Accessibility Features on My Computer

Accessibility features are designed to help people with disabilities use technology more comfortably. Although some accessibility features require special software downloads, many are built into the operating system of your computer or mobile device. For this class and while working at my school, I use a laptop with the Windows 7 operating system.  I have never really pursued using the accessibility features available on this system, but through research and experimentation with the system, I have found many accessibility features that would benefit the needs of others who might have a disability and would find the normal features of Windows 7 difficult to use.  

Microsoft  supplies a central location for locating their accessibility settings and programs.  They call it the “Ease of Access Center” and it can be found in the Control Panel  or by pressing the Windows Key + the letter U when logging in to the computer.  The first item that is listed in the Ease of Access center is an option a user can click on that allows Windows to suggest settings to make the computer easier to see, hear, and use.  The user can fill out a questionnaire regarding their sight, dexterity, hearing, speech, and reasoning.  Depending on the user’s disabilities, this questionnaire might be hard for the user to fill out on their own, but it could be completed with assistance from another person.  Once the questionnaire is filled out, the user can obtain a list of recommended settings to try.  The Ease of Access center also provides quick access to common tools that are used for accessibility and one can explore the settings by category (Microsoft, 2015).  

Accessibility Tools for Those with Vision Difficulties

The magnifier tool in the Ease of Access Center magnifies the screen or a portion of the screen to make text, images, and objects easier to see.  This makes it easier to view text and images and see the whole screen more easily which would benefit someone with visual impairments.  One can set the magnification level to up to 16 times the original size. One can also make the computer easier to see by selecting a High Contrast Theme.  With a high contrast theme, colors are inverted so white becomes black and black becomes white.  This would benefit users with weak eyesight because it helps make it easier to read the text and reduces eye strain.   Users can also turn off unnecessary animations that might be distracting and can change the size and color of the mouse pointer in order to make it easier to be seen on the screen. There is also an option available to use the computer without a display.  This tool would allow those with poor eyesight or the blind to be able to use the computer.  By clicking on certain options, one can have the text read aloud and also receive an audio description of what is happening in videos.   

Accessibility Tools for those with Dexterity Difficulties

Windows 7 offers the capabilities to use the computer without the need to use the keyboard or mouse.  If a person is missing limbs, has dexterity issues, or has other physical or cognitive disabilities, settings can be chosen to use a pointing device.  Users would be able to type on an on-screen keyboard using a mouse or another pointing device such as a joystick by selecting keys from a picture of a keyboard (Roblyer, 2016, p. 412).  The on-screen keyboard can also be re-sized and customized so that it is easier to see and use.  Text prediction can be enabled as one types so a list of words pops up that predicts what the person might be typing so he/she might not have to type out the whole word.  One can also avoid using the mouse or keyboard by choosing a setting to speak into a microphone to control the computer, open programs, and dictate text (Microsoft, 2015).  In Windows 7, the computer can also be set up so that the mouse can be controlled by the keyboard.  The mouse would be turned off and controlled by the numeric keypad. The keyboard can also be adjusted for ease of use.  “Sticky Keys” could be turned on so that instead of having to press three keys all at once like Ctrl+Alt+Delete, one can press one key at a time.  Filter keys is another feature that can be turned on.  When this feature is turned on, the computer would ignore or slow down brief repeated keystrokes or when someone holds down a key for several seconds unintentionally.  If a user finds the keyboard and mouse to be too difficult to use, Windows 7 does offer Windows Touch.  With Windows Touch, if a user has a touch-screen monitor, he/she can just touch the computer screen in order to work (Microsoft, 2015). I do not have a touch screen monitor so I was not able to try this feature out, but it seems similar to using an iPad.   

Accessibility Tools for Those with Hearing Difficulties

In Windows 7, there are text or visual alternatives available for sounds.  Visual notifications can be turned on when sounds occur.  Text captions can also be turned on for spoken dialog.   

Exploring the accessibility tools available in Windows 7 really got me thinking about some of my students and how I can better help them while they are in my computer lab.  I have never heard of any of our students being referred to an assistive technology team as mentioned in Roblyer (2016, p. 408); however, now that I know about the tools that are readily available within our software, I feel more prepared to offer suggestions for ways to better use our technology to support my students as they grow and learn.     

Microsoft. (2015). Microsoft accessibility. In Microsoft. Retrieved November 15, 2016, from https://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/windows7/  

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed., pp. 408-412). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Advertisements

Obstacles to Integrating Tech in Language Arts

Using technology should be an integral part of education in today’s classrooms, but it does come with its challenges.  It can make the learning situation much more complex, yet educators recognize these difficulties and continue to work and prepare themselves to try and integrate technology successfully.  

In the area of language arts, technology has changed the format and types of communication that people encounter which adds new challenges to language arts instruction. Literacy used to involve being able read and write and make meaning from the written word.  With the ever-present and constantly changing internet, 21st Century literacy skills now include being proficient in media literacy, digital literacy, and information literacy (Roblyer, 2016, p. 261). Teachers must develop new instructional strategies to help students adapt to a more global means of communication.  This means while teaching students how to read and write, we also must empower them to be able to analyze and critique the messages portrayed in images, language, and sound (Alliance for Media Literate America, 2001).  We also have to teach them to recognize when information is needed and how to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content in an ethical manner even when guidelines and rules continue to change or are ambiguous (“What is digital literacy?”, 2009).

In order to deal with these new skills, teachers must include new strategies in Language Arts instruction. To advance reading and writing skills, teachers must teach students how to read not only written text, but also multimedia text.  Using multimedia in instruction helps students decipher text that is nonlinear (Robyler, 2016, p. 263).  Teaching about information literacy should not be isolated to one lesson, but should be an ongoing process.  Students need to learn how to perform proper searches and evaluate information for reliability and credibility each time they seek out information.  Finally, we cannot be afraid to allow students to interact socially.  Instruction should allow students to share their work and encourage collaboration with their peers and with others on a more global scale.

It seems wonderful that there are policies in place that recognize the need for using technology in Language Arts instruction and Roblyer (2016) lists a lot of great strategies for addressing these needs, but let’s be honest, there is still one large issue that needs to be addressed—professional development.  It’s hard to expect an educator to even know how to grow as a literacy professional and connected educator when they do not receive any type of quality, formal instruction.  Many times school leadership does not provide this type of professional development so it is up to the educator to personally seek out their own professional learning through developing personal learning communities and communities of practice (Roblyer, 2016, p. 268).  One would hope that an educator would realize the valuable knowledge gained and be motivated and have the ability to seek out these relationships and opportunities.

References:

Alliance for Media Literate America. (2001). What is media literacy? AMLA’s short answer and longer thought. In Center for media literacy. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/what-media-literacy-amlas-short-answer-and-longer-thought

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed., pp. 261-268). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.         

What is digital literacy? (2009). In Cornell University Digital Literacy Resource. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from https://digitalliteracy.cornell.edu/welcome/dpl0000.html

Social Media Policies

My school has a pretty generic acceptable use policy that was probably created many years ago when we first started using computers in the classroom and our lab.  It does not include any guidelines regarding social media.  Currently, the students and parents sign our acceptable use policy when they first enroll in the school, and it is never re-visited.  Furthermore, we have separate guidelines that are sent home with our junior high students for our 1:1 iPad program.  I’d like for our school to have one acceptable use policy that covers all technology in our school.  It should be listed on our school website with our student handbook, and it should be posted in each of our classrooms. I’d like for the policy to be reviewed and discussed with the teachers and students at the beginning of every school year, and parents, students, and teachers should sign a form stating that they have read and understand the policy annually.    

While working on this document, I combined items from our current acceptable use policy and the policies sent home with our junior high students when they receive their iPads.  I also spent time searching on the internet for the acceptable use policies at other Catholic elementary schools including schools in my diocese.  It was very hard to find any acceptable use policies in my diocese so I branched out to the diocese just north of us, other dioceses in the United States, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  I specifically looked to include guidelines for the use of social media because our current acceptable use policy makes no mention of this topic.  

The document that I put together can be found here or by reading below:

Mary, Queen of Heaven School

USE OF TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Technology is a valuable and real world educational tool.  Mary, Queen of Heaven School is committed to teaching its students, faculty, administrators, staff, and school community to work and to learn effectively with technology and to ensure responsible use of technology.

The internet is a powerful and resourceful tool that connects our students and staff with the rest of the world and vast amounts of information, both good and bad.  As an educational institution, we believe that our students need to learn how to use the internet appropriately.  

The policy outlined below applies to all technology use including but not limited to Internet use. The Acceptable Use Policy for Technology and Social Media applies to all students, faculty, administrators, staff, volunteers, or community members allowed access to school technology resources at Mary, Queen of Heaven.

Scope of Use

The digital world allows anytime, anywhere access. Uses mentioned in this policy apply to inside school use and may in certain instances apply to personal technology use and/or uses outside of school.  When personal outside use of technology causes significant disruption in school,  these activities may be viewed as a violation of the “Acceptable Use Policy” and may be subject to the disciplinary measure listed below. The types of electronic and digital communications referenced in this AUP include, but are not limited to, social networking sites, cell phones, digital cameras, text messaging, email, and chat rooms.

Responsibilities of User

Mary, Queen of Heaven School will make every effort to provide a safe environment for learning with technology including Internet filtering and safeguards. The students, faculty, administrators, staff, and school community are granted the privilege of using the computer hardware and software, and electronic communication tools including the Internet. With this privilege comes the responsibility for appropriate use.

The following are conditions for being a good digital citizen:

  • Respect for Self:
  • Users will select online names that are appropriate
  • Users will consider the information and images that are posted online before they are posted.
  • Respect Others:
  • Users will not use technologies to bully, tease, or harass other people
  • Protect Self and Others:
  • Users will protect themselves and others by reporting abuse and not forwarding inappropriate materials or communications.
  • Respect Intellectual Property:
  • Users will suitably cite any and all use of websites, books, media, etc.
  • Protect Intellectual Property:
  • Users will request to use the software and media others produce and protect license agreements for all software and resources.

Acceptable Use

  • No student will be allowed to use the school technology until he or she completes annual digital citizenship training.
  • All students will be actively supervised by a teacher, librarian/media specialist, designated school aide, or administrator when using online resources.
  • E-mail is restricted for use by junior high students, faculty, and staff. Student email addresses and passwords will be given to the school administrator and technology coordinator.
  • The use of the Internet will be consistent with the educational objectives of the school.
  • When teachers are using a specific website, they will preview it for content before allowing students to access the site.
  • General rules and policies found in the school handbook apply to all students using the internet.
  • No personal information (names, phone numbers, addresses, etc.) will be given out over the internet.
  • Pictures of minors may be posted on websites only with the parent’s permission and with minimal identification.  Minors should not be “tagged” or identified by name in the photograph.   
  • School social media sites will be controlled and monitored by at least two trained adults.  Parents must give consent before pictures of minors are posted.  Any information identifying minors is to be kept to a minimum.  
  • Electronic devices on school property used by students will be monitored by trained adults both while the student is using the device and by IT personnel who control access.

Unacceptable Uses

  • Use technology to harass, threaten, deceive, intimidate, offend, embarrass, or annoy any individual.
  • Post, publish, or display any defamatory, inaccurate, violent, abusive, profane or sexually oriented material.
  • Users must not use obscene, profane, lewd, vulgar, rude or threatening language.
  • Users must not knowingly or recklessly post false information about any persons, students, staff or any other organization.
  • Attempt to circumvent system security or use another individual’s password.
  • Deliberately visit a site known for unacceptable material or any material that is not in support of educational objectives.
  • Students must not access social networking sites or gaming sites, except for educational purposes under teacher direction.
  • Violate license agreements, or copy other protected media.
  • Use technology for any illegal activity.
  • Breach confidentiality obligations of school employees.
  • Harm the goodwill and reputation of the school in the community.
  • Transmit any material in violation of any local, federal and state laws. This includes, but is not limited to: copyrighted material, licensed material and threatening or obscene material.

Use of Social Media

  • When teachers and students use personal or social media sites such as, but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube they may not mention members of the school community without their consent unless the subject is of public concern and the speech falls under applicable constitutional protections.
  • If you are approved to represent the school, unless you are specifically authorized to speak on behalf of the school as a spokesperson, you should state that the views expressed in your postings, etc. are your own. Stick with discussing school-related matters that are within your area of responsibility.
  • Be open about your affiliation with the school and the role/position you hold.
  • Parents must have access to everything provided to their children. For example, parents should be made aware of how social media are being used, be told how to access the sites, and be given the opportunity to be copied on all material sent to their children via social networking.  
  • Friending of current students by teachers and vice versa is forbidden on a teacher’s personal social networking site.
  • Personal posts must use appropriately respectful speech, and refrain from harassing, defamatory, abusive, discriminatory, threatening or other inappropriate communications.
  • Regardless of your privacy settings, assume that all of the information you have shared on your social network is public information.
  • Encourage positive, constructive discussion if allowed to use communicative or collaborative technologies
  • Be responsive to others when conversing online. Provide answers, thank people for their comments, and ask for further feedback, etc.
  • NEVER give out or transmit personal information of students, parents, or school employees. It is also recommended that the “no tagging” option be set for photographs on social networking sites.  
  • Review content on links first before sharing them on social network posts.   

Communications

Electronic and/or Digital communications with students should be conducted for educationally appropriate purposes and employ only school sanctioned means of communication.

The school sanctioned communications methods include:

  • Teacher school web pages, wiki or LMS site like, but not limited to, Ascend.
  • Teacher school email address.
  • Teacher school phone number.
  • Teacher created, educationally focused networking sites.
  • No employee or volunteer is permitted to text message any student and likewise no student is permitted to text message any employee or volunteer.

Electronic and Mobile Devices, Cell phones:

Cell phones or other electronic devices not part of the instructional program are not allowed in classrooms during the regular school day. Students are allowed to keep these devices in their lockers/designated area and must have them turned off. Special permission to carry the devices to and from class may be granted by the principal on a case-by-case basis.

Administrative Rights

The administration of Mary, Queen of Heaven School has the right to monitor both student and employee use of school computers and computer accessed content. Due to the evolving nature of technology, the administration reserves the right to amend or add to this policy at any time without notice.

Policy Violations

Violation of the above rules will be dealt with by the administration of the school. Violation of these rules may result in any or all of the following:

  • Loss of use of the school network, computers and software, iPads, including Internet access.
  • Issuance of referrals /detentions, if applicable.
  • Disciplinary action including, but not limited to, dismissal and/or legal action by the school, civil authorities, or other involved parties.
Resources:
Anderson, S. (2012, May 7). How to create social media guidelines for your school. In edutopia. Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/how-to-create-social-media-guidelines-school
Archdiocese of Cincinnati: Social media policy. (2010, May). Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/social_media_policy.pdf
Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth: Social media policy. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://fwdioc.org/diocese-fw-social-media-policy-english.pdf
Catholic Diocese of Trenton Office of Communications . (2015, November 17). The Catholic Diocese of Trenton social media policy and resource guide. Retrieved from http://www.dioceseoftrenton.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Diocese_of_Trenton_Social_Media_Policy.pdf
Diocese of Covington: Creating a safe environment, policies and procedures for addressing sexual misconduct. (2015, September). Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.covdio.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Policy2015.pdf
Diocese of Salt Lake City Office of Safe Environment. (n.d.). Social media policy. In Social media policy. Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.utahcatholicdiocese.org/images/safe%20environment/Social_Media_Policy.pdf
Mary, Queen of Heaven School. (n.d.). Student handbook. In Mary, Queen of Heaven School. Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.mqhschool.com/images/school-information/StudentHandbook.pdf
Social media guidelines. (2014, June). In United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.usccb.org/about/communications/social-media-guidelines.cfm
Wise, J. (n.d.). The ultimate list of social media policies for churches & ministries. In thinkdigital. Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://justinwise.net/social-media-policies-churches-ministries/