Systems of Support Supporting Educator Excellence through Technology and Strategy

Category Archives: Conferences

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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A Necessary Component of Student Engagement

Just wrapping up two days at an incredible conference in Indianapolis put on by the PATINS project. One of our sessions centered on student engagement and we taught how to actively engaging all learners using creativity, evidence-based strategy (example), and technology (example) through the UDL framework.  In sharing strategies in how to engage all learners from the start, we spent a few moments on key prerequisites to hooking learners into the lesson. I wanted to expand on one here that is critical for all classrooms. Read more →

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

Upcoming Webinar on Creating Mobile Content for your Classroom

Wednesday, October 10 (3:30pm – 4:30pm EST), will be the second of my webinar sessions as a part of an online series organized by the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA). This session will focus on creating content for the mobile devices (iPad, iPod, Droid) so that you can use your personalized classroom content rather than having to rely on pre-loaded material.  The focus is on simple and easy to implement, so don’t let the description make you wary. If you can attach a file to an email, then you will be able to stay engaged in this session.

As always, this will be practical, research-based, and ideas that can be immediately implemented in the learning environment. If you are interested in attending this webinar. Click on the link here to access additional details and session registration information (there is a nominal fee). Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Upcoming Webinar on Emerging Professional Development Trends for AT

Next Tuesday, August 28 (3:30pm – 5:00pm EST), I will be delivering a webinar session focusing on practical strategies for delivering online professional development. This is part of an online series organized by the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA). If you have ever heard Jason or I present, this will be similar to our face to face workshops: practical, research-based, and ideas that can be immediately implemented.

The focus of this session is on how to incorporate synchronous (think Skype or GoToMeeting) and asynchronous (think Youtube or Wikis) into your professional development offerings. It will be framed around training people how to use and implement assistive technology, but the strategies apply to any content area.

If you are interested in attending this webinar. Click on the link here to access additional details and session registration information (there is a nominal fee). Hope to see you there!


Top Barriers to Implementing Assistive Technology

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to survey several school districts to learn more about barriers they come across when trying to implement assistive technology (AT).  Instead of just letting folks list anything, I worked with a group of AT professionals to come up with 20 possible barriers, then worked with doc students at a nearby university to put an appropriate survey together.  The goal was to have participants list the top 10 barriers.  Some choices were typical, while others were more of a surprise.  To simplify things, I’ve grouped the top 10 barriers into 3 categories and listed them below:

  • Category 1 – Implementation Barriers
    • Incorporating AT into instruction across settings (number 1 barrier overall)
    • Integrating AT into specific settings
    • Number of people available to support AT
  • Category 2 – Guideline and Procedure Barriers
    • Properly evaluating students for AT
    • Understanding the AT process in your district
    • Understanding how to fund devices
    • Maintenance of products/devices
  • Category 3 – Product Awareness
    • Knowledge of what already exists in the district (number 2 barrier overall)
    • Knowledge of product and devices
    • Knowledge of where to find products and devices (outside of the district)

Some of these barriers, such as maintenance of products and devices, could probably go under product awareness (being aware of how to change the batteries), or guidelines (who is responsible for it).   The goal was to list each barrier only once however.  The number one barrier (incorporating AT across settings) is no big surprise, but I found that knowing what already exists in the district being the number 2 overall barrier interesting.

What are your thoughts?  Does this match up with what you see in your setting?  In future posts I will go into detail about possible solutions to some of these barriers.  For example, for knowing what is already in the district you could use Google docs to list items, or a more comprehensive system such as the new web based AT Inventory System we created.

Highlight Supports

I had the opportunity to present a session on merging AT and Literacy supports at the ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association) conference a couple weeks ago in Orlando.  The feedback was great so I thought it would be a good idea to share a piece of that session here.

The primary focus of the session was to help folks understand that technology alone (assistive or otherwise) rarely increases student achievement.  You must include strategies, or at a minimum explicit instruction on how to properly use the technology to see success.  One great example of this is the use of highlighting tools.

I separate highlighting tools into three categories (I actually do this with most supports): 1.) Low Tech, 2.) Web Based and 3.) Downloadable Software.  A discussion of each is below:

Low Tech
Low tech highlights are pretty simple to grasp… They are the common sharpie or other brand highlighters that you purchase at the office supply store.  I’ve seen these used in a variety of ways.  For example, guided notes are an evidence based practice that work with almost all grade levels and content areas.  They work great for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they ensure students have the important information.  It’s easy for many students to fill in the blanks on a guided notes handout.  However, some students with disabilities (physical or other) struggle with the act of filling in multiple blank spaces with written text.  In these scenarios I’ve seen teachers provide a version of the guided notes that are already completed, then have the students highlight words instead of write them.  I think this is great.  All students have the same handout regardless of ability, they just may access it differently.

Web Based
Web based highlighting tools are a newer feature that I use frequently.  Install an extension into your web browser (Diigo is a great one to use) and you instantly have access to highlighting tools that you can use on any website.  Once highlighted, those highlights will either stay, or be copied to your account so that you can review them later.  Many of these supports even create and save a citation, which makes creating a bibliography much more manageable.

Downloadable Software
In addition to the web-based tools, there are similar features beginning to show up in a variety of software products that may be installed on classroom computers.  For example, Read&Write Gold from Texthelp has a toolbar dedicated to what they call “study skills.”  This includes different color highlights that can be used with Word, Internet Explorer and more.  Once highlighted, there is an option to collect highlights so that they will be dumped into a separate file by color, date or whatever your preference may be.  There is also a bibliography tool built in to help cite your sources.

The Strategies
What we know is that use of a variety of strategies can improve student performance (Pressley, 2002).  Explicitly teaching students how to highlight and annotate text is a very good example of one of these strategies.  Literacy consultants around the globe will tell you that students need to be “engaged” in their text.  This is difficult to do by just listening to a story, or reading a chapter.  However, having students highlight sections they feel are important in one color and words or sentences they do not understand in another is a great way to get students thinking and engaging with their text.  This of course is just one of many ideas.  How you choose to have students use these supports may be different.

Staying up to Date

The most common question I am asked when I speak at a local or national conference is “How do you stay up to date with all of this stuff?”  While it would be nice to be able to say that I travel the world going from classroom to classroom and lab to lab to find only the best products and practices, it really is much simpler than that.  There are two primary ways I stay up to date:

There are 3 or 4 national conferences dedicated to Assistive Technology that I try to attend at least two of each year.  They are:

In addition, there are tons of state and regional conferences available all over the United States that are great ways to network and learn about new products and strategies.  This year, I will have the opportunity to visit Australia to speak at Spectronics’ Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference, which looks to be a great time and learning experience.  So in short, there is no shortage of opportunities to learn and network in this area.

Traveling to one conference, much less multiple conferences isn’t easy for most folks.  And even if you do get the opportunity to attend one, you can never get around to every session available.  Because of this, I use blogs and news feeds from several sites to stay up to date.  If you aren’t familiar with a feed reader, now is the time to learn.  A feed reader basically takes any frequently updated content with an rss feed (think news sites and blogs) and puts them all in one place for you.  This way you don’t have to visit 10 or 20 different sites each time you want to see what’s new.

I personally use Google Reader and check it at least once a week.  It is a great way to pass time when flights are delayed or I am waiting somewhere.  I will typically have over a thousand items I can look through when I check it.  Not that I’ll ever have time to review everything, but it is always nice to just skim through and see what sticks out.  I can also sort it by date, topic, etc…  If you do decide to start using a feed reader, be sure to subscribe to this blog!

I also like to read through the QIAT Listserv.  You can sign up at  Note that is a very active listserv so you may want to setup the emails to go into a folder until you have time to read them.  I am also becoming more and more of a twitter fan.  If you follow the right people you can learn about tons of useful sites and products in no time.  Follow me at

This may be a longer answer than those asking the question wanted, but hopefully it helps!

CEC 2010 Sessions – Nashville, TN

Apologies for being away for so long… I started another venture that occupied way too much of my time.  Fortunately I’m back now, so should be able to provide updates much more often.

This post is just to speak on the two sessions I did with my colleagues at the CEC Conference in Nashville, TN.  They were both very well received.  Handouts can be found in the downloads section of our educational site and  The titles/descriptions were as follows:

The Best of Both Worlds: Integrating Technology and Instruction to Increase Reading Comprehension”, with Jason Gibson, University of KY, and Lisa Shaw, Central KY Special Ed Coop

Reading comprehension is critical for students’ long-term success. With the availability of numerous instructional strategies and technology applications, it is unclear what works and where to start. The presenters will share a variety of comprehension strategies and technology solutions validated through research that can be immediately implemented into any classroom.

Tools at Your Fingertips: Emerging Technologies for Preservice and Inservice Teacher Training, with Jason Gibson, University of KY and Rob Pennington, University of Louisville.

Supporting teachers in implementation of effective practices is a critical process in preservice and inservice settings. Unfortunately time, distance, budgets, and limited personnel limit the level of support provided. During this session the presenters will demonstrate simple ways of using no-cost/low-cost Web-based solutions to provide teacher training and support.

I hope everyone has a chance to look over the handouts.  Let me know if you have questions.