Ideas on State and Regional AT Perspectives

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CAPACITY BUILDING

Building the Abilities of School Districts

I do think that state and regional supports are different than supports that local district teams provide. As we started OTAP years ago, we didn’t have the monetary resources or personnel to do any direct services that focused on individual students. At the time, I was unhappy about that cause everyone was doing direct service to students (and I missed it.). But in retrospect, I think it was a good thing. It forced us to ONLY provide indirect supports and think about building the abilities of districts to provide AT on their own. At the time, we focused on “empowerment”. These days. we call it capacity building. And, especially as the technology and the laws change, the definition of capacity keeps changing too. But no matter what we call it, I think one of the first questions we have to ask ourselves at this level is “capacity to do what?” What do we want the districts that we support to be able to do more independently? What is the first step in helping them build independence?  (Contributed by Gayl Bowser, OR)

Getting started with New AT teams

When we begin our work with AT Teams we discuss the process of systems change. We teach our teams to use a facilitated team meeting process and engage in collaborative decision-making and to use a conflict resolution process. We share a sample action plan that can be modified and changed based on the needs of our teams. We support the team in creating a vision statement and we work to align the work of the AT team with the division’s and school improvement plan. We are strategically identifying our AT Team members to make sure that we have team members who also participate in other teams (such as VTSS, Inclusive Practices Teams, etc.) to help weave and braid AT into these other activities (keep us out of the AT silo). Here is a link to some FAQs for AT team development: https://atnetwork.ttaconline.org/faq   As a state AT Network, we are working to update these documents and make them accessible as well. (Contributed by Sharon Jones, VA  )

From Beginner To Advanced

I’m always struck by the fact that AT has been around for 3+ decades and we’re still at a beginner/novice level in many states and districts. It’s naive on my part to think that AT is well established. But when I go to conferences, I’m mostly in contact with a skewed audience of those who know AT or know what they don’t know. The hardest is to engage those who don’t know what they don’t know! Realistically, we need to keep building AT awareness at all levels, beginner to advanced. We need to keep doing this to ensure equity across districts and regions.(Contributed by Denise DeCoste, MA)

Moving Beyond the Expert Model

I think all of us experience that dilemma of wishing we could spend more time with students. But a one-student-at-a-time model, as we saw with the do the math activity, can only be used for a few students. I know that when I began to work in a capacity building model, I missed that student contact. I suspect most of us in this class did. So I always recommend that people have to find ways to “feed your heart” and get that direct student contact often enough to maintain a vision of what we are trying to accomplish. (Contributed by Gayl Bowser, OR)

DIFFERENTIATION OF AT SERVICES 

Requesting AT Support

May I comment on how much I appreciated and enjoyed hearing about the HiAT referral process and how it collected information that demonstrated the knowledge, skills and comfort level the referring school and IEP teams had in delivering AT services. Only when you have that knowledge, can an AT Team support the schools where they are and help them become more independent in their AT support. This is so timely because I am working with several very small school divisions with very new AT teams to develop a process from AT Consideration to AT Assessment. These teams are working on a referral process and how they will respond when requests come in. These discussions are taking us down the path of them deciding if they want “an expert model” or a “capacity building model.” (Contributed by Sharon Jones, VA )

AT Consideration

Many of our schools, have had us out so often, that they have “absorbed” the process and are comfortable proceeding on their own as they feel like they have a “safety” net if they need it and will reach out to us with a phone call or email of even a visit if necessary. Another way that we have gotten the team members to participate is that we provide a template and we ask that the case manager/intervention specialist actually be the person recording the notes during the discussion. It is amazing how many more questions they ask to be sure that they have each area of the template  filled out. By doing this, we have seen some success with increasing that person’s confidence in leading their own teams through the process because they were so directly involved in the process. Another beneficial factor is that we require the parents to be at all of the meetings, if they are able and willing. If they do not attend, we ensure that they receive copies of the notes so that they feel involved and informed when attending the next meeting. (Contributed by Teresa Clevidence, OH)

MTSS and UDL Working in Unison

I would love to see our State and Region using an MTSS/UDL approach. I am very involved with MTSS in the area of literacy. When you think about the MTSS Triangle, 80% of the students should be at benchmark; 15% may need some Tier 2 Support and only about 5% should need Tier 3 supports. (This, is of course, is what districts strive to achieve). Most of the money is allocated to general education, as it should be because that is where ALL students should be receiving the bulk of their education. With that in mind, it makes sense that supports are available for ALL kids in general education.

Using a UDL approach would help to move to this thought forward. For example, if a student is faster and more efficient at using speech to text; word prediction or some other tool for a report, then those tools could be available to him/her regardless of whether they have an IEP or not. It would then be available for the student who HAS to have those tools for access to the curriculum.

I just met with a special education director during a meeting as part of a literacy grant. In our conversation, a student with an emotional disability was not completing writing assignments. In addition to looking at the root cause of the problem (underlying reading/writing concerns), I asked if the student had access to and was using the co:Writer program that they district purchased a license for. He was not and the special education teacher talked about how the student didn’t want to be different from other students. My goal, in keeping with UDL, is to assist the district in training ALL teachers on the program (and others) in order to allow all kids access to the tool when they would like to use it. This would help to provide access for all, as well as not making a student look or feel different if all of their classmates had access to the same tool. I really do believe that it needs to begin with Tier 1: providing supports to all, and then, as the need arises, move to more special supports as indicated by student need.   (Contributed by Erin McManamon, PA)

DATA COLLECTION

AT Team Accountability

AT providers need to be more accountable to themselves. AT leaders at regional and state levels need to help them make the case for this. Data collection could be a full time job, so I’m suggesting that we look for ways that data collection can be integrated into routine AT procedures. Chasing elusive extant data is unlikely to change hearts and minds, but finding ways going forward that can build a data base can help teams document what they do to increase accountability and make more informed decisions.(Contributed by Denise DeCoste, MA)

Data Types

Types of data that AT teams could provide to state or regional leaders: 

  • AT indicated as a special factor within IEPS (pulled from SPED management database)
  • Analyze goal areas where AT is included (math, reading, writing, communication, etc)
  • Analyze number of students using AT by; grade, disability, schools, complexes, etc.
  • Review accommodations that include AT (pulled from special education management database)
  • Analyze types of accommodations and cross reference with AT IEP special factors, Bookshare licenses, AT materials checkouts,
  • trainings, requests, etc.
  • Analyze active licenses of AT software-by school, district, geographic area
  • Bookshare activity/accounts across the agency-Do they match with agency TTS software licenses, IEP special factors and accommodations?
  • Analyze loans from district AT Lending Library-types, duration and outcomes of trials.
  • Analyze school requests: focus of requests (training, assessments, consults, procedural, AT for high incidence, low incidence)
  • Analyze proactive trainings provided by AT Staff-pre and post training data, topics covered etc.
  • Analyze AAC devices funded through private insurance across the agency
  • Analyze the total number of students worked with and the  focus of the requests
  • Analyze total number of staff worked with: focus of requests
  • Analyze video views/page views/resource downloads of AT virtual trainings
  • Analyze number of participants in college courses for AT PD
  • Staff are sampled and complete QIAT indicator matrix sheets for selected topics
  • AT budget review: How are we spending money for: HI, VI, AAC, preschool, high incidence, low incidence etc.
  • AT staffing review: Are AT staff in locations to build capacity and support local school teams? Do we have high populations of students with special needs with noticeably lower/higher AT documented within the IEP?(Contributed by Aaron Marsters, DODEA, Germany)
  • Time allocated to a specific school or student for training.
  • Time allocated for the set up of devices such as loading software, adjusting settings, setting up student and school profiles to comply with school protocols and firewalls.
  • Devices used by students.
  • Number of students using specific software, such as UPAR, Read and Write for Google.
  • Data as to which apps (or types of apps) are purchased the most frequently, including Snap and Type, Voice Dream Reader.
  • Time required for emails, support calls.
  • Time spent in meetings or live conferences with staff and parents.
  • Travel time required to visit various regional schools.
  • Data including tech support required for staff and student devices (IT help calls).
  • Data regarding time spent with videoconferencing either direct instruction, meetings, sessions.
  • Numbers of referrals received by the AT staff, numbers of students on wait-list.
  • Hits on AT resource website..
  • Professional development hours required by AT staff (conferences, webinars, courses)

(Contributed by L S Lalonde, Canada)

  • Number of students who utilize the built-in Universal Tools and Embedded Supports within the State Tests accessibility framework
  • Number of students who’s IEP lists a need for AT (and then broken down by category)
  • Number of students who have unmet AT needs
  • Number of students who are identified as having a print disability
  • Number of students who are identified as having a print disability and are also accessing Bookshare
  • Number of referrals made to SST for AT concerns the outcome of those referrals
  • Number of students who are identified as needing AEM and actually receiving those supports

(Contributed by Jennifer Heim, OH)

Data Collection Going Forward

I think going back in time to analyze historical data is time consuming and often unreliable ,but could be gathered as a baseline going forward. We also have to be careful in state/regional roles to not come across as “big brother,” though I also believe AT leaders have a responsibility to encourage data collection. I’d also suggest you think carefully about the burdensome data collection could place on teams. Selecting data that would really make a perceived difference is key— otherwise it takes away from time AT teams would spend with students and staff. It’s important to separate out data local AT teams could reasonably collect vs. data that could be assembled on their behalf.  (Contributed by Denise DeCoste, MA)

End of Year Reports

Having uniform representations of information by each district would be an asset in year-end reports. Developing a template for reporting information in a uniform layout would be advantageous for all districts, as it would provide adequate information to determine base funding and staffing allocations. I feel that our newly formed group of AT representatives could take on this initiative. This report would not only include the number of students who are receiving AT support in each district, but it would also help to define what types of AT support is required, and the manner in which these services are delivered. (Contributed by L S Lalonde, Canada )

AT Stories

About 5 years ago, my technical assistance center (TAC) adopted an MSC (Most Significant Change) process where we ask for specific stories/feedback from the schools we serve. The results of the MSC have been incredibly helpful to see where TACs have impacted schools, teachers, students and teams. We need to expand this MSC process statewide to collect additional data.   (Contributed by Sharon Jones, VA )

Collecting Data

Without measures and focus, it is easy to get sidetracked with minutiae and the mundane while making it impossible to gauge improvements or efficacy of interventions. We see the trees, but not the forest.

At least with my current bosses, they want the big summative data picture. What were the common requests for assistance and what were the general outcomes of AT-on student achievement, grades, independence, standardized assessments, IEP compliance etc.? They are also interested in broad statements regarding progress toward goals and focus for next year. Lastly, they want to know about any major AT PD or funding requests from the district.

Based on my current audience, I find a few graphs along with specific student/staff qualitative stories or pictures highlighting successful AT more powerful than a lengthy report. In my opinion, the numbers have more context when there is an accompanying short story of a student in one of our schools showing how AT devices and services enabled; a student to communicate, access to grade level material, to graduate with honors, increase time in the LRE etc. (Contributed by Aaron Marsters, DODEA, Germany)

ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT

Building The Skills of School Based Administration

Administrators are a valuable part of the AT process. Since they are the only ones at the school level that can direct work, assign tasks, and evaluate employees they need to know “what right looks like” in regards to AT. Often, the administrator is one constant during all school IEP meetings and are the ones who authorize local funding/services for AT. Building the skills of school based administration is an effective way to develop a foundation and culture of quality AT services and supports at the school level. When I envision a well functioning AT team, I see the school administrator as an essential part of the team-not someone on the outside. (Contributed by Aaron Marsters, DODEA, Germany)

The Role of Special Education Directors

I’ve been reflecting on the many different roles/responsibilities of Special Education Directors in the delivery of Assistive Technology. I find the categorization of the various areas (i.e., leadership, management, supervision and program development) helpful in thinking about what I can do to support Administrators. Under each of the categories, I would like to hone in on one thing to really target with the administration in the districts I support. For example, under the Management section, I would like answer questions that directors are commonly asked to help them create their own written guidelines for their district. I also want to discuss and learn how they are educating their staff on such things as “Answering a parent’s request for AT.” I wonder how many teachers feel uncomfortable when asked to answer that question, often because they are unsure as to what AT really is or what is available in the district to even begin to trial with a student. I am going to share the Administrative Self Assessment with the Special Education Directors in the districts I serve. I am thinking about putting this document in a survey form. The administrators can answer the questions, and hopefully, the survey will populate data that will help me to know more globally where there are areas of strengths and weaknesses. I would like to be more targeted in my approach to assisting them. (Contributed by Erin McManamon, PA)

Statewide Supervisors

I have mentioned in earlier posts that we have recently developed a provincial (statewide) group that includes many AT representatives for the districts and other organizations. The Supervisor of Student Services for each of the school districts oversees most of these positions that serve on the statewide group. Our group presented to the Student Services committee last year, focusing on the inconsistencies of identifying students who use assistive technology within the districts. After watching the webcast this week- I realize that we need to be more involved with the group of Supervisors and develop strategies and tools that each AT representative can present to their supervisors. This would include:

  • Information on the types of assistive technology used in the schools
  • Data on student populations and comparisons with other districts as to the use of AT
  • Types of teacher support and professional development that can be provided to assist all students, not just those who are AT users.
    (Contributed by L S Lalonde, Canada)

Prompting Supervisors

If you do meet with their supervisors, I want to suggest that you offer them some ideas about what they can do to help. It seems basic, but I have found that just sharing information about what is going on is often not enough to help supervisors see their role. They sometimes need a little prompting to get started and be more involved.  (Contributed by Gayl Bowser, OR)

AT State-Level Leaders: Shifting from Managers to Leaders

I see our AT leaders falling primarily into the management role (supporting AT consideration, managing materials, purchasing materials, coordinating assessment requests, etc.). Our leaders often rely on me to help them develop policies and procedures or provide them with models for this. I don’t believe they see an expanded role in AT leadership and program development. I am working with some of the AT leads using a coaching model to develop relationships (donuts go a long way), to help them identify their role in AT Team Leadership, and how to take critical issues to their AT Teams so they can work together to identify needs, solve problems, develop and provide PD, iron out the steps in formalizing specific policies and procedures, collect data, etc.   (Contributed by Sharon Jones, VA)

PROFESSIONAL LEARNING 

Statewide Professional Development Planning

A few years ago, my agency asked me to develop (for our statewide efforts) a professional development plan for the program. At the time I felt a little push back. One more report to write. But, as I did the activity, what I found was that making a plan made me really look at what we were doing and, in the long run, we developed a system that was more goal driven than we had before. We kept our three kinds of PD audiences- 1.) General awareness activities, 2.) Targeted PD for specific topics and 3.) PD upon request. But we were much more purposeful about them. If I were doing it today, I would also add a feature-match approach to PD so that each of the three initiatives would offer multiple means of engagement for PD on particular topics. I didn’t have that concept yet when I did the plan for Oregon Department of Education.  (Contributed by Gayl Bowser, OR)

Supporting Districts’ Professional Learning

We support school divisions by training the AT Teams based on topics identified through a needs assessment. This training is done either via Zoom or during face-to-face team meetings. These AT Team members then take this training on the road to their other schools. We encourage the AT Team members to share resources, strategies and tools to grade level teams and school staff too. Some of our teams are creating short videos on AT Tools and strategies (such as, AT for organization, literacy, math and using visuals) to add to their Google sites and others are creating short videos on low-tech tools to attach to their online Google inventory lists. Other AT Teams are embedding AT training into co-teaching division-wide training. It’s a struggle finding time for these divisions to create these videos. One division is putting videos of testimonials and success stories on their internal website. Others are adding pictures of students using AT to create awareness. We encourage divisions to plan ahead and add PD to their calendars at least a year in advance. If it’s not planned ahead, other initiatives or other professional learning takes over. Some of our AT Teams add a tag line to their emails asking for training needs and attach a referral form/process for AT requests. It’s funny how competition is so natural, so sometimes as motivation, we casually mention training methods that competing school divisions are using–it’s amazing how quickly the other division jumps on the bandwagon to do the same–not to be outdone 🙂    (Contributed by Sharon Jones, VA)

Building State AT Networks

The Maryland AT Network (MATN) has served as a professional learning network for 24 county AT teams. I really credit them for keeping AT on track in MD. But it is very member-driven as there is not a high level of funding. MATN has 2 meetings a year called MATN Institutes––like small conferences on topics generated by members. But the part I always looked forward to was after the Institute (which ended around 3:30).

AT leaders from around the state met to discuss important issues and plan future efforts for about 1 to 2 hours, and then went to dinner afterwards. It was a good way to share our issues and concerns, plan future meetings and conference topics, but also a time to socialize and talk about what worked and what wasn’t working. The Maryland AT Network (MATN) is celebrating its silver jubilee this spring. It really built a support system for AT teams. So what I am suggesting is to look for a way to attach AT PLN meetings to existing events/conferences. In between big f2f events, schedule remote meetings that are topic specific. (Contributed by Denise DeCoste, MA)

Job-Embedded PD

Historically, PD has been very traditional with face-to-face sessions. We used to hold one-day trainings, but quickly learned that systems change didn’t occur in this format. We have moved to job-embedded PD, usually involving a district or building-level team with follow-up and follow-along. The largest portion of these multi-day sessions are structured as face-to-face sessions to provide teams with the necessary time to have conversations and plan for systems change. Even when we do face to face sessions, we keep the sit/get time very short and use the crux of their time for collaboration amongst their team. We often do our follow-up via discussion boards in a Learning Management System (LMS). We like Canvas (so do participants) a lot because of its facebook-ish platform for discussion boards. We often schedule 30 minute-1hour follow-up webinars between sessions (especially if there’s a big gap in time before they will meet again) to keep the conversation going. We have been using Adobe Connect for this purpose for the past couple of years. The feedback we get from our participants is extremely positive. They appreciate that the sessions are short and they can connect via computer or by phone if they’ve already moved on in their day.

We are definitely doing more multi-day sessions. I would say our attendance rates are as good if not better than single-day sessions. As you know, State Support Teams are funded in such a manner that all of our PD is provided at no cost to our districts. This is great, but sometimes, because there is no cost involved, it is easier to cancel at the last moment. When we offer multi-day sessions, we tend to get better commitment from our attendees, especially if we run PD that involves team participation with certain roles required to attend. We incorporate webinars and discussion boards to keep their interest level high. The challenge is not to overburden them. (Contributed by Jennifer Heim, OH)

Using 21st Century Professional Learning Tools

Our teams are so restricted in their PD time, that it makes sense to use 21st Century Tools. We use Zoom for our well-established teams and it works beautifully. Our “newer teams” or less experienced teams are more hesitant to engage during these distance meetings/trainings. 

Book studies and PDGs go over well in our divisions. Coaching models work quite well for us. One of our division’s AT Teams provided face-to-face PL to general education teachers. They then offered additional PD points/hours for licensure to any teacher who followed up by trying a strategy in their classroom or sharing it with another teacher or parent (proof with a written description, video or picture). Teachers loved this idea.

Our teams rely on us to model new professional learning strategies – Webinars, blogs, Google sites, videos, discussion forums, “just in time” training, etc. We follow the practice of “I do, we do, you do.” When developing training activities, It’s important that divisions connect these activities to well-planned outcomes, existing initiatives, and school improvement plans, and develop professional learning strategies, collect data and most importantly provide follow up to ensure that these strategies become established practices.

My goal is to take my iPad to AT Team meetings and create “on the fly” PD for teams to use and add to their own AT Sites. If I model this, my hope is that our AT Teams will see how easy this is and do the same (creating a library of tutorials, training videos). This can become part of our established agenda.  (Contributed by Sharon Jones, VA)

Online AT courses for Continuing Education 

University of San Diego, 1-Credit Graduate Course Topics:

  • LAMP Words for Life Operational Skills Course
  • Proloquo2Go Operational Skills Course
  • AAC Implementation Course-Developing Communication Partner Skills
  • Video Modeling in the Classroom to Support Social, Communication and Academic Skills
  • Implementation of Read and Write Tools to Support Diverse Learners
  • Using the PAR and the DeCoste Writing Profile to Determine Appropriate Reading and Writing Accommodations
  • Book Study: The New AT: Making Learning Awesome for All
  • Book Study: The Practical and Fun Guide to AT in Public Schools
  • GaFE for All-Features to Support Diverse Learners

(Contributed by Aaron Marsters, DODEA, Germany)

REMOTE AT SERVICES 

Video Conferencing and Robots

Reaching people across the state is something I have been thinking about for a while. We use Zoom frequently and have tried a lot of the features. I love that you can have breakout rooms and screen share and it is easy to use. When I first started, I had a client come into my office and we zoomed with a therapist across the state to find the best technology for this client. It was extremely helpful and effective. I would love to be able to see students across the state and problem solve with the teachers while the student is working with their equipment at their desk. I think tools are more likely to be used if it is done in a real-life way. I don’t have the luxury of going to a school every time a teacher or student needs help but video conferencing would be a great way to reach more schools and empower teachers as they try things in their environment. I have home visiting background and see the benefit of being in their natural setting, but there is no reason this can’t be virtual. In our statewide AT program, we have 2 VGo’s and one OhmniLab Telepresence Robot. These seem to always be checked out. It makes such a difference for a child that is unable to attend school.   (Contributed by Michelle Allen, MT )

Using Remote Tools

We routinely use Google Meet and Lync for meetings, trainings, collaboration groups, follow up sessions and occasional direct student support. I’ve been screencasting/recording screencasts for years to support device/software training and troubleshooting. I personally like using video screen shares when teaching and supporting software trainings. Everyone can see and you are not hovering or invading someones personal space as you stand over their shoulder to navigate a resource.

We’ve found it takes some time for people to get the logistics and comfort of using video as a collaboration tool. Good microphones and cameras are helpful. Being able to see the person really helps. Also recognize that the first 1-4 meetings will involve some lost transition time as people learn how to navigate, get the sound working, mute appropriately, share screens etc.

We use Skype/Lync, which allows video recording, but the downside is that it requires extra software installation on computers and that we have to be logged into our official accounts to access. We’ve been using Google Meet more often because it does not require extra software and people can access from home computers, phones, tablets or work computers. The downside is that we don’t have easy video recording options within Meet since we are using the free version within our agency. Zoom is not an approved tool within our agency. We’ve also added a component to any major curriculum or AT purchase for our agency to include video/webinar training by the company scheduled for each of our different time zones. While the quality of these trainings in not always the best, it at least gets the ball rolling and gives us something to reference.

 I have been using video conferencing with high school students and some elementary students for quick check ins, troubleshooting issues, or brainstorming next steps. Just the other day I worked with a paraprofessional and two second graders using Clicker 7 to write a paper on elephants. They had me on the Smartboard and I was able to walk them through setting up the word banks and word prediction. They shared their screen and I shared mine. Only took 10 minutes of my time, but was able to help a team 2 hours away. 

If a teacher emails me with a question about a specific program, I often will respond back with a short (1-4 min) screencast video walking them through the steps. This also allows me the ability to talk through the process, make recommendations, etc. Often this video takes less time to create than it would be for me to draft an email where I write down all the steps. Personally, I like using Screencastomatic, but we also use Jing. I’ve also worked with teachers to create similar videos for students who need personalized tutorial videos.

I routinely plan 20-minute webinars or AT video collaboration sessions during lunch or immediately after school before the teacher duty day ends. I find these short sessions are easier for teachers to commit the time to attend. I typically send out an Outlook calendar reminder to all special educators within a district or area with the meeting topic, meeting link, and applicable resources. Attendance is optional. I need to start recording these sessions. Our school special education teams have weekly business meetings to discuss cases. I am often able to remotely video conference in to talk about IEP/policy questions. While I like being at the meetings in person, the ability to video in allows me to greatly reduce travel time.

Our agency is providing 45 minutes of early release or late start per work to allow teachers time to collaborate. We are using this time and virtual meeting resources to connect teachers across the district and agency using a focused collaboration framework. We have teams of special education teachers meeting virtually to discuss what we want students to know, how we will assess what they know, strategies to try if they don’t know it and ways to enrich if they already know it. We’ve been having some rich discussions related to AT within this framework. I love being able to reference existing webinars that I didn’t have to create! 

I like how AAC in the Cloud conference is put together. I would like to see more of this type of virtual conference in the future for other topics besides AAC. I try to reference and encourage my SPED teams to engage in as much self study as possible using existing webinars and podcasts. I love any of the podcasts Chris Bugaj has been part of. I am planning to start a webinar/podcast AT club that follows a book club format.

If we are creating or referencing a ton of recorded on-demand options I still think we need to reflect on how/when educators will access. Are they given sub time to watch? Are they expected to watch on their own time? If we create hours and hours of content-what is the expectation for the educator? We also need to critically reflect on the quality of the on-demand resources. Is the video good enough to warrant 30 minutes of a teacher’s time, or could it have been shortened or provided in another format? I think adding a Google Form asking for feedback on some of these videos would be a good idea to see how they are being received in the field.      (Contributed by Aaron Marsters, DODEA, Germany)

Remote Adaptations

We have enjoyed using the “robot” adaptation from Dr. Therese Wilkomm. It is a homemade iPad stand that has a Plexiglas base and a loc-line (modular hose) stand to hold up the iPad. It can be used like the Kubi telepresence robot. When using the iPad and stand the student joins the class via video conferencing and the student is visible and present to their classmates. This can also be used to bring the teacher into a classroom remotely. Gayl joined us online during our Changing Role of AT Teams session at the ATIA, and Denise moved the stand from table to table so that Gayl could join in on each of the group conversations.   Dr. Therese Wilkomm iPad Stand

We have used the Dr. Therese Wilkomm iPad stand to include our S-LP/AAC consultant in on-site visits. Due to licensure restrictions in some provinces, and travel distances in other situations- she is not always able to be a traveling member of the team. We develop our teaching tools prior to the visit. When I am on site with the student, she joins via video conferencing- as we observe and work with the student. I can move and rotate the stand to show different angles as the student is using the materials. The consultant is then available to discuss the AAC strategies with the staff, immediately after the student has returned to class. 

We are also using the adapted iPad stand set up in a distance education system. The student has low vision and is learning how to use a video magnifier. During the lesson, the educational assistant on site with the student rotates the iPad so that the online teacher can fully view the student as he is using the device. For example the online teacher can observe his proximity to the screen, his posture, and the settings that he is using on the video magnifier.

We have an exciting project with our Orientation and Mobility team. They have developed a webcam and iPhone system based on the VisAbility ROAM project from Australia. Our O&M staff in Halifax joined a teacher and a student in a remote part of Labrador. The student is learning how to use his white cane. ROAM Project Australia

   (Contributed by Lynn Seyour-Lalonde, Canada )

A(Tea) in the Afternoon

During one of her webinars Gayl mentioned that one AT team had online office hours, so that the teachers in the district would know that they were available and could be easily contacted. My team has developed a similar strategy, with a slightly more specific focus. We are calling our sessions “A(Tea) in the afternoon”. We present for the first 15 minutes on a specific topic, and then we answer questions for the remaining 45 minutes. Staff are able to drop in and drop out as they wish. We create an information sheet about our topic, so that the participating staff have a cheat sheet or a handout with relevant information. We have had two sessions so far. The attendance is low, but we have received lots of positive feedback about the format.

We have also developed a “tech club”. This is a group of students who join an online session during their lunch hour, once every two weeks. We have realized how important it is for low vision tech users to have the opportunity to share experiences with other low vision students, as many of them are the only low vision student at their school. It helps them to develop a comfort level about using assistive technology in the classroom. These students love to share new apps, websites, and gadgets that they have discovered online with their peers in other towns or provinces. A similar youth group is being held for students who are transitioning to post-secondary.  (Contributed by L S Lalonde, Canada)

Zoom, Adobe Connect, Go To Meeting and VGo

I use Zoom technology at least weekly to communicate with small groups and large AT leadership groups across Virginia. We share documents, screens, websites and work remotely via Zoom Technology. It’s amazingly easy and efficient. I’m a willing cheerleader for this technology. We also use Adobe Connect and Go To Meeting for webinars and presentations throughout the year. One challenge I have found with webinars is that participants frequently register, but participation generally ends up being about 1/3 of the folks that register (especially since our webinars are free). 

We also had a VGo robot that we experimented with and trialed with some students who were receiving home services because of illness. It worked quite well.   (Contributed by Sharon Jones, VA)

BUILDING ON-DEMAND SUPPORTS

Recommended State-Level Information Resources 

  • Operational Guides for High Use AT Software/Hardware
  • Policy/Practice: AT Consideration, Assessment, Inclusion in the IEP
  • AT within PARCC Standardized Testing Accommodations
  • AAC Implementation Support
  • Accessible Features within Curriculum Resources
  • AIM
  • Data Collection and AT
  • 504 Quality Indicators
  • AT in the IEP
  • Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities: A Guide to Acquisition and Funding
  • A Teacher’s Desk Reference: Assistive Technology
  • Technology Resources for Students Who are Deaf, Blind or Hard of Hearing
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)-Visual and Environmental Considerations

Providing State-Level Resources 

IDEA IEP and AT Policy/Practice/Assessment/Standardized Accommodation resources should be created/vetted at the state/regional level to ensure consistency of the message across all constituents. The legal and ethical risk of messing up due to inconsistent training messages and resources is not acceptable.

I am not as picky when it comes to lower level operational skill resources as there is (in my opinion) decreased opportunity for interpretation, and implementation errors that can cause major confusion. That said, if the state or agency is supporting a universal intervention such as Read and Write for Google, UPAR, Kurzweil, Bookshare etc. it helps with economy of scale and development of baseline skills if everyone has defined knowledge outcomes and vetted resources.

I am helping to develop the bank of on-demand resources by developing an AT web page, maintaining an active AT Schoology (LMS) group and creating/modifying AT resources in the form of videos and print guides. I am reaching out to students and staff who are proficient users or strong advocates to assist me by creating short videos or joining me on a recorded webinar to offer user/teacher perspectives. Like the initial HIAT site, we are at our infancy in terms of usable/repeatable and publishable quality materials. (Contributed by Aaron Marsters, DODEA, Germany )

Resources from States to Support District AT Teams

One way we are supporting our division AT Teams is to help them develop Google sites and web pages for their AT Teams. Some of the content includes their vision and mission statements and connection to the division’s mission statements, AT Team members’ names, contact information and request for services/ AT assistance, links to AT training modules and other resources, success stories of students in the division using AT, Google Forms to create an inventory system for AT that includes the picture and description of the device, video of how to use it, where it’s located and how to request the device. It’s a work in progress and each division is working at it’s own pace depending on resources available to create these websites. It really helps to have the IT staff on the Team. These folks really have skills and knowledge needed to develop these resources!   (Contributed by Sharon Jones, VA)

Keeping up with Online Resources

Since each of our school divisions haS their own permissions and restrictions for using collaborative tools, it’s important for us as state-level AT facilitators for the development of district AT Teams to know how to use these tools and share this information with our local AT Teams. Developing on-demand resources is indeed an important discussion for our division AT Teams. 

Some of our AT Teams are in the process of developing short “how to” videos and are adding links to YouTube videos and other professional learning on their AT websites/Google sites. I think sometimes they add info to their websites and fail to update it, so the sites become stagnant. If we, as an AT network, update our on-demand resources on the state-level AT Network website, it would be an easy link to our site for our divisions to access updated training and resources. This is an important activity to add to the local AT Network Annual Action Plans.  (Contributed by Sharon Jones, VA)

Collaborative Approach for Developing Resources

I always imagine a cooperative effort for On-demand resources, where each agency contributes something to a pool that is then placed on the State/Regional website. For example, If 8 regions in a state put up 4 resource documents that would 32 submitted in one year! That’s a really great start. I do think that it’s important not to use a “shotgun” approach––to have some sort of structure that can be used to organize materials and resources.   (Contributed by Gayl Bowser, OR)

Keeping Ideas Organized

I am still pretty new to Google Keep. I went to a session at ATIA that inspired me to use it more. I like the ability to quickly make shareable checklists, tag/label topics and quickly search for keywords. I’ve also been using the reminders to keep pressing issues from getting buried. Like most things in the cloud, I appreciate that I can access on any device. The app has neat features of OCR and will convert audio notes into typed text using speech recognition. Since I do most things within Google Apps, it has nice features where I can see my Google Keep Notes while in a Google Doc.(Contributed by Aaron Marsters, DODEA, Germany)