Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A List of Top Accessibility Tech Tools for Learning

I met with our IT managers yesterday for a discussion on implementing accessibility tools on all computers in all 12 districts within our 7 county region. I have to say right at the beginning that I am so fortunate to work with some terrific open-minded folks that want to do what is best for students. This group is incredibly positive and ready to help. I don't know if you have to fight politics, IT departments that dictate what is available to teachers and students, general power issues, etc. If you do, I am sorry, but I don't have to deal with any of that. I was able to share and demo my list of tools on the data projector off my own laptop and we were able to discuss the benefits and challenges of developing a computer image with these programs ready to go in the fall. We are talking imaging at least 50,000 computers.
At one point, I was asked by the team if these programs needed to be on all the computers. The thought was that maybe there might be a few computers in the building that need the tools on them for certain students, but not on all. Here was my answer...

I shared with them that it would be a forward-thinking move to be able to say that we have done our best to provide all teachers and students with the tools for accessibility, and that they are on every computer, for any individual, anytime. The UDL Editions by CAST, Google and Texthelp, gives a great example of a goal to strive for in tools that individuals can have at their fingertips to learn. For our version of this, it includes the Click-n-Type keyboard and the word prediction tool that goes with it, the Natural Reader tool for text to speech, PowerTalk to use text to speech within PowerPoint presentations, Merriam-Webster Dictionary tools on the Internet Explorer toolbar for definitions, Spanish translation and thesaurus. For the Firefox browser, we have the gTranslate, and Click Speak plug-ins as well. They are easy to get if you search for them with the Firefox browser. They can just be added quickly.
Everyone seemed very open to having these included and liked the idea that we could be complying with UDL standards in a more aggressive way. I was so proud of the way the team took to the challenge and began to discuss the training that needs to go into getting teachers aware of these tools and see the analysis begin on how many buildings actually use Firefox versus Internet Explorer.
We also had a great list of what our instructional resource/technology trainers feel are necessary to integrate tech and multi-media in the classroom.

Here is our list of Suggestions. Maybe you can get some ideas from it:
(I have linked the AT and UDL tools.)

All of these programs should be run once to accept licenses:
Audacity: also install lame_enc.dll. (Test by exporting as MP3)
Photo Story
Tux Paint-install stamp set
Media Converter SA Edition
Google Earth
Google Sketch-Up
Promethean Viewer
Microsoft Learning Essentials
Flash video player
Adobe reader – accept license
Microsoft Producer
Movie Maker
Firefox - very important because Drupal works better with Firefox
Cute PDF printer
Microsoft Learning Essentials for Educators - http://www.microsoft.com/learningessentials/ProductDetails.aspx?pid=001&active_tab=Teachers

Movie Maker - latest version
Media Player - latest version
Google Toolbar for both IE and Firefox
PicLens for IE and Firefox
Google Notebook Browser Extension for Firefox and IE

Accessibility Tools:
Click n Type On-screen keyboard
Click n Type word prediction add-on (separate download on page with keyboard)
Virtual Magnifying Glass
Natural Reader
Click Speak (Browser test to speech in Firefox only)
Merriam Webster Dictionary Toolbar (IE) (Firefox )
Powertalk for MS Powerpoint
gTranslate - for firefox (translates text in 25 languages)

Preferred Settings :
for Office 2003 or earlier
Turn off the drawing canvas
Turn on the drawing toolbar in Word
Turn on the outline toolbar in PowerPoint
Set default clip art to be “tight”
Run clip art organizer
Accept “cookie” to be able to download clip art and templates from office online Office 2007
Install Getting Started Tab with the interactive
Install PDF plugin
Display settings higher than 800x600
And a new one: The Save As: DAISY format add-on.

This gives you an idea of what we are working with as our main initiative for a standard set of applications for next school year. Thanks to some great networking and efforts on our IT part, I feel very confident, come September, we will see some great continuity in what is offered.
It will be nice to know that we can walk into any school with confidence, knowing that the accessibility tools needed are there to use with students from the on-set. I have wasted much time in the past, getting downloads to the right person who had the security clearance to load something for a student that needed it because it was on the IEP or because it was something we wanted in conjunction with a trial. Looking back on it now, it seems very primitive and in-congruent with our goals in AT and our service model to have done it that way. I am excited for where we are heading!

I would encourage you to look at these applications and see how they might support you at home, at school or at work. There are some powerful programs in this list and we are working diligently to get them out there for students to learn to use and build the ability in them to take initiative in accommodating their own learning - I call this "student-driven accommodation." Whatever you call it, it's academic freedom and independence.

All the best to you!



Paul Hamilton said...

This is a valuable post. Sounds like you are helping the school districts in your area to move forward in the right direction--toward UDL and universal access.

I've recently started putting together a UDL resource wiki that you might like to check out. It's a work in progress, with a long way to go, but I think it already has potential to be helpful. The URL is http://udl4all.pbwiki.com


Lon said...

Thanks Paul. I will definitely check it out and refer others to it. Great idea!

Brian Wojcik said...

Great post! I look forward to sharing the content with other teachers and IT folks. I think it is great that your IT folks are on board as well...a huge advantage. I'd suggest some Firefox plugins as well...I wrote about a few in my blog (http://atcubed.blogspot.com/2008/05/why-aren-all-schools-using-firefox.html)...hope they help!


Susabelle said...

Wow, AMAZING list. I just printed it out. I received a new laptop yesterday and it has plenty of room and lots of ram and I'm going to have fun and load everything I can so I can try it out.

narrator said...

Great list Lon. Great work. I might add WordTalk to it, and perhaps Microsoft Reader because of its potential as a free text-to-speech test support system (student test takers can answer within the Reader document but cannot change the document). But otherwise it is a wonderful UDL structure.

- Ira Socol

Karen Janowski said...

What an excellent post! It's great to hear how well you are working with your IT department. That is not always my experience.
Under your Preferred Settings in Word 2003, I also get rid of the Start Up Task Pane and add the Insert Sound Object to a customized Tool Bar.
You may want to check out a post I wrote: Free Tech Tools for UDL in All Classrooms.(http://teachingeverystudent.blogspot.com/2007/06/free-technology-toolkit-for-udl-in-all.html)

Karen Janowski said...

Not sure why the whole link didn't show up Try this:
or just google the title - it will come up first.