Leading Inclusive Practices: Make Learning Accessible for Every Learner in Your District

March 01, 2023 Center on Inclusive Technology & Education Systems
Leading Inclusive Practices: Make Learning Accessible for Every Learner in Your District
Show Notes Transcript

This edWeb podcast is sponsored by Center on Inclusive Technology & Education Systems.
The edLeader Panel recording can be accessed here.

Students with disabilities confront many systemic barriers that prevent them from complete independence and participation in the general education curriculum. In this edWeb podcast, you discover a framework of evidence-based practices, developed by the Center on Inclusive Technology & Education Systems (CITES), which have been co-developed by a cohort of diverse school districts across the country. 

This free framework provides a guide for effective collaboration across EdTech and special education empowering school districts to create and sustain inclusive technology systems to serve all students. Specific action steps for district leaders with practices focusing on leadership, teaching, learning, assessment, technology infrastructure, and family engagement are provided. You learn from EdTech and Assistive Technology (AT) district leaders from Jenks Public Schools in Jenks, Oklahoma, who share successes and hurdles. 

This edWeb podcast is of interest to K-12 education technology leaders, assistive technology leaders, and school and district leaders.

Empower school districts to create and sustain inclusive technology systems that serve all students.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

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Christine Fox 00:17.21
Well, welcome everyone. Thank you for your patience. Today, we are talking about inclusive technology practices. Our title is "Leading Inclusive Practices: Make Learning Accessible for Every Learner in Your District".

So I'm excited to be here today with two colleagues, and now friends since I've worked with them over the last year on our Center on Inclusive Technology and Education Systems otherwise referred to as CITES.

So each of our presenters is going to share something about themselves. So I am Christine Fox. I'm the Project Director at CAST, and my project is CITES, the project we'll be talking about today. Excited to be here. My background is in education, over 20 years. I started in the classroom. I was a reading coach and I spent the bulk of my career in education technology and supporting state education leaders with SETDA and district education leaders with CoSN. And I've been here with the CAST team for just a year. And I will give- my colleague, Maggie Pickett, it is not on the slide here, but she is in the background supporting both the content and the logistics of our event today.

So I am passionate about inclusion. I worked at the first inclusion school here in Palm Beach County, in supporting all students so they have access to the tools and resources they need to be successful. And I'm gonna ask my colleagues to introduce themselves. And with that, I'm going to ask them each to share one thing that folks may not know based on their LinkedIn or their CV.

Janna Greathouse 01:51.54
And the one thing that you may not know about me is that I have 27 first cousins just on my mother's side and 39 total, so that's just a fun fact about a big, large Irish family.

Hi everyone. My name is Janna Greathouse and my current role is as a District Assistive Technology Coordinator in our school district, Jenks Public Schools. It's just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. And my background is as a speech pathologist. And so I grew up in Oklahoma. I went to school for speech pathology in Oklahoma, moved out to the Carolinas for a little while, practiced in the school settings there, and then we moved back to Oklahoma and I've been in this current position as a system technology coordinator for about 10 years, maybe more. I lose count. But I've learned so much as, you know, being in this role. I've learned a ton of things, and our work with CITES has just added to that learning.

One thing that you might not know about me, and I just thought about this this morning, is- and I thought it was really funny because I started thinking about this strengths-based leadership quiz that I took years ago and I just looked it up in the results because I kept those, but number three, my third biggest leadership strength is inclusiveness, or as an includer. So I just thought that was kind of funny that that's what we're working on is inclusive technology practices and that's what we're talking about today, and I was like that's what I'm going to share. So that's all about me and I will pass the baton to Samantha.

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 03:59.38
Okay. My name is Samantha Reid. I'm the Ed Tech Coordinator for Jenks Public Schools. I've been in this role for the last eight years. Before that, I did a similar role for Tulsa Public and before that, I did a similar role in Las Vegas in Clark County School District. So I've been in ed tech for quite a while. I did teach first through third grade for about eight years before I jumped into ed tech, but been in the tech world for a long time now and this is truly my passion in life. Kind of my fun fact; I love to paint rocks so I paint rocks all the time. And I know everybody always asks, "Well, do you go hide them?" I haven't in the past but that's something that I think I would like to start doing, so maybe when my daughter and I go hiking I'll start bringing some of our painted rocks that we do and hide them out in the woods or something, I don't know. But that's my mom, we always did them for my mom's little garden so she's got a rock garden full of my painted rocks. Oh fun. We have them here. It was a hot thing for a while when my girls were little.

Christine Fox 05:06.49
Alright. Well, wonderful. We're excited to hear your expertise today. I'm gonna jump into sharing a bit more about our objectives. And so for all of our participants, we hope you will leave today understanding what CITES is, hearing some highlights from district leaders that you've just met, learning about some of our resources, and most importantly, feeling empowered to be able to do this work in your district, in your school, and we know we have some international guests, so folks around the world.

So while we're talking and I'm sharing a little bit more background information, we'd love to hear why you chose to attend this session today. And I'm just gonna keep going. We have a resource document. So you can see here there's a QR code, and my colleagues will also post this link in the chat, and this is a resource document that has information about CITES, the various links that are available within the slide deck, as well as a link to the slides. And then it will also be shared within the edWeb community that was mentioned earlier.

So just so everyone understands, our grant, the CITES Project is a grant that CAST, a nonprofit organization based out of Massachusetts, won from the  US Department of Education Office of Special Education. And so you may know CAST as the original authors of the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines and the framework around that. CAST has a publishing arm, so if you have a book about UDL, it probably was published by CAST. And then we also do quite a bit of research and development,
so CAST has two technical assistance centers from the Office of Special Education. The one is this, CITES, and the other one is the National AEM Center. The National AEM Center provides support for accessible educational materials. At CAST, we have several commitments. One is- you can see on the right that our content is openly licensed. Well, I will say because this is a federally funded project, all of our content is openly licensed, so not all CAST materials- I just mentioned we have a publishing are- are openly licensed, but this, all of our work is. It's paid for by your tax dollars at work so we encourage you to reuse and remix any of the resources we share, self-assessments, content on our website, other resources. Also, we work to ensure that our content is accessible.

So we use the POUR acronym you can see here; perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. And below are just a list of some tips that provide-ensure that your content is accessible. So there is a link on this slide that goes to a full suite of resources around designing for accessibility and we encourage you to check that out.

So before we really dig in, we wanted to take a moment to talk about what we mean by accessible. And accessibility is when we talk about what anyone needs to be able to do, their interactions with their environment, or personal preferences themselves. Based on definitions from the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Education, you can see here through this graphic that a person with a disability, if it's something is accessible, they should be able to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services-and this is the key, especially in education- in an equally effective, integrated manner with substantially equivalent ease of use as a person without a disability. And so- and we also think about things being timely. Right? So if you have a student that comes into your district in August, they shouldn't be waiting 'til October or November to have the tools they need, the device, the content being accessible. There are also specific guidelines. That's a whole other webinar on Section 508 compliance of the Rehabilitation Act, and also the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. But we just wanted to kind of level the playing field today to let you know what we were talking about when we consider inclusive technology practices and things being accessible.

So as I've mentioned, our center here at CAST is focused on empowering school districts to create and sustain inclusive technology systems so that there's specific collaboration between ed tech and you- Samantha mentioned she has an ed tech background- AT, assistive technology, which Janna mentioned is her area of expertise, and IT as well- I believe Samantha works under the IT leadership- so that all students with disabilities benefit.

Our work is based off of the National Education Technology Plan of 2017. Some of you may know that this plan is being revised as we speak and will be relaunched- or a new version will be launched in 2024. But we took the National Education Technology Plan as the baseline for developing the CITES Framework. So what do we mean when we talk about inclusive technology? When we talk about what the technologies are, those are the tools and strategies that reduce or remove barriers to the learning experience. So the captioning today may be one of those things as well as using text to speech tool or a speech to text. Some students need- with more complex issues may need a switch or a braille keyboard or whatever it may be. So those are the tools. And then when we think about an inclusive technology infrastructure, we're really talking about access to those assistive technologies and accessible content to support all students at all times. And so with CITES, we're really bringing folks together to make these things possible. The framework itself is broken out into five core areas, which are the same areas that the National Ed Tech Plan is also based off of: leadership, infrastructure, teaching, learning, and assessment. And we have family engagement linked throughout each of these practices because without the input from families, without the reflection from families, without engaging with families, really none of these areas can be successful.

And I'm gonna go over to the website in just a moment to be able to share, you know, what this looks and sounds like. But before we do that, we want you to know that apart from the National Ed Tech Plan, we did do quite a bit of knowledge development around this work, and that included working with these framework development districts that are listed here in addition to the knowledge development districts, which are in the darker orange, and those districts provided examples.

So throughout the site, there are exemplars and case stories of where things are working, inclusive practices. In addition, we completed literature reviews, we collaborated with a variety of partners, both nonprofit and companies, to better understand what districts need. I'm just gonna spend a couple minutes, because I really want to spend more time hearing from Samantha and Janna. So here on the CITES website, you can see that the topics I mentioned earlier are across the top and each one of them has an overview, and then there are a set of practices. So each topic has a specific set of practices that we provide, and then we have action steps to meet those practices. So here's one example, personalized learning devices. We have these four steps that will support the ability for students to have those personalized devices, and we want to make sure that we give as many resources as possible. So at the bottom, there are resources as well. We have a whole resources page, an excellent glossary if I'm throwing around terms that you're not familiar with. I know when I started this work, I wasn't as familiar either. And then highlights of a variety of district examples. So we encourage you to spend some time digging deeper. Also within each topic area, we have self-assessment, so your district can look at a field guide and see what you can be doing, and also look at the self-assessment to see- kind of do a pulse check on where you are in this work. So Samantha, do you want to start us off?

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 14:22.84
So Jenks, Oklahoma is located just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma so we are a suburb of Tulsa. If you're driving through, you won't know where one starts and one ends. They're just kind of mixed together. We have 10 schools in our site. I won't read every fact on this slide, but just so you kind of get an idea. We're just shy of 13,000 students in our district. Something unique about our district is that we have a high refugee population. Catholic charities got involved in Jenks and so we have a lot of students from Burma, so we have a lot of these students that only speak Burmese and Zomi, which are very difficult to find any resources anywhere in the world for. And then now, we're getting a lot of students from Ukraine as well. So a lot of students are coming to us with a lot of poverty, trauma, and then we also have had to get a lot of alternatively certified teachers in our district. So these are some kind of the challenges that we face to meet the needs of all of our students. Great, thank you. And I'm going to switch over to Janna and tell us, why did Jenks get involved in CITES?

Janna Greathouse 15:46.41
So the first that I heard about the CITES partnership application was through a contact that we had through the the state's AT program at Oklahoma Able Tech. And she had reached out, and I think maybe she decided to reach out to me because I'm constantly calling them for things. I'm surprised they haven't blocked my number. But to their credit, they're amazingly supportive and I think they just thought that we might be interested in a partnership with CITES. And so we took a look at the application. I ran it by my director and then our technology executive director to see what they thought, to get ideas and input. They were both very supportive. They said yes, go ahead and apply and then we'll see what happens. And so the application information said all the right things; evidence-based. Joy Zabal, if you're not familiar, she was a part of that- of the initial team before she, unfortunately, passed away. But we submitted the application and found out March of 2020, just before the whole world shut down, that we had been one of the districts selected. So we were very excited.

Christine Fox 17:14.70
Well, that's great. So we're going to just take a moment and find out from our participants today, you know, why did they join our session today? So we want to know, like, you know, what your role is related to inclusive technology. So I'm going to launch the poll and we hope to hear from you. You know, what is your role as related to students with disabilities? Well, thanks for so many of you for jumping into the poll. And it looks like we have quite a few administrators here today, as well as general education teachers, and then a ton of other. So if you're other and you're willing to share, it would be great to know in the chat, you know, what your other role might be. Parents. Parent, good. OT. School psychs. Nice. All kinds of roles. Wonderful. Thank you. Alright. I'm gonna end the poll and I'll share the results with everybody. Sorry, I thought everyone could see. Looks like, Samantha, you're in the minority here as far as ed tech, but that's okay. That's okay. Great. So now as we kind of go on, we heard about sort of the why of why Jenks joined this project, but it would be great to hear more about its impact on, you know, the actual work itself and how it impacted Jenks.

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 19:13.85
Okay. So basically, how we got started after we our application was accepted, we kind of started saying okay, who needs to be involved in the CITES committee so that we can do this work? And so we kind of started with just like we had, you know, obviously ed tech, IT, and AT were involved, but then we were like okay, we need curriculum and instruction involved, we need some actual teachers in classrooms, we need some SLPs, some special ed teachers, some OTs. Like, so we kind of reached out and got a whole bunch of those people involved and through the three year process that we've been in, each time we've done a self-assessment, we're like hey, we need somebody from this role to be in. So we've- throughout the time, we've really added more and more people as needed. So we started around 20 people, and I think we're up to like 32 at this point of different people in different roles throughout the district. And then our first goal was to really- when we did our first assessment, our self-assessment, we were like all the questions were about our district technology plan and district technology vision statement, and we're like we don't have either one of those so I guess that's a great place to start. So like as a department, we had talked about that. Like, you could ask anyone in our department what our goals are, what our visions were, we all had them, it was just not written down anywhere. And then we, again Janna was a face in the hall, she was assistive technology, and it was like okay, those are her students, these are my students. It was her job, her role and my role. And so it was really becoming, like, building that community in our district full of district leaders and saying these are our students, this is how we're going to support them. And so we wrote that vision statement together. We created the infographic together. We worked on our technology plan as a group with stakeholders, not just ed tech and IT, but literally curriculum and instruction and teachers in the classroom. We have a parent on our committee. So really, we've brought everybody in to make sure that our tech plan is an active, living document. And so that has been one of our greatest successes in this process is just that increased regular communication between everybody. We've also done some revisions to the curriculum adoption process. So in the past, the curriculum department has gone through and just, you know, they go through their whole adoption process and after they pick, then they come to technology and say okay, make this work. Well, we flip flop that now where it's they send out- that when the RFP goes out, we have a vendor survey that we've created and we've asked about accessibility right up front. Christine mentioned the WCAG guidelines earlier, they're the Web Content Area Guidelines, and so anything that we look at has to be at least a AA rating or above on those WCAG standards so that kind- and then we were able to get all the information from the vendor up front what accessibility that they have available. And if they don't meet a certain standard, we don't even look at them, we don't even let the teachers choose those as an option. So we've really revised that process. And I'll let Janna talk about the other things that we've done.

Janna Greathouse 23:02.68
So I do think that technology plan has just kind of been a foundation for how we're moving things forward. We just recognize the need to lay out what we're doing as a technology department, and I say technology department now because ed tech has kind of taken me under their wing and so now I feel very much a part of the technology team related to really just to be a voice for our students with disabilities. So as a team, we worked on this technology plan to outline what each of the technology departments do, and then also to provide guidance when technology things go amiss. I mean, that happens, right? So we also used the results of our self-assessments that we took. There are multiple self-assessments that we took. And then as a team, we determined which of the indicators we were going to try to improve in. And so- And that was one of the great things about the self-assessments is that not only did it communicate what inclusive technology practices looked like for a district, but it was also just a very safe platform for conversations, for having real honest conversations about where are we as a district with regard to inclusive technology practices, and it was really eye-opening. And so we used those self-assessment results to inform the goals that we created for ourselves and we're constantly- our technology plan is a live working document, and I think Samantha mentioned that already. And so we update progress as it happens in that we are constantly adding goals to reflect the progress that we've made and we go back and review it, because I think if- I think we hear this in the special education realm a lot. If it's not documented, it didn't happen. And to flip that a little bit, I'll just say if it's not written down, it's not going to happen. So I think that technology plan has been instrumental in it's just giving us a permanent place where we can go back and revisit where we are and what we need to do next.

Christine Fox 25:41.76
Gotcha. And I, you know, I heard you both mentioned the self-assessments quite a few times, and in other sessions I've equated to having to go for your annual checkup. You don't necessarily want to go if you're not the weight that you think you are, you're guessing your blood pressure or your cholesterol isn't exactly where it needs to be, but those are the realities and that's why you have to go every year to kind of do that pulse check. Janna, could you tell a little bit about the level of impact your district leadership has had on this from, you know, whether it's the superintendent office or other spaces? How does the leadership team impact the ability for you to do your work?

Janna Greathouse 26:23.97
Absolutely instrumental. Like, I- We would not be where we are today without the support of the district leadership. And like I said, my director was the first place that I went to, she was the first person I went to with the application even and she's been very supportive the whole way through, and I would say the same for our Executive Director of Technology. Our superintendent is very aware of the things that have been happening. She had- When Maggie came to do a site visit with us, Maggie was able to share about CITES and the work that's happening and with our superintendent, and the superintendent then asked Samantha and I to present to our board and then to the administrators as a whole. And so I think she was very excited to see it, which is why she wanted us to spread the word and so we were happy to oblige.

Christine Fox 27:24.50
Very nice. Very nice. Before we move on, Samantha, do you want to share some of the things listed here that you've implemented as a result of this, like the Tech Thursday?

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 27:37.79
And so we have this alliteration thing with tech going on, so I apologize for all the Ts in everything but let me just explain what those things are. So Tech Thursdays, Janna and I, we have a- well, we use Google Meet. We have a Google Meet session that we are just available that spans all the lunch hours, so from 11 to 1, and it's the first Thursday of every month. And it's just a come-and-go session where anybody can jump on and ask questions that they have related to either technology or ed tech. And then we also do a Tuesday Tech Tips, which is through our platform, which is ClassLink. We can do announcements, and so we do a tech tip every Tuesday just on something, and a lot of them are accessibility related but not all of them are. Some of them are, you know, testing practices, some of them are, you know, did you know you can use this new tool in Canvas or did you know that, you know, here's a great way to organize your Google Drive. So we create all kinds of tech tips, and a lot of them are accessibility related. And then we started Third Thursday Thoughts and we finally got our- I can't really say it's our first one. But what we were trying to do is start a social media campaign to inform parents, because we've kind of been talking in our district, we're getting teachers involved in our work, we have leadership on board but we were getting feedback that parents, it wasn't reaching our parents. So we thought we'd start a social media campaign about some of the things that we were doing. Our first couple of posts just really didn't get any traction on social media, so we met with our social media or our communications team, and they were like well, we really would like to do it more like a story. And so we decided to kind of focus on some of our students that have benefited from accessibility that we provide for them. So the 1:1 is old news. You know, almost everybody is 1:1 anymore but what we do that's, you know, hopefully special- well, hopefully not special. Hopefully, a lot of districts do this. But students, we really look at the individual student and what they need to be successful, and so we're focusing on how some of our students are in mainstream classrooms because of the accessible technology that we provide. And so we just did our first story. So if you look at either Instagram or Facebook or even our jenksps.org website, the story about Mercy is on there. She is a young lady, she's in 11th grade now and she came to Jenks in third grade I believe and she was completely nonverbal. Most people didn't think that she was very intelligent. They didn't think there was anything going on when she came to us. And one of her special ed teachers, or was their OT I believe realized that she had kind of control of her big toe on one foot, and so they got her set up with a communication device. Find out this girl is really intelligent, funny, sassy, personality for days and because- and so the picture there on the bottom is her typing with her toes. And she, you know, wants to open up an art studio. She loves to do art. Like just and she's in all regular ed classrooms, she just needed that communication piece so that's what we provided for her.

Christine Fox 31:28.90
I just want to say, Samantha sent Maggie and I, my colleague, this Facebook link a couple of weeks ago. It was like right around Valentine's Day, so it was even like more inspiring to just see and learn so much about her and her abilities. For sure.

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 31:47.55
We'll have our next one, again, third Thursday will be our social media, so definitely follow Jenks Public Schools and watch for those stories. I'm really excited about the next one. We won't tell you what it is, we're going to keep it a surprise, but they're putting that story together right now and it's awesome. That is awesome.

Christine Fox 32:08.41
Well, there's a few questions in the Q and A. So one is: Do you think a lot of parents are on social media? And as a parent of teenagers, I will tell you that I'm still a Facebook person but I know my kids aren't. But I know most districts try to push content out, and you mentioned a variety of ways, like the website, social media. So I think it's a way to kind of get to different people where they are. I don't know if the Canvas announcements go to- or your learning management system announcements go to families as well?

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 32:41.99
No, they do not. At this point, they do not.

Christine Fox 32:47.66
All right. And there's a couple other questions but I don't want to get too far ahead. Oh, are you willing to share the vendor survey? And actually, I can answer that for Jenks because I'm excited to share that in a few weeks, we are going to be sharing additional resources on acquiring accessible educational materials. There's a ton of resources on the National AEM Center's website for procuring accessible materials but some of the work we're doing is providing examples, and Jenks was nice enough to give us that opportunity. So Nancy, stay tuned and you'll see that in just a few weeks. Let's see.

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 33:31.99
And I also- I did post a link to our website and on social media, but there's the website with Mercy's story if anyone wants to read it.

Christine Fox 33:40.88
I think we're going to get at- Janet asked how can we use this type of technology with students that are in the general education classroom but are also pulled out into the special education services? So let's keep that in mind when we answer some of the other questions. I think that'll be helpful.

So Janna, kind of speaking of this, and we heard one example with hearing about Mercy and seeing her photo here, you know, what are some of the assistive technologies that students are using throughout Jenks? And it'd be great to hear about what, you know, are specific to students with disabilities, but then other tools that might be available to all students.

Janna Greathouse 34:23.39
Sure. So I'm going to talk about tools that we have available to all students that started as tools that were only used for students with disabilities. So we have text to speech available, speech to text, which is now more readily available now that it's an option in Google Docs. We also have students who- like, we're 1:1 with Chromebooks in the district, but some of our students need touch screen Chromebooks or some other kind of adapted or modified student device for their academics. We also use tablets for communication apps for those students who need it. Again, just very individualized. For our students with disabilities, everything is an individualized decision, right? But more broadly, we have things like translation- sorry, translation software, we have text to speech, speech to text, we have vocabulary simplification tools, we have graphic organizers online, word prediction, and it's smart word prediction. And those are tools that are available to any student district-wide, so the the vision being that if we're seeing these tools with our students with disabilities, if we're also seeing our general education students using these tools, there's less stigma when they are in the general education classroom. And if our students with disabilities or our students who are English language learners are feeling supported by these tools in the general education classroom, they can remain in the general education classroom longer. And so that's that's my vision is that we'll have fewer and fewer students who will need to go outside of the general education classroom to receive the support that they need.

Christine Fox 36:35.40
That's great. That's great, and I understand the stigma. I think- I know your district and others have talked about even making- so if you use a Chromebook or a Macbook or a tablet, that the device looks the same. There might be different levels of RAM or they might have a touch screen, but the kids can walk around even with a device that looks so they feel, you know, as part of the group even if there are some special specifications they need.

Kind of following up with what you just mentioned, someone in the Q and A asked, you know, do you have any suggestions for students that use speech to text in the general education classroom because sometimes they pick up background noises and the students need to speak loudly, which then can be distracting to other students?

Janna Greathouse 37:27.76
Yes, that can be problematic for sure. What we try to recommend, especially for students with disabilities, because what we notice also is the students who need these tools have access to them and they can use them. For students who don't really need the tools in certain situations maybe, they're- it's just faster for them to- for those students who do need the tools, they're going to use them. For students, who don't need the tools they're not going to use them because it might slow them down. And so for students who are in a gen ed classroom who are using speech to text, sometimes we do provide, like our assistive technology office, we will provide, like, a headset so that they have that microphone a little bit closer to them and it kind of helps take out some of the background noise.

Christine Fox 38:25.90
Gotcha. There's a follow-up. Well, there is a question here about- or a comment about assessment. So how do you leverage the speech-to-text in assessment options? And that could be- Well, that could be two webinars or a whole day workshop on accessibility and assessment, and we do have a whole section on CITES about that. But have there been any- I don't know Oklahoma specifically, so are there things that you are able to provide during assessments? And I don't want you to have to end up in a rabbit hole so you can-

Janna Greathouse 39:02.67
I think for that, I mean, just kind of off the top of my head, for like classroom-based formative assessments, I think that's one thing. It kind of depends on the goal of the formative assessment. And so yes, sometimes maybe speech-to-text is allowed. For state testing, there is a transcribing non-standard accommodation- or I'm sorry, there is transcription available for students on their IEPs for certain areas of the state assessment. Beyond that, it has to go through a process for approval.

Christine Fox 39:57.90
Gotcha. Yeah. And like I said, that could be a bag of worms, to say the least. You know, to the question in the chat we had about using this with students in general education classes that may also be pulled out for parts of the day, it sounds like you all covered that by providing a lot of these tools for everyone all day every day through their personalized devices. So I feel like we've covered that pretty well. I know we're already just 13 minutes to the top of the hour, but Samantha, I'd love to hear insight. You mentioned how you have been part of ed tech for such- you know, that's the bulk of your career, this is where your passion lies. You know, what have you learned? You know, what didn't you know before you started this work about assistive technologies and accessibility? Like, what are two things that you'd be able to share that you and your team learned about through this process?

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 40:52.90
There's so much. I mean, to say two things. Honestly, it was always- I think I kind of mentioned this before. To me, it was like something out- like it was a separate issue, like this student, you know, has this disability so they need this service. And that was my mindset when I started this CITES process. Through my interactions with Janna and through all the self-assessments that we've done and through all the the CITES tips and all the information that we've gotten from the CITES website, I've really learned that technology is for- I'm sorry, not technology, accessibility is for everyone. It benefits everyone. So if you're using the practices like in all of our elementary sites, we have audio enhancement systems; that's not just- does it benefit special ed students? Absolutely. Does it benefit EL students? Yes. But it also benefits your everyday average, run-of-the-mill student. So it's really these accessibility practices are just good teaching practices that benefit everybody. You know, we get these tools where it has screen readers or where read a website and not only does it benefit, again, your special ed students but, you know, some of your just general ed students that are struggling with reading, or maybe they have a headache that day and don't want to stare at the screen so they can use a screen reader to read the website to them and then they're not straining their eyes. So it's really for everybody. And if there's one thing that I could kind of say about assistive technology is that it really, it benefits everyone. It's not a special ed tool. It's a best learning practices tool.

Christine Fox 42:45.90
Yep. And some of the features that we've been talking about, Maggie did post in the chat today. There's a guide that we published on integrating assistive technologies and IT. It's in our virtual learning resources section, but it really is powerful and provides you what do devices provide and what do browsers provide, what do a variety of learning management systems, what are the tools that are already available that you don't even have to purchase because you already own most- as it was mentioned, most students have a device, you're choosing a specific browser, you have a specific learning management system. There are a lot of embedded tools. Our phones, we all love to text, or most of us do, and we use that quite a bit and voice to text as well. Those are accessibility features that other folks found out about and they wanted to do use them the same. So think about the things that are available. I saw a couple of comments about having small budgets, but there are accessibility features through extensions and other things that are freely available.

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 43:53.73
And most of your learning management systems have accessibility checkers built in. All of Google Suite, all of Microsoft Suite, they all have accessibility checkers, it's just a matter of taking the time to go through and run them, and then walk through their wizards. They walk you through how to fix everything so you don't have to be an accessibility, you know, genius or take a class on it. There's a wizard that will walk you right through it.

Christine Fox 44:20.94
Yep. We're gonna take just a minute and take a quick poll because I want to hear about the different- it looks like there's a variety of experiences here in the chat and I love how active everyone is. So I'm just gonna put up another poll that talks about collaboration. How often do AT, IT, and ed tech leaders collaborate in your school or district? And thank you for- so many of you for engaging.

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 44:49.26
And we were definitely at sometimes before and now we're in always. I don't make any decisions without Janna anymore.

Janna Greathouse 45:00.11
Yeah, and I think it was like sometimes when there was a problem. Right? And that was on me, too. I mean, I'm not saying that was-

Christine Fox 45:12.61
All right. Well, I'm gonna end that poll and share the results, and you can see there are a few that are always, it's part of our culture. So 18%. That's great to hear. I will give a plug to say that even if this is part of your culture, I am sure through CITES, there are resources within the framework that can support your work, because things are always ever-evolving and growing. Our website and framework is continuing to evolve as well. Maggie and I were hoping this whole new parent support resources were going to be available for today. They're not yet, but check back in a couple weeks and under every single one of those practices you saw across the top, there will be a tab for family engagement and resources related to that and practices to consider. So thank you for responding to that. So we just have- I'll just let you each end with one question each. So you know, is there one thing that you would suggest, Janna, to another district or school that's considering kind of taking on this work?

Janna Greathouse 46:26.61
Yes. So just this morning, I was listening to my audiobook which I- was my preferred access this morning because I was trying to get ready, and so I was listening to an audiobook and one of the things he said that just really resonated with me and just automatically made me think about the CITES partnership is to focus on the process and not the product, because it is a process and we may never get to where we want to be with this 100% accessibility, but we sure are a lot further now than we were when we started.

Christine Fox 47:10.48
Gotcha. That's great. Thank you. And Samantha, you know, is there just one nugget that you're dying to share that you weren't able to say yet to this group? And there are a couple of questions in the chat, so we're gonna try to get to that before we wrap up.

Samantha Reid, M.Ed. 47:27.90
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the self-assessments are where it's at. You need to get a team together of district leaders and stakeholders and just start with those self-assessments and let them guide you, because you learn so much. But you have to be honest about where you really are. I mean, we all want to be- think like we're ahead of the game and we're doing really well, and there were there were times where we had to say we're a zero, we've never even had this conversation. And then looking at those results, we're like well, do we even want to start with our zeros? Well, maybe we want to start with our, you know, kind of our mid-range and really get those and beef those up. So really as a district, looking at those self-assessments, finding where your weaknesses are, building upon those weaknesses, and just create some sort of living document where you're- it's not just a checkoff, it's something that you're working. Like, most everything in our documents is ongoing, ongoing, ongoing, and then here are checks so this is what we do to collect data, revise, and continue working. So self-assessments, that is 100% if that's where I would start hands down.

Christine Fox 48:51.90
Great. Awesome. Okay. We'll stay engaged here. I'm just gonna go through a couple of resources because I know we're getting to the top of the hour. But I will tell everyone there is a Get Started page on our website and that is getting built out to be more robust, but there's really some considerations of who needs to be involved. I saw a question in the chat about how often, when would you have- what would you have to do to take on to get really empowered by this work. I also want you to just take your phone out for a second or if you have a paper agenda and add something to your calendar, you know, in a month, in two months and say, you know, where am I around this? Did I leverage any of these resources? Did I take a moment and talk to anyone in my district or school or organization about this work? Because I know, like, you might have a 4:00 or you're going to- school's ending and you're getting out the door and then things just drift away. So think about marking this down in your calendar or on your, you know, electronic or paper so you can keep this work to the front of your mind.

There are a variety of resources. As I mentioned, in the resource document, you can get to all of these. We do have a community of practice as well. So I wanted to share that you can join this conversation bi-monthly with CITES team, Maggie and I, as well as some colleagues and other leaders around the country. It is openly available. We have a private Slack channel and we have a bi-monthly discussion. So they're really not webinars, they're community of practice discussions where we go out into breakout groups and talk about specific areas. You know, today was a pretty broad overview, so consider joining us. And we're happy to stay connected. So I know that edWeb is kind and shares our contact information, and that also we, you know, have our information and email here as well. And I see hands raised but I want to be conscious of the two minutes we have left so I have to get to- I shared that we have a- I'm gonna get to maybe a question or two, or we might just respond in the chat. I do have to get to our disclaimer that nothing we shared today is the specific reflections of the US Department of Education even though they did fund us.

And so with that, we are happy to stay and answer in the chat. I want to thank Janna and Samantha because they are so dedicated to this work, as you can hear and see in their examples at Jenks Public Schools as well as their support of CITES and this work. So they took time out of their day last week to prep for this, earlier today to get organized, and then to spend this hour with us and share their powerful experiences. So many thanks to them and their dedication to this work.

edWeb Team 51:46.18
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