Title of the Event That This Transcript is For
Toolkit Tuesday: Trending AT in School with Carye Edelman October 5, 2021 1:00 PM CT
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>>Jay: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us for Knowbility's k-12 Toolkit Tuesdays! We were thrille d to see so many people interested in this topic, so we hope you get a lot of good information out of it. I am Jessica or Jay McKay. I am the Community Programs Director here at Knowbility.
K-12 is is something a little close to my heart —it's where I started out in accessibility so I'm really excited about today's event. This is actually going to be a two-parter series, so Part One will be today and then Part Two will continue on in November. So our topic today is Trending Assistive Technology in Schools Part One and we will be joined by the wonderful Carye Edelman. So for our agenda today we are looking at — we're actually going to be watching an excerpt from the AccessEDU presentation that happened in June of 2021 and that was the Assistive Technology Trends in k-12. If you did not see it you are in for a treat. Such good information. Following that excerpt we will actually have Carye with us here so as you're watching the video please type up any questions you have as as we go through. I will make sure that those are all collected and that we are able to go over those with Carye. She loves to chat and talk about this kind of — about this kind of stuff as I do so I'm really excited to get some good conversations going this afternoon.
So with that let's go ahead and get started!
>>Carye: This group and I, we're going to start today talking about some trends in k-12 assistive technology, and the agenda for today is kind of to talk about those trends, talk a little bit about instructional versus assistive and how those two kind of play in the sandbox together, or sometimes
don't. Accessibility with digital text, that's been a big thing recently since we've been doing so much online learning. That has really kind of reared its head for educators in a way that I don't think people have thought about before. Universal Design for Learning. Common assistive technology tools and terms. And then built-in technology on the PC and Mac is the first — this part 1. Part 2 will go into some more detail on Chrome and iOS and those kinds of things.
So some of the trends in AT that we're seeing right now have to do with the mainstream technology. So, so much of the technology that we use right now is what we consider mainstream. iPads. Everybody uses iPads. Chromebooks. Standard laptops when needed.
And previously, I know I go way back, so there were years before where a lot of the technology and stuff we needed for AT was not mainstream technology. It was more proprietary. So one-to-one technology initiatives have changed also that. For our district, when we had to go to remote learning, all students were assigned a device, either an iPad or a Chromebook.
So now where our kids might have been the ones that had technology and not everybody else did, now everybody has the technology in the classroom.
Extensions and apps. Extensions in Chrome, Apps and things on iPads, and even apps in Chrome have become huge in terms of the functionality. Devices with multiple functionality. So we have devices that have touch screens. That's pretty standard now. For a long time, those were very difficult to find, or you had to modify the computer and enable it to make it a touch screen. Alternate keyboards.
On screen keyboards. All that kind of stuff. And then collaborative tools. Tools that allow students to actually interact with each other while they're online. To share, to share screens.
So, lots of things that have changed. In many ways, very positively for students with disabilities. In some ways, it's created new barriers for students with disabilities, too. I'm going to turn this over to NeCol, and NeCol is going to talk to you a little bit about this instructional versus AT.
>> NeCol: As Carye was saying, with mainstream technology tools now being available to everybody, the lines between what is just instructional technology and what is assistive technology has become blurred and at times difficult to know when should we mark this as AT and when is this just available for everybody.
And so this kind of helps us to define that. If it's necessary and required, if it increases the student's function, if it ensures FAPE and progress towards participation in the student's IEP, then it's AT.
One of the examples I like to use is that if we're getting ready for that student and we're looking at their testing accommodations, and we think that that student needs for text-to-speech to be available to them for testing, then we also need that student to be using text-to-speech on a daily basis, in the classroom, and make sure that text-to-speech is in their IEP and documented well. For in the classroom and for testing. Often we find, you know, a student will have calculator for testing but they don't have calculator marked for daily use.
And so it's looking at those type of things and making sure that students have access during the day and for testing.
>> Carye: Okay. There it goes. Okay! So this is just a little example. So I'm going to start with this slide: "The News I Did Not Get."
So you guys are going to read that. The next slide is going to give you some information. So, read this. It says, "I have something really important to share. It may affect your health, your safety, and your ability to access your education and justice and could save your life." Sorry. "Please read it here."
Okay. How many of you can read that? Nobody. Because there's actually nothing there.
The idea being that this is what a lot of students experience with digital materials, with materials that are placed in front of them. The teacher said, we need to do this, this is what your task is, they look at it and go, really? Okay. So this is just a nice way to kind of make that example for us. So contrary to the common assumption, and like I was saying before, this is something we really found out this past year with all the online learning. Digital does not mean that something is accessible.
So just because teachers upload something in a PDF or take a picture or make it a digital form that a student can access on the computer, doesn't mean that it's accessible to them.
So it doesn't mean that if they need text-to-speech or if they need something to happen that they're able to do that. And I think that was something that really a lot of teachers -- I know we talked to a lot of teachers in our district —that really had not thought about some of those things before, and when kids started asking questions or somebody was saying, "he can't do this, he can't interact with this," they were — I think it kind of took them back a little bit. So it was a huge learning curve, I think, with all of the online learning. So digital materials and accessibilities.
So the do's. Videos with captioning. So if you have students that can read, don't hear what's happening, the captioning is there for them. Multiple ways to navigate. So not just colors. So that's a big thing. If the online material says, you know, go to all the red dots to fill in your answers, if you don't see color, that means nothing to you. Alternatives to video or audio files. So, maybe having a text file of something that is a video. So maybe having the transcript so that there's an alternative way for that person to get that information. Presenting things with logical order.
That's a big thing. People that may use keyboard control to go through a document — if your tab order is not correct, it may be jumping them all over. Same thing with a website. So you need to make sure that those things are done in a logical order, so that somebody that's using an alternative access is not going to be totally confused by your material.
And then accessible for all students when delivering content. That's a big thing we try to talk about. That gets into a whole lot of issues, is that if we talk about accessibility and we look for accessibility, before we even purchase products, before we put those products, if we think about that first when we're looking at content and curriculum, then the material is available for everyone. It becomes accessible for all students.
And there's an old saying that, you know, what's good for one is good for the many. I think that's very true when you talk about accessibility and you talk about assistive technology. So many of the supports that we use are good not just for students with disabilities, but for any student. It could be a bad day emotionally, and if I could have that read to me instead of having to do it myself, I get more out of that content. So it's good for all.
So when you talk about accessible, assistive technology. So there's also a thought that the assistive technology is the thing that comes into an accessible document or an inaccessible educational material and makes it available or accessible to students.
Can it? Sometimes it can. Sometimes we still have barriers to even that and we're not able to make it accessible. So one-to-one technology initiatives. There are lots of assistive technologies that are built into the devices that are provided to students.
Can those meet the students' needs? Can some of the things that are built into an accessibility feature on a Chromebook — text-to-speech, speech-to-text — could that meet those students' needs as they are on the device, or do we need to look at specific devices so that students can interact with those materials? So do we need to look at something beyond what is available built in to those technology, the one-to-one initiatives. Not all digital materials will work with assistive technology. So they must be accessible from the start. If they're not, then we're not getting it — sorry, then we're not getting the accessibility. I clicked too fast.
So just some things to think about. Assistive technologies are the things that can help bridge that gap, that can help give kids access to their educational materials, that without those assistive technologies, they may not be able to interact with those materials.
But there are still some barriers that do their rear their head, even with the assistive technologies that are available, and we have to take it one step further. We have to look beyond what's built in or what's available. And we have to think about how we're creating those materials from the start, from the out. It's much easier to create accessibility from the beginning than it is to try and go back and retrofit something to be accessible after you've already done the creation. So I think that's something we have to think about too as educators. All right, Shira.
>> Shira: So going right along with that, we want to talk about universal design for learning a little bit.
You may or may not have heard about that. It's something that's been in the sort of discussion for a long time. And I will read this quote. It is from — this is what's used in IDEA based on the definition, found in the AT Act of 1998.
And it says, "the term universal design means a concept or philosophy of designing and delivering products and services that are usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities which include products and services that are directly accessible without requiring assistive technologies and products and services that are interoperable with assistive technologies."
So that goes right along with what Carye was saying about digital materials, accessibility, accessible educational materials. If we design lessons, if we design educational materials with accessibility in mind from the start and from the get-go, everyone will benefit, not just those with learning differences, it will benefit everybody who is in the classroom.
So UDL in the classroom looks like a lot of different things. According to CAST, which is a very good resource for UDL information, if you just Google — I believe it's cast.org, you can find a ton of resources about it. And I think we have it listed on our last slide for resources in this presentation.
According to CAST, research has shown that the way people learn is as unique as their fingerprints. So it could be that someone takes in a lesson and information in an auditory way, or in a visual way, or they need to have both. There are a ton of different ways that people — that students might get information and UDL keeps all those things in mind when you design lessons, when you design classroom activities and learning.
So another thing that's important to think about is that UDL presents information in ways that adapt to the learner instead of asking the learner to adapt to the information. And that really brings it home for me when you think about it, because I think a lot of times, lessons are designed to get the information across without really deeply sort of keeping in mind the students that are taking in that information.
I saw a great video about a teacher who was using all different kinds of ways for students to not only take in the information, but also output their responses in different ways. So they could have different seating options in this classroom while they're processing the information, while they're generating their responses. They could generate a video to demonstrate their knowledge.
The teacher that I saw said that one group of students baked a cake in order to turn in their assignments. So basically, what they did is, for a story, they did the beginning layer and it was like a top layer, then the middle, which is the biggest part of the cake, and then the ending or summary, and then they covered it with the icing that showed all the details.
So that is just a really good way for students to help the information become meaningful to them, and they have all these different means of expressing themselves, taking in the information. So UDL minimizes barriers, maximizes learning for all students.
The only other thing I'll say about it is you can think of it, as another example, like captioning on a TV. Just as a good example. At night, when you are watching TV and the captioning is on, captioning can be great for those with hearing differences or if one partner is asleep and watching the TV and the other partner is up and they're able to read the captions. So it's really good for everybody. That's universal design. The next slide we have is this little cartoon that I think is so cute and funny. It just says, clearing a path for people with special needs clears the path for everyone. And it shows this person shoveling the walkway of snow, which we don't really have much here in Texas, so I have no experience with this.
However, what they're saying is — the person shoveling says, "all these other kids are waiting to use the stairs. When I get through shoveling the stairs, then I will clear the ramp for you," and the person in the wheelchair says, "could you please shovel the ramp? If you shovel the ramp, we can all get in." So that's just a really good demonstration of UDL.
So what we're going to do is cover some tools and terms for assistive technologies. We want to kind of back it up to the basics. If there are things that you may or may not have ever heard of, we're going to break it all down and try to make sense of all of it. If y'all have any questions, feel free to chat about it, and I'm going to break down some of these basic terms of assistive technology that we use a lot with our students.
Number one, text to speech. If you've never heard of it, it is a technology that reads aloud digital text. I get a lot — sometimes teachers and other people in the educational field will start to say text-to-speech, but they mean speech-to-text. So those can be kind of interchangeable in people's minds, but they are distinct from each other. It is any time you've seen any text read aloud on your phone, on your Chromebook, on your iPad, that is a voice read aloud from that device.
So, some text-to-speech services highlight as they're being read sentence by sentence, and some highlight word by word as it's being read aloud. For students who struggle with reading, research has shown that synchronized highlighting word by word helps to boost reading skills, but you can see both.
They're both out there in the world. So, text-to-speech is built into Chromebooks in their operating system. It's built into iPads. It is built into computer and PC operating systems.We also have websites that a lot of times are having accessibility tools that are built in, including text-to-speech if you click on, sometimes they have a little accessibility link. It'll offer things to be read aloud through text-text-to-speech. We also have text-to-speech apps that come on mobile devices and software and extensions that come in Chrome or can be downloaded onto computers that provide text to be read aloud.
Speech-to-text. Like I said, this is sometimes interchangeable. I don't know if any of you are in the AT or accessibility field, but you can sort of raise your hand to yourself. Yes, I have definitely heard people say I need text-to-speech for a student and what you mean is I need speech-to-text. Those things, they get mixed up sometimes in people's minds.
Speech-to-text is when you verbally speak into a device and have the device, quote unquote, write the words for you by your speaking and so it's also called, could also be called dictation, voice-to-text, or speech recognition, or some other words for it. It is built into those same devices. So built into Chromebooks, built into mobile devices, built into Windows computers. There are apps — apps that exist both on a Chromebook and apps that exist on mobile devices, iPads, things like that.
One thing to know about Chromebooks is their app section is I think outside the Chrome environment, so there's like a little app launcher, and some of them do provide a different environment for doing speech-to-text on those devices. Chrome extensions that we have, some are paid, but come with the speech-to-text in the free version. And they provide speech-to-text using their own microphone, sometimes they're using like the built-in Chrome interface that allows for speech-to-text, and also dedicated software programs that reside on machines. And that could be something that you might have heard of, like Dragon, which allows voice control but also speech-to-text for the entire device.
And then word prediction. Word prediction is one of the best tools we have for some of our students. It helps students who are struggling with spelling, grammar, all kinds of different things. What it is, it's a program that tries to predict what word a student is trying to write/type after typing one or more letters. The predictions are based on frequency of use of the words, grammar, and rules of spelling. So it can kind of be like auto correct or autofill, whatever word you would use for that.
But for word prediction for kids, basically, to make it more accessible for students, word prediction programs for them will adjust the vocabulary level based on what their knowledge is of what they're talking about, or writing about.
Word prediction that is built into a lot of devices that may already be there, they may or not predict words that are above their vocabulary level, so they may need assistance, and that's where text-to-speech can also come in and work together, where you can have maybe some of those vocabulary words read aloud if they don't know those words.
So word prediction is built into Chromebooks. Like I said, for a lot of these features, they're built in. You've got paid apps for mobile devices. Those are the really smart word prediction programs for our students. The ones that we do have licenses for. They learn how the student writes and types and what words they spell and don't spell over time as they use the program more. But it's also built in as a free feature into iOS and mobile devices. It is pretty easy to use. You may or may not have seen it on your phone or iPad.
It's right there on the keyboard on top of the keyboard that you can just click on it and it auto-fills the word. When those are predicted, they may or may not be readable by a student who's struggling with reading or writing.
We've got Chrome extensions that are some of those same paid programs and they work beautifully with Google. And then some dedicated software programs that can, again, reside on the machines.
So, built-in tools — built-in assistive technology tools for computers and Microsoft products. A lot of these tools, we are very fortunate that Microsoft is making accessibility more forefront in their products, so it's a great thing to see, and it's awesome to see for all of those devices out there.
In a personal computer, PC, the ease of access center is in the control panel, and that's where you'll find a lot of these accessibility features. If you want to just have a student with a device that you're able to just turn on some of those features and ease of access, Narrator is going to be a screen reading program. So that's going to be more for your whole device control.
Magnifier is exactly what it says, it sort of magnifies things so it can be seen easier. But speech recognition is speech-to-text that's available on the device, and it comes with that device, and when you turn it on, it's right there. You use the microphone and you type into, quote on quote, "type", to any of the text fields that are available to be typed into.
You also have an on-screen keyboard with word prediction that you can turn on and off. It comes at the top of the keyboard, so you're going to see your on-screen keyboard and you'll see the word prediction that's at the top there and it will try to predict words that most people will use. Like I said, it's not going to be as friendly for students as maybe something that's built specifically for students, but it's still there and a good option to use when you need to use it.
If anyone has ever heard of Eye Gaze, there is a feature in PCs that works with Tobii Eye Gaze hardware, which is controlling a whole device using that eye gaze software and that eye gaze device. So that's a really cool feature that is newer to our world. Next would be Carye.
>> Carye: Okay. Some other things that have happened with OS.
Some of these, I can't access because I don't have a new enough computer, but I've been able to see them online, is that there are learning tools now that Microsoft has added into their Office 365.
Most of these are available only if you have a paid subscription. So, some of this is not available in the free versions. But there are some cool things that they've kind of added.
So they've added the text-to-speech so that you can actually now have something that you may be working on, something you've opened in Microsoft. You can have — and it works with highlighting, so it highlights as it reads — and you have some options of how to change that.
Text spacing is another thing that's kind of cool. It increases the space between characters, words, and/or lines. And for some students, reading across a computer screen can be a little bit problematic. If things are too close together, they lose their place.
We've heard a lot of that happening over the last year with all the online and being on their computer all day. There's a whole thing with fatigue. I have glasses that have the blue tint in them, so that when I'm on my computer, it kind of helps my eyes from being so tired.
Syllabication is something that's kind of cool, it will add little dots in the word to show how many syllables words have. So that to me is kind of an instructional tool that you could use, if you want to — if you're teaching syllabication. Color filters where you can change the background color. So you have options of text color, background color.
Column width, so you can change, again, line lengths which, sometimes for some students, bringing in those columns, bringing in those margins, and then maybe increasing the space, so that's a shorter line that they're reading across, can be good. And then focus is kind of a cool thing, and that's offered in not just Microsoft, but Microsoft has added that to their suite of learning tools. It's offered in some of the apps and things that we use, and it's, again, another way to help kids focus when they're having to read on a computer screen. So what it will do is it will dim the background, and then highlight individual lines of text or a couple of lines. Usually you can control the width of that highlighting of text, but you can — it follows your cursor down the screen.
And again, it's just another way to help students be able to focus when they're reading digital text online. It's under the view menu, if it's available, and you can see I've got a picture of it. There's a whole bunch of little things that you can do that are kind of cool.
Immersive reader is probably one of the coolest things that Microsoft has done, in that it does a lot of things that we have proprietary apps that we'll do. So, it integrates the learning tool features into an application. It's actually located in the menu bar.
When you click on it, what it will do is if you're on a page with text, if you click on the immersive reader, it takes the text and it opens it in a new window. And in that window, you then have access to some of the learning tools. And the example picture here basically kind of shows how it automatically — it clears clutter off the page. It puts some spacing in between. The text-to-speech is available then. And it also has a picture dictionary for younger students so that if you click on a word, you can actually have a picture of that word show up, which is really, again, kind of a cool thing. Another thing that they have added now is that there is an extension for Immersive Reader that you can put on a Chromebook, and when you click on text on the screen or right click on the text on the screen, one of your options says Read Me, and if you choose that, that's from Immersive Reader, it will now read the text on the screen and highlight. So that's another very cool thing that they've added.
I know in AISD, in Austin, we use Canvas as one of our learning tools, and students are in that, and Immersive Reader has now become part of Canvas. So students have access to text-to-speech for any of those main screens, they're able to click on the Immersive Reader tool, it will take that text into another screen, and then they've got the text-to-speech available to have things read.
The other things that are in, in the Editor. Spelling, you can turn spelling on. You can —it has a grammar check now that's built into it. So you get a different underline, and it will help kind of figure out if that makes sense grammatically. There's a clarity. So it will go through and give you a score as to whether or not what you have in that paragraph reads clearly.
Does it make sense. Does it follow logical order. It does some stuff like that. There are vocabulary tools that can help you along the way in Microsoft. So, lots of little things for students that are in that higher incidents disability category, or learning disabled students, a lot of things that can help them as they're working through writing. And then there's also accessibility checkers built into Microsoft. So now you have access to being able to creating a document, we have teachers that have found this to be very helpful, even though we're really a Google district.
For those teachers that still like to use the Microsoft, you can go in and create a document, and then you can run the accessibility checker, and it will give you some information on what you might need to change to make that work with assistive technologies or that document work for students that you might have that use text-to-speech or some other tools to support them.
Text suggestions. This has been added.
It basically works like a little word prediction program. It will offer up to three words. It's a little drop-down box that shows up on your screen when you're typing and it tries to predict what you're —what you're trying to type. So it's a very cool little new feature that's been added. So something to look for if you're a Microsoft Office district or if that's what you use. Nice to have that available.
In PowerPoint, there's now live subtitles for video. So that's something that you can go in and say use subtitles. So you've always got that option. Word and PowerPoint. Auto alt. That's under accessibility. So alt text for images, that's one of the things that's really important so that if you have somebody that's using a screen reader and they're going through a PowerPoint presentation, a Word document, you've got a graphic in there, something that's not text, you can add that alt text to it, which gives that person a description of what that not text is, what that picture is, what that graphic is, whatever that is that you've embedded into your document.
And with the accessibility checker, it automatically will kind of notify you that that is, that that's missing. So that's kind of a nice little feature they've added too.
Alright, next thing we're going to go to, I'm going to turn it over to NeCol, and she's going to talk about some of the built-in tools for the Mac operating system.
>> NeCol: Yeah, let's see. So, VoiceOver. So basically, there's a lot of wonderful accessibility tools that are built into the Mac. When I was exploring these tools on the Mac, what I did find was that — some people may need some help getting it all set up in the beginning, but once everything was set up on the Mac, it was so easy to use, as far as using Siri to ask for help with accessibility shortcuts and to get to the terms that are available to have all these shortcuts function on the Mac. Being able to change the keyboard so that it's more accessible. Using switch control to control your Mac.
There's just so many things that were easily accessible in the Macs. Accessibility shortcuts and also in the accessibility tools section.
One of the ones that a lot of people may benefit from would be the zoom, which is that magnifier. Hover text, as Shira talked about earlier. The text-to-speech and speech-to-text are both available, built into the operating system of the Mac.
The Mac can also use color filters, cursor size can be changed, dark mode. Siri was so fun to use to control the Mac. And you can set up a grid on the Mac and that way when you — you can give Siri commands to do this and do that using the grid control.
And then also predictive text that Shira talked about is available on the Mac. And sticky keys, which have been around for a long time. But what I found was really helpful with the sticky keys is often on the Mac, to get to some of the shortcuts, you have to select several keys, and for some people, that may be difficult, so you can turn sticky keys on so they can access them in order one at a time and still get to that same functionality.
So that is kind of the Mac — let's see, I have another slide, I think. The accessibility panel.
This slide probably should have been first, but to get to [laughter]
>> Carye: probably
>>NeCol: Yeah. To get to access the accessibility features, this is how you would get there. It's the option, command, plus F5, which is one of the reasons I was saying that the sticky keys may come in really handy in trying to get through that to get to that accessibility panel. But once you're to the accessibility panel and you're able to toggle stuff on and off, it works brilliantly and is really friendly to use.
One of the newer features on the new Macs, which is not on my Mac at home, so I like to watch some videos and stuff on it, was the Macs that have the smart keyboard, and then within your smart keyboard on your Mac, you can set up your favorites so that those keys like the Word predictions, text-to-speech, speech-to-text, so you know, you can dictate to the computer. You can have that all on your computer and it's super easy and friendly to get to.
On some of the newer keyboards, the other way to be able to get to the accessibility panel was to triple-press the touch ID. So that was really cool, too. It looks like it makes it a lot easier to get to that accessibility panel. But that's only available on the newer models.
Sorry I kind of rushed through that last slide, but I know you guys are eager for questions and I want to get back to that conversation. Hopefully that covered it though.
>>Jay: There we go. So there's some great questions already in the chat and I'm going to ask my assistant, Mark, if you can help pin Miss Carye our guest of honor, the person that was able to put up all this wonderful content for us today and Carye, I did not do a proper introduction for you and your team so if you can just give us a little brief intro on the accessibility or the assistive technology team for Austin ISD and then also, because this was recorded over the summer, I think kind of the question a lot of us have on our minds in terms of assistive technology is, what's your current status? Right like, how are you serving kids right now? So if you can give us a little update on that as well.
>>Carye: Okay. We are a team of four in Austin ISD. We have an assistive technology specialist for 504 we have a speech therapist on our team who works with the other speech therapists in our district for those students that have complex communication needs, and then we have three academic, high-incidence assistive technology specialists. I'm one of those and you heard NeCol and Shira in the presentation as well. So we have 129 campuses in AISD and so basically our aug. comm. specialist works with all campuses and all speech therapists, our 504 works with all and then the other three of us split. We also do support the life skills and the scores units, and I mean it all kind of comes together into one big bundle. But we do have the district kind of separated into thirds for each of us. In terms of this year, AISD is not virtual. We are back, brick and mortar, and so we are back to serving students in person this year, which I'm so happy about because Ireally missed my kids. I missed the students last year. Last year it was very difficult to serve students. We had lots of kids we had to just really kind of patch things together for through the COVID and through the virtual until we could get with them. Some students we were able to do virtual evaluations, but many students that was not possible. So we, we're back to trying to catch up and get all that done. So that's just a little bit about us.
>> Jay: Alright, excellent. We did have a question on — we'll make sure that we get contact information for you here at the end — but also access to the slides. That is something that if you would like, we can make available to our viewers and we'll post those to that Toolkit Tuesdays link that we posted earlier so we'll make sure that those are up there as well. And I could be really sneaky and say we'll make them available in November so everybody has to come back for part two. [Laughter]
So if you want the whole kit and caboodle you've got to come back for the second round. Everybody please feel free to add some questions. If not, I'm going to go through my list here because I was really excited to to have a chance to to talk shop about assistive technology in schools today with somebody. So I'm going to just kind of go through my next line of questions until somebody else pops in with a question.
So we did talk about, you know, the difficulty of having to support students that are still receiving services on online or virtually and I know right now you're kind of lucky that most of your kids have been back face-to-face, but what were some tricks of the trade or what did you find extremely useful when you were having to work with a lot of your students in those virtual spaces?
>> Carye: I don't know that I'd call them any tricks of the trade because a lot of it was trial and error, more error, and more error. I know for me, I had — there were — I had a couple of students that when I could have them share their screen with me and then I could kind of guide them and say no, go up to the top right and click here and then I want you to — that seemed to be the most efficient. Them watching my screen was was much, much more difficult for them to do. And I had some students who didn't have support at home, and so even having somebody help them navigate to get to a place where they could share their — sometimes that was difficult. So it was really it was really hit and miss for a lot of our kids. We spent a lot of time making a lot of little videos, how-to videos capturing what we were doing. And kind of guides, and then we would send those to the students so they would have something to watch and that would kind of guide them through. So we did a lot of that — real quick, down--and-dirty things. You know, how to get that extension turned on, how to, how to use a specific feature of an extension. So there was a lot of that that went on. But other than that we didn't have like anything that we went, "Oh my god, this is the answer and now we can we can get to every student!" It never turned out that way.
>> Jay: Yeah, yeah understood. When I was — when I was working for my district, I did find one of the the plus sides of working virtually or having everybody connected through, you know, Google Meet and things like that, was when I did have to do an evaluation and we were using something like uPAR, I could hit record and I could just have that data. Oh it was so nice. Or when they're doing the DeCoste and I can just go back and and check the timings and see what happened.
And so I know, for me, that was a really nice thing to be able to kind of actually see what was happening on the screen without just kind of hovering over their shoulder taking notes so. You know you —
>> Carye: I think another takeaway for us was, because students were at home and we weredirectly connected with parents at that point, which we're not always when they're brick and mortar, we had a, I think we had better buy-in with the technology because the students were a little more supported and I'm not bashing anybody. I mean I know how hard it is on a campus. You know, we try to train teachers. We always invite parents to training. We always try to include them. It's not always as possible, but when they're right there in the room together and you're doing it, they're right there. And it, I really think that helped a lot of students that maybe otherwise might not have been as connected to the supports as they were being virtual. So that was another thing that was really interesting. And I really did enjoy about the virtual learning is that that contact with parents was so much more beneficial I think and I think it really benefited the kids.
>>Jay: Alright we do have a question here. Let's see, we have — so many tools that were in some of our toolkits are no longer available because moving to the Cloud and things like that. What are —what types of tools are you using that are not available as built-in, especially for students needing switch access or additional hardware to provide access to the curriculum?
>> Carye: That's a good question! We still have switch interfaces. We still have some of the down and dirties that we've always had. So, so we still do use switch interfaces. And AISD —I mean so much of that is not happening anymore because every student has access to either a Chromebook or an iPad. So as much as possible, we're working within that — with those two devices. We're trying to keep students on those devices.
We still have some proprietary augmentative communication devices. We still have some students that are not using iPads for communication but using another device. We do have — we have some students on eye gaze systems. So that goes a little bit above and beyond our Chromebooks. We still have single switches. We still have some low-tech communication. The voice output, single-voice output, Step-by-Steps, Big Macs that kind of thing.
So we're still using a lot of those same things for those students that need that kind of interaction. The environmental control units, we still have those for that student that needs that kind of functionality. But by and large, we really are moving away from a lot of that standalone technology and really moving more into the mainstream, and how we can make the mainstream technology work for any student. So we're finding a lot of those tools are kind of being warehoused. A lot of that is kind of going away. So yeah. Yeah, that, that is kind of the nature of the beast. We're also dealing a little bit, now that we're back brick and mortar, with some wanting to go backwards a little bit. Back to paper and pencil. So that's kind of a new thing.
>> Jay: Oh! Yeah, I have a question on that, too.
>> Carye: Yeah, that's a thing we're starting to confront a little bit.
>> Jay: Yes and you were you were mentioning switch interfaces and I know, for my district and for some of the others in my area, when people were — all the students were going one-to-one on Chromebooks, you know we ended up having to actually increase our inventory of switch interfaces because now of all of our students that had those physical disabilities, we needed them to interface with the computer and the only way they were going to do that was through switches. So it's, you know, it's like you said, using that current technology and making it work for our students' needs.
>>Carye: Right, right.
>>Jay: And a lot of external mice too, because those track pads are just hard.
>>Carye: Yeah we have that. We do have that. Yeah, we've moved to a lot we have a lot of students that requests external mice, yeah. So.
>>Jay: Yeah those trackpads are hard.
>>Carye: We've had more trouble with the Bluetooth devices. So that has not been the easiest thing for us. And I — we're still, we still have a couple of students that are using those and not always successful. So.
>>Jay: Alright, so I'm actually going to talk a little bit — because your your conversation about you know, some teachers trying to go back — I did have a question. And everybody, please feel free to to drop in some additional questions as we're talking here. So one thing that I want to talk about — you know, we're talking about students, or our interaction with parents, of course, now has increased, but also we're seeing students having to be a little bit more responsible for their technology or their accommodations. And I want to talk about maybe some things. Specifically, how do you help students advocate for themselves or make sure that they're getting access.
So I'm going to give a specific example for something that happened to me. There was a student — we had device. We had, you know, all these different apps in place, similar to what you had talked about in the video.
All these things were assigned to him but the teacher decided, once she got them all back into her building, she was like, "No no no no, we're done with Chromebooks. Everybody's getting a packet of paper" and that was it. And he felt stuck because that was his only teacher that was making him use the packet of paper. So it wasn't like we were seeing it across the board, but we were — we were, you know, noticing some things weren't right. But he specifically didn't know what he was supposed to do about that. So I guess my question is for you. How do you help your students with that that self-advocacy?
>>Carye: It's a tough one, because that's a student-by-student — again, some students gravitate naturally to kind of being their own self-advocates. I think students that really understand the assistive technology that they're using, and really embrace that it does work for them, have a much easier time being a self-advocate for themselves. I think students that are kind of in that waffle area where they kind of use it sometimes.
Or if somebody reminds them, they'll go. You know, then that becomes a whole different issue. I think another thing for us that we've always struggled with is trying to get teachers trained. So it's always been one of those things that, if the teachers understand what the technology can do for kids, then they're more likely to not — students are more likely to not have to be their own self-advocates. But teachers are more likely to say, "Oh wait a minute. I know that there is this text-to-speech thing that's built in and we can activate that. And then you can go ahead and get that document read."
You know, that kind of thing. So I think there's a big — and that, that's tough in a big school district. Our turnover is, you know amazing, incredibly — it, yeah, it happens a lot! And so — but that's a hard thing always, is, I mean that's probably one of the hardest things that we deal with. But again, I think that all goes back to again, it's the training, the buy-in from the students. You know, their understanding that this really does make a difference for them. And then, I think, you know, teachers being open. And the bottom line is if they have an IEP, it doesn't really matter. It has to be done.
So I'm sorry but you might want your packets, but his IEP might say something else. And you're going to have to accommodate for that. So yeah, that's, that's a tougher one. I see — real quick, I see a question on here about Bluetooth devices. Most of the ones I'm referring to are the the Bluetooth that comes from AbleNet, the switches, where we've got a Bluetooth connection that way.
That sometimes can be kind of problematic.And sometimes it's better just to have the wire.
>>Jay: Are you finding that they're getting their signals confused if you have too many in the room?
>>Carye: Yeah there's that. And I think when you've got — you've got motorized wheelchairs in rooms, and you've got other things going on in the rooms, smart boards, you've — I mean and kids connect — there's, there can be a lot of interference with some of that, so.
>>Jay: Do we have a any tools for someone writing with the switch or navigating the device by switch?
>>Carye: That's a good one. I have to put some thought into that. I haven't encountered that for a long time. It would probably — I mean the first thing that comes to mind is that you would want to probably look at a word prediction program. But then that, that depends on the literacy of the student. So, is it something they can do auditorily? So if you had something like word prediction available with an auditory-type scan, would they be able to then locate? But that, that's a tough one and I will tell you, I worked with a young man in AISD since from the age of four who's now graduated from UT who was, had a physical disability. Sharp as a tack, bright as you can, as they come, but his upper body just didn't work well for him. And he still to this day struggles with writing. That is still the thing that he has the most difficulty with, is written work and the production of written work. Even with everything that's available now.
So that's, that's one of the toughest ones but the first thing that comes to mind when you talk about switches would be something like word prediction because it can be used just to minimize keystrokes or voice
>>Jay: Or Clicker. I was thinking of too, depending on how you know, your, your level of literacy that that could be a good program.
>>Carye: Right. Something that allows you to make those choices through a scan, you know, using some sort of auditory scan would be the thing I would think of.
>>Jay: Alright so there was a comment here — and it kind of also ties in a little bit to my question too — but seeing more focus on eye gaze and not as many options for total switch access. And I think I think that's just kind of part of how both of those devices work and especially because we are, everybody going Chromebook or iPad. And as much as Apple tends to work on accessibility, those apps are made by third parties. They are not necessarily building them for switch access. So even though you plug in all those AbleNet switches doesn't mean that those pieces of software or apps are —
>>Carye: Just that those apps are going to function the way they would otherwise.
>>Jay: And so for me, I guess one of my questions is, because we are looking at tech that is — and kind of going back to your your video — you know, instructional technology, assistive technology.
It's really that kind of idea of inclusive tech now where everybody has this technology. So what are some trends that you're seeing from the instructional tech or the ed tech side that maybe us as, you know, the AT contacts or the specialists or the advocates need to be aware of in schools to make sure our students that are using AT, you know, that that those connections are getting made. So maybe something like the idea of, make sure those apps are switch accessible and not just assume everybody can use eye gaze or touch.
>>Carye: Well what you just said would be the perfect world. You're right. If the tech department would come to us and ask us those questions prior to making those decisions, we could, we have a whole lot of things we could offer up to them. Does that happen? No. And that's probably one of our biggest frustrations, is that we are all, we feel like we're always playing catch-up. So when the district decided to go to Chromebooks and to move in that direction, basically we were forced to move into Chromebooks because they took laptops off of our bid list. So the only thing we could purchase for students that needed something like that was a Chromebook. So we very quickly had to figure out how do we work with a Chromebook. Now we can order laptops after many days of you know arguing and fighting. So unfortunately I'm probably not the best person to ask that question because that has been an ongoing struggle for us, is we tend to know what the trends are with with mainstream technology only because we're all involved outside of school in mainstream technology and we all have a interest in it.
But what happens in terms of our district and the decisions that they make in terms of what they purchase, and how they purchase, and what they look for when they purchase — that's a whole different beast that we have not made the kind of inroads into that we want. And I know there are some smaller districts around Austin that have, even have access to a tech on their AT team and their — so there is some stuff happening,just not in my, not necessarily in my space. We have a great tech team. I'm, you know, we work well together. But it's usually us coming to them and asking, you know, or saying, "We've got this. We need to figure out how to make this work." You know, or, "We need to add this extension," or "You need to make this available." So we're still kind of in that, in that role.
>>Jay: Okay well, thank you! And I'm just going to make a quick plug again for our website. We do have a video from September where we talk with the team from Ysleta ISD. And that is their instructional technology department, so if you want a little bit more in terms of how those roles can kind of interchange and interact with each other.
>>Carye: Yeah and they do a great job of it in Ysleta. I learned a lot from that.
>>Jay: Alright, so it looks like we have one more question. Any trends you are — oh, there were two more.
>>Carye: The iPad Pro.
>>Jay: Yeah, the iPad Pro. Using the eyes for programs. Do you have any particular ones off the top of your head?
>>Cayre: I don't. It's not something I've been in, we've been involved with directly at this point. The eye gaze programs that we have — that the systems that we've been using are the Tobii Systems. We've not really done a lot with the eye on the iPad Pro. So we have only a couple of students that are using iPad Pros at this point. Okay so I don't have —I'm sorry, I can't answer that question.
>>Jay: That's okay. Well we'll have to bring you back on later and get an update. Get our hands on a couple iPad Pros. [Laughter]
Alright, and then any trends you are seeing in terms of transition to post-secondary programs in AT?
>>Carye: Probably the only thing that, that — again, I think the only trend that I'm really seeing is one of the things that we're trying to do with our high school students especially that we work with that are transitioning, is to give them and make them aware of as much as we can that doesn't require them to have a license or be tied to their current district. So access, helping them to find extensions that we'll do, helping them to make sure that they're very aware that text-to-speech is built in or speech-to-text is built in. And if those are things they rely on. And I think because so much more of that is mainstream now, it's less — we have less of an issue with that transition to post-secondary for a lot of our students. That's not true for everybody.
That's mostly for those high-incidence kids and those good-body babies that, you know, are not struggling with that part of it. But that's pretty much the most — is that I think the biggest trend is that so much of the technology that kids use in post-secondary is the same technology they're now using in high school. And it transitions very easily for them so.
>>Jay: Yeah, and especially if all they get to take with them to college is their iPhone or their, you know, their Android, a lot of those things are going to be available anyway.
>>Jay: Well this time has just flown by! Thank you so much for your time. I can't wait for us to continue this discussion in Part Two. I'm going to throw up the screen really fast so I can make sure everybody has that information.
So please, please — if you still have questions, if you want to see the conclusion of Part Two, we will be back again on November 2nd. Same time, so it'll be at the excerpt. So this will be Part Two of that presentation from AccessEDU.
And then Carye, of course, will be back again so we can do these deep dives and further discussion on AT trends in schools. So thank you so much, Carye! This was great.
>>Carye: You're welcome! Thanks everybody for being here today!