Presenter: Jessica McKay, Eric Buenrostro, Mesha Daniel
Toolkit Tuesdays • September 7, 2021 1:00 PM CT
>> Jessica: Okay, welcome everyone. This is Knowbility's K through 12 tool kit Tuesdays. I am Jessica "Jay" McKay. I am the community programs manager, and I am thrilled today to be part of our toolkit Tuesday's series.
This is a series that we started last year as a way to help parents and students that were kind of having to figure out, learning at home having to deal with all the different technologies.
We wanted to bring it back again this year as well as to start carrying us up for access to you and for our K 12 access you satellite event that's coming up later this year.
And what we're doing is highlighting some of those wonderful presenters and conversations that we had this past summer we wanted to bring some of those backup here today so I am thrilled.
Today we are going to be talking about how to empower your instructional technology specialist.
This is one of those things where I think we all know we should be doing, but we need to make sure that we are actually having those conversations, making sure we're making those connections because it really is going to be the thing that makes that makes or breaks your school district, and the ecosystem of communication, collaboration, and equity for all of their students. So I am thrilled our guests today are going to be the innovative learning department of your sweater is D.
And I'm just really just going to take it away I'm going to introduce them really quick, and then we're going to have a great conversation today.
And we do have slides will make sure that they're up nice and pretty for you later but if you want to go ahead, it is a bitly link that we've made it is https colon slash slash bit.li slash toolkit to the abbreviation for Tuesday and power it so the.
I'll read it one more time on that Bitly tag. It's going to be capital T capital K for toolkit.
The Tuesday the tue will be capitalized, and power that he has capitalized, and then I T is capitalized.
A perfect there we go Mark save me once again putting it in the chat for us as well.
Alright so I'm going to introduce our guests. I'm very thrilled to have them here today. Unfortunately, Larry Snyder was not able to make it he was not feeling well we want to make sure that he takes care of himself.
He is a needed member over in that school district.
So he was like, I'm not gonna be able to make it we said Please don't.
Please don't get well. And then also we have our other two guests I'm going to actually let you guys. Introduce yourselves. And what you do.
Go for it, Eric.
My name is Eric Buenrostro, I am the digital resource and content specialist for innovative learning, and my primary role is to oversee the one to one initiative for all students and teachers in our district.
We are one to one all the way from pre K through 12th grade that in the long run. For many educational resources, that's my primary roles in the department.
And I'm Mesha Daniel, I am an innovative learning specialist what, what that means is I get the really cool job of getting to work with teachers, students, and administrators on how to use this technology these new tools that we have access to both digital and really handheld tools seamlessly in the classroom, and we're hoping that it will always be seamlessly and fingers crossed on that doesn't always quite happen that way.
But that's that's what my main, main job is is we're just there were support but we might want to kind of push them and give them a little bit of pressure to to get out there and use those tools that's what they're there for.
up right. And just to kind of let everybody know I previously worked with the US led a district fairly recently until I moved out to Birmingham, Alabama, and I was the Assistive Technology Specialist so throughout the day, I'll be speaking to what my role, had been previously as that at specialist for the sled a district.
So just to give you a little bit of background of who we're talking about when we talk about the athletic Independent School District.
It is the third largest school district and El Paso, Texas.
If you're not sure well apply so Texas is just looking at Texas, you see the little bitty tip on the very south, or on the West End. Right, right. When you're getting into Mexico New Mexico.
That is El Paso, and we have about 60 campuses, give or take, because last time I checked, we were still in a state of different buildings being constructed other schools getting combined.
So when this slide was created, we knew there was about 60 going on. So, in terms of our demographics, there were 78% of students were economically disadvantaged, it's we're looking at kids getting free lunch.
12% of our population with special education or receiving special education services, 8% were coded as dyslexic or receiving five enforcer AND and OR receiving typo for services.
25% is bilingual or ESL students, and we have a one to one Chromebook slash iPads for all students, and will actually go into a little bit deeper dive on that but I will say that this is a program that had started, I want to say about five years ago when engage me started with fourth and eighth grade students being the first grades.
And then every year was incrementally adding a grade level but because of kind of it we kind of got to jump some of all the grades. So now we are fully Ubuntu and as of last year, they miss any, any updates for us.
Now you just need to make sure to say that Eric is has been the superhero and making sure that all of our students have gotten those Chromebooks, him and his little group over there, working with these devices has really helped our district to get where we are today.
I will say we are on year seven now.
One to One initiatives, time flies when you're having fun. So our district has always been a visionary when it comes to that and believed in the power of devices as students and so it's been it's been between iPads and Chromebooks we've had quite a bit for our students.
So I just want to talk a little bit about the two different departments a little bit and their different roles. And then also, as later on as we have our conversation, you'll see how those roles are going to interact and engage with each other.
So when we talk about instructional technology. We're looking at technology integration training and teachers are for teachers to support the development of students skills and academic success so like me she was saying, you know, we want to make sure you're comfortable.
But we, you know, we've purchased these things for a reason. They're, they're not just there so we can say we have all the cool gadgets, we, we felt there was value in them, to help our students succeed so we want to make sure you're doing that so it's really helping to make sure that teachers are pushing their own skill sets and helping the students develop their skills as well.
For the athletic Independent School District, we refer to our instructional technology as the innovative learning department which I think is just a brilliant name, and under that of course we've, we've talked with several of our.
What several of those roles are. And then also, every campus has an IT specialist so this is an Instructional Technology Specialist.
Now they will have other duties as assigned as everybody in education, always does.
But one of their primary functions is to help support those teachers in that tech integration that we spoke about earlier and will actually go into a little bit of some of the other things that they do in our conversation.
In terms of assistive technology our Assistive Technology Specialist position is seated underneath the special education department.
What we do is assistive technology really is there for those students that are receiving assistive technology services through their IP.
But of course we always take phone calls and assist for those students that are receiving receiving services through 504 as as best as we can help those campuses if they need some additional, you know equipment training assistance, but primarily our focus will first be to hit those those kids under the bed coding for this letter district.
The at specialist is responsible for campus implementation of the students at services as determined by that IP committee. But it's not just you know when it was me it's not just me going in making sure every single kid has a piece of equipment that needs it.
There are kids that I would work with directly. Often I was working with other service providers that were acting as that at contact for the IEP committee so maybe it was a speech therapist, occupational therapists sometimes it was one of the teachers that was working with a student directly. If they needed equipment or training. They were contacting me, and I was providing those services as needed, depending on what it was.
So, we're going to kind of go back in time a little bit and talk about how all of this began, and how are at in our IT teams, really just kind of started to become a little bit of a one unit team.
And I'm going to just kind of tell my story and then I'm going to have Eric and Lisa jump in and say whether or not I'm lying or not.
So, When I started as the at specialist, I did not actually have all the same permissions and responsibilities as Instructional Technology person.
And I really don't have all the responsibilities, but I certainly do have all the PR.
And if I can make those quick fixes, I do that. But, they don't just give me the keys to the kingdom without some of the responsibilities of those, which means down at the bottom where you see the ITS monthly meetings, I was part of those trainings, when new software was coming out, new procedures, I was in the know on those.
If I was going to have -- act like an IT in certain ways, I needed to be able to respond as they would. I mentioned the tech fair. That's really where we started to share a lot of the information. That's where I know probably within the first year or two the previous director asked me to be a part of their tech fair.
They had the vendors come and bring their software, and the monitors and the science kits and different software. They said, we think you should have a booth. You do tech on campus. We want people to know about it. I had whatever was left in my office. If you're like me and your AT equipment, you're looking at very, very old switches and maybe if you're lucky you have a remote control car that you can play with the switches so they can see it do something. Maybe I had a pen reader or something like that. But it was a nice way for me to introduce myself, let the ITS people know who I was. They could put a face to a name. It's not the TNTC anymore.
>> It's the Teach.
>> So it is a big, huge teachers technology conference. We get people from all over the region to participate. They made it a specific point to make sure that special education and assistive technology were represented in those sessions. They would ask specifically for a SPEWD track or, we'd like something on this specific type of software, because that's what people are asking for. We always made sure those were part of those conferences. It was a great time for me to learn and being able to make those connections with those teachers. Did I miss anything on that one, anything else you want to add?
>> I just want to commend you for the work that you did when you were here, because you were open to everything. And I think that's really, really important, too, that you had a hunger to learn and took what we gave you and ran with it for your kids. And that's big.
>> Thank you. All right. We want to talk a little bit about that communication across departments. That's been a key component. We have a big district and several departments dealing with technology, special education, gen ed, gifted. Because we're Texas, we break everything up, everything gets something in terms of different departments. Eric, talk a little bit about how all these different departments communicate with each other.
>> Absolutely. A big part of it is, communication is key. As Jessica mentioned, she was part of so many of the different things that we hosted. But it didn't just happen overnight. That communication was part of what happened to make those bridges and relationships happen.
As you see here, the first one, our assessment, research, evaluation and assessment, AREA, is all about testing, how testing fits into it. In order for us to provide devices for students we've got to make sure we can provide a device that will work for testing and online services. And that is generally available to every student, including those in special education.
We had to make sure that part of this conversation was the device was accessible across all realms, not just for a traditional student. If you think of the acquisition standards committee, that's a group of people that meets across the district. We've got people like our innovative learning specialist, to our AT specialist, to our TIS or technology information systems department who actually dig deep into the hardware component of our district.
And so these meetings were intended to evaluate any and all resources that our district would purchase. I think it's important to note that this communication -- make sure we don't necessarily waste money, because it's a difficult task to be able to choose a device that works for every student, employee, or person that touches your district.
So this hardware and software acquisition standards committee was a big push to getting us to that point, to being able to say yes, let's evaluate a device. Let's push it out to a campus, understand that feedback to make sure that we're putting our money to the right thing.
The Textbook Adoption Committee, we have online textbooks. That's the way manufacturers are going. We've got to make sure that whatever we purchase, everything is compatible so but don't have to purchase something else. That's the most difficult thing. Everything works and then you need another thing. You spend more and more.
The last one, website accessibility, the district provides tools for our campuses to make sure that our websites are accessible to every single type of reader and visitor. It's important not just for compliance but necessity. We want to make sure that everybody who visits our district, campus websites, everything is up to code and standard.
That's the vision of the district. We strive to maintain a positive percentage and make sure readability is up there for all forms of readers and people who access our website. It's important that we establish those connections but don't feel intimidated to the point where you think this happens overnight, because it certainly doesn't.
It took years for us to establish these relationships to the point where our departments are really well-intermingled among the others. We are not silos. We are well-connected. It's what's required for our students.
>> To give everybody a scope, when we say how many years, when I started, I was the AT specialist for 12 years. I want to say probably I started getting involved with assessment in the AREA team pretty quickly after I started in my position. I would say maybe a couple years into it is when I started creating materials for them that would get sent out and go from there.
What followed after that was, it's almost kind of in chronological order we listed here. (Laughing) I joined the Hardware/Software Acquisition Committee. And then around the same time I had joined the Textbook Adoption Committee. And then probably in the last three or four years that I was there is when I joined the Website Committee.
This was -- we built these relationships over time. And I think part of what really helped was because I was willing to take a step forward, a lot of these departments were ready to open the door and say we know we need to meet some needs of some people we're missing, how can we do that. And lines of communication were really pretty quickly opened when we saw the opportunity, we took it.
We want to talk a little bit about purchasing. I know the last time we chatted about this, we were talking about the hardware and software because it used to not be called the Software Standards Acquisition Committee, too. But let's -- we want to talk a little bit about what are some of those things that we need to look for when we purchase those devices. Erick, give us a little bit of how we do that and what's involved in that.
>> Absolutely. One of the big components is making sure that it's accessible for all. And not just a traditional student, not just our regular type of demographic, but our special education also, our English language learners, all types of learners we see, especially because we're a border town district.
One of the things we do is we provide a lot of demos and samples to our students, teachers, to get that idea, that feedback to understand if it's viable for the entire district. It's a multi-department process. We have it checked by the network team for future components, not just what we have today.
Special education, does it have the ports necessary. For example, if we're going to connect to headphones, monitors, does that device support that ability. Does it meet what we need for academic resources? Can we run testing applications on it? And it's almost planning with the end in mind because you want a device that is going to last you for those many years. If something new comes up, is that device ready to handle it.
Part of this is thinking of the different steps of, okay, it's your turn to test it. What is your feedback. It's your turn, what is your feedback. And then say is this device going to last five years, ten years, fifteen years down the line. That's part of what the need for our devices and what we consider when we try and purchase these.
>> All right. Thank you. Well-said. Anything to add on that, Mesha?
>> He said it very well. I know that my own kids have done some of the testing. I'm trying to -- I'm thinking about the times when they attempted to shut the device down completely where they wouldn't be able to use it at all. But they couldn't do it sometimes. Some of our devices were really good. And others they got on too many web pages and it froze up or whatever. So that is part of it, because we know that kids are going to do that. And my kids are notorious for doing that, so.
>> Erick mentioned things about different ports. The Chromebooks, it was funny, but it was one of those things we didn't think about. Now we think about it for sure, which is when we rolled out the Chromebooks we had students that were very eager to use them, but for some of our students that were visually impaired, the screens were a little small.
We said great, we've got a bunch of monitors everywhere. We can use those. Except we had to hope they had an HDMI port. And did anybody have extra HDMI cables. (Laughing) And so for the first year or two it was trying to make sure, does everybody have a cable, does everybody have a port that will work for it. That was one of those things that we ran into.
Another tech piece that we ran into that was kind of interesting when we started rolling out the Chromebooks in terms of needs were external mics. I would get several students that would have problems with the track pad on a Chromebook because of the sensitivity. The track pads were very difficult for some students.
However, if we could get them a regular mouse that they could either plug in or have a dongle, no problem whatsoever. It was just the track pad itself that was giving them problems. So it was always asking all my fellow ITS campus teachers, if you've got a spare mouse, let me know. And a lot of times they would say, do you need a mouse? I ordered four for these teachers, and only two got picked up. They had extra mice. Then I could say, if anybody asks me I could say, talk to your ITS first. Usually they have a couple extra spare. I'm out at the beginning of the year.
I just want to mention we are taking questions. We dove right in and didn't explain that when we started. I was excited to talk to these two people. Even though I've worked with them forever, and this is info I know, I always learn something new or get a different perspective. If you have questions, please feel free to put it in the chat. We'll try and pick it up as we go. Or if we need to, we can hit them up at the end. Don't be shy. We love to chat about this stuff.
Mesha, you're going to talk to us, for those that don't know, YISD is going towards Universal Design for Learning. When we say UDL, this idea of trying to design and plan with the goal in mind for all students to meet their needs and to make progress. Mesha, talk about how through innovative learning department, the stuff that we've talked about a little bit here already, how do we help support that journey of Universal Design for Learning?
>> We have to know our stuff, first of all.
>> We have to know what these tools are going to be able to do for not just SPED students, but all students. And you brought this first tool to us. We had heard about it. We had done a few things with it. We're thinking about purchasing this for the entire district. We're like, okay. Snap&Read is a great tool. We are trying to get more people on board of using it. It has been growing and growing, especially since COVID, people being at home. But these two tools right here have been just really like game-changers for us for reading PDFs and web pages, and all the different things. I could go on and on about what these two tools can actually do. But in order for us, Larry and I, we're mostly the trainers, to actually turn this around, we have to really know what they can do first.
You would bring, what do you think about this. I've never seen that before. I guess I'd better learn how to use this so I can turn it around. That's working together. And sometimes you would show us really cool things, like I didn't know we could do that. You were like our trainer sometimes. Of course our Google suite. We have a lot of tools in there and more coming all the time that are made not just for, again, our typical student that we've got the voice typing, which is great for anybody, but especially for some of our children that are more verbal and have a harder time with the typing.
We've got different Zoom features that we can put onto just about any type of Google tool that's out there. Microsoft now has the embedded reader, or the -- within everything, including Minecraft, everything that you use now within Microsoft you can use that reader. Immerse reader, I guess it is.
So we have to spread the word about some of this stuff, because it's not just common knowledge that the voice typing is there or that the zoom features are there. We have to know where they are first so we can spread that word out. And sometimes we don't even know that some of those features are there. And that's where we're working closely with you. You were able to share some of that knowledge with us. So that's kind of how we ran with that.
>> I want to talk a little bit also in terms of sharing the vision and talking about EDL and all these pieces of software and tools, I know one of the best ways for me to learn about not just what's on the screen but other tools we had available was part of those trainer trainings that we would do, the monthly meetings. And it was really a great time for not only for me to network with everybody and put a face to a name, and get a chance to really let them know hey, I'm not just the person bugging you about this, whatever it is I'm bugging you about, but we would get a chance to share so much cool stuff, like this is how you use Ed Puzzle.
Because they knew I was in the room, they immediately would have to think about what kind of accessibility issues may we face, or how can we get around those. Certain tools we don't want to completely dump because it doesn't have every single accessibility feature yet. I always say yet, because one day they're all going to have them all.
But it's just making sure that we make those right choices for the -- make the right tool for what we need at that moment. We may have something else that could work just as well. Snap&Read was a good example of that. It had a little bit of PDF annotation. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. It would let you fill out a worksheet okay. I know a lot of campuses had purchased CAMY around the same time.
So it was a little bit of a harder sell for us to say hey, this really sweet PDF thing that you have that puts glitter and everything all over this page, whereas Snap&Read is going to read it nicely and translate to whatever language you want. It was a hard sell for some people. But over time, when they realized I'm not paying for the Snap&Read and they've updated their PDF annotation to include so I can put signatures, I can put shapes on it, I can put stamps. Snap&Read is updating constantly. It was one of those things where we could make the sell that way to go these things that you want, it does them. It may not have the other thing, but how often are you using it?
(Laughing) You don't need to put the glitter on the page, I promise. It's not going to ruin your whole lesson plan. That was one of the neat things. But I have to say, too, one of the best stories I get to tell people -- (clearing throat) -- when I was working for YISD and we were talking about how do you guys work so well, and your departments seem in tangent, and you get communication and feedback from your ITS.
I said it's great because I know things started to change really drastically and that we were never going to go back when I would sit in some of those meetings and somebody else was talking about the accessibility features and it wasn't because I asked them.
You know. That was something that they would bring up on their on, or they would say and it does this. And it wasn't that I had to point it out. I didn't have to go, what about this. It was something that was already part of their thought process when they were looking at these tools. For me that's what I was like, we've really got something going here. And I'd say we're in the home stretch. It's a never-ending journey. I felt like it was never going to take a 180 and go backward.
We want to talk a little bit, because I don't think we have any questions yet. So, because we did say this was a journey and this took us several years, we just put down a couple first steps and final thoughts. Instead of me just reading these out, I'm curious for you, Erick, what would be your first step suggestion for somebody? You can cheat off this. (Laughing)
>> It's send out those introductory emails. It's about that, because you don't know what don't know. And honestly, having somebody to bounce ideas off of, having somebody to communicate with and say you know, this may not be your specialty but I think I can pick your brain is a powerful tool, even if it's just one and two until you develop that relationship, knowing you have somebody else you can communicate with makes things easier.
Introduce yourself to as many people as you can that you work with across different districts, across different companies, across different platforms, because that's just how you get things done sometimes. Definitely don't be afraid to send that first email. Even if you don't get a response, that's okay. Somebody else will. So don't be afraid to introduce yourself to multiple people.
>> In the world of education, people have crazy inboxes. They may not respond, but they probably read it, they just haven't gotten back to you. I know several people that that would be the case. They'd say, I've been reading all your stuff. Okay. Great. Now I don't have to catch you up on all of this. I agree.
Mesha, what's a final thought or a first step you have?
>> Going back to those introductions, again. But, being open. You know. I think that's, you know, we all have our eyes on our prize, that's right in front of us. But sometimes what's right in front of us we need to look beyond that because that's where the goal really lies.
And again I'm giving you lots of props today but you deserve all of it because you've worked really hard here. You did an awesome job. We miss you so much. You were so open to anything that we had. You were always at every training. It was never like, I can't make it. You were always there to offer us support, but also to learn. That said a lot, because you were like I want to learn everything I can because I want to turn this around for students. That's what it's all about. Keep the eye in mind, which is our students, right?
>> And I think for me, and I'll just kind of speak to why I felt it was important for me to go to those trainings and things like that, is I wanted to make sure that -- this is going to sound terrible, but I wanted to be able to speak the language of what those ITS teachers were talking about, but I also wanted -- while I could not fully live their experience, I could at least speak to it a little bit more, especially when I would talk to -- unfortunately, a lot of times some of our special education teachers still were feeling out of the loop, either in trainings or getting information from the campus.
It's its own little thing. If you don't plan for it properly in terms of how you're going to provide your teacher trainings and your communications, it's very easy for some of those teachers to get lost and fall through the cracks. But I felt that because going to those trainings I could speak a little bit more to what could actually be holding up the ITS person, or what the ITS person needed from the special education teacher to get XYZ done.
And I don't want to say I was trying to act as a liaison. But I think it helped the teacher feel a little bit more connected to the campus when I could say, I know such and such. He did this. Blah, blah, blah. Or I know right now the ITSes are expected to do this for inventory, so that's probably what the delay is in him not hitting your campus right now.
And so once they kind of heard that they had somebody that could fill in the gaps for them if they didn't feel comfortable approaching their ITS person directly, I think that helped a lot for them, too. That was one of my big benefits for me to be able to go to all of those trainings, because then I would know they're doing inventory this week, or there's this big, huge -- we're doing the hour of coding coming up this month, so this is going to be the expectation over here.
Or I know there was a tech fair for the students, the showcase. There was the big showcase. So because I knew of those things -- and those aren't things that ITS teachers are necessarily telling the rest of the campus because that's not -- it's more of an interdepartment thing. It's not a whole campus thing. But because I could say this is why they haven't gotten to you, or why they asked for this particular information, I think it really helped make that connection for them.
So, for me, I think some of the things that I always want to remind people is just say yes. Even if it sounds silly or not your job. Don't say yes to everything and completely overwork yourself. But don't limit yourself because you think that's not what you're supposed to do.
I think that was one of the biggest things for me and that's also been a big help. And that's not just as the AT person coming. That's something for the IT person, especially, because it's very easy for an ITS person because they have so much to do.
Some of them have classes on top of managing devices and doing PD training for the teachers, and maintaining the websites. It's a huge long laundry list. But I think because I was able to run into so many of those teachers that I would ask them for something that it could very easily, they could have said that's not my job and go away, you have your on special funding for that, you don't need me. But they said yes. And our students were all the better for it.
We had a student who was visually impaired. And the VI teacher contacted me and was like, well, we need -- I can't think of the name now, but a textured model of the cell for biology. Normally she would order from Lighthouse for the blind to get the materials. She said it takes weeks. And I just got the syllabus.
I didn't know I needed to order this. What do you think we can do? I was like, I know what we can do. Because the school that he was -- the student was in, I already had a nice connection with the IT teacher. And I also knew because of my conversations and my trainings that I attended, I learned that every single campus had a 3D printer. And I was like, I know there's a printer on this campus and they're going to be able to help us out. I knew the person already. I called them up and said, hey. If I give you a file can you print this out for a student and he had already helped me with a student for some iPad issues we had. He was like, totally, we can do that. We printed up a cool 3D model of the cell.
And so I put him in connection with the VI teacher. That way as the syllabus changed they could just make those requests and get them the files that they needed. And it was just something really easy that they'd go, I totally can do that for you.
He could have easily said, those 3D printers for the robotics class or for this. You have to -- you know. There could have been any number of legit reasons why he could have said no, but he said yes. We got the material faster. That led to cool conversations we were going to have in terms of what else can we do with these printers? You have all these printers. You're not doing anything with them.
Let's make some cool stuff out of them and not just necessarily accessible materials, which are good, too. But what are some other things we could use for all of our students and have those conversations. And so that's always my thing to people. If it's within your means, at least a little bit and you don't feel like it's going to overtax you, go ahead and say yes, especially if it's an easy yes. Easy asks, always say yes.
So I don't think we have any questions yet. Any other things? We are already talked about it not being overnight. Training and supports for all departments. I think that's a big one. I think just making sure everybody is on the same page, especially when we would have big rollouts of materials and letting everybody know exactly what the requirements are.
I know with our engagement, when we first starting rolling out the Chromebooks it was very hard for me to have to remind people that the fourth-graders had these Chromebooks. When they go to fifth grade, they weren't going to get them. They needed to document.
That way we knew if it was going to be in their IEP, that would be taken care of. But it was making sure that everybody was communicating on those lines. They weren't just saying where is the Chromebook, he's in fifth grade. Did you not listen when I told you? (Laughing) Just trying to make sure that they understood across the board.
Any other first steps we can think of?
>> I think you hit them all.
>> If you are a campus-based person, hit up your AT. I know different school districts are set up different ways. Sometimes you just have one person per campus. Sometimes they have one person for a whole district. Sometimes they're not even called the AT person. Maybe you have OT or PT. Make sure you're making those connections with everybody.
So we do want to just lightly touch on the Center for Inclusive Technology and Education Systems. This is a program that's coming out of CAST. We wanted to talk about them because A. it is a great resource for you if you are interested in this world and journey of inclusive tech where you're looking at combining assistive technology and educational technology and informational technology, making sure that all of those things are being -- increasing their effective use of those by the students and their families, because we want to build that school capacity, that district capacity to build those sustainable ecosystems. So that's really the big goal of the CITES program.
We want to mention it because you will notice the map of the CITE district partners. We have a map of the United States. There are several that are in yellow and those are the framework development sites. So these are sites that are -- or states that are coming together to actually create some documentation for districts and schools in terms of, you know, what do we do first, how do we -- what are our next steps and what are some things we need to think about.
And then the orange states, and Texas is included because it's us, and I think another district or two, is the knowledge development states. So these are districts that they contacted directly because they had experienced, you know, developing these inclusive ecosystems and are pulling those stories, data, and knowledge to help develop that framework.
We are listed as one of their knowledge development districts. We wanted to give a shoutout to YISD for that. If you want to take a peek at their website, I see Mark put their main page in there. That's a great way to get to it.
You'll be able to get to all these key questions to ask when you're creating that inclusive ecosystem, the five things that AT leaders need to know about inclusive systems, five things that ed tech leaders need to know. That's one of the other things I really like about what they're trying to do over at CITES, is what we try to do as well.
It's not just Jessica has to come to the innovative learning department to get something done. Innovative learning knows they need to come to me to get something done, too. It was very symbiotic. It was going both ways. It wasn't just a, because Jessica says this we have to do that, or I guess she has to sit at the table for compliance issues.
We looked at it from the approach of how do we help our students out and do what's best for them. That has benefitted us in terms of that future forward.
We have a question. And I promise I won't talk. (Laughing) I'm going to read it out and then I'm going to have our two experts here answer it for us. So, it says I work as a User Experience Strategist for a curriculum publisher. Lovely. I would love to hear how you both assess potential curriculum products for accessibility compliance as well as measure that solution after purchasing and implementing once it's in the classroom. And what are some of the most common issues that you have with purchased curriculum products? So, I will let you guys take it away a little bit, and if I need to I'll jump in.
>> Do you want to go first, Erick?
>> Sure. So, I think it's a step-by-step process. The first part is simply what are we purchasing. The curriculum, are we talking about a textbook or implementation in the classroom, models, etc. Speaking to some of it is the content base. Are we talking physical content curriculum, meaning we've got textbooks, packets, etc.? Are we talking about online content?
There's a difference in terms of how we evaluate those. If you're talking about physical media that we will be giving to teachers and students then it's about, okay, what is -- is it a generic one for every student type copy, where there's no differences. Then comes the issue of how do we adapt this to a student with special circumstances.
If we're talking about visually impaired, if we're talking about handicapped students, we have different types of disabilities. How do we specifically cater now that curriculum to that student. And so we come to this checklist. It can be a bit of a stretch to think how will it fit for one student, because you don't know what kind of student is going to be in your classroom. You may get a brand new student from one day to the next and now you have a new scenario.
But part of it, are we able to adjust this curriculum for this type of student. If it's online, part of this is that visually impaired and also disabled. As Mesha mentioned, some of the tools we have here, the read aloud. A lot of our context, being able to read the pages. We've got to make sure if it's PDF-based that we've got some type of reader that can actually read from that context page and it's not an image where it can't read. Then we have no tools to be able to provide for that student and that curriculum becomes worthless to them.
You've got to make sure it's accessible on that end, it works with the different readers and devices, whether it's on an iPad, a Chromebook, a personal device at home, because we do have homebound students that may be using something at their house that may not necessarily be something we're providing.
Our expectation is still that the student can participate just like if they were having anything we would provide as a district. In terms of once it's in the classroom -- go ahead.
>> I was going to jump off that a little bit. We do have -- I'm only going to speak to what I know before I left. This may have changed. What we do have in terms of any kind of specific compliance, because we are the state of Texas, for our federal grants and programs when things get purchased through that department, they are required to follow the Texas Compliance of Accessibility.
You can go to TEA and get more information on that. Part of what I was doing with the Textbook Adoption Committee as well is we included some additional areas to consider. So when the Textbook Adoption Committees reviewed materials, they were given a form that they would go through, rank different -- did it serve this purpose, does it have -- is it online. If it's online, how can you access it. All these different things.
And we did include on that form as well some specific accessibility guidelines. I wouldn't say they were the most advanced, but it was also a way for us to make sure that those committee members were having that conversation that they could have it fairly comfortably on their own.
So it was talking about things like, you know, if there's videos, do you have captions for those videos. Are all the materials available to the students, you know, downloadable or things like that. So we did have some basic accessibility compliance on that form. And I think it may be available on the website. I'm not sure if it got pulled down or not. (Clearing throat) That we include it. So that was part of our compliance in terms of that accessibility compliance.
Now, in terms of measuring for that solution after it was purchased, now, that's something where I don't know that we've ever tracked that data or at least if we did I did not get a chance to fully participate in that followup with the textbook adoption committees where they would look at hey, we purchased blah, blah, blah. Company X's book. How did implementation go.
I could say off the top of my head just from talking with teachers if it was a book, nobody was using it. If it was online, you had a better shot of somebody actually implementing the material. So I can speak to that at least a little bit. But I think we were just starting to get to where we were going to try and collect that implementation data to follow up.
>> On top of that, I think it's about the user experience as well. If I'm looking at something and I've got two tools and they -- one does a lot of stuff but it's really difficult to get through, I always have a teacher in my mind and I'm not going to tell you her name, but she's a teacher that I taught with for many years and was very tech un-savvy.
And she's the one that I go to in my head. How would this experience be for this teacher.
When I base anything, this is super easy, or I don't know, this might be a little too much for some of our teachers. Because not everybody is going to be a pro. Not everybody is going to be right there at the beginner level, either. But we want to make sure that we are able to service all of our teachers as well as our students.
But it's really important that everybody has that good user experience. If I've got two tools that can do the same thing, and one is really hard but the other two are so easy, I'm going to go with the two every time. It might be one more cluck, but if it's way easier, I'm going to want to use them.
>> That speaks to the common issues that -- when we're purchasing things. If it's so cumbersome to access all those wonderful tools, then it's not doing anybody any good.
>> Go for it, Erick.
>> We've started looking at analytics a lot. When I say a lot I do mean a lot. As a district, we are very aware of our special funding, especially as a result of the pandemic. And we're aware of the amount of resources that teachers and students have available in their hands. Whatever we do we want to make sure we choose wisely.
With those analytics we're able to tell we've got 2800 teachers. How many of them are using it? Is it 100%, 90%? Then we can identify, okay, that 10%, who is it? Or talking about the same with students. We as a district use Clever and identify how many students log in. 90%, 100%, who is the demographic who's not logging in.
Any platform that can provide robust analytics will go a far way. That's the only way to measure success aside from getting phone calls saying I am this type of teacher, how do I use this, because I don't know or I didn't get trained. Even though we get those phone calls, I don't think we won't, we've minimized that as a result of that communication. We've come down to say let me not sure any population is well-trained, the user experience is well set up, because it helps solve a lot of the stuff. If you can set it up the first time and they have a great experience, you'll never hear from them again.
>> They will use it. They're not going to put it away.
>> Just a quick followup, if we do run into any issues, do we go back to the publisher and say fix it, or take it upon yourself to fix it for the student? I think it's a little bit of both. I know for -- especially when you're in the moment, sometimes things get purchased and they fell through the cracks. That's why I jokily said we changed the name to the hardware /software acquisitions committee because things got purchased that we weren't sure of what was going on, but we did the best with what we got and we fixed what we needed to for our students.
But I know even if as I'm fixing things I will contact my publishers or vendors and say hey, can you do something about this. Usually depending on what it is, they'll either say yeah, an update is coming, or it's a feature that we will definitely see the following year. And it's one of those things especially when you're looking at the adoption committees and things, if they don't see the features they want, they're not going to vote for it. And only the thing that gets voted for are the things that are going to get purchased through the districts.
>> And I will say we really don't -- especially in our district, I'm sure many of you are the same. We don't take no for an answer. That's not the way we work. Because at the end of the day it's a resource for our students. And it could be an issue. We want to make sure that every single student, especially in a remote year like last year, no may not be an answer for the student at home that does not have access to the teacher, whose parent might have been working, who didn't have another hand to hold them through. That is not an option for us. Absolutely we try and work really well with our manufacturers, vendors, publishers, anybody we can directly. Because it really matters.
Not only do we improve the system for ourselves, but by default we improve it for anybody else. We always take an opportunity to provide feedback to our publishers and say this is something that we've experienced and noticed, please improve this for us. Give us early access to a future, make us a beta tester, whatever you need so we can make sure that we're meeting our need and by default we're also making that better for everybody else. So.
>> All right. We have quickly run out of time, but I want to make sure that we show you the Twitter -- where you can follow Innovative Learning at Twitter, @YISDInnovativeLearn. Specialeducation, @YISD_SPED. and we have Erick, I can't talk today. Erick and then we have Mesha. So you can follow all of them. And of course you can follow us at Knowbility on Twitter for all of our upcoming events as well.
Thank you for a wonderful conversation. It was nice to go down memory lane and hear about exciting things coming up in terms of analytics and progress being made on some of your other projects. Hopefully we'll see wonderful things from y'all in the future.
So, with that, let me remind you Toolkit Tuesdays is continuing next month on October 5th. And I forgot to change the title screen on that one. My apologies to Carye and Nicole, they will be talking about Assistive Technology Trends Part I. There will be a part I October 5th and then on November 2nd, 7th, it will be part 2. So it will be a 2-part series on that one starting Oct 5th it will be Assistive Technology Trends with Carye and Nicole from Austin ISD. They have some wonderful wonderful information for us. Always a good time with them.
Thank you everyone.