Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Additional Operating Systems For Users with Disabilities

Along with creating operating systems for students with disabilities, the computer industry has created modifications for both keyboard and mouse control, as well as modifications for students with sensory impairments.  According to Dell, Newton, and Petroff, the use of keyboard modifications, used both alone and in various combinations, can not only eliminate student frustration with the use of a keyboard and/or mouse, but also increase a students productivity (2012).  Modifications such as StickyKeys, Slow Keys, and MouseKeys are all beneficial to students in their own way.

"StickyKeys allows students to press keys sequentially to execute function that typically require pressing the keys simultaeously" (Dell, 2012).  When activited, StickyKeys allows modifier keys, such as Shift, Alt, and Windows Logo, to work as though they are being held down by the student until the next non-modifier key is pressed.  Students who are only able to press one key at a time, specifically those with fine motor skills or disabilities such as cerebral palsy, would benefit from this modification.

When using Slow Keys, the amount of time it takes for a key to be depressed before it registers a keystroke  is increased.  This is helpful when students make brief keystrokes accidentally; when using SlowKeys, this action is ignored.  Students who suffer from hand tremors, muscle weakness or fatigue, and/or poor fine or gross motor control will be able to facilitate effective keyboarding when the use of this adjustment.

Students have the ability to direct the mouse pointer and execute all functions of the mouse with the use of MouseKeys, rather than a numeric keypad.  This modification helps students who can use a keyboard successfully, but have difficulty using a mouse.

Along with keyboard modifications, the computer is made accessible for students who are blind or visually impaired, and for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Students who are blind or have visual impairments can alter their computers to have a higher visual contrast and font size, while those students who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a computer through the use of visual signals, icons, and/or captions.


Dell, A.G., Newton, D.A., Petroff, J.G. (2012).  Assistive Technology in the Classroom; Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities. 2nd Edition.

Computer Access for Students with Disabilities

As we have learned, using Universal Design for Learning in the learning environment is a great way for teachers to accommodate the needs of each of their diverse learners.  Because technology has become a large part of teaching our students, "the computer industry has adopted the concept of universal design" and modified systems so all students can be engaged in learning through the use of technology (Dell, Newton, Petroff, 2012). The computer industry has taken the second principle of universal design, flexibility in use, and incorporated its concepts into systems that will benefit those students with disabilities.

Flexibility in use has four guidelines, all in which encourage students to learn material through accommodating their learning abilities.

How Does it Work?
Student Characteristics
Designers  provide choice in method of use
The student has the ability to control the computer through the use of a keyboard or mouse.

The student using this guideline has the ability to receive information by reading or listening (text-to-speech) to the material on the screen.
Students who have poor fine motor control, difficulty in visually tracking mouse pointer, and/or have limited range of motion would benefit from using a keyboard or mouse.

Text-to-speech supports students with reading disabilities or attention deficits. 
Designers accommodate left- and right-handed users
Having a computer with a one-button mouse (Mac’s); functions on a two-button mouse can be switched (Microsoft)
Students who are only capable of using one hand and/or has better control with one hand

Students with fine motor skills
Designers take into account the variations among the precision and accuracy  of computer users
Providing learners with the option to enlarge icons and text and slower mouse speed
Students with low vision, hand-eye coordination problems, visual perception issues, hand tremors, poor fine motor skills, and cognitive deficits would work well under the use of this option.
Designers are advised to provide adaptability to the user’s pace
Systems will be set to process the speed of mouse travel, timing for double-clicks, keyboard repeat delays, and keyboard repeat speed.
Mouse speed should be increased for students with limited range of motion.

Mouse speed should be decreased for students with visual tracking difficulty, poor fine motor control, and difficulty raising head to monitor the movement of the mouse pointer. 

Repeat delays should be increased for students with poor fine motor control and those who have difficulty raising head to check for typing accuracy. 

Dell, A.G., Newton, D.A., Petroff, J.G. (2012).  Assistive Technology in the Classroom: Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities. 2nd Edition.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What is Augmentative Communication?

According to Dell, Newton, and Petroff, authors of Assistive Technology in the Classroom, "augmentative communication is a way to supplement an individual's method of communication to assist comprehension" (2012).  Typically, augmentative communication devices are used to help individuals who cannot speak to interact and communicate with others.  These devices and systems are important and necessary because they allow individuals to express themselves and communicate with peers, as well as increases their independence and creates numerous opportunities (Dell, Newton, Petroff, 2012).

There are two types of augmentative communication systems: unaided and aided.

Augmentative System
This system uses only a person’s body for communication; a person does not carry anything with him or her; this system is always available in every environment.
Sign Language:

This system uses an external piece of equipment to convey a message; needs to be transported everywhere with individual in order to communicate with others
Alphabet Board:


Dell, A.G., Newton, D.A., Petroff, J.G. (2012).  Assistive Technology in the Classroom: Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities. 2nd Edition. 

Hearing Assistive Technology

As humans, it is necessary to be able to communicate our feelings, thoughts, and ideas in order to be successful in our school, work, and home environments.  Not only is communicating important, but being able to understand the individuals you are communicating with is equally important.  Those individuals who cannot express themselves through speech or for those who cannot hear speech, are offered the use of hearing assistive technology.  Hearing assistive technology helps individuals who are hard of hearing and/or suffer from hearing losses, and gives them the opportunity to hear speech, as well as communicate with others.

For students trying to communicate within a learning environment, hearing assistive technology is very important.  It has the ability to enhance a students communication skills with both the teacher and peers working in the environment. "Students who are hard of hearing have difficulty following classroom instruction due to poor acoustics, classroom layout, and teacher style. They are also at a serious disadvantage during social interactions" (Dell, Newton, Petroff, 2012).  Students who lack hearing abilities are often unable to express their ideas and opinions, demonstrate knowledge they have learned in class, and participate in class discussions.  For these reasons, assistive hearing technology can be used to amplify specific sounds for students, while minimizing distractions that are in the background.  Beneficial assistive listening devices (ALD's) include FM systems, infrared systems, induction loop systems, and soundfield amplification systems.

Induction Loop System
Transmits an audio signal directly into a hearing aid through the use of magnetic 

FM System


Dell, A.G., Newton, D.A., Petroff, J.G. (2012). Assistive Technology in the Classroom. Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities. 2nd Edition.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


As this module comes to an end, it is valuable to look back and reflect on things that have been discussed and learned.  Throughout module one, we have discussed many items pertaining to the Universal Design of Learning, as well as websites and learning tools that assist with the process of understanding UDL and its guidelines.  For me, many of these websites were helpful because they used additional resources such as pictures and videos to demonstrate the basic concepts of UDL.  For example:

1.) provides readers with basic knowledge, activities, and case stories to define what UDL is and how it benefits students, as well as teachers.  Once basic knowledge of UDL is understood, this website provides readers with information on how to diagnose and plan curriculum under UDL guidelines.  I found this website helpful because it shows how to add technology into a lesson plan without over using technology completely, as well as ways in which students can become more engaged and collaborate.

2.) The video, "UDL at a Glance," posted under January 24th, is very helpful in understanding what UDL is.  It provides viewers with basic knowledge of UDL while using graphs, pictures, and scenarios. This video also proves that not all students learn the same way; learners vary between visual, auditory, or a variety means of learning.  As a visual learner, this video helped me gain information on UDL and its guidelines.

3.) "Technology Toolkit for UDL" is a free informational website that provides educators with teaching strategies, helpful websites and resources, and a technology toolkit.  I found this website very beneficial and can be used while teaching any grade level.  From the graphic organizers, to the literacy and writing tools, teachers can use this website to build lesson plans and engage students with all learning styles.

4.), provides educators with information on how to implement UDL in their classroom.  This website provides teacher toolkits, UDL examples and resources, online modules that include video learning, and professional learning services.  All of these links are helpful when it comes to building teacher knowledge and provides teachers with step-by step instructions on implementation.  I find this website useful for those teachers just beginning the journey of UDL implementation, as well as for those educators who would like to learn about additional resources that can help build their knowledge.

5.) The website,, was very helpful in providing the basic guidelines for UDL, as well as identified the three primary principles that should be followed while using UDL.  I found the following chart to be very beneficial and explains to teachers how lesson plans should be organized and what teaching strategies should be used in order to engage learners of all kinds.

Three primary principles guide UDL—and provide structure for the Guidelines

I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation

II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

Curriculum Barrier Template & Pre/Post Lessons

While assessing lesson plans, it is helpful to use a Universal Design for Learning guideline checklist.  The lesson plan I assessed, was written when I student taught in a second grade classroom.  The lesson was used to teach the students in the area of health and fitness, specifically teaching them how to eat a healthy breakfast and why it is important to do so.  Students were shown pictures and charts given within the curriculum, as well as created a healthy breakfast food poster.  The students were given pictures (already laminated and placed on the board) and were to choose their favorite breakfast food.  They then taped the picture of the food on the poster, and as a class, the students discussed how they could enhance the food to make it healthier and provide themselves with energy to last throughout their morning.  For example, if one student chose yogurt as their breakfast food, peers might suggest adding granola and/or fruit to the yogurt to make it healthier and to keep their stomachs more full, as opposed to just eating the yogurt plain.

After I assessed the lesson plan using the UDL guidelines, I realized I had no use of technology within the lesson plan.  Although a SmartBoard, student laptops, and a teacher laptop are provided by the district, none of them were used within the lesson.  For that reason, I added all of these forms of technology to enhance the lesson plan and to engage student learning.  Along with using the posters and charts provided with the curriculum, I added the use of the SmartBoard; using it to show students pictures of healthy foods and demonstrations of exercises they can do to keep healthy.  After the class activity was complete, I had the students use their laptops to complete healthy food games and activities on a website.  This not only adds technology, but also keeps students engaged in the lesson by giving them an activity to complete that not only catches their eye, but also pertains to the subject matter.

After completing an assessment on a lesson plan, I realized how important it is to add technology into every lesson.  Technology adds variety, class discussions, student engagement, and gives students access to tools they may not have access to outside of the classroom.  Technology also gives all types of learners the opportunity to learn.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Curriculum Barriers

In this blog, we will be discussing the curriculum barriers that students come across while in their learning environments.  Every student has strengths, as well as areas of difficulties that the teacher needs to address.

The following chart shows student characteristics, curriculum barriers, and the area in which the student expresses challenges within the learning environment.  This particular student has many interests and strengths when it comes to learning; especially in the areas of reading and language arts, and science.  Although she loves these subject areas, there are barriers that hold her back from truly understanding the material and from completing classwork.

Curriculum Element
Student Characteristic
Barrier in Learning Environment
Reading textbook and additional class materials
Student loves reading, however has difficulty doing so because of poor eyesight.  She wears glasses, as well as uses assistive technology such as a magnifying class.
Student has difficulty reading due to poor eyesight. 
Group/Partner work
Student loves to interact with peers during non-stressful situations such as lunch and recess.  When it comes to working with peers in class, she often has anxiety and lacks social skills.
Student has difficulty communicating with peers because of poor social skills.
Class discussions, PowerPoint Presentations
Although the student is an auditory learner, she struggles with PowerPoint presentations due to difficulty with fine motor skills and the ability to write quickly.
Student has difficulty taking notes during lectures, leaving studying for tests and reviewing materials difficulty as most of the material being taught is not written down for future reference.
Watching video clips pertaining to course material
Student learns well from video clips; although she has difficulty seeing, she has the ability to listen well.