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Aug
07

The Greatest Show

The Greatest Show The Greatest Show

Nothing quite gets me hyped up like a good theme song. The one that I started listening to this morning to start off my live webinar was, “This Is Me”, from the movie The Greatest Showman. I was looking for American Sign Language (ASL) songs on YouTube to start off my webinar on a great note. When I stumbled upon this one: "This Is Me" The Greatest Showman - ASL by Sarah Tubert, I knew I had hit paydirt. 

After watching this video, I realized the connection to this song for our students and educators. Educators are equipping students for their greatest show, that is, their adult life. In many ways, this school year (2020-2021) will be most educators’ greatest show yet. This will be the year for educators to really show what they’re made of. I already know - they’re made out of a great deal of awesomeness. This year, countless districts are stepping up to support students and families in order to improve their delivery of distance and in-person learning. Students and families are also demonstrating great compassion through understanding and giving it their all to help make this year a great year.

We have heard many times that we need to take care of ourselves (e.g., eat better, get more sleep, exercise, read, connect with nature, etc.).  We do need to be healthy before we can help others, and we need to nurture our own mental health.  Similar to the flight attendant’s instruction “to put on your oxygen mask first” so that you can help others. If we aren’t prepared, we won’t be able to help others.  We must take care of ourselves. I hear this so often yet I’m not quite sure what it means for me. Much like student rewards/motivational charts/options change over time, our own self-care choices may need to change to meet our current needs.   What worked before the pandemic doesn’t seem to be working for my own self-care. I’m trying though. I am always looking and willing to try something interesting and different to try to keep things novel and fun.  However, lately, I’m hanging out more and more in bed when I’m not at work watching Netflix and the series, Good Bones on Hulu. If I wasn’t careful, this social isolation could easily sabotage my mental health.  So, I made a change.  I’m on to seeking new things that spark joy in this new time in our lives. I found sunflowers bigger than my head at the local farmer’s market and I’ve been getting back into a safe routine at my gym.

image of a gym with pull up racks and black mat floor

G
ym time has been a refreshing self-care choice and is something that I am clinging to lately.  Oddly, that had never really been the case for me. I realized why I love this gym so much, it demonstrates universal design like the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) we advocate for in our classrooms. I’ll give you a little rundown of the similarities (Engagement, Representation, Action & Expression); 
  • one main coach, 
  • objectives and activities are written on the board, 
  • sometimes we work with partners but we all need to do our own work, 
  • we can learn from my peers by watching how they do different lifting exercises, 
  • everyone is at a different place in their fitness journey, 
  • no one is compared to each other, 
  • each activity can be scaffold to meet each person where they are, 
  • all the tools and activity access options in the gym are available to everyone at all times,
  • those who are ready to be above the prescribed work out can do that and it’s not displayed in a way that everyone else can’t achieve that as well, and 
  • there is a timer for the workout but you can take longer if you need extra time. 

My favorite part is that we use a smartphone app to track our individual progress but each week we celebrate our growth together! Although we all work separately, we root for each other together.  Each visit improves my mental and physical well being, I am excited too by seeing my progress from my last session. 

Katie and her husband, Cam, after working out at the gym.

Everyone’s self-care will be different and can change with the seasons of life. Make time and do something for yourself even if it’s a small change. Let’s all put on our oxygen masks first and ready ourselves to support our students, families and fellow educators. If we are healthy and ready, we can help change the lives of our students in an even bigger way than we have ever thought possible.  This is the year that we show everyone that each educator is The Greatest Showman/Showwoman and the amazing impact we have in every student’s lives that walks in the doors or logs into their device. Let’s give them the greatest show!

                                                                            image from the movie The Greatest Showman, the main character with his arms open wide at the end of the show with characters around him.













If you are feeling even a little overwhelmed by all the cute Bitmoji classrooms, digital files, or unique access materials questions, please come visit with a PATINS staff member during our new Monday - Wednesday - Friday open office hours. These are drop-in, no appointment needed support for any educator, we are available to brainstorm ideas and offer technical support at no-cost by a PATINS Specialist. Links for the office hours can be found on the
PATINS training calendar.

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Jul
31

Have I Been Doing It Wrong?

Have I Been Doing It Wrong? Clipart of racially diverse students

Recently, a colleague shared an article with me that threw me for a loop and spurred my thinking. Could what I’ve been so passionately sharing with educators all along be wrong? Yikes! 

Well, of course it could be. Because if what we love about teaching most is learning (and I do), then we always seek to expand our knowledge. We also keep open minds and regularly reflect on our practice and understanding. And when we know better, we have the opportunity to do better!

So, here’s what I’m wondering and questioning… “Have I as a white, middle-class American citizen been touting Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a solution that may only be designed in ways to support other white individuals?” Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes. That now put in writing, let me reflect upon why I feel this way. 

Simply based upon my race, gender, and lack of diagnosed disability, I have experienced privilege in ways that I both understand and still have yet to comprehend. Take, for example, my gender and personal experience, as an educator I have always worked with far more educators who identify as she/her than those that may identify as he/his, or they/their. Since I also consider myself to be neurotypical and able-bodied, I find myself pondering what proactive steps I must take in order to appropriately advocate for UDL when my experiences and thus my true empathy are first and foremost limited by traits I did not choose.

My new knowledge on intersectionality from Ijeoma Oluo’s book, So You Want to Talk about Race is also making me question the ways in which I’ve been promoting UDL. For example, I know that I’ve shared how implementing the UDL framework can change the game for a student with an intellectual and/or physical disability, but I have neglected to challenge myself and others to think about more than one demographic of students at a time as the philosophy and culture of UDL represents. 

This neglect has me now reflecting upon how a person of color with a disability may be experiencing their education; or, how a person who is transgender, Black, and has a physical disability may be experiencing their education. Have I been promoting UDL to specifically level the playing field for these individuals? The answer is again sadly no, which tells me that I haven’t been serving all students and that I’ve missed the mark on explicitly sharing the true definition of UDL, which does include a framework for all demographics and their intersections, with educators.  

With equitable access to education for every single student and the gaps in opportunities that have been created through well-intentioned educators like myself, I’ve begun to explore new (to me) research and changes I can make to best serve each and every student. One element I have found and believe is worth sharing is that while there is much research in support of UDL for a variety of students, it is worth noting that Indar (2018) and Azawei, Serenelli & Lundqvist (2016) point out that many studies conducted on UDL leave out specific student demographic information. 

These studies leave me questioning the general population’s comprehension of or attention to who is actually a part of our student body. Thus, I believe the time has come to put our UDL practices under a microscope in search of their demographic weaknesses and to boost true equity in our classrooms both in-person and virtually. 

Some ways we can get started are to:

  1. Find and explore research studies with a critical eye for participant demographics and the potential for researcher bias - are a variety of student populations being studied or is it unknown?
  2. Don’t be afraid to admit that some changes may need to be made in your classroom.
  3. Like my colleagues, Jessica Conrad and Bev Sharritt, have mentioned over the past few weeks, explore your own implicit bias using these tests and this study on implicit bias in the early childhood setting. Finding yourself feeling uncomfortable is normal, or at least I hope so, because I certainly had my eyes opened to some of my biases and subsequent actions in and out of the classroom.
  4. **Don’t forget that bias isn’t always assigned by a different demographic onto another. Many, if not all, of our students have been socialized to hold both positive and negative beliefs about themselves based upon their cultures, race, gender, etc. Check out the Doll Test to gain more perspective on this idea.
  5. Promote more racially diverse workplaces or push yourself to find more diverse educators and professionals to converse with (as a white person, I consider these tips in more difficult conversations about racism). Social media can be a great place to connect with others from more diverse backgrounds on student, classroom, and school issues.
  6. Ask your students and their families for feedback. How can you make them feel more included? 
  7. Consider your shared resources and teaching:
    1. Are you including diversity in your shared images and graphics?
    2. Are you including diverse titles for reading and research?
    3. Are you using inclusive language?
    4. Are you open to constructive criticism when it comes to diversity and genuine inclusion of everyone; not just those students that look and sound like you. 
  8. Consider crafting a statement on diversity and/or anti-racism for yourself as an educator or as a school/district to follow. We have dedicated ourselves at PATINS to our statement on anti-racism.
  9. Reach out for support. We are here to explore these issues together!


References:

Al-Azawei, A., Serenelli, F. & Lundqvist, K. (2016). Universal design for learning (UDL): A content analysis of peer-reviewed journal papers from 2012 to 2015. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16(3), p. 39-56. doi: 10.14434/josotl.v16i3.19295


CAST. (2020). About universal design for learning. Retrieved July 29, 2020 from http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html#.XyLDBfhKjMJ


Indar, G.K. (2018). An equity-based evolution of universal design for learning: Participatory design for intentional inclusivity. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from https://udl-irn.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Done_INDAR.EDIT_.DH_.JEG-copy.pdf

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Jul
23

All the Colors are Welcome


In addition to serving as PATINS specialist for blindness and low vision, I am a part time flower farmer. My husband has a full time job off the farm as well, but between the two of us, our daughter Grace, and another part time employee, we grow, cut and assemble 70 - 100 bouquets/week to sell at an Indianapolis farmer’s market. Roger makes the dirt fly, and I cut and assemble bouquets. Every week I get to design with a new palette of colors and textures as different varieties come in and out of bloom. 

Right now, in the technicolor heart of July, we have the most variety, from the cool blues of forget-me-nots and cornflower to brilliant coral zinnias. We have found that certain combinations sell every week, so we assemble what we call “The Rainbow” and “The Rhoda” (named for a former employee) every Friday evening. They sell, but they’ve become boring to make after many years.

The Rainbow and The Rhoda:

bucket of bouquets with rainbow colors featuring sunflowers, cynoglossum and zinnias

bucket with 6 bouquets featuring red, purple and yellow flowers including sunflowers, hydrangea and zinnias

We make these standard sets, then we turn our creativity loose and play with the colors. After many years, I’m realizing I have certain biases in what I will and won’t use together in a bouquet. I’ve never been a fan of putting a lemon sunflower together with a gold one--although others in the crew do this, and the flowers sell. Same with coral and burgundy. Just writing this down makes it seem pretty ridiculous, unless you consider the science of color and perception.

I’ve been trying to push past my color biases this season by intentionally putting together things that don’t appeal to me. Here is a set I did last week: I like orange and blue together, but adding the dark red/brown foliage was difficult. I desired to add a sunflower, but I’m working on moving away from that requirement. I wanted those delphiniums to get noticed! bucket of 6 bouquets with purple, blue and orange flowers featuring delphinium, marigold and celosia

As I disengage my color autopilot, I hope I’m uncovering all of the crazy rules that I’ve accumulated for shades and combinations. I don't want to miss any possibility of beauty because of my bias.

Have you been examining your biases lately? It’s hard to accept that we have any kind of unfairness expressed in our brains subconsciously, but we all do--a part of being human and big-brained. If you want a glimpse of what yours might be, you can take a series of online tests. Knowing what your subconscious is doing humbles you, but might also transform you. 

When my colleague Jessica posted this blog about bias built into assistive technology I had a scales-falling-from-my-eyes moment that made me want to just lay down and cry. I had a similar sensation when I listened to this podcast about the watershed legal case Brown vs. Board of Education, and the shameful racist history I had never learned about my profession, and its impact today on the field.  

When my daughter Grace got married we, of course, did all of the flowers. I kept trying to pin her down on a color scheme. She had just come home from a year of study in Ghana, and from that influence told me in her best Ghanain accent, “All of the colors are welcome.” She’s human and also has biases, but her bouquet creations are varied, bold and spectacular. 

At PATINS we welcome all, and want to break free from any racist biases we may have and serve all. Here is our recent statement to that effect. We hope that you will join us in this work, and hold us accountable to these words. 

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Jul
16

“I just don’t like this isolation stuff”

Back in April, I wrote a blog titled, “What it means to them.” I asked my grandchildren what Continuous Learning meant to them. For the three in elementary school, I received a pretty mixed bag of responses.

Since then, summer has been upon them and school, well what it might be like, is soon to resume. I heard my three oldest grandchildren tell me last spring that the best part of the Continuous Learning was getting to meet with their classmates via Zoom.

For them, it was a sense of connection, which became even more important as the summer progressed. My oldest grandson, Dean, who is ten felt the pain of not seeing his friends because of Covid-19. As everyone was told to stay in place, Dean knew why, but that didn’t make it easier to accept saying, “I just don’t like this isolation stuff.”

Dean turned ten in April, and for his birthday he got a new bike. He and his siblings could ride them in the street in front of their house, but it wasn’t the same as riding with friends.

It was a couple of weeks ago when some of the restrictions were eased, my daughter contacted one of Dean’s friend’s mom to see if they could get the boys together for a bike ride. Both parents agreed that social distancing would be part of the deal if the boys agreed. Dean was ecstatic at the opportunity.

The boys spent most of the afternoon riding up and down the streets in the neighborhood and just catching up on all they had missed.

Logan, my eight-year-old grandson, was more comfortable spending time with Dean and Hazel and his parents who are both in education. As the restrictions eased Logan has been enjoying the small family gathering that include his cousins again. Logan has also collected a number of four-leaf clovers that he has found scouring the backyard.

Since then, the football season is about to begin, and my two oldest grandsons are itching to get started. It will be bringing some normalcy to their lives again and an opportunity to catch up with teammates.

My other daughter’s oldest child, Kenzie, dealt with her isolation a little differently. The family had an old iPhone that still worked, and her dad connected it to the home WIFI. When you give a seven-year-old a working iPhone that has FaceTime you might imagine what’s next.

I can’t tell you how many times Mimi got a FaceTime call from Kenzie as well as her Aunt Sarah, Aunt Bernie, friends… you get the picture. You noticed I was not included. Fortunately, I have an Android, but that didn’t deter her from wanting to talk to Pappy Pa if I was around Mimi at the time.

Being home for this extended amount of time seems to have been easiest for my two youngest grandchildren, who are both now four. 

A joyful learning experience they both shared was their families both planting their first vegetable garden. This seems to have been very popular with many families in the Midwest this year, myself and my wife included.  

All the tomatoes, squash, green beans, watermelons, carrots, cucumbers, and MORE are growing well. Ethan eats the pickling cucumbers right off the vine with a grin on his face, while Hazel jumps for joy showing off her zucchini that is SO BIG! Both of the little ones can’t wait to go back to pre-school to see their teachers and make new friends.

This year has been trying for all, and we are still dealing with what’s next. School for my grandchildren begins at the end of July. All the precautions are being put into place. They are fully aware of what to do with wearing a mask, washing their hands frequently, and social distancing as they have been practicing for months.

That said, the isolation will no longer be the issue. The challenge will be the major changes in the school and classroom routines, but that will be another blog.

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Jul
09

Is Your Assistive Tech Biased?

Is my assistive technology biased? screenshot of text from phone, sender to PATINS:

Five years ago I was excited to sit at a table with a young Black student and her mother to show her all the things her child using a new robust augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device could do.

She could tell us what she wanted to play with.

She could tell us her favorite color.

When one of her classmates was bothering her, she could tell them “stop.”

She loved it. The school loved it. Mom wasn’t sold.

“It doesn’t sound like her,” she objected.

Both of us knew this student’s mouth sounds were mostly squeals and cries. I opened the settings and showed her the choices: “Ella,” “Heather,” and “Tracy.” We listened to little clips of the computerized voices.

“They don’t sound like her.”

And she was right. There wasn’t a voice that sounded like someone that came from her family or community. Not a single voice that sounded like a young Black person, not on any system I could find. I could program a voice for her talker that sounded just like Yoda from Star Wars right then and there, but a Black American was too far fetched for assistive technology.

Because technology is programmed by people, who all have biases, our assistive technology has biases. And those biases are a danger to the UDL framework we use and in some cases, life threatening.

The speech-to-text software doesn’t work equally across all voices and varieties of English, especially Black voices.

The grammar checker flags non-white varieties of English.

The AAC lacks language from other dialects, cultures, and communities, and if it is there it is labeled as fringe. You want another language? It's available, but no one downloaded the file or attempted a translation.

The visual support makers are absent of vocabulary that is developmentally appropriate for all school aged children, such as words for sexual health, identity, and justice or they are locked behind a wall of “adult only.”

Indiana’s Article 7 Special Education law is explicit on how to figure out if a student can take home their AT:  “On a case-by-case basis, the use of school-purchased assistive technology devices in a student's home or in other settings is required if the student's CCC determines that the student needs access to those devices in order to receive a free appropriate public education” (my emphasis added). 

If your staff refer to a “school policy” or a hoop for families to jump through, such as an after-school training, you’re inviting bias into determining which kids get to talk, read and learn when the school bell rings at the end of the day.

Your word prediction program guesses the words that could follow “He is ___” are: good, smart, and mean, but “She is ___”: crazy, married, and pretty.

As we scrutinize our own biases, inherent tools and instruction we are welcoming into our classrooms and families:

  1. Listen to the people using the technology.
  2. Question your own biases.
  3. Take action. Engage your colleagues in what you’ve learned. Dialogue with the people creating the technology. Good developers are open to constructive criticism from consumers. My word prediction example was immediately discussed and corrected by the company. If they aren’t responsive to your concern about bias within their product, why would you want that in your room?

Our assistive technology has some problems created by humans. Humans can fix it.

Resources and Further Reading

PATINS Lending Library and no-cost training for supporting all students

Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education for K-12 Educators, Teaching Tolerance

Vocabulary for Socially Valued Adult Roles, Institute on Disabilities at Temple University

Ableism, National Conference for Community and Justice

AI is coming to schools, and if we’re not careful, so will its biases, Brookings

Don’t Get It Twisted- Hear My Voice, ASHA Leader

8 Influential Black Women with Disabilities To Follow, Disability Horizons


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Recent Comments
Guest — Armen Gulian
Can't wait for culturally sensitive and appropriate voice options for my students of color. Not to mention having skintone choice... Read More
Thursday, 09 July 2020 20:07
Guest — Karen Janowski
Excellent post. So glad this was shared during the AT Town Hall on Race and Equity yesterday.
Tuesday, 21 July 2020 13:52
  2 Comments
Jul
02

If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.

Hi! In my first blog, I suggested that you commit to taking care of you. Staying healthy mentally, physically and emotionally are all important. Today’s message relates to a quote I saw in the background of silly video. “If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.” In the video, the man experiments and has several attempts. It seems like he finds his FLOW at 17 seconds in. How many times have your tried until you “got it?”

Of course, we need to improve in our professional areas, but we also need to challenge ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, AND we need to challenge ourselves to improve and CHANGE how we help/support our students (Ss). It can be easy to get swallowed up in the day to day needs and distractions from home and feel overwhelmed, but we have to work through it as best we can.

We need to challenge ourselves in most areas of our lives if we want to grow, learn, and remain effective. We need to challenge ourselves to do as much as we can to support Ss and families. As the chart below shows, we can fall into neutral (Apathy and Boredom) if we aren’t challenged or don’t work to improve our skills.

Graphic with 8 descriptive words in pie slices. The x-axis is labeled Challenge Level. The range is from Low to High. The y-axis is labeled Skill Level.  The range is from Low to High. Starting from the bottom left corner and following the graphic clockwise Apathy, Worry, Anxiety, Arousal, FLOW, Control, Relaxation, Boredom

I have challenged myself to keep reading (Since November, I’ve completed 44 books): professional books/journals (the Four Disciplines of Execution), informative books (Being Heumman), listen to podcasts (Talking with Tech AAC Podcast, Invisibilia, Radiolab), attend webinars (AAC in the Cloud), and catch a few documentaries (Crip Camp) on Netflix (okay…mostly binge watch lots of Sci-Fi shows). I have watched and attend SO MANY webinars and trainings in the last few months, my brain is overflowing with new and exciting ideas that I have acted on, shared and explored in more detail. The internet can be a deep rabbit hole when clicking on link after link but there is SO MUCH GREAT INFORMATION out there!

I continue to challenge myself physically through running. Running makes me a happier and healthier person. Long runs, hill work, track work…sometimes I push (challenge myself) to an anerobic threshold (e.g., nearly all out effort for 3 ½ minutes), then it’s over. Rest and repeat. Half a mile up a big hill definitely hurts but only for about 4 minutes…this makes me stronger. I am completing most of these workouts safely distanced with my running buddies. Together we get through it. I complete all runs, one step at a time. What’s your challenge that makes you stronger?  Remember, small steps (struggles) will get you through…a distance, a new skill, getting that dang technology to work…

iPhone Screenshot from Garmin.  Elevation chart on top shows 5 hill climbs of approximately 100' gain over 1/2 mile and Time in Heart Rate Zones.  Zone 5  for 8 mins 12 seconds, Zone 4 fir 8 minutes 48 seconds, Zone 3 for 15 minutes 2 seconds, Zone 2 for 14 minutes 57 seconds and Zone 1 for 7 minutes 55 seconds
Change in itself can be stressful. The entire world has been challenged with the changes caused but COVID-19. Students and Teachers went on spring break and then poof! 

Shelter in place

Work from home

Distance learning

Continuous learning 

No-one was truly prepared for this challenge and the change was HUGE. It has been tough for most of us. I am a people person. I like to talk rather than text. I prefer to meet face to face over video. While working from home has definitely reduced my windshield time (commuting), it has caused me to actually spend more time seated at my home workstation. I miss seeing students, teachers and my co-workers! I can only imagine the struggles for students of any age. The challenge for me has been to find the work/home balance AND to connect with people. Support you and keep healthy work boundaries, so you can support your students.

Students across the United States most likely identify all over the various descriptors shown in the graph. This has been a challenging 3+ months for them and according to most data and news accounts, students have not been engaged anywhere near what was expected. They have missed out educationally, socially, and emotionally. Educators and leaders must work together to support Ss. We have to challenge not only ourselves, but our leaders to plan for and support ALL learners but especially Ss in special education and Ss with high needs (medical, behavioral, complex communicators, etc.).

As Educators, we need to get in the FLOW so that we can use our highly developed skills in this highly challenging time. The PATINS Project is here to help you. Here are some things we can do:

  1. Be flexible and willing to try. A lot these changes are challenges for ALL of us!
  2. Continue to improve your video presentation/telepresence. The PATINS project offers trainings and support for Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Check our calendar for offerings or contact a PATINS Specialist.
  3. Check out materials (e.g., equipment, iPads, Apps, books, etc.) from the PATINS Project Lending Library.
  4. Check out GCF Global Learning (It’s FREE)
  5. Literacy ideas – Book Creator, TarHeel Reader, Unite for Literacy, there are MANY more!
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Jun
25

Indiana Educators Focused on Accessibility in 2019-2020

Indiana Educators Focused on Accessibility in 2019-2020. Blog title above a group of people waving.

We often tell our students “you're more than a number”, meaning they have incredible qualities that are difficult to measure in a standardized manner. Creativity and grit are a few of these tricky to quantify metrics. Now, it’s not only Indiana students who have amazing, unmeasurable talents, our educators do too. And one there is one that was particularly evident during the 2019-2020 school year - determination. Specifically, a determination to educate their students whether the learning environment was the classroom or home.

Check out the graphic below showing the support PATINS/ICAM staff have provided this school year. While you’re looking at it, please remember, behind each number is a determined Indiana educator:

A general educator from College Park Elementary in MSD of Pike Township who attended the “Accessibility in Canvas and Beyond” webinar by Jena Fahlbush benefited from having another perspective - “Seeing examples of a screen reader helped me so much. I realized I was unknowingly doing so many things that would make learning more difficult for a student with low vision. After the session, I was able to make fast, easy fixes that will make learning more accessible. I also learned many tips and tricks to help students with hearing impairments or language needs as well.”

A special educator from Binford Elementary School in Monroe County Community School Corporation who can spend her time more efficiently after learning about new, free tools at Jessica Conrad’s “I Love Data 2” training - “I am so excited about Google Data Studio!! I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent trying to pull multiple pieces together into easy-to-read graphs/charts. Game changer!”

A cost-conscious instructional coach at an elementary in Elwood Community School Corporation who attended “DIY Fidgets & Sensory Tools to Enhance Continuous Learning” with Bev Sharritt, Jena Fahlbush, Katie Taylor, Kelli Suding, and Lisa Benfield - “I love these easy, affordable ideas that teachers can easily create at home for student use.”

Note: Indiana public/charter school employees can request any of the above trainings at no-cost.

Graphic showing 2019-2020 PATINS Project services in Indiana. Specifics in text below image.
Graphic: Indiana Educator Reach by the PATINS Project 2019-2020

  • 1,000+ Tech Expo registrants: PATINS/ICAM staff, with the assistance of IN*SOURCE, swiftly pivoted to a new platform due to COVID-19 and successfully held the first ever, virtual Tech Expo 2020! Also, in November we hosted over 400 attendees at our 2-day Access to Education 2019 conference.
  • 6,044 Training participants: The passion Indiana educators have for providing all students access to the curriculum is unmatched as evidenced by the outstanding turnout at our no-cost trainings this school year.
  • 73% Indiana public and charter schools reached: The PATINS Project has served seventy-three percent of Indiana school corporations and forty-two percent of Indiana preschool through grade 12 schools this year. Our small, dedicated staff goes to great lengths to deliver high-quality technical assistance to meet the access needs of all students through Assistive Technology, Accessible Educational Materials, and Universal Design for Learning.
  • 10,600+ Material and assistance requests fulfilled: Need to trial an assistive technology device? Have a question about Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)? Looking for information on the Universal Design for Learning framework? PATINS/ICAM staff are Indiana educators' go-to resource for improving access to the curriculum which leads to increased literacy skills.

Are you an educator behind one of these numbers? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.

Want to be a part of the Indiana educators making education accessible in 2020-2021? Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Apply by July 31, 2020 to be one of the Indiana school corporations in our next AEMing for Achievement grant cohort.
  • Register for the first ever virtual Access to Education 2020! ($100 for 2 days, $50 for a single day)
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Jun
18

Temporarily Abled

Pause your day for a moment and deliberately gather a handful of some things you regularly do every day. Think of some things you do without thinking too much or without putting much effort forth. Making coffee, emptying the mailbox, carrying my own towel to the shower, walking through the front door of the grocery store or doctor's office, carrying an onion from the refrigerator to the cutting board with a knife, are a few such activities that come to my mind. I want you to keep the activities you thought of readily accessible, perhaps, even write, type, or dictate them into a quick note. I'm actually going to ask you to make two lists, so here's a template for you to use, with two columns and some ideas to get started, if helpful.  

visit link for access to 2 column chart for use with this blog
Now, I'm going to make an assumption that many of the readers of this PATINS Ponders blog are educators or other professionals working with learners who struggle with one or more aspects of their daily world. ...some of my most favorite people in the whole world, by the way. I'd like you to now think of why you do this work. Write, type, or dictate the top three reasons you do this work. You've probably stated this many times when people tell you, "I could never do what you do," or "You're a very special kind of person," and then ask you, "What makes you want to do this work?"

Place your second note next to your first note now. Compare them. Do any of the items (activities) from your first list appear, in any way, on your second list (why you do this work)? If they do, you probably already know what I'm going to tell you next! If they do not, stick with me here and let's think about why they should. 

Several years ago, a colleague for whom I have a lot of respect, whispered something to me. She looked around first to make sure no one else was within earshot and still whispered the term to me, "Temporarily Abled." It took me a moment to process her term and while I was processing, she indicated that she was whispering it as to not be offensive to anyone around. At the time I nodded my head as she explained that we're all "Temporarily Abled" in one or more ways, inevitably due to either an accident/injury, disease, or simply due to aging. I've spent significant time thinking about her words since that time and more importantly, why she felt it could be offensive to hear. I do want to say that I understand that disability, for people who have a disability now, is much deeper than using this term or this concept to promote understanding. However, the conclusion I've come to is that there is so much work still to be done for our world to truly be inclusive and there are so many people in our communities who have no idea what that even really means, largely in my opinion, because it hasn't had a personal effect on their life... yet. I do think this matters and I think it has potential for making a difference more quickly, fully and meaningfully including all people in all of our communities, all of the time. 

Moving Image of Daniel riding a dirtbike up steep hill and flipping it over at the top
Seven weeks ago, doing what I love on a steep hill in the woods on my old dirtbike, I completey dislocated my right knee, severing all four ligaments and causing cartilage and meniscus damage. Yes, that's right, the MCL, LCL, PCL, and ACL are all torn! I didn't even know there were so many CL's in my knee! Two required surgeries six weeks apart and 9-12 months of physical therapy certainly have put some things into perspective and strongly reinforced many things I already knew. Several of the people in my personal life whom I consider the smartest, strongest, kindest, and most creative I've ever known, have a disability. From this angle, accessibility and inclusion have been important to me since I was a young boy. However, the inability to walk, carry anything, perform manual labor, sleep normally, etc., these last 7 weeks have reinforced another dimension of my understanding of access and inclusion as well. These personal experiences, while never as meaningful to someone else, are still so important to share. While it may not be your experience (yet), my experiences just might add something to your second list that wasn't there before. 

collage of three images showing three sides of Daniels knee with large surgical incisions and stitches.

Some things I've learned recently and will never forget: 
  1. Automatic or button-operated doors that work are very important. Being non-weight-bearing and havinig to fully utilize crutches, I simply cannot open some doors by myself. While most people are very quick to help, if they are around, I just want to be able to open the door myself! Many places have not had working automatic doors, including the hospital where my surgeon works AND the building my physical therapy is in! 
  2. Knowing where my assistive technology is at all times, that it's close to me, and trusting that other people aren't going to move it, is essential and causes a good bit of anxiety. For me, it's mostly my crutches. I simply cannot move from one place to another without my crutches unless I sit down and scoot. For someone to see my crutches as a tripping hazzard, for example, and move them, is a lot like taking my legs away from me. I compare this to taking away a learners communication device or system for any reason... behavior, battery dead, damaged, etc.  My crutches have become a part of my identity and nearly a part of my body. Moving them or playing with them without talking to me first feels violating. I'm not sure we always keep this in mind when we work with students using assistive technologies. I think that sometimes we feel we're helping by making adjustments or moving things and it might NOT really be a help at all! It might actually change the task entirely. 
  3. High Expectations are essential! Be very critical about ever telling someone that they "can't" or "shouldn't" do something that they want to do! Further, expect that they will do things that they think they cannot! In my case, while I may not be able to carry the onion and knife to the cutting board, I can sure as heck prop myself up and chop it like a pro! ...right along with the peppers, carrots, tofu, and zuchini! I actually love when I'm asked to do things instead of asked what someone can do for me! "Can you come chop this onion." "Can you refill that soap dispenser in the kitchen." I already know that I need many things done for me, but I can totally still do other things and I need to feel needed as well. Let's try to remember this with ALL of our students! 
  4. My "mule pack" is essential to my level of independence. This is a simple and low-tech assistive technology that I greatly rely on. It's a small backpack that I can carry without my hands, that I cram full of as many things as possible allowing me to not have to ask someone else to get them for me. All the things I need daily or that are high on the list of importance, such as my wallet, tools, medical items, snacks, personal care, etc. This allows me to have many of the things I regularly need with me, minimizes repeat trips, and minimizes my reliance on others. 
  5. Steps! There are just some steps that are too high, too steep, or too slippery for me to even consider using.  This means that I have the choice of not accessing that place or sitting down and scooting up or down the stairs...neither allow me to feel dignified or included in that place.
  6. Trust! Whether I like it or not, I simply need help with some things. Our students do too. Having someone you trust immensely is very helpful. Someone you trust to encourage and push you to grow, to assist you minimally enough to preserve your independence and dignity, and to still expect great things from you. This is also exactly what our students need! Thinking about this from the perspective of what I need from my trusted help right now, most certainly provides some guiding mental framework for when I'm the one helping students in the future.  
These are just a small handful of some things that I've realized and/or had solidified for me recently. I'm sure I'll have many more to share. This has truly reinforced the fact that accessibility is so important for everyone, all the time, even if you aren’t one who needs it right NOW. Chances are definitely that you will need something different, something specialized, or just something more accessible at some point in your life, either due to an accident, an injury, a disease, or through aging. The notion that accessibility only matters for a small percentage of “the disabled” is so completely short-sighted and irresponsible to your future self! If, for no other selfless reason, try to keep in mind that the fight for inclusion of all people, high expectations of all people, accessibility to all places for all people is a critical one for more reasons than you might know right now. The loss of or lessing of inclusionary concepts in any amount is a very slippery slope. Work hard, daily, to build a culture of increased expectations and inclusion of all people, never letting that lever tip in the opposite direction. Imagine all the things that are simple for you now that could very quickly and easily be otherwise...what sorts of actions on your part TODAY might better prepare your world for that scenario...what sorts of people would you want surrounding you in that sort of scenario? Speak up when you notice inaccessible entries, public televisions without captions, etc. Learn and become better equipped through the many diverse PATINS Trainings on our Professional Development Guide and our Training Calendar. Trial the many assistive devices available to you, through the PATINS Lending Library!...all at no cost to you, of course! Consider networking and furthing your knowledge-base by attending the FIRST-EVER PATINS Access to Education VIRTUAL Conference this coming November!  



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Guest — Emilee
Thank you for sharing. Being "temporarily abled" is something I have taken for granted all my life. Understanding that I, too, mig... Read More
Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:28
  1 Comment
Jun
12

Don’t Quit: Commit (to taking care of YOU)

Scrabble letter tiles in spell the word commit


It can be difficult to commit to something knowing the hurdles, distractions, and disappointments to others that you may face. It can be especially difficult to choose to take care of yourself. If you are reading this, you are most likely a giver, not a taker and consistently put others’ needs ahead of yours. You are important too and need to nurture your physical, emotional, and mental health.

During a middle school field trip to Purdue University, I decided that I wanted to attend. I didn’t know what field. I was accepted into Freshman engineering. However, no-one in my family had gone to college; I didn’t know how to navigate the path. I had no mentor. I joined the Marine Corps to earn tuition money. I was determined to be a Boilermaker.

While stationed in California, I volunteered at a relay service center for people with hearing impairment. I connected the hearing impaired with the hearing. I answered the TTY and voice called to check on people’s photo orders, prescriptions, and to connect family and friends. I knew what I could do now! I reapplied to Purdue, was accepted into Speech and Hearing. I began in August of 1986.

Starting college at age 22, I was motivated to complete my studies and get on earning a living as quickly as I could. I took a full load most semesters, worked 20-30 hours weekly, and took summer classes. I finished my Bachelors in 3½ years. My M.S. followed 18 months later. Riley Children’s Hospital was in my sights for my Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY). I wanted to learn from a team of professionals. I completed my CFY in 1992 at Riley. I spent the majority of my career (21 years) at a special education cooperative that served three school districts.

From 1995 to 1996, I met daily with a friend for weightlifting, M-F at 5:30 am for a 2-hour workout. I used a simple spiral bound notebook to track every repetition, set and food intake (over 5000 calories daily). Having an accountability partner AND tracking my data kept me on course.

In 1996, I switched my focus to triathlons and running. These communities have been some of the most supportive groups I have been with. They nurtured my physical and mental health. The running club’s icing on the cake (at least for me) was the Sunday morning long run. Back then, it was 5:10am start year round regardless of the weather. I am still a member, 24 years and counting, still do speedwork on Tuesdays, tempo on Thursdays and long runs on Sundays (current Sunday streak is 27 weeks in a row.). We have chosen a more civil start time of 7:00 am. This commitment has kept me motivated during even some of the most difficult times. The Sunday long runs have been my physical and emotional support. You can talk and listen to a lot during 2 hours!

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve experienced numerous setbacks; plantar fasciitis (several times - kept me from marathoning for several years), torn meniscus – 3x in my knees (usually a month of no running after the surgery), a compressed nerve behind my knee that caused foot drop (had to cancel a 50 mile race), back strains, shoulder surgery. Each time, I was determined to come back and usually did AND ran faster. Commit to taking time to rest. We need to rest too.

The running club family helped many of us reach our goal of qualifying to run in the Boston Marathon. I tried for 3+ years to get qualified. I completed Boston in 2004. My biggest running goal was to complete a marathon (yes - 26.2 miles) in all 50 states by my 50th birthday.  Didn't happen...yet.  See above. I have completed 42 with the help and support of many friends. My most recent was the Mardi Gras Marathon in Februrary 2020 (As far as I know, I didn't catch COVID-19).  I'll get there. Preparing for a marathon takes several months to properly prepare for the physical and mental feat. I was supposed to run 3 marathons last weekend. Travel restrictions hit the brakes on that. I'll finish those 8 states and save Hawaii for my final marathon. What big goal do you have to keep you going?

I dropped out of a race ONCE… the dreaded “DNF” DID NOT FINISH in a 100 mile race at mile 95. Yeah, I know, “only” 5 more miles. I had been running in the Virginia mountains for 34 hours with 16,000 feet of elevation change; hallucinations, exhaustion, and a golf ball size knot in my quadriceps muscle all together screamed at me saying “that was enough.” Honestly, I had not prepared properly. I was determined to complete the distance; it took me 25 hours at the Kettle Moraine 100 miler in 2005. I committed right then to NEVER do that to my body again!

During this difficult and stressful time due to COVID-19 and Continuous Learning (Indiana’s name for “Virtual/Distance/e-Learning) it’s critical to commit to taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. You have to find your “club” or support.

Working from home makes it all too easy to work from sunup to sundown, to neglect your physical health, and become disconnected from others because of social distancing. I miss being around my co-workers, students, stakeholders, family and friends. I have committed to taking care of myself so that I can be a better husband, father, grandfather, and member of the PATINS team.

I work too much (ask my wife). I exercise and usually eat pretty well (I do have a sweet tooth). Since joining PATINS in November of 2019, I have worked on my leadership, mental, and emotional well-being by reading a wide range of books (40 books in addition to numerous professional journal articles), meditating off and on (mostly off though!), and talk to friends on the phone and FaceTime.

Stay healthy and commit to doing something every day to take care of YOU:
  1. Mental health - read (checkout library books for FREE using the app called Libby), meditate, do yoga, call a friend, write a letter, etc.
  2. Physical health on your own or with a partner - walk, ride a bike, run, lift weights, stretch, do yoga, etc.)
  3. Emotional health – talk to a friend or other supportive person, take breaks during the work day, dress for work, limit your hours and stick to it, work will always be there, do something with your partner, kid(s), family or friend(s).
  4. Check out the PATINS Training Calendar for opportunities to grow
  5. Look through the PATINS Lending Library to borrow something new to you (shipping is FREE both ways)
  6. Attend the Fall Access to Education Conference

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Jun
04

Road Trips & Fitted Sheets

Do you remember the days of paper road maps? We would drive with one hand on the steering wheel and hold our maps with the other. Sounds safe, right? I have no clue how I even got around in this world due to my lack of proficiency of map reading and directional self guidance. However, I always ended up exactly where I was supposed to be or at a place I didn’t realize I was supposed to be at the time. It was always an adventure to say the least and moments unveiled that mattered.

Lake with rock formationsI recently went on an epic road trip. One with no agenda but 7 days to spare and a direction chosen...
west! Eight states later and over 3800 miles traveled, my words to describe the moments, views, wildlife, adventures, laughs and fun would never give this road trip the justice it deserves. Now, knowing that my navigation skills could use some serious work, I heavily relied on my Google map for I had no idea where I was really going but prepared for the journey. Open road. Open mind.

This was all new and unfamiliar territory but I have a passion for adventure and traveling and was confident that I would figure it out...and I did. During my miles on the road, I realized that I cannot solely rely on technology for navigation and must have a basic understanding of direction. I discovered that challenging myself led me to spectacular views and experiences. And, it was an opportunity to strengthen my weaknesses where I struggled. I am a better traveler now and left a smile with all of those whom I met. I feel pretty darn good about it. 

When I returned home, I was unpacking and settling back in. I removed my bedsheets from the dryer and thinking about my unforgettable trip. I folded the top bed sheet and then out came that dreaded fitted sheet. Does anyone really know how to fold a fitted sheet?? WNYC Studios frustration adulting michelle buteau adulting podcast GIF

I have 2 ways: 1. The rapid roll up with both hands and smashing it down to make it as flat as possible. 2. Making it into the best square shape I can and again, smashing it down as flat as I can. After getting back from such a laid back trip, I laughed at myself and thought, “Does it really matter that I fold this sheet perfectly? I mean, afterall, the goal is to make the bed or make it fit in a drawer...and I can do that everytime!” I had developed a refocus.

In the new way of virtual education that we are now experiencing, there have been so many unknowns, fears and “I have no idea how to’s”...including what the upcoming school year will look like and how we prepare. Some of you have probably even second guessed your career. 

Let’s face it, it has been new and unfamiliar territory. Look at you now! You are doing it and still figuring it out as you go! You have most likely found the most professional development that you have been able to in a very long time…recognizing weaknesses and turning them into new strengths! 

New discoverings have been made and new skills that make us better educators due to the unexpected transition from brick and mortar to virtual classrooms. The strengthening and use for accessibility has been in the forefront for students which may have not been valued for student independence and access in the past. A refocus has been developed.

You have had to refocus from the idea of the perfect classroom set up to just “folding it” the best you can because the goal is educating...and you can do that everytime. I celebrate you! 🎉

From paper maps to Google maps...from fitted sheets to making a bed...from four walls of a classroom to virtual learning...we figure it out. You are an educator. You are here because you have a passion for teaching. The goal is to educate...and again, you can do that everytime. Be confident in your abilities, resilience and open your mind to current challenges and those that may lie ahead. You won’t know until you get there, but you can figure it out and the PATINS staff are on your team to help with the navigation. Open up to the journey. Breathe.

Pink lotus flower in water

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