Home > UDL and Accessibility > A Discussion with Mount Desert Island High School: Notes from the June 3rd Webinar

A Discussion with Mount Desert Island High School: Notes from the June 3rd Webinar

June 7th, 2010

Thanks to the folks who logged in Thursday afternoon or evening to participate in the webinar, Mount Desert Island High School: A Case Study for Integrating Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) in the Content Areas. My guest facilitator was Paige Collins, MDI HS special education teacher and fellow member of Maine’s AIM Community of Practice. Additional guests included Mark Arnold (MDIHS technology integrator), Roberta Raymond (MDI HS special education teacher in the Life Skills program), and Casey Rush (MDI HS Drama/English teacher).

The topic of AIM in the content areas is important to the education of all students, but particularly for students with disabilities that interfere with their access to printed text. Print disabilities include blindness and low vision, certain physical conditions (e,g., a disability that interferes with physically turning the pages of a book), and specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. So, to put the need for – and implementation of – AIM into context, we explored the actions of these educators because MDI High School has begun to provide instructional materials in electronic formats for all students, so that it’s not necessarily an accommodation for students with unique needs. That is, it’s a model of universal design for learning (UDL) because all students have access to flexible formats of materials that inherently allow the use of assistive technologies, such as text to speech, screen magnification, and portable media players.

We set out with the essential question:
How does a school develop a system of differentiated instructional materials for all learners, including students with print disabilities?

Over the course of the afternoon and evening webinars, Paige, Mark, Roberta, and Casey shared specific elements of MDI HS’s approach to providing flexible media to students. Like other schools, MDI HS is building the plane while they’re flying it, but there is an awareness of UDL that separates their work.

MDI HS has a unique MLTI history, and our guest team credited that for their school’s advance toward digital learning. For readers of this blog who are unfamiliar with the MLTI, the project started by deploying 1:1 laptops for 7th and 8th grades in 2002. In 2007, the MLTI expanded to high school teachers. For the 2009-2010 school year, high schools were given the opportunity to opt-in to the MLTI for 1:1 in grades 9-12. MDI HS, however, began to phase in 1:1 for grades 9-12 in 2005. The Class of 2008 was the first class to be 1:1 with MLTI laptops from grades 7 through 12.

Featured aspects of our discussion:
An Individualized English class in which students conduct a “Design Your Own (Reading) Adventure (DYORA).” Students find their own Lexile levels to guide (but not dictate) their choice of three possible books to read for the project. The selection process of those books has specific criteria. Students analyze each book and meet with the teacher to conference on which of the three books is the most appropriate final selection. The process of digging into the meaning of the selected book is scaffolded in varied ways. To learn more about this project, please visit the Individualized English class web site and choose “DYORA Proposal Pages” from the left sidebar to access the document (a Pages file).

Casey Rush gave us a tour of his class web site, The Virtual English Notebook. All of Casey’s instructional materials are accessed by students through this site, which includes pages for civics, global literacies, and vocabulary. His Literary Selections is host to numerous digital versions of materials that are available online for free.

Mark Arnold shared Issue 33 of the school’s TechNotes Newsletter, the title of which is Universal Design for Learning (UDL) & Differentiated Instruction (DI).

Included in our discussion of these materials, and many online educational materials in general, was the issue of accessibility for students who are blind and use screen readers, such as VoiceOver on the Mac. Although not all elements of the web sites we viewed are accessible to VoiceOver, our guests explained their awareness of this weakness and that their primary goal at this time is to give teachers the support needed to provide materials that are accessible to their existing population of students. As a special educator and a tech integrator, Paige and Mark expressed commitment to progressing toward accessibility withVoiceOver.

We also featured a discussion of Bookshare, which is an online repository of both public domain and copyrighted materials in digital text (txt, html, DAISY) and Braille (BRF) formats. Bookshare operates under the copyright exemption law that allows copyrighted materials to be rendered in specialized formats for individuals with qualifying print disabilities. Currently, their collection is over 70,000 digital books, textbooks, teacher-recommended reading, periodicals, and assistive technology tools. I call it the Amazon of Copyright Exemption.

As a result of federal funding, Bookshare offers free memberships for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities. MDI HS has an organizational membership to Bookshare. Paige explained that students with print disabilities at MDI HS are currently having their needs met through teacher-created materials, web sites, online textbooks, and the school library’s collection of audio books. She described how qualifying students who are transitioning to postsecondary environments will be introduced to Bookshare as a resource for acquiring books they will need as they continue their education.

Other sources of specialized formats of instructional materials were mentioned. For example, Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic (or RfB&D) provides human-narrated audio of publications. And the Maine State Library has a Talking Books Program for individuals with print disabilities.

Additional resources presented and shared during the webinar:
Maine AIM

National Center on AIM

Maine AIM Web Notebook

MDI HS Teaching & Learning Guide Builder


Ms. Greene’s MDI HS Mathematics site

  1. July 11th, 2010 at 21:13 | #1

    Thanks for making these archives available. This is useful for me and then again when I share with other teachers!

  2. Cynthia Curry
    July 12th, 2010 at 13:13 | #2

    Good to know, Cheryl! Thanks for the comment. Please let us know if you have suggestions or recommendations for future topics.

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