Online Learning Resources
Educators and families want to support learners with disabilities at school and at home.
Alt+Shift is here to provide technical assistance and resources for families and educators related to:
- Accessibility of digital materials
- Assistive technology (AT)
- Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)
- Mathematics for learners with disabilities
- Learner engagement
Alt+Shift will continue to add resources as they are discovered.
If you have any questions or require additional support, do not hesitate to request technical assistance.
Accessibility of Digital Materials
Free online courses that teach how you can make your educational materials accessible to students and families who rely on assistive technology for access.
A great resource to learn basic concepts of accessible content creation written in layman's terms. If you just started learning about accessibility in document and presentation creation, this is a great place to start.
Find helpful information to get you thinking about how you can make online courses and social media posts more accessible.
A free program that can be used in MacOS or Windows to determine if there is adequate color contrast between the text and background when creating materials for your learners.
A captioning, translation, and note taking service that can work with all online livestream platforms (eg. Zoom). Streamer is currently free to all new users for one month and about $10/month after that.
Many online platforms and resources will have published a VPAT. You can often find a simplified statement of accessibility features as well. These are helpful when determining how accessible different resources are.
To find these, do an online search for the name of the resource and “VPAT”.
Some examples are:
Assistive Technology (AT)
This memo provides guidance and direction regarding student access to assistive technology in the home he/she utilizes in the school setting.
Explore the basics of assistive technology in 3 short videos. Within this page, learn more about what qualifies as AT, debunk common myths about assistive technology, and learn how your student(s) could benefit from AT.
Would you like to connect with someone locally? Use this page to find a list of Michigan’s regional Assistive Technology leaders and their contact information.
Join the Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT) Listserv to connect with other educators looking to support their students requiring AT. Ask your own questions, respond to others, or search the archive for previous topics.
#ATchat is a Twitter hashtag and weekly scheduled chat revolving around trending AT topics. The moderators of this chat created a website to address how to support AT during distance learning. Archived Twitter chats and town hall recordings can also be found here.
Devices, such as phones, tablets, and computers, have built-in accessibility features that can enhance the learning of students. Examples of features include: screen readers, display modifications (zoom, font size), and accessing apps using your voice.
Some built-in features and Chrome extensions, such as Mercury Reader, Reader View, and Reading View, remove excessive clutter, which can make web pages easier to read.
This free Chrome extension allows the user to modify PDFs by:
- adding text
- inserting images, shapes, or signatures
- collaborating and working with others in real time
This free Chrome extension reads text aloud from any website without needing to highlight or select it. Announcify blurs the text in the paragraph that is not currently being read aloud.
Snap&Read levels vocabulary and text complexity, reads text aloud, removes visual distractions from text, allows for cover overlays, and translates text.
Co:Writer offers word prediction, topic specific vocabulary, translation, and speech to text or speech recognition.
This Chrome extension offers speech to text, word prediction, dictionary, and a fact finder to search for additional information.
This word processing software provides writing features such as word prediction, speech feedback, and graphic organizers. Clicker is designed for elementary learners, while DocsPlus is suited for middle and high school learners. Interested families and educators can fill out a form to access this program for free while schools are closed due to COVID-19.
SuperNova is offering a free three-month subscription for students learning at home. SuperNova supports learners with visual impairments by offering a screen magnifier and a screen reader as well as support for Braille displays.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
PRC-Saltillo's AAC TeleTips Resource offers suggestions and ideas for AAC teletherapy and evaluations. In addition, you'll find shareable family and caregiver resources.
Ms. Marlowe combines music and AAC to create fun, engaging videos for all learners. Check out her Youtube Channel for a variety of songs that highlight core vocabulary and more!
This checklist is designed to assist school-based audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists as they prepare to provide services through telepractice.
During this pandemic, we must keep our AAC users safe by regularly disinfecting and cleaning devices. For additional ideas on how to minimize AAC users' exposure to germs, check out AssistiveWare in the Core Word Classroom.
Universal Core vocabulary represents a subset of the words we use most frequently and in various ways. Focusing on these words with beginner communicators or students with complex communication needs can enhance student communication in all environments. Get started communicating today by printing a Universal Core vocabulary board and start modeling. To learn more about Universal Core vocabulary and how to use it, check out the link.
The Project-Core website has short, easy to implement modules on a variety of topics including how to model the use of communication systems, how to teach communication during daily routines, and teaching communication during academic instruction.
Emergent literacy learners are those who may not yet know most of the letters most of the time, participate/interact during book reading, have a communication system in place, or understand that writing involves letters and words.
Project-Core modules are also available on emergent literacy practices including Shared Reading, Predictable Chart Writing, Alphabet and Phonological Awareness, Independent Reading and Independent Writing.
Conventional literacy learners are those who can communicate meaningfully with others, identify most of the letters of the alphabet, and understand that print carries meaning. The Dynamic Learning Maps Professional Development (DLMPD) website offers modules on how to teach text comprehension through Anchor-Read-Apply, writing with alternative pencils, as well as a variety of other topics.
Tar Heel Reader offers a collection of free, easy-to-read, accessible books on a variety of topics. Books can be printed, read or listened to online.
Tar Heel Shared Reader combines Tar Heel Reader books with a communication board that supports adults in modeling comments while engaging students with significant disabilities during shared reading.
Modeling (i.e. pointing to one or more symbols while speaking) teaches students how to use their AAC. Everyone can model AAC throughout the day. The first video illustrates how to engage in modeling in all environments. The second video describes the S’MoRRES mnemonic with steps on how to model to your child/student. S’MoRRES stands for Slow down, Model, Respect and reflect, Repeat, Expand, and Stop.
Everyone in an AAC user's life is a communication partner, (i.e. parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, etc.). Learn how modeling, waiting, making comments, avoiding prompts, and responding to communication attempts can make you a stronger communication partner.
Create a free account to access printable core word displays, ideas/planners on how to teach core vocabulary during daily activities, and fun 5-minute communication activities.
If you're looking for fun ways to model and use AAC, get out your games! AssistiveWare provides targeted vocabulary and communication examples for several games.
PRC-Saltillo's annual subscription to the AAC Language Lab is currently $19.95. The AAC Language Lab includes lesson plans and a variety of activities and games to play with a variety of AAC users, no matter what their language level.
This free app for iPads, computers, and Tobii Dynavox communication devices allows individual student access to interactive, fully accessible, activities via Boardmaker Online.
A free collection of leveled thematic units that include books, games, communication boards, behavior supports, and more.
Access a variety of books focusing on each of the 36 core words as well as lesson plans for how to extend learning. Communication overlays for GoTalk, ProxTalker, QuickTalker, SuperTalker, Tech Speak, and Tech Talk are also available at the bottom of the link to the right.
CoughDrop provides the ability to access, personalize, and expand voice-output communication boards. CoughDrop is an open, flexible AAC application that can run on any system, including desktop computers and laptops, iPads and iPhones, Android tablets and phones, Kindles, Chromebooks, and Windows devices. CoughDrop is offering a free two-month trial period.
Mathematics for Learners with Disabilities
This resource can help people better understand the natural learning path a child follows when developing math concepts. By understanding the small learning steps a child needs to take, you can support them reaching larger mathematical goals. If students struggle, at any level, it may be caused by missing skills within the trajectories that require more time and support to develop.
Using the trajectories can:
- Help you recognize what your student is currently capable of and how to support him/her to reach the next developmental level.
- Help you to find areas for growth that can be further developed.
- Give you ideas for activities to use at home.
Accounts are free and resources are currently being developed for at-home use. For more information on how to use this resource, use the Alt+Shift Quick Win.
Number and Operation, Fractions, Measurement, Geometry, Algebra
This document provides guidelines on how to engage in math activities with a variety of learners.
Number and Operation, Geometry, Algebra
Family Math prepares professionals who work with families to support parents and caregivers in promoting children’s development of early math skills.
The At-Home Early Math Kit is a printable PDF offering ideas for families to engage in math discussions with their children in different ways (e.g., meal prep, reading time, games to play, discussions to have). It is available in English and Spanish.
The Family Math site is an online resource bank that can be used by educators and families. The site offers more activities like those found in the printable kit. Be sure to explore the Community board for more ideas as well.
Sarah Powell, one of the principal investigators of Project STAIR (Supporting Teaching of Algebra: Individual Readiness) has a collection of videos categorized by topic on her website that offer instructional practices that support students with learning difficulties. Many videos use manipulatives in the demonstration. You can find manipulatives below in the tools section for at-home use.
There are more resources for educators on the Project STAIR website under the Educator’s Resources tab.
Number and Operation, Fractions, Algebra
This website was designed to help build a deeper understanding of math using pictures and videos. Students develop mathematical understanding first by seeing and building mental models. Students who struggle can be supported using this visual strategy.
Number and Operation, Fractions, Measurement, Geometry, Algebra
These learning tools (e.g., blocks, counters, coins) can be used to help students build number sense by seeing and touching the math. They support mathematical thinking and problem solving through a multi-sensory approach.
Number and Operation, Fractions, Measurement, Geometry, Algebra
Visual fluency cards help students strengthen and maintain basic fact fluency using visual models for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Directions are provided to guide the exploration and use of the cards with learners.
Number and Operation
Equatio offers the ability to create digital equations, formulas, graphs, and functions and insert them into Word and Google documents. It is compatible with many operating systems and allows screen readers to access the math notation.
Texthelp offers Equatio to educators for free.
Number and Operation, Fractions, Measurement, Algebra
A number of applications have been created to allow students to show their math work using alternatives to paper and pencil. All of the apps linked here have symbols for elementary through high school math, and allow students to save and share their work.
There are three main formats for alternative paper/pencil apps:
- A calculator or keyboard type experience where users select buttons to make numerals and symbols appear on the “paper.”
- A blank area on the screen where learners use their mouse, finger, or stylus to write their math and and their writing is turned into typed math, and sometimes into graphs and tables.
- A desktop experience where users “write” by typing and mouse-clicking
Investigations, a math resource website, has put together an ongoing collection of tweets from people doing math at home called “Suggestions from the Field.” The tweets are some examples of how you might address a variety of learner needs while reviewing and strengthening key math concepts. In addition to the original Tweet (with a photo), the authors of the site suggest ways the activities can be done with learners of different ages.
Michigan educators and parents collaborated to develop 16 ideas to address 4 major challenges that related to building strong partnerships between school and home. To use this resource, select a challenge in the left column, review the ideas in its corresponding row, and click on the idea to learn more.
The Michigan Low Incidence Work Group convened to build a resource that would be relevant and responsive, and could be used any time, anywhere, by learners with significant disabilities and their families. Click through to the resource, find your major challenge, peruse some promising practices, and then click through to promising practices to learn more about them.
A user on Twitter shared this Online Learning Plan and Letter to My Teacher template to help students reflect, strategize, and communicate their needs during online learning while also being proactive in her planning for potential challenges that could arise with distance learning. Credit: Isabel Morales, EdD (@isabeljmorales) on Twitter.
This information from the Council for Exceptional Children provides tips and ideas for teachers who are engaging in distance learning.
Each idea is divided into What Teachers Can Do and What Parents Can Do. The article also includes a link to a Slack community for teachers and parents to talk about how they are supporting students with disabilities through remote learning.
Choice can motivate students by allowing them to direct their own learning. Choice boards help teachers and parents address individual needs of students and differentiate lessons for diverse groups of learners. Note, the link in the article to examples is no longer active, but a Google image search for “choice boards” will yield many examples.
A visual schedule uses pictures to assist students in processing verbal information, decrease anxiety, assist with transitions, and increase independence. Visual schedules can be written on a whiteboard, piece of paper, or created using pictures or an online tool.
The free online toolkit consists of evidence-based, ready-made resources that include social stories explaining COVID-19, strategies to calm and cope with increased anxiety, visual supports, and choice boards.
Safe YouTube and SafeShare are two free services that let viewers watch and share videos safely. Turn YouTube and Venmo links into “safe” links that open the video in a window with a “pure view,” free from ads, links, and comments that might be distracting, offensive, or inappropriate. Each service has its own set of features that are similar, but different.
This digital or printable guide has practical strategies that work for helping children of all ages who may be struggling with an at-home learning task. Families may find these strategies useful when helping their children complete various tasks at home.