Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two Best Readings of the Semester

By far my favorite text this semester was Courtney's Library 2.0 and Beyond. I enjoyed the collection of articles. It was a refreshing departure from a banal text. I also appreciated that the information was current and provided a concrete ideas and websites for reference.

The two chapters I most enjoyed were chapter 4, Podcasting for Libraries by Chris Kretz and Mashups and Web Services by Weic Schnell. The primary reason I have selected these two is because they were my introduction to the topics of podcasting and mashups. In each article I made many notes and stars in the margins.

Kretz's article provided a comprehensive history of podcasting along with instructions on how to get started with podcasting. This is just what I needed. It also provided many examples of library podcasts for booktalking and teen services. I visited many of these sites and marked a few on my Delicious. I also signed up a for a few feeds as a result of this article. Lastly, and importantly Kretz introduced me to the term "podsafe music" and the legal issues surrounding this medium of communication.

Schnell's article was also largely informative. API, SOA and geotagging were all new concepts to me. Combining complex online systems like Google Maps with others to create new content is exciting. The possibilities are endless and stand to make an impact on how libraries interact in an online environment. I admit to not completely understanding all the technical lingo connecting to computer programming, but I certainly understand more then I once did.

I am glad I had the oppotunity to explore this text. I will definitely be keeping this it for future reference.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Flip Camera - Web 2.0 Presentation

It's also a breeze to upload Flip videos to your blog, wiki or other social networking site. Although it is a bit time consumming.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Week #15 - Module #5 - Curriculum & Evaluation

The holiday season is upon me and in an effort to stay ahead of the game I am posting a bit early.

What one thing did you learn, and what will you do differently as a result?
The two things that stand out in my mind as a result of these exercises are first that it is always time to teach students about differently abled individuals and not just when one is in the classroom. Demonstrating sensitivity and always expecting compassion are life lessons that extend beyond school walls. I think research project on various disabilities is a great way to expose middle school students to the the reasons for disabilities and challenge them to find ways that differently abled individuals can prosper in the world The second conept that will stay with me is the idea of universal design.

Do you plan to recommend this tutorial? If so, please elaborate.
I would gladly recommend this tutorial to my principal. It would serve as terrific professional development exercise. Educators need reminders that there are tools out to there to assist them in teaching students with disabilities. My eyes were certainly opened to how technology can assist in the classroom.

Do you plan to read or recommend some of the Recommended Reading books or add them to your collection?
Gladly, my collection already has some of the listed titles, but I will definitely review it when it comes time to order new items for the collection.

Will you link our LibraryThing list to your blog?
Surely. Here is the link to readings that contain characters with disabilities.

If you have a book recommendation or have read one of the books that does not include a review, please send us your own review so we can share it.
I posted a review for the book Petey by Ben Michelson. I wish it were more detailed. I read it some time ago, though. Nevertheless, it was a powerful read and I remember the feeling it left me moreso than the plot details.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Week #14 - Module #4 - Etiquette

I am impressed by the amount of literature that has been printed and posted regarding only etiquette! Much of what I understand about netiquette is common sense. I like how Virgnia Shea, author of the online book Netiquette, called her first chapter "Remember the Human". It seems that is what all forms of communication boils down to.

If librarians and teachers intend to use web 2.0 technologies in the classroom they need to model and teach online etiquette. This is the only way for students to interact in a formal capacity while online. I like the idea of having students sign a contract to as a kind of online "code of conduct" to ensure accountability to their online behavior.

The topic of cyberbullying is one that should concern all educators. While reading the links on this topic I came across the story of Ryan Patrick Halligan. This young boy committed suicide as a result of online bullying. His father now visits schools, tell his son's story and encourages compassionate behavior online and in life. Ryan's story was featured in a PBS video titled Growing Up Online. It was very powerful if anyone is interested in checking it out.

I often think it would helpful is librarians used back to school night as an opportunity to provide information to parents on this topic.

On a lighter note, I had fun exploring the smiley dictionary. It might a fun thing to share with my students.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Module #3 - Software

The assistive technology software I broswed this week was very impressive. Watching students use the iCommunicator tool was so cool! It's amazing how one device can change a person's world. Its also interesting to note that disabled persons are always trying to keep up with the latest technologies to better assist them. This must be costly and perhaps even tiresome, but exciting, as well.

I was aware of certain voice activated and voice recognition tools, but what I found most impressive was that they are fully integrated into commonplace programs like Microsoft Office. This quality really levels the playing field.

I enjoyed exploring all the software. The Wurzeil 3000 was impressive. I wasn't able to download it, but I watched multiple tutorials. Its amazing to think one small device can transcribe text so quickly and effectively and then the software can allow the user to manipulate it so easily and in so many ways. I did wonder how long it might take for a teacher to upload an entire chapter or more into the Wurzeil 3000, but the benefits might make it worth it.

Inspiration is a program I used long ago and never forgot. I have long been promoting the program to my technology director. Downloading the 30 day trial allowed me to play with it again and see how much it has improved since I used it last. It's a terrific program: user friendly, multiple applications, meets a need that Microsoft doesn't offer.

Here is one simple and effective way I could use Inspiration in my classroom. Each semester I complete a research project with 8th grade students on the an influential African American. The students follow the Big 6 Research method. The fifth step is to synthesize the information collected. This step can be challenging to demonstrate, but with Inspiration it would be much easier. The students could use Inspiration to diagram the categories of information they have collected. I would create a model for them to pattern their work after. Creating this graphic organizer will be the ultimate tool in preparing the students to compose the rought draft of their research paper.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Week #11 – Module #2

This weeks’ exploration of assistive technologies was very eye opening. When I worked as an elementary school teacher I had students who used some assistive technologies, but that was 5 years ago and it seems like the technology has come so far since then. This is not surprising, of course. I couldn’t believe the head mouse and virtual keyboard. Genius! There is so much educators can do to improve the learning environment of students with special needs.

I was really in awe of the YouTube video of the woman from Florida with Cerebral Palsy who works as a graphic artist. Truly unbelievable. I had a student with Cerebral Palsy and kind of a have a soft spot for this disease. If you do too here are two great tween reads that incorporate a character with this ailment. Petey and Stuck in Neutral.

EnableMart is an amazing site! I was quick to tag it in my delicious account. I browsed the site and saw a lot of nifty gadgets, but I was most taken by the first item I came upon. The ReadingPen is an assistive technology that I think could immediately integrated into the teaching practices at my school. There are many struggling readers who would benefit from this piece of technology. At a high school level it is very important for teens to have independence and take ownership of the challenges they face. Being able to use this tool to decode unfamiliar words or learn the correct pronunciation of a word is often a question a teenager would not ask, but to be able to find out for themselves with the help of this device stands to be very beneficial.

Another technology that could assist students will limited fine motor skills is the BigKeys Keyboard Plus. Such a simple solution can make such a big impact. It stands to level the playing field for many children who struggle in this capacity. I worked with a student who really labored when typing. He constantly made mistakes and it was painful to watch him struggle. What a difference this tool would be for him!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Week #10 - Module #1

First, I am so pleased to at last be receiving some direct instruction on the subject of assistive technology. When I earned my undergraduate degree I was not required to take any special education courses to graduate and I regret not having taken any as electives. Thankfully, since I graduated in 1995, the requirements have changed and all education majors must take some special education coursework.

Nevertheless, when I entered the teaching profession and my classroom I taught many multiple, and severly learning disabled students. Some were even physically disabled. I guess you could say I recieved a crash course in figuring out how to intergrate their needs into the class's objectives in subject areas from math, reading and science to time on the playground, during the class play and field trips. Working with these students proved to be an extraordinary experience and taught me to always plan ahead and be considerate of all learning styles.

I especially liked reading about the concept of universal design. This was the first I have heard of it and feel strongly that its aims are for the betterment of all people and their compassion towards those with differences.

Now to focus in on the task at hand.

I took quite a bit of time to explore the National Federation of the Blind. I found myself thinking of Annie Sullivan teaching Helen Keller. I adore the story of the Miracle Worker and often marvel at the Sullivan's persistance to reach Helen and teach her to teach herself. If I were confronted with a similar, albeit smaller challenge, to welcome a blind student into my classroom I would do the following things to prepare myself and my students:

  • label items in the classroom with braille
  • invite a guest speaker to meet with students so that they may have a question and answer session
  • permit time for my students and myself to learn Braille
  • create activities that challenges students to use other senses in place of their vision ie: name that tune
  • challenge students to think creatively to find tasks and strategies that can be done successfully without using their sight
  • take time for daily read alouds
  • auditory cues to begin new tasks or showcase a particular behavior
  • find ways to showcase the student as an individual separate from his disability
I am sure there are more considerations I would have to make, but these were the first that came to mind.

Job Accomodation Network was another new find for me. I think their initiative should be valued by school systems for the sake of the students as well as their faculty, staff and administrations. There are many teachers who have disabilites and are effective at what they do. They serve as remarkable role models for their students. On this site they had a terrifc page that listed all kinds of disabilites, links to possible modifications, and best of all links to companies that sell products to make it easier to integrate modifications to improve the quality of the learning environment for the individual student. What a great resource!