Saturday, April 26, 2014

Accessibility Features with Chrome

Google has incorporated web accessibility within its use of Chrome Browser, Chrome Extensions and other Google Apps for Education to help with our diverse learners.  

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are important to all our students. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make Web content more usable to all students.

Google's Administrative Guide to Accessibility is a summary of accessibility information for Google Apps. It is to help understand the current state of accessibility for each supported application in the Google Apps suite and how it can meet the needs for all students. This guide’s main focus is on accessibility needs of blind and low-vision users. Deaf and hard-of-hearing users can benefit from the accessibility features of other Google products at the Google accessibility site.

The Chrome browser supports assistive technology including some screen readers and magnifiers. It offers people with low vision a number of tools, including full-page zoom and high-contrast color.The reader for Chrome that is already installed on Chromebooks is ChromeVox. ChromeVox is a screen reader for Chrome which brings the speed, versatility, and security of Chrome to visually impaired users.

Chrome Extensions are extra features and functionality that you can easily add to your Chrome browser to customize it with functionality you need. There are many extensions which improve accessibility or which help developers create accessible web applications. They are easily added to your Chrome Browser by going to the Chrome Web Store. There are many extensions to choose from. Over 300k use the extension Smooth Gestures.

There are many Google Apps for Education accessibility resources. Google Search, Gmail, Calendar, Docs and Sites, Maps and ebooks are just a few. Accessibility resources for these above apps and more are easily added to the Chrome Browser. Google provides 508 VPAT Documents to show the compliance on the above listed Apps for Education. Google continues to develop and test extensions for the Web that help disabled learners.

Meddaugh, JJ. "A First Look at the Accessibility of the Google Chrome Operating System." 14.5 (2013).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Maintaining A Growth Mindset Amongst The Obstacles of Technology Integration

  Now that computers have found their way into virtually every school and classroom in the country and the ratio of computers to students has increased dramatically, (Maddux, Johnson 2009) can educators use these technology tools to enrich learning environments?

The challenges that teachers face daily of integrating technology into their classroom is abundant.  Technology funding and device equality from school to school in our district shows digital divide.  The movement to obtain and upgrade technology structures that are necessary for PARC and CMAS testing will continue to prove funding difficulties.  Another major obstacle for educators is the excellent and ongoing training opportunities and in-service education needed to integrate  technology effectively isn’t apparent in most school districts.  Technology training and education is self-regulated by the interested individual teacher or sub-groups.  One of the  biggest criticism of integration of technology into classrooms and content areas is that Higher Education has not been successful in providing leadership. Leadership is needed by academic or practitioners that is soundly supported by research and development projects that give evidence to support the effective and efficient practices in schools and at all levels.  This lack of research could lead to technology integration being thought of as the latest fad or fashion.

“Let’s make sure that the quality of the content we put in front of our kids
                  is measured by research rather than by “likes.”” -Mary Cullinane

Cullinane (2014) also states that investment in research is needed on brain science to improve the teaching and learning process.  This will enable curriculum experts, educators and content providers to understand the goal of education is learning, not just using technology. Used effectively, technology can support the learning process in many ways.

     Developing and maintaining a growth mind-set about technology is imperative when implementing it into your student’s curriculum content.  By embracing the challenges and obstacles as a classroom teacher, you can model problem-solving first hand. My 2nd graders know some strategies if issues of internet connectivity arise. (They sit at table by door - that is where the best wifi signal is.)  Demonstrating failure is an opportunity to learn in front of your students, and can be a powerful tool.  (Students understand and love gaming online, and know what it means to fail before they succeed.)  Educator’s effort can be seen not as something useless to be avoided but a necessity to grow and master useful skills.

     The growth mind-set educator will know that there will be criticism and negativity when applying theory and technology.   However, using research based, theory based technology applications will bring credible skills into the classroom.  Learning from the success of others who have participated in quality technology applications is imperative.  As new technologies are discovered, evaluation and research to the ties of student learning are important.  Understanding that having a growth mind-set will unblock the highway to digital learning and let you start to visualize the beautiful sights along the way (while you are waiting for something to load).

     So while obstacles and challenges can’t be avoided in technology integration, maintaining a growth mind-set about this topic is essential as we move forward with our students.

Cullinane, Mary (2014) OPINION: Ban "Digital" Learning  Retrieved 4/18/14 from:              
Maddux, C. D., & JOHNSON, D. (2009). Theories, Concepts, and Techniques: Too Much of
     a Number of Good Things?. Computers In The Schools, 26(3), 165-168.              
Richard, M.G. (2014) Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset: Which One Are You? Retrieved

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Relative Advantage of Using Technology in the Content Areas

Educational Technology is constantly changing.  Educators need to continuously study and practice facilitating this learning process using the most appropriate tools available.  These tools enhance the classroom experience by providing various ways to engage and teach our students. As classrooms are becoming more student-centered, we need to evaluate how to effectively integrate technology.  As more and more teachers are using technology, we are finding that students are more engaged and interested when we are integrating quality tools.  As educators know there isn't "the best tool" for everyone. There also is specific time that the teacher-centered classroom is necessary. Effective evaluation of our content areas and standards are necessary. Below are a few examples of the way information technology can support and enhance teaching and learning of the content areas:

  • Telecommunications and video tools such as blogs, google hangouts, or skype provide a means for dialogue, discussion, and debate -- interactivity that leads to the social construction of meaning. Students can talk with other students, teachers, and professionals in communities far from their classroom. Telecommunications tools can also provide students access to many different types of information resources that help them understand both their culture and the culture of others.
  • Networked writing programs such as Google Apps, blogs and wikis, provides a unique platform for collaborative writing. Students can write for real audiences who respond instantly and participate in a collective writing activity that can include global cultures as well.
  • Schoology, Edmodo, and Blendspace are providing a place online where teachers can virtually set up their assignments or activities and students can communicate, write, watch videos and collaborate with their classmates and teacher while learning.
  • Simulations can make learning meaningful by situating something to be learned in the context of a "real world" activity such as building a volcano or experimenting with matter.
  • Scratch and are a few sites that encourage children to learn code in a fun and effective environment that includes a social aspect to it.
The use of technology allows new connections between students and their learning within the the classroom. Students are able to apply their knowledge in student-centered learning environments more than ever before in large part to the use of technology.  As the development of technology applications continue to grow, online learning will also grow.
Technology also is providing unlimited ways for learners to interact locally and globally.  This authentic learning by connecting classrooms with other classrooms, professionals or experts, provide a meaningful experience for the students.

Honey, M., Culp, K. M., & Spielvogel, R. (1999). Using technology to improve student achievement. Pathways to School Improvement [Online].

Angelina, S. & Jimoyiannis, A. (2012). Educational Blogging: Developing and Investigating Students' Community of Inquiry. In A. Jimoyiannis (Ed.), Research on e-Learning and ICT in Education (pp. 169-182). New York: Springer.