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Aiming for Access

June Behrmann

June Behrmann is a longtime special education teacher (pre-K to grade 6) who retired for about two seconds, and is now prospecting for accessible instructional resources. Follow June on Twitter @aimnoncat. Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with us.

Try "App Flows," A Strategy Using Multiple Digital Tools for All to Access the Curriculum

November 24, 2014



Can teachers better target and achieve learning objectives using lessons that engage students with multiple digital learning tools? The Senior Manager of Digital Learning at Common Sense Media, Darri Stephens, wondered. Graphite is a platform created by Common Sense Media to make it easier for educators to find the best apps, games, and websites.



Many teachers use individual digital learning tools seamlessly as part of their practice, but is there a way to take digital learning further so that technology could flow through a proven lesson to enrich instruction? That would mean planning in advance to consider "where, why, and how the technology could flow through a lesson, transforming particular lesson activities, to reach end goals," Stephens writes on the Graphite website External Link to Graphite website.

By leveraging digital tools in their proven lessons, teachers would redefine learning activities. For students who struggle to read, accessible digital media, if chosen, supports their learning. Graphite is a good source for apps that teachers could align to particular parts of the lesson, including the:

  • Hook that engages
  • Direct instruction
  • Guided practice
  • Independent practice, and
  • Wrap-up

These ideas evolved into Graphite's interactive framework called App Flows with three goals in mind, according to Stephens. These are:

  • To guide teachers to reflect on where they're aligning digital learning tools within a lesson, why the tools best fit those particular activities, and how the activities themselves are being augmented
  • To encourage blended learning opportunities by prompting teachers to mix in media-rich activities with traditional pencil-and-paper activities
  • To illustrate how technology can be used throughout a lesson plan, especially if used in the teaching (for you!) and in the learning (for students!)

Here is an example of the app flow in action in a middle school:

Starting Small

Stephens recommends starting small. Add a digital tool or two at first. Tech possibilities could include apps, websites, digital games, and digital curricula. There is a template on the Graphite site that helps teachers organize their instructional plans.

"On Graphite, you can save and share your App Flows, and be inspired by what others are doing in their classrooms," she says. "We’re listening to you, our educators, and we hope that you’ll find this interactive tool to be a practical, hands-on and applicable way to introduce your students to the many innovative digital learning tools available today."

There is a resource bank of App Flows External Link to App Flows contributed by teachers. The following selected lessons support English/Language arts programs of studies. In many ways, these play to learning strengths of struggling readers and are customizable to include the specialized learning materials of students with disabilities. Check out:


The App Flow concept easily incorporates accessible insructional materials. Students with print disabilities require and receive these for free if they are found eligible for AIM services (and assistive technologies) during the Individualized Education Program planning. To find out about eligibility, go to the AIM-VA home page. AIM is available in every state. Contact your special educaton teacher or school administrator for more information.


Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with our Reading Rockets audience.


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"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb