Monday, December 14, 2009

Module #5 & Closing Thoughts

Assistive technology in the classroom is just another way we can help our students be successful. Every student deserves a good education in an environment they feel comfortable in. It is my goal for all of my students to feel comfortable in my classroom (and hopefully someday in my library!). I think the resources that have been provided during this course will definitely help me achieve that goal! This week’s lesson plans were particularly interesting- I loved the booklists with books that include characters with disabilities. I think it is a great eye opener for students and a way to teach tolerance and acceptance.

Final Thoughts
This class has been a great experience for me. I love technology, but I have always been intimidated by it. Don’t get me wrong- there is still so much I have to learn, but this experience has given me a great start. I personally enjoyed the 23 Things. I discovered so many cool tools that I can use in my personal as well as my professional world. The assistive technology modules were a real eye-opener for me because there isn’t a huge emphasis placed on AT at my current school. Honestly, it wasn’t even something I thought about until now. I plan on proposing my tech plan to our real technology committee. Even if they don’t take my suggestions, it could mean a start for implementing AT into our current plan. I thought the texts were especially appropriate. The Jurkowski text explained things to me that I should have known a long time ago, but never did (like the difference between hardware and software). I have enjoyed my time in this class and I look forward to continuing my technological discoveries!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Digital Citizenship

I’ve never heard the term “netiquette” before, but wow, it is relevant! Our school has recently instituted the OLWEUS bullying prevention program and what we have come to realize is that cyberbullying is a HUGE problem that our students face on a daily basis. A vast majority of our kids belong to social networking sites like and Facebook. They also own cell phones and are proficient texters. We spend a great deal of time talking about Internet safety and how to behave appropriately when in cyberspace and how to deal with inappropriate behavior. The links provided were really helpful, and I am going to share them with our guidance counselor- they may come in handy as parent resources. I found the following article particularly interesting!

Module #4

Before I began working in the public school system, I worked for a non-profit organization teaching adult education. I worked with a large special needs population. You come to realize that people are just people. They want to be accepted and loved and understood. There is no such thing as normal and disabled is just another way of saying different. We are all different in our own ways, and our disabilities force us to work harder to achieve our goals.

I didn’t need to shadow a client at an Independent Living Center because I taught those clients- I was a service offered to them. They were truly inspirational. They were hard workers, motivated, and full of life. I’ll give you a great example. One of my students, “Jon,” was a truck driver who suffered a major stroke that left him debilitated. He worked tirelessly with physical therapists to regain the use of his arms and he came to see me twice a week so I could re-teach him basic math skills. With time and help, Jon was able to get a part-time job and continued to be a productive member of his community.

We have come a long way with assistive technology, and the resources available to people with disabilities is remarkable, but I think it is important to remember their most basic need- respect.

Website Annotations
This is the official page of the Alliance for Technology Access. The Alliance is a national and international network of technology resource centers, community-based organizations, agencies, individuals, and companies. The website provides information about this network of community- based centers throughout the country, FAQs, success stories, a directory, newsletter, and links.
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services website provided by the U.S. Department of Education. It provides information about programs support services available for individuals with disabilities.
DREAMMS is a nonprofit organization "committed to increasing the use of computers, high quality instructional technology, and assistive technologies for students with special needs in schools, homes and the workplace." Its web site includes articles and links relating to assistive technology and children, funding, and state assistive technology products.
National Center to Improve Practice in special education through technology, media, and materials. This website provides support resources and information about technology in special education. It offers the experiences of students with disabilities as well as a guided tour of two exemplary early childhood classrooms.
A Pennsylvania non-profit organization providing information and resources to children and adults with disabilities. There are links to information about IEP’s, supportive agencies, and assistive technology. Check out the humor section- here is the link to a seasonally-appropriate poem!

Module #3

There is no true definition of a learning disability- only loose interpretations and vague descriptions. It is known that millions of students have been diagnosed with learning disabilities and that we teach these students every day in our classrooms and libraries. People with learning disabilities often have trouble performing academic tasks because of their brain’s inability to receive and process information. It is our job as educators to find alternative ways of providing information to these students. When we can think outside of the box, we can increase students’ independence, motivation, productivity, and self-esteem. Technology has allowed us to help students like never before. Hardware and software is evolving to meet the demands of a growing learning disabled population. Two such software examples are Inspiration 8.0 and Kurzweil 3000.

Kurzweil 3000 (Cambium Learning Technologies)
Price: Scan/Read Color $1,895 or Scan/Read Black and White $1,095
System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP, or Vista (Mac Version is also available)
Installation: CD-ROM
Targeted population: Struggling readers in grades 3 and up
  • Reading, writing, studying software
  • Reads aloud electronic or scanned text
  • Highlights text as it speaks
  • Easy to use (Includes customizable task bars)
  • Customizable language and intonation

Inspiration 8.0 (Inspiration Software Inc.)
Price: $58.75 per unit (bundles are available)
System Requirements: Windows 95 or higher (Mac Version is also available)
Installation: CD-ROM
Targeted Population:
  • Helps students brainstorm and organize ideas using graphic organizers.
  • Create many types of visual diagrams including: concept maps, webs, Venn diagrams, and storyboards.
  • Outline organization feature for written work
  • User-friendly toolbars

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Module #2

EnableMart is such a comprehensive website- a great starting point for anyone shopping for assistive technology. Our school library provides services to students with diverse learning needs, such as autism, ADHD, ADD, ESL, dyslexia, hearing and vision impairments, mental retardation, and physical disabilities. Our main goal is making sure that all of our students have access to the library resources. This is often challenging because even though there are amazing technologies out there, we do not have a limitless budget. The question then becomes, what is the most we can do with the least amount of money?

As a teacher, I make accommodations every single day. For example:
1. Physical disabilities- rearrange desks or library furniture to accommodate wheelchairs and limited range of motion.
2. Learning disabilities- utilize different teaching methods and a variety of instructional strategies for verbal, auditory, and kinesthetic stimulation.
3. Visually Impaired- Preferential seating

My needs assessment focused on technology for physically disabled students who had a limited range of motion. I researched touch monitors and ergo keyboards. Touch Monitors allow users with special needs to interact directly with the screen, resolving problems associated with the traditional keyboard and mouse. Ergonomic keyboards are specially designed and shaped to reduce strains, movements, twists and tensions and thus reduce the pain and effort of typing.

I was blown away by graphic designer Leigh-Anne Tomkins and what she has accomplished despite her disabilities from cerebral palsy. It was a real eye-opener to what humans are capable of with determination, motivation, and assistive technology. I tell my students they can do whatever they want, be whatever they want to be, and Leigh-Anne is testimony to that mantra.

All I can say is I wish I would have spent more time on Module 2 before I completed my hardware selection. I spent hours trying to figure out what hardware would best benefit a wide range of students. Enablemart is a one-stop shop for EVERYTHING! I am really intrigued by the foot track balls. As I type I am trying to envision myself using one instead of my traditional mouse. It is amazing how advanced we have become and what people are now capable of because of assistive technology.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Module #1

Having all of my senses and being able to function without accommodation is something I have often taken for granted. I don’t know if I have ever really thought about how a disability can affect a person’s relationship with technology. This week’s activities really made me think about how people with disabilities learn and how technology can be used to foster a love of learning.

I first looked at the NFB- Newsline. It is a service that provides news and information to people who cannot read regular newsprint. Subscribers can have information read to them over the phone or computer, downloaded to their mp3's, or access it on the web. I thought this was a great way to help keep people who are visually impaired connected.

This made me think about how I can help kids who are visually impaired connect with their seeing classmates. I have never taught blind students but as a librarian, I would encourage everyone to use the library, not just the seeing. I think a great start to any program would be efforts to raise awareness and promote understanding about visual impairment and methods of communication- especially Braille.

I visited the National Federation for the Blind’s website and explored their resources for learning. I took a look at the Braille Is Beautiful program. I could definitely see something like this being implemented into a school curriculum- either as part of an exploratory or activity period. I have a lot of kids who are very interested in helping other kids with disabilities. In fact, we have several students who are "Lifelong Friends," and spend time in our life skills classroom during the school day. If kids began to learn and understand Braille, it wouldn't seem so strange or unfamiliar. It would become the "norm."

Really, what is the definition of normal? All of our children are beautiful in their own way. It is our differences that make us special.

As for teaching LD student in my classroom- I do that on a daily basis. The inclusion movement has brought students of all learning abilities into the mainstreamed classroom. I have gifted students and special education students together in the same class. As a teacher, providing individualized instruction is often challenging. I have attended many workshops that focus on inclusion and making accommodations for students who are learning disabled. Parental support is key- I have found that students are much more likely to succeed when there is parental support and open communication.

I am very interested in the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM). It focuses on teaching critical content- the things students need to know in order to be successful. I think this is a very practical approach to instruction- one that definitely could provide better results. I could at this point go on a huge rant about standardized testing and how we are supposed to teach our students differently and yet test them the same… but I digress.

I think as educators we always want to provide our student with the best possible education- technology is another tool in our toolbox to help us achieve that goal.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Week #9 ♦ Thing #23 ♦ My Thoughts

The 23 Things journey has been very interesting. I love blogging so that was the perfect format for this type of project. I really enjoyed experimenting with image generators and Flickr. I think my favorite thing was Rollyo (Even though it should be called Slowyo!). I think this site really has a lot of potential in my classroom. This was perhaps my most favorite part of the MLS preparation. I love that it was so hands on and I have already started using a lot of what I have learned personally and in my classroom. I would describe my learning experience as a technological adventure- anything is possible.