October 2020 - Volume 46
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
You Can Be 'Disabled and Cute,' Says Keah Brown
| NowThis |

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR)

As the demand for virtual meetings remains high, the need to provide automatic live captions has been pushed to the forefront. Although there are many solutions available, it is important to take some time to investigate the pros and cons and weigh your options.
Both Microsoft Teams and Google Meet are offering free live captions; however, you should note that captions are not saved and will not be available to view in any recordings you make. The accuracy of these services is improving, but still often falls below 80 percent accuracy, which may prove troublesome for those who rely on captions to know what is being said.
Services like Rev for Zoom, Streamer, and 3Play Media (which offers live caption integration to multiple platforms including Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube) boast of higher levels of accuracy and more options for recording and editing captions for future use. However, these types of services come with monthly subscription costs or “per minute” fees.
As you explore all of your available options, make sure you aren’t overlooking necessary options or transcription accuracy. What good is it if you can say that you provide live captions, but they are difficult to access or unhelpfully inaccurate? Test each service you are considering on yourself and several other people to see what both the host and participant’s experience is like. No matter what options you choose, remember the basics: a good microphone, reduced background noise, and clear speech will help immensely!

Assistive Technology (AT)

Regardless of where learners are receiving their educational instruction, it is important to ensure a learner’s assistive technology is considered and integrated during their daily instruction. Here are some guiding questions to help educators consider AT integration, developed by Mark Trexler, Ed.D, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education Center for Technology in Education:

  1. Set-up: Activates prior learning and prompts the learner to be organized and ready to learn. Guiding Question: Is the learner’s assistive technology device active and functional?
  2. Content Presentation: Uses a wide range of strategies that stimulate interest in and understanding of the content. Guiding question: Is each strategy accessible to the learner through their assistive technology device?
  3. Learning Together: Facilitates productive online group work as learners review content and apply understanding. Guiding question: Does the assistive technology device and technology platform allow the learner to collaborate with his or her peers productively?
  4. Just for Me: Provides learners with the content for independent practice. Guiding question: Does the assistive technology device allow the learner to engage with the content for productive independent study?
  5. Assessment: Assesses learners’ understanding of key concepts. Guiding question: Does the assistive technology device allow the learner to successfully complete the assessment?
  6. Wrap-Up: Record homework assignments, determine learners’ performance ratings for the instructional period, and prepare for transition. Guiding question: Does the assistive technology allow the learner to successfully complete lesson closing tasks? 

For more ideas, check out Mark’s article: 5 Tips to Promote Access for Students Who Use Assistive Technology During Distance Learning.

Comprehensive Literacy for Autonomous Communication

It's important to remember that we must facilitate, not mandate, topic choice for students with significant disabilities as they become writers. We can help facilitate topic choice by creating photo banks of classroom activities, favorite characters, student interests, etc. If you're teaching in a virtual format, it may be helpful to use tools such as Google Docs, Google Slides, or Padlet to store and share photos. We can also help facilitate topic choice by asking learners to list their thoughts in response to a topic such as "5 things they don't like about school" or "5 things that make them happy." We can build a sense of community while increasing audience awareness and shared interests by allowing students to share their lists with one another. Padlet is a great tool for creating, sharing, and saving these lists. These lists may help a learner select a topic to write about if/when they're struggling to find a topic. 

Delta Math: Implementation Story

Ann Bingham
Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
Niles Community School

During the summer of 2020, the teachers and administrators at Niles Community Schools (NCS) set out to close learning gaps in mathematics and reading caused by the mandatory spring shut down. As such, a program was quickly devised and implemented to provide one-on-one virtual tutoring for students in grades K-7. Fifteen NCS teachers signed up for the project and were able to support approximately 100 students districtwide. Students in grades K-5 were provided two and a half hours of individualized tutoring in math and reading each week for four weeks. Students in grades six and seven received two and a half hours of tutoring in math over two weeks.
The teachers utilized the data from the Delta Math winter screen up to create customized learning goals in mathematics for each learner. NCS also partnered with Mike Klavon, from the Ottawa Intermediate School District (ISD), to provide each student with a Delta Math kit that contained the necessary manipulatives, lessons, and games to facilitate learning from home. Mike Klavon also provided professional learning for the teachers to support them in better leveraging the Delta Math resources within a virtual context.
NCS has been utilizing Delta Math for in-person, tier-two instruction for approximately four years, and the number of students ready to learn grade level mathematics has increased significantly over time. Still the program had never been delivered virtually, so we were anxious to see the extent to which learning gaps caused by the pandemic could be closed. Upon the conclusion of this project, NCS discovered that nearly every participant achieved the benchmark on at least two Delta Math readiness standards. Both parents and teachers were surveyed regarding their experience with the new program. The results were extremely encouraging! According to one parent:
Willy had a lot of fun and had positive tutoring sessions with his tutor Kyle. He was always excited to go to the summer camp and looks forward to participating next summer if available. Willy would like you to know that he enjoyed the program, and the sessions helped him become more confident in the concepts he was working on. Thank you for making this possible for Willy and for the other children. In light of the pandemic, it was tremendous the instructors still wanted to make sure the students had an educational advantage and were able to bond with them and their fellow students. It meant the world to Willy and me. Thank you.
The results from the surveys are summarized below: 

  • 92 percent of parents agreed or strongly agreed their child’s understanding of math improved.
  • 98 percent of parents would recommend this program to other families.
  • 94 percent of parents would participate again.
  • 94 percent of parents felt their child was more confident as a result of the program.
  • 100 percent of the teachers who participated would participate in the program again.

In many respects, this program was a “Hail Mary pass in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.” Typically, a program such as this would have taken months to plan and instead it was pulled off in a few short weeks. By partnering with Mike Klavon and Delta Math, NCS was able to provide learning opportunities that positively impacted students during the most challenging of times. As we look forward to the summer of 2021, we hope to build off what we have learned and continue to utilize Delta Math as a tool to narrow learning gaps in mathematics.

Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students With Learning Difficulties

As new groups of students enter our classrooms each year, we are reminded that we must continue to adjust the lens through which we review barriers to learning. Continuous learning and improvement of analyzing barriers and aligning strategies will not only add to our toolbox but also allow us to maximize the potential to impact student learning for each new group of students. PowerUP What Works, part of the American Institutes for Research (AIR), offers strategies, resources, and tools to support struggling students. They have a page on their site dedicated to evidence-based instructional strategies to enhance math learning in the areas of interaction with peers, modeling, math language, thinking aloud, understanding problems, and more. Take some time to explore these strategies to reinforce what you are currently doing, gain new insight into strategies you have used, and to learn some new strategies to trial with students.

Foundations of Communication (FoC) and Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD)

Have you ever wondered or explained to other educators or families what AAC is, who might benefit from AAC, or where and how it's used? Alt+Shift has created an AAC Fundamental Quick Win that provides answers to these questions and more! Check it out and let us know what you think in the feedback. 

Foundations of Math (FoM)

The Foundations of Math course is a professional learning opportunity designed to support educators in creating Tier 1 learning opportunities that support students with disabilities and allows increased access to high-quality instruction for all students. Participants who have recently started the training at a local site have reported they have a better understanding of:

  • The importance of concrete/visual learning.
  • The increased use of math language.
  • The need to build conceptual understanding to support procedural knowledge.
    Members of the group also reported enthusiasm for the district-wide initiative, knowing that it takes all levels of educators to support a student’s math journey.

If you are interested in learning how your ISD can partner with Alt+Shift, please visit the Alt+Shift Partnering Process page on our website. We are currently accepting applications for FoM partnerships. Download the Foundations of Math Call for Applications to apply.   

Foundations of Math: Teaching Students With Significant Disabilities (FoM:SD)

Alt+Shift will add three new ISD partnerships during the 2020-2021 school year and expand to new cohorts as part of two existing partnerships. This puts us at capacity for new partnerships, and applications are on a waitlist. If you are ready to pursue a partnership with Alt+Shift regarding this professional learning opportunity, please submit a partnership application and we will contact you to talk about what you can do to get a head start while you are on the waitlist.

Michigan Department of Education Webinar for Parents, Families, and Advocates of Students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

On September 14, 2020 the Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education (MDE OSE) hosted a free webinar designed for parents, families, and advocates of students with IEPs.  The webinar is described and linked in this MDE OSE memorandum. Watch the full recording below.

Special Education Family and Advocate Webinar

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

- To Be Announced -

Upcoming Events: Michigan

Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics Fall Book Study
September 21, October 13, and November 3, 2020
7:30 - 9 p.m.

November 16, December 7, February 22, May 7
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

8th Annual Autism Conference
October 8-9, 2020
Radisson Plaza Hotel and Suites
Kalamazoo, MI

2020 Van Riper Lecture Series
October 29, 2020
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI
Math in Action: Call for Presenters and Save-the-Date
February 20, 2021
Allendale, MI

Upcoming Events: National

13th Annual Clinical AAC Research Conference
October 8-10, 2020
University of Pittsburgh

Closing The Gap 2020
October 28 - November 11, 2020

Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference (Virtual)
January 25-28, 2021

National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) Bold Leadership Summit
April 25-27, 2021
St. Louis, MO

Lending Library Update

There are 65 items out on loan. 

The Alt+Shift library is open.
Please return items/devices to the Alt+Shift office at:
1037 S U.S. Highway 27
St. Johns, MI 48879

A mishmash of large colorful buttons and other small electronic parts are displayed

New Item:

We have updated the switch kit in the library. The Single Switch Kit includes everything you need to conduct a single switch assessment.
Kit includes: Single Switch Tester, BIG Candy Corn, Jelly Bean Twist, Big Red, Mini Beamer Receiver, Mini Beamer Transmitter, Grasp Switch, Wobble Switch, Wobble Switch Mounting Plate, Micro Light Switch, Mini Cup Switch, Pillow Switch, Plate Switch, Spec Switch Red, Battery Device Adapter - AA/AAA, Battery Device Adapter - C/D, Table Top Suction Mount, and a Universal Mounting Plate.

Lending Library Opportunities to Learn More

Many AT companies that are found in our library are providing online trainings and materials to help you as you try devices with students in a remote environment.


The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has shared a compiled list of resources and practices to support the return to school and the continuity of learning. The resources are from OSEP partners and offer support for a variety of needs of students with disabilities for remote and distance learning. This list was shared during an OSEP webinar in August.

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Alt+Shift, encompassing Michigan's Integrated Mathematics Initiative, is an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Grant Funded Initiative out of the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education.