Monday, October 13, 2008

Technology Chats Over Micro-brews:Let's Get Instructional and Assistive Technology Working Together

We need to "marry" instructional technology in the schools with assistive technology - what better way to start than over a micro-brew?
It is Sunday night, I have spent the late autumn afternoon in a true Oktoberfest, wandering a green and gold corn maze in the country near Walla Walla, WA. We drove with some of our friends and all of our children, by vineyards and hay bales, making our way to the little farm which has a hot dog stand and lawn chairs around a bonfire at the entrance. This is tradition anymore. We have been taking our children here since they were 2 - even have gotten our family Christmas card pictures taken here. We love it.
After the corn maze we visited another tradition, a micro brewery, and sat outside and had nachos, onion rings, buffalos wings and sweet potato fries - oh yes and a locally brewed Walla Walla Wheat beer with lemon. I am now sitting by the fire ready to write a Monday post with a full tummy and happy heart. So what did I learn today? I think I need to start a new series on my blog: "Technology Chats Over Microbrews"
The friends we went with happen to be our regional instructional technology gurus - really. They handle all the professional development with teachers in our region for instructional best practice with technology. They serve at the state level in the instructional technology state cadre and hold a regional cadre. The first regional one last week had about 50 teachers there from our schools. They all freely donated their time from 4:30 to 7:30 with a free dinner (free food always bribes teachers!). Seriously, the training is so relevent, powerful and exciting that there are often teachers turned down because of a lack of space.
So here we were at the table and we began to talk about projects at work, several things. One is a district that is now applying for the Premier Literacy grant for their suite of accessibility tools. The district wants me to train and help in implementation. I thought what better way to integrate these friends who do our instructional technology than to invite them into the process of implementing this software for the first district in our region to get this grant. What better people to pull into the idea of UDL and accessibility tools for ALL students than these two. If they buy in and help me implement this first district - and they see the power of it, maybe they will help spread the news. We also talked about some tools with the Promethean Board that I hadn't realized could be a boon to us in AT - I will share that tomorrow.

I want to encourage you to look at how you can pull the instructional technology experts in your area into the discussion and implementation of AT for all students. So often we are in different camps - and both are trying to accomplish the same thing - support for education using technology, but we do it seperately. I know that we serve different school populations at times, but with RTI and NCLB, those populations are merging. By combining efforts we can provide a holistic approach, combining the best of both worlds.
I have much more to say on this topic, but will save some for another post. In the meantime, find a corn maze near you in the next 2 weeks, get a carload of friends and spend a lazy Sunday afternoon exploring. Then sit by a fire with your favorite food, drink and friends - but even better, make them friends who happen to work with instructional technology - maybe a first date? See where it leads...

All the best to you!


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Ant said...

Hi Lon,
I probably seem like a serial commenter. All I can say is that I'll stop commenting when you stop writing about the good things such as AT and, now, micro-brewing!
At the university for which I work, flexibility in teaching and learning is the flavour of the month. Many people are talking about online communities and learning management systems, but the discussion cover only the goals of the technology and not the objectives that need to be put in place to make the technology as usable as possible.
What you've written about here is exactly the theme that I am trying to raise where I work. The technology is good, but consideration needs to be given to the details of how it will impact some students.

Lon said...

Hey, We need to share one of those micros and talk AT one day - my treat!
I appreciate your comments and you can make as amny and as often as you like!
The implementation is the key - no matter how wonderful our assessments are or the potential with the equipment or software.
I am glad you are working towards this end at the university level.