Monday, December 19, 2011

Final Post

I was initially very nervous about this class. At first I encountered some difficulties, and was encouraged to "problem solve," which initially was very frustrating to me, but soon enough I realized that I demand the same of my students. Nothing is more frustrating when a student comes to you with simply, "I couldn't get it to work..." to which my reply is always, "Did you try this? Or this? How about this?" It's important to preach what I teach. Self-learning and self-sufficiency is ultimately what we are teaching.

This class was packed. There was a lot to learn and time management was key in this sense. I do not think I was able to fully delve into each piece of new technology we learned, but I did certainly gain a better understanding of the really important ones: Kurzweil, Smartboard and Boardmaker. I am confident that I will be using this in my many teaching years to come and am happy to say I am comfortable with these programs. And I love prezi now, and so do my students. I think they are simply pleased to be presented with something non-linear like ppt. Hey, whatever it takes to keep them engaged!

The group work was a bit challenging. I did not really like coordinating all the information on the Wiki, and to be honest, all my groups just abandoned that method and stuck to email chains. It was hard to rely on everyone checking the wiki consistently, and there wasn't a way to decipher who was saying what. Yes, I understand that we could get fancy with it and make it easy to decipher, but honestly that was just too much work to simply communicate ideas. Again, time efficiency was crucial with the work-load.

Overall, I really enjoyed the class and definitely walked away with a lot of useful tools that I have already introduced to my classroom.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Digital Minds

I thoroughly enjoyed last week's discussion. It helped me realize a multitude of things; 1) how dependent we all are on technology 2) how I inaccurately label what I am doing as "multi-tasking" 3) how, in turn, I require my students to "multi-task" and 4) how my students are becoming increasingly more dependent on technology. As I have mentioned before, I work at a school that not only incorporates technology, but embraces it, relies on it, and expects the students to rely on it as well. I believe that they have accepted the notion that our students are growing up in a technologically fast world, and we can either shield them from that, or teach them how to use it responsibly. In the Life Skills course the students learn about cyber identities and cyber footprints. I think it is great that they learn at a very young age that everything you do on a computer, is essentially public. The school even hosts its own social network site where students can create profiles and play around with the idea of cyber identities. Not surprisingly, they love it. Again, I think it is great that responsibility and technology have become part of the school curriculum--it makes sense to me.

However, it is interesting to realize how many of us think we are capable of multi-tasking, when really, some piece of our final outcome is suffering due to the fact that our energy is spread out across different mediums instead of focused. We can do 5 things at once, each resulting in 1/5 of its potential quality, or we can give out entire attention to one thing, resulting in a higher quality outcome. It seems so simple, yet I found myself acknowledging all the multi-tasking I ask of my students, and yet, I am still surprised when the quality doesn't meet my expectations. That's not fair. I now find myself trying to identify what ways in which I ask my students to multi-task and correct this issue by breaking them into smaller tasks. The results? To be determined....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Assessments and Accommodations

Assessments are a crucial part of teacher accountability and an important method for teachers to better know the individualized help their learners need. Without assessing our students, teachers would simple be preaching, not teaching. It is important to we know where we can help our students improve or excel, and we can only do this through constant assessment. Along with these assessments will come the realization that some students struggle in unique ways, and in order for them to fully reach their potential and gain mastery of the material, accommodations are needed. I believe it is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that the student receives accommodations. These accommodations can run the gamut from simple test accommodations or from everyday curricular changes to better meet the students' needs.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Augmentative Communication

I have worked in a self-contained classroom as a paraprofessional before and one of the students in that class used a dynavox. Another student used minimal sign language, and we were in the process of trying to use PECS with 3 other students. The one thing I can most certainly agree with is that communication is a process! We were constantly working with parents, OTs, SLPs and PTs and other teachers to try to make communication available for the student across all environments. It is so challenging. I, along with other teachers, would constantly find ourselves only allowing the student to communicate only when we thought it was necessary. Obviously, we did not mean to do this in any malicious way, but it is so easily to forget that someone who can't speak doesn't always have the opportunity to communicate unless you, as a teacher, help make it accessible. It was, however, interesting to every now and then see the student become so frustrated in one of those situations where you wonder, "why are they so frustrated???" and then you realize, they can't communicate! The situation could quickly de-escalate when the student was provided an opportunity to communicate. It truly takes a lot of effort and consideration to make communication available across all environments, but so crucial.

We also had a student with sever autism who used the big mac. They way we used this device was to communicate with home as to what was happening and what the student ate at school. For example, at the end of the day I would record on the big mac, with the student present, "Today I ate hash browns for breakfast and I ate hot dogs for lunch. Today I worked on my colors and numbers. I earned puzzle time and car time by writing today's date." The student, listening to me record this, was very excited! He would go home and play it for his mother. So then the mother could engage him by saying how proud she was that he earned puzzle time. Then the mother would record back, "I had a really hard time sleeping last night. I am not feeling well. I am excited to go to school, but may not be myself today." Again, when the student came to class he would play it for me. He clearly seemed to love the way this worked, and I thought it was great. I was, however, a bit concerned: what if I was saying things that weren't really true for the student? I am assuming I know how he feels. I could easily be wrong. I had a sneaking suspicion that he felt the same way too because sometimes he would come to school and there would be nothing on the big mac: he figured out how to delete it. The mother would say she recorded something. Personally, I thought this was ok. It was his voice, and if he didn't agree with what was said he didn't have to play it. Besides that, I am not so sure how effective a big mac can be. The ability to only have one recording on there, seems limiting.

We also used the boardmaker schedules and choices. The choice board was great in our room. Students were always "working for something" and they could run to the choice board, which was filled with a bunch of different boardmaker pictures, and choose what they were working for. This is a low tech device that is wonderful. I loved that the students were able to choose. I feel like that gave them some independence.

In terms of moving forward with augmentative communication devices I think it is crucial to move towards user-friendly devices that can be carried across all environments. The solution: I believe, iTouch. I have encountered so many apps that aim to allow students with communication disabilities to increase their ability to communicate. I have read about how quickly these kids pick up on how to use these apps. There is just something so user friendly about the iTouch. Also, they are much more affordable than dynavox. I have even seen some classrooms in NYC with students with severe disabilities use iPads or touches as communication devices. I think this is a step in the right direction. Particularly iTouches because they can be carried everywhere, just like how everyone carries their phone. I know Joe has a cool iTouch watch....imagine a nonverbal student being able to wear an iTouch watch that allowed him to communicate wherever he or she went?
Check this out:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Planning with Technology

Technology can offer our students so much help in ways that teachers can't; that being said, I believe one of the biggest issues that affect whether or not technology is used effectively is how the teacher implements the use technology in the classroom. The potential for its benefits are right there, but can they be delivered to the student correctly? This is an extremely hard question to answer. As a teacher, I am not very confident in my ability to provide technological support to my students. I know that many students benefit from using technology in their learning, but often my confusion with technology only adds to their multi-tiered levels of confusion. It seems so simple when I am trying it out myself, but as Yelena said in her post, sometimes things fall apart in the classroom and the tools aren't used correctly or delivered effectively. It's such a gamble to rely too heavily on technology; yet its potential to excite and expedite learning is amazing.

Thinking of how to better assist children through the "organizing and accessing networks" really helped me better understand how we, as teachers, can better "break down" the networks of assistance students need. My color group was asked to focus on Luke:

Dyslexia and Executive Functioning Difficulty
Luke always amazes with his keen insight and contributions to class discussions even though he is reading about 5 grades below grade level. When it comes to technology, Luke is the resident guru, often sharing pictures, videos, and is up on the latest developments. Even so, with his disabilities, he is extremely sensitive and apprehensive about trying anything new related to school, and often hangs back in class until he is certain he has a good understanding of what the class is discussing. Luke often has difficulty following through with directions. Even when the homework or project does not include decoding, Luke rarely has his homework or in class work done, often loses his papers, and rarely follows through on using references or asking for help.






Enjoys class discussions

Follow directions



Contributes to class discussion

-shares his thoughts

Struggles to try new things

Can share his knowledge about technology


Keen insights


Go to person for technology-others will ask him for help

I am enjoying this method of breaking down students needs and strengths into more accessible networks.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Power of Technology

It's fascinating to consider the impact that technology has had on humans over the last two decades; these new innovations have essentially affected every aspect of our living. Now, consider being a student with a disability, and how many doors these new innovations have opened. I don't like to admit it, but I realized after watching the video that I am certainly of the binary "can do/can't do" mind set, and with all the new ways we can assist students, there is no excuse to perpetuate that mindset. These enormous strides in technological advancements have set the stage for us to think outside the box, and as educators dealing with students with disabilities, we really need to accept that challenge. Instead of thinking, "Oh, Johnny can't do that because of his disability," we need to challenge ourselves to think "how can we make this accessible to Johnny."

The most encouraging take-away I had from last weeks readings and viewings was the idea that we shouldn't only make educational parts of life accessible to students with disabilities, but all parts of life - leisure and social activities. Sometimes we focus so much on how to make the educational material accessible to all students that we forget there is a lot to be learned by living a full life. I like the idea of changing my mindset to include making all life experiences accessible- it makes my job a little more fun!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kurzwel 3000

Kurzweil 3000 is a text to speech program which can be used to adapt to different students reading needs. Kurzweil requires minimal preparation. The teacher simply needs to have a text uploaded and read to go, and the student needs to have access to a computer. There are a variety of ways it can be used effectively.

As you know, I am a 6th grade English teacher. In exploring Kurzweil I realized it would be a great tool to use with students in a "read aloud" method. We are currently engaged in a short story unit. It would be great to use this technology and allow the students to follow along to a text on the projector while the program reads it aloud. The only downfall with that is the lack of "voice" and "tone," but for difficult texts with complicated vocabulary, it is worth it. Additionally, in this short story unit I have learned that some students have decoding issues. I can now recommend this program to them and their parents to practice reading aloud with.

In terms of the student profiles for this class, I believe that Sarah, Sam, Finn, and Luke could benefit from using this program as well. Particularly Finn, since he loves technology. IF he had access to the short story in a kurzweil form he could read it aloud with the program the night before we read it in class (this would allow for more processing time).

As I become more and more comfortable with the program I become more excited to use it in my classroom.