Wednesday, January 31, 2007
This is a great conference - just wish it was closer to home so I could go every year! Dave Warlick and Anne Davis will be there this year.
Can't wait to share what I learn!
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
If you don't subscribe to it, add it today! It's a treasure that should be shared with everyone! Tell your parents and teachers about it so they can subscribe as well.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Here are three excellent posts that will help you explain to others how times have changed. Status quo is not enough.
Curriculum is Dead by Dave Warlick
Paper, Pencils and Books May Not Boost Student Achievement over at the Learning is Messy Blog.
Of Course Computers Don't Change Student Achievement! by Mike Muir at Every One Learns - Pedagogy, Technology, Motivation
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
“What is your greatest challenge in teaching appropriate, ethical use of web-based media to your students?”He believes that we are challenged in three separate ways:
and he describes the issues inherent in each category. It is an excellent post which concisely sets out a new ethical mandate.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
90 Days of SummerChange the dates to the winter months and with one daily click on the calendar you will have access to valuable special education resources.
A daily dose of special education technology professional development. This summer, spend 10-20 minutes a day exploring new ideas, skills, and resources.
(Thanks to the Special Education Technology Special Interest Group (SETSIG) of ISTE for this information.)
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Blogging is educationally sound for teaching students because:She frames it so much better than I can. Read the rest of her post to help you better understand the pedagogy behind educational blogging. It may transform your classroom.
- Blogs provide a space for sharing opinions and learning in order to grow communities of discourse and knowledge — a space where students and teachers can learn from each other.
- Blogs help learners to see knowledge as interconnected as opposed to a set of discrete facts.
- Blogs can give students a totally new perspective on the meaning of voice. As students explore their own learning and thinking and their distinctive voices emerge. Student voices are essential to the conversations we need to have about learning.
But one point Anne overlooks is the fact that classroom blogging promotes Universal Design for Learning. When teachers integrate blogs into their curriculum, students now have opportunities to be engaged in additional ways. The material is now presented to meet the diverse learning styles of students. And the expression possibilities expand as well. Isn't this what UDL is all about - providing multiple methods of representation, engagement and expression?
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
But, what about our classrooms? Have our classrooms achieved "flatdom," (creating connections between teacher, student and parent through the technology revolution that pervades every other aspect of our lives?)
How flat is your classroom?
Do you post your homework or in-class assignments online so that everyone has access to them no matter where they are?
Have you explored the capabilities of tools such as Springdoo or YackPack which help to easily create retrievable, audio connections?
Do you use blogging, podcasting or wiki tools so that students can create and retrieve content anywhere?
Do you use your class blog to keep your parents informed of classroom events and activities?
Have you taught your students to use Google Docs whenever they are involved in group projects or group collaborations?
In other words, have you created a flat classroom environment? There is no better time than now...
Friday, January 12, 2007
Unfortunately, this was another unfunded mandate.
Unfortunately, this is a provision that is frequently ignored (in my experience).
Many teachers believe that assistive technology has to cost money, typically a lot of money. They tell me they are afraid to bring up AT at team meetings for that reason. Other teachers tell me that particular software or hardware is available but no one knows how to use it so it just sits in a closet, unused. Sometimes, teachers who were trained to use particular tools or devices have left the district and no one else is interested in learning how to integrate the AT. A common complaint is that the software is too complicated or there are technical issues that prevent implementation.
I hear many more issues but none of this helps our struggling learners. It's time for a change and there is no better time than now with the ubiquitous open source and Web 2.0 tools that are readily available. Change is centered upon Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which proproses that multiple methods of :
Change is also centered on FREE tools that are already readily available in the classroom or that are easily accessed by Internet download.
I have assembled a number of free resources that I believe should be on every classroom computer to promote learning for all students based upon principles of UDL. These tools provide improved access and accommodate for learner differences. Additionally, they are fun and engaging!
- WordTalk - a free text-to-speech program that works within WORD and Outlook and highlights each word that is read. Includes a talking spell checker and a talking thesaurus
- Click,Speak - a free Firefox extension that reads the Internet and highlights phrases and sentences as it reads
- It is built into Office 2003 for Windows. Explore it.
- CueCard - an electronic flashcard program download with multiple features including ability to import audio and graphics. Keeps track of correct responses and can be printed out.
- Study Stack - create interactive web-based flashcards or use ones that are already created.
- Flash Card Machine - allows the user to create interactive web-based study flash cards.
- Create note taking templates in Word
- Use "Power of Color" within Word (background color, highlighting color and font color tools) to reinforce concepts, to determine salient points and for review
- Use the "Organizational Chart" in the Diagram Gallery that is part of the Drawing Toolbar in Word to reinforce concepts and relationships which promotes learning.
- In Word, press the Alt tab + mouse click within a word to access the Research pane. When you are online, you will instantly get a definition of the word.
- Google Docs and Spreadsheets - allows students to collaborate on work from any computer including while at home
- Web 2.0 Tools - (These tools especially benefit the learner with reading, organizational or attentional issues as the material can be easily retrieved, read or listened to online)
- Wikis - provide group collaboration opportunities and study guides
- Blogs - provide opportunities for written expression without time constraints and can use text-to-speech, spell check, grammar check etc. before posting. Blogs are great for students who are less vocal IN class, for a variety of reasons, but still want a chance to participate in discussions
- Web-based bookmarking tools such as Delicious or Portaportal - create class favorites that your students can retrieve anywhere to help them study
- Do to Learn - Free Feelings and Emotions Games, excellent for social skills instruction
- Springdoo - a free audio and video email tool
- Eyejot - "Video messaging in a blink," video email tool
- Better Fonts - free fonts
- PDF Creator - free PDF conversion
- Create customized lined paper using the Line tool within the Drawing Toolbar within Word. Give students the choice of lined paper within your classrooms including mid-lined paper.
- Customize the toolbar in Word; remove extraneous icons on the Standard and Formatting Toolbars and add the "Insert Sound Object" icon so that it is readily available for student or teacher use. (There are numerous options for this "Power of Voice" feature - this is a very powerful tool!)
- Enlarge the icons on your customized toolbar in Word
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
It really is that easy!
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I asked Sam if I could share this wiki that he created and he gave permission.
New England News by Sam Sennott
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
One of my daughter's friends is part of Teach America in Brownsville, Texas and she was home for the holidays. We were talking about AT and she said in her district they consider that things like modified tests are AT. (Huh?)
And at a recent conference where I spoke, a special educator who had read one of my evaluations, commented that I don't do just AT because I include solutions using readily available (for example, features in Microsoft Word) or free software. (Wow! That took me by surprise!)
So, what is AT?
The federal definition from IDEA, 2004 says:
Sec. 300.5 Assistive technology device.
Assistive technology device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device.
Sec. 300.6 Assistive technology service.
Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. The term includes--
(a) The evaluation of the needs of a child with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environment;
(b) Purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by children with disabilities;
(c) Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
(d) Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
(e) Training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or, if appropriate, that child's family; and
(f) Training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of that child.
By definition it is a device. A test is NOT a device and to modify it would not constitute transforming it into assistive technology.
A computer with software, specialized or not, IS a device and there are many programs that "increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability." For some students, it may be the only way they can access the curriculum which is required by law ("to provide meaningful access to the general curriculum", IDEA, 1997).
Let's look at one example: a fifth grade student with a reading disability who is reading several grade levels below their current grade requires assistive technology to access the curriculum. This can take many forms but often includes the use of text-to-speech to remove the decoding obstacle so that the student can read (have access to) the same information as the other students in the class. Now there are many programs that offer this feature from free (built into Microsoft Word, ReadPlease and WordTalk) to more expensive solutions such as SOLO, Kurzweil, Read & Write Gold, etc. To me, any one of these solutions is assistive technology as they allow the student with the reading disability to increase, maintain or improve their functional capabilities and have access to the curriculum.
So, is it AT if you recommend graphic organizing software such as Inspiration to help a student with a written language disability organize and improve their writing? But is it not AT if you make the same recommendations using features in Microsoft Word (diagram gallery to create the graphic organizer, embed audio prompts using the Insert Sound Object feature and use the text-to-speech built into Word or used with WordTalk, a free text-to-speech download)? I make both kinds of recommendations and believe they are assistive technology recommendations.
When the Reauthorization of IDEA 1997 included assistive technology as one of the five considerations that must be discussed for ALL students on IEPS, it opened up many new possibilities for students with learning disabilities or other "high-incidence" disabilities. Dave Edyburn reports that the "unintended consequence of the federal consideration mandate essentially added 4 million students to the AT caseload by extending AT devices and services to high incidence disabilities." Prior to this, assistive technology was considered primarily for students with mobility, sensory or communication difficulties.
In my professional practice, I believe that assistive technology is really about "thinking outside the box," to promote student success.
So, what do you think? What is your definition of assistive technology? Have you run into similar issues?