Thinking beyond the obvious with basic, everyday tools.

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Photo by Romain V on Unsplash

What an exciting time to be teaching, especially if you are a fan of EdTech! Each day there are new tools/updates and YouTube videos on how to utilize these different tools. Unfortunately, not to be a “Debbie Downer”, all of these tools do not equate to better access for our students. Sometimes we, as educators, need to take a step back and look at the tools that we already know and use to support students. It can be hard to find the time to dive in and truly understand the ins-and-outs of every EdTech tool, but there is value in becoming overly comfortable with a few basic, everyday tools.

Beyond with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (Coombs, 2012)

Word: Utilize styles to create headings, subheadings, and normal text to create a format that is consistent throughout the document and easily accessible for all readers. Another benefit to utilizing styles, beyond the fact that you can customize styles, is that you can quickly create a table of contents based on the headings and subheadings throughout the document.

Excel: Creating a clear flow is not only important and can create accessibility for students utilizing screen readers. By tagging headers, screen readers will keep a focus as they move from cell to cell, and will read the header prior to the coordinating cells.

PowerPoint: Slide shows in a PowerPoint can be fully narrated to allow the reader to engage with the slides even if a student is blind, has low-vision, or is unable to read either due to age or cognitive ability. This integrated feature in PowerPoint creates easy access for adding audio recordings without having to download additional tools.

Beyond with Google Jamboard

Jamboard: There are many whiteboard apps that have more features than Jamboard, but Jamboard integrates directly into Google Classroom, Meet, and Drive. Within Jamboard, an image can be set as the background and students can draw out, or show their thinking, directly on the frame. For example, if a math problem is added as an image in the background, students can use their varying tools to solve the problem using a strategy that works for them. Teachers can create a few frames in a Jamboard and assign the Jamboard in Classroom as “make a copy for each student” or allow students to collaborate on the same frames by sharing the Jamboard in their small group Meet.

Beyond the New Tools

New tools are fun and shiny. Every staff meeting, workshop, conference, etc. that I go to, I learn about a new tool! All of this “new-ness” can create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) along with anxiety. I want my students and teachers in my district to have the latest and greatest and be up-to-date with tech tools and resources, but I do not want to overwhelm them. By constantly pushing new tools, there isn’t time to get comfortable enough with current tools to fully understand how to make them accessible for all learners. It is important to keep it simple, and go beyond with the tools that are currently at our fingertips!


Coombs, N. (2012). Making online teaching accessible: Inclusive course design for students with disabilities. Sydney, Australia: Accessible Publishing Systems.

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