Systems of Support Supporting Educator Excellence through Technology and Strategy

Category Archives: Assistive Tech

Tips for Turning Classroom Content Digital

In last week’s post I talked about the importance of using digital text in the classroom. However, making the transition from traditional content to digital is not always an easy process. While there are many digital resources available, you still have to find them. And if nothing suitable is found, you may have to resort to converting/scanning your traditional materials into a digital format. The purpose of this post is to provide a few ideas for finding and creating digital content of your own.

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The Importance of Using Digital Materials in the Classroom

Over the last few years digital content such as educational websites, electronic textbooks, and online journals have become more available to classrooms than ever before. Unfortunately increased availability does not always equal increased use. Despite the number of iPads, Chromebooks, and other devices in schools today the amount of print based material remains roughly the same. Reasons for this vary, but understanding the importance of having digital materials available can go a long way in helping classrooms make the transition.

Digital Materials flying out of computer

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Using the 5 Whys to Help Identify Solutions

In last week’s post I talked about the importance of developing a process for determining technology needs. This helps to ensure schools purchase what is needed vs. what is hot at the moment. However, sometimes it is not feasible (or necessary) to do a full technology needs assessment to determine what is really needed. In this post I will be explaining a super simple technique to help you quickly get to the bottom of an issue, which makes finding the appropriate solution much easier. It is called the 5 Whys.

The 5 whys


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Enhance Technology Implementation with the Haddon Matrix

A few weeks ago Jason Gibson wrote a post that covered many of the barriers educators experience when trying to effectively integrate technology.  It just so happens that he and I are getting ready to tackle these barriers in an implementation session we’re delivering at a conference next week. While we will be covering a wide range of things to consider, I thought this post would be a great place to start the conversation of how effective implementation can occur.

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The technology crazy cycle: implementing educational technology successfully

I’ve come to the realization that one of the largest gaps in education is the distance between an idea and the actual implementation of that idea. You know…the length of time, required effort, and necessary collaboration needed to get something done in the school setting? If you are working in or with a school district, you have experienced this gap and know the frustrations that this can bring. Though there are quite a few of these implementation gaps worthy of highlighting (don’t worry, we will do more over time), we are diving in to the technology implementation process and where things go wrong (that informs how to do it right). This technology implementation process typically looks like this.

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What are Browser Extensions?

If you have an iPad or other “i-device” you are probably familiar with apps. “Apps” is short for applications that provide additional functionality to your device. There are thousands of apps ranging from supports for weather and business to games and education. We frequently discuss and recommend apps in sessions and here on our blog.

Web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Internet Explorer have similar supports that you may not be as familiar with. Instead of apps, these supports are referred to as extensions. Extensions basically “extend” the capabilities of your browser. Most browsers have their own store where you can find extensions for a variety of purposes. For example, to access the Google Chrome Web Store simply visit You can search for specific extensions or browse through categories ranging from Education to News and Entertainment.

A few of my favorite extensions include:

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Universally Designed is now Systems of Support

Just a quick update regarding our blog if you are a subscriber… For years this blog has been referred to as Universally Designed.  Its purpose has always been to provide tips and tricks related to Assistive/Instructional Technology and Behavior.   The blog was part of our website, where we shared handouts and other materials used in keynotes, conference workshops, and webinars.  We have now decided to merge the two and call the blog Systems of Support.  This will allow us to continue to provide relevant information dedicated to helping educators succeed in the classroom while keeping all content in one location.

If you are a subscriber you will continue to receive weekly updates when new posts are made.  We know we’ve been a little behind lately on our postings, but the idea is that this transition will help us to once again make the blog a priority and deliver content you expect.

You will notice that the handouts and downloads on the resources page is now password protected. As always, that content is free so no worries about that! If you are already subscribed to our blog, then you will receive an email in the coming days with the password for the resources page. If you are new to the site, subscribe to our blog and once you confirm, you will automatically receive the password get access.

-The Jasons

Quick Tip for Supporting Student Achievement: Add a Generalization Probe

Everyone is searching for strategies to evoke quality learning while supporting successful performance on high stakes tests. I wrote about knowing your learners to support the pursuit of this magical combination. In that post, we walked through the 4 phases of learning (Acquisition, Fluency, Maintenance, and Generalization) and I shared a quick example about multiplication facts. In this post, I want us to dig deeper into the Generalization phase, because it is one of the keys to student success. Especially in how it relates to UDL.

One of the difficulties with the UDL instructional framework is making the connection between multiple means of expression (many ways for the learner to demonstrate knowledge acquisition) and performance on high stakes testing that only allows students to respond ONE way (e.g., multiple choice, short answer, true/false questions). Unfortunately there are times our learners do not get credit for knowledge that they have acquired because of the limited scope of this type of assessment. We have all heard the phrase “don’t teach to the test” which I whole-heartedly agree. However, I firmly believe we should teach how to answer content questions in the manner the questions are asked. This is where Generalization comes to play.

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Who’s your PiC?

When discussing effective implementation practices of assistive or educational technology, I always bring up the importance of having at least one person (or preferably two) who will take charge of a new initiative and be the “go to” person for that specific project. I call this person the PiC, or Person in Charge and have included the information below on this topic from a “tips” email I sent to customers earlier this month.

Although this may sound like common sense, I typically find that the PiC is a district level administrator when it comes to implementing many technologies. While this person may be the true person in charge when it comes to initiatives, they are rarely the best choice to be leading classroom implementation of a new program. This has nothing to do with being qualified, it is simply that administrators do not have enough time to do their job and focus on the day to day use of a new software product.

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Free Digital Text Resources (Updated)

I did a post a few years ago on Digital Text Resources.  While many of these are still applicable (and a couple are included here) I needed to update this list for a newsletter I am creating.

The primary reason I do these lists is because I’ve found that people rarely have trouble operating text to speech software, but instead struggle when it comes to actually using it in a classroom with a diverse group of students. However, in order for this type of software to be beneficial you must have digital text to accompany it.  Here are 11 resources to get you started. Know of more or better resources? Please leave a comment!

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