Sunday, December 16, 2018

Technology Makes Accessible Possible in Inclusive Classrooms

If you are an innovative educator, than you know that you serve students with varying abilities and learning differences. Some are visible, like a person in a wheelchair. Some may not be visible such as a person who is colorblind. Some have varying levels of visibility such as someone on the autism spectrum. Some may progress and become more visible over time or as you get to know the student. There are also those who have multiple disabilities which can affect areas like cognition, speech, and mobility.  Disability can come in a wide variety of forms, both visible and invisible and can affect any of us at any time.

Here is a breakdown of areas where learners may need support:

Visual

Colorblind
Low vision
Blind

eye icon

Hearing

Hard of hearing
Deaf


hearing icon

Cognitive

Learning disabilities
Autism
Seizure
cognitive icon

Speech

Speech impediment
Unable to speak

speech icon

Mobility

Arthritis
Quadriplegia
Spinal cord

Neural

Bipolar
Anxiety
Post traumatic stress syndrome


Conventional Approaches Weren't Inclusive

In the traditional classroom of the 20th century, for the most part, students affected by learning differences often had no special accommodations. Those that did may have had to be separated from other students receiving intense, often intrusive interventions. 

Ways Technology Makes Accessible Possible

Today, in the modern classroom, this no longer has to be the case for students. Technology makes accessible possible for so many more students than ever before. Once content is digital students can
  • Have the content read to them
  • Change the colors
  • Change the contrast
  • Turn content into pictures
  • Make math visual
  • Add captions to videos 
  • Speak and have their speech turned into text
  • Turn text into Braille 
  • See information in one language and easily turn it into a chosen language and then have it read to them
  • Type content and hear it read back to them to ensure it makes sense
  • Receive assistance with spelling and grammar
  • Use the keyboard only without a mouse to navigate
  • Have a screen reader navigate the page
  • Access text at their reading level
  • Play soothing music to help a student focus or relieve anxiety

Instead of the prohibitive costs associated with accessibility devices in the past, all of this is simply built into many browsers and operating systems. There is no additional cost. As the costs of devices decreases they are now less expensive than buying paper, pencils, notebooks, calculators, printers, rulers, and all the other tools. 

For that same few hundred dollars per year, at what is often less then the cost of low tech, schools that understand the power of an inclusive classroom, can ensure every student has an accessibility hub available to them. They'll also train their teachers how to use these tools and ensure all students devices are set up for optimum learning and creation.  

Your Turn

How do you provide an inclusive classroom? In what ways do you ensure all your students have customized their devices to ensure all accessibility needs are met? How do you create content and material that is accessible to all learners (i.e. using alt text, headings, proper links)? How are you empowering students to know and use the tools that make learning most accessible to them? 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Alexa, Google Home, or HomePod: Easy Peasy Guide to Determining What's Right For You

If you're an innovative educator you might be wondering which device is best to set up your smart home or classroom. How do you decide which device is right for you? While all devices have other smart gadgets they can interact with, below are the basics to get you started on figuring out what will work best for you.

Amazon's Alexa Echo

You love: Amazon
Purchasing: Amazon is your go to place for purchasing
Books: You like Audible
Television: You like Firestick
Music: You like Amazon Music

Google's Home

You love: Google
Purchasing: You like Google Store
Books: You like Google Play Audio Books
Television: You like Chromecast
Music: You like Google Play Music, YouTube Music, and Spotify

Apple's HomePod with Siri

You love: Apple
Purchasing: Doesn't seem to have an online purchasing partner
Books: You like Apple Books / iBooks
Television: You like AppleTV
Music: You like iTunes and Apple Music

The Verdict?

It all depends on the ecosystem you have bought into. If you love Apple, go for the HomePod with Siri. You'll get your Apple Music with great sound, but it's not as smart as the competitors.  If you love the ease of Amazon, enjoy instant purchases, use Audible and Amazon Music, then Alexa is right for you. If you have bought into the Google ecosystem, use Google Books, Google Music, Spotify, or YouTube Music, and enjoy shopping on Google, then go with Google home.

If you use one platform, the nice thing is that all your devices can pick up where you left off and sync with one another.  However,  if you like of little of each, go cross-platform and use each with that which they're compatible.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

#NYCSchoolsTechChat on Learning Opportunities - Thursday at 7pm EST

Join us this Thursday as we discuss professional learning opportunities. 


Your host, #NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon will moderate with me throwing in my two cents. Also on hand will be special guests from some of our partners who bring these opportunities to teachers. 

You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions: Q1 What are some of the best professional learning opportunities you have provided or attended? What was valuable about the learning? #NYCSchoolsTechChat Q2 What are some of your tips and tricks to keep professional learning opportunities hands-on, interactive, and engaging? #NYCSchoolsTechChat Q3 Share a link to an agenda/materials of a great opportunity you attended? #NYCSchoolsTechChat Q4 Share a link to your favorite place to visit to find upcoming learning opportunities? #NYCSchoolsTechChat Q5 What are important considerations we should have around ensuring professional learning opportunities provide a valuable experience? #NYCSchoolsTechChat Q6 What are some ways ed tech companies can support schools in the professional learning efforts? #NYCSchoolsTechChat


Chat details are below: Date: Thursday, Dec 6 Time: 7:00 pm Topic: Professional Learning Opportunities Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools) Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)


Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.
We hope you can view the chat live, but if you are unable, please visit our archive at https://www.participate.com/chats/nycschoolstechchat. You can also participate in the chat at that link or if you have an iPhone download the app at https://www.participate.com/apps.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Technology Use Is A Right, Not A Privilege

Some traditional educators may still view student access to technology as a privilege, but it is not. Today, technology is necessary for learning to be accessible, real, and relevant in the modern world. The college, careers, and citizenship for which our students need to be prepared require the use of technology. The job of our learning institutions requires today's educators to know how to manage a tech-rich classroom and keep technology from becoming a weapon of mass distraction. Instead educators must know how to empower students to understand how to use technology as a tool of engagement to support real learning.  

Here's why:

Technology Makes Learning Accessible

Technology is the tool that students need for numerous learning supports such as speech to text, text to speech, screen size adjustment, word understanding, translation, and more. Paper makes learning much less accessible for a variety of learning needs. 

Technology Supports Real Learning

Technology is the tool that we need to enable students to write in the way real writers writer. It is the gateway to connection and communication with others beyond the classroom. It is the way today's students engage in a large percentage of their communication with others. It allows us to visualize and analyze math and science the way mathematicians and scientists do. It is the vehicle to create for real-world audiences.  

Technology is Affordable

Technology is finally more affordable than the alternatives. Providing students with a device like a touchscreen Chromebook is less expensive then the thousands of analog materials and resources that device provides. No more inaccessible paper. No more inaccessible books. No more expensive graphing calculators, rulers, or lots of other costly items. For about $150 per student per year you've not only replaced traditional supplies, but you've also provided the increased functionality over traditional devices with a powerful creation tool that enables students to collaborate, connect, and share with the world.  

Technology Is Necessary for Our Workforce

The U.S. economy has always been fueled by innovation and tech but we no longer have the talent to hire for available jobs. We have hundreds of thousands of openings in computing jobs and a workforce not prepared for those jobs. Code.org places this number at 570,926 jobs with only 49,291 qualified workers.  Additionally, STEM opportunities grow at a rate of three times that of other jobs. There is a gap between what we are teaching and what jobs are available. Our educational institutions must begin embracing technology to prepare students to hold these jobs.

Your Turn

How are you ensuring your students have access to the technology they need? How are you helping them learn ways to avoid distractions? What methods are you using to support students in being responsible digital citizens with proper digital etiquette?  

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Why You Shouldn't Limit Screen Time

Read fear-mongering pieces like the click bate trio of stories that appeared in the New York Times this fall about the "Dark Consensus Around Screens," and you'd think you can't be a good parent or educator unless you limit screen time.  While such pieces prey on insecurities, make good headlines, and draw in concerned parents and teachers, at best such stories lack nuance. At worst they lack research.  

As innovative educators know, not all screen time is created equal and one-size-does not fit all when it comes to learning and development. Just like we wouldn't limit a child's book time, writing time, or computing time, we also shouldn't blindly limit the screen time of a young person. It's not the screen that matters. It is what's happening behind the screen that does.  

Regardless of what's happening behind the screen though, valuable or not, despite what you may have heard, it is not best for young people to have adults limit their screen time. 

Here's why.

Our primary role as parents and educators is to help develop independent learners and thinkers. Asking youth to follow someone else's orders rather than having meaningful conversations about making choices that are best for their personal, emotional, social, and intellectual well-being does them a disservice.   

Rather than limiting screen time, talk to young people about choices they are making with their use of time. Also, be ready to discuss your own digital habits and areas that are working well as well as areas that may need to be reconsidered.  

In her book, “The Art of Screen Time,” Anya Kamenetz, NPR’s lead digital education reporter, suggests that adults can better support young people if they actually focus on concerns they may have, rather than the screens. Top concerns we have for youth include:
  • Healthy habits: Diet, exercise, sleep. 
  • Learning: Able to pay attention and focus
  • Social interactions: Affable, responsible 
If we shift the focus of our conversations from time on screens to discussing what is best for our bodies and minds then we can help young people make informed decisions for themselves. 

Young people are already armed with much of this knowledge. For example, they know the power of learning with YouTube and various apps. They may have used technology to assist them in learning or accessing information using tools like voice to text, text to voice, or modifying size and colors of what is on screens. They also may be able to talk about how to limit distractions or what to do when someone acts inappropriately online. 

Adults can help young people deepen understanding by moving beyond the headlines and toward taking a look at some of the organizations, publications, and research (i.e. Center for Humane Technology, Common Sense MediaThe Art of Screen Time) that address the positive and negative outcomes that result from screen use. 

Ultimately, what is best for young people, is not for adults to limit screen time for them. Instead help them develop a deeper understanding that enables them to make informed decisions for themselves. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Presentation Trick Innovative Educators Will Love


Here’s a trick that will come in handy for innovative educators who have times when it becomes helpful to have lots of tabs easily accessible.  For example, say you are having several students present one day and you don’t want to have to click open each presentation or connect and disconnect various devices from the display station.  Or, maybe there are tabs that you use each time you conduct a particular class.  And, everybody has the usual tabs that they need each day. 

Using Chrome bookmarks, you can put all those tabs in a folder, then have them instantly open at your command. 

Here are the 3 Steps to Auto-Accessing Multiple Tabs in Chrome: 


Step 1:  Create a folder

  • Go to “Bookmarks”
  • Right click
  • Select “Add a folder”

Step 2: Add pages

  • Add pages to your folder

Step 3: Open all tabs

  • Go to your folder in bookmarks
  • Right click.
  • Select how you would like your tabs opened. You can:
  • Open all (right where you are)
  • Open all (in a new window)
  • Open all (in a new incognito window)

The results

Now you don’t have to worry about what device you are on or if your computer restarts or if someone accidentally closes a window.  You have a tool to quickly and easily open all the tabs you want.

Here is what it looks like:



Your Turn

What do you think? How could you see using this strategy to streamline the work you do?