Accessibility in the Classroom
Helping special needs students express their creativity
by Dr. Rod Berger
Christopher Bugaj is the expert on assistive education technologies for Loudoun County Public Schools outside of Washington, DC. This knowledgeable educator will be a featured presenter at FETC 2019 in Orlando from January 27th through the 30th. I had the chance to sit down with him and talk about education technology’s past, present, and future.
While our modern society is starting to accept having Siri and Alexa listening in at home, Chris reminds us that Amazon Echo and Google Home are the result of advances in assistive technology for the disabled. Software and hardware engineers have been working with people with disabilities using voice-to-command devices like voice diction for a long time, and those advances have simply found their way into our everyday life.
For the future, Chris sees the greatest advances coming with augmentative communication devices (ACDs). What are ACDs? Think of Stephen Hawking, probably the most famous user of an augmentative communication device. “The price point, going back to the point earlier for those, has come way down,” Chris notes. “You're talking about someone having a voice that has never had one before. You can have a very robust solution for under a thousand dollars; you can have an iPad and an app.” Those tools are being used in special education classrooms to teach people who have not traditionally had a voice, how to express themselves.
Chris sees the advances in edtech coming in what he terms “microtransactions;” small bits and pieces of information and progress. Chris thinks this is why so many people gravitate toward education because the science and the craft of teaching progresses in these little microtransactions that help shift our thinking gradually, rather than a seismic shift. “I think that mindset is why Twitter is such a powerful tool,” Chris says. Even professional development is ever-evolving. “Professional development is not this comet that comes down and strikes the earth,” Chris says. “Rather it’s the river that's carving out the Grand Canyon in all these little micro-moments.”
About Christopher Bugaj
Christopher R. Bugaj, MA CCC‐SLP is a founding member the Assistive Technology Team for Loudoun County Public Schools. Chris hosts The A.T.TIPSCAST a multi‐award winning podcast featuring strategies to design educational experiences and co-hosts the Talking With Tech podcast featuring interviews and conversations about augmentative and alternative communication.
Chris is the co‐author of The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools published by the International Society on Technology in Education (ISTE) and has designed and instructed online courses for ISTE on the topics of Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning. Chris is also the author of ATEval2Go, an app for iPad that helps professionals in education perform technology assessments for students.
Chris co-authored two chapters for a book published by Brookes Publishing titled Technology Tools for Students with Autism. Chris co‐produces and co‐authors the popular Night Light Stories podcast which features original stories for children of all ages. Chris has presented over 250 live or digital sessions at local, regional, state, national and international events, including TEDx, all of which are listed at here. His latest book The New Assistive Tech: Making Learning Awesome For All, also published by ISTE, is available now.
Follow Chris on Twitter.
Christopher Bugaj will be a presenter at FETC 2019, January 27-30 in Orlando, Florida. The conference will bring together thousands of educators and technology leaders for an intensive, highly collaborative exploration of new technologies, best practices and pressing issues. Registration is now open.
- Braille Works - Accessibility in the Classroom
- Common Sense Education - 3 Steps to a More Accessible Classroom
- The Atlantic - How Teacher Training Hinders Special-Needs Students