Friday, December 27, 2013

Accessibility in Education is where it's AT

Learning has never been more accommodating than it is today, thanks to innovative advances in Assistive Technology (AT). Fortunately, students today have access to lots of different technology that assists them in the learning process.

The purpose of this blog post is to bring awareness to Assistive Technology and to highlight some of the best resources and learning tools that are available to our students.  However, before we take a look at some of the best AT tools, let's look at a quick definition of Assistive Technology.

In the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 602 [1], AT is defined as:

" ... any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of children with disabilities" (

"There are two important concepts in this definition.  First, assistive technology is any item or piece of equipment.  Second, AT increases the ability of a person with a disability to do something functional, such as read, write, or organize thoughts" (Bowser, G. 2013).

As an Instructional Technology Specialist, I try my best to provide staff, students, and parents with the best tools and resources to assist with teaching and learning in the digital age.  Below is a compilation of some of my favorite AT tools and resources.  Thankfully, most of these AT tools are self-explanatory, so I have just included links and screenshots to the tools that are featured in this post for you to explore and share.

Accessibility for iOS

Accessibility for Mac

Accessibility on Android

Google Voice Search

Google Advanced Search

Google Translate

Dragon Dictation

Chrome Extensions

Chrome Webstore Extensions: Accessibility

Other Chrome AT Apps & Extensions

While these are only just a few of my favorite AT tools, I have found them to be extremely useful and valuable to students.  I encourage you to explore these Assistive Technology tools and try to continue to find creative ways to enhance learning for all students.   After all, if we want to level the playing field regarding equitable access for ALL students, "Accessibility in education is where it's AT".

Please leave a comment to this blog post if you have a favorite AT tool that you have personally found to be useful and valuable in education.

More Assistive Technology Resources 

  2. Bowser, G. Assistive Technology in the Digital Age. Learning&Leading with Technology. September/October 2013 Vol. 41 No.2

Did You Know? Evernote Clearly

Image is labeled as free to use or share commercially
Did you know that there is a way to easily read content on the web that removes clutter to enhance your reading and comprehension experience? It's called Clearly and it is clearly one of the most effective and productive Chrome Extensions in the Chrome Webstore.

Clearly is an extension provided by Evernote which allows users to not only remove clutter on webpages, but it also allows for additional features which syncs with your Evernote account.

How it works

"Clearly makes blog posts, articles and webpages clean and easy to read. Save them to Evernote to read anywhere."

All you need to do is perform an "Extensions" search for "clearly" in the Chrome Webstore.  Then simply add the Extension to your Google Chrome Webrowser.

"With one click, Clearly makes blog posts and articles clean and easy to read. Clearly eliminates all distractions from your online reading experience, and even allows you to browse multi-page articles in one, seamless view. Connect Clearly to Evernote to clip and sync articles with every computer, phone and tablet you use."

Organize it
"Clearly can automatically tag articles sent to Evernote for fast and easy retrieval."

Text To Speech in Clearly
"Sit back and let Clearly read blog posts, articles, and web pages to you thanks to the new Text To Speech feature powered by iSpeech, available exclusively for Evernote Premium subscribers."

Highlight it
"Use the highlighter to remember the details. Any highlights you make in Clearly will be updated in Evernote."

Here's an example

Now that you know

  1. The next time you read an article, website, or blog post online, consider using Clearly for a "clean and easy read". 
  2. How might you integrate Clearly into your instruction?  How might you encourage your students to use Clearly as an Assistive Technology tool?

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Did You Know? QuickTime Recordings

Image is labeled as free to use or share
Did you know that you can use QuickTime Player to record three different types of multimedia, for free?  In fact, QuickTime Player allows users to create a movie recording, an audio recording, or a screen recording.

How it works

If you are using a Mac, QuickTime Player comes preloaded on your computer, so all you have to do is launch the application to get started.  You can also download QuickTime Player if you need to.  After you have launched QuickTime Player, simply click File and choose one of three recording options:

  • New Movie Recording:  Records video and audio captured from the built-in video camera
  • New Audio Recording:  Records audio captured from the built-in microphone, or from a an external mic that is connected to your computer
  • New Screen Recording:  Records audio and video captured on your computer screen

If you are planning on using an external microphone, be sure to click on the tiny "down arrow" just before you begin recording.  This will give you a few additional options regarding the audio device you want to use and the quality of your recording.

After you have created a new recording, you will need to click "File", then select "Export" to save your recording to your local device.  You could also choose to either share it to iTunes or other social media tools like SoundCloud, AudioBoo, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.  

Here's an example

Now that you know
  1. The next time you need to create a video, audio, or screen recording, consider using QuickTime Player for a free, high-quality recording. 
  2. How might you integrate this tool into your instruction?  How might your students integrate this tool into their projects?

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Did You Know? Incognito Mode

Image is labeled as free to use or share
Did you know that your Google Chrome Browser has the capability to create a new window that will allow you to browse in private?  It's called Incognito mode and it is very useful.

How it works

After you have downloaded and installed the Google Chrome Web Browser, you must first launch Chrome to get started.  Then you must click on the "Settings" button at the top right of your browser window (it looks like three, short, horizontal lines).  Then, when you click on this button, select the link that says "New Incognito Window".   When you select "New Incognito Window", Chrome will open up a new window in Incognito Mode and will present you with the following message:

"Pages you view in this window won't appear in your browser history or search history, and they won't leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close all open incognito windows.  Any files you will download or bookmarks you create will be preserved ..."

Here is a screenshot image to help you locate the settings button on Chrome.  This screenshot also highlights the button to launch a "New Incognito Window".

When you select "New Incognito Window" Chrome will open up a new window for you in Incognito Mode.  Here is a screenshot of the webpage message that you will see when you are in Incognito mode.

By default, your other Chrome Extensions will not show up in Incognito mode.  This might simply be because you have not enabled these Extensions to be used while you are in Incognito mode.  However, there is a way to easily display and use your Chrome Extensions while you are in Incognito mode.

To enable them, simply go into your Chrome settings and select "Extensions".  This is where you will be able to "Enable" the Extensions that you would like to use when you have gone "Incognito".

Here's an Example

Incognito mode can be particularly useful when students share devices.  For example, if Student A is using a computer and logs in to his or her Google account, Student B can quickly open a "New Incognito Window" to quickly log in to his or her own Google account to access his or her own  information.  Now, Student B can use this Incognito window to quickly access their Google Apps such as locating a Google Doc, open a Google Site, check his or her Google Calendar, and much more, all without logging out of Student A's Google account.  Then, when Student B is finished with his or her account, he or she can simply log out of the Incognito Window, without a trace, thus, keeping his or her private information and preferences and unchanged and secured.

Similarly, Incognito mode is also particularly useful if a teacher needs to quickly access his or her account on a student machine to check to see if a Google Doc was successfully shared with the teacher, check grades, and any other information inside of the teacher's Google account.  The teacher can then simply logout of the Incognito Window and no trace of the teacher's account will be left on the student machine.

Lastly, this is also helpful when a teacher needs to demonstrate something on another teacher's machine.  Teacher B can launch a "New Incognito Window" on Teacher A's machine to perform the quick demonstration, then logout of Incognito mode without leaving a trace of his or her own personal information.

Now that you know

  1. The next time you need to quickly access your Google Account on a student machine, or on another teacher's machine, consider launching a "New Incognito Window". 
  2. How might you infuse this feature into your classroom instruction? 

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Did You Know? AssistiveTouch

Image is labeled for commercial reuse.
Did you know that you can use the AssistiveTouch tool on iOS devices as a cursor?  This is particularly helpful when trying to give presentations or when you are trying to perform a demonstration on iPad.

How it works

All you have to do is visit your Settings on iPad and select the "General" tab.  Then select Accessibility at the top.  Next, scroll down to the Physical & Motor section and select "AssistiveTouch".  You will notice a tool appear, which you can now use as a cursor for demonstrations.

"AssistiveTouch allows you to use your iPad if you have difficulty touching the screen or if you require an adaptive accessory."

Here is an example

Now that you know
  1. The next time you give a presentation or a demonstration on iPad, consider using the AssistiveTouch feature as a cursor.  
  2. What are other ways in which your students might be able to use AssistiveTouch?

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Demonstrate to Educate: YouTube Playlist
Did You Know?  Blog Series

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Did You Know? Google Inside Search

Did you know that Google has an entire website dedicated to Search tips and tricks?  It's called Inside Search, and its super helpful.

Everyone uses Google Search to look up information, but not everyone knows how to maximize their Search results.  Inside Search is a great place to learn basic, and advanced Search strategies that will help to yield more desired results.

How it Works

Inside Search provides lots of information in different categories, such as How Search Works, the Knowledge Graph Carousel, and other related Features of Search.  However, the best part about this website is the All Tips & Tricks page which gives Search users helpful information about best practices in search and other fun tricks you can do with Google Search.

Users can even perform a test of each Search strategy without leaving the All Tips & Tricks page.

Here's an Example

Did you know that you can simply type in "timer 5 minutes" into a Google Search and Google will begin a countdown timer starting at 5 minutes.  You can enter any amount of time that you want as long as you type "timer" then "minutes" and "seconds".

Now that you know

  1. Before your next Google Search, consider visiting Inside Search to learn some more tips and tricks to enhance your search skills. 
  2. How might you integrate these Search tips and tricks into your next lesson?  

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Did You Know? Flickr CC Attribution Helper (Updated)

Did you know that there WAS a Google Chrome Extension that helped you give proper attribution to images on Flickr? Well, there was and it was called Flickr CC Attribution Helper ... and it was awesome!

Unfortunately, the most recent update on Flickr does not allow for this chrome extension to work properly. Luckily, the creator, Alan Levine, was able to create a new solution to this problem by creating the new and improved Flickr CC Attribution Helper. I highly recommend reading Alan's blog post that describes the Flickr CC Attribution Helper tool that he created in greater detail.

For those of you who like to blog, or use images for different projects and presentations, this tool is perfect for you.  As an Instructional Technology Coach, I try my best to educate teachers and students on how to give proper attribution to various sources of multimedia.  And one great resource is Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr.

While its relatively easy to find these pictures on Flickr, its not as easy to find and give proper attribution to the owners of the images.  However, the Flickr CC Attribution Helper makes this process very easy and efficient.

How it works

All you have to do is visit the Flickr CC Attribution Helper website, then click and drag the blue flickr cc attribution helper button down at the bottom, to your web browser's bookmark bar. You could also choose to copy the bookmarklet code in bookmarklet code box if you would prefer to create your attributions manually.

Here is an example

Simply visit Flickr and type your search in the search box.  After you search, you will notice a little "Advanced Search" button appear.  Click on "Advanced Search" to locate the Creative Commons search settings.

Then, scroll down to the bottom of the Advanced Search page and check the Creative Commons box.  I personally just use the pictures that I find so I check the "use commercially" box.  However, if you are interested in searching for pictures that you can "modify, adapt, or build upon", you can also check the second box.

Now, when you complete your search, and select the image that you want to use, all you have to do is click on the Flickr CC Attribution Helper bookmarklet that you have added to your browser.

If you want to use that image, then simply copy and paste either the Attribution (HTML) string, or the Attribution (text) and link to use in your webpage, or presentation.

Finally, when you have the picture you want, and the proper attribution, simply insert the image into your website or presentation and include the Attribution text and link.  The picture below was found using Advanced Search on Flickr and was properly cited using the Flickr CC Attribution Helper.

cc licensed (BY-ND) flickr photo by The Eggplant

Now that you know

  1. The next time you need to use an image for your next blog post or presentation, consider using the Flickr CC Attribution Helper.
  2. How might you model this skill to encourage digital citizenship for your colleagues and students?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Did You Know? Appshed

Did you know that there is a super easy way to create your own apps?  It's called Appshed and its awesome!

I recently attended the VSTE Annual Conference in Roanoke, Virginia and had a great time meeting new people and learning new things.  I was really excited that I got the chance to meet Vicki Davis and Stephen Anderson among lots of other amazing innovative educators who are integrating technology into their classrooms.

While I was at the VSTE Conference, I was fortunate to be able to present a workshop titled Appsolutely Awesome that featured the webtool Appshed to create and customize apps.

How it works

You see, there's not always an app for that. Which is why Appshed empowers its users to create their own apps that meet their individual learning needs. Appshed allows teachers to create apps for students, and also allows students to create apps for projects and practical use. Not only is Appshed extremely easy to use, but it also builds apps that can work on any platform, on any device. Since Appshed uses HTML5 to build apps, the apps work nicely on practically all mobile devices that use web browsers.

Here's an Example

This is the App that I created to serve as a tutorial for the participants in my workshop. It's called Appshed App and it provides lots of different resources and examples to guide and support new users in Appshed. Visit the website on your smartphone or tablet by either clicking on the links, or scan the QR Code on the image below.

After telling one of my students about Appshed, he decided to use Appshed for his STEM Fair project. He fulfilled a need by creating an app for students, staff, parents and community members to easily navigate, find, and organize information about our middle school.

Now that you know

  1. The next time you find yourself wishing you had an "App for that", consider using Appshed to create your own!
  2. If you were to create an app, what app would you create?  What types of apps might your students create?


Appshed Google Presentation
Appshed App
Appshed Tutorial Video

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Did You Know?  Blog Series

Why you should Tip "20 Percent" to Students

From left: Principal Seidah Ashshaheed, Linnea Skotte, Ethiopian 
Deputy Ambassador Tebege Berhe, Sally Hahn of CauseLife.
Something really amazing happened at my middle school this Fall, and it's all because of an empowering learning opportunity that was given to a group of 8th grade students.

At my school, we have a one-hour block of time everyday, known as FLEX, which provides remediation and enrichment opportunities for our students.  This year, I was able to work with one of my teachers to facilitate a Google 20% Time [1] project in her 8th Grade FLEX class as an enrichment learning opportunity for the students in her class. Her students were assigned this Google 20% Time project for a total of 9 weeks, and they were encouraged to perform an independent study on a topic of their choice.  At the end of the 9 weeks, students were encouraged to present or share, what they had learned or created from their project.  One student's project was particularly inspiring.

On Friday, November 1st, an eighth grade student, Linnea Skotte, organized a presentation on world water issues for her classmates and teachers.  To kickoff the presentation, Linnea shared some information about her project:

"I am trying to raise money for clean and safe drinking water for people in impoverished countries around the world.  There are nearly one billion people that lack clean water!  World Help organization is addressing this issue. They are a nonprofit organization that allows people to create an online fundraising page called My Cause, to help people receive clean water via the internet."
"I first started this project over the summer. Then about two weeks ago in school we were told to make up a project about something that we are really passionate about and are willing to put time and effort into. For my project I decided to use the fundraising page I created earlier, and am hoping to help as many people as possible through this. The people you are providing clean water to and I would greatly appreciate your donation."

Linnea personally reached out to Ethiopian Deputy Ambassador Tebege Berhe, and Sally Hahn from CauseLife and invited them to give a presentation about two separate world water issues.  Ethiopian Deputy Ambassador Berhe spoke about the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP) on the Nile River, and Sally Hahn spoke about the importance of providing clean water to all people, on behalf of CauseLife.

Linnea started a fundraiser with CauseLife to do something to make a difference. On Monday, November 4th, she even held a bake sale during Parent-Teacher Conferences.

This is the link to her online fundraising page:

Moral of the Story

Students have the ability to do amazing things in school.  This is just one story to serve as an example. As educators, we need to provide students with these types of opportunities that truly empower them to ask difficult questions and solve challenging problems.  The Google 20% Time Project is just one of the many different types of Project-Based Learning or Challenge-Based Learning projects in which students can participate to either learn about something that interests them, or create something that is meaningful to them.

Let's "tip" our students with "20 Percent" Time to create more opportunities for them to be the change they wish to see in the world.  I can't wait to see the projects that my students will create in future FLEX classes!

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Why "20% Time" is Good for Schools
20 Time in Education
Let's Save "20% Time" Projects
Connecting Career and Technology to Education


[1] "The best known company to embrace [20 percent time] is Google, which has long encouraged engineers to spend one day a week working on a side project. Some Googlers use their "20 percent time" to fix an existing product, but most use it to develop something entirely new." "In a typical year, more than half of Google's new offerings are birthed during this period of pure autonomy." - Drive, by Daniel Pink

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Did You Know? Google Tips

Did you know that Google launched a website just for Google Tips?  Google Tips is a great place to learn more about how to become more productive and more efficient with Google Apps.  In short, it's basically "A bunch of stuff that you can do with Google".

How it works

Find a card you like and "flip" it over to learn more.  You can share your favorites with friends and even suggest tips for Google to add.  Google keeps adding new cards to Google Tips, so come back to this website often to check out what's new.

Here's an example

You can ask Google to fetch your stuff.  Google now has a built in Voice Search that will allow its users to search information within their Google account.  So now, Google can instantly fetch stuff in your Gmail, Google Calendar, Google+, or Google Drive, and show this info only to you, when you're signed in! Ask Google your flights, reservations, package delivery info and more.

Either using the Google Now App, or using Google Voice search in your Chrome Web Browser, you can ask Google these types of questions and Google will not only fetch this information for you, but it will speak it back to you.  Once you're signed in, you can ask Google about info from your Gmail.  For example, ask about your next flight.

Now that you know

  1. The next time you sign in to your Google Account, consider asking Google to "fetch your stuff" rather than searching for it.
  2. How might you apply this feature to education?  How might you use this with students?

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Did You Know?  Blog Series