Ten weeks of summer: Assistive Technology prepares for 2014-2015 school year


AT staffWhen the students swap backpacks for beach bags, Baltimore County Public Schools shuts down for the summer, right? Not quite.

Of the school system’s 18,783 employees, 1,032 work in the BCPS central offices. While some of those 1,032 employees hold 10-month positions, most central office staff hold 12-month positions and spend the summer months preparing for the next school year.

For each of the 10 weeks of summer, a 12-month central office employee will answer a series of questions about his or her staff’s preparations and projects for the 2014-2015 school year. This week, Blake Lubinski, an intern in the Department of Communications and Community Outreach, interviewed Kama Dwyer, team leader of the Office of Assistive Technology in the Department of Innovative Learning.

Blake Lubinski: “What is the history and structure of your office?”

Kama Dwyer: “The Office of Assistive Technology began approximately 20 years ago with one Speech-Language Pathologist supporting assistive technology needs for the entire school system on a part-time basis. It has grown into an office of seven staff members; we have a team leader, three Speech-Language Pathologists – two are part-time with us – one special educator, one Occupational Therapist and an Instructional Assistant. Together, we provide assistive technology support for Baltimore County Public Schools students.”

BL: “What are the responsibilities of your office?”

KD: “The primary focus of the Assistive Technology office is to serve students who have significant difficulty with oral or written communication and motor disabilities through classroom modifications and a range of technology assistance. The office provides consultation, assessment, equipment and training as well as countywide professional development training in order to build skills for technology integration supporting all students and staff.”

BL: “How do those responsibilities change during the summer?”

KD: “We have a reduced staff during the summer. Two staff members provide assistive technology support and training as needed for students with extended school years. Evaluations are conducted as needed. During the summer, we offer software training for BCPS staff members so that they have the opportunity to learn how to use the software with their students and are able to create activities to use in their classrooms.”

BL: “What projects does your office have planned for this summer?”

KD: “We will provide software training on Boardmaker Studio, Boardmaker version 6, Clicker 6 and Kurzweil. We also sponsored, along with the Office of Special Education, a three-day Universal Design for Learning (UDL) workshop. There were attendees from Baltimore County Public Schools, Towson University, Stevenson University, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and some neighboring counties. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about best practices, getting started with UDL, problem-based learning and taking UDL to the next level. During the summer, we have the opportunity to meet with other BCPS staff to assess needs and plan so that we can best meet staff and student needs in the upcoming school year.”

BL: “What are your office’s goals for the upcoming school year?”

KD: “Our office is aiming to support students with communication, access and educational needs throughout the digital conversion and develop a digital training library to provide resources for staff and families. We are also working with the Office of Special Education to support initiatives that address early childhood and functional language skills for all students. We will also collaborate with the special schools to identify technology needs and support integration of technology into the classrooms.”

BL: “How is your office preparing to meet those goals?”

KD: “We are meeting with staff from various departments to assess needs and develop plans. We are planning upcoming trainings and workshops as well as researching and evaluating new technology. Several staff members will attend national conferences and will share the material with the rest of the staff.”

Now that’s a jam-packed summer! Summers like these just go to show that there’s no such thing as a “slowdown” for Team BCPS!


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