What does it mean for instructional technology specialists and assistive technology specialists to truly collaborate with one another? In this session, Rhianon Gutierrez and Mary Marcella shared thier experience implementing this model, addressed the benefits of such a partnership and how it is beneficial for student learning and professional collaborations. (Get the PowerPoint slides in the Download Here box).
- [Anna] Thanks for joining us for today's CTD webinar, AT and IT: Breaking Down Silos to Create Collaboration. As UDL has swept through the education world, it has created a path for new and innovative collaborations. Many of the previous lines between instructional and assistive technologies have been blurred, prompting a need not only for more technology but for the awareness and additional training. This session will address how such a partnership is beneficial for student learning and professional collaborations. Today we're pleased to welcome Mary Shannon Marcella, speech language pathologist, and Rhianon Gutierrez, learning designer and consultant. As always, we wanna hear from you, so if you take a moment to complete our survey after the webinar, you can get your certificate of participation. I'll go ahead and pass it off. Thanks again for joining us.
- [Rhianon] Hi, everyone, this is Rhianon. We're so excited to be joining here today. We're just gonna tell you a little bit about ourselves before we get started. I serve in the technology department, and I'm a digital learning specialist. I'm also an educator and a consultant. I do a lot of work around universal design for learning. You can follow me on my Twitter handle, which is rhianonelan.
- [Mary] Hi, I'm Mary. I am the AT coordinator for a large urban district. I started out as a speech language pathologist. I primarily worked with severe needs students. Then I moved into working a little bit more heavily with AAC, and that sort of transitioned into AT. You can follow me on Twitter @MarySLPBoston. We'd love to know a little bit more about everyone here. We appreciate all the hellos and telling us where you're from. We'd love to know a little bit more about your role in your school system, or if you're outside a school system, what you're doing. If you could just take a minute to participate in the poll, we'd really appreciate it. As we're doing this, I also just wanna give the forewarning that we're going to be doing a lot of interacting in this session. We really wanna get a discussion going and talk about how other people in other places are working on collaboration and tying AT and IT and carrying out UDL throughout. It looks like right now, we have a lot of AT specialists and a couple of administrators, which is always really exciting to see, and some others. If you are an other and you are not shy, could you let us know in the chat box what you do? We'd love to know. OT, school psych. Somehow our related services I think got left off our list, which seems extra bad since I'm an SLP. Sorry about that.
- [Rhianon] I also wanna clarify that IT specialists, in the interest of saving space, we actually mean instructional technology specialist, not information technology.
- [Mary] AT paraeducator. That sounds like a really cool position I'd love to hear more about.
- [Rhianon] We have a nice variety here. We're so excited to learn with you today. All right, great. Let's go ahead and move on. We would absolutely love to have the chat box continue the conversation. Our big guiding question for today is why should instructional and assistive technology specialists collaborate with one another? This is really what is guiding our work. Mary and I present a lot at conferences, both assistive technology related and tech related, about this topic, about the importance of departments working together and individual specialists working together.
- [Mary] The next thing is every time we present, we're able to really talk to the audience, all the participants, and get ideas from different places because as much as we're doing what we think is right, we wanna hear about more places. It always gives us different ideas, different feedback, and we've learned more presenting than I think we've taught, which in some ways is a really cool experience. If anyone wants to share, please, at any point, I'm gonna monitor the chat box from my computer, but the responses are from both of us.
- [Rhianon] Absolutely. We showed our guiding question with you all. I wanted to talk about what opportunities and challenges exist when people work together. First of all, in relation to the work that we do, we know that there's a lot of coherence in professional learning tools and systems when we're together. We can also engage in divergent thinking processes. We can co-design and learn from each other. We don't always come in with the same perspective, so that's really nice to see what are those goals in terms of brainstorming new ideas and solutions. We are absolutely united in closing opportunity and achievement gaps. That's gonna be a big theme that we talk about today because we are very much thinking about equity, coherence and innovation, as Mary will share later. We really want to encourage departments and individuals to promote student voice and choice because that is who we are serving, ultimately.
- [Mary] Obviously, in a school district, any school district, there are challenges when it comes to trying to create new systems or use any type of innovation. Some of those challenges in us working together include that our departments are very much separated. We're gonna talk a little bit more specifically about our departments, but IT and AT are not traditionally together. AT works under the special education department. IT is its own department under the whole technology department for us. Time demands, obviously. You have a full-time job. We both have plenty of responsibilities, so making extra time to take on new projects or collaborate can be hard. There are also some basic design principles that vary from one field to another.
You see that when you go to conferences. An AT versus an IT conference is a very different situation, and the way that PD is delivered is typically also different. Then the increase in digital access does not always mean equity. This is something you'll hear later about in the presentation. I've been so fortunate to work with Rhianon because access is always at the top of her mind. That's not always true for all our tech specialists. A lot of people, tech specialists, administrators, teachers, SLPs, OTs, think that just because a book is digital, that means it's going to be accessible to all our students. Unfortunately, that's not the case. With that increase, there tends to be a little bit of back and forth. Cindy asked a question about what do we mean by IT. By IT, for this, we mean instructional technology, not informational technology.
- [Rhianon] Yes, and you might also hear me use the terms ed tech, meaning education technology, or instructional technology. In this case, I mean the same thing. I might shorten them to say ed tech or IT. That's a great clarifying question, thank you.
- [Mary] As I said before, we work in a large urban school district. We have about 125 schools. I realize that compared to maybe some districts in Florida and Texas and New York, that is not huge, but for us, it is. We're the largest district in our state. We have about 57,000 students. Of those 57,000 students, 20% of our students receive some form of special ed. They might be in inclusion, they might just be on an IEP in a regular ed classroom, or they could also be sub separate in our own programs or in outside programs. 46% of our students, so almost 1/2, their first language is not English. That doesn't mean that they're not proficient in English, but it means that their primary language is a different one. Then 29% of our students overall actually have limited English proficiency. Our district does a really nice job. We have a huge ELL department and we have newcomers academies and we have bilingual schools, as well as bilingual classrooms and sheltered English emergent classrooms. It's a very diverse district for not being giant. We have a lot of different kinds of learners across our schools.
- [Rhianon] Yeah, I think we actually have over a hundred languages that are spoken in our district alone. There are maybe at least 20 official ones, in terms of our publications. That's pretty diverse. We wanna tell you a little bit more about what exactly happens in our departments and our roles. My department is the technology department, and houses instructional technology or education technology, networking, infrastructure, device purchasing and technology support. That would be an edu genius bar or help desk. We, my department specifically, provides technology professional learning to teachers. As a digital learning specialist, I work often to co-design with teachers and other departments all different types of technology professional learning, anywhere from functional skills of how to use something to more strategic skills when thinking about the big picture of your goals of using technology in education and learning.
We often provide support in our implementation, so that can look different. We can talk about one-to-one devices, we can talk about just in the classroom sense. We are helping with all of that level. We also advise other departments on technology tools, systems and design. If someone wants to purchase a new tool, they'll ask us, "So what do you think about this?" I always tell people I'm not just gonna show you a cool app, even though that's tempting. I always wanna ask them, "What is the goal?" I often work with people on figuring out what the best tool or system or design would be for the professional learning when they use tech or when they wanna actually achieve something with a learning outcome.
- [Mary] For our assistive technology team, we are part of special education. Even smaller, we're part of a department called Related Services. That is your OT, PT, speech, vision, adaptive physical education, mobility specialists. I think that's all. I don't think I'm missing anyone. Our team is actually made up of OTs and SLPs. We have a physical therapist that helps us with some access cases, and we have a vision, teacher of the visually impaired, who comes in for our vision cases, as well. We do try to consult with teachers, but we currently, because of how our department is housed, don't have a teacher on our team, which is definitely something that we want to work on and is something that we're pushing for.
In terms of our responsibilities, we handle all of the AT consults, evaluations, trainings and meetings in the district. My role as coordinator, I used to do the AAC evals, but right now I have some amazing SLPs working on my team. I have four part-time SLPs right now. Their part time ranges, so we have two SLPs that are actually four days a week, which is a huge jump for us. When AT started in Boston not that long ago, we had two 1/2-time people, a 1/2-time OT and a 1/2-time SLP. Between the two of them and their 2.5 days each, they did all of the evals and consults. There was a lot less trainings, a lot less consultation happening and less professional development, but it was still an impossible job.
Over the years, we're really excited and really proud to say that our team has grown hugely to four part-time OTs, four part-time SLPs and, like I mentioned, we have a part-time TVI and a part-time PT. Our focus has been on moving towards a consultative model. We do do evaluations, but we prefer to do consultations so that we can also do some implementation and training and trialing within that period, instead of being stuck in that 45 day test window. We've also really moved into training more of our SLPs. We run year-long classes on AAC. We also have AT work groups that check out new tools, new apps, go to Rhianon for help and all of the above. We've really grown as a department to be a presence in Boston, and we're really proud of that.
- [Rhianon] Yes. We wanna be informed that she does trainings in her department, and I do trainings in mine. There might be a case where someone wants to know about Bookshare, for example. Well, if it's individual teachers, it's a whole school training because Mary does have a small team, and they are not only doing this type of work, but they're also actually working in schools. They're based in schools. I have teams based at the district office more flexibility in going and doing trainings in multiple places. Sometimes it'll be a case of who's the best person for this and how can we work together because of capacity.
- [Mary] Sarah just asked a question about the difference between evaluation and consultation. I assume you mean specific to AT. For us, we like to use the consultation model. The way we differentiate between the two, even though, honestly, they're very similar, is an evaluation goes through our internal SPED system, which everyone uses different ones, but a parent consent is signed, it goes through. We have 45 days to complete it. Then we have a meeting no matter what. With our consultation, we do get permission from the parents to complete it and we work with the school staff, but we don't have that 45 days.
We're able to get in there and then we might recommend a trial for six weeks, and then we check back in. Then if that didn't work, we could recommend a different trial. Or we say it did work, then once we figure out what tool we actually want to recommend, we'd have the meeting and get it into the IEP, instead of being squeezed into that evaluation time window, where we have to make that recommendation before the trial, and then amend the IEP multiple times. We have another question. Are you in a state or district? We are not. AT assessments.
- [Rhianon] The question.
- [Mary] Oh, I'm sorry. The question is are you in a state or district where AT assessment is part of the process of evaluations for SPED eligibility? It is part of the evaluation process. It is not a required part, and you don't need to be, you don't need an AT assessment in order to be eligible for special ed, but you do need an IEP or a 504 in order to be evaluated for AT. Do you have forms for a consult model? In my district, they will just sign an AP, and I haven't ever. That, unfortunately, still happens to us, Andy. That is a common thing. We're working really hard with our, the rest of our special ed department. We have what we call chairs of the special ed meetings who are special ed certified teachers that have changed rules to run the meetings and write the IEPs.
We're working with them to make sure they don't do that, but it still happens quite a bit. What we've done is just present on it and try to explain the differences. I have a cheat sheet that we could probably edit and share with you after, if you remind me, of the compare and contrast, and why it's better to go with the consult model, that I'd be happy to share. Does that answer your questions? I don't wanna move on before. Okay. Please feel free to ask questions at any time. We'd much rather you ask when you have them instead of waiting to the end and then forgetting or not knowing. Thank you. Rhianon mentioned a little bit earlier that as a district, we are guided by our core design principles. These are really important to us moving forward as our mission.
Our three guiding principles are equity, coherence and innovation. Equity is not equal to equality. We talk about the way we're actually implementing things and the changes we're making for our students. Our coherence is about our big picture and the systems that we're putting in place. Then we also wanna be innovating constantly. A lot of this that we're gonna talk about is trying to innovate our professional development to help teachers learn in different ways and making sure that, yes, we're pushing UDL for our students, but if we're pushing UDL for our students, we should also be teaching with UDL methods ourself to our teachers. So modeling and also accounting for all different kinds of learners.
- [Rhianon] I'm gonna share really briefly with you this graphic of the different categories of technology that was shared with me in an assistive technology course. We could think about different categories of technology as instructional or education technology, which is using tools for learning. Then assistive technology, which is what Mary does. These are tools that increase or maintain functional capabilities to a person with a disability. When we think about productivity technology, that's often blurred with education technology because there's a lot of similar software that we use. Thinking about word processing programs, for example. Then information technology, which you might associate more with an IT, is really about two of the delivery information to you, such as web browsers. These are all important and they all intersect when we are doing any kind of learning.
- [Mary] Just to reiterate, we're talking, when we abbreviate to IT, the instructional technology on here.
- [Rhianon] Yes. Also, the final one is medical technology. This is sort of special to me because I am somebody who benefits from a cochlear implant, and this is something that is very different in the school system. This is something I bring in, and is not really part of these evaluations, but it is a core part of my participation in terms of how I interact with technology and learning. Today, we're obviously offering you two very distinct, but intertwined, perspectives on instructional tech and assistive tech. Many of the tools are often having their lines blurred simply because of something like universal design for learning.
When we think about some of these tools that are on the screen here, thinking about the use of a Chrome browser, of Google Apps, such as Google Classroom and Google Docs and Google Drive, these are all things that are part of just general tools that are supposed to help with productivity, but they're also extremely instrumental to instructional technology and assistive technology. We can even say that, too, about the Now, the company who started it was an AT company, but this tool has been designed with UDL in mind. We love this tool as a district, as a Google district, be we are using all of these different features, and we wanna make sure that our students and our teachers and our staff, more broadly, have access to these resources.
As I said, UDL connects this work. It is blurring those lines between instructional and assistive technology. If you're not familiar with the project, CAST about a month ago released brand new UDL guidelines. Now, the content is still the same, but they have changed the visual representation. As we can see here, engagement is priority. I wanna reiterate that. We think about those co-design principles of equity, coherence and innovation. UDL is so important in helping make that vision possible. But I think, especially when it comes to something like innovation, I see engagement as being really tied to that because you have to innovate and push and encourage and challenge people to think in new ways.
I wanna reiterate that it is so important in any kind of challenge you take on, especially when you think about PD and working together, we have to have some core beliefs that will bring us forward. I would say that the very first one would be that we are considering our goals and our audience. Who are you designing for? Now, what happens a lot is I've seen professional learning get recycled. While I used a lot of similar ideas, I never give the same presentation twice because my learners are different every single time. I always consider what are my goals, who is my audience. I try to work with them as much as possible. I think it's important, as individuals and as departments and as groups, to work together to model what we wanna see.
We think about universal design for learning, we have to model it not just in our classrooms, but in the way we design professional learning. We also need to document and share. Now, Mary and I share. We often go to conferences together, and we are sharing this work. We have shared similar ideas that we're sharing with you today elsewhere, and we're always expanding upon that. We document what we've done. We've seen how we can grow from that. A big part of that is that we are getting feedback from people. If we wanna grow, we have to get feedback. Our teachers are constantly being evaluated, our students are constantly being evaluated. As people who work in central office, we should be better, too. We should be evaluated so that we can have just better design experiences, better learning experiences for anyone that we serve. We really try to think about these four things all the time, and encourage others to do the same.
- [Mary] I think we're gonna have a little bit more of a discussion at the end about it, but getting feedback and documenting has been something that we've really focused on this year and that we're really looking for ideas if anyone has them. Because we know, especially when you come to a PD as a teacher and you're tired, you've been working all day, the last thing you wanna do after sitting through two more hours of work is fill out feedback forms. We're really looking to be more innovative and creative in the way that we're gathering that feedback so that it's not a pain for our participants to be participating in.
- [Rhianon] Yeah, and one of the tools that I've been experimenting with, in PD in general, is to use something called Flip Grid. That's F-L-I-P-G-R-I-D. Flipgrid is a free tool that a lot of people in education technology and assistive tech love. Just imagine posting a prompt, and then students or adults can respond to in the form of videos. They can show their learning. You can get a little bit more personal with it. I've definitely experimented with that in terms of thinking about new ways to get feedback.
- [Mary] Yeah, and we can talk more about portfolios and some of the other ways that we're trying towards the end, but just to sort of put a bug in your ear about thinking about that piece of it. We're always looking for more ideas.
- [Rhianon] We wanna share some of our collaborations in PD with one another. We absolutely want you to chat us any questions that you have about this. We're also gonna turn it back on you towards the end where we ask you what you have done to make PD different for your staff and the people that you serve.
- [Mary] Now is the fun part for us. We get to talk a little bit about the collaborations that we've had and give a little bit of history about our work together. Rhianon and I were really lucky to come into our positions at the same time. We were both new to being leaders in what we were doing. We quickly met and got along, and we're excited to see what we could work on together. The previous year before we actually took our roles, there was a pilot in our school system to try a new AT tool. That is what it was for initially. It was an AT tool to replace a previous AT tool that we had been using. It was a pilot across six schools, I believe, and we did three schools on the Read&Write, and three schools on a different product.
Got some feedback and made a decision on which one to go with. When Rhianon and I entered the picture, our job was to figure out how to roll it out, what it would look like and how to make it accessible for all of our teachers and students. It's funny that I'm talking about this 'cause I feel like Rhianon really spearheaded this and did an amazing job. But the first big decision we made, as our district towards UDL in a big way, was why would we pay all this money and limit the students to only special education? We really wanted to market this from the very beginning as a UDL tool for all of our students and all of our teachers and staff to use it.
I think that was a key component, not just for building our partnership, but also for really making the tool successful. I think there are a lot of stereotypes and negative thoughts around kids that have to use AT sometimes, or teachers feel like it's a burden because it's one more thing being added for that one student, but when we took a different scope and we really said this is to help all of your students, all of your diverse learners and yourself, a lot of our teachers use some of the features, it really didn't come with the stigmatism of special ed. We pushed it out, even though our AT team worked really hard on it, as well, and did the original pilot, we pushed it out primarily through our tech ed or ed tech department, which, again, I feel like gave it a different brand. I'm gonna let Rhianon talk a little bit about some of training she did and the amazing landing site, which you can see over here, and I will type into the chat.
- [Rhianon] Actually, Anna just shared the link to the site. It is the longer link, but the short link is pasted on our slide deck in the lower right corner. This is a group of slides. It's the classic version of Google Slides, which definitely needs to be updated. It has a range of resources on there, from videos to interactive Google Docs to some different activities that involve the use of PDFs and whatnot. My main driver in designing this was that I had a big audience who had different needs. Some people wanted to do self-paced. Show me how to do it, I'm good. Other people really do need you to have that dialogue with them, show them the step-by-step process of how this work.
This was meant to be a central hub, repository of various modules that people can work with. The big thing is it's not asite. Just look at this. We are designing for blended learning. We are designing for online learning. People have to come to these sessions doing hands-on work. One of the ways that we really made this stick with a lot of people is to use it in the context of Google Classroom, along with Google Docs, because they can really see that message of universal design for learning. Okay, I can design this assignment. I can push it out to my students. I can even individualize it and personalize it for each one. They can use Read&Write to complete this assignment. It's a really powerful tool in that way, but I think that thinking about that modeling piece and what that would look like for teachers before they take it to the students.
- [Mary] Yeah, and this was not a short process. This was a three year rollout, essentially. We'd love to say that it happened in one year. I think that our goal for the first year was to get our early investors onboard, and we definitely had a good amount of them, which was amazing because one person in a school can spread a lot of good cheer. That was helpful. But our first year goal was really to spread awareness, that we had this tool, that it existed. We did get our AT kids up and running quickly on it because it replaced the tool that they were using previously. In some ways, that created a lot of investment because previously when we did AT consultation, we would go into a classroom, work with one student, of course consult with the teacher, and then sort of say, "Okay, we'll check on you again." We took a totally different approach with this.
It's actually transformed the way that we do a lot of our AT consultation now. We went in and we said, "Yes this is for "little Johnny or Tommy, but we'd love "to show your whole class." Sometimes our students are the very best teachers. If you get some of the students onboard, it was hard for the teacher to say no. If they're going to do it for one student anyway, they might as well let the whole class do it. That was a really powerful change for us, in terms of AT, and it spread, like I said, to a lot of the way we did consultation. Again, falling under that UDL umbrella, a lot of the accommodations we're making for our AT students would benefit other learners. Just because they don't have IEPs or 504s, it doesn't mean that those multiple means of representation and the different approaches and the increased engagement wouldn't benefit almost all of the students in the class. It really opened our door to more teachers, more classrooms and more students, which is really exciting for us.
- [Rhianon] Yeah, and we also wanted to really encourage teachers to say if your students, they wanna go around, they wanna connect, they wanna try things out, it's your job to guide them in making good decisions about what they're gonna use that technology for. We really tried to encourage teachers to think that way. Of course, it doesn't always work that way, but I think what Mary shared is really powerful. I think that student has a chance to share with their peers and to shine. Again, thinking about that student voice and choice.
- [Mary] We're always looking to take some of that stigma off special ed. We want the kids to feel like they are the same as everyone else. We want them to fit in. It made a lot of sense for us to take that classroom approach. I would also just mention that after our first year of creating awareness, we did a second year where a lot of people were using the website. We did some district training and some more centralized training, put more videos online. Then our third year, we started targeting schools in areas. We'd have a principal that would come to us and say, "I'm really onboard with this. "What can you do?" Between Rhianon's team and my team, we'd work out, depending on time and location and things like that, one of us would take it. But the nice thing was that we were all able to do those trainings. We were able to spread pretty wide. That's sort of where we're at, still, is doing those more targeted trainings for schools that are really invested. Not all our schools are created equal, so some schools have a lot more technology than others. What we found is some of the schools that have gotten technology, say, this year or last, this became a lot more pertinent to them then, so they want trainings now versus when we rolled it out, which is great, as long as they're using it.
- [Rhianon] Absolutely. Now we're gonna move onto our second collaboration with each other, which are edcamps. Edcamps. You might be asking, "What are these?" If you have been to the ATIA conference, it happens in January or February every year, you may have become familiar with edcamps, Access International. Maybe you've seen them locally. What an edcamp is, it's really about coming together to share ideas. We talk about the things that you wanna learn about. I just wanna show you really briefly our idea board. You see in the middle, this is just a brain dump of all the things that people are most interested in learning and talking about. We clump them together into what we saw were similar themes. Then on the opposite side, on the right of that, you can see that there's a schedule that's been built. This was built on the day of the edcamp. Now, you see there's two different schedules. The one on the left is from one that I facilitated, and the one on the right is from Mary. These are all participant driven. That's the most important thing to know about an edcamp. It follows what we would call an un-conference model. The sessions are always designed on the day of the edcamp, based on attendees' interests. Attendees can register. They know the time to come. It can last about four hours or so, or even three hours. There's--
- [Mary] Or all of the above.
- [Rhianon] Yeah.
- [Mary] Depending.
- [Rhianon] They're usually about 45 to one hour blocks, 45 minutes to one hour blocks where you would have that session, as you see on the previous slide. People will go into the rooms. They're available in that chosen space, and just talk. Now, you notice staff on this top picture, people have computers. The bottom picture, it's more discussion driven. The thing is that the one on the top was definitely modeled more around using technology as a way to actively participate and take notes. Say you're somebody who might miss something. We have actually a spreadsheet or a document that has all the different information so people can take live notes during that session. That would help not only them, but other people, so that link is shared with them at the beginning.
This is definitely modeled after those UDL principles, particularly representation and action expression. The thing is, people can go to as many sessions as they want. Now, edcamps' mantra is to vote with your feet, which for a lot of people is a new concept. Because let's say you wanna go to as many sessions as possible because a lot of it interests you. You can do that. You can get up and leave and just walk to the next one or roll to the next one. If it's something really interesting, you can get up and go to, and no one will be offended. For a lotta people, this is kinda strange because in PD, you're told to sit there and to stay. You can't move, you'll offend somebody.
But this is about you driving your own learning. I think this is so important for teachers. Ultimately, they found these sessions to be practical and useful as a model that they could take back with them to their schools. I like hearing stuff like that. I found that to be really affirming because we want to give people tools that they can take with them. Maybe this wasn't exactly like we're gonna give you this AT tool to use, but no, you're giving people that experience of sharing and learning together, and seeing what this model looks like and bringing that whole experience back to their schools.
- [Mary] Cindy made a really good point that edcamps are not just for AT. Actually, the picture at the bottom and the board that was on the right were from our related services edcamps. We did a related services edcamp for OT, speech, vision and PT. We didn't have any adaptive at that, I don't think. But the four disciplines came together. We had, actually, a UDL as our focus, but a lot of different things came out of it. We talked about IEPs, we talked about para training, we talked about how to build relationship with teachers. It was really interesting and there was a lot of varied discussion. It was just a completely different model for most of our staff. Like Rhianon said, the first edcamp I went to, I was like, there's no way I'm voting with my feet.
There's no way I'm getting up. This is awkward. People are gonna be offended because there is sort of someone that facilities the discussion. Even through they're not the teacher and they're not meant to be the expert on it, I still felt like, oh, I don't know if I can leave. But once you do it once, it gets a lot easier. They're a lot of fun. Like Rhianon said, the discussion is so rich. Even though there's not something set out, like we're not going to learn about the best new app for X, Y or Z, there usually are a lot of resources. I take a lot of notes in edcamps. I find that I find a lot of resources, just like the discussions we might have in this webinar or in a PD. Everyone knows different things, so it's just nice to see different perspectives. Then there are also edcamps that have nothing to do with special ed. That was just a different example. But thank you, Cindy, for bringing that point up 'cause it is really important. They're not just for AT, they're not just for special ed or IT or anything like that. They can be for anything.
- [Rhianon] We're definitely growing by educators. I can't remember the exact year it started, but if you to the edcamps website, you can certainly find more information about the whole movement and the model. If you're interested in hosting one, you can certainly just take that model and run with it, but if you feel like you need a more formal, supportive setup, the edcamp organization does help you with that.
- [Mary] Does anyone have any other questions about edcamps? Okay.
- [Rhianon] Great.
- [Mary] Our third collaboration started sort of by accident. It was an idea that came up last year. We started talking about fidget toys, I think, and it sort of just snowballed because when you put Rhianon and I in a room together, both our teams end up with a lot more work. You can ask any of them. They told me never to meet with her, but, you know. It started out with this idea that we had these 3D printers. They're really cool. Wouldn't it be great if we created some fidget toys? We did a workshop where teachers could come and make them and take them with them. I thought that was an amazing idea that Rhianon and one of our special ed directors had. But there's so much more to it.
We started talking, our teams met and we came up with this idea that instead, we create this whole series. What we did was create a yearlong make and take PD series. It was practical, so things that you could come in, make and take to your classroom the next day. Whether you were a related service provider, a high school teacher, a sub separate kindergarten teacher, whatever you were, that you'd be able to take something that you learned and go to your classroom and use it the next day. We wanted to involve all of our different specialties, everything from our English and pragmatics to visuals to technology and hearing and vision. We identified a group of people that we thought were really amazing presenters that would be able to spend the first hour of each group sort of giving some history behind why it was important or some information around things you can do in your classroom.
The second hour would be that hands-on component. This is really taking UDL teaching and modeling to that next level. It's really hard to sit through a two hour PD. I have no attention span. I'm the first one to tell you. I love conferences, but I can make it through about 3/4 of a session before I lose my mind. I need a lot of breaks, I need to get up. I'd much rather do things with my hands and actually participate or learn how to do it or try it or use it or whatever it might be. That was the whole idea behind this. It was to change up the way we're running PD to really get people doing things and to make it useful. Taking someone with you or taking something with you at the end, that actually helps you versus sitting there and listening to a lecture about these things that you don't have access to, and then going home and thinking, well, should I buy that?
Because a lotta teachers spend so much money on materials that we really wanted it to not be something that we sent you home with a theory, but actually something that was practical. Like I said, we had 10 sessions, so one per month, from September right through June. We opened it to teachers and related services. We were overfilled immediately. That was a problem for us at first. We ended up moving some of our related service providers out, and offered some of the sessions a second time. Like I said, it was one hour of theory and one hour of hands-on component. In the pictures, you just have pictures from our very first one that was in September. We did make and take visual schedules. That one that's in the top right picture is obviously probably for a younger student. It's using Formaker pictures. But I also had a lot of teachers that were high school teachers that came and said, "My kids don't put the Chromebooks away appropriately." We did a lot of Google images, we looked at pictures and we made schedules that weren't really schedules, but more like step-by-step guides of reminders for the high schoolers to appropriately put Chromebooks back, plug them in and then shut and lock the Chromebook part. It was really applicable to a whole group of people.
- [Rhianon] I want to address two questions coming from the audience, from Jason and Linda. Jason, you were talking about how you are partnering with your AT folks to design and 3D print devices for students to use that are custom designed for their needs, and you're interested in seeing others doing this kind of collaborative work. Awesome, so let's connect. I'd say that one of our PDs that we did, which was last January and which we showed as part of this series, is focused on fidget tools. It was actually a truly collaborative effort in that our technology department, where our 3D printers are housed, worked together with occupational therapists who knew the rationale behind the kind of things they wanted to print. The focus was a conversation where we wanted to have tools that were calming, so thinking about things for self-regulation. My partner was researching some of the different 3D printed objects that can be made or that were already existing. They worked to print and design those. I can definitely chat you a name to our presentation where we can elaborate on that more. On that note, Linda asked about general outlines of the sessions. You can find that information on the website, as well. If you explore the website, a lot of it should be pretty public. There's some things that you might not have visibility because some things do need to be private, so if that's the case, just reach out to me and I can let you know. We have various contacts and resources that we share with people where you can see examples of this work.
- [Mary] By the end of the year, all of the sessions should have some sort of handout or resource that goes with them. They might not all be unloaded at this point 'cause we're still actually, we have a make and take session that is happening right nowthat some of our colleagues are begrudgingly running 'cause it's usually Rhianon and I at every session. Once those are all finished, we can upload more of those resources. Those will be public. What won't be public is actually what we were talking about a little bit ago, is how do we get feedback on this type of PD because it's not something that anyone in our district has really done. We wanna know that it's effective and enjoyable. We came up with a different system of gathering feedback than just the typical survey.
- [Rhianon] We do have surveys, there's a pre and post, asking them more to write things along different lines, but the big thing which I try to push for in my own work is the use of digital portfolios. It really is helpful to see what people have learned, not just how they thought the session turned out. What did you learn from it, what did you take from it, how are you using it, how it is helping a student or how's it transforming your instruction? Thinking about all those things. We designed this digital portfolio to give people a structure which they can input stuff in terms of what did you make, how did this help your students. Pretty much that for every single session. This is part of how we're awarding professional development points for this series. Because we say you have to start with five session, each worth 10, five sessions of two hours, so you get a total of 10 PDP. You can certainly do more. We wanna give teachers an opportunity to grow in their practice and connect with each other, but to also have somemade and they use.
- [Mary] I think Rhianon mentioned a couple of them, and I talked about the visual PD, but we also have some on things like hearing loss or students with visual impairment, and tips and tricks and takeaway sheets for those things. Right now, the one that's going today is on pragmatics and how you can teach your students about not just help the students with the pragmatic issues, but being good communication partners and understanding how to interact with students that might have some of those communication difficulties.
- [Rhianon] Great. We'd love to continue this conversation, so please feel free to chat, but we are gonna try to get to the end, next couple Another one that we've done is obviously school-based personalized PD. We'll chunk this into elementary, middle and high school. I would say it's been, at least in my experience, heavier on the elementary side. Some examples of how we've done that are thinking about using iPads and using Chromebooks. We know there's a lot of amazing UDL features on both devices. I collaborated on multiple occasions with some OTs from Mary's team on talking about things on iOS devices related to reading and writing, as well as on Chromebooks. We've also talked about tools related to self-regulation, executive function and organization. You can see some screenshots of those documents. If you are interested in seeing those, I can certainly share the links to them in our final presentation in the comments section. But there's so many tools, again, out there that are really blurring the lines. They weren't exactly designed for students with disability, but they make it possible for student with disabilities to participate. I think that's really highlighting the why of using these tools for teachers can be really powerful.
- [Mary] Again, Rhianon mentioned this earlier, but really, the nice thing about doing these individual school learning opportunities is we go in and we ask the teachers and the administrators what they really need for their students. That varies greatly from school to school, and then what they have available. A lot of our PDs and our professional learning on the school-based PD is that it's based on what they have and what they need. We find those links that tie those two things together. We're not saying go out and buy a hundred Chromebooks or nope, you all need iPads and things like that. We're using the materials they already have, and that's a lot more powerful, especially to administrators, because we know that money is tight. It's all goal based. What are they looking to do with their students and how can we help them get from one place to the next?
- [Rhianon] Right. One of the things that I want to think about is, actually. Sarah actually asked a quick question. I'm just gonna answer Sarah's question. It's an important one. How do you keep up with all of the new tools? You know what? There are tools out there constantly. I have to tell you that Twitter and conferences are my best resources. I am constantly learning from other educators, other professionals. What are you using, why are to using it, how are you using it? It's impossible for me to know how to use every single one. Again, what's the goal? What are you going to use this for? Because you don't wanna just use it for the sake of it being a tech tool. You need to think about how it's related to UDL and engagement. There's this excellent commercial that Microsoft recently released where they're talking about how are you gonna use technology or how is it going to be different in your hands. I've been bringing this uphere and there to talk about that.
- [Mary] Sarah, I would just say we don't. We try to know as much as we can. Like Rhianon said, Twitter is really helpful, conferences are really helpful. I'm also never afraid to say, "I have no idea," if a teacher or someone asks me, "What do you think of this app?" If I don't know, I will just say, "I don't know." I'll go home and Google it. There's definitely things that we miss, but because we both have teams, there's usually one of us who's at least heard of something that we can sort of pool our knowledge for.
- [Rhianon] Yeah, and one of the things I was thinking about earlier when Mary said she was talking about how sometimes it is very helpful to know the tools they have and can figure out the best way to use them. One of the things that Microsoft has said is that they have this whole beautiful page on their website about inclusive design, which is a passion of mine. They talk about how constraints can be liberating. As somebody who has this education background, but also a film background where I had budgets I needed to work with, I think that there's a lot of ways that we can use these constraints to think about designing for the edges and think about how we can really maximize the tools that we have if we just, again, think about divergent thinking, thinking out of the box and innovating. All right, so we're gonna go into our final collaboration.
- [Mary] This is a current one for us. Literally started at the end of last year, and is currently probably some of our focus. We're still, all our balls are in the air with the other four collaborations, still, but this is our newest one. We're gonna talk about it really quickly. You heard me mention earlier that one of the things that we come up against constantly is just because something is digital does not mean it's accessible. That's where this came from. Rhianon is incredibly passionate about access, as our team and the AT team is. That's all we do. We were finding that a lot of our students' texts were just not actually accessible to their needs.
We have Read&Write for Google and we have some other tools that we use, but not all the texts were cutting it. It became a really big conversation among the AT and the IT teams. We wanted to get more voices in. We have a very large library department or library services that purchased some of our accessible texts and things like that. Then we also wanted to get in with our English language learners, our academics and more special educators. This is a current collaboration, like I said. We're not sure what our end goal is, but it's really evolved from just talking about texts for regularized students to also being available in other language for our ELL students, and having books, especially some of our younger grades, that are adapted for our students that are non-readers, so picture-adapted books, audio books and different things.
We're trying to take all of these departments and figure out how we can lump everything together on one website or one resource so that a teacher would be able to sign on to the resource, find the book that is text leveled down to their kid's level, but is also available as an audio book, is also available as an adaptive book and is available in Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese. That's our ultimate goal. We haven't figured out how to get there, but this is a conversation that we're constantly having because we're both very passionate about it and think it's very important.
- [Rhianon] But it shouldn't stay with us. We talk about the collaboration between our two departments. We understand accessibility, but, yeah, we are still learning. We want these other departments to be thinking about that because, again, if you assign something digitally, I just see people sharing documents, PDFs, they're sideways. They're sideways because they've been scanned or upside down. You can't use Read&Write with that. You can use screen readers for that. It's like, okay, if you're going to be creating things, let's think about ways that we can make full accessible documents. Thinking about what that might mean, ultimately, for our district, in terms of creating those, as well as being very intentional about our selection process and purchase.
- [Mary] We've done a lot of talking and we've had a lot in the chat, which is amazing. We're gonna ask you guys to be a little bit more active in the chat. I'm sure you're sick of our voices by now. Oops, I lied. Rhianon had one more slide, so she's gonna really quickly go through. Then we're gonna have a few discussion questions.
- [Rhianon] Please start posting your questions in there. We just wanna say overall, I think you've heard what the benefits and challenges are. There are, of course, things, like the pros are flexibility and willingness to try things. Time and commitment. Being realistic in this process and being constantly learning and iterating to improve. Ultimately, we are serving students, so we wanna make sure that we're growing in our learning. I heard a great quote from a colleague yesterday where she said, "We are a learning organization. "That means all of us should be learning, "not just the students." I'd love to hear about what kind of professional development you're currently doing and some of the ways in which you might be modeling UDL in your PD.
- [Mary] I was really excited to hear that Jason's doing some similar things and we really would love to collaborate more on ideas behind that because it's just really fun to see other people doing different things, as well.
- [Rhianon] Linda asked how we make information available to staff and families. Do we use websites, emails, whatnot? We really do all of it. We use print media, we use websites, we use Twitter, we will send emails. The big thing is it shouldn't always just be coming from the same source. I often ask schools, "How are you sharing information? "Have you tried this? "What works?" Because sometimes the same old ways don't always work, and you have to examine why that might be.
- [Mary] A lot of our schools are very autonomous, so different schools have different methods. Some of our school principals are very active on things like Twitter and use a lot of that, a lot of social media to share with their parents, where other principals are sending newsletters home every week. We try to integrate with what's working currently for the school in terms of parents. For our teachers, I would say that having the landing site is really helpful, but a lot of the teachers don't know they exist until we send a blast email or find a way to get it out to them. The landings site's helpful to actually do the learning and have the resources available, but the email helps to generate the awareness that that is out there. I mentioned this in the chat, but I don't think I said it out loud, and I apologize if I did. Someone mentioned opening the make and take sessions to parents. I think that is something that is so important. We actually started talking about that a lot in the digital text group because a lot of our parents are not English language, English is their first language. We wanna make sure that a lot of the resources and texts can also be read at home. We wanna make sure we're getting that out to parents, as well. That snowballed into getting parents more involved in general.
- [Rhianon] So we're reading a couple responses from Shannon and Sarah. All right. It looks like Shannon is trying a lot of different ways in her PD, thinking about flipped learning, thinking about hands-on learning, team-based learning and developing teacher cohorts. I think that's great. Actually, that was one of the suggestions of our make and take PD is how are you gonna get this in the hands of teachers so you reach more people? I love that, the cohorts.
- [Mary] Yeah, we've actually had a lot of success with teacher cohorts in our Related Service department. We have different cohorts. Again, it's special ed related because of what the departments are, but we have courses or discussion groups for AAC, for fluency, for stuttering and different things. We found that those cohorts are incredibly useful. I think we missed a question up. I just wanna scroll up to Sheila.
- [Rhianon] Sheila was talking about nursing educative professional development, and it needs diverse practitioners. I think that's awesome. I'm not a nurse. I actually have really good nurse friends, and I thinkthat network. I'm just curious.
- [Mary] Sheila, we mentioned this earlier. My department has actually been working with our nursing department on a couple of different issues. Started as sort of if you have students with these special needs, how do you address them? It's really snowballed into not a series for them, but we're talking about vision-impaired students and working with them, hearing-impaired students, students without communication skills, students. We'll display this one, sorry. I'm just blanking for a second. All different complexities. Oh, swallowing difficulties. We have our speech therapist now doing education with them. It's been really nice. Our nursing manager, whatever her title is, is working closely with our special ed director to say how do we provide more diverse PD to our nurses. It's been a great experience 'cause I have to say that nursing, nurses are some of the best audience and participant in PD. That's been really exciting for us. Sorry, we're trying to make sure that we don't miss anyone, but there's a lot of comments coming in.
- [Rhianon] Yeah, I'm actually wondering if we should have made this into a so that we can still continue to get these responses.
- [Mary] I know, also, that we are out of time. We told Anna we didn't need a time warning, so I don't wannago over, but we're at 5:01. I would love this discussion to continue. We have some other questions that we'd love to talk about. We're always available by email. We're both on Twitter. Rhianon's a lot more active then I am, but I always check. You're welcome to message us. We just wanna say thank you so much. This has been such a great experience for us, hearing about what you guys are doing. I wish we had a little bit more time, but I wanna be respectful to our hosts and thank them, as well. Please feel free to continue the discussion, or if you need any resources that we didn't post, shoot us an email, shoot us a Twitter message, anything you need to do. Thank you, everyone, so much for coming.
- [Rhianon] Thank you. We really appreciate getting to know and learn with you.