Saturday, January 25, 2020

Accessibility for Everyone - A Book to Help Educators Create Content

Accessibility for Everyone audiobook cover artAll schools receiving public funding must make content accessible to everyone including those with disabilities. If your school or district is interested in helping staff understand why this is important, then consider Accessibility for Everyone for your next great book study.

Inclusive research

In the book author Laura Kalbag talks about the importance of including people with disabilities in user research studies. This can serve as a reminder to educators about the importance of designing learning in ways that includes feedback from students as to the ways they learn best.

Real life experiences

Throughout the book, Kalbag points to real life experiences of how accessibility helps her brother Sam, who grew up with cerebral palsy. As an educator, hearing how her brother interacts with technology provides a strong case for the need to have technology integrated into the curriculum. Her experiences with Sam also point to the importance of every individual being able to manage the accessibility options that best work for them. 

What's inside?

The book is 160 pages or nearly four hours on Audible and goes through the following topics:
  • Considering Accessibility 
  • Disabilities and Impairments 
  • Planning for Accessibility 
  • Content and Design 
  • Accessibility and HTML
  • Evaluation and Testing Laws and Guidelines

Continued Learning

Only digital content is accessible content. Learning how to create accessible content should, and possible in the future, will, be a requirement for all educators. To help keep up with the field you can follow Laura Kalbag on Twitter. She also recommends following the hashtag #AXSCHAT where people talk about their accessibility needs and possible solutions. The A11Y Project, a community-driven effort to make web accessibility easier, 
has a whole list of people to follow. Many of those listed have accessibility needs and can provide a personal perspective. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Distance Learning Field Trip: WWII Museum @WWIIMuseum

Museum educator speaking to an audience. There is a screen with the four programs projected.
Museum educator shares information to
an audience about their four programs.

"How would you get troops on a beach when there's a big coral reef in the way?" "If you were Eisenhower or Churchill and had the information they had what decisions would you make?" These are the type of questions students are confronted with when they take a digital field trip to the The National WWII Museum. The museum is known for problem-based, distance learning which sparks minds as it brings content to life and into the classroom from a state-of-the-art, onsite studio. 

The Museum is a dynamic educational resource. USA Today gave the Museum its top rank as one of the “Best Places to Learn U.S. Military History." Exhibitions and programs allow students from all backgrounds to explore the values and beliefs—the universal concepts—that Americans and their Allies embraced during World War II.

Schools can take advantage of four distance learning programs as follows:

Webinars

Students have the opportunity to interact with authors, historians, and Museum experts to explore a broad array of topics that bring WWII history to life. No special technology needed, thousands of students can connect to the Museum at once simply via their classroom computer to view live, interactive programs that immerse students in history. 

Webinars are free.

Electronic Field Trips

Electronic Field Trips are streamed directly into your classroom—no special technology required. Focusing on the national impact of World War II, take your students on a cross-country tour of historic sites while examining fascinating artifacts and exhibits at The National WWII Museum. Hosted by student reporters, Electronic Field Trips will help your students understand how the war affected young people just like them. Check out past and future Electronic Field Trips

WWII Museum studio with people standing around and a green screenElectronic field trips are free.

Skype in the Classroom

Classrooms across the world can interact with Museum experts and educators for short, dynamic virtual connections with Skype in the Classroom. This can serve as an introduction to an array of WWII topics and locations through the Museum. These programs are meant to be quick, not take your whole entire class period, and enhance the curriculum you're already teaching in the classroom.

Skype in the Classroom is free.

Virtual Field Trips

Interactive, fast-paced Virtual Field Trips are videoconferenced LIVE into classrooms. A museum educator guides students as they analyze maps, photographs, artifacts, posters, speeches, and songs as they explore the chronologies, strategies, motivations, and outcomes behind these fascinating chapters of WWII history. Sessions last one class period and include pre-and post-program curriculum materials.

Virtual Field Trips are $100 per session.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Use GRASPS for Real-World Assessment

Innovative educators understand that there is more to learning than processed worksheets and tests. That's why real-world tasks and assessments are finally making it out of just the elite schools and are becoming more prevalent in mainstream education. 

At the Tech & Learning Leadership Summit experts in the area of technology and education came together to discuss a variety of topics including how technology support bringing real learning experiences to the classroom. 

G.R.A.S.P.S. Model

One model popular among attendees was one adapted from Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.  It is called GRASPS which is an acronym standing for:

G: Goal

  • Provide a statement of the task. Establish the goal, problem, challenge, or obstacle in the task.
  • Possible sentence starters:
    • Your task is to… The goal is to… The problem or challenge is… The obstacle to overcome is…

R: Role

  • Define the role of the students in the task. State the job of the students for the task.
  • Possible sentence starters:
    • You are… You have been asked to… Your job is…

A: Audience

  • Identify the target audience within the context of the scenario. Example audiences might include a client or committee. 
  • Possible sentence starters:
    • Your clients are… The target audience is… You need to convince…

S: Situation

  • Set the context of the scenario. Explain the situation.
    • Possible sentence starters:
      • The context you find yourself in is… The challenge involves dealing with…

P: Products or Performances

  • Clarify what the students will create and why they will create it,
  • Possible sentence starters:
    • You will create a … in order to… You need to develop a … so that 

S: Standards

  • Provide students with a clear picture of success. Identify specific standards for success. Issue rubrics to the students or develop them with the student.
  • Possible sentence starters:
    • Your performance needs to… Your work will be judged by… Your product must meet the following standards… A successful result will… 

Note that it is unnecessary to use all or even any of the sentence starters. You can replace a prompt with your own. These are provided to help the learning designer think about the task. Generally one sentence starter can be used to write 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Tips for Creating Translatable Content

If you work in a school where English is not the first language of all students then families may have a hard time understanding what is happening in schools. This is because families are unable to access content due to language barriers. However you can address this issue by creating inclusive content. Inclusive content is more easily accessed by those with disabilities and more easily translatable by a machine.

Elements of Inclusive Language

Plain Language

Ensure staff understand how to create content written in plain language. This means that content is written at a grade 9 or below reading level.


Some tips for doing this include:
  • Use simple, everyday, words 
  • Write in short sentences 
  • Use active voice 



You can check your reading level using tools such as:


Dates

Write months in letters, not numbers. For example: May 1, 2019 instead of 5/1/2019. That's because in some languages that is read as January 5, 2019.

Matching Subjects

Use the same word for the same subject. For example: Students went to the Hall of Science. The Hall of Science is in Corona, Queens. Corona is a neighborhood with many schools. These schools educate students. 

Why write this way? 

Translation tools will not have to guess how to translate a pronoun which can look different based on grammar rules. These tools also won’t have to guess relationships.

Relative Pronouns

Include relative pronouns: who, whose, whom, which, and that. These words connect the noun to its description.

Example: 

  • Don't write: This is the book everyone is talking about.  
  • Instead use: This is the book that everyone is talking about. 

Why write this way? 

We often leave relative pronouns out when speaking. We assume that everyone knows what we mean. We can do that because of the way English works--many other languages need relative pronouns for clarity and accurate translations.

Your turn:

Go to a page on your district, school, or class webpage and follow the tips above to update content. Do a before and after test to see how the updates provide a more machine-friendly translation.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Emerging Technologies for 2020


What technology can we expect to see more of in 2020? That was the topic of discussion at the Tech & Learning Leadership Summit which took place December 2019. Leaders from across the United States came together to share the newest technologies being used in their districts.  Here's what they shared: 

Emerging Trends

AR and VR

Augmented and virtual reality are being used to expose students to cultural experiences they may not have the means to experience otherwise.

Tele-Classroom Robotics

Schools using robots for tele-classroom experiences have found that it provides more Social Emotional Learning than what they had imagined. 

eSports

This is growing across districts. As a result there is competition between districts on what is offered. Local Military are interested in recruiting eSports players to support them in areas such as drone operation.


Voice activated devices

Districts are seeing more and more value in voice activated devices. The focus must turn to addressing recommended use and privacy concerns.

Fiber optics owned by district or state

District or state owned fiber optics can provide more resources among schools systems.

Data privacy

This is a concern around what we can do with data and ultimately need to do in order to help our students.

Your Turn

Are you noticing any of these emerging technologies in your district? Which ones? Are there technologies you expect to see in the upcoming year that are missing from this list?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Innovative Ideas for Reducing Laptop Loss / Theft

At the Tech & Learning Leadership Summit that took place December 2019, leaders in technology and education shared innovative ideas used to reduce device loss and theft across a variety of populations. This ranged from ensuring educators knew how to integrate tech into learning to speaking to important community members to get them on board. Here's what they discussed. 

Ideas for providing device ownership

Across the board, leaders agreed that providing device ownership helps reduce loss and theft. Here are some ways this takes place in districts across the U.S.

Etching

Etch student names on the bottom of devices.

Personalization

Allowing students to personalize their devices both with background wallpaper and on the outside of the computer. 
Jenith Mishne, Director of Education Technology in Newport-Mesa Unified School District (USD) takes personalizatoin to a whole new level. She provides time, accessories, and stickers for students to use to personalize their device. However, she offers this word of caution: Make it clear only the backside of devices can be bedazzled.

1:1 take home programs 

1:1 take home programs were found to reduce damage of devices. 1:1 provides a better sense of ownership which means better care. 

Home Use

The consensus was that it’s a myth that kids aren’t responsible enough to take devices home. If schools and districts put the right systems and structures in place, students can be responsible enough to use devices at home and bring them back to school.

Summer Use

The end of the school year is often a drag for school technology staff who have to scramble to collect and store all student devices. This isn’t a problem in Newport-Mesa USD. Mishne simply doesn’t collect devices at the end of the school year. Students can keep the devices. This also helps address summer slide issues as the students can have access to technology even when school is out. If a device needs a repair, no problem. Students can make an appointment to bring their devices in. Students at the school keep the same laptop from year to year. This increases the feeling of ownership which reduces chances of loss.

Integration into learning

Leaders found there was a reduction in device damage if educators knew how to meaningfully integrate technology into learning. Using it not just as a substitution for paper or worksheets, but as a tool to transform learning.  When teachers do that, students are more responsible for devices. The issue however, is that districts must properly support teachers with integrating technology. It also must be an expectation included in evaluation of the teachers. 

Out-of-the-box solutions

Adam Phyall, Director of Technology and Media Services at the Newton County School System Covington, Georgia implements several effective out-of-the-box solutions to reduce theft.
  • Community relations: He speaks to key players in the community to let them know what is happening in the schools academically and how technology is supporting it. He shares with them how to identify a school device and discusses the significance these devices have in ensuring students are prepared for success. These key players include pawn shop owners as well as street organizational units (aka gangs) which community churches help to arrange. 
  • Laptop carts: When Phyall discovered some kids had devices stolen out of bags from the YMCA, the district donated extra laptop carts to them. 

Your turn

How do you handle device loss and theft where you work? Have you tried or considered any of these ideas? How do you think it would go in your school or district?