Inclusive Learning 365


In this episode we’re joined by 4 educational experts, and friends of Texthelp, who have co-written a fantastic new book about inclusive learning. The book is called Inclusive Learning 365, and is being published by ISTE - the International Society for Technology in Education.  If you work in education this book will become your daily companion, with 365 strategies that you can use to provide the best learning experience. We’re going to take a look at some of these strategies in today’s podcast. 

The authors Chris Bugaj, Karen Janowski, Mike Marotta and Beth Poss come from a variety of backgrounds in education. We’ll meet them all shortly and find out a bit more about them and what drove them to write this book.

The book Inclusive Learning 365 is available from ISTE and Amazon, if you want to grab yourself a copy after listening to our podcast.

Transcript

Jason Carroll:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Texthelp Talks podcast. We've got a host of experts covering a range of topics from education right through into the workplace, so make sure you subscribe through your preferred podcast player or streaming service so you never miss an episode. Today, you're hearing from me, Jason Carroll, the Chief Product Officer at Texthelp and I'm joined by the authors of a new book, Inclusive Learning 365, from Chris Bugaj, Karen Janowski, Mike Marotta, and Beth Poss. Their new book is being published by ISTE and will be available in June. We'll tell you how to get your copy later in this podcast. My guests come from a variety of backgrounds and education and have known each other for over 10 years. They've often presented together at conferences and events, so we'll meet them all shortly to find out a bit more about them and what drove them write this book.

Jason Carroll:

Guys, it's great to have you with us today. If you don't mind, please say a little bit about yourself so our audience can get to know you, and if it's okay, Chris, I'll start with you.

Chris Bugaj:

Sure, Jason. I think it's also fair to say that we've known you for those 10 years as well. You've been in the group with us talking about universal design and accessibility for many, many years. My background is as a speech language pathologist and I currently work as the Assistive Technology Specialist in Loudoun County Public Schools, which is in the northern Virginia area. But I like to think of myself as an inclusive design facilitator, someone who helps educators, special educators, general educators, educated parents, and everyone design more inclusive experiences for all students.

Jason Carroll:

That's great. Thanks, Chris. I was thinking about editing that when I read it because I was thinking for the 10 years I have definitely known you guys for that amount of time as well, but I was afraid it would mess with the flow there, so I appreciate you bringing it up. Karen, if it's okay, we'll go over to you.

Karen Janowski:

Thanks. Thanks for having us, Jason. This is so great to be a part of it and so my background is as a school based occupational therapist and I discovered when I was working in the schools that educators typically offered options for students that promoted dependence, and I was like oh, technology makes all the difference to include students, to promote their independence. And so I became an Assistive Technology Consultant and have my own private practice, but I'm like Chris, let's rename assistive technology to inclusive design facilitators, inclusive technology. We want to build and meet all student's needs. So I love what I do, I'm in the greater Boston area, and we provide services throughout this area in terms of assistive technology and AAC.

Jason Carroll:

That's awesome. Great. Thanks, Karen. And then Beth, over to you.

Beth Poss:

Yeah, hi. It is great to be here with all of you today and I am currently the Director of Educational Programs with LessonPix, but I spent over 30 years in the public schools in Maryland as a speech language pathologist, as an assistive technology specialist, and as an administrator, and assistant principal, and coordinator of special programs. And much like Chris and Karen said, what I really consider myself to be though, take away all of those other titles, I am an inclusive educational advocate and really that's where my passion lies. So I've been so excited to be a part of this book and getting to talk about how every educator can become an inclusive educational advocate.

Jason Carroll:

That's great. Thanks, Beth. And then last, but definitely not least, Mike.

Mike Marotta:

Thanks, Jason. I appreciate it. It's good to see you again and hello everyone. I am a bit of an anomaly in our group. I don't come from the background of education to start, I'm actually an engineer by training, but I often say I would probably be the worst engineer ever now. I've been in the education field for over 30 years supporting educators, supporting therapists, supporting students, and learners, and educators as they move through and try to find solutions that work for them. And so like everyone else, I'm not happy with the title that I'm given sometimes so I give my own title as an inclusive technology evangelist. I currently work as a consultant, I have my own consulting company that I work with individuals and organizations to help them be more inclusive. I also wear several other hats, one being as the Director of the New Jersey Assistive Technology Act Project, and also as an adjunct professor, so a little of everything. Lots of opportunities to spread the word and get people on board with this important topic.

Jason Carroll:

Awesome. Well, guys it's just really exciting for me to see you guys and be with this like minded group. I'm really looking forward to this. I did get an early copy there of the book and I spent a couple hours going through it, and I totally agree there in the first you say, "Don't skip this section." And I think that really is an important section at the beginning, and then it's probably okay to skip around to a strategy here, or a strategy there, but I really liked the beginning of it. So I think everyone will agree this is going to be a fantastic resource for other educators with an interest or even if they don't have a huge interest in ed tech, there's so much there whether you have an interest in technology or not. Can you guys tell us how the book came to be? Chris, this looks a little like something I'd seen from you several years ago that I may actually still have a copy of in a tote somewhere here in the office.

Chris Bugaj:

Yeah absolutely, Jason. So for many, many years Loudoun County Public Schools, our Assistive Technology Team, produced something called the strategy a day calendar. And what that was is like a daily rip off calendar, if you've probably seen the joke of the day, or the puppy of the day, or something like that well, ours was a strategy of the day, and it was every day, one strategy, one resource, one tool. We kind of lumped it all together and used all those words synonymously that people would just read, rip off, and maybe they used it, maybe the didn't. And we always made a few extras that we could bring around and give at conferences, that's how you got yours, Jason. And did that for many, many years and eventually we ended that, different administration, we changed practices, but the proof of concept was there.

Chris Bugaj:

So many people over the years really enjoyed those calendars where there was small, bite-sized information that was really relevant to what they could do, very practical, and we would get constantly, "Can we buy these? I mean, where can we find these? Where can we download them?" And we just... Over the years it kept continuing to grow and I think it really resonated with teachers because it was just enough, just enough learning every day. It didn't feel like this overwhelming, I have to read this entire tome, just a little bit every day. And so when that ended, we approached ISTE, I approached ISTE and said, "Hey, could we think about writing a book? And I have some authors in mind that would branch out from just one neck of the woods, but kind of get us spread out across the country that have this similar philosophy about becoming inclusive design activists." And so reached out to these colleagues here and we wrote a book.

Jason Carroll:

That's great. I totally remember the calendar and it was so good because just having it on your desk, something that small, you always flip the page because nobody wants to see that it's not on the right day so it kind of forces you to look at that and learn a little bit. So I don't know if you've already thought about it, but maybe you should consider having that as an accompanying thing to the book that people could order. I think that would be great. I love the calendar of the day. So guys, just thinking there at the beginning, you put a little bit of work into defining some terms and stuff like that before you got into the strategies and one of the pieces there that... We'll have educators and non-educators from all walks of life that listen to the podcast, so I'd like to maybe talk through a couple of things.

Jason Carroll:

Universal design for learning is mentioned often in there and it's a really important concept that I know you all have a lot of experience with, so there's universal design but then there's also the things we hear a lot about, educators making accommodations for students, right? And so there's a difference there, I think, and I wonder... I don't know who would like to start here, but I wonder if anybody could maybe talk through us listening into a little bit of those differences.

Chris Bugaj:

Jason, I'm going to take that one too here as we get kicked off here. So if you think about traditional education, maybe like when I was in school, there was this sort of one track and then if people couldn't fit into that track, but we knew we needed to accommodate so other people could still have access to that track, and so that's where that word accommodation comes from is this notion that there's one way of doing things, and if you can't fit in that one way, then we'd accommodate for you. But the concept of universal design for learning is more like well, what if there wasn't one track? What if we could make it work for everybody? And that's really what we are striving for here in the book is helping educators understand that they can design things with educational technology as a catalyst for how they can provide options to all students.

Jason Carroll:

Got it, that's great. That totally makes sense, Chris. So just kind of to go with that, there will be a lot of teachers who are listening that would like to make their classrooms a more inclusive place, and is there any advice like how a person would even get... Maybe start with this book, right? Is there any advice you have-

Beth Poss:

Yeah, read the book!

Jason Carroll:

... on how they can get started?

Chris Bugaj:

Well, Jason, this also goes... This will go back to a conversation you and I had on the phone many, many years ago, so I know you're going to recognize this. But this is this notion that if you were to rewind the clock 15, 20 years ago and look at what were the accommodations being written on, IEPs back in those days, in the early days, you would that a lot of those accommodations have grown to just be stuff that we use in the world, not even in education. Stuff like word prediction, so that would be something that would be a common accommodation and IEP, and now it's built into our phones. Touch screens, speaking of our phones, were something that started off with students with disabilities and now we all have them in our pockets.

Chris Bugaj:

And we could go on and on with examples there, so it's a very practical strategy, a road map for how educators can look into designing educational experiences for everybody, would be to look at that current accommodations on their student's IEP and go, "Okay, I have all these accommodations from students that are in my class. How can I use these accommodations to just design the experiences for everybody?"

Jason Carroll:

Yeah, I think-

Mike Marotta:

Jason, they've probably already been doing that this past year and a half without even realizing what it was that they were being more inclusive. Right? Maybe educators hadn't been able to put a tag on it or a label, but the past year and a half forced us to be more inclusive, and provide options, and look for ways to bring learners into the experience. Maybe just because they just flat out weren't there in the same space together and so they had no choice but to do that. And I think what's going to be interesting as we move forward back to some sort of normalcy, is facilitating this continuation of people using these options and strategies they've already started using.

Beth Poss:

Right. No longer can the default be passing out a worksheet or paper, right? Instead, the default should be that you are providing a range of ways to do it, right? The default for the last year in education had to be handing out an assignment via the computer, via whatever technology that both educators and learners had access to. It's so important that we don't go back to okay, we're back in buildings, let's just hand out pieces of paper again because pieces of paper are just not nearly as flexible as technology. And that's not saying that there aren't going to be learners that would rather have that piece of paper, and that's okay, it's that when we have it as digital we can print it, we can use it in a variety of digital applications, there's just so many more options for how learners interact with materials and resources that they need.

Karen Janowski:

And Jason, one other thing too, when they think about how to begin I think it starts with reflection as well. They have to really take a step back and assess are all the learners needs in my learning space, in my classroom, are they being met using the strategies, and the techniques, and instructional methods that I'm currently using. So taking a step back and just evaluating, and just reflecting, and ensuring that we are meeting every learner's needs no matter what background they come from, no matter what their learner variabilities are, we have to consider everything.

Jason Carroll:

That's a good point, Karen. And I bet that has been difficult over the last year if you couldn't even meet some of your students, I bet there is an extra challenge there, but at the same time there are opportunities through like what Mike had mentioned, and Beth alluded to as well, there's these situations... So we know from making software that there is this hurdle because there is always worksheets, and worksheets, and worksheets, but now that was no longer an option. So we had to go and use digital content and I think there was some opportunities in there as well. So really great stuff. And Chris, I totally recall that conversation and I've referred to it many times as kind of... It's like a crystal ball, right? To know what's coming next and I totally remember running around and trying to find the screens that you put overtop the monitors to make them touchscreens. This was pre-iPad, and then the iPad came and everybody's like... It was a mind bender, the whole thing, so it's great.

Jason Carroll:

So that's good stuff guys. So you've broken the book into sections and I'm going to mix them up here just a little bit, but you kind of started with the cross-content stuff, that's strategies for any area, but then you also have it broke into reading, and writing, and also STEM or STEAM in this case as well. So if it's okay, I'm just going to start with reading. Being at Texthelp, Read & Write is our first and flagship product, and we're all about helping people understand and to be understood, and we do that a lot through these kind of technologies. So I just wonder, this is kind of a big question, but you have a lot about reading in your book and I wonder out of all these strategies, are there some favorites or things that you would pick out? And I realize that it really depends where the learner's at on their pillars of learning, and you start with phonics, and you work your way up to comprehension and these kind of things, but I wonder if there's anything that really sticks out related to reading that you guys could talk about?

Beth Poss:

Yeah, definitely and I was thinking about this when you were talking about what is just sort of ubiquitous right now in resources that weren't there before, like because of technology tools. And so one of my favorite strategies is having that built in access to a dictionary, so like when you're on an iPad you can just press and you can get a dictionary definition of that. Now, let's take that one step further. Sometimes our learners need more than an even printer or even read, depending on what their background knowledge is and so to have a built in picture dictionary is such a powerful tool. So we have a strategy around visualizing vocabulary with digital picture dictionaries, and that is absolutely a feature of Read & Write that I just love, the fact that a learner can click on that word, be able to see the picture, be able to see the definition, be able to read the definition, and it is, it's that multiple and flexible means of being able to access that with multiple modalities.

Beth Poss:

So I think that's one of my favorites because I know, I'm not going to get up... I mean, we teach kids, oh, go look up a word you don't know in the dictionary, I'm not going to get up, stop what I'm reading, go find the dictionary, look it up if I have the spelling skills to be able to... I've got to go back and forth, it's all that near and far point searching, when I could just click on it, right? So much easier.

Jason Carroll:

Totally. It's like the picture is worth a thousand words or something like that to make sense there. And so often, there's all the definitions that somehow manage to use the word in the definition.

Beth Poss:

Right.

Jason Carroll:

Which is always an amazing thing there. So that's great, Beth. Thank you. Anyone else want to hop in? That's us for that one?

Beth Poss:

Well, I mean, I can give you one other. Let me give you one other one as far as that reading piece goes, and again, this is one of those things where... It doesn't have to be, it's not necessarily simply because a student has a disability, right? This is a tool that is great for everyone. How many times when you're reading, particularly digital text or when you have to read text silently or whether you're reading aloud, that you just lose that line and there's nothing worse than being that learner in the classroom who is reading aloud and they lose their place as they're reading.

Beth Poss:

So the strategy of being able to use the speech to text highlighting in a tool like Read & Write not to hear the text, but simply to have that highlighting as they move along and they're reading to be able to provide that visual guide, to be able to help them pace, and because you can set the speed of that. So you can turn down the volume, or mute the sound, so you're not necessarily listening to the text to speech, but you've got that highlighting, that built in highlighting to keep you where you need to be in that text. So another one of my favorites.

Jason Carroll:

I like it as well. I used to... I just remember doing sessions at places like ATIA all the time and one of the things we'd talk about is that on that alternate highlighting thing is... When my daughter was really young and I was reading to her, what would I do? I would read and I would point to each word as it read aloud, and then I notice in your book you managed to find an app that somehow points at the word as you're reading it as well, so I think those things are great. That's really good stuff. Any thoughts really, this is a general question, we can relate it to reading, but using technology to promote learning are there any kind of tips, or hints, or anything that you have? Because technology can be great, but it can also be a hurdle because there's the whole training and all that stuff on it, so any general thoughts on that?

Chris Bugaj:

A decision we made when we were putting the book together was, do we put the tool first or do we put the strategy first? So we feel like that's a great way to kind of wrap your brain around EdTech in general is, what do you want the technology to do for you? As opposed to going to look at a tool and go, what do I want the strategy to be and what technology supports the strategy?

Jason Carroll:

Right. That takes me back, I don't know if it's referenced as much anymore, but that TPACK model, is it? Where you had technology, pedagogy, and the content knowledge all in the Venn diagram kind of thing and hopefully we know our content, and then the strategy has to be a strategy, and that technology it can be a plug and play because it can change obviously over time, so I think that's great. So definitely strategy first on that.

Mike Marotta:

Yeah, and part of that mind shift change that we're trying to promote here is to get people to get away from that. And I'm sure all of us could share another three hours worth of stories of people saying, "I have a thing. Tell me how I should use it for each student and each learner." And it at it's core is the wrong question.

Jason Carroll:

Yep.

Mike Marotta:

And so getting people to remember that it is about, what is it you're trying to accomplish? And then look around, you might already have the support you need on a whole spectrum of low tech to high tech solutions. I know we're talking about technology here, but it's a good moment to drop in the idea that not everything has to have technology in it.

Jason Carroll:

I totally agree with that.

Mike Marotta:

I'm a technology guy, but it doesn't need to be technology focused all the time. That's why I was so happy when Karen brought up reflection before and I just wasn't quick enough to unmute my mic, I don't think we do that enough and I don't think we can say that enough to people. Take time to reflect, especially this past year. In this past year and a half, there's been so many things that have happened and I think we're at a point, and we're recording this at the end of a school year, so people are officially done. They're really exhausted and I don't blame them. I'm there as well, but I think what's important is this is a critical time to reflect and think about the things that did go well this year. There were things that went well.

Mike Marotta:

People are calling them silver linings and if you want to use that terminology that's fine. I just keep pointing out to people, look at your successes, you did have them. Take a minute and think about them and how do you replicate them next year? How do you use that to change your mindset moving forward to ensure that every learner is successful in your class? Thanks, Karen for letting me piggyback on your reflection piece.

Karen Janowski:

Well, and I just want to add too, we can teach without technology, but why would we? Technology offers us features that just aren't possible with textbooks and static print. I mean, the ability to change the visual presentation can be a huge support for so many of our learners, increasing the white space, increasing the font size, I mean, just even simple changes like that. I mean, I work with way too many learners when they open up a book and they see a very small font size with so many words on a page, they immediately close it because it's intimidating. So technology allows us the flexibility to really adjust, and personalize it, and customize it for every single learner, and that's what universal design is all about too, that universality that is not possible with static, inflexible, mistake intolerant instructional materials.

Jason Carroll:

Yep. You guys bring up excellent points. It's one of the reasons I've always loved listening and even presenting with some of you in the past on these, because I think there really is something around there about... When you guys come in to present, you talk about how the technology can be used with the strategy and that makes such a big difference because often it's a training on here's how the technology works and there's never that why would we do that? Karen brought up an excellent point of why would we teach without that technology, but it's just so important to bring those points up because you can do this, and this is why it's important, and that's just so critical in PD and you guys always do a great job, and why people should read the book as well, right?

Jason Carroll:

Right okay, so all that stuff's great. So I'm going to transition just a bit into writing. And we know how students express themselves is very important, so again, thinking about the universal design for learning thing, part of that is about multiple means of expression, right? And a lot of times that's done in writing, whether it's writing with a pen, or typing, or verbalizing, or something like that, but this is important as well because this is how educators can actually test the student, understanding their performance over time. So thinking around strategies to improve student vocabulary and fluency, you guys mention that a lot in the book, any examples then that come out for strategies specific to writing? Again, I know it's a big question, there's a lot of variability in that, but anything that you guys could highlight for us today?

Karen Janowski:

So Jason, we have so many excellent strategies for writing included in the book and I'll just highlight a couple of them. A couple of them work really well with Read & Write for Google and so we really want to highlight that because so many school districts are using your products. And one of them, when we think about pre-writing and we think about initiating writing, that can be such a block for so many learners. They see that blank white page, that blank white Google document, and the voice notes feature which allows students to record their voices just to get those thoughts down. And it doesn't even have to be voice typing or speech to text, it can just be the option to voice record their ideas right into a Google doc. And what's especially great about that when we think about multi-lingual learners, they can record in their dominant, in their primary language and they don't have to worry about that. And then they can go back and listen, and organize, and compose the text more freely and so that's something. They're just recording the ideas, there's no text.

Karen Janowski:

Another strategy when we think about improving the quality of writing, we see a lot of referrals for students who struggle with writing. They might have breakdowns, they might have meltdowns all the time, the allowable accommodation in many IEPs is the use of dictating to scribes, which does not teach a learner anything about how to compose text. So one of the things that can be very motivating is just tracking word count, self editing using the word count, and seeing the development and progress over time by increasing the length and the quality of the writing. And another one that I can't highlight enough is self editing using text to speech because we think about listening to the text read to us if students struggle with accessing content, but think about using text to speech to help as part of the editing process. And that is built into Read & Write for Google, we show learners all the time that particular strategy.

Karen Janowski:

The biggest thing that I think has made such a difference for too many school districts is one of your newer products WriQ, which is absolutely phenomenal, especially from a learner perspective. The features that you have built into that product that are motivating and engaging for learners, I don't see in other products. That burst feature, that burst meter, I don't know if anyone... I think even adults have tried it to see what is my longest burst, so the burst meter is when you are typing and it's the number of words that you type until you take a pause. So learners try to increase their burst meter and they compete with one another. You've built in badges, you've built in word count, you've built in the vocabulary age, and it's all about... That's from a leaner perspective.

Karen Janowski:

These are tools and theories, you've based it on research of what makes a difference in how we can help learners improve the quality of their writing, especially if it's something that is not a preferred activity. You're not just limiting it to ELA, you're also looking at writing across the curriculum, across math, across science, across social studies, so I don't work for you, but I could sing the praises of WriQ.

Beth Poss:

I know I'm thinking I should have used that when we were writing the book, when we needed that little push to be like okay, you can write a little more today, you can write a little more today.

Karen Janowski:

And from the learner perspective, I mean, Jason we can talk about from the teacher perspective, from the educator's point of view as well. I mean, it does save so much time for them and they're seeing progress over time. You've got so many analytics built into it as well. So I think those whole strategies around supporting all learners improve the quality of their writing, I mean, it's part of literacy. I mean, to become a lifelong writer is an important lifelong skill.

Jason Carroll:

Yeah.

Mike Marotta:

Karen, if I can jump on your audio note one. I was so excited to share this story, I love this story of working with a young student who struggled with writing. And you talk about that audio note feature in Google docs and what he would get from teachers would be study guides to work from, and then he had to create his own writing from that, and he was using the audio note feature to leave himself ideas along the side of his Google doc. And then there was one day, I don't know when this all happened, but I saw the end result which was fantastic, one day he realized that all of those audio notes were showing up in his Google Drive as little audio files and he could take those audio files and do whatever he wanted with them. And so he went back to his teacher and said, "Can I do something different with my next writing assignment?" And it was the perfect teacher to ask because right away she said yes, so that was great.

Mike Marotta:

What he did was, he answered the questions of all of the writing prompts with those audio notes and then he created a slide presentation with pictures to represent what he was writing about, and he embedded the audio files as hotspots within that picture that you could click through and basically take an audio tour of this visual that he created, and that was his writing activity. It was a great opportunity to go back to this idea of UDL and think about multiple means of action and expression. This was without a doubt the most expression we've ever gotten from him, the most output we had ever got from him, and you could look at it and say, "Well, he didn't really write anything." And then I would quickly say, "No, he wrote a ton. He wrote so much and what he gave you was so deep because he was engaged in the process. It met him where he was and it allowed him to be successful." And I love that idea of being creative with the tools we have in the environment and find a unique way to use those features that work for each person's skillset.

Chris Bugaj:

Can I jump in with a quick story about the audio note as well? So for the educators that are listening to this podcast I want to advocate for you to work with the companies that you work with and advocate for these sorts of features because the history of how that became a part of the Read & Write for Google Chrome is that it actually existed in Word before it did with Read & Write for Google Chrome and it went away. Speaking of technology that changed, Word, that feature went the way of the dodo and it became something they integrated, Microsoft integrated, into OneNote and we said, "Oh, man. We really need this." We went to Texthelp and we said, "Hey, we have so many students that use this feature, now it's gone. Can you help us?" And you did, Texthelp did. They built that feature and look at the stories now that are happening for all these different users for all these different use cases. So definitely do not be afraid to advocate for your needs with the strategy that would work for students.

Jason Carroll:

Definitely, that's a good point, Chris. So on the stories, I'm glad it actually covered some of the other questions I had in here and I saw a strategy in your book as well about it is nice having the audio notes because it's so hard to see or understand expression a lot when writing and you can hear expression often whenever students use audio. And Chris, we've seen... So I look at the analytics all the time to see what's being used the most, and how much it's being used, and audio notes are super popular. We're actually working on kind of something in the background right now, kind of an audio notes module for us internally that we can then plug into any of our products.

Jason Carroll:

So think on WriQ you can use it, equatIO when you're explaining a math concept for example, keeping it in Read & Write, rolling it into the PDF Reader in the next generation of it that we're having, but that gives us that common module that way we can just plug it in because it is so useful inside of Google docs, why wouldn't you make it available everywhere? That's just something we're working on in the background. And then Karen, I really appreciate the WriQ stuff. I may need to borrow you for five or 10 minutes sometimes to run some ideas by you, that was really good.

Jason Carroll:

I can really nerd out on the teacher side of if all, the analytics, and tracking progress, and all that kind of stuff, but the student side there's so many things out there now that will help you with grammar, and punctuation, and tell you if you're doing it right or wrong, plenty of stuff out there, so we kind of took a different approach with WriQ. We wanted to see more about well, if you want students to become better writers the thing they need to do is just write more.

Karen Janowski:

Absolutely.

Jason Carroll:

So we just try to make it motivational and we do that with the writing bursts, which there's some research behind why we use writing bursts and things like that, but there's writing bursts and then also besides that there's the badges and things like that we put in as well. Chris, I see added a note there, the gamification piece on it as well. That's what we were thinking, right? How do we get... They can have all kinds of grammar tools out there, they exist, we have some stuff for that in Read & Write, that stuff exists in Google docs, Word, what can we do to just motivate them?

Karen Janowski:

And Jason, I think that is so invaluable because you very thoughtfully considered the needs of learners and it's demonstrated in that product, because I really do think that you put the learner first. The best way to improve writing is to write and you made it exciting to write.

Jason Carroll:

Right in a way that's... I appreciate you saying it, in a way that's not like oh, you've made a mistake, you've made a mistake, you've made a mistake, right?

Karen Janowski:

Right.

Jason Carroll:

It just lets you write, and motivates you to write more, and we can always come back and fix the mistakes later. That's great guys. This thing could run for hours. I'm going to have to transition though. So we've got through reading, we've got through writing, now a little bit... You guys have a section on STEAM and so with this I'm just going to shift around there, we're thinking about math and science subjects at the moment obviously, art as well in this. So what do you guys think about digital resources to help with math? Math is super paper pencil-y. What are your thoughts around technology in math and science specifically?

Mike Marotta:

Yeah, I like your description, Jason, of math. It's super paper and pencil-y. I like that. It is and historically, math has been one of those areas that there's not a lot of technology supports for that and so we look for some of these tools that help us do that, and it's the same kinds of strategies we're using for the other focus areas. With reading, what was the big thing we talked about, was text to speech. Well how do I get that same support in math and science? How do I get those tools that allow me to do that? Using equatIO to help me organize, and listen to, and complete equations so that I can have that same level of accessibility.

Mike Marotta:

Now, I take those things that are paper and pencil-y and make them digital and accessible. It is the real goal in this area of thinking about that area of math and what we can put in place, thinking about calculators and tools to provide supports for giving us options for input of information, options for receiving the output of information, options that help that learner complete those tasks. So yeah, we have several strategies in the book, listening to math through text to speech is one, we have another one using handwriting for calculating equations. So using touch screens, we're seeing a lot of our technology is touch screen based now, giving learners that opportunity to still compute with a finger or a stylus on a screen and have that handwritten information converted to a digital display that helps with calculation, and helps them complete those tasks.

Jason Carroll:

There's a thing about when you're creating math and science notations, chemical equations, these sort of things as well, there's almost like there's two pieces of understanding here. I like Venn diagrams, I'm not sure if you have to have three things for the Venn diagram or if two will work, but in this case on the two scale of it... Beth gives me the okay for that, that it works.

Mike Marotta:

That's okay.

Jason Carroll:

There's knowing how to solve a problem, right? But there's also knowing how to create it and write it in the square, and where things go, and the symbols, and all that kind of stuff, and that's a big barrier in itself, right? If I can say it, that's one thing, but being able to go, and make it, and put the numbers in all the right places, and superscripts, and subscripts, and all that kind of thing. That's one thing we try to do with equatIO is just make that really simple to where you can just speak it, or you can type it with math prediction, or those sort of things. But I just think that is an obstacle before being able to math is to actually create the math, so that's always an interesting thing. Beth, you got a-

Beth Poss:

Yeah, I was just going to tag onto that. The whole idea around mathematics of that concrete representational abstract continuum and to have a tool like... And the idea it's a continuum, but it's also cyclical. You should be able to go back in and out of it, right? So it's not that okay, the concrete we're just using manipulatives, and the representational we're just using drawings, and abstract we're just using math equations, it's to be able to go back and forth and have all of those accessible at one time. So being able to use a tool like equatIO, where you can bring in manipulatives, where you can do some drawing right there, where you can access being able to write equations however, whether it's through dictation, or whether it's through typing, or however it is, and having that flexibility of being able to go in and out depending on what you need to support your learning at that moment.

Jason Carroll:

... That's a good point and Beth, your words are also a lot better than mine. The concrete abstract continuum is much better than paper pencil-y. So-

Mike Marotta:

I would disagree.

Beth Poss:

Paper pencil-y works for me completely, it's all good.

Mike Marotta:

I really... I'm going to use that sometime today, paper and pencil-y. I don't know, I like it.

Chris Bugaj:

Oh Jason, can I jump in here with another idea too?

Jason Carroll:

Certainly.

Chris Bugaj:

And that is something that I think is a theme in the book that you would have to read the entire thing to really understand is that, and especially I think it comes out here in math especially and science, is the why behind it. So how many students have ever done, whether it's digital or paper pencil-y, done the math problems, figured it all out, and have no idea why they're doing it? They just know they follow this set of rules and I figure if I don't know how to apply it, when I still go to make my garden, I still do it by eye and I don't really measure anything, I don't really know what the math means, and I think that's sort of a subtle thing that we've tried to put throughout the book in the other sections of each page.

Chris Bugaj:

So we have a section that is called inclusive uses, so why would this strategy be inclusive? It's just a strategy, but what makes this strategy inclusive? And then we have this other part called extension opportunities and I think that's where this really shines, which is how do we extend what you're doing so you're not just doing it to do it, you're doing it with this why question to be answered for students. So they come to school and come back the next day more curious than they were before.

Jason Carroll:

That totally makes sense, Chris, and I appreciate you added that on. That really helps us transition to the next piece although, with the math thing I was just thinking, I was building the fire pit out there, and I finally got to put the two pi times radius kind of formula together whenever I was figuring out the circumference of it, but that's... Maybe schools can do more of that kind of stuff, that's great. That gets us into the last point I wanted to make and it really is a good transition, when a lot of the stuff that you guys mention, actually most strategies I think, almost the first 100 strategies are really just kind of general strategies, right? They're not really made for one specific subject. Why did you guys feel it was important to do that and not just go subject by subject?

Chris Bugaj:

Well, it was such a struggle to try and figure out where to put different strategies and oftentimes it was like well, geez this thing... In your Venn diagram example, this would fit in the Venn diagram of all of these different categories so how do we organize it in a way that would make sense to people? So what we landed on was sort of this tagging structure, let's put it in this category first, but it could also fit in reading, writing. For instance, the text to speech that we talked about earlier. Karen, used this great example of how it could be used for editing purposes, which is a writing strategy, but it's of course for reading as well, and then could you use it for math? Of course. You're going to be listening back to the math. Man, it can fit in so many different places, so we'll call it cross content, but we're also going to have these tags so people can find it no matter where they're coming at it from.

Jason Carroll:

And then I was just thinking, one of the things that goes across, and is so important is feedback. And also, as a side note, I noticed a lot in the book too it's interesting, it's obvious that it's a new book because there's a lot in there about remote instruction. And I could just think if you were writing this book two years ago that it would have looked completely different, I think, right? I mean, there's strategies in there about background, and avatars, and all this kind of stuff, that I thought all that was great to add. So on that, thinking again from the technology perspective, especially remote learning and things like that, any technology or ideas on giving students feedback? I find that's one of the most... Clear and consistent feedback that students can always get is one of the more important pieces of being able to learn, and know if you're doing better, and that sort of thing. Any thoughts from you guys on using technology for feedback?

Chris Bugaj:

Yeah, so I think we have one particular strategy that just jumps out in mind here that's in the book is having a feedback word bank, or a feedback bank that you can kind of speed up your process there. If you already have well structured feedback clips that you could use repeatedly, because sometimes the errors are similar, or the corrections, or the feedback you want to give might be similar, so you could just drag those in. I think we talk about Google Keep as that bank, but of course there's other tools that could do that. And then another strategy is to have peers, peers give the feedback. Being able to start having this understanding and this relationship that feedback isn't something that's bad, it's something that I want to seek out, and so if I ask my friends to give me feedback then I can make improvements. And then they can also learn the skill of how to give important feedback so that when you eventually are all grown up and have your job you know how to do it, you know how to interact with other people and collaborate with other people.

Jason Carroll:

Can I just ask you then on that one thing before we move on, on that peer to peer feedback, I think it's great and it's really important, but I can already hear a lot of people saying, "There's no way I can let the kids give feedback to each other because they're going to put all kinds of inappropriate things, and all this kind of stuff." How do you respond to that?

Beth Poss:

Can I take that one?

Jason Carroll:

Sure.

Beth Poss:

There's one that I've used a lot and it's one of the strategies in the book, is the idea of using a glow and grow, right? So first of all, we're putting it all in as... The glow is all the good things, the grow is where can you make this better, right? But you do it in a form, lots of tools out there where you can generate forms, but before... First of all, learners need to know how... You structure it, the mindset that feedback is a good thing, right? And then second of all, you teach them these are the ways that you can give feedback, so whether you're starting with a sentence frame, or a checklist of things that you might be able to go to, learners need to know how to give productive feedback. Educators need to know how to give productive feedback. It is one of the top, most effective strategies out there for improving learner outcomes is meaningful, effective feedback.

Beth Poss:

And so we've got to release to our students, how are we going to expect them to be functioning adults who can give and receive feedback if we don't give them those opportunities when they are in school? And I don't just mean in middle school or high school, I did it with elementary school students where we would have those opportunities. We work with kindergartners on how to give feedback and they love giving positive feedback to their peers, they love it.

Jason Carroll:

The earlier, I would think, you start the better. That's really not crossed my mind, but it seems like it's obvious. At the beginning of each class, at the beginning of the school year, why would you not explicitly teach how to give feedback, and how we're going to give feedback in this class, and that sort of thing? And then students know and then you don't run into a lot of those issues that I think people are worried about. Karen, you have a chime in?

Karen Janowski:

Yeah. One other thing too, we talked about the importance of voice notes and audio notes, what a great way to give feedback, authentic voice. Learners need to hear the enthusiasm. They can get excited about that, so that's a really positive way of using that particular tool as a strategy for feedback and I have to highlight that. Students respond well to that.

Mike Marotta:

Yeah, and one other thing I think we've seen throughout this virtual time, which I hope continues on, is the extensive use of the chat features in these virtual platforms and seeing learners give each other feedback, and see educators provide feedback and prompts in there. We are seeing this whole kind of revival of the back channel discussion, which can be a really powerful spot for that feedback to happen and I love that. I love being in a virtual class and seeing a learner presenting and someone else write in the chat, "That was awesome. How did you do whatever?" And then they'll ask them a question and then this little conversation starts, which sometimes we might see in a classroom gets stopped because it's talking, but now in this virtual world that little bit of talking is okay.

Mike Marotta:

And think about it, when Chris said, when we all grow up, how many of us have been sitting in a conference session together, next to each other and leaned over at some point to have a side conversation about something that triggered us that was interesting, and had a little back and forth, and then we go right back to the conversation at hand. And I think that's really-

Jason Carroll:

I don't know, I think that's probably just you, Mike.

Mike Marotta:

All right, it's probably me, and so it's me and in relation all of you because I'm sitting next to all of you. Jason, don't make me call you out in front of everybody, it's uncomfortable.

Jason Carroll:

Those are all such great points and I even remember you referenced something in the book at one point about there may be some students that's a little uncomfortable to type, the same way they would be uncomfortable to ask a question in the middle of class because they don't want to appear that they don't know stuff that other people does. Technology can change that because you can do a direct message to the teacher, and ask a question, and you don't have to show the whole class that you don't know anything. I thought that was an excellent point that you guys brought up there.

Mike Marotta:

One step further, Jason, not just to the teacher, you can send a direct message to anyone.

Jason Carroll:

Yeah.

Mike Marotta:

If there's someone you're comfortable with as a back and forth as a-

Jason Carroll:

That's great.

Mike Marotta:

... confidant or someone that you're willing to share this with, you can send that message to anyone.

Jason Carroll:

This is so great, guys. I've already made three or four notes just from product ideas on this, so this has definitely been a great time for me. Hey, we're going to run out of time soon. I'm just going to... Some schools may already be out, but definitely others are going to be kind of in the testing season right now, so any advice you'd give to teachers who want to help prepare their students for upcoming tests if they haven't happened yet?

Chris Bugaj:

Yes, I'll give some advice. Here's the first piece of advice, and I'm going to say this tongue in cheek, don't prepare them for the test, prepare them for life, right? Prepare them for... Can you think about how you can assess their performance that's not in a test? It's so artificial, right? I mean, can we do portfolios? Can we think about producing artifacts to demonstrate your work? Can you show how you've helped people and how you demonstrate your own learning and report back? There's so many other ways besides tests. So my advice is not to the teachers it's to the parents, if there's any parents out there, exempt your kids from the tests. They don't have to take them. A lot of people don't know this, but my own kids, we exempt them from every test that they can because we want to advocate for a better way for students to express what they know.

Jason Carroll:

Novel idea, so you're saying prepare the kids for life, instead of for tests?

Chris Bugaj:

Yeah. Well, yeah I think that's what we should do.

Jason Carroll:

It just sounds kind of crazy, Chris. I don't know. Beth, did you have something to add?

Beth Poss:

No, I mean, I was just going to applaud that.

Jason Carroll:

Just applaud.

Beth Poss:

But the reality is with what Chris is saying, we do know that for a whole variety of reasons kids are still going to be taking tests even if we don't want them to, but if they are engaged in learning that is meaningful, like project based learning, like writing for an authentic audience, that stuff is going to stick and it's going to show up... What we hope is that it's actually going to show up in the testing. I don't know that the testing actually measures all of that as well as we might like it to, but right, prepping kids for tests is... It's problematic, not that there aren't things that we can't do to support students develop study skills, and good learning habits, and executive function like learning how to tune out distractions, all of those things. Those are actually life skills though, right?

Jason Carroll:

This is great. You all, I actually was wondering if I was even going to ask that question, I'm so glad I did. I'm so glad that I did ask it because this is the perfect response. Karen, did you have something to add there?

Karen Janowski:

Yes. Although I wholeheartedly agree with Chris and Beth, I mean, the reality is our learners do have to take standardized tests and so as part of the preparation we need to show them there's a lot of tools, accessibility tools that are now built into the standardized tests and we need to ensure that they know how to use them because no matter what, some parents will want their kids to take the test because it does give them some feedback as well. I'm wholeheartedly against standardized tests, but we've got to be realistic and we've got to advocate for making sure that all learners have access to everything that they are entitled to use.

Jason Carroll:

Well said. Well said. So guys, we're out of time today. I so appreciate you all hopping on this call. It's been great. Could you... There's 365 strategies in the book, I think we covered 10 of them maybe, so definitely people are going to have to go out and get this book. It is excellent, I can attest to it. Guys, when is it going to be available and how do folks get it?

Mike Marotta:

It's supposed-

Beth Poss:

June 15th?

Mike Marotta:

... Yeah, June 15th is when it's supposed to be.

Beth Poss:

Available on Amazon and directly from the ISTE website, so just search for Inclusive Learning 365 on Amazon and you can get right in there, and pre-orders are being accepted now, but yeah, please.

Jason Carroll:

Oh, that's great. I can already see us doing some book giveaways for this one, so that's going to be great. Okay, guys, thanks so much. Again, I really appreciate your time. It's been a blast and I hope we can do this again soon.