Conference: Technology is helping to ‘redefine … disability’


To help students with various print disabilities, the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) was created in response to a federal mandate that all textbooks printed after 2006 be available in alternative formats.

NIMAS is a technical standard used by publishers to produce source files in XML that may be used to develop multiple specialized formats, such as Braille or audio books, for students with print disabilities.

A key distinction to evolve from NIMAS is that in earlier years, educators talked about students as the problem or having the problem, said David Rose, chief education officer for the Center for Applied Special Technology. Now, “NIMAS is the beginning of a shift toward what a curriculum should be,” Rose said. “I think our schools have print disabilities. … The more we see our schools as having disabilities, the faster we’ll make progress.”

Assessments also play a role in improving education for all students, including students with disabilities, said Daniel Schwartz, co-director of the LIFE Center and a Stanford University professor.

Technology can help improve assessments by sculpting assessments that better reflect what learning is like outside of school, especially for students with disabilities.

“For kids, ‘smart’ equals performance without help or resources,” Schwartz said. But today’s assessments can lead educators to misinterpret data and tend to be retrospective, he said, because they teach educators about what students already have learned instead of what they will learn and how they are positioned to absorb the material.

Day two of the NCTI conference gave a broader overview of how technology is being incorporated into various aspects of national education policy—policy that can affect learning for students with disabilities or those without them.

Karen Cator, director of the Education Department’s Office of Educational Technology, discussed the release of the new National Educational Technology Plan. (Read “ED releases final version of National Ed-Tech Plan”)

Kumar Garg, policy analyst for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, gave an overview of President Obama’s Educate to Innovate campaign. (Read “U.S. ramps up efforts to improve STEM education”)

A representative from the Defense Department’s Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (ADL) explained the development of the Federal Learning Registry. (Read “Feds to create an Online Learning Registry”)

Dane Linn, director of the education division for the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, discussed the Common Core State Standards. (Read “Final common standards in English, math released”)

And finally, Michael Yudin, deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, described the Race to the Top assessment program. (Read “States given millions for new assessments”)

eSchool News Staff

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