Monday, October 1, 2007 goes free of charge!

According to their website,, which is a repository and supplier of digital texts for individuals with print disabilities will no longer be charging schools for access to its repository. A Department of Education grant in the ballpark of 32 million dollars over a 5 year period allows for this to occur. This funding will support all students in K-12 schools that qualify as having a print disability.

This has tremendous implications for students in K-12. has traditionally taken a liberal stance on print disability eligibility. Some other alternate text organizations have viewed the requirement for a 'qualified individual' that can determine whether or not a person has a print disability as being a member of the medical profession. As stated on their website, accepts different proof of a print disability from different professionals, based on the nature of the disability.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Thinking about UDL...

I was approached by an administrator the other day who asked me to explain 'UDL' to him. I began explaining that UDL is a shift in thinking and curriculum material design that allows teachers to meet students at the individual level and offer tailored scaffolded instruction while hooking into those things that engage the each student. I gave some brief examples, all of which, involved some integration of technology and spoke to the UDL tenets of Multiple Means of Expression, Engagement and Representation. He listened intently and then said, "Well UDL is basically a rehash of differentiated instruction with technology, right?" I paused, sighed (I have heard this perception before) and tried to explain it again. However, I'm not sure that I was successful.

Since that experience, I have been sincerely thinking about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with respect to bringing it from a theoretical level to a pragmatic level that is easily understood by teachers to implement in their classrooms. In thinking about UDL, it struck me this morning (in the shower...where the best thinking occurs) that the problem with UDL is that it is a goal, a state of being, that has not yet been reached and, consequently, has not been experienced. This, I think, or at least is my thinking at this point, is the crux of the issue. We are in the process of moving towards this UDL utopia and, therefore, filling in the blanks. So, please indulge me as I ramble and try to add some thoughts to those blanks.

UDL, I believe, has two major components: universally designed materials and universally designed instruction. I will try to speak to both in turn.

UDL, as many people know, came from UD, or Universal Design. UD comes from the field of architecture. No new news there. However, this piece, I believe, plays a crucial point in realizing UDL. The key here is that curriculum materials used in the provision of instructions must be designed in a way that meets students 'where they are at'. A couple years ago, I heard Dave Edyburn describe UDL as a built in control panel for curriculum materials where teachers would just have to choose the right setting based on the student (e.g., readability, prior experiences, degree of pictoral support, etc.) and the curriculum material with automatically adjust to meet the student's needs. Well, I think it is safe to say that we have a long way to go here. However, steps, like NIMAS, are being taken to move in this direction. This 'design' level has much to do with establishing and setting policy as well as law. But since we do not currently have UDL designed curriculum materials, that leaves us in a sort of UDL primordial ooze.

In the interim, we look to existing and emergent technologies to adapt existing materials to, hopefully, approximate UDL designed materials. Text readers and the addition of picture supports to text, multimedia adaptations or integrations into various academic experiences add depth and provide differentiated experiences for students. The incorporation of various Web 2.0 and other digital technologies allow students to express themselves in a multitude of ways.

However, regardless of whether teachers are using UDL designed materials or attempting to approximate UDL designed materials through adaptation, there is a pedagogical component to UDL. Specifically, a teacher needs to:

  • Differentiate instruction for diverse learners.
  • Know strategies, resources and tools that can be used to differentiate instructional experiences for students.
  • Know how to use these strategies, resources, and tools.
  • Know how to teach the students to use these strategies, resources and tools.

To this end, there is an interesting line of study that discusses the relationships between technology knowledge, content knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge. Quoting from
Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of the TPCK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK).

I believe that it is only with universally designed curriculum materials and the use of the those materials within sound pedagogy that has been influenced by UDL tenets that UDL will be realized.

Just some thoughts...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Left Thumb Blogger

I was surfing through my RSS feeds (do we surf through these, roll through these, drown in these...not sure what is most and I came across this video of an individual who is an avid blogger and who uses assistive technology as part of the blogging process. Check it out!

My colleagues at the university and I have been discussing the need to focus on 21st century skills within relation to, not only preparing the future teachers with whom we work, but preparing these future teachers to prepare their students to be 21st century learners. However to do so effectively, it is not enough that we prepare our teachers about using technologies that lead to 21st century skills in our future teachers but we prepare these future teachers to differentiate the access and use of these tool to enable success amongst diverse students.

Way to go Glenda! What a great video!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kelly Fonner Workshop

I am attending Kelly Fonner's workshop entitled "Technology Toolkit for Reading", which is a part A of a two day workshop that will conclude with Scott Marfilius on October 12th. I was really impressed that the presentation began with a differentiation between assistive and instructional technology. This tends to be an overlooked area in many other presentations that I have attended. Quoting from the presentation:

"Assistive assists students to complete tasks. The student requires its use because it [the task] can't be accomplished any other way. Instructional technology assists students in acquiring information. Is used for a period of time to acquire of reinforce a certain skill."

Great presentation that took participants across areas of reading skills and pairing interventions (including technology) that can instruct and assist students.

Resource Links Provided:
Added by me (because a colleague told me to do

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Monday, June 25, 2007

NETS - S Unveiled

One of the first sessions I attended unveiled the ISTE NETS for Students. This version of NETS-S focuses on using technology for learning rather than just learning technology. This is extremely exciting! I do wonder what impact this will have on the education of diverse learners, including those students with disabilities. This version seems much more inline with the 21st Century Skills that have been out for a few years now. There is a great interview with the Don Knezek about the NETS-S Refreach project at

As a teacher educator, I am both empowered and concerned with these revisions. On one hand, I feel this 'refresh' provided validation and leverage to begin discussions about how we can better prepare teachers to allow their students to meet these standards. However, at the rate postsecondary education programs change, I am concerned when these changes will actually impact and be realized in teacher education programs. There is much excitement with these standards, in that, technology is being emphasized as the vehicle by which learning occurs. This has tremendous impact on pedegogy and methodology in the classroom.

SETSIG Preconference Workshop a Success!

Sean Smith, Kathleen McClaskey and I had the privilege to work together for a SETSIG sponsored preconference session. It went very well! We covered topics related to strategies to differentiate instruction using tools that are readily accessible. There were a few technology glitches but what is a technology workshop without a few glitches?!? The thing I found most amazing during the preconference, beyond the information presented, was the use of the wiki. During the workshop, participants and leaders both allowed the wiki not only to be a structure for the workshop but also used the wiki as a living document during the workshop. As people had additional information, it was added to the wiki in real time! Such power there is in collaboration!

Some photos from the workshop:

All and all, a great workshop. Participant comments indicated the worskshop was wll received. Here's the link to our workshop wiki: Feel free to sign in and add additional content!

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Night Before...

Tonight is the night before the SETSIG preconference session at NECC 2007 on Differentiating Instruction for Students with Diverse Learning Needs with Readily Accessible that's a mouthful! It is being co-presented by Sean Smith, Katheleen McClaskey and myself. Specifically, it is focusing on technologies related to reading, writing and math.

The workshop is coming together well and I look forward to a full day of great experiences!

There is a wiki that we are maintaining for the workshop...check it out at Feel free to add content!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Inaugural Post

Well...I am starting this new blog...a personal one of sorts.

A little about me. I am an assistive technology specialist that works at the Special Education Assistive Technology Center at Illinois State University. I have been working in the area of AT for a little over a decade.

I am very interested in all things related to using technology to meet the needs of diverse learners. I am hoping that this blog will allow me to share my thoughts and discoveries within this journey.