Thursday, September 18, 2008

Accessible Instructional Materials - Shift Happens

I was reading a post on EdTech Solutions by Karen Janowski on paradigm shift occurring (or not) because of IDEA 2004 mandate for accessible instructional materials (AIM). Reading through IDEA 2004 section 674 (e) (2) (B), it says:

"To provide access to print instructional materials, including textbooks, in accessible media, free of charge, to blind or other persons with print disabilities in elementary schools and secondary schools, in accordance with such terms and procedures as the National Instructional Materials Access Center may prescribe."
(674/c/1/D includes postsecondary and graduate schools as well.)

Karen referred to an article by Skip Stahl on the TRLD Site stating that getting this trend going will jump start the adaptation of curriculum into accessible formats for all students. He believes that is the shift that will be taking place in education in the future. You can read her commentary on it to get more of the information. Reading this related closely to what I was doing yesterday and I wanted to share:

I spent a half-day yesterday doing an in-service training at a high school for several teachers and administrators on developing accessible materials. We scanned text book pages, copied them into a closed blog for one student to access and used a text to speech engine and an Mp3 converter. We dragged Mp3's onto a jumpdrive Mp3 player and listened back to the text. We built teacher blogs with odiogo and set up student emails and invited them to join. It was exciting for them to paste widgets into the code side of their blogs and see videos play in and see the text book come alive on the page as they listened to it. They were having some ah-ha moments. The lights were turining on for them.
We were accomplishing great things and as the superintendent of the district sat and watched what we were doing, he too was excited to see the potential. He was ready to see his staff use these blogs and link them on the school site. (Of course then we have to be careful of what text we are scanning and posting - we have to watch out for the copyright violations). The amazing thing was... I saw that shift happen. The students that these blogs were prepared for will get to have some fun exploring how to do this too.

I asked the teachers to let the students pick some content online and paste it into a blog post and hear it or let them find a video to embed. Let them explore content they are excited about to learn the process of using the tools. Once they use the tools to access what they want to read, hear and see, they will buy in and then they will use the tools for their schoolwork too. If we don't develop the real-life correlation to the use of the tool, we can build all these cool methods for access and then put the most boring thing on earth there and the student will hear "blah, blah, wah, wah, wah".
Here is an example: We had scanned the first page of chapter one of a business english text book. It was exciting to use OCR and see the text ready to hear, but we had some cleaning up of the text to do since the scanning is never 100% perfect. They did some of the editing and I asked them to listen back to what they had. It was the most awful, boring text I had about ever heard or read.
"If I were the student supposed to use this new way of access and my first introduction to it was this passage, I would tune out just like that - snap." I said. "Why not let the student listen to or find something they want so you get the excitement and buy in?"
A teacher found a horse polo video and embedded it. She also found a short story on to add. The creative juices were flowing. We were on our way to getting buy-in from the staff and the administration. The student is next - and that is who this is all for!

So...the shift can begin to take place for this school and this staff, but the shift also has to take place for the students. They have to adjust to the change so they know what they can expect and how they are allowed to access the material - and maybe what they are allowed to access. When the students arrive there, then things really begin to take off.
I will be eager to see what happens in the weeks and months ahead.

Assistive Technology Blog Carnival is taking posts on a "Back to School" topic. The deadline is Friday, September 26. If you would like to share a blog post with us, check out the details at

All the best to you!


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