Jun
03

Learning Through Reflection

I am so thrilled to share Leslie DiChiara's words of reflection of this past year with you as our guest blogger this month. Leslie was a classroom elementary teacher for 15 years. Her background is special education and literacy. She is currently the Assistive Technology Specialist in her school district in New York. I met Leslie a few years back at a national conference and we became instant friends and a colleague in our field. Her passion for access for ALL students mirrors that of our PATINS team. #BetterTogether

Portrait of Leslie DiChiara

As John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience….we learn from reflecting on experience.” If you have spent any time over the past 15 months working in the educational system, you can unquestionably agree that the pandemic certainly provided its share of opportunities for reflection. What we once knew about education was swiftly flipped. The equivalent of literally having the rug pulled out from underneath your feet. Yet, with no notice teachers across the nation rose to the occasion to revamp every aspect of how they provided instruction to their students. Even if this looked different based on where you work or the student population you work with, the one thing educators had in common was that we were navigating uncharted territories together.  

As a mother to two school-aged children and an educator for the past 20 years, I was able to view the educational impact of the pandemic from multiple lenses. Questions swirling about how our children would make up for lost months, closing educational gaps, meeting their social and emotional needs, ways to creatively provide accessible instruction with various constraints. So many unknowns.  

Looking back a year later, virtual students are returning to in-person learning, desk shields are being removed from classrooms, masks requirements are lifted in some establishments for those who are vaccinated, schools are beginning to reopen, and a small sense of normalcy seems to finally be on the horizon.  But it’s safe to say that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on education, casting a critical light on everything from ed tech to student equity to accessibility to school financing.  

Many aspects of education were directly impacted by the pandemic leaving years for schools to successfully get students back-on-track, not only academically but also socially and emotionally.  Teachers, parents and students spent the better part of the year being pushed outside of their comfort zones and likely will seek a return to the educational world they once knew. However, we can argue that some changes resulting from COVID-19 were for the better and efforts will be placed by educational leaders to maintain those changes.  

With the end of the school year here or on the near horizon make time for reflection. The act of reflection provides an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos while sorting through and creating meaning from your experiences. The questions below are adapted from article Reflection Questions for Teachers and Students: Looking Back at Our Year created by Lydia Breiseth and Elena Aguilar’s Questions for Reflecting on a Year of Learning. The hope is for you to pause and think back on the challenges, the successes, the impact they had on and how it shaped yourselves, your students and families.

  • What was the most difficult challenge (or series of challenges) I faced this year? my students and their families faced this year?
  • What strengths did I show in addressing those challenges?
  • Who or what helped me address those challenges? What helped my students and their families begin to address those challenges?
  • What opportunities did those challenges create?
  • What did I learn about my students’ lives, families, and past experiences? my colleagues? my school community? my local community? myself?
  • What impact did I have on my students and their families?
  • What impact did I have on the systems in my classroom, building, or district?
  • How did I grow as an educator this year? 
  • How can I harness what I learned and continue to move forward with it? 
  • What do I anticipate facing next year? What is my plan of action?
  • What has given me hope?
  • Who or what was particularly helpful in a moment when I needed it?
  • How did I take care of and nurture myself this past year?

If the past year has allowed us to reflect on anything, it’s that our teachers, students and their families are not only resilient but adaptable. It has taught us that our educators should not be taken for granted. It has taught us that not all COVID-19 changes were necessarily obstructive. It has taught us the powerful impact technology has had on how instruction is delivered. It has taught us a valuable reminder of the importance of in-person interactions and engagement both in and out of school settings. It has taught us there is more work to be done to change the challenges of our educational system and the inequities many students face. It has taught us to place priority on the things and people who matter most to us. It has taught us to celebrate small victories. It has taught us to be flexible and to step outside of our comfort zones.  And most importantly it has taught us to be forgiving and patient with ourselves as we continue to navigate these unchartered waters.

As we near the close to another unprecedented school year I can say with certainty that although the path we journeyed may have been divergent, with hills and valleys along the way, we emerged changed but maybe in some ways for the better. 

_______________
If you would like to hear more from Leslie, you can follow her on Twitter @lrdichiara and her blog Where It's AT.

Continue reading
1
  593 Hits
0 Comments
593 Hits
  0 Comments
Dec
30

Bump in the Road

20212021

Hello! It's here again, then end of another year. New Year's Eve. But not just any year. This was the year of 'rona (a.k.a. COVID-19). Good-bye 2020. You were a HUGE bump in the road and we are still feeling the jolt. Many changes and so much loss (loved ones, instructional time, face to face time, family time…normalcy). The year has been difficult in many ways for students, parents, families, teachers, frontline healthcare workers and more. Everyone has been affected in one way or another but we continue on. Two days ago marked the three year anniversary of my son's death. This remembrance hit me harder than past years. However, we must focus on what we can control and how we can support our students. They are counting on us to lead, teach and support them.

Talking with my family has helped. Who can you talk to?


We have all experienced "bumps in the road" this year. What follows certainly caps off my 2020 year. Yesterday, as I was delivering a cup of perfectly brewed and sweetened coffee to my wife, I misjudged (subconsciously) with my eyes the proximity of my dog's bedside steps. Thankfully (NOT), my second toe located it for me. OUCH! CRACK! It was one of those "It hurts so bad, you have to laugh to keep from crying." No curse words. I tried to walk it off.  The pain finally subsided but later the reality set in. Oh no, I didn't run yesterday and now I won't be able to run tonight. What about my over year long streak of Sunday long runs? Runners don't often listen to their own bodies, the advice of doctors or even Dr. Google. 

This "bump" will alter my next few weeks (Rose colored glasses view. Reality might be, ugh, "several" weeks. Sad face). The bumps and losses from the virus have been worse for some but have affected us all. These have been months long changes that will now carry over into a year of changes. Masks, virtual learning, no handshakes, no fist bumps, no hugs. I only provided TWO onsite school visits since March. I am a people person. I miss working directly with people. We have adapted and I believe it will get better. Here's a related blogpost from Jeff Bond, PATINS ICAM,  "I just don’t like this isolation stuff."


I have some close colleagues with whom I connect
. Can you be that someone for a colleague?


Our routines were dramatically altered this year and we adopted the "new normal." We had to adapt in order to continue serving our students, families and stakeholders. Virtual learning. Drive through pick ups at school. Equipment porch drop-offs. No more face to face meetings. Virtual continuing education conferences. Increased phone calls, emails and tons of VIDEO CONFERENCING! I worked to improve my webinars, presentations and materials to better support educators' service delivery methods. I attended numerous professional development opportunities, watched lots of videos, read and listened. Are you teaching the same way you also have and using the same materials you always have? We are all busy but we all must adapt and improve. Amanda Crecelius, PATINS Specialist says it well here:  "Our DIY School Year."


I continue to run (for me), read (for pleasure and learning), listen to new podcasts (for pleasure and learning), try new AAC solutions and just began learning how to 3D print (That has been a learning curve like no other). 
What things are you doing to nourish your mind and body and to make you a better teacher?

Most recent books (usually Libby App (FREE Library books) OR paper copies from Barnes and Noble - I support Brick and Mortar as much as possible): All We Ever WantedThe Nightengale, and Atomic Habits

Most recent podcasts: Ten Junk Miles (running - edgy), Talking with Tech, and Hidden Brain

New and/or FREE AAC/AT Solutions: Flexible Mounts (video), Accessible Switch Activities, Tar Heel Reader, Shared Reader, Gameplay


We have made it this far, let's see it through! Come on 2021!!! I have mentioned before that I run marathons. I'm still stuck at 42 states completed. The New Orleans marathon in February was my only 2020 marathon, all others were cancelled. Ugh. I'll get there. We will get there. It will get better. The PATINS Project and ICAM are here to help. We can provide FREE trainings tailored to the needs of your team, school or district. All you have to do is ask!


Check out our Training Calendar for upcoming FREE trainings!


Borrow something from our Lending Library for 6 weeks with FREE shipping both ways!


Register
for the PATINS Winter Edcamp 2021 on February 9!

EdCamp Winter 2021EdCamp Winter 2021 PATINS Staff Bitmojis participating in various winter activities on Ski Slope

Continue reading
0
  519 Hits
0 Comments
519 Hits
  0 Comments
Jun
25

Indiana Educators Focused on Accessibility in 2019-2020

Indiana Educators Focused on Accessibility in 2019-2020. Blog title above a group of people waving.

We often tell our students “you're more than a number”, meaning they have incredible qualities that are difficult to measure in a standardized manner. Creativity and grit are a few of these tricky to quantify metrics. Now, it’s not only Indiana students who have amazing, unmeasurable talents, our educators do too. And one there is one that was particularly evident during the 2019-2020 school year - determination. Specifically, a determination to educate their students whether the learning environment was the classroom or home.

Check out the graphic below showing the support PATINS/ICAM staff have provided this school year. While you’re looking at it, please remember, behind each number is a determined Indiana educator:

A general educator from College Park Elementary in MSD of Pike Township who attended the “Accessibility in Canvas and Beyond” webinar by Jena Fahlbush benefited from having another perspective - “Seeing examples of a screen reader helped me so much. I realized I was unknowingly doing so many things that would make learning more difficult for a student with low vision. After the session, I was able to make fast, easy fixes that will make learning more accessible. I also learned many tips and tricks to help students with hearing impairments or language needs as well.”

A special educator from Binford Elementary School in Monroe County Community School Corporation who can spend her time more efficiently after learning about new, free tools at Jessica Conrad’s “I Love Data 2” training - “I am so excited about Google Data Studio!! I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent trying to pull multiple pieces together into easy-to-read graphs/charts. Game changer!”

A cost-conscious instructional coach at an elementary in Elwood Community School Corporation who attended “DIY Fidgets & Sensory Tools to Enhance Continuous Learning” with Bev Sharritt, Jena Fahlbush, Katie Taylor, Kelli Suding, and Lisa Benfield - “I love these easy, affordable ideas that teachers can easily create at home for student use.”

Note: Indiana public/charter school employees can request any of the above trainings at no-cost.

Graphic showing 2019-2020 PATINS Project services in Indiana. Specifics in text below image.
Graphic: Indiana Educator Reach by the PATINS Project 2019-2020

  • 1,000+ Tech Expo registrants: PATINS/ICAM staff, with the assistance of IN*SOURCE, swiftly pivoted to a new platform due to COVID-19 and successfully held the first ever, virtual Tech Expo 2020! Also, in November we hosted over 400 attendees at our 2-day Access to Education 2019 conference.
  • 6,044 Training participants: The passion Indiana educators have for providing all students access to the curriculum is unmatched as evidenced by the outstanding turnout at our no-cost trainings this school year.
  • 73% Indiana public and charter schools reached: The PATINS Project has served seventy-three percent of Indiana school corporations and forty-two percent of Indiana preschool through grade 12 schools this year. Our small, dedicated staff goes to great lengths to deliver high-quality technical assistance to meet the access needs of all students through Assistive Technology, Accessible Educational Materials, and Universal Design for Learning.
  • 10,600+ Material and assistance requests fulfilled: Need to trial an assistive technology device? Have a question about Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)? Looking for information on the Universal Design for Learning framework? PATINS/ICAM staff are Indiana educators' go-to resource for improving access to the curriculum which leads to increased literacy skills.

Are you an educator behind one of these numbers? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.

Want to be a part of the Indiana educators making education accessible in 2020-2021? Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Apply by July 31, 2020 to be one of the Indiana school corporations in our next AEMing for Achievement grant cohort.
  • Register for the first ever virtual Access to Education 2020! ($100 for 2 days, $50 for a single day)
Continue reading
0
  1240 Hits
0 Comments
1240 Hits
  0 Comments
Mar
19

What Does Distance Learning Look Like Anyway?

What Does Distance Learning Look like Anyway? Mother and child holding tablet looking at woman on the screen.

What a year this week has been.

Just look at all the massive steps forward we’ve taken as a society in the name of accessibility for all students!

It’s no doubt that every foot has been on the ground making the transition to distance learning possible and to minimize the disruption of key educational services. This week has proved that nothing can stand in the way of educators getting support to their students. From district-wide initiatives, such as continuing to provide daily meals and mobilizing buses to grant Wi-Fi access throughout the community to the administrators broadcasting read alouds (yay for reading with our eyes and our ears!) and over 60 educators spending their Tuesday night with first ever hybrid #PatinsIcam Twitter Chat and Zoom meeting (captioned recorded video to come soon). We’ve all embraced accessibility in many aspects of our lives quicker than I think some of us realize. 

Educators (and that now includes parents/adults at home) - You may feel like your kids didn’t learn anything this week. You may feel out of sorts and wondering how this is going to be sustainable until May 1, as announced by Governor Holcomb a few hours ago. You may feel like you’re recovering from a bout of whiplash because what is distance learning supposed to look like anyway? 

The good news is I can tell you what distance learning looks like - it looks like Universal Design for Learning (UDL)! And you’re probably already doing it...

Multiple means of engagement - “Which book are you choosing today?”

Multiple means of representation - “You’d rather listen to that as an audiobook. Okay, I know that helps you recall the information better.”

Multiple means of action & expression - “I can see sitting and writing a paragraph on what happened in the book is difficult for your right now. How about you choose from drawing a picture, creating a video, or another way you had in mind to retell the story.”

Now, the flexibility UDL allows can help eliminate barriers for many of our students but our efforts still need to be flexible, specialized, and with a keen eye on accessibility. A paper packet of work sent home with a student with dyslexia is inaccessible. A student with limited communication still needs a way to express themselves at home (and they probably need some additional fringe words to describe what they’re feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic). A parent with hearing loss may not be able to hear the instructions for e-learning if their are no captions.

So what can you do?

Continue to think about potential barriers. Check-in with the students and their families to see how it’s going. The PATINS Project has compiled a webpage with resources for continuous learning which will help ensure the presentation of your content is accessible and allows all your families to feel successful.


Visit PATINS/ICAM specialists open office hours. These are now held twice a day at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM EST each weekday to address questions, concerns, brainstorm, anything you need to figure out. We believe all students can continue to make progress during distance learning.


Learn about educational technology and services at the first-ever virtual PATINS Tech Expo with IN*SOURCE 2020. Registration is open until April 6, 2020, and is no-cost for you.
Continue reading
1
  1357 Hits
0 Comments
1357 Hits
  0 Comments
enfrdeitptrues

Copyright 2015- PATINS Project