Thursday, September 22, 2011

AT Awareness for Every Teacher: The Strategy-A-Day Calendar #SADcal by @ATTIPScast #assistivetech #ATpeeps #spedtech #spedchat

Here's a unique approach to professional development for assistive technology from Christopher Bugaj.  Many of you might already know Christopher as the voice behind A.T.TIPSCAST.

You've seen them in the mall or in bookstores or received one as a present over the holidays.  They come with kittens and puppies, hardy-har jokes, or deep meaningful quotations.  Yet they all have one thing in common... a new page every day. 

What am I talking about?  Tear-off desktop calendars of course! 

But what's that got to do with assistive technology?

In Virginia's Loudon County Public Schools (LCPS), the answer is everything.  Here our assistive technology team uses a daily tear-off calendar to provide professional development to teachers around the school district.  

Here's how it works:

During the first week back to school the special education teachers in our county find a "Strategy-A-Day" calendar in their mailboxes.  Each page of the calendar features a solitary technique, tip, best practice, or any other bit of knowledge that can be used to differentiate learning.  Veteran teachers expect the calendar because we've been putting one out since the 07-08 school year. 

Since the strategies can often benefit all students, our district also provides a digital version of the calendar on the district's internal website--for the benefit of all teachers. Some schools have even opted to take a digital version of the calendar and place it as their teacher desktop.  In this way, whenever any teacher logs in, that person sees the latest strategy displayed behind their icons.

Here's what we've learned:  

When a calendar is on a teacher's desktop, either digitally or in a printed format, it starts to become habitual to check for the latest strategy.  Before long teachers are tearing off pages or taking screenshots of the strategies they find useful in order to save or share with others. The process of making one also fuels collaboration and sharing. And once the first calendar is produced, it gets easier to reproduce in the future.

Sound like a good idea for your district?

All you need are people willing to contribute some content. Here's one way to pull it together:
  • Use a cloud-based tool like Google Docs so any number of people can add content to one file.

  • Contributors log into the Google Doc, pick a blank slide of the presentation, and add their content.

  • Division of labor can be by topic, like strategies for teaching communication or writing, or free-form, where contributors create pages based on anything that gets them jazzed.

  • Once everyone has added their content, one person can go back to the file and add dates to each page.

  • Then print, cut, and glue the calendars together.  In LCPS, a class of graphic design students who are learning to use cutting and gluing equipment finalize the calendar.  In this way, the entire LCPS calendar is created in-house using district resources. 

Keep in mind, if you don't have enough time, people, or resources to make a daily calendar, a weekly calendar could be produced. It would have fewer strategies than a daily calendar, but it could also be more focused.  Imagine a "Communication Strategy-A-Week" or "Writing Resource-A-Week" calendar produced in successive years.  Calendars could be created to match targeted areas, providing a consistent reminder of school goals. 

Need content ideas?

Sadly, our calendar is not available beyond our district.  But, here are two ways to find our content:

  1. On Twitter: do a search for the hashtag #SADcal.  People who contribute to the creation of the calendar often tweet out the strategy of the day and any related resources.

  2. Check out our delicious account at  There, you'll find tags listed by date.  Click on the tag for the corresponding date and you'll be taken to a page of resources related to the topic that was presented in the calendar for that day.   

So, if you're looking for a way to promote AT awareness, spread UDL ideas, and cultivate collaboration, consider a Strategy-A-Day calendar.  It can be the healthy snack added to a steady diet of professional development.  And it might just hold the key strategy that makes all the difference for a student.   

Chris Bugaj is the author of The Practice (and fun) Guide toAssistive Technology in Public Schools, and produces the podcast, A.T.Tipscast: Assistive Technology in Public Schools; learn about them at the A.T.TIPSCAST blog site. Bugaj will also present at ATIA 2012 Orlando: "UDL 2.0 for 2012" (with Beth Poss) and "The A.T.TIPSCAST LIVE! The Power of Podcasting," both on Friday, January 29th.

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