TLA24: AI, EmpowerED and GRIT in Education

A month ago we held our second annual Texthelp Leadership Assembly (TLA) -  where leaders come to learn. TLA is an exclusive, virtual, customer-only event, dedicated to senior educational leaders and delegates in K-12. 

The results from our attendee survey are in. We’ve gathered the highlights from the top three attended and rated sessions from the conference, so you can get a snapshot of the event and the invaluable takeaways. 

If you want to skip the highlights and get straight to the main event TLA24 is now available on demand for you to catch up on until June 1st.

Session Takeaways

Future-Ready Education: UDL and Equity in the Context of AI-Infused Education

One session we recommend taking a look at was Future-Ready Education: UDL and Equity in the Context of AI-Infused Education with Luis Pérez and Sylvia Rodriguez Douglass from CAST. They gave insights into the latest UDL updates and 'big ideas' from CAST as well as: Actionable strategies for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), quality indicators for accessible materials and technologies and the significance of systemic change across all levels of education. We know you will have seen a huge shift in learning environments over the years and you’ve probably been hearing the question: "What's next for UDL and how do we see it evolving from here?"  

Trends are revealing that the future of UDL is likely to be shaped by advances in technology. As newer and more advanced tools become available, it will be easier to provide learners with customized / personalized instruction and better designed learning experiences.

One of the main areas Luis and Sylvia addressed was designing spaces that are truly accessible. In a snapshot, here’s what they said:

“Just because it’s digital, does not mean it’s accessible. Accessibility is shaped by what we need to do, our interactions with the environment, and our personal preferences.”

They also directed us to the Office for Civil Rights, stance on accessibility, stating that, 

“accessibility is when a person with a disability can acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions and enjoy the same services In an equally effective, integrated manner with substantially equivalent ease of use as a person without a disability.”

Luis and Sylvia also addressed accessibility and artificial intelligence (AI) and how it’s already helping people with disabilities:

  • Facial recognition for access to devices instead of typing passwords
  • Word prediction and voice dictation
  • Natural voices for text-to-speech systems
  • Creating plain language summaries 
  • Driver assist systems 
  • AAC (Voiceitt, OTTAA Project)

If you want to know even more about Accessibility, its future and CAST’s latest advice on the topic, listen to The Accessibility Learning Experience Podcast.

GRIT IN EDUCATION: The Psychological Resilience Critical for Success

Our day 2 Keynote was, of course, a conference highlight too. GRIT IN EDUCATION: The Psychological Resilience Critical for Success - Duncan Kirkwood, 1LT, MPA and recognized authority on psychological resilience.

Duncan started the session strong with an impactful message about unleashing your greatness through:

  • Gratitude
  • Presence
  • Self-care
  • Overcoming ego
  • Resilience

But there was one part of his session that stood out the most (and from the session’s chat comments, it hit hard with our educator attendees).

It’s the idea that school staff are first responders. Working with students and families every day on more than just education. And we couldn’t agree more. But how do educators adopt this mindset? 

  • Training and Education: From mental and physical first aid training through to providing educators and learners with the tools they need to find success throughout their time in education.
  • Building Safe and Supportive Spaces: Alongside emergency protocols, having a first responder mindset means making sure every student feels safe and supported. Building strong relationships with students is key. Even though our connections may differ, it's important to connect personally with each student we meet. Using the "hunt the good stuff" approach helps us understand our students better and strengthens our connection with them. Just three minutes of focusing on students' mental well-being can greatly improve their academic performance.

EmpowerED: Transforming Learner outcomes with Read&Write at Minneapolis Public Schools

Our last session highlight was EmpowerED: Transforming Learner outcomes with Read&Write at Minneapolis Public Schools.

Jesse Morgan, Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Professional and Director of the Assistive Technology Center at MPS outlined that MPS is now in its 4th year of district wide access to Read&Write for Google. He explored the journey, the implementation techniques and most importantly, the outcomes and results.

MPS started out by aligning Read&Write with their four core district priorities:

  1. Literacy- R&W allows struggling readers to engage with core instruction.
  2. Social Emotional Learning (SEL)- Having the proper tools at your disposal decreases anxiety and negative behaviors.  
  3. Equity - The distribution of assistive technology has not always been equitable.  Providing all students with the same access is most equitable.
  4. Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)- R&W is a tiered support.

Here’s a glimpse at MPS’s steps to district-wide success:

  1. Started with a free trial
  2. Collected usage data and user feedback
  3. Tied Read&Write into their literacy framework, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) initiatives and the core priorities of our district
  4. They worked closely with their  Texthelp reps for continued support
  5. Created implementation and training materials (website)

The results: 

Special education assistive technology online referrals have decreased by more than 85% since MPS implemented district-wide access to Read&Write.

“Aligning with district, family, and students priorities allowed us to obtain Read&Write.  Our results allow us to maintain it.”

Takeaways Roundup:

  • The future of education is shaped by advances in technology, with a focus on personalized instruction and accessible learning experiences.
  • Accessibility remains a top priority, with Texthelp's tools and initiatives aimed at ensuring equitable access for all learners.
  • Educators play a crucial role as first responders, fostering safe and supportive environments for every student through personalized engagement and the "hunt the good stuff" approach.

Want more than the highlights? Watch TLA On Demand until June 1st 2024.

Hear what our attendees said about TLA24:

“It is helpful to hear about the future vision and updates as well as how other districts are navigating the course of ongoing implementation.”