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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Interactive White Board

To be honest, I have always been hesitant to use a Smart Board. I am nervous to rely on technology for a lesson and I am nervous of personally messing up the lesson because of my lack of confidence with technology. However, I was really inspired by class on October 17th. I am still nervous in using Smart Board for lessons, but I certainly see how it is more engaging for the students. I am a grown woman, and I had so much fun standing up there and playing with google Earth. I can certainly begin to see how, in the least, it is motivating and engaging for students to stand up and play around with an interactive white board.

I do have to become more familiar with the lesson planning part before I can fully commit. As teachers, our time is precious. It feels as though every second is spent grading, monitoring, assessing or planning. It is hard to set aside time to construct a lesson plan with an interactive white board, whereas I usually sit down and hand write a lesson plan for the next day. As I said, I certainly see the benefits of creating a more engaging lesson, but I am worried about time management for teachers.

I will let you know how it goes after I plan a few lessons.....

In the meantime, here is a really interesting article on interactive white boards.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Web 2.0 Tools and UDL

Edyburn points out in his article, "Would you recognize UDL if you saw it?" that it is not enough to simply use web 2.0 tools in your classroom and assume that you are, therefore, implementing UDL in an attempt to reach a group of diverse learners. The key is that UDL is considered in the blueprints, the original design of the web 2.0 tools. We must ask ourselves, are any of the web 2.0 tools we have learned about considering UDL in their blueprint design? To be honest, I am not so sure the designers were considering UDL in their creation of these tools. Yes, these tools are fun and a cool way to work collaboratively, but how do they reach a group of diverse learners? I can see how a tool like Prezi could be a helpful conversation tool for someone who is Deaf or hard of hearing, but what about for someone visually impaired? The same can be said for most of these tools; they are limiting to those visual impairments. I think that mostly these tools are a cool way to excite students; they present materials in a new, interactive, visually stimulating way, but just like Edyburn said, "it is a happy coincidence" that these stimulate educators, but not necessarily a UDL tool.

UD Space Revisited

Here is my classroom...again. What I should have done is taken a picture of each different arrangement I tried then settled on this. I felt as though other teachers were peering in my classroom and laughing under their breath, "oh the new teacher, figuring out how the seat arrangement." I felt like every 3 days the kids would come in, and for some reason, a new seating arrangement just blows their minds....wasting 5 minutes of class. However, this one finally worked. There is a flow to the classroom. I have taken into account the diverse learners, i.e., the ones who can't sit for more than 2 minutes straight, the ones you have to have their backs turned to their friends, or the hallway. Yet, we are still able to have the collective space in the middle. We are currently doing a short story unit and each story a different group sits in the middle and discusses a story while the rest of us watch. It's called the fishbowl technique, and with this arrangement we are still able to watch the discussion in the middle.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week Three

This week we learned about using book-builders and Kurzweil. There are clear advantages to using both of these technologies. Mainly, it is a form of differentiated learning made simple. Resources are now available for teachers to create different opportunities for learners. Building a book, for one, is a great example. I am currently teaching a 6th grade class and we are discussing short stories. I can, and plan to, make a book builder about story flow. The students are learning about different elements of story flow: hook, rising action, climax, declining action and resolution. I thought: wouldn't it be great to have a short story put into a book form that also addressed the story flow elements? For example, in one story there are paragraphs of rising action. So, I could have a page of a book be one paragraph, and then in another section of the same page explain how that paragraph is contributing to the rising action. This helps make the link clearer to the students. Additionally, it removes me from explaining the elements and them discovering it for themselves.

Additionally, I believe Kurzweil can be beneficial to a spectrum of students. Again, I think it would be beneficial to make a kurzweil reading of a story available for my students so that they can revisit the story and make notes or highlight portions they found interesting. For example, I am trying to teach student to look for contextual clues as to what an unfamiliar vocabulary word means. Together, as a class, with a Kurzweil document we could highlight words that hint to a word's definition.

I thoroughly enjoy learning about these new technologies that, like I said earlier, offer differential learning so easily. My school is very supportive of new technology and encouraging students to become familiar with technologies, particularly ones that further their education. I will be sure to let you all know how the students respond to these form of differentiated learning.