Author Archives: Alan

Accessibility, Part V – Lauri Hughes

Accessibility, Part V – Lauri Hughes [read the transcript]

Accessibility is a big topic with many parts, but at the center there are people. People who need to know we care. People who may indeed require accommodations, but perhaps more importantly require an acknowledgement of and belief in their abilities to succeed. I’m wrapping up this series on Accessibility with Lauri Hughes who reminds us of the power we have to believe in our students even when they struggle to believe in themselves. And while this wraps up this series, I hope it’s just the beginning of the conversation.

If you missed any of the previous Accessibility Episodes they can all be found here (I, II, III, IV) and on Kirkwood’s iTunes U page.  Continue reading

Accessibility, Part IV – Wilson Rojas & Maryam Rod Szabo

Accessibility, Part IV – Wilson Rojas & Maryam Rod Szabo [read the transcript]

The concepts of Universal Design may have roots in architecture, but the implications of these concepts extend nicely to teaching and learning. Wilson and Maryam are instructional designers in Kirkwood’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (KCELT), and share their perspectives on universal design as well as their experiences as Iowan transplants.  Follow them on Twitter @wilsonmrojas and @maryamrodszabo.

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Accessibility, Part III – Andrea Skeries

Accessibility, Part III – Andrea Skeries [read the transcript]

The world of web accessibility can be overwhelming to navigate on one’s own. Thankfully, we don’t have to. Andrea Skeries, web developer at Geonetric and web accessibility specialist, guides me and anyone willing to learn through some of the important accessibility (a11y) considerations of today. She is also host of a public meetup here in CR on the issue of accessibility and user experience and design. Listen to the episode for great tips on how to make your web (and other digital) materials more accessible.

Links to some resources mentioned during our conversation:

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Accessibility, Part II – Barb Mussman & Amanda Thompson

Accessibility, Part II – Barb Mussman & Amanda Thompson [read the transcript]

Barb Mussman and Amanda Thompson are case managers for students needing accommodations. I didn’t know much about what this involved until our conversation. Sure, I’ve received accommodation forms before, but I hadn’t considered how these accommodations came to be, or what the process is for students who need accommodations. And what about the students who could benefit from these supports but decide to go it without accommodations? I had many unknowns and questions.

If you’d like to learn more about where Accommodation Services fits into the college organization, jump back an episode and listen to Accessibility, Part I with Arron Wings.

Here are links to a few resources mentioned during our conversation:

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Accessibility, Part I – Arron Wings

Education Is Accessibility, Part I [read the transcript]

To get started with accessibility, I wanted a big picture of where accessibility fits into the larger institution. Arron Wings, Dean of  Learning and Library Services, came in to talk me through some of the changes he’s seen and opportunities we discover when framing our minds to accommodate everyone.

Next week, we’ll go deeper into the Accommodation Services section of Learning Services.

Learn more about the Learning Services Department at Kirkwood.

Book Reference: College Success for Students with Disabilities, Irene Ingersoll
Movie Reference: Hidden Figures (2016)

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Education is Accessibility – Intro

Edis_016_AccessibilityIntro [read the transcript]

I’ve been talking with some knowledgable people about accessibility lately. Arron Wings, Barb Mussman and Amanda Thompson of Learning Services at Kirkwood Community College provide a detailed sketch of support for students needing accommodations. Lauri Hughes, Nursing Department Coordinator, describes her personal story of receiving support as a student at Kirkwood and where that has led her career and her heart. Andrea Skeries of Geonetric regularly educates me on web accessibility (A11Y) solutions and news. Maryam Rod Szabo and Wilson Rojas from KCELT help me fit accessibility into the big picture of Universal Design for Learning.

Five conversations to be published over the next five weeks (or so). My goals are to raise awareness and to continue the conversation about making learning accessible to everyone. Thanks for listening!

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Being Organized

Education Is Being Organized

Guest Hosts: Holly Zuber & Kristina Murphy

list of reminder chores

Holly’s digital reminders

Keeping our lives and our students’ learning organized is a big challenge for most of us. And yet, Holly and Kristina make it look effortless. How do they keep their desks so tidy and inboxes so empty while also swiftly returning messages, facilitating office processes, and generally getting things done?! We talk about tools for keeping ourselves on task, obstacles for the ultra-organized and advice for those who want to improve their own organization strategies.

clean email inbox

Kristina’s pristine inbox

For those who have read, or otherwise have been influenced by David Allen’s Getting Things Done (or the GTD movement), much of this podcast should ring true.


Guest Hosts: Dr. Jimmy Reyes & Juanita Limas

We empower ourselves and others with knowledge, skills, experiences and perspectives through the practice of education. And this practice involves sharing much of our own story as educators, as individuals, as members of majorities and minorities, and as people. Special thanks to Jimmy Reyes, Dean of Nursing and Juanita Limas, Assistant Professor of Math/Science for sharing their stories and initiatives for the future.

You can learn more about Jimmy and Juanita’s presentation at this post on the KCELT website. And you can learn more about the non-profit organization MyHealthIowa at or their facebook group.

Grading? No, Goal Mastery!

Guest Host: Michal Eynon-Lynch

Grading is so ingrained into our academic experiences and systems of education, that is difficult to conceive of alternative cultures of grading. The traditional ranking system of A,B,C,D has served us well for a couple hundred years now in this country. The short-hand nature of the grade appears to communicate all we might need to know about a learner. And it seems the learner too would naturally aspire to the higher marks – an extrinsic motivator, but one that is assumed perhaps to reflect the inner passions and abilities of the learner.

This point accumulation focus is diverting our (my) attention to the actual abilities and interests of students. Most students seem more worried about the number of points acquired than the skills and thoughts they are exploring.

So it was refreshing to talk with Michal Eynon-Lynch, ActiveGrade’s Co-Founder and Director of Meaningful Connections, about their product and goal-based grading (aka standards-based grading, mastery, proficiency, competency…). These ideas push and pull educators (myself included) toward open conversations with students about their learning experiences and skill mastery. And it encourages students to care less about the scores on individual assignments and assessments, and contemplate the nature of their learning and demonstrations of mastery.

Learn more about ActiveGrade at and learn more about the Haiku platform at

Phasers and Transporters

Guest Hosts: Sam Bishop & Jeff Bishop


Image by ShardOfBlue on Flickr

It is not every day I have the opportunity to talk to an eager young physicist exploring the potential realities of science in science fiction classics. Maybe I need to get out more. And if I did, perhaps I would discover minds across our institution, city, and the world engaged in discovery and self-improvement. I might find them asking questions of each other on the roof-tops of Cedar Rapids. Or maybe I would just meet some weird and wonderful people, as Sam did on his journey this past Summer as a student in BIG.

Nicole and I also ask Jeff, Sam’s dad and engineering consultant, to share a parental perspective. I think it was clear from our conversation, father and son both enjoy this process of discovery. And why not spend a Summer researching and building and sharing your discoveries?