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:


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:


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.


  • 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.