Spring
2016


AEM Connector
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Creating AEM: Not Just for Publishers!
Ensuring Accessibility
Educators and instructors create, borrow, and use educational materials and technologies all the time. From syllabi to worksheets, wiki pages to slideshows, videos to infographics, we find and create ways to engage students, represent information in different ways, and allow students to act on and express what they know. But when finding and creating these great new resources, are we thinking about accessibility? The AEM Center has a section just for educators and instructors to help you find out more about how to create and choose accessible materials and technologies for use in your learning environment.
 
You can also check out the Accessibility Standards, Specifications & Guidelines to learn more about how to create accessible content right from the start.
UDL in Federal Policy
UDL in the ESSA
Universal Design for Learning is included in several sections of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)! Section 4104 specifically focuses on use of state funds to improve the ability of local educational agencies to use technology, consistent with the principles of universal design for learning, to support the learning needs of all students, including children with disabilities and English learners.   Find out what it says and where else UDL is mentioned in federal policy.
 
The AEM Center has a new Director of Technical Assistance
Kirk Behnke
Kirk Behnke joins the AEM Center Team!
As Director of Technical Assistance for the AEM Center, Kirk will be working closely with the AEM Center Team in providing universal, targeted and intensive technical assistance to people with interest and responsibilities associated with accessible materials and technologies.
 
Kirk brings a strong background in the field of assistive technology and UDL. He was the Lead for the Texas Assistive Technology Network (TATN) for the state of Texas and supports regional education service centers (ESC), districts and campuses across Texas with assistive technology, accessible instructional materials, and Universal Design for Learning. He has been a leader in the field of assistive technology for over 25 years throughout the county and abroad.
 
Kirk has presented at various national and international conferences and events regarding assistive technology and accessible instructional materials. Kirk is the Education Strand Co-Advisor for the Assistive Technology Industry Association. Kirk has a BS in Biology/Pre-Medicine and a MEd in Education/Special Education from Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, in addition, he holds an Assistive Technology Professional Credential (ATP) from the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). 
AEM Center Advisory Committee Holds First Face-to-Face Meeting
Agenda Focus: AEM Implementation and AEM Production  
The Advisory Committee for the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials converged in a daylong meeting on February 2 in Orlando, FL, to advance the work of the AEM Center. After a brief overview of the Center, the agenda turned to AEM implementation (acquisition and use of AEM and accessible technologies) followed by AEM production (creation and distribution of AEM and accessible technologies). There were several presentations throughout the meeting by both the AEM Center staff and Advisory members, which generated lively group discussions. Nearly all members of the Committee were in attendance with two participating remotely. The meeting was also observed by a dozen or so public attendees.
AEM Intensive Technical Assistance Cohort Holds Kick-off Meeting
Agenda Focus: Deepen Understanding of Collaborative Work and Determine Roles
On February 3, the AEM ITA Cohort met in Orlando, FL. The AEM ITA Cohort is comprised of eight states with a strong history of progress in the timely selection, acquisition and timely provision of accessible materials and technologies to students who require them. They include Texas, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa and Alaska. These states have committed to working with the AEM Center and each other to increase the use of accessible materials and technologies in their states.
 
Each state is charged with developing a strong state team that includes families and leaders in general and special education with responsibilities such as curriculum, technology, materials acquisition and more. In addition to making progress on the availability and use of accessible materials in K-12, the AEM ITA Cohort will focus on bringing together representatives from  early learning, higher education and workforce preparation. At the meeting they made a great start by sharing resources, discussing areas of concern and planning for collaborative work.

AEM in Early Learning
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Early Learning Resources
Rich exposure to language and learning opportunities in the early years provide the building blocks for literacy as children develop. Did you know that the AEM Center website provides extensive Early Learning Resources for families and early learning educators to support building the foundation of appropriate developmental practices? Also be sure to visit the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Early Learning to learn more about the "Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs," released jointly by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services on September 14, 2015, which states that all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, where they are provided with individualized and appropriate support in meeting high expectations. You can watch the archived National Inclusion Series Kickoff Webinar: Preschool Inclusion: What's the Evidence, What Gets in the Way, and What do High-Quality Programs Look Like?
AEM in K-12
Digital Connections Partnership Schools Meeting
March 14 - Sam Johnston, Research Scientist and Project Director for CAST's Project Open, facilitated roundtable discussions at the Digital Connections Partnership Schools meeting held at Amazon's Cambridge offices. The convening was hosted by the Mass. Dept. of Education and included 14 Massachusetts school districts that have received funding to become innovators in blended learning initiatives. A follow up webinar on AEM and UDL is being offered by Sam on May 25.
AEM in K-12, Higher Education, and Workforce Prep
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Boston Regional Digital Equity Summit 
March 18 - Sam Johnston and Skip Stahl will participate in the Boston Regional Digital Equity Summit entitled "Closing the Digital Divide for Economic and Educational Opportunity and Workforce Development" being held at UMass-Boston.

The Summit's aims are to 1) e
quip school/community teams in high poverty communities with the knowledge, ongoing planning assistance and resources to design digital equity initiatives that address locally determined educational and economic opportunity goals; and 2) Share a compelling vision with philanthropists and investors regarding the essential dimensions and guiding principles that operationally define what it means to make effective "digital equity investments."
Upcoming Presentations and Webinars
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AEM in Workplace Prep
March 21 - Sam Johnston will present a webinar on UDL and AEM to the Division of National Programs, Tools and Technical Assistance Specialty National Programs Unit of the U.S. Department of Labor. This unit administers four program areas that focus on targeted worker populations: National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP); Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Monitor Advocate System; services for individuals with disabilities, including the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI); and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program (WOTC).
 
March 31 - Sam Johnston will deliver the keynote presentation on Universal Design for Learning at the annual AHEAD Conference in in Richmond, VA.
 
AEM in K-12
April 2 - Joy Zabala will present a session entitled " Connecting Students with Learning Disabilities to the Curriculum with Accessible Materials and Technologies" at the   Partnering for Strength Conference being held at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, NH. This session will focus on students with learning disabilities who may need accessible materials and technologies for access to the general curriculum. The Conference is being held by   The Parent Information Center and NH Family Voices and the YEAH Council.

Joy Zabala
TA Tips
The AEM Team is on the go! Check the Events section of the website to learn more about upcoming opportunities on accessible materials and technologies both online and in person. If you are anywhere we are, please come say hello! As always, do not hesitate to contact Kirk ( kbehnke@cast.org) or me ( jzabala@cast.org) with any questions, comments or concerns. We always love hearing from you! 

Joy Zabala 
Co-Director, National Center on Accessible Educational Materials; Director of Technical Assistance, CAST
jzabala@cast.org