AAC Resources for the Classroom

AAC in the Classroom

I’ve learned a lot about AAC technologies over the last 15 years.  I often say that I don’t know everything, but I can probably tell you how and where to learn more.  Because I provide direct technology support and training to educational teams for many students with impaired language and communication skills, I have gathered a wealth of forms, tip sheets, tutorial resources, assessment materials, etc. for use in the school setting.  I share these with teachers and treating speech therapy clinicians across my service area, as well as anybody looking to learn more.  I hope these resources are helpful to those working (or planning to work) in the school setting with children who need or use AAC supports.  There are SO many more than these, but this is where I’d like to start.

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Google in The Classroom; Tutorial Help

Shake Up Learning Website topics

I love Google and all the great things they’ve brought us to use in the classroom, but it can be overwhelming to find and learn to use what may be appropriate for your needs, especially if you’re just getting started.  I always tell my training audiences, “I can’t know everything on every topic, but I do know where to direct you to find what you need.”  If you need more information for learning to use Google Apps and Google for Education supports, then I would send you  to a great site called ShakeUpLearning.  This incredibly helpful blog is written by Kasey Bell, a Google Certified Innovator and Google Certified Trainer who has taught digital learning workshops at ISTE, FETC, TCEA, and Google Summit events.  Her site offers free digital learning resources, eBook tutorials, guides and cheat sheets for learning to use all things Google,  along with ideas for integrating their use into the classroom.  Check it out today!

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All Things Google…

Google Apps iconI love my iPad as much as any tech specialist, but there’s also much to love about Chrome and the supports found in Google Classroom! It hasn’t been that long since districts were forced to choose between using Windows or Apple operating systems, but not today. Many of my schools employ both platforms for different programs or projects, making Google tools even more useful. In this post, I just want to share some links and resources for learning more about this incredible classroom support.

In her popular blog TeacherTech, Alice Keeler provides handy tutorials, guides, and tip sheets for teachers wanting to learn how to use Google tools.  Her resources are designed to support the not-so-tech-savvy teacher, as well as the more skilled user. Better yet, she offers practical ideas and examples for incorporating them into the curriculum.

Our friends at Te@chThought have created a terrific list of ideas for using Google tools in the classroom:  60 Smarter Ways to Use Google Classroom. 

The Google Apps Classroom Team has created their own lists, one of which I found especially helpful when getting started.  It’s called 32 Ways to Use Google Apps and downloads (appropriately enough!) in a Google Doc format.

 

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Teaching Students with Autism sessions

Our educational cooperative hosts workshops across the state for teachers and clinicians working with the special needs population in our schools and I have to say that this has been one of my personal favorites.  Our speaker, Ms. Mo Buti, has been a special education teacher, administrator, and Coordinator for Autism services for Chicago Public Schools for more than 24 years. This incredible session offers a wealth of ideas for modifying the classroom and curriculum to meet the special learning needs of students with Autism. It was a hit in the east Tennessee region last fall, so we brought her back for staff in the central and western regions.   For those attending these sessions, there was a previous posting of Mo’s PowerPoint presentation, but it was only available online for a short period of time (to avoid excessive downloads, plagiarism,etc.)  If you attended and would like a copy of the presentation, please send an email to: jreese@taat.org with your name and the day that you attended.

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Special World Magazine by Inclusive Technology

Special World

I love Inclusive Technology!  This outstanding company creates some of the best software, apps, and accessibility products for children with special needs.  Although based in Great Britain, all materials are available through their US partner, Inclusive TLC.  Now they’ve gone even further toward offering support to teachers and therapists using assistive technologies in the school setting.

In September, 2014, they launched a quarterly online magazine called Special World and they’ve just released the 3rd edition.  The articles and information are well written and informative, offering practical application ideas for supporting the use of AT in the educational process.  There are very few resources out there that specifically address the use of AT with children, making this an invaluable resource. All editions are archived, so download a copy today!

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Bookshare Web Reader Update

I love Bookshare, but I will admit that it takes a little work to learn how to use it.  That said, it is WELL worth the effort and will make you wonder how your students ever read without it! I was happy to learn today that they now offer an option for web reading without an individual membership and wanted to share this link with you for learning more.  Previously, students needed an individual subscription and password to log in outside of the school’s account.  Now the teacher can assign a specific log in for them, download books for the student, and assign them to a shared reading list to allow student access from the internet anywhere.  Wow.  It just keeps getting easier!

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Boardmaker Tutorials and Guides

Snowman Activity Book
Snowman Activity Book

snowmageddon 2015

 

Wow!  We’ve been out of school here in east Tennessee for 2 full weeks due to “snowmageddon 2015”. I missed seeing my students while trapped at home under ice and snow, but it gave me a lot of time to create new curriculum materials using visual supports. Take a look at our ready-to-print thematic project titled “Let’s Build a Snowman’ in case you need something to tie in with our recent weather events.  Of course, now I am working on projects for Easter and spring in hopes that we can wish the cold weather away!

While working on my projects, I realized that I’d never shared the Boardmaker Help & Training Center site created by Mayer-Johnson/Dynavox.  An excellent resource, it contains tips, guides, and short video tutorials to help when learning to create with Boardmaker products.  It’s easy to navigate and offers a host of supports.  Check it out today! 

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PVC Pipe-Eye Gaze Frame

Photo Feb 11, 1 39 31 PM

Need a way to spread out picture supports and get them up at eye-level for those using Eye Gaze for communication?  This is a cheap and easy DIY project that comes together in a matter of minutes.  Made out of PVC Pipe, a few connector joints and a few stripes of Velcro, this particular frame is great for those who travel to different schools/locations because it is easily taken apart and put back together (as long as you have labeled the pieces the first time you assembled it!)  Of course, it can be glued together if you wont need to disassemble it.  Also, be sure to ask them to cut the pieces in the sizes that you need at the hardware store, unless you happen to have a PVC cutter laying around in your garage!  This will make assembly that much faster when you get it all home.  Here are the directions:  Eye Gaze Frame made out of PVC Pipe  Our version of the PVC Eye Gaze frame is taken from a previous idea by Linda Burkhart.

 

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Preparing our Learning Disabled Students for PARCC Testing

 

PARCC logo

The times are changing …

When Tennessee adopted the Common Core State Standards we accepted the challenge to change what we will teach and how we will teach it to reach new academic heights.  Along with that, we also changed how we will test for it and that part has made things a little scary in the world of special education…

When PARCC designed the new tests to evaluate student learning of the CCSS material, they elected to administer them in a brand new computer-delivered format. That’s what is making special education teachers across the country a wee bit nervous.

While nobody is arguing with the move toward technology-based assessments, teachers are overwhelmed by the secondary demand of preparing our learning disabled students to actually access the tests and navigate through them unaided.   Students must be able to read the directives, follow the prompts and input the responses without the hand-on assistance of a teacher. There is the real possibility that students may actually become smarter from instruction using the new standards, but might not be able to demonstrate that if they’re are so overwhelmed by the navigation and access issues related to the test that they can’t focus on the content!

The good news… according to the newly released PARCC Accessibility and Accommodations Manual, students will have access to all word processing functions as well as a wide range of integrated assistive technology supports during testing.  Examples include text-to-speech, voice dictation, word prediction, spell checkers, pop-up dictionaries, translators, text adjustments, screen magnification and more.  If it’s included as a learning support in the IEP, they will be allowed to use it on the test.  Now, that’s progress!

The not-so-good news… most of our teachers don’t know how to use these tools, so their students don’t know how either.  For students that do, they’ve never been allowed to use them during a high-stakes test. This IS change for the better. These access supports really do level the field for a lot of our kids.  We just need a plan for teaching them what they need to know to access and make the most of them.

More good news…as part of my graduate level work with Western Governors University, I have taken on this topic for my courses in instructional design.  I will be posting information and links for Web 2.0 tools that replicate those we’ll see on PARCC tests.  As I gather information and ideas, create new  materials and find new resources, I will be sharing them here.  We have been advocating for the increased use of AT and this is the best thing to happen to our LD kids in a very long time!  Let’s turn ‘scared’ into EXCITED!

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Need help with Bookshare?

If you are lost when it comes to using Bookshare or if you have questions about some of its specific features,  you’re in luck!  Bookshare has several tutorial videos available for free on their website to help you navigate and use Bookshare skillfully.  They also have over 35 videos on their YouTube channel uploaded by BookshareTeam. Check out these resources here:   Bookshare.org/Training.    YouTube/Bookshare

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