Author Archive

June 29, 2010: Leading Teachers from Substitution to Redefinition

June 29th, 2010 Comments off

Here are links to tools and materials for the MLTI Team’s hands-on BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) at ISTE 2010.

Session Description
Session Slides

For the Substitution and Augmentation exercises:

For the Mofication and Redefinition exercises:

Supporting Research for the session
Puentedura, Ruben R. As We May Teach: Educational Technology, From Theory Into Practice. (2009) Online on iTunes U

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

June 7th, 2010 2 comments

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? Read more…

June 3rd Webinar: UDL in a Maine High School – A Case Study for AIM in the Content Areas

June 1st, 2010 Comments off
What's your AIM?

Artwork by Andrew Greenstone

Among the primary barriers to student learning in the content areas is the common inaccessibility of the instructional materials for students with print disabilities, as well as all students for whom flexible media results in deeper and more meaningful understanding of subject matter. Universal design for learning (UDL) can address this flaw in curriculum design by guiding educators to provide multiple representations of information for all students. This week, our guest is Paige Collins, a special education teacher at Mount Desert Island High School. Paige and other MDIHS representatives will share with us multiple aspects of how teachers have integrated accessible instructional materials (AIM) in content area curriculum and how all students are accessing them. Please join us and contribute your own school’s successes and challenges as we discuss what works in selecting, acquiring, and using AIM.

This session will be delivered on Thursday, June 3, at 3:15 – 4:15 PM and again at 7:15 – 8:15 PM. For information and to register, please choose the WebCasts tab at the top of this page.

AT Considerations: Notes from the April 15 Webinar

April 19th, 2010 Comments off

Thanks to the folks who logged in Thursday afternoon or evening to participate in the webinar, Considering a Student’s Need for Assistive Technology. My guest facilitator was Mary Beth Walsh of Mainely Access Inc, a company in southern Maine that conducts computer access evaluations, training in the use of assistive technology (AT), and production of Braille. Mary Beth and her business partner, Mike Adams, have been supporting students with disabilities in accessing the MLTI laptops since the inception of the program.

We set out with the essential question,
What are the considerations for achieving successful AT integration?

First, what is AT? Mary Beth explained it in terms of student independence. That is, AT is anything that allows a student to accomplish a task without relying on another person. We pondered this for awhile, discussing the implications for student self-direction, motivation, engagement, and self-monitoring. Envision a student who has the freedom to control the rate at which a text is read aloud to her, even being able to pause upon demand, rewind, fast forward, all in the pursuit of independently accessing the content of the material.

A Federal definition of AT, presented in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA ’97), also exists.

To further illustrate the definition of AT, we used the “AT Continuum,” which presents AT as low-tech, mid-tech, and high-tech (see figure below). Mary Beth described her experience of oftentimes working with professionals who assume that AT has to be expensive and sophisticated. She explained that, typically, the best place to begin matching a student with the most appropriate AT is with the least expensive, least complicated, and least intrusive options. From there, technology with more features and supports can be added to the AT assessment process. Read more…

April 15 Webinar: Considering A Student's Need for Assistive Technology

April 12th, 2010 Comments off

Image of Eye-Gazing Tracking SystemUnderstanding and meeting a student’s need for assistive technology (AT) can be an unfamiliar and complicated undertaking. This week, Mary Beth Walsh of Mainely Access will be our guest as we examine multiple aspects of AT, including it’s relationship with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and recommendations for classroom use.

This session will be delivered on Thursday, April 15, from 3:15 – 4:15 pm and 7:15 – 8:15 pm. For information, please access the WebCasts tab at the top of this page.

Image by cobalt123 used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 license.

Access by Students with Blindness: Notes from the Mar 11 Webinar

March 15th, 2010 Comments off

TylerThanks to the folks who logged in Thursday afternoon or evening to participate in the webinar, Access to Learning by Students with Blindness and Low Vision. Our guest facilitator was Nancy Moulton of Educational Services for Blind & Visually Impaired Children (ESBVIC), a statewide service of Catholic Charities Maine. Nancy is a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and Regional Supervisor.

We set out with two essential questions:

  1. How can we support the learning needs of students with blindness and low vision?
  2. In the process, how can we be better teachers of all students? Read more…

March 11 Webinar: Focus on access by students with blindness

March 8th, 2010 Comments off

Image of embossed BraillePlease join us this Thursday, March 11, for a webinar titled, Access to Classroom Learning by Students with Blindness and Low Vision.

With the appropriate tools and accessible instructional materials, students who are blind or have low vision can participate in the same rigorous and progressive curriculum as their peers. Our guest, Nancy Moulton of Catholic Charities Maine, will improve our understanding of what teachers can do to support the full participation and achievement of students with blindness and low vision in the general education classroom. We’ll meet a local middle school student who combines the use of a Braille device with his MLTI MacBook to read, write, communicate, and collaborate with his peers and teachers across the content areas. And, in the process of understanding the unique learning needs of students with blindness and low vision, we’ll glean new insights about how we can better meet the needs and preferences of all learners.

Please join us Thursday, March 11, at 3:15 pm or 7:15 pm. You can find links for registration and information about how to access these sessions by clicking on the WebCasts tab at the top of this page.

Image by lissalou66/Melissa licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license.

Communication: Notes from the 1/28/10 Webinar

January 29th, 2010 Comments off

Illustration of 2 heads in profile with wires connecting them.Thanks to the folks who logged in yesterday afternoon or evening to participate in the webinar on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) options for the MLTI MacBooks. My guest facilitator was Deb Dimmick of ALLTech at Spurwink Services. Deb is an Assistive Technology Practitioner (ATP). While her primary work is with K-12 schools, Deb’s experience and expertise is deepened by the services she provides to individuals across the lifespan, from pre-schoolers to seniors who are learning or adjusting to new ways to communicate and access information.

Our essential question for the webinar was, “What is communication?” A deceivingly simple question as we journeyed through the multiple ways that individuals can express themselves through augmentative strategies or alternative means. And, of course, communication requires effective transfer and interaction. Regardless of our ability, we all rely on the need to integrate communication strategies, which include no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech:

Sign language
Facial and body gestures
Symbols, drawings, and photos
Printed text
Text-based voice output
Low-tech communication boards with text and images
High-tech communication systems

During the webinar, examples of all of these strategies were demonstrated. Deb provided videos of ALLTech therapists working one-on-one with students, giving us the opportunity to observe a range of AAC tools and strategies.

Applications that are available on the MLTI MacBooks can be used for low-tech AAC development by students, teachers, and parents. The uses of these applications for supporting communication go beyond AAC, to multimodal learning for literacy achievement by all students. For example:

Comic Life: Best known for creating what might be called “sequential art” (or simply comics), Comic Life can be used to design creative and innovative communication boards with simple to complex sequences of images and callouts.

iPhoto: Photos, drawings, and symbols from a variety of sources that are meaningful to students can be added to iPhoto and categorized by “Events.” The image description field in iPhoto can be used to detail information about source and relevance.

Keynote: Text and images can be integrated across multiple pages in the form of slides.

Pages: Designed for graphics and desktop publishing, Pages is an ideal tool for integrating text and pictures in creative ways.

PhotoBooth: Uses the MacBook’s built-in camera, allowing students to spontaneously capture self-portraits, photos of peers, objects, settings…whatever may be timely and relevant.

When I asked for other ideas for ways to use the MLTI apps for designing AAC, contributions included:

NoteShare: Organizing images by pages and sections, and using the Voice Memo feature for peers, teachers, parents to add annotations

OmniGraffle: Using actions and multiple canvases to create dynamic displays

And, of course, any of the above applications in combination with your MacBook’s Text to Speech function can extend the power of your low tech creations.

Higher-tech options in the form of commercial software are also available for the MacBook. As one example, Deb demonstrated Boardmaker.

And I couldn’t let Deb go without introducing everyone to Proloquo2Go, which is an AAC application for the iPhone and iPod touch. We enjoyed speculating the implications of Apple’s newly announced iPad.

Web Resources Shared:
University of Nebraska AAC YAACK



Image by Joan M. Mas, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic license.

Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) – Options for the MacBook

January 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Two students listen to ProLoquo2Go on an iPod Touch

Webinar: Thursday, January 28th at 3:15pm and 7:15pm.

Students who have limited verbal skills or are nonverbal can benefit from AAC, which includes wide-ranging strategies and tools. Simple forms of AAC include expressions accomplished through facial and bodily gestures, symbols or pictures, and writing. More complex forms of AAC include high tech electronic devices. Regardless of the form, AAC enables students to express what they know and can do, which can lead to increased social interaction, self-confidence, and learning success. Our guest, Deb Dimmick of ALLTech, will share her experience of working with students, families, and educators to successfully implement AAC in learning environments. Focus will be specific to options for the MLTI MacBooks.

Please join us Thursday, January 28 at 3:15 or 7:15 pm. You can find links for registration and information about how to access these sessions by clicking on the WebCasts tab at the top of this page.

Illustration by Ann Marie Quirion Hutton

To Know VoiceOver: Notes from the December 10th Webinar

December 14th, 2009 1 comment
Wordle image of terms from informal transcription of webinar

Wordle of informal webinar transcription

Thanks to all who participated in last Thursday’s webinar, “Getting to Know VoiceOver.” Steve Sawczyn of AT Maine was our guest and provided a basic, albeit truly stellar, overview of VoiceOver, the built-in screen reader for Macs. More importantly, he gave us numerous take-aways for being better educators of all learners, including students who are blind or have low vision.

In Steve’s introduction, he explained that he’s been blind since birth and started using Apple computers in the 3rd grade when his teacher got a grant. In his own educational experience, the greatest barrier to learning has been access to information. Having to wait for materials to become available in alternative formats (i.e., purchased, converted, or transcribed), greatly disadvantages students with print disabilities. What has been the greatest contributor to access to learning? Steve cites technology from an early age as playing a large role in successful learning experiences. Even more important has been the ability to read Braille. He describes it as a “gift” he was given at an early age. He states, “It’s one thing to listen to text, such as by speech synthesizer or book in audio format, but another thing is to be able to read it in a way that you know what the punctuation is, understand the conceptual layout, flow of paragraphs…subtle things are lost in the translation to any audio format.”

Some anecdotes about *VoiceOver (VO)

  • VO is “integrated.” That is, every Mac (Tiger and newer) has VO built in. You don’t need to install, download, or configure anything. It’s just there.
  • In the past, Steve’s experience was to use “special workstations” or computers adapted with assistive technology for users with disabilities. Today, he can use any Mac, from his childrens’ laptops to trying out new devices at the Apple Store (a favorite pastime, apparently).
  • VO- and non VO-users can collaborate because it is designed to be an accessible interface for everyone. The caption panel displays in text everything that VO is speaking aloud. VO can be used by sighted users with the mouse and trackpad and by VO-users via keyboard shortcuts and commands. This is due to the VO cursor, which allows control of what the user wants to access on the screen. As Steve explains, “Similar to the way a sighted user chooses to focus on specific content, VO gives me a conceptual overview of what is on the screen, and I can jump right to the area of interest. In other words, with VO you learn to use applications as a blind user the same way you would as a sighted user.”
  • Braille devices are compatible with VO. For example, students who use refreshable Braille displays can connect their devices to their MLTI laptops and VO will produce output.

In summary, Steve convinced us that VoiceOver is a tool to improve opportunities for students with blindness and low vision to have the same access to instructional materials – and at the same time – as their peers. His hope is that all educators understand, even though they may not know how to use tools like VoiceOver, these supports exist to allow them to fully integrate students who are blind into the curriculum.

Steve can be reached at

Sites shared during the webinar

AT Maine

VoiceOver in Depth

Apple Accessibility

Woopid video tutorial

Mac-cessibility Network

*Our coverage of VoiceOver is specific to Mac OS X Leopard, which is on the MLTI laptops.