February 14, 2018

Tech Tuesday for November 7, 2017 Assistive Technology Edition

This week’s newsletter is all about Assistive Technology. We have some great tools to share with you and I really hope that you scroll down to the bottom and read the incredible and inspiring story from Sandy Beaty about how technology is allowing her students to learn in ways they never could before.
App Pick of the Week

Co:Writer Universal for Google Chrome uses grammar- and vocabulary-smart word prediction to help students better express their ideas in writing across devices. And now built-in speech recognition adds an entirely new way of getting ideas out!

Snap&Read is your Next-Generation reading tool for Google Chrome and iPad covering the most diverse reading needs! It reads accessible and inaccessible text aloud and works across Google Drive, email, websites, Kindle Cloud Reader, and PDFs.

Universal Protocol for Accommodations in Reading (uPAR)
uPar is an assessment tool that helps teachers identify the best reading accommodations for students. Teachers can create a uPar assessment for their students by going to https://educatordashboard.com. If you don’t have access yet, please email Beth Becher and she will add you. Your students will go to https://startpar.com/ to take the test. Here’s a video that shows how to create and administer the uPar assessment.
What I've been training on
Accessible Education Materials (AEM) and Assistive Technology (AT)
We often use fancy educational-sounding words, but do we really stop to think what they mean? Here’s a Google Slides Presentation that helps explain these two concepts.

Teachers Using Technology
Do you know of a great use of technology by a Westfield Teacher? Share your own technology tip with me or nominate another teacher!

Teacher of the Week: Sandy Beaty, CRES Resource Teacher

Tool: Assistive Technology Tools

In this edition of “Teachers using Technology,” I interviewed Sandy Beaty about Assistive Technology. Here’s what she had to say.

Hi Sandy, I understand that you’ve been on a bit of a digital journey in the last few years. Could you give us some background about how you approached technology before this?

Honestly, I tried to embrace it, but it made me anxious. I used it when I had to but certainly didn’t feel comfortable stepping out and trying new things.

Ok, so recently you were working with a student who was really struggling. Can you share some of the general learning difficulties this student was having?

This student, a first grader at the time, was able to identify letter names and sounds in isolation but could not blend them. As such, he couldn’t read (in the conventional way) and he was unable to get all of his thoughts/knowledge down in writing because he couldn’t spell. We tried all kinds of programs/strategies to help him. Nothing was working.

And then you decided to try some Assistive Technology with this student. What was that technology and how did it help?

I called in the AT team to do an observation and then the uPar assessment. They set him up with talk-to-text for writing. He uses an app to get his classroom worksheets read to him; he is also able to write or talk-to-text on them to record his answers and then forward his completed worksheets to his teacher’s Google Drive. We were able, through technology, to determine that although his independent reading level was kindergarten, his comprehension level was mid-fourth grade. He is now able to read books at his comprehension level via a text reader and participate in Accelerated Reader ‘contests.’ 

So how is this student doing now? How has technology helped the student to learn and grow? How has this made a difference for the student’s parents?

The AT team and technology changed this student’s life. I don’t say this lightly; I mean they changed his life. Once given the technology, he looked at me and said, “Mrs. Beaty, I am smart, aren’t I?”  He didn’t realize how much knowledge he did have; he was just stuck in not being able to read and write.  Prior to getting this technology set up for him, he felt defeated...as a 6 year old. Now, he has access and is able to respond to grade-level material. His parents, of course, were very concerned. They realized the struggles he was having with reading and writing. When we shared the results of the computerized reading assessment (that reported his comprehension level to be mid-fourth grade), they were relieved and excited! This is a work-in-progress, but we (student, parents, teacher, AT team, Resource team) are working together to use the technology to help this student.

How did this experience shape how you think about assistive technology?

It has completely turned around my anxiety with assistive technology and opened my mind to jumping in and trying new things. I am amazed at the almost immediate, positive effect assistive technology has had on this student’s life and others that are using it as well. This has motivated me to keep searching for assistive technology tools to help our students. This experience has been a game changer!

How do you see yourself growing and using technology as a tool to increase learning and make learning accessible to students in the future?

I am learning something new everyday right along with my students. I am really excited about learning new tools and being able to help students show what they know and feel confident in their abilities.

Thank you so much for sharing this with us today!

Connect with Sandy: beatys@wws.k12.in.us                       Phone: 317-867-6256
If you have gotten this far, I really appreciate your commitment to the newsletter. I hope this story was inspiring to you. Please click here to let me know that you read the story. Thanks!
Odds and Ends
Other resources related to Assistive Technology

AIM Simply Said https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U3uKNKMv7s

UDL At A Glance https://youtu.be/bDvKnY0g6e4

More uPar resources: http://donjohnston.com/tutorials-upar/

uPar compares how a student does at reading and comprehending a passage independently vs. with a electronic screen reader vs. a human voice. A whole class can take the assessment at one time, and after the assessment (about 30-45 minutes session) the teacher can see data for each student immediately, in the form of a color-coded chart saying what grade level the student read/comprehended at with each accommodation.
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