Systems of Support Supporting Educator Excellence through Technology and Strategy

Category Archives: General Technology

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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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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Top 3 Presentation Apps for the iPad

While Android tablets continue to gain speed ( and market share) against Apple it still remains the case that iPads dominate many classrooms.  Because of this educators are always looking for more ways to take advantage of these mobile devices.  Last year I did on post on How to Present with an iPad that focused on ways to use your iPad as a presentation tool.  This focused mostly on ways to connect to your iPad to a projector or TV to present content to students.  The post did not do a very good job at listing solid alternative apps for PowerPoint or Keynote however.  In this post I want to share 3 that I use depending on the situation.

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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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Using Google Hangouts for Professional Development

For years I would co-present at various conferences on innovative tools for professional development.  It was obvious that one time sit-and-get training just wasn’t cutting it so we would focus on ways to use technology for follow up or on-going professional development.  While many tools are available for this sort of thing our goal was to point out free or low cost software that would be available to anyone interested.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), there were no shortage of these tools available and some are better for specific situations than others.  For example, if you need to do one-to-one video conference Skype is great, but if you need to add a third person ooVoo is better. Keeping up with all of the latest technologies, situations they would be best for, and the devices they work on became a job in and of itself.

Fast forward a few years and now I am using Google Hangouts for the majority of audio, video and chat interactions.   As with everything it has its pros and cons, some of which I’ve listed below


  • It’s Free
  • Up to 10 people on video chat at once
  • Works on most devices (including Chromebooks)
  • Ability to share your screen
  • Easy to take screenshots during the Hangout and review later
  • Can start instantly or invite others for a future date.


  • You must create a Google Account if you do not already have one
  • Scheduling a future meeting isn’t the most straight forward process
  • It takes some getting used to

Overall the cons are typical with any new program.  Everything from Facebook to your bank requires you to create an account so it should not be a surprise that you need one for Google as well.  Plus, if you are a Gmail user you already have one.

To schedule a hangout you will need to go to your Google+ account and create an event.  Once you have a Google account you will automatically have a Google+ account as well (it’s Google’s version of Facebook).  Just go to, choose events followed by “create event” or “plan a hangout”.  Note that Google let’s you specify if you want to hold a public hangout (anyone can attend) or a private hangout (where you invite who you want to attend).  Most people will choose private.  Anyone you invite will need a Google account as well.

Once you get everything set up the first time you will find the process much easier the next time around.  You will also see that your Google+ account keeps track of all of your previous hangouts and includes any screenshots you took and instant messages sent.

Ideas for how to use it deserves another post, but I see hangouts as a great way to hold ongoing professional development or to observe educators implementing strategies learned in face-to-face training.

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

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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Organizing Bookmarks and other Resources

If you are anything like me you will consume more information in a week that you will remember for the entire year. Email is a good example of this. Every couple of weeks I clean out my inbox and delete the newsletters or blog posts that I said I was going to take a closer look at. Unfortunately a week later those emails are replaced with new ones without me ever having a chance to read more into the ones I previously saved.

Welcome to the information age! In the past, information was hard to come by. We went to libraries or paid to receive journals in order to stay up to date. Then came an abundance of information, much of which was marketing material that may or may not fit the definition of “good” information. Now there is no shortage of good information available and the question has become “how to deal with it” instead of “where to find it”.

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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.