Inclusive Learning Network

Spring/Summer Newsletter, 2019

President's Message

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the work of the Inclusive Learning Network this year. From facilitating the book study and supporting our webinars, to providing input on the ISTE 2019 program, I am grateful for all of your support as I now leave you in the capable hands of my colleague and friend Mindy Johnson, our next ISTE Inclusive Learning Network President. I am incredibly grateful to be part of such a dedicated and generous group of educators who are doing amazing work to make sure education works for all of our learners.


And speaking of great educators - this month we get to celebrate three exemplary professionals who are using their talents and skills to change the face of education for the better. Look for their stories in our Educator Spotlight section. Continuing to make ISTE an exemplary organization when it comes to accessibility, diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top personal and professional goal of mine. I can’t wait to see what we do next!

Outstanding Inclusive Educator Award Profiles

This year’s Outstanding Inclusive Educator is Kendra Grant (@KendraFGrant). Kendra has a long history in our field in a variety of roles that include educator (teacher, library-media specialist, special ed coordinator), co-founder of a professional learning company, online course creator and large-scale technology implementation consultant. Her contributions to the ILN similarly span a number of roles such as past President and chair of a number of committees. I was lucky to co-design and deliver a Small Open Online Course (SOOC) on mobile learning and UDL with Kendra and past ILN president Betsy Dolton. Our work on that course later inspired us to write Dive into UDL for ISTE. Kendra doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to UDL, she walks the walk. You can see evidence of her deep understanding of UDL and sound instructional design principles in every thing she creates: websites, books and conference presentations. Please join me in congratulating Kendra as our 2019 Outstanding inclusive Educator.


The process of selecting just one person for this award always ends in a tough decision - there are so many worthy people who are doing amazing things in our field. That is why we decided to also recognize two honorable mention recipients for this award:


  • Kathryn (Katie) Nieves (@Ms_KatieNieves) is a special education teacher at Sparta Middle School in Sparta, New Jersey. Katie is a Google Certified Trainer and she has presented and published about inclusive learning tools in many different locations, including the Google Transformation Center, Edutopia, the Association for Middle Level Education, DisruptED TV Magazine, and a snapshot in the book Universal Access through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL. She is getting her doctorate in Educational Technology with the hope of bringing more research to the field of assistive technology and inclusive learning.

  • Sue Cusack (@SueCusack) is an assistant professor and the director of the STEAM Learning Lab at Lesley University. As a parent of a child with a disability, Sue understands disability from a personal perspective but actually speaks about it from a global perspective. She embodies inclusive design and lifelong learning in her practice, both pushing others and herself in their learning. Sue has worked in recent years on modeling and teaching about constructionism and the maker movement, and she is the founder of Lesley University’s STEAM Learning Lab. Sue not only brings universal design and UDL principles to this work, but she also brings in a culturally responsive mindset to enhance her teaching and learning.

Kendra Grant

2019 Outstanding Inclusive Educator Kendra Grant.

The Inclusive Learning Network at ISTE 2019

The Inclusive Learning Network is planning a #UDLTakeover of ISTE 2019. Our theme for this year is the intersection of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Design Thinking, two frameworks for designing user-centric, inclusive learning environments.


Look for us at the following events:

  • Design Thinking and UDL: Connecting the Dots (Panel), Monday, June 24th, 8:30-9:30 AM, Room 120A
  • Inclusive by Design Playground: Connections Between UDL and Design Thinking, Tuesday, June 25th, 9:30 AM - 1 PM, Playground B, Level 2, Grand Hall
  • Design Thinking and Inclusive Learning Around the Word: An International Discussion, Wednesday, June 26th, 10-11 AM, Room 120A.


Other sessions featuring ILN members include:

Sunday, June 23rd

  • A-11-Why? Making Accessibility a Priority, 10-11 AM, Room 122A (ILN: Mindy Johnson and Luis Perez)
  • Pi for Everybody: Assistive Technology and Coding for Students with Special Needs, 9-10 AM, Room 126 AB (ILN: Mike Marotta)


Monday, June 24th

  • Digital Without Borders (BYODex), 3-4 PM, Marriott (ILN: Sean Arnold, Luis Perez)
  • Promote an Inclusive, UDL Learning Environment with Google Supports, 2:30-4 PM, Franklin 11-13, Marriott (ILN: Mike Marotta)


Wednesday, June 26th

  • Effective Edtech Partnerships (Panel), 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM (ILN: Sean Arnold)
  • Tech Masterclass Showcase, 1:30-2:30 PM, Terrace Ballroom I, Level 4 (ILN: Sean Arnold)


Make sure to visit our Conference page on the updated Inclusive Learning Network website for the latest updates on our sessions at ISTE 2019. See you in Philly!

Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019

On Thursday, May 16th the Inclusive Learning Network celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) with an early morning webinar co-hosted with the SITE UDL-SIG. The webinar focused on initiatives and practical applications of accessibility practices in K-12, higher education, and adult learning settings and featured a diverse group of presenters around the world:


  • Nitza Guzman, Luis Acero, Miguel Mejia, Edwin Ortiz - Colegio Aleman Deutsche Schule, Barranquilla, Colombia

  • Nantanoot Suwannawut - Bureau of Special Education, Thailand Ministry of Education

  • Kathleen Bastedo, Nancy Swenson - Center for Distributed Learning, University of Central Florida


The webinar was moderated by Luis Perez (ISTE ILN President), Cindy Anderson (ISTE ILN International Committee Co-Chair), Betsy Dalton and Susie Gronseth (SITE UDL-SIG Co-Chairs). A recording is available on the ILN YouTube channel.

Announcement for ISTE Inclusive Learning Network webinar on Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Professional Learning Update

Summer is a great time to step up your learning on inclusive learning practices! While the formal book study for Dive into UDL (by ILN members Kendra Grant and Luis Perez) has concluded, the book study’s website is still available for you to review the content or just check out the great instructional design from ILN member and Professional Learning Chair Helen DeWaard.


Similarly, the National AEM Center at CAST provided a free year-long online course on accessible educational materials (AEM) that is now archived for 24-7 access on the AEM Center website. The course follows UDL principles by modeling accessibility best practices and providing multiple entry points to the content depending on where educators are in their understanding of accessibility and AEM.


CAST Publishing has released a number of new books for your summer reading on UDL:


Loui Lord Nelson is also the person behind the UDL in 15 podcast. This is yet another way you can build your understanding of UDL and inclusive practices if a podcast is more your thing.

Finally, the FREE AAC in the Cloud Conference will take place June 25th-26th. This is an online conference for those interested in strategies and tools for supporting the use of Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) in education.

International Committee

The International Committee had a successful meeting at the Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education Conference in Las Vegas on March 20, 2019. The meeting began with a presentation by Aashna Khurana of India about India’s BaLA or Building as a Learning Aid organization (Figure 1), a group that promotes using all elements of the school for instruction that sparked a lively discussion, for example, using pillars for painting images representing the life cycle of a frog. She also spoke of a reading series that is available for schools found here: http://www.ncert.nic.in/departments/nie/degsn/NCERTBarkhaseries/Start.html


The meeting continued with further discussion of world UDL movements. Attendees were invited to become a part of the committee. Countries that signed for membership include Australia, India, and Mauritius.

Figure 1: 2 boys looking at a graphic pasted on a concrete column on the outside of a school.

Inclusive Learning Technology in the News

Read about how one man's love for his brother with Down syndrome helped make Google Home more accessible for everyone. Plus don't miss Saltillo Consultant and InclusiveLN Past President, Jennifer Edge-Savage's take on inclusive design and accessibility for mainstream technologies in that same article! And if you want to learn more about Google Accessibility, make sure to check out a comprehensive blog post from ILN member Sean Arnold in his blog Brave in the Attempt.


Check out #MSFTEduChat, which on May 21st focused on Inclusive Classrooms and Accessibility. This global conversation was attended by many educators, sharing in multiple languages. Check out the Wakelet archive to read all the tweets shared throughout the hour long chat. ILN member Mike Marotta was one of the moderators.


Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference took place June 3-7th. This is often when Apple reveals new accessibility features for its operating systems that are usually released in the fall with new iPhones. This year, two standout features were announced: mouse support for iOS, and Voice Control for the Mac and iOs devices. Both will make a big difference by providing more options for how people interact with their devices. AbleNet’s Sidekick, an adapter that provides mouse support for iOS, will be available in Fall 2019 and AMAneo BTI is already available for order from InclusiveTLC.


In an exciting development for those who teach students with visual impairments, the LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group recently announced their support for a pioneering project that will help blind and visually impaired children learn Braille in a playful and engaging way using Braille customised LEGO® bricks.

Ending with a Feel Good Story!

Nine-year old Ronan (whose grandfather Stephen works with ILN members Mindy Johnson and Luis Perez at CAST) was overcome with delight and shouted “wow” as the Handel and Haydn Society finished a rendition of “Masonic Funeral” at Boston’s Symphony Hall. Ronan is on the autism spectrum and expresses himself differently. In a show of kindness, the audience burst into applause for Ronan. It gets better - the orchestra reached out to see if Ronan wanted to meet the conductor! He is now known as the “wow kid.”