Ira David Socol

Linking conceptual understanding and historical research with real, on-the-ground investigation and trial of best practices, allows a unique way of looking at our educational systems, both formal and informal.

For over 25 years, Ira Socol has pushed for schools that work for every child, for every adolescent. In the 1990s he built a universally-designed university computer system with accessible computers everywhere, with use open to anyone who needed those solutions. In the early 21st century, supported by leading dyslexia and ADHD researchers, investigated reading and behavioral solutions for struggling adolescents, worked on the creation of the Freedom Stick suite of free UDL technologies, and drove the development of Click Speak, a text-to-speech solution for Firefox.

He has written extensively and worked with schools across North America and in Ireland.

“Our mission is to create environments in which contemporary learning for every child can flourish,” Socol says. “All of us in LEAD (Department of Learning Engineering, Access, and Design) are engineers and educators. In our partnership with teachers and administrators, our goal is to increase opportunities for students, expand their potential for future success, and close current opportunity gaps.”

"Among the programs Socol supported is the division’s High School Center pilot. The center focuses on project-based learning and student internship opportunities.“There will be no bells to signal the end of a class or structural limits on the learning experiences offered to students. "An important part of our approach is a redesign of the environment, both in terms of the physical space and where and when learning actually takes place,” he said.

"He also managed the division’s countywide initiative to bring broadband access to student homes not currently able to access this service."

"Socol joined Albemarle County Public Schools in 2013 in support of the division’s Design 2015 initiative, which focused on project-based and collaborative learning programs across schools. A year later, he became the division’s Assistant Director of Educational Technology. In that role, he shaped the installation of software packages on student computers adaptable to individual learning styles and needs. Examples include multiple text-to-speech reading and speech-to-text dictation programs, multiple calculators, and creative tools for art and music. He also helped develop strategies for teachers to engage learners through interactive technologies, connectivity, project/problem/passion-based learning, and student choice and comfort in the classroom."

"Socol was selected in 2017 by the Center for Digital Education, a national organization whose mission is to “nurture a community of thought leaders who are rethinking education with technology as the catalyst,” as one of its 30 top technologists, transformers and trailblazers. He is known internationally for his “Toolbelt Theory,” a systemic approach to providing Universal Design for Learning, and has presented his research on globally open technology and contemporary learning spaces.

"He has taught at Michigan State and Grand Valley State universities and at Pratt Institute. He also was a consultant for assistive technology for Michigan’s Vocational Rehabilitation Agency. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Grand Valley State University and holds certifications in Assistive Technology from the University of California at Northridge and in Employment Training from Michigan State University."