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Pulling Together a Strong Crew

Having the right team in place from the start, or “crew” in the case of the AEM Pilot, is essential to the success of any district initiative, including accessibility. As you think about who should be a part of your accessibility crew, remember that a wide range of roles and responsibilities impact - and are impacted by - the educational materials and technologies used in schools. Assemble a crew that represents a cross-section of relevant personnel, as well as family and student voices. This will ensure that broad perspectives are considered. Furthermore, during different phases of using the AEM Pilot you’ll need to collect information and data from a variety of professionals both inside and outside of your district. Having a crew with diverse networks will make identifying and reaching those individuals more efficient.

Find the Right People

Every district is unique so having the right people on your crew should be decided by what they do rather than their titles. Here’s a list of categories with explanations of the roles and responsibilities that are relevant to an accessibility crew. Use this as a guide only, knowing that your crew can be flexible and should reflect the structure of your district.

Administration

The role of administrators on your crew is essential, and they should be involved from the very beginning. Good leadership will mean that the process of improving accessibility is a priority, resulting in accountability for results and the allocation of resources. Because administrators typically have a breadth of understanding of the operations of your district, they can often address questions and make efficient decisions about policies, procedures, and budgets. The bigger your district, the more administrator representation you should have on your crew.

The leadership on your crew might include representatives with the following roles:

  • Overarching district administration (e.g., superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal)
  • Curriculum and assessment (e.g., curriculum coordinator, academic officer)
  • Professional learning (e.g., curriculum coordinator, academic officer)
  • Special education (e.g., special education director, coordinator)
  • Technology (e.g., IT director)

Instruction

Teachers have the daily pulse of learners, including the extent to which the educational materials and technologies they’re using are effective. Teachers are present when students are using materials from wide-ranging sources, such as published by a textbook company, selected on the web, or created by teachers themselves. Regardless of their area of instruction (e.g., content area, intervention, learning strategies), the observations and data collected by teachers is critical to understanding the impact of accessibility on student independence, participation, and progress.

Teacher representation from both general and special education is essential for a successful crew.

Technology

Technology has multiple purposes in a district and implications for the accessibility of educational materials and technologies are important across all of them. For your crew, relevant personnel include those who have responsibilities related to the:

  • integration of technology with teaching and learning
  • evaluation and use of assistive technology for students with disabilities
  • management of interoperability between hardware and software
  • design and maintenance of web pages
  • implementation of learning management systems (LMS)
  • oversight of data management systems
  • management of digital rights of materials and technologies

Data Management

Data collection and use are critical to making sure that materials and technologies are accessible. The people in your district who understand and have access to data management systems could be an asset to your crew.

Library and Media Services

Libraries or media centers are often a school’s central hub for resource materials and technologies. From online databases to educational software, your librarian or media services specialist likely knows a lot about the materials and technologies already being used by teachers and students.

Related Services Personnel

Physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, interpreters, and other related services personnel frequently work one-on-one with students with physical, sensory, and communication disabilities. Their experiences provide an important perspective about the unique and varied ways that students interact with materials and technologies.

Parents and Guardians

Other than the students themselves, the individuals who have the most intimate knowledge about the learning experiences of students with disabilities are the people who care for them 24/7. Parents and guardians can provide personal insights about what works and what doesn’t for their children.

Students

In addition to speaking to their experiences and needs, one or more students on your crew can demonstrate how they use assistive technology in authentic contexts.

Know Who’s Doing What

Once you have your crew members identified, it will be helpful to assign roles for making sure your crew is productive. Here are some specific suggestions, noting that one person can serve more than one role:

Leadership

Collaboration is essential to the success of an accessibility initiative. Assign a leader who can help your crew create a vision and stay motivated. A leader should take the initiative to identify one or more protocols for guiding discussions and other activities. Someone with experience leading Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) would be ideal.

AEM Pilot Administrator

The AEM Pilot Administrator oversees accounts and provides technical support, such as:

  • Setting up the district account
  • Inviting crew members to join and create their own individual accounts
  • Providing assistance to the crew on how to use the tool

Data Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) Manager

The Data QA/QC Manager oversees data and information entered in the tool and monitors for accuracy and quality. This role is important because all crew members have authoring privileges. In addition to the crew deciding on a protocol for those members entering information and completing reports, the Data QA/QC Manager should confirm that the final output is correct.

Roles for Effective Meetings

Nobody likes more meetings but they’re a necessary function of your crew. To make the most of them and thereby minimize their frequency, we recommend the following roles:

  • Facilitator: A strong facilitator will contribute to well-organized and efficient meetings by developing agendas and following a protocol to keep the crew focused throughout meetings.
  • Notetaker: An assigned team notetaker will ensure a record of discussions and result in consistency across meetings.
  • Timekeeper: Having someone periodically announce the time will keep the crew focused.
  • Coordinator: A coordinator is responsible for the basic logistics of meetings, such as scheduling, finding a location, and sending invitations.

Optimize Your Crew’s Productivity

Your crew will have the most success if you form a learning community that builds knowledge together, works cohesively, and supports and cares for one another in the process of reaching your shared goals. Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning is a good resource to optimize your crew’s productivity and collaboration. What’s more, better functioning crews have more efficient and productive meetings - something everyone will appreciate!

Change is the result of all true learning.

Leo Buscaglia, American author and professor of special education
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