by Laura Taylor
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of several columns which discusses how to get the most out of MITS, Michigan’ Integrated Technology Supports, which is free and caters to special education teachers.
Suppose you’re a middle school language arts teacher and your class is comprised of 26 students with differing learning needs. Some students don’t need any additional support to learn the information. Some students require a little
more support from you. Some students require Title support to remain successful in your class. Some students have IEPs and require the support of the special education teacher to succeed. As you begin to prepare your next unit, you
consider two particular learning requirements of the lesson: students will have to gain information through reading materials and you know that some of the students will struggle with this part; students will have to demonstrate their knowledge of the content you present.
Where do you begin? How do you meet the needs of 26 different student needs in one class? One resource available to you as a public school teacher in Michigan is MITS – Michigan’s Integrated Technology Supports, at mits.cenmi. org.
MITS is a grant-funded project in the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education which helps Michigan school districts consider the accessibility of the physical and cognitive learning environments that students encounter every day. MITS advocates for a proactive, thoughtful consideration process to determine student needs and promotes flexible instructional methodologies and materials that address learner variability in the classroom. Using flexible methods allows teachers to present learning material to students in a way that reduces barriers that struggling readers may encounter. By allowing students to use different materials to demonstrate their knowledge — say, constructing a model of the content instead of having to write a report — this allows struggling students an opportunity to really demonstrate what they know.To help districts create accessible educational environments, MITS offers professional development and technical assistance.
Lending library service
To address individual student needs in the classroom, school districts may require educational or assistive technologies. Once a specific need for a supportive technology is determined, school districts can borrow an item from the extensive MITS Lending Library. Teams can use a tool for up to eight weeks and gather data on its effectiveness during that time. The use is free; the only cost is that of returning the item to the lending library. MITS ships items for free to school districts throughout Michigan.
Items in the lending library range from low- to high-tech and include software and hardware. Examples of borrowed items include switches for students to use to access a toy, iPads, software that can read difficult passages, and more. For a complete, searchable list of items, see mits.cenmi.org/LendingLibrary.aspx.
MITS offers many professional development services. Besides opportunities to participate in our annual summer institutes and other professional learning opportunities throughout the state, educators can learn about accessibility by borrowing iPads and downloading the iPad Accessibility Manual to teach each other what accessibility features the iPad possesses. See mits.cenmi.org/Resources/iPadAccessibilityFacilitationMaterials.aspx.
The MITS website also hosts video tutorials (mits.cenmi.org/Resources/VideoList.aspx) and archived webinars (mits.cenmi.org/Resources/ArchivedMaterialsResources.aspx) for personal and professional development opportunities. These resources range from just a minute or two to hour-long webinars. These resources are free to watch and can be viewed as many times as necessary.
Academic success begins with the educator’s belief that every student can learn if given the appropriate supports. MITS is committed to providing educators with the supports and resources they need to make the educational environment as accessible as possible for every student in Michigan.
Laura Taylor is a technology integration specialist for MITS (Michigan’s Integrated Technology Supports). Find out more about MITS at MITS.cenmi.org.