Develop Technology Competencies
Include families in technology planning.
Include families in assistive technology planning (Harper et al., 2016) and offer training and resources so families can work with students at home to generalize skills learned in school with assistive technologies (Blackstone et al., 2021).
The goal of developing technology competencies is to improve the design and delivery of learning opportunities for all students. Technology competencies are a set of skills that educators are expected to acquire. Some districts create or identify their own set of competencies that staff are expected to work toward. There are also broadly used sets of competencies available. Whether using the national lists, district curated competencies, or the competencies an educator individually identifies, ensuring those competencies include the use of accessible materials and assistive technologies will promote inclusive learning opportunities in a balanced and inclusive technology ecosystem.
Actions educators can take to develop technology competencies for inclusive learning include:
- Work toward technology competencies.
- Use technology to create transformative learning experiences.
- Integrate accessible educational materials and AT to ensure students with disabilities are able to use and benefit from technology.
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Personalizing the Reading Experience, Webinar, AEM Center at CAST, 2020
Personalizing the Writing Experience, Webinar, AEM Center at CAST, 2020
Features in Accessibility: Microsoft's Tools in Practice, Webinar, AEM Center at CAST, 2020
Features in Accessibility: Google's Tools in Practice, Webinar, AEM Center at CAST, 2020
Online Learning Series on Accessible Materials & Technologies, self-paced online course, AEM Center at CAST, 2021
New York City's Story
New York City Department of Education (New York, New York)
The New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) is the largest school district in the United States, serving approximately 1,126,000 students. Prior to the COVID-19 school building closures, NYC DOE focused on ensuring equity across the district with a vision for universal 1:1 technology access, as well as building the key supports needed to make such an undertaking work (e.g., teacher capacity, student digital citizenship skills). Given the challenge of bringing 1:1 device access to over a million students while ensuring equity and accessibility for all students, NYC DOE took a team-based approach, involving representation from a variety of departments to address system-wide technology capacity. NYC DOE’s Center for Assistive Technology prioritized strengthening the capacity of teachers, supervisors, related service providers, and school psychologists that know how to consider AT and conduct AT assessments. The Center for Assistive Technology historically provided various levels of support, including districtwide professional development (the Beyond Access Forum), on-demand support for districts and schools, and individualized support for students on specific pieces of AT. The goal of capacity building was to support, inform, and train school-based teams on Universal Design for Learning, instructional technology, and AT. These school-based teams were then charged with providing training and on-the-ground coaching for educators to use and integrate accessible and AT tools throughout instructional activities.
The rapid shift to online learning in spring 2020 accelerated this initiative, as the district noted: “The city had a crash course on accessibility ... the impact of accessibility on students and their learning environments raised awareness and skills ... COVID-19 resulted in a light-speed fast forward jump in the plan.” Further, the NYC DOE Center for Assistive Technology team noted that prior planning and collaboration helped lay the groundwork for rapidly building educator capacity. For example, in the yearly Beyond Access Forum, hundreds of teachers, administrators, service providers, students, advocates, and families attended dozens of workshops and AT demonstrations to build AT competencies at multiple levels of the educational system.
Blackstone, S. W., Luo, F., Canchola, J., Wilkinson, K. M., & Roman-Lantzy, C. (2021). Children with Cortical Visual Impairment and complex communication needs: Identifying gaps between needs and current practice. Language, speech, and hearing services in schools, 52(2), 612–629. https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-20-00088
Harper, K. A., Kurtzworth-Keen, K., & Marable, M. A. (2016). Assistive technology for students with learning disabilities: A glimpse of the Livescribe pen and its impact on homework completion. Education and Information Technologies, 22(5), 2471–2483. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-016-9555-0
Jones, B. A., Rudinger, B., Williams, N., & Witcher, S. (2019). Training pre-service general educators in assistive technology competencies for students with visual impairments. The British Journal of Visual Impairment, 37(1), 29–39.
This article demonstrates the effectiveness training on specific AT competencies has on the overall knowledge and skills of educators, specifically general educators. It highlights the use of a hands-on approach to professional development and training.
Laho, N.S. (2019). Enhancing school-home communication through learning management system adoption: Parent and teacher perceptions and practices. School Community Journal, 29, 117-142.
Marino, M. T., Sameshima, P., & Beecher, C. C. (2009). Enhancing TPACK with assistive technology: Promoting inclusive practices in preservice teacher education. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(2).
This foundational article illustrates the critical technology skills for educators teaching in inclusive technology systems. It highlights examples of how AT and EdTech are district yet overlapping constructs.