Wyoming Professional Learning Community in Assistive Technology Expands Expertise and Reach into WY Schools

By John Paul Harris, PLC Coordinator and Marjorie Daley, PLC Administrative Assistant

On June 2013, 21 educators gathered in Laramie, Wyoming for a week of intense training in assistive technology. Their mission? To further the use and understanding of assistive technology (AT) in Wyoming schools. These educators comprise the Wyoming Professional Learning Community in Assistive Technology (WY PLC in AT) and they, with the support of the Wyoming Department of Education and Wyoming Assistive Technology Resources (WATR), plan to bring AT expertise to Wyoming schools.

Three nationally recognized experts in the AT field shared their extensive knowledge with the WY PLC in AT members. Gayl Bowser, assistive technology consultant, has been an integral part of the PLC since its inception. Bowser was a special education teacher and administrator before starting an independant consulting service specializing in AT and the education of children and youth with disabilities. Bowser provided training to members on how to assess and implement AT in their school districts and she helped members develop personal action plans.

AT trainers Penny Reed and Scott Marfilius also brought their expertise to the group. Penny Reed, Ph.D. is a member of the Leadership Team for Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Services, developing guidelines and materials to help education agencies evaluate and improve AT delivery. She worked with PLC members on how to train other educators in the use of assistive technology. One PLC member said, “learning a framework for determining student AT needs and then how to collect data to measure AT effectiveness were some of the best pieces of knowledge I gained during the week.”

Scott Marfilius, M.A., spoke with energy and enthusiasm, inspiring the PLC members to try new technologies and approaches with students. Marfilius is an AT consultant who works with universities to improve the use of technology in education curricula. He also assists businesses and individuals in the use of AT to create job opportunities. Marfilius led a hands-on experience with a variety of AT software in literacy and writing. PLC members bubbled-over with enthusiasm and new ideas for helping their students succeed.

After a day of training from Reed on how to become an expert trainer, four members developed an innovative presentation on AT and the Common Core State Standards to present at the Wyoming Leadership Conference two weeks later. Three members, Alivia Bingham, Casey Widhalm, and Christine Victor shared the presentation with fellow educators who responded,“I didn’t realize how far reaching AT was…I hope to learn more” and were thrilled to discover that AT can “allow for the differentiation of information for enhanced student learning.” Many left with the goal to “share this information with other special education educators” and “further identify students who would benefit from AT.”

In order to support the mission of the WY PLC in AT members, the WDE and WATR will continue to provide trainings through online webinars, phone conferences, and other online platforms. Some of the trainings will be available to all educators through the WY PLC in AT website: http://www.uwyo.edu/wind/plc/. Visit the website for information on upcoming PLC activities.

WY PLC in AT members:

Kellan Bagley, Lincoln #2
Anne Baures, Sheridan #2
Alivia Bingham, Teton #1
Teresa Brengle, Converse #1
Jennifer Brown, Sweetwater County CDC
Pat Casey, Albany #1
Curtis Collins, Fremont #25
Kathe Dahill, Laramie #1
Eric Freeman, Natrona #1
Christine Glodt, Park #6
Katie Harmon, Sweetwater #2
Molly Hanson, Sublette #1
Kristi Hibbert, Sublette #9
Belinda Irick, Uinta #4
Dede McDonald, Teton #1
Mallory Melton, Albany #1
Deb Smith, Fremont #21
Cara Straw, Sweetwater #1
Karen Thayer, Platte #1
Chris Victor, Big Horn #1
Casey Widhalm, Fremont #1