IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Leveraging the Voices of Persons with Disabilities in Education Research

A woman uses sign language during a virtual conference

On April 25, 2022, the IES research centers held a listening session focused on researchers with disabilities. The purpose of the session was for participants to share their experiences in becoming education researchers and applying for/carrying out research grants as well as to offer suggestions for increasing the participation of individuals with disabilities in IES grant programs. Participants included researchers from institutes of higher education and non-profit research agencies, researchers in training, higher education administrators and staff, and staff from the Department of Education and other federal funding agencies. The discussion centered around three questions. Below is a summary of the key themes that participants highlighted in response to each question.

How has your disability, in conjunction with other intersecting identities, shaped your experiences as a researcher?

Disability experiences can shape research careers. Participants described an evolving sense of identity and how that impacts their research trajectories. For example, one participant described how conducting disability research helped them recognize their own experiences with mental illness, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism: “That shifting understanding of my own identities […] has been something that informs my own thinking about the research and my own paths.”

Ableism affects many researchers with disabilities. Several participants mentioned experiencing ableism, a form of discrimination against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. As one participant with a physical disability explained, “There's a variation in productivity, and it's been very hard finding a community of other academics because support and advice for graduate students, for example, all presume able body.” Participants also noted that ableism is particularly salient for academics with disabilities who are marginalized in other ways as well (for instance, based on their race or ethnicity, gender identity, and/or sexual orientation). 

Accommodations for researchers with disabilities are inadequate. Participants noted, “I’ve had multiple situations where the accessibility office just does not know how to handle disabled graduate students outside of classes” and “these same issues can follow researchers to the faculty stage of their careers, only then they must work with HR [human resources], yet another entity who is unfamiliar with how to accommodate faculty disability-related requests.” Another participant emphasized how this applies to people whose disabilities are not visible, explaining that individuals may attempt to hide their disabilities, but then they may not find out about accommodations that would have been available to them; on the other hand, “the accommodations they receive don't really help them to be productive and attain their scholarly research expectations that they have.”

Participants feel a responsibility toward people with disabilities in their research. For example, one participant shared that, “As a deaf woman of color, I feel the responsibility to conduct research that elevates and addresses significant issues of need in the community. I also feel the need to protect the community from hearing researchers that conduct research based on what they determine to be their definition of the quality of life.”

How has your disability, in conjunction with other intersecting identities, impacted your experiences applying for and conducting an IES research grant?

Having a disability can be an asset to research. As one participant described, “I do believe that having this learning disability myself has impacted the way that I conceptualize mathematical thinking and understand the ways that other people might conceptualize mathematical thinking.” Participants also discussed the importance of involving researchers with disabilities in research focused on individuals with disabilities. As one participant stated, “I feel that it's very important to bring that insider's view to people about the process of learning how to read, and that's one big gap in literacy [research] – a lot of people have not done the research on deaf children and their development, and the people doing that are not deaf themselves, so they don't have that firsthand experience, that understanding.”  

IES grant timelines are not always suited for researchers with disabilities. As one participant noted, “Disability is fluid, it's not always the same… and there can be difficulty in predicting certain things, and even in just figuring out what kind of things I needed to be able to do the research.” Another participant added, “Being able to get grants, support, etc. is all presumed upon working on a non-sick person's timeline and standard of productivity.”

The IES peer review process may present a barrier to certain types of research on learners with disabilities. For example, one deaf participant was concerned about peer reviewers being able to review their proposal focused on American Sign Language with impartiality, given as they noted, “a strong audio-centric bias within the field.” Another participant shared that, “Most of my attempts to submit applications have favored individuals who conduct RCTs [randomized controlled trials] or other more quantitative focused research. As a researcher with a disability who believes the voices need to be heard/represented, I find the IES focus for grants to be limiting.”

Requests for applications (RFAs) and federal register notices should be more accessible. For instance, RFAs in PDF format can be difficult for people with visual impairments to take notes in and navigate with screen readers. Because of varying needs and preferences, participants recommended making application-related documents available in multiple formats.

How can IES build the research capacity of students, researchers, and organizations from various disability communities?

Participants emphasized a need for more researchers with disabilities to receive grants, which in turn would provide more opportunities for students with disabilities to be involved in research. According to one participant, “I have deaf students, and I would like to pull them into the field as well and have them become experienced researchers.” Increasing capacity in the field would also involve people with disabilities serving on peer review panels. As one participant noted, “People with disabilities absolutely need to be part of that [review] process, and definitely need to be tied to the disability group that the content is for.”

Participants suggested IES develop training and mentorship programs for researchers with disabilities. IES could also consider providing diversity supplements like the National Institutes of Health to fund postdoctoral positions on active grants. Other suggestions for IES included checking for biased assumptions in RFAs and ensuring the language empowers researchers who experience disabilities.

IES has taken steps to respond this feedback, including:

This blog was authored by Katherine Taylor (Katherine.Taylor@ed.gov), NCSER program officer, with feedback from IES program officers Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov) and Akilah Nelson (Akilah.Nelson@ed.gov). Thematic coding of the listening session transcript was completed by IES interns, Kaitlynn Fraze and Alysa Conway, with support from Katherine Taylor.  

Navigating LGBTQI+ Research: Where We Are and Where We Are Headed

In June 2022, NCER and NCSER hosted a virtual listening session, “Leveraging LGBTQI+ Voices in Education Research.” After a brief introduction from the Office of Civil Rights on Title IX and its relevance to protecting against sex and gender discrimination within schools and LGBTQI+ resources for students, seven guest panelists discussed the history of LGBTQI+ research, challenges, and ways forward. This blog provides a summary of the discussion. 

Historical Perspectives on LGBTQI+ Education Research 

Panelists shared their perspectives on the history of LGBTQI+ education research and made several important points. They noted that early LGBTQI+ education research was not situated in schools. Rather, as one panelist recalled, “Research on queer issues and education began as legal and historical research because of the politics of securing IRB both at your own institution and also schools.” Early research also focused heavily on negative experiences of queer and trans youth, such as bullying. “It is certainly important [to] interrupt homophobic bullying in schools, but it is troubling that queer and trans victimhood has become the most pervasive trope for recognizing bodies in schools,” stated a panelist, before urging the audience to change the narrative from victimhood to agency.  

In 2001, GLSEN started their biannual National School Climate Survey, which asks LGBTQI+ students about their experiences of discrimination and school-based supports. Panelists highlighted this as a pivotal moment in collecting data on these students and their experiences in school.   

Challenges in Conducting LGBTQI+ Education Research 

Panelists also shared challenges in conducting education research with LGBTQI+ students:

  • Geography. Although there is a need to conduct research in various regions across the United States to account for different political climates and other geographical factors, anti-LGBTQI+ policies present an obstacle to doing so in certain states.
  • Getting consent from parents and districts. “In general, districts have moved from giving you an outright no, to the passive-aggressive drown-you-in-paperwork,” noted one panelist. “My work has decidedly been in out-of-school places,” another panelist agreed, “because it’s easier to ask questions around queer and trans youth agency.”  
  • Career-related barriers. Panelists cited difficulties in finding mentors and funding to engage in this research. One panelist noted, “There's also the challenge of key scholars and gate keepers who misunderstand queer scholarship,” which can make it difficult to receive funding or get published.  

Future directions for LGBTQI+ education research  

Panelists discussed several areas the field should attend to in order to ensure the future of high-quality education research on LGBTQI+ learners.  

Responsible and Respectful Data Collection and Analysis

As identities are becoming more diverse and nuanced, it is important for researchers to prioritize collecting and analyzing data in ways that are inclusive and respectful of these varied and intersecting identities. As stated by one panelist, “We need to be able to design tests and validate forms of measuring sexuality, especially for younger queer and trans youth, not for the sake of measuring constructs, but because it's imperative at this time that we're able to use information to inform policy.”  

Using a report from the National Academy of Sciences as a foundation, panelists recommended asking open-ended questions that allow individuals to give detailed explanations and providing sliding scales for participants to place themselves along spectrums. When a categorical question is needed, panelists recommended providing multiple options that go beyond the binary and providing an explanation for the categorical question (for example, “Oftentimes, we have to create categories to do the work that we do, can you please tell us which of these options best describes your sexual orientation?”).  

Participants also discussed the importance of not collapsing data across categories and attending to intersecting identities, including gender identity, sexual orientation, culture, and race/ethnicity, to better understand experiences. “When those nuances are overlooked or erased,” one panelist remarked, “it becomes impossible to understand the LGBTQI+ community or the public health interventions that would effectively meet the needs of each and every LGBTQI+ young person, no matter their identity.” 

Expanded Theories and Approaches

Panelists emphasized the need for an understanding and acceptance of less traditional theories and methods. One panelist stated, “We need to recognize the value of projects that are informed by queer theory, a transtheoretical informed perspective, or radical feminism… to expand what we know about LGBTQI+ experiences in schools.” In addition to quantitative methods, the panelists expressed a need for more qualitative and mixed methods studies and participatory action research.  

Capacity Building

A few panelists advocated for expanded researcher training to ensure future researchers “are adept in qualitative, quantitative and mixed method research techniques aimed at producing research that will then provide rich, sound, and respected information and data that can really impact LGBTQI+ issues.” Participants also recommended increasing the diversity of researchers conducting studies. “As we're thinking about creating a community of scholars, we must include scholars who are both members of the LGBTQI+ community as well as outside of the community,” said one panelist. 


This blog is part of a 3-part blog series on sexual orientation and gender identity in education research in observance of Pride month. The other posts discuss the development of Time Tails, the first ever learning game featuring a canonically nonbinary character, and encourage the use of LGBTQI+ education research data.  

This blog was produced by Virtual Student Federal Service intern Audrey Im with feedback from IES program officers Katina Stapleton (NCER - Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov), Katherine Taylor (NCSER - Katherine.Taylor@ed.gov), James Benson (NCER - James.Benson@ed.gov), and NCES project officers Elise Christopher (Elise.Christopher@ed.gov) and Maura Spiegelman (Maura.Spiegelman@ed.gov).  

Integrating Intervention Systems to Address Student Mental Health and Social-Emotional-Behavioral Functioning

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, NCSER is featuring an IES-funded study on student behavioral supports and interventions that best address the mental health needs of students. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and school mental health (SMH) are both evidence-based interventions that provide student mental health support independent of one another. For this blog, we interviewed Dr. Brandon Schultz, principal investigator of a current study investigating the integration of both PBIS and SMH into a comprehensive school intervention. In the interview below, he discusses the differences between PBIS and SMH, how this research contributes to equity and inclusion in the classroom, and his research journey.

Your study is comparing schools that integrate PBIS and SMH into the enhanced version of the Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) to schools that implement these as separate, parallel systems. Can you describe PBIS and SMH, and explain the key differences between the integrated framework and parallel systems?

Headshot of Dr. Brandon Schultz

PBIS is a tiered prevention system that addresses student behavioral needs. It provides universal support (Tier 1) to all students, including clear schoolwide behavioral expectations and a rewards system for desired behaviors. For students who do not respond to these efforts, Tier 2 provides targeted help through classroom-level or small group interventions, such as teacher consultation or student mentoring/counseling. For students who need intensive support, Tier 3 provides specialized one-to-one behavioral services. SMH, in contrast, focuses specifically on mental illnesses (for example, anxiety, trauma, depression) and, in some cases, involves community-based therapists working contractually with schools. Typically, PBIS and SMH function separately as co-located services, but there is a growing recognition that student needs are best met when these efforts are meaningfully integrated. Integration, however, is challenging because it requires educators to rethink their teaming and progress monitoring practices and include different stakeholders in critical decision-making processes. This study tests innovations to the ISF model, designed by my co-PI, Dr. Mark Weist (University of South Carolina), to meet the challenges of integrating these systems in two diverse school districts.

How did you become interested in this area of research?

My previous research was mostly focused on school-based interventions for students with ADHD, but it became clear that without systems-level change, interventions meant to help students with ADHD are unlikely to be implemented or sustained effectively, no matter how well they are designed. So, I became interested in understanding school systems and identifying the elements, processes, and resources that are critical for student support services of all kinds. 

How does your research contribute to equity and inclusion in education?

Part of my current study is focused the degree to which innovations to the ISF model can reduce racial inequities in school disciplinary actions. Research shows that Black students receive higher rates of exclusionary punishments (for example, suspensions and expulsions) than their White counterparts, even after controlling for the type of infraction. The modified ISF model aims to reduce the overall need for exclusionary punishments, especially among students of color. By improving team functioning, ISF allows educators to identify systemic problems that lead to racial inequities in disciplinary referrals and to generate new strategies to address student needs in a fair and equitable manner. With this model, we anticipate increased support for students of color that obviates disciplinary referrals. We are working with school districts now to examine disciplinary data before, during, and after the implementation of the enhanced ISF. Our hope is to identify strategies that close race-related gaps and share the lessons learned broadly.

Have you encountered any challenges in studying this integrated framework in elementary schools?

Yes, absolutely. Systems-level change in general is difficult, as it requires change agents to overcome structural inertia rooted in local norms, routines, and expectations. Those challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and preexisting trends in childhood mental illnesses. 

During the pandemic, student progress in mathematics and reading have dramatically declined. Meeting these academic needs, a priority for teachers, can divert attention away from student mental health needs. For example, all teachers in one of our states are required to take a year-long online course in reading instruction, partly to address student learning loss. Although commendable, this requirement creates a significant burden for teachers that can leave little room for other concerns. 

Preexisting mental health trends demonstrate that mental illness was increasing sharply among school-age children; by 2018, nearly 15% of all K-12 students experienced a psychiatric condition each year. Then, with the onset of the pandemic, indicators of childhood mental illness (for example, emergency room visits for suicidal behavior) spiked. Childhood anxiety and depression doubled worldwide from pre-pandemic estimates, and it is unclear whether those rates will return to baseline.

Together, these events have created real challenges, not just for our research, but for student support services in general.

What is currently the greatest area of need in studying school-based systems that support student mental health, particularly for those students with or at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders?

Perhaps the greatest area of need for supporting students with emotional and behavioral disorders is understaffing in critical school mental health positions. There is a significant shortage of school psychologists, counselors, social workers, and nurses nationwide. In North Carolina, the current ratio of school psychologists to students is 1:2,527, five times higher than recommended. This understaffing hinders schools’ ability to provide high-quality services and complicates efforts to test and refine innovative practices because field-based practitioners are unable to collaborate on research efforts. Researchers have had to hire individuals to fulfill critical roles, such as behavioral consultants, that might otherwise have been assigned to district-employed staff. Trained personnel then exit the school district when the research project ends and that skillset is lost. We hope that states prioritize the hiring of school mental health practitioners in the coming years to ensure optimal student support services and that university-school research collaborations can reliably lead to sustainable innovations.

NCSER looks forward to seeing the results of this efficacy trial and will continue to fund research aimed at supporting the mental health and social-emotional-behavioral needs of students with or at risk for disabilities.

This blog was authored by Isabelle Saillard, student volunteer for NCSER and undergraduate at the University of Virginia.

Exploring the Intersection of Special Education, Learning Analytics, and Psychometrics: A Journey in Education Research

This year, Inside IES Research is publishing a series of blogs showcasing a diverse group of IES-funded education researchers and fellows that are making significant contributions to education research, policy, and practice. In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, in this interview blog we asked Dr. Xin Wei, a senior quantitative researcher at Digital Promise to discuss her career journey. Dr. Wei’s current IES-funded study uses statistical and machine-learning techniques to understand the test-taking behavior of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) grade 8 learners with and without disabilities.

How did you become interested in a career in education research?

As a child, I aspired to become a teacher, and in college I decided to pursue a degree in child development. During my senior year of college, I worked as a research assistant on a project studying statistical and psychometric methods used to analyze learning differences among children. This experience sparked my interest in education research and revealed the potential for statistical analysis to inform and enhance teaching practices.

Graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University helped me gain a deeper understanding of quantitative methods in education research. Through applying and improving quantitative methods, I discovered how national and state longitudinal datasets can help us understand the learning, social, and emotional needs of students with disabilities and which policy interventions can help us achieve better outcomes. This opportunity helped me understand the challenges students with disabilities face in the education system and deepened my appreciation for secondary data analysis and its power to inform intervention research.

Currently, my research focuses on analyzing log/process data to understand how digital learning and assessments can facilitate student learning, accurately measure progress, and improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Through this work, I am committed to advancing the education research field at the intersection of special education, learning analytics, and psychometrics.

What has been the biggest challenge you have encountered, and how did you overcome the challenge?

When I came to the United States to pursue a graduate degree at the age of 23, I faced a host of challenges that forced me out of my comfort zone. Navigating a new culture and adapting to academic expectations and research demands was overwhelming. Additionally, understanding U.S. K-12 education policies and practices was no easy feat. However, I was fortunate enough to have incredible mentors, professors, peers, and colleagues who provided me with guidance, support, and patience when I needed it most. These individuals played a crucial role in helping me grow as a researcher.

The most important lesson I learned from the challenges I faced was the value of continuous learning and growth in my career. These experiences have strengthened my commitment to making a positive impact in education and helping others who may be facing similar obstacles.

How can the broader education research community better support the careers and scholarship of researchers from underrepresented groups?

The student population in the United States is diverse, and it is essential that the education research community reflects that diversity by including scholars who bring unique perspectives and experiences.

One way to do this is by actively seeking out and valuing diverse voices in research, teaching, and leadership positions. This includes promoting diversity in conference panels, as well as actively recruiting and hiring researchers from underrepresented groups. By creating a culture of inclusivity, the education research community can better support the careers and scholarship of researchers from underrepresented groups.

Another way to better support the careers and scholarship of researchers from underrepresented groups is through mentoring programs, summer internships, and postdoc positions. These opportunities can provide valuable professional development and collaboration opportunities. In addition, research grants specifically targeted toward underrepresented groups can also help support their work and advance their careers. It is essential to widely advertise these opportunities and make them accessible to ensure that all researchers have an equal chance to participate.

In your area of research, what do you see as the greatest research needs or recommendations to address diversity, equity, and inclusion and to improve the relevance of education research for diverse communities of students and families?

To address diversity, equity, and inclusion in education research, it is crucial to adopt an asset-based approach when working with neurodiverse students. By shifting the focus from deficits to strengths, we can recognize and leverage their unique abilities, promoting more equitable educational practices. Additionally, targeted support should be provided to address the specific challenges underserved students face, ensuring inclusive learning environments. For instance, my research findings indicate that students with autism exhibit strengths in visuospatial reasoning and are drawn to STEM fields. However, autistic students may benefit from extra support to develop perseverance and improve their weaker areas (such as word problems) in math.

Furthermore, there is a need for more research focusing on understanding how students with disabilities or other underserved groups engage with and benefit from digital learning and assessment systems. This entails investigating their cognitive processes, level of engagement, needs, and barriers within these contexts.

To address this gap, I am currently analyzing the NAEP process/log, performance, and survey data to study the impact of digital tools (such as text-to-speech) on student performance. This line of research is crucial and should be expanded to gather new insights on inclusive and accessible learning possibilities as technologies continue to develop.

In addition, research efforts should extend beyond traditional methods and incorporate the analysis of multimodal data. By considering a range of data sources, including behavior log/process data, speech, facial expressions, and eye-tracking data, we can gain deeper insights into how students interact with digital learning and assessments. This comprehensive approach enables us to capture nuanced aspects of their experiences and informs the design and implementation of effective educational interventions and digital learning platforms.

What advice would you give to emerging scholars from underrepresented, minoritized groups that are pursuing a career in education research?

First and foremost, seek out a great mentor and research team. Having someone to guide and support you in the field can be tremendously beneficial to your career. Look for someone who shares your research interests, is supportive of your goals, and is committed to helping you succeed. Learning from others in your team is a great way to improve your skills and knowledge.

Second, don’t be afraid of change. The greatest opportunities often require stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring new research areas or methodologies. Be open to feedback and new perspectives that can help you grow as a researcher.

Third, be brave! It is important to recognize that your unique experiences and perspectives are valuable assets to the research community. Do not be afraid to share your ideas and contributions with others. Being proactive about your work can be a great way to build your network and collaborate with other researchers in the field.

Lastly, know that you have the potential to lead a research team yourself. Keep working hard, stay focused on your goals, and do not be afraid to take on leadership roles when the opportunities arise. Pursuing this career as an emerging scholar from an underrepresented or minoritized group can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding, and you can make a meaningful impact in the field and inspire others to follow in your footsteps.


Dr. Xin Wei is currently a senior quantitative researcher at Digital Promise. Prior to joining Digital Promise, she held the position of principal research scientist at SRI International for a duration of 15 years. She specializes in using applied experimental design, statistical and machine-learning techniques to evaluate and improve instruction, interventions, assessments, and policies. In addition to her current IES study, Dr. Wei has designed and directed statistical analysis of more than 26 grants funded by federal agencies.

Produced by NCER program officer Wai Chow (Wai-Ying.Chow@ed.gov) and Virtual Student Federal Service intern Audrey Im.

Special Educator Shortage: Examining Teacher Burnout and Mental Health

A teacher writes at her desk with her head in her hand

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, NCSER would like to discuss special education teacher burnout and its connection to America’s teacher shortage crisis. Special education teachers are essential to our nation’s ability to provide a free and appropriate public education to the 7.3 million students with disabilities that attend our public schools. But significant shortages in qualified special educators affect the ability of our public schools to provide equal educational opportunities for all students.

A nationwide survey of schools in 2022 reported that vacancies in special education were nearly double that of other subject areas. This survey also found that 65% of public schools in the United States reported being understaffed in special education. Even prior to the pandemic, there was a downward trend in the number of special education teachers. One study found the numbers decreased by 17% between the years 2005-12. Research has also shown that the number of teachers leaving the field of special education is among the largest contributors to the growing shortage. High job demands without adequate support and resources may lead to teacher burnout, which may, in turn, lead to teachers leaving the profession. Because teacher burnout and general working conditions are real concerns, NCSER has funded projects to take a closer look at this problem and find potential solutions. This blog highlights a few of these projects below.

NCSER-Funded Studies on Special Educator Burnout

Elizabeth Bettini at Boston University led a research project exploring special educator working conditions. The research aimed to provide an understanding of how instructional resources, planning time, and support from colleagues affect teacher instruction and student outcomes, as well as explore how administrators view their role in providing supportive working conditions for special educators. They found that teachers who provided high-quality instruction had a trusted co-teacher, consistent paraprofessionals with time and support for training, and protected time for instruction.

To help prevent burnout among special education teachers, Lisa Ruble at Ball State University has been developing and testing an intervention called BREATHE (Burnout Reduction: Enhanced Awareness, Tools, Handouts, and Education). As part of the larger project, the research team explored the longitudinal trajectory of burnout. The first wave of data collection occurred in Fall 2020 during the pandemic and analyses from that particular wave of data collection demonstrated that out of the 468 participating special educators from across the United States, approximately 38% met clinical criteria for generalized anxiety disorder and 38% for major depressive disorder—rates that are several times greater than those in the general U.S. population. Additionally, teachers indicated that the pandemic had a moderate to extreme impact on stress (91%), depression (58%), anxiety (76%), and emotional exhaustion (83%). The research team is still analyzing all the data from the pilot study.

At Pennsylvania State University, Jennifer Frank is leading a research project examining the efficacy of Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE). In prior research, the CARE program was shown to improve teacher outcomes (such as improving emotion regulation and reducing distress) and enhance classroom interactions in general education settings, but it had not been studied in a special education context. The current project is examining whether there are similar positive impacts of the intervention on outcomes for special education teachers and students with disabilities.

Justin Garwood at the University of Vermont is leading a research project aimed at understanding risk factors related to special education teacher burnout, such as role stressors, relationships with colleagues, and behavior management abilities. Ultimately, this project aims to collect data that could help target interventions for preventing or reducing special education teacher burnout and improving educator and student outcomes.

NCSER would like to thank all our researchers for their dedication and continued efforts to find solutions that support educators and students. We look forward to seeing the final results of the projects described here. We would also like to extend our deepest gratitude to the special education teachers and support staff in our nation’s schools.

This blog was written by Shanna Bodenhamer, virtual student federal service intern at IES and graduate student at Texas A&M University. Katie Taylor is the NCSER program officer for the Educators and School-Based Service Providers portfolio and the other programs that support the projects presented in this blog.