Category Archives: Workshops

Resources, Articles, Reflections on other workshops and professional development I provide.

Intro to AT for Paraprofessionals

Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of presenting to a small group of individuals who serve as paraprofessionals in my region.  They are part of a grant program between the University of Dayton and Southern State Community College.  As part of their participation in this federal grant program, the paraprofessionals receive paid tuition toward achieving an Associate of Applied Science Degree.

I was invited to speak to this group to give them a quick introduction to the field of Assistive Technology.  Because the participants are already working in schools, they brought a good range of field experience with various assistive technologies with them.

My slides are available at

Key points that were made:

  1. Presumed Competence.  Effective implementation of assistive technology begins with a belief that the student is capable of achieving typical academic goals.
  2. Universal Design.  Even the best technology cannot make up for deficits in poorly designed curriculum materials.
  3. Cost and Implementation.  Assistive Technology does not have to be expensive, but it must be used frequently and well-supported to be effective.

Also, they loved Plickers!

Ready for OETC15!

Tomorrow, I will be making my way to this year’s Ohio Educational Technology Conference, held annually at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, in Columbus, Ohio.

On Tuesday, I get to hang out and “absorb” information.  This is also my time to renew some acquaintances, see if anything grabs my attention in the vendor hall, and slip into a few sessions that interest me.

On Wednesday, I will likely spend most of my time hanging out in E-Pod with the #oetcx crowd.  I’m in the lineup to do a “FREd Talk”.  That session starts at noon in the E-Pod.  “FREd Talks” are like Ignite sessions in that they are limited to five minutes, with a set of 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.  My FREd Talk this year is titled “Ten Important Things Amelia Wants You to Know.”  Amelia is my 5-year-old daughter.  She has a diagnosis of Autism, and is getting ready to transition to full-day pre-school four days a week.  I’ve learned so much from her in the past 5+ years, and I’ll be sharing a little of that in my five minutes.

Last year, I had the privilege to present another Ignite session, “Three Big Fat Lies Tech Coordinators Tell“.  The experience was exhilarating! That’s why I’m so pumped to get to do this again!

After the FREd Talks, I will be hosting a table conversation at 2:30pm on “Presuming Competence”.  I am hopeful of hearing from participants about how technology can enhance students’ strengths and augment weaknesses, and how technology can help the adults involved with education to Presume Competence in each and every student.

Thursday will be back to “traditional mode”, but I’ll be hanging out in a cool place: OCALI’s Assistive Technology Lab.  At 11:00 AM, I will be presenting “Free Tools to Support the Writing Process“, and at 2:30 I will be part of a group presenting “Tech Tools for Access to State Assessments”.

If you’re at OETC this year, look for me, and say ‘Hi’!  I have a couple of surprises in mind, based on things I’ve learned in the past that have made my conference-going experiences so much better!  Follow me on Twitter at @mdroush, or e-mail me at  See you there!

Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2)

Several months ago, I got an e-mail out-of-the-blue asking me if I would be willing to present at an education conference here in Ohio.  I wondered if this was someone who had been to a session I led at a previous conference, or maybe someone who knew someone who had.  I was wrong on all counts.  The organizers of ECET2-OAC (What is ECET2? What is OAC?) did what anyone does these days when they are looking for something – they Googled.  My “Five Rules” workshop was unique, it was timely, and I had one other secret ingredient – I live in Ohio, under three hours from the conference site!

So, plans were made, and I embarked on a trip to Burr Oak State Park, not knowing if I would even know anyone there!  But the concept of the event was just so different, I had to see what it would be like.  What I found exceeded my highest expectations!  Here are some of my highlights from attending ECET2-OAC on October 29-30, 2014.

Dr. Irvin Scott. – Dr. Scott provided the opening keynote.  He is theDeputy Director for effective teaching in the educational division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is “the guy” when it comes to the whole ECET2 phenomenon.  His story is a testimony to the power of teachers who have high expectations and who are willing to give their students supportive, safe environments to reach beyond what they knew they could accomplish.  Hear him talk.  Follow him on Twitter.

Colleague Circles – A unique aspect of the ECET2 conference was the Colleague Circles.  While I did not directly participate in any of these, they were organized to be a meaningful time for educators from the same building/district to discuss pressing issues with a guided format.  The format led each team to come to some clear and definite decisions about how their practice will change going forward, and how they can be a positive force for change in their school.

Me, holding a rat snake at Burr Oak State Park.Snakes! – Even though technology, especially social media, has made the globe a more connected place, we are still very different in the places we come from.  Being at a state park in Ohio has its advantages; a serene environment, great spaces to connect, and a ranger who lives for the thrill of putting snakes in the hands of visitors!

A Bluegrass Band – For conferences like this, some of the best conversations can happen in the informal settings beyond the “scheduled agenda”.  In this case, the evening’s entertainment was provided by a local bluegrass band!  Not only was their music excellent, they spent a little time telling us about how they hand-made their instruments!

Lots of new Twitter friends! – One undercurrent to the conference was an emphasis on encouraging educators to try out Twitter as a way of connecting with other educators outside one’s typical network.  Here are some of them: Irvin Scott, Tracy Spires, James Herman, Will Sheets, Derek Hinkle, Melissa Sheets, Connie Cunningham, and Sara Beardsley!  Also, check out the OACTeach Chat hashtag (#OACTeach) on Twitter!

New Perspectives – One of my favorite parts of presenting “Five Rules of Design Thinking to Reach All Students” is hearing what the workshop participants do with the material.  I feel like I’m doing a good job as a presenter when I learn something new from the workshop.  Modeling the process of being a “facilitator of learning” rather than being a “gatekeeper of facts” is important for me when I present to teachers.

The ECET2 “conference model” is intentionally different.  It blends some aspects of traditional conferences with some of the “grass roots” level appeal of EdCamp.   The result was a fun, informative, and eventful time spent by teaches, for teachers, and with teachers.  When teachers spend time out of the classroom, this is an effective way to spend that time.



Using the iPad to Support Access to the General Curriculum

The following LiveBinder contains resources used in a presentation at Eastern (Brown) Local Schools on using the iPad to support access to the general curriculum.

Includes great stuff like Rita Pierson, some built in Accessibility features, apps for consuming and for creating content, and information about the Bookshare program.



I had the honor of being chosen to present at the 2014 “Connect For Success” conference for Ohio educators, sponsored by Battelle for Kids.  The event was held at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, which is attached to the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  About a thousand educators from around the state gathered to discuss a variety of topics.

Probably the two worst things that can happen when I’m preparing to present my “Google Tools to Increase Access to the Curriculum” workshop are: 1) a spotty Internet connection for the presenter, and 2) Google service outages.

I got both.

Session over, right?  Score one for the anti-tech crowd who says “But if the tech fails, you’re left with nothing” right? Wrong!

The rise of cloud computing has not made me forget my old mantra, “If it’s important, it’s worth having a backup.”  I used the backup version of my presentation on my laptop, and video clips of the live demos that I had originally intended to do.  Was it optimal? No.  But it was serviceable, and allowed me to continue with my presentation.

It served as a very real reminder that the real impact of such presentations is not what happens inside the breakout room, but the changes in instructional practice and approach that occur “back home”.

Despite the ugly technology issues, the session went well. There was good discussion, and some great questions.  There was a fresh look at the first step in education for students with unique challenges, thinking about fixing the curriculum before trying to fix the kid.

And that shift of mindset is better than anything the technology can do.


INFOhio Webinar – Support Struggling Readers, Grades 6-12

Learn With INFOhio! Support Struggling Readers in 6-12 with Free Tools!Tom Kitchen [ website | twitter ] and I had the great honor of being asked to conduct a webinar for INFOhio on strategies and tech tools to support struggling readers in grades 6 through 12.

INFOhio provides an archive of the webinar you can view.  Once you view the webinar, you can answer five questions to receive a certificate of completion.

A list of additional resources and links that were mentioned during the webinar is also available.

The structure and strategy recommendations were taken from a “Doing What Works” collection called “Adolescent Literacy”.  That resource is no longer available online, but you can currently get the resources on CD.  These are available for free, while supplies last, from WestEd.  There are six 2-hour modules, and they can be used by individuals or groups to help plan strategies for improving adolescent literacy at your school.

This was my second time presenting in a webinar for INFOhio!  The first was in April of 2013, as part of a “Web 2.0 Smackdown”.  Five presenters each briefly demonstrated a great online tool, and you can still view that webinar as well!  I demonstrated Popplet, which I also briefly mentioned in the Support Struggling Readers webinar.

A Video Is Worth A Thousand Words

– originally posted December 19, 2013 at

I was recently asked for a list of some videos that I have used to illustrate the importance and effectiveness of assistive technology for students.  Here is (in no particular order) my “top ten list” of videos I use to inform others about the possibilities with assistive technology and get them excited about what they can do!

1) Cheryl and Morgan: Learning Independence – Google produced this video of a high school student named Morgan, and her use of some built-in features of Google Search and Google Drive.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Cheryl and Morgan via Google Hangout, and the impact was superb!

2) One Thumb to Rule Them All – Mike Phillips doesn’t let his SMA prevent him from playing online games and working as a freelance tech writer.

3) A Pivotal Role in the Household – ALS doesn’t prevent Marie-France from researching, writing, and helping manage the house, all by only moving her jaw muscles!

4) Fun Theory: Piano Staircase – Tech doesn’t have to make things easier, simpler, or quicker.  Sometimes, the point of technology is to make tasks more engaging.

5) the MaKey MaKey – Part of the allure of this device is the endless possibilities for alternate input devices.  Another important part of the allure of this device is kids coming up with their own creative and inventive uses for it!

6) The Marshmallow Challenge – The system is there to support the student, not the other way around.  This video highlights the importance of keeping focus in any project, and the need for constant evaluation and revision of the structures we put in place to make sure they are still providing the necessary support.

7) Episodes of “Curb Cuts” – “Curb Cuts” is a local-access television show produced by the Central Coast AT Center of United Cerebral Palsy in San Luis Obispo, in California.  These 15-to-30-minute long episodes spotlight individuals using assistive technology to live and work independently.  Cassandra Province and her eyegaze system in Episode #1 is exceptionally inspirational!
Episode 1 – Hands-free Computer Access []
Episode 2 – Blind AT []
Episode 3 – Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing AT []
Episode 4 – Vehicle Modifications []
Episode 5 – AT for Low Vision []
Episode 6 – Adaptive Recreation []
Episode 7  -Home Modifications []

8) Tatum’s Garden – The playground shouldn’t be a place where inclusion stops.

9) Encourage the Runner – Even if you’re not the runner, you can encourage the one who is running his own race.  Side note, this happened at Colonial Hills Elementary in Ohio, where a friend of mine has a son attending.

10) We’ll Always Need Paper – Yep, this one is pretty much just comic relief.  But, I do think it helps drive home the point that the technology should not drive the goal.  The goal should drive the choice and implementation of technology.


Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs

I was contacted by a former co-worker about providing a workshop during Shawnee State University‘s “Fabulous Friday” conference.  “Fabulous Friday” is an annual conference for Child Care Providers and Early Childhood Educators in the area.

Anytime I am asked to present about educational technology in an Early Childhood Education environment, I base my work on a 2012 Position Statement jointly released by NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center.

The position statement makes the following six recommendations:

  1. When used intentionally and appropriately, technology and interactive media are effective tools to support learning and development.
  2. Intentional use requires early childhood teachers and administrators to have information and resources regarding the nature of these tools and the implications of their use with children.
  3. Limitations on the use of technology and media are important.
  4. Special considerations must be given to the use of technology with infants and toddlers.
  5. Attention to digital citizenship and equitable access is essential.
  6. Ongoing research and professional development are needed.

Important Links/Resources:


#OETCx Encienda

That title makes no sense to most of you.  I’ll parse it out a little.

#OETCx – OETC is the Ohio Educational Technology Conference.  An official “Alt Conference” happens during one day of the event.  This “AltConference” is titled OETCx.

Encienda –  Spanish translation of “Ignite“.  The official description: “Join us for a refreshing twist on the traditional conference session. OETCx participants will offer a series of “lightning presentations.” Each presenter will have 5 minutes to share an idea, broken down into 20 slides, which automatically advance every 15 seconds.”

I had the great privilege of being one of the presenters for this session.  My five-minute presentation was titled “Three Big Fat Lies that Technology Coordinators Tell.”

Central idea: What really matters in educational technology is not whether it helps us get things done easier, quicker, or more efficiently.  What matters is if it is engaging (fun).  That’s when ed tech implementation “sticks”.