How We Do It: Stirring Up Some Fun! Professional Development Our Way with the LCPS AT Team
How does the AT team at Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) set out to influence their colleagues to learn more about AAC? With digital technologies, of course, along with a heaping dose of fun. In this post, OT Judith Schoonover and SLP Sally Norton Darr share some of the team’s favorite strategies for professional development. Judie has practiced in schools since 1975, working as an OT, elementary school teacher, and an AT trainer in that time. She is a strand advisor for ATIA, and has authored chapters and presented nationally on topics including UDL, adapting books, the relationship between OT and AT, and low tech supports for students. Sally is an SLP and AT trainer for LCPS. She enjoys her work in the public schools and has fun presenting internationally, regionally, and virtually to diverse audiences on a wide range of low to high-tech strategies, interventions, and solutions. Sally is the also the co-author of the ISTE publication: The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools.
Be sure to click through the hyperlinks to access the resources created by this energetic and effective team.
Stirring Up Some Fun! Professional Development our Way: the LCPS AT Team’s Recipe for Success
We have been lucky enough to help found and work on an Assistive Technology Team in one of the fastest growing school districts in the nation. Throughout the years we have cooked up a number of initiatives to help foster the use and acceptance of Assistive Technology, flavoring them with our individual and collective passions and expertise. Everyone knows that the key to a memorable meal is careful preparation. For starters, we spread the word that most of our assistive technology suggestions will benefit many learners and should be considered “best practices” a la Universal Design for Learning.
There are never too many “cooks” when we are talking AT! Our recipes may offer some menu ideas whether you are part of a large team or a part-time AT “volunteer”.
Here’s how we spread the word: To “practice what we preach” we offer tasty tidbits of information in a variety of formats to engage consumers and represent our resources:
Website: Our website exists to whet the appetites of those who peruse it as well as offering jiffy solutions to educators hungry for resources. We offer information in a menu format categorized by curricular and other areas of interest. The curricular pages display our “top ten” sites so viewers can return again and again to savor each site instantly and in the comfort location. Like most Assistive Technology consumers, we find more promising resources weekly and combine and tag those sites in a searchable
Strategy-a-Day Calendar: A “home made” sampler of our very favorite recipes for success from start to finish, these calendars have evolved from a static tear off product into a multimodal, interactive Web 2.0 fueled resource complete with QR codes, enhanced content through social bookmarking and carefully culled artifacts that model the Universal Design for Learning framework to support the diverse needs of learners. Each calendar page also offers a QR code which links the resources of the daily strategy to additional content such as copies of templates or graphic organizers and video tutorials.
Popcorn and a movie? Try snacking on A.T. Tonight: You can see our collection of “home movies” here. These are deliciously short videos compiled onto a set of DVDs which can be checked out and viewed in homey comfort as a “take out” PD offering.
AT Overviews: We toast the new school year with an overview of our services, briefly meeting with educators at each school to review our practices, policies, supports, and resources. This is our opportunity to dish with new staff and spice up their teaching practices with nouvelle approaches. We also treat educators to an electronic folder of carefully culled resources made available on the school’s network. This contains a variety of tutorials and resources for using every day technology to meet the needs of all learners. Some of those are available here.
This recipe for success has changed throughout the years with added staff and ingredients. Some of our newest additions have included an online lending library with literacy kits, adapted toys, and Core Vocabulary kits; and special projects such as adapting books, but a good recipe should always leave the consumer wanting more, so we will save a few treats for another time.
A final word: Like the best cooks, our AT Team believes that work can be fun, and a dash of enthusiasm and passion goes a long way to collaborative practices with our colleagues. We truly “get by with a little help from our friends, from left to right, Judie Schoonover, Peggy Fees, Sally Norton-Darr, and Chris Bugaj”!
Filed under: PrAACtical Thinking
This post was written by Carole Zangari