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Glossary of Terms for Inclusive Systems

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Accessibility refers to the design of apps, devices, materials, and environments that support and enable access to content and educational activities for all learners. Educational materials and technologies are “accessible” to people with disabilities if they are able to “acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services” as people who do not have disabilities. As a person with a disability, you must be able to achieve these three goals “in an equally integrated and equally effective manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use” (Joint Letter US Department of Justice and US Department of Education, June 29, 2010). Technology can support accessibility through embedded assistance—for example, text-to-speech, audio and digital text formats of instructional materials, programs that differentiate instruction, adaptive testing, built-in accommodations, and other assistive technology tools. AEM Center
Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)
Accessible educational materials, or AEM, are print and technology-based educational materials, including printed and electronic textbooks and related core materials that are designed or converted in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of individual variability regardless of format (print, digital, graphic, audio, video). AEM Center
Accommodations are adaptations or changes in educational environments or practices that help students overcome the barriers presented by their disability. Two areas in which accommodations can be used are instruction and testing. Instructional accommodations are changes to the delivery of classroom instruction or the accompanying materials. Instructional accommodations change how students learn but do not change what they learn. Testing accommodations are changes to the format of a test or its administration procedures. Testing accommodations change how students are tested but do not change what a test measures. IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University
Active Implementation Drivers (AID) 
Active implementation drivers are components within the Active Implementation Framework (AIF) that are designed for the development of leadership engagement, organizational supports, and competencies to assist leaders in developing practices to build capacity for an inclusive technology system. The three primary drivers include Competency Drivers, Organization Drivers, and Leadership Drivers (Fixsen et al., 2021).
Active Implementation Framework (AIF)
A leadership-based framework that supports the development of innovation-related competencies, organizational changes, and engaged leadership that integrates high-fidelity use of innovations in practice and student success (Fixsen et al., 2021; Fixsen et al., 2015; Bertram et al., 2015). 
Assistive Technologies (AT)
Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.Assistive technology helps people who have difficulty speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, and many other things. Different disabilities require different assistive technologies. Examples include low-tech: communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt, special-purpose computers, hardware: prosthetics, mounting systems, and positioning devices, special switches, keyboards, pointing devices, screen readers, communication programs, electronic devices, wheelchairs, educational software, power lifts, pencil holders, eye-gaze and head trackers. Assistive Technology Industry Association
Asynchronous learning does not require interaction with others to occur at the same time. For example, interaction and communication may happen through forums, blogs, email, website links, or other contexts where learners may participate within a wider, more flexible range of times when other participants are not actively present in the same moment. National Online Teaching Standards


Blended Learning
In a blended learning environment, learning occurs online and in person augmenting and supporting teacher practice. Blended learning often allows students to have some control over time, place, path, or pace of learning. In many blended learning models, students spend some of their face-to-face time with the teacher in a large group, some face-to-face time with a teacher or tutor in a small group, and some time learning with and from peers. Blended learning often benefits from a reconfiguration of the physical learning space to facilitate learning activities, providing a variety of technology enabled learning zones optimized for collaboration, informal learning, and individual focused study. National Educational Technology Plan


Data-Informed Decision-Makin
Data-driven decision-making (D3M) is the systemic collection, analysis, and application of many forms of data from various sources designed to enhance student performance while addressing student learning needs (Marsh et al., 2006; Schifter et al., 2014).
Digital Learning
Digital learning encompasses online learning and blended learning and refers to any use of either of these. Educational technology includes digital learning as well as additional technologies that apply to activities other than instruction, such as student information systems and other technologies, that support teachers and administrators without involving students directly. Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance Definitions


Educational Leadership

Educational Leadership is closely associated with transformational leadership, a leadership style that emphasizes positive change and growth and inspires all educators and students to reach their full potential for the collective benefit of all.

Educational Leadership applies to all levels of academia from early childhood to higher education and includes leading by example, uniting and elevating others, making meaningful connections with teachers, staff, students, and parents, embracing diversity of thought by valuing the opinions, ideas, and viewpoints of others, being solutions-oriented and willing to make changes for the benefit of students and teachers, inspiring a positive work culture that is team-oriented, inclusive, and operates with a clear vision of the future, and demonstrating thought leadership and the ability to overcome complex challenges (American University, 2023)./p>

Educational Technology (EdTech)
Educational Technology involves analyzing, designing, producing, evaluating, implementing, and managing educational systems and other learning environments, leading to learning and developing mind, body, and spirit (Song & Kidd, 2010; as cited by Ahmadigol, 2016). It also includes a dynamic system of study and moral action to provide an interactive environment for learners’ activity for their fast, easy, durable education and learning in alignment with their individualized interests and characteristics (Ahmadigol, 2016).
The process of communicating to, learning from, and partnering with stakeholders that acknowledges the unique needs and strengths of the stakeholders involved is meaningful, inclusive, clear, effective, and ongoing to best support educational equity and excellence (CCSSO, 2017).


Families are important adults in a K-12 student’s personal community who care for and support the student’s learning outside of the school setting. This may include: parents, siblings, grandparents or other paraprofessionals who care for the student outside of school.


Hybrid Learning
Hybrid Learning combines online and face-to-face instruction and meets multiple characteristics including the following. The school enrolls students, receives full time equivalent (FTE) funding, and is listed as a school by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The school has a physical location which students regularly attend for instructional purposes. The large majority of students must take part in learning activities at the physical location at least occasionally. Students are not required to attend the physical campus on a schedule that approaches a regular school schedule. The school might require students to be on campus a certain number of days per week, but never five days per week. Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance Definition


Individualized Education Program (IEP)
An individualized education program is a written plan that is individually developed for students identified as having a disability under IDEA. The plan is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with IDEA regulations by a duly constituted IEP team of educators, parents, and the student (when appropriate). An IEP is based on achievement, assessment, evaluation data and contains the goals that will guide the delivery of special education and related services. U.S. Department of Education
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Information and communications technology (ICT) is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application encompassing technology such as mobile phones, computer and network hardware, software, the internet, and satellite systems (Huth et al., 2017) used for gathering, storing, transmitting, retrieving, or processing information (NIST, 2023).
Information Technology (IT)
Any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information by the executive agency. For purposes of the preceding sentence, equipment is used by an executive agency if the equipment is used by the executive agency directly or is used by a contractor under a contract with the executive agency which: (i) requires the use of such equipment; or (ii) requires the use, to a significant extent, of such equipment in the performance of a service or the furnishing of a product. The term information technology includes computers, ancillary equipment, software, firmware and similar procedures, services (including support services), and related resources. FIPS 200 under INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY from 40 U.S.C., Sec. 1401
Interoperability in AT: The ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort on the part of the user). For example, a switch working with a laptop. ATIA Policy Brief: Equity Through Access
Interoperability in Edtech: The seamless sharing of data and services between systems and applications. For example, State Education Leadership Interoperability by SETDA


LMS (Learning Management System)
A Learning Management System (LMS) is a digital ecosystem consisting of content, learners, and educators. LMS refers to a wide range of platforms that can be somewhere between minimalist to comprehensive in its functionality. LMSs are used to support online learning, blended learning, and face-to-face learning environments. Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance Definitions
Low Incidence Students
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines low-incidence disabilities as Section 1462(c): a visual or hearing impairment, or simultaneous visual and hearing impairments; a significant cognitive impairment; or any impairment for which a small number of personnel with highly specialized skills and knowledge are needed in order for children with that impairment to receive early intervention services or a free appropriate public education.


Office of Education Technology
The Office of Educational Technology (OET) The U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (OET) develops national educational technology policy and establishes the vision for how technology can be used to transform teaching and learning and how to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible for early learners through K-12, higher education, and adult education. OET Website
Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is maintained by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) of the U.S. Department of Education. OSEP provides leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts in improving results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities (ages birth through 21). OSEP also administers the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). OSEP website
Online Learning
Online learning, as one type of digital learning, refers to the medium or “vehicle” used for instruction. In the online learning medium, over three quarters or more of the instruction typically occurs asynchronously within an online course. Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance Definitions


Professional Development
Professional development is mandatory one-time workshops, seminars, or lectures selected by school or district leaders and is typically a one-size-fits-all approach to training educators and staff (Scherff, 2018).


Section 504
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is part of a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. A written 504 plan is developed to guide the provision of instructional services, including accommodations and modifications, designed to meet a student's individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met. U.S. Department of Education
Synchronous learning is a form of instruction that occurs in real time, participants do not necessarily participate from the same place. Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance Definitions


Targeted Technical Assistance (TTA)
TTA involves ongoing work with participating State Education Agencies (SEAs) and collaborating districts (LEAs) to assist with developing, improving and sustaining effective, efficient systems for the provision of specialized formats of print-based instructional materials to students with disabilities. All TTA work is aligned to the Critical Components of Quality Indicators for the Provision of AEM
Technology means any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem for which the principal function is the creation, conversion, duplication, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data or information. It includes, but is not limited to, electronic content; telecommunication products; computers and ancillary equipment; software; information kiosks; transaction machines; videos; information technology services; and multifunctional office machines that copy, scan, and fax documents. Footnote 7 of the RFP that established the National Center for Accessible Education Materials for Learning
Text-to-Speech (TTS)
Text-to-speech or speech synthesis is the artificial production of human speech and is generally accomplished with special software and/or hardware. The quality of various speech generation engines can vary considerably. Some voices sound almost human while others sound more primitive and robotic. The robotic-sounding voices are considered desirable for achieving high rates of "reading" speed. AEM Center


Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

UDL is a framework of learning and teaching based on neuroanatomy and functional neuroimaging research techniques. UDL resists a one-size-fits-all approach to education and posits instead that teachers, educators, and instructional materials should effectively respond to individual differences inherent within a learning environment. Across learning goals, methods, materials, and assessments, Universal Design for Learning encourages offering—

  • Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
  • Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
  • Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners' interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.

Using UDL principles in a classroom removes obstacles to curriculum access and provides students with alternative methods to demonstrate what they know. It acknowledges that there is more than one way to learn and respects individual learning differences. CAST's About UDL


Virtual Schools
Typically, virtual schools or online schools are diploma-granting institutions that enroll students on a full-time online basis. Teachers and students are geographically remote from one another and all or most of the instruction is provided online through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Virtual schools generally do not maintain a physical facility, although some have small campuses or buildings for select activities. Virtual schools are usually responsible for providing all of the education services and requirements as a physical school; special education services, administering and reporting state assessments, providing counseling, reporting state and federal data, etc. These schools may be virtual charter or non-charter schools. Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance Definitions


Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is developed with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. The guidelines make web content more accessible, primarily for people with disabilities. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)/Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
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