When I sat down to look at what I had bookmarked this past week- Assistive Technology was clearly on my mind. I had read this article about video games having to be compliant with AT regulations. Essentially, the law enacted in 2010 said all the communication technology - eg. instant messaging, etc, used in video games had to be accessible. In 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules that required these communication devices services and equipment to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Until earlier this year, the FCC had waived the ACS accessibility requirements for video game software. However, and here's the good news- now it is required! Let's see if it is actually enforced.
New AT tools from Google
This is an excellent synopsis of 11 different Assistive Tech Tools that you can use with Chrome or with Android devices.
Action Blocks is a feature that is designed for people with a cognitive disability (or their caregivers) is basically a way to pull all the various steps of a command into one easy to identify icon. Very cool idea to make things more accessible for all and to provide necessary independence.
ReadWorks has Audiobooks!
ReadWorks offers excellent free resources and has now added audio books. Check out the video here. Remember, although ReadWorks is a great source of leveled reading books, and passages, it's not just for students who are struggling with decoding and comprehension. All students can benefit from ReadWorks. They make it easy for teachers to find appropriate materials and help to pair texts as well.
Use Makey Makey to Create AT devices
I caught a few of Richard Byrne's Creativity Conference presentations live, including this one. If you have never tried MakeyMakey, it's easy to use and lots of fun. I like the way Art Spencer, the presenter, emphasizes empathy in the design process and uses MakeyMakey to create devices that are more accessible to students.
Listenwise will have Lexile Levels soon
We all know that listening to reading passages almost always increases comprehension levels. The last time I did a uPAR test with students at my school more than 88% of students showed an increase in comprehension scores. ListenWise may be something for you to investigate. The basic teacher account is free- no student accounts, and the premium version is a bit pricey. Check it out, try a pilot, free trial and see if this is a tool for you.
Learning 4 All
Just something to put on your calendar. Learning 4 All (formerly known as 4T: Teachers Teaching Teachers about Technology), is a free virtual conference coming up in February.
Check it out and register here.
Although it is CS education Week and we are all doing the Hour of Code, rather than reiterate all of the great ideas and sites that have been shared already, we will look at some of the other things that are going on as well. However, I love the emphasis on #CSforGood!
I just saw these posters and playing cards today. Wish I had seen them earlier!
One more list of ideas to check
I knew I would forget at least one of the advent calendars or other lists that I had seen and of course I forgot the 12 Days of Innovation from Birdsville Schools. You can check it out here.
Richard Byrne recently posted some ideas that you may not have seen before for accessibility. He did an excellent job of summarizing some of the major accessibility options for Safari, for Chrome and for Edge. Microsoft used to be a leader in accessibility options, lost the race to Apple, then to Chrome and has come back strong with all of the Immersive Reader adaptations. One thing to note- these are NOT just for students on IEPS, or 504 plans. I use some of these tools all the time. Want to get rid of all the clutter- use the Reader View, need to quickly adjust the font size, Ctrl+/- and then back to Ctrl 0. Do check out Richard's post. It's really useful.
Research- Year in Review
You can always count on Edutopia to pull all the edu research for 2019 together into one article. From Growth Mindset to getting more sleep, they summarized many of the topics we have seen in the news this year. A couple things I found interesting- Paper did beat screens, but it wasn't a study that actually compared the two equally (not a real apples to apples kind of study) and the results were underwhelming. The other study mentioned that was interesting to me was debunking the decades old myth of the "summer slide". I found that one interesting, but challenging since we all know the reboots we end up doing after even short vacations- even long weekend! Check out the article here.
Interested in 3D printing?
I'm a novice when it comes to 3D printing. We have 2 small printers, one works, one doesn't... and the only software I have used for them is Tinkercad. I love Tinkercad and find it easy for the kids to use. I have used SketchUp in the past, but that was before we had 3 D printers. It has a pretty steep learning curve. So, when I saw this article comparing 3D software, I was happy to spend some time exploring and plan to spend more time trying out a few ideas.
Still looking for Techy Gifts?
Gary Stager posted his list to the ISED listserv and of course there are things on there that I have not seen yet. Check out Gary and the Invent To Learn team's list here. There are things for kids, and things for teachers too. One thing that I found last year and still really like is the Turing Tumble game. It is good hard fun for one and all. They also offer an edu discount, talk to them. I brought up to NH last year and played it with my niece. Luckily her uncle, who is a master electrician and a great puzzle solver, was there to help us out. One thing you'll probably find out the hard way if you play this game- put a container under it- otherwise you get to chase tiny marbles all over creation.
This is a new one to me. Mathshare. I just got a promo from Benetech, the same folks who put Bookshare together. I asked about it in one of the listservs I follow and one person had played around with a bit, but not very much feedback so far. Check out the video below and let us know how it worked with your students.
Here's the blurb:
" Mathshare is a free problem-solving tool that makes learning math easier. With Mathshare, students can solve problems step-by-step and explain their reasoning with a note. This helps students stay focused and shows teachers how they got their answers. Mathshare is free for teachers and students.How Mathshare Helps Students
Many students struggle with learning math. Some need help staying organized, some have trouble with legible handwriting, and others may have learning differences like dyscalculia or dysgraphia. For all students who want to learn math, Mathshare makes it easier to learn and helps build positive math experiences.
Lots of Advent Calendar Style Lists
My task list keeps filling up with stuff that I might do, given time. Lots of ideas that folks are sharing, mostly in an advent calendar style.
Aaron Maurer started out my list of lists with his 25 days of Making Challenge. These are lots of fun to try, by yourself or with your students. You can check out Aaron's 25 Days of Making Challenge here.
#CreateWithChrome- a Google Slide Based Advent Calendar with teachers sharing project ideas. I think the original creators are Brian Briggs @bribriggs and Ryan O'Donnell
@creativeedtech. Check it out here and add your own ideas!
Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) shared a wonderful 25 Days of STEM calendar on her Teacher Reboot Camp site. So many ideas to explore! Thanks Shelly!
Need more Media Literacy Ideas?
I hadn't seen this site before, AllSides.
I had used FactCheck in the past, and of course Snopes, but this one is different. They also have an AllSides for Schools, but realistically, reading their TOS, very few of our kids qualify to use it on their own; " you represent that you are of legal age to form a binding contract", although it says it is for middle school through college. Perhaps the best use would be as a teaching tool with younger kids.
Here's how they describe the site.
"AllSides strengthens our democracy with balanced news, diverse perspectives, and real conversation.We expose people to information and ideas from all sides of the political spectrum so they can better understand the world — and each other. Our balanced news coverage, media bias ratings, civil dialogue opportunities, and technology platform are available for everyone and can be integrated by schools, nonprofits, media companies, and more."
If you haven't followed Eli Pariser and his work on filter bubbles and algorithms, check out his original TED talk or his talk about algorithms from last December(2018).
There was an article in Forbes this summer by Kalev Leetaru which reiterated that "Fake News" is not a technology problem, but a societal problem. The gist of the article was,
"To truly solve the issue of “fake news” we must blend technological assistance with teaching our citizens to be literate consumers of the world around them.Societies must teach their children from a young age how to perform research, understand sourcing, triangulate information, triage contested narratives and recognize the importance of where information comes from, not just what it says.
In short, we must teach all of our citizens how to be researchers and scientists when it comes to consuming information.
Most importantly, we must emphasize verification and validation over virality and velocity."
Sadly, this is not news.