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Promoting Achievement through Technology and INstruction for all Students
Feb
01

5 Questions for AEM & AT in DHH IEPs

5 Questions for AEM & AT in DHH IEPs 5 Questions for AEM & AT in DHH IEPs
  1. Where are AEM and AT located in the Indiana IEP system?
    • Provisions and Services page 
  2. screenshot image from IIEP with red boxes around accessible materials and assistive technology areasWhat could be considered AEM for DHH Students?
    • Any materials used in the classroom that need to be in an accessible format for the student to access their curriculum at the same time as their peers such as closed and open captions, transcripts in (but not limited to) foreign language learning classrooms, access to print material in digital formats (This is not an exhaustive list).
  3. What could be considered AT for DHH Students? 
    • Any device or technology used to provide access to the curriculum such as a tablet or Chromebook/laptop for access to live transcript applications, AAC device, FM/DM ear level transmitter/receiver, t-coil, neck loop, induction loop, remote mini microphone, Bluetooth device, built-in or stand-alone sound-field speaker and microphone, book clips, speech to text software/applications, text to speech software/applications (This is not an exhaustive list).
  4. Even if the case conference committee decides that the student does not need AEM and/or AT to provide FAPE do we select “No” and leave the box blank?
    • When a case conference committee decides that the student does not need either AEM or AT to provide FAPE then select “No” in the appropriate box and comment in the box on what was considered, discussed, and the outcome.
    • Note: Leaving the box blank can suggest that the team did not consider or discuss AEM or AT during the conference.
  5. How can our team determine if AEM and/or AT are appropriate for our DHH student(s)? 
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Dec
14

Sitting Inside the Checkbox

Artist Name - Recording-Blog-Sitting-in-the-Checkboxes.mp3


As the end of the year nears, holidays run together and family and friends come in and out of our doors. Sometimes the wrapping paper, meal preparations, and travel plans take up most of our time.

 Checklist boxes with a red marker making checkmarks

For me the holiday checklist is at the forefront of my mind. Those that know me are familiar with my love of checklists. Boxed bullet points give more order, help me stay on-track, and give me a sense of control of the things going on around me. Unlike in the past, this year my checklist became a source of anxiety about the holiday season. But I could not figure out why. I was doing all the suggested holiday traditions that are supposed to bring more joy during this time of year. Yet joy just did not seem to be inside those multiple squares. On the other hand frustration and anxiety showed up checkmark after checkmark. 

So I applied a recently discovered method of the “5 whys.” 

The first why?: Why were these activities bringing me frustration and anxiety? Answer: I didn’t enjoy the activities that we were doing. Now I could have stopped there and just changed the activities but I would not have gotten to the root of the cause.

So I asked a second why?: Why wasn’t I enjoying these activities? Answer: They felt rushed. 

Third why?: Why were the activities rushed? Answer: I felt like I needed to get to the next checkbox quickly. 

Fourth, why? Why did I need to get to the next checkbox? Answer: Checking the box became more important than the  actual activity. 

Fifth why?: Why was marking the squares the priority? Answer: The satisfaction of marking the square became the focus of the activity. Utilizing the 5 “whys” helped me to have a deeper understanding of the root cause. 

Now I can look back at my checklist with a different perspective. I have to be honest, giving up the checklist probably isn’t going to happen. But what I can do instead is make it a priority to sit inside my checkbox and enjoy those four walls before quickly moving on to the next thing.

As educators we have a lot of checkboxes and sometimes we can lose sight of the joys of seeing students grow and learn. Checklists serve valuable purposes in guiding, documenting, tracking, and prioritizing but we have the choice of how they guide our actions as we complete those necessary items. PATINS Project staff often talk about a few checkboxes including the Assistive Technology (AT) box and Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) boxes on the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). These boxes are vital for documenting student’s accommodations and gaining equitable access to materials. Although it is important to mark these boxes, we also need to sit inside these boxes to make sure we are getting to know our students and their needs. One way to do this is to utilize the SETT model, designed by Joy Zabala, in the AT evaluation. Utilizing the SETT model results in Student centered, Environmentally useful, and Task focused system of selecting supportive Tools. 

So when faced with these checkboxes, make sure to check them and take time to incorporate the SETT model into the evaluation process. If you do need more support on AT in the IEP, register for this no-cost 5-part series on AT in the IEP:

Part 1 - Getting the Money(Register): Friday, Feb. 10, 1:00 pm EST
Discussing funding sources for devices, training, and how to utilize PATINS for support.

Part 2 - Boots on the Ground(Register): Friday, Feb 10, 1:30 pm EST
Examine working with Information Technology (IT) and creating a system/plan for daily use.

Part 3 - What Happens at the Table(Register):Friday, March 3, 12:30 pm EST
Look at case conference practices and the actual documentation of assistive technology in the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).

Part 4 - Bringing Them In(Register): Friday, March 3, 1:00 pm EST
Addresses implementation of assistive technology with the student, family, and school team.

Part 5 - Making It Stick(Register): Friday, March 3, 1:30 pm EST
Addresses transitioning to the post-secondary setting with assistive technology.

Remember to sit inside the checkbox with the intention of seeing past those four lines to visualize clearly who your students are and what they need for success.

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Jan
12

TTS: Then and Now

In the last 25 years, during which I have worked for the PATINS Project, assistive technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Today I am specifically considering one technology and how it has advanced greatly.

It is interesting and somewhat exciting to see where it was, and where it is going. My early involvement with text to speech (TTS) was with the software program Kurzweil 1000.

The software, when fitted to an appropriate computer configuration, would take scanned text and through the programs optical character recognition (OCR) would convert the text output to speech.

Kurzweil 1000 was primarily used by individuals who were blind or had low vision. Although others began using it for students who had a reading disability. From that enlightening came the Kurzweil 3000 program which addressed the other needs of not just reading but writing and study skills.

There have been many other text to speech programs developed. Some being Natural Reader, W.Y.N.N., Word Q, TextHelp Read and Write, Microsoft Narrator, Snap and Read to name a few.

These programs have had a major impact on struggling readers and those individuals who can’t access text in the traditional way.

For many users of TTS, one complaint that crossed programs were the robotic voices which were synthesized and lacked inflection and other natural nuances of human speech.

Not only was TTS used in software programs, but it was and still is a vital component in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, software and applications.

Although TTS was/is an integral part of assistive technology for individuals to communicate and interact, it was just a matter of time before it became mainstream.

Very few people would know the background of TTS or its evolution of augmentative speech when using SIRI or Alexa. They have become a fixture in everyday life from young to old. Their voice sounds realistic, and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) used makes them almost lifelike.

What got me thinking about what my early years’ experience with TTS is a program my wife, Rita, came across a few weeks ago. The program is Speechify and it is TTS program and much more. Speechify is a text to speech program for desktop or mobile devices that uses computer generated voices.

This is one of many that have incorporated OCR to translate its output to speech. What is interesting about Speechify is that it doesn’t use voice files that are part of the devices operating system but generates speech using its own file sources.

You can choose voices from fourteen different countries, including Spanish, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Hindi, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, Italian, German, Hebrew, and others. It offers male and female voices for the specific language, but it also has the voices of Gwyneth Paltrow and Snoop Dogg.

This is not an endorsement for Speechify (for which there is a cost to use). This is one view for me of where TTS started, and what is possible now. The advancement is phenomenal and Speechify is just one of many TTS programs out there.

The main reason Speechify caught my attention was Snoop Dogg’s voice, you should demo him. What a hoot!

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Jun
10

Tools in Your Toolbox

 

Various battery operated power tools and toolboxes with various tools

Most of us have completed a project, repaired something, helped a friend, written a letter (or blogpost!) at some point.  When planning for these endeavors we usually have a plan and/or a tool in mind.  Often everything goes well but sometimes it doesn't.  To be successful, we must have access to more than one solution or tool.  Students must be offered and taught how to use a variety of tools.  Need ideas?  Please check out the PATINS Project training calendar.

A picture containing outdoor pergola over and outdoor grill/kitchen area

My plan was to help a friend dig three post holes for a pergola (unique design).  We were warned by his neighbor that the ground was hard clay, and the preferred tool would be a towable, one-person auger/post hole digger (available to rent but would take about one hour of our time to borrow and return). I've dug many fence post holes in the past and I have manual post hole diggers.  During my site prep we measured, used my diggers to start the holes and everything looked good (i.e., somewhat soft clay and no rocks).  To save that hour of time, I figured we could use my neighbor's small, gas post hole digger.

I forgot to mention that his neighbor had just built his own pergola and successfully dug six post holes…in the clay. You know what happened next, we were forced to rent the larger one-person auger/post hole digger.  Unfortunately, we had more obstacles; three rose bushes and an outdoor grill/kitchen brick wall.  Respectively, they didn't appreciate the one-person auger’s wide wheelbase or large obtrusive handle.

It took us almost twice the time we planned, and we used three different tools.  However, we got those holes dug!  One tool did not get this task completed.

When students are assigned academic tasks, they should be allowed to choose from several tools to successfully complete those assignments. When writing, students could respond with handwriting, with a keyboard, speech to text, audio recording, video recording, scribe, etc. 

When reading, students could read with their eyes, ears (speech to text solutions), have someone read aloud to them, audio books (e.g., Hoopla or if they qualify, access digitally accessible materials from the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM)).

When communicating, students could use gestures, vocalizations, sign language, partner assisted scanning, static/paper-based communication boards, single message voice output devices (e.g., BigMack), multiple message devices or high-tech dedicated speech generating devices (SGD).

What tools are in your teacher's toolbox?  If you want ideas to fill it up, please reach out directly to one the PATINS specialist.

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Feb
27

The Lenses Adjust The View

Photo collage of four pairs of glasses:  paper 3D, yellow lenses in reading glasses, round rimmed glasses and safety glasses


This week I was reminded that the lenses one looks through, adjust your view. Each year, I visit the optometrist to check my eye health and see if the vision in my eyes has changed any in the last year. The results are typically one of 3 things: 

  1. Vision unchanged and no new prescription
  2. Vision improved, new prescription needed
  3. Vision worsened, new prescription needed

I could even consider new or colored contacts, at this annual visit, which adds another type of lens to consider after my annual check up!

While watching a photographer/videographer friend’s YouTube channel, as he was showcasing a Stream Deck for streaming and productivity, I realized the lens I viewed this equipment with had changed over time. Originally, I used a Stream Deck with OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) for live streaming, for projects unrelated to school based therapy. Then, I moved to the option of using shortcuts to allow a student to press one button and land on the page they needed during instruction, rather than typing out the most common web pages she needed in class.

After viewing my friend’s video, I am reminded of all the options that are available for productivity and shortcuts that can be set up with a Stream Deck by Elgato. Using a device as the manufacturer intended is great, but what if it can be used to increase productivity or increase access to a student’s curriculum? One tip he reminded me of was that one can set up a group of websites that will launch in one window. Another is that a user can have a direct link to their storage drive or email that would allow the student to already be logged in. As an educator or therapist, do you have students that shortcuts like this would work well for? 

I am thankful for a different lens to view this valuable technology! The PATINS Project Lending Library has both a Stream Deck 15 and a mini available for loan, along with thousands of other resources to help Indiana’s students. Indiana’s educators are able to check out resources for a 6 week loan to gather data and see if the tool is a good fit for the student’s needs.

Myself or any of our PATINS Specialists are available to assist with set up and training for use of a Stream Deck, or any other Lending Library loan that an Indiana educator would like to trial as Assistive Technology or use the view of the Universal Design for Learning lens. Reach out to us today!

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Jan
06

Is Your Assistive Technology (Still) Biased?

Is our assistive technology still biased? Image: screenshot of a text message that asks

Over a year ago I shared some thoughts about bias in assistive technology: technology was created by humans, so the technology has biases. Biases hurt humans, but humans have the capacity to fix it.

Not surprisingly, some things have changed since I wrote it! There have been small steps towards a more equitable and representative access for all. In 2020 we hadn’t had a single synthesized voice option for Black Americans, and the first one, Tamira, was developed and released earlier last year which is now an option for many Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) software programs.

Also not surprisingly, we have a long way to go.

When someone mentioned to me that we now could finally have Black AAC users with a representative voice, I had to stop and think for a moment.

It’s a start, but that one voice is one attempt to represent a diverse umbrella of accents in the United States. That voice alone can’t accomplish all that needs to be done to have a "representative voice" for Black American AAC users. For example, when you look closer at the language in most of the robust software for AAC, you notice the bias: you can’t conjugate sentences properly in African American English (AAE). In some software you can say “he is sick” but you can’t say “he be sick” which is a common linguistic feature of many varieties of AAE. The “habitual be” in some AAE and Irish varieties, for example, shows the difference between being sick once or habitually being sick. I can’t conjugate “ain’t” or say “finna.” The word prediction doesn’t predict the correct grammar or vocabulary of AAE.

“Of course not. We don’t want them to sound uneducated.”

Oh yikes. Or as many would say in the Midwest: “ope!”

Prescriptive grammar, the idea there could ever be “the right way” to speak a language, is still a prevalent bias in education and assistive technology. As a speech-language pathologist, there is a lot of harm to children and families by describing a linguistically valid way of communicating as “uneducated” and not representing it properly.

We want all students to be able to sound like their community. There is power in knowing how to communicate in the way your community expects (or to defy the rules, as you choose). To know the very words you say tie you to your family and generations of history is like having a bit of your ancestors in every sentence. We still haven’t created technology that allows that for every person, only some, and that’s a problem.

As perhaps some English speakers could have said 900 years ago:

Englisc meagol witodlic un−l¯æd fâgung (very roughly translated to Old English: English is strong because of its variety).

It’s said that addressing bias is a lot like tending a garden, not winning a race. You put in a lot of sustained effort and you might see a little growth. Sometimes you don’t (yet). When you’ve addressed the bias you notice, give it a few weeks, and then your work and effort will be needed again for something you never noticed before.

It’s the garden worth tending to as we have a lot of human potential to grow.

Resources:

Do You Speak American? from PBS

Contact a PATINS Specialist on how to incorporate your student’s language(s) and dialect(s) into their communication system.

PATINS also has a webinar on "Culturally and Linguistically Representative AAC" that any Indiana PreK-12 stakeholder can request live. Email me to schedule it at a time that works for you.

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Mar
25

PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE - Exciting Updates!

PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE - Exciting Updates! Tech Expo PATINS Project with IN*SOURCE. Virtual 2021. Students and teacher using assistive technology.

Around this time last year, you pivoted with us to the first ever virtual PATINS Tech Expo with IN*SOURCE allowing us to ensure the health and safety of everyone, while also bringing you high quality presentations, resources, and time for connection. It still amazes me how quickly everyone -- attendees, presenters, PATINS/ICAM staff -- adapted for a successful event!

As I am currently writing this, a small part of me is waiting for the frantic rush to get everything into place for the second virtual PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE like last year. I have checked my to-do lists many times, communicated with presenters/exhibitors, and assigned duties to our top-notch PATINS/ICAM and IN*SOURCE staff. Everything is running on schedule and humming along nicely for April 15, 2021. (Knock on wood!) What’s left to do? Get excited!

PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE has new and improved features and extra perks for the virtual event! With a record number of presentation submissions, we have added 4 additional sessions from amazing organizations dedicated to support students. That’s 24 presentations to choose from to earn up to four Professional Growth Points (PGPs)! Due to popular demand, we have divided the sessions into strands to help you determine the best presentation agenda for you. The strands are:

  • Access
  • Advocacy and Social/Emotional Services
  • Communication
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Blind/Low Vision
  • Literacy
  • Tech Tools 

Your time is limited and valuable, which may make it tricky to choose only 4 sessions. Even if you are not sure if you can fully commit to attending live, we encourage you to register for no-cost to receive access to presentation/exhibitor information as well as presentation session summary videos for the opportunity to earn up to two more PGPs!

A major upgrade for the 2021 event is the opportunity for attendees to speak with exhibitors live! There are currently close to 50 organizations eager to share their transformational products and services with Indiana administrators, educators, pre-service teachers, families, and advocates. So even if you only have 10-15 minutes to drop in, visit the Exhibitors to learn about products and services which can support your students’ academic, communication, and social/emotional skills.

I hope to see your name come through on our registration list before April 12, 2021 when the form closes.

If you would like to start the Tech Expo 2021 celebrations early with us, download and use one of these free themed virtual backgrounds on your upcoming video conferencing meetings!


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Feb
28

Where's A.T. "Waldo"?

We live in great times. The connection between general classroom technology and specialized technology has never been closer. We are increasingly talking about accommodations, assistive technology and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as regular discourse as stakeholders make decisions for accessing curriculum for students. Technology directors look at means of providing technology for most students. UDL makes sure students in the margins are included and assistive technology takes technology beyond a general consideration and provision to addressing specific needs for students who require these solutions to access their education. It does take a village to accomplish all this.

Given all these considerations and efforts, what does technology look like in the classroom? PATINS supports teachers as they work with students to have access to the curriculum. So, let’s look at a classroom through the lens of "Where’s A.T."?

Classroom with students working at tables and desks and in a group on the floor.
Classroom supplies and equipment fill the room including specific assistive technology tools.

So, the items to look for include:
  • AAC Devices
  • Keyboards
  • Computer
  • Books
  • QR Code
  • Exercise ball/ alternative seating 
  • Visual icon-based schedule
  • Magnet letters
  • Glueing options
  • Keyboard
  • Wheelchair
  • Projector
  • Slant board
  • Trampoline
  • Switches
  • Pencil grip
This is certainly a busy classroom, and that is the good news. Students are engaged, and able to produce their work using a variety of means. This is a great example of a classroom environment where universal design is implemented. Not all students need all of the tools. The tools are available and ready for students who choose to use them and for students who require them. The tools are available everyday and used on a regular basis. Consistent use of the tools sets the stage for increased daily participation in the curriculum and activities. Once a student has appropriate access to the general curriculum, they have an increased likelihood of improved performance on local, district and state tests and assessments.


Now, we need to implement intentional steps toward tool determination and implementation of use. Throwing a bunch of technology into a classroom without considering the range of needs and abilities in students and staff is not helpful. Any implementation must also be supported through training and follow up to evaluate effectiveness. This data will help determine future technology requirements.

PATINS has a UDL Lesson Creator available that will expand the typical lesson plan to be more inclusive of students on the whole spectrum of abilities, including the specialized needs of students who are considered gifted and those who need various scaffolds for support in their learning. We have a Lending Library from which educators can borrow tools before purchasing them. Our specialists can also help educators work through the many options for Universal Design for Learning, Assistive Technology and classroom/student supports.

Given the tools and strategies that are available, this is a great time to be in education! How many Where's A.T. "Waldo's" did you find?


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