reader Mode, example similar to what one might see when accessing an article on a website showing the extra content that can be distracting.

 

Figure 4 Using Reader Mode, example in Safari on a Mac computer. Irrelevant content has been removed, the background color and text are higher contrast and the only content on the page is from the blog post.

#2 Make healthier choices.

It’s easy to skip taking care of yourself given work and family commitments. Convenience and fast food are easy but will cost your body in the long run. Working into the late hours of the night to “get one more” thing done also comes at a cost.

Keeping your body healthy helps you have more energy to meet the mental and physical demands that your students bring. Rest, drink enough water and reduce caffeine. That’s a tough one. I like coffee! I am fortunate enough to still be able to run. Running keeps my heart, body and mind healthy.

To Do:  

  • Choose something physical that you enjoy and do it!
  • Maintain a regular bedtime routine
  • Consume some mindfulness blogs, newsletters, books or podcasts

#3 Improve your knowledge and expertise.

No single educator can know everything. Hopefully, you are already part of a team (e.g., grade level, focus area, specialty area, etc.) that shares knowledge and information to overcome problems and improve learning. If you are not or your team needs assistance, you can:

To Do:

  • Connect with a PATINS/ICAM staff member to learn new ideas to help you improve your instruction and take your students' academic, literacy and communication skills to the next level!
  • View Free PATINS Training Videos and earn Continuing Education Hours.

Figure 5 Battery showing Full Charge

By making just three changes, you will recharge your mental and physical batteries, have more focus and provide better instructional support for your students! Have a great New Year in 2022!

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Oct
21

New, not Normal

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I stopped knitting in March of 2020. It was a small thing that happened amidst some big things. There was this new thing called a pandemic. We were all blinking like Dorothy staring out into Munchkin Land. My daughter and her family moved in with us. We had a toddler in the house and a daily wifi supply that needed to be stretched between two high schoolers, one grad-schooler, and 3 adults with full time jobs. So the knitting got shoved into a cupboard because we had to figure out grocery pick up and all the Zoom features.

Then time became blurry. The initial event felt a little thrilling like being stuck at home during the blizzard of ‘78. Then came the slump of daily reality. We stopped making homemade bread and added routines for checking the numbers in our county and the emails for school status. We’d pause while ordering another box of masks on Amazon and ask, “are we in Season 2 of the pandemic or have we moved on to Season 3?” 

In my work with PATINS and supporting teachers for the blind the pandemic has caused me to view my stakeholders in a new way. I had always known that the 140 or so itinerant teachers for the blind in Indiana struggle with feelings of isolation. When your caseload is spread over several districts or counties and you’re also educating staff about a low incidence disability, isolation comes without “unprecedented times”.  

Now they were being called to work in isolation from their students, and find ways to teach tactile skills remotely over a visual medium. They kept going, and they kept calling asking for ideas. We established some online professional learning communities to share obstacles and ways to overcome them. New strong bonds forged between teachers and families. Many who were hesitant to learn new assistive technology for braille were now forced to get a crash course, and finding they could stare down their fear of the blinking braille curser.

Many teachers and districts were forced to look at the accessibility of their online content. They worked to learn how to post and curate higher quality lessons and materials. The daily showing up to do the next impossible thing has generated better methods for future education. 

I’m trying to restart knitting. The weather is turning cooler, and life is feeling cautiously calmer. I have mastered the grocery order, which I will stick with post COVID. It saves time, I waste less food, and I’ve learned that it is much easier to leave the M&M’s out of my virtual cart than out of a real one.  I can make it to the Zoom meeting like a champion, putting on my earrings and lip gloss 2 minutes before it starts. 

I’m not sure why I’m restarting now. The daily showing up doesn’t feel much different, and I can’t say that I feel like the crisis is over. I’m hearing the phrase “new normal” lately like we used “unprecedented times” in the spring of 2020. “Normal” isn’t a real thing, right? But I can see glimpses of “new” on the daily, and will continue to look for them. 

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Jan
19

A Girl, a Frog, and Accessibility

20220120-004655frog-dissection-and-iPad-Pro A student with blue plastic gloves completes a frog dissection using an iPad to enlarge her view of the task.

Once upon a time there was a girl in middle school. She was like every other middle school girl, in that she wanted to succeed in school. She was also like every other middle school girl who wants to be noticed but is painfully averse to being singled out. 

Her inner heart cried out, “Look at me!” and “Everyone is staring at me!” at the same time. 

This fairy tale intro is one that I’ve heard throughout my years as both a PATINS specialist and a teacher for the blind before that. Adolescence is hard. Needing to use large print books that don’t fit in a backpack and using a magnifying device to see the board makes it harder. 

Most of the students I’ve worked with have been able to move past the “everyone is watching me” mindset. Once I got a teen girl to use her magnifier because she had a cute student teacher and she could see him in hunky detail with it. Another teen girl used the technology for some mean girl antics, inviting a peer to her desk and zooming in on other peers to make fun of them. This made me cry, not because she misbehaved, but because it was so normal. When you have a disability, feeling normal can be a luxury.

The advent of one to one devices and built in accessibility has been a game changer for all folks with low vision, and especially for the teenage folks feeling all the feels. Now students are able to get digital texts delivered to their devices through the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM) and facilitated by their district’s Digital Rights Manager (DRM). And whatever is projected onto the board at the front of the room can be sent electronically to the student’s device. 

All of the platforms continue to race like a fairy tale hero on horseback to outdo each other with built in accessibility features like enlarged/bold format, enlarged mouse/cursor, special color filters for folks with color blindness, and many ways to have text converted to speech with more and more human-sounding voices

I received the cover photo for this blog from one of our stakeholders of an 8th grade girl using an iPad Pro clamped in a stand to enlarge her frog dissection in science class. She wrote, “In observing her during the frog dissection lab it was evident that her confidence and efficiency with the task grew using the tablet clamped to her lab table.” She went on to describe how the student took the lead in the dissection where before she would have been dependent on the partner to report observations. 

This also made me cry because 

  1. A CONFIDENT adolescent is more beautiful than any Disney Princess. 
  2. When I was a science teacher at the Indiana School for the Blind from 1996 - 2000 all we could do was buy the extra jumbo frogs from Carolina Biological Supply. 

This student and many others are benefitting tremendously from new technology. Here’s to their continued success and just the right amount of getting in trouble so that they can live happily ever after. 

Masked female student looking at a frog dissection through an iPad Pro


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Jan
13

The VR Dabble

Let me preface by saying I have always been a sucker for technology. I personally found that I have a sense of wonder in what continues to evolve in my own interests. I suppose I can be classified as a “Dabbler” in wide range of devices.

I have made my way through the cell phone jungle from ones that had pullout antennas, to flip phones, to ones with touchscreens of various sizes. I found it a little hard to part with one of my latest cell phones that I had upgraded from. It is a Samsung Galaxy 8S.

I liked this phone because it has a nice screen, an external SD card slot for my music, but it also fits into an external device that turned it into a Virtual Reality (VR) headset. VR has not been around long. Google Goggles had appeared with its cardboard VR, but it wasn’t as solid as what I had. My first few experiences were tours of the solar system, a walk through a museum, and a VR ride on a roller coaster (more about that later).

These experiences seemed somewhat real enough, but they were limited in variety and length. I kind of let it fall by the wayside because my phone’s battery needed to be replaced as it didn’t seem to hold a charge long given the VR demands on the hardware.

Jump forward a couple of years, and we now have a handful of dedicated VR devices and companies working on providing a multitude of VR experiences. Was this the time to reexplore VR? YES!

I did some research and decided to get an Oculus Quest 2. A dedicated VR device that interfaces with Meta, formerly known as Facebook. It not only has the headset but also has 2 handheld controllers.

The Quest 2 fits over the head with adjustable straps to fit snuggly on your head. This takes a little getting used to, as there is a fair about of weight and some critical adjustments to get it just right. The controllers are ergonomically designed to fit in the palm of your hand with a light grasp and it has a variety of buttons and joystick combinations on each hand.

Once set up there are a variety of built-in experiences and ones which can be purchased much like any other device. When the Quest boots up there is a choice of creating a fence or field around yourself to limit your movement before you get too close to objects or there is a stationary selection for when you are standing still or sitting. This component is extremely important, as it is very easy to get so involved that you lose your sense of spatial context. Just Google “VR Fail Compilations” and see why this is important.

What is amazing is how involved you can get in the VR experience that you can easily lose your sense of direction, time and act out with the experience. I mentioned earlier about the VR roller coaster. I have one that is so realistic that I tilt my head left, right, up, and down to the point that I get uncomfortable with the experience. I’ve parked that one for now.

I have found that the documentaries and 360-degree views like climbing Mount Everest or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef are so immersive that one could feel the sensation of truly being there.

It is taking me some time to get oriented to the controls. Both controllers have a variety of buttons and toggles that all represent and input commands of some kind. However, there is a hands-free interface that mimics hand movement without the controllers which will probably be more suitable for me as I am discovering my inability to manipulate the controllers. I also just set up voice control as if the controllers and hands-free weren’t confusing enough.

A quick Google search for classroom VR setups and not surprising there are several companies that have classroom packages and curriculum to support VR. I will admit that although I have had my Quest 2 for a little over a month, I can connect with how valuable VR would be to engage students in a classroom.

In a matter of seconds, you can be dropped just about anywhere in the world in a 360-degree environment or experience a virtual reality constructed from computer-generated realism. One such scenario is the International Space Station or ISS. The user can experience real footage shots on the ISS and maneuver around with the crew, or a VR setting where there are missions to perform in and out of the ISS. The experience is breathtaking.

I have only scratched the surface of Virtual Reality, but it is enormously engaging. I have already virtually experienced places I will never get to see in person and have a greater appreciation for how I can closely emulate being there. The journey has just begun.

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