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DIAGRAM Strategic Planning Recap

2017 June 16
by Amaya Webster

A photograph of meeting participants engaged in discussion.Thank you to everyone who came to the DIAGRAM Strategic Planning Meeting. We had a wonderful turnout and it was great to see the old faces and meet the new ones. We were joined by many members of our advisory committee, the working groups and even members of the Department of Ed. It was a jam-packed two days and we succeeded in addressing the topics that came up from our community members prior to the meeting and during the course of it as well. We are thrilled to report that it was an unqualified success. The enthusiasm and passion in the room were almost palpable and we couldn’t be more excited to explore the topics and decisions that have come out of it.

For all of you who weren’t there, and even for those of you who were, we will be synthesizing the notes and major themes that came out of the meeting and hosting a webinar in July to do a deep dive into the key takeaways and the plans for how to move forward based on input we received and learnings we had at the meeting. We encourage all of you to join and spread the word.

A photograph of meeting Attendees roasting marshmallows around the outdoor fire pit.We started the meeting Sunday night with an informal S’mores roasting party that gave us all a chance to catch up and in some cases, meet in person for the first time. Then Monday, the real work began. Our first session, “In the Classroom Today” focused on the challenges and solutions of providing accessible educational materials. This session was facilitated by six of our meeting participants who each led small group discussions on their experiences ranging in topics from practices for an inclusive classroom, which was led by Gaeir Dietrich and looked at the ways she helps educators not only adapt accessibility practices but get excited about them to a discussion Derrick Smith facilitated on learning and teaching math, that explored how educators can support digital learning and digital math for students with disabilities.  Other topics included Teaching Science which was led by Chelsea Cook, LMSes and online learning led by Sina Bahram, What teachers Wish They Had in the classroom led by Ting Siu and Publishing Production: Born Accessible standards, which Ted Gies led.

A photograph of participants engaged in small group discussion Monday morning.In the second session of Monday morning, we again held small group discussions on how to make DIAGRAM stronger. Once again, each of these discussions was facilitated by one of the meeting participants. Mark Hakkinen led the discussion on how we can code better together and how we can better support Open Source projects. Bryan Gould led a conversation on ideas for better engagement. This conversation ultimately led to the decision to revive the Outreach Working group, which we are now working on making happen. Laurie Vasquez led a conversation on new collaboration frontiers, focusing especially on areas we aren’t currently exploring but should be. Meeting participant and our program’s external evaluator, Maureen Hawes, led a conversation on how we are measuring the impact of DIAGRAM and how we should be doing it and Elaine Ober, who is one of the co-chairs of the Content Working Group facilitated the conversation on how we can communicate with each other better internally. It was a fast-paced and engaging morning filled with great ideas and strategy for collaboration moving forward.

After lunch, members of the Office of Special Education Programs were nice enough to join A photograph of Raja demoing his work.us for an hour of speed demos that ranged from a demo by Raja Kushalnager on eye tracking and multimodal applications for Deaf and hard of hearing students to Bryan Gould’s demo on accessible augmented learning tools with the early learning TV program, PEEP and the Big Wide World. Other demos included Doug Schepers work on interactive maps, Sina Bahram’s work on accessible computer science, Emily Moore’s work on PhET interactive simulations and the work that was done at the DIAGRAM’s 2017 CSUN code sprint. Neil Soiffer demoed Machine Learning, Lisa Wadors demoed one of DIAGRAM’s newest resources, ImageShare, Charles LaPierre demoed out Born Accessible work and Sue-Ann Ma and Volker Sorge teamed up to demo accessible math.

A photograph of Lisa Wadors and Jim Allan leading a discussion about the Tactiles Working Group.Energized by the amazing work our colleagues are doing, we jumped into our last session of the day, breaking into groups to discuss and update the charters of our working groups, The Content Group, Standards Group, Tactile Group, and Developers group. This session proved to be especially exciting as it led to the formation of several new working group subcommittees which are further discussed in the working group updates section.

Tuesday gave us a chance to delve deeper into the tech side of things with seven small group discussions. Bruce Walker led one on accessible gaming and simulations. Neil Soiffer led one on machine learning, Lisa Dieker led one on robotics, Melissa Malzkuhn led one on visual literacy, Mark Hakkinen on voice recognition, Emily Moore on interactives and Volker Sorge on Math and MathML. Our final Tuesday session was dedicated to the themes of the meeting the participants felt were the most important to explore further. Helen Popper led a discussion on content creation which covered accessibility issues for a range of disabilities. Melissa Malzkuhn further explored visual literacy in the small group discussion she led. DIAGRAM Product Manager Sue-Ann Ma led a discussion on product brainstorming and user personas. Bryan Gould, as the new chair of the Outreach Working group, led a discussion doing a deeper dive into outreach strategies and DIAGRAM’s technical lead Charles LaPierre led a discussion on accessible EPUB versus PDF. Our last activity of the day, as well as the meeting, was to look ahead and commit in writing to things that each of us will do as follow up from the meeting.  These ranged from committing to joining a new working group, to exploring and building new ways to use machine learning. We will be making the commitments available soon as well as following up with people that made them.

A photograph of all the post-its with the participant commitments hanging on the wall.

All and all, it was a hugely successful two days with the biggest takeaway from the meeting is that it’s a starting point. It provided us with a game plan for what we believe is important to achieve and the strategies we think need to be implemented to do so. The conversation is far from over, and the work itself is just beginning. Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to making it such a success. For those of you who couldn’t be there, know that you were missed. We hope and look forward to your future participation in DIAGRAM events and our ongoing collaboration as we move forward to address making education accessible for everyone!

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