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!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


My favorite discoveries throughout the 23 Things unit were podcasts, mashups and more aspects of Google. Podcasts are a tool I have little experience with, but a great deal of interest in. Mashups were a completely new concept that I see many applications for in the classroom environment. Integrating a mashups as a new project outcome can be a fun way to engage and motivate students. With Google there seems to be more aspects everyday and Google docs, reader and sites are terrific ways to encourage collaboration and manage information. Lastly, the concept of tagging, which was not formerly a component of the 23 Things study was a new technique I was able to practice and integrate into my way of organzing my electronic information.

The 23 Things program has affected my lifelong learning goals by reminding me to always welcome the new. At times, the amount of new technology is overwhelming and there is often the temptation to not explore the latest; however, as a librarian I must. Once I welcome the new it is important for me to be selective, find a purpose for the new technology and integrate it in the meaningful way. My role as a school librarian demands that I support many different teaching styles so I must always strive to try new things for the benefit of those faculty members.

Throughout this experience I began to think of education in a new ways. This was something I didn't expect. I have come to realize that I need to spice up my expectations of my students and I need to be a brighter beacon to model digital citizenship to the students, facutly and adminstration in my school.

Another surprise was the opportunity to network with other librarians. Following so the blogs of so many different kinds of librarians was a great opportunity. I found it very beneficial to see their unique points of view and use them as inspiration for new ideas for my own library and its resources and programs.

There is little I would do to change the format of this program. I really loved it. In fact, I would consider modeling a unit of study of my own after it. The 23 things programs was exploratory, collaborative and current. The only small criticism I have is I would have liked to have learned more about technology hardware. This is an area I would like to improve upon. I also would like to learn more about screencasting, which was not addressed in this program.

In a word I would describe the experience of the 23 Things as exploratory. This experience was very much based upon trying and experimenting. What you put into it was what you received in return.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week #9 - Thing #22 - eBooks & Audiobooks

Once upon time, I was a big fan of books on tape. While drivong, I would fumble for the correct tape, check to see if it was the correct siide and insert it into my car's tape deck. I enjoyed many fantastic books this way. Now it is amazing to see that books can be downloaded into audio and/or pdf files to be enjoyed and shared.

Downloading the text of a book or an audio file to be listened to are excellent resources for school libraries. In my experience special education teachers are particularly eager to take advantage of audiobooks, but truly, listening to a story is a completely different way to enjoy a book and could be integrated into any classroom, regardless of the kind of learner.

Currently, my school's library has very few audiobooks in their collection. Just a few books on CD, but I am very interested in expanding this portion of the library's collection. I have been eyeing Playaways for some time. Playaways are individual MP3 players with a single book already pre-loaded onto it. They even comes with headphones. Here's a link if you'd like to take a look. I think they would be a fantastic addition to a school library collection, although they are a bit pricey. They could circulate as support for teachers and students or just for fun!

Recently, I was researching databases to purchase for my school library and the salesman pitched the company's line of ebooks. The company was Gale and their ebook collection was impressive. Had I had the funds (isn't that always the case) I would have strongly considered purchasing a set or two. My school has several classrooms that are equipped with laptop labs and ebooks are a great way of extending the library's resources beyond its walls.

Week #9 - Thing #20 - YouTube & Video

What's not to love about You Tube? It's a great tool to grab students' attention, introduce a topic, or use as an outcome for a project. Although it is a blocked site in my school district, I ALWAYS unblock it to use it as a teaching tool. I had seen many of the videos mentioned in the Classroom Learning 2.0 blog before and I particularly liked the "March of the Librarians" clip. Hysterical!

I have never inserted a video into a blog, so here is my first attempt. I struggled to figure out how to do this, but never fail. I found this YouTube video that taught me how! Here it is, if this is your first time, too. :-)

Here is another video on how to use a Flip Video camera. A great tool that could be used to create videos in the classroom, that could be posted on YouTube.

Week #9 - Thing # 21 - Podcasts

Podcasts are a very new and exciting topic for me. I really enjoyed reading "Podcasting in Libraries" by Chris Kretz. It clarified a number of things for me; primarily the difference between an simple audio file and a podcast. I especially like Kretz's analogy of podcasts to newspaper delivery. I am always looking for concrete ways to explain the improvements technology can make in our lives, particularly when collaborating with teachers who sometimes need a little more time to warm up to a new idea.

I checked out a number of podcasts that Kretz mentioned with regards to teen library culture. I subscribed to a few via my Google Reader. Here are some links to make it easy for you, if you are interested.

Nancy Keene's Booktalks Quick and Simple - Grades K-12

Isinglass Booktalk Podcasts - Grades 7 & 8

Teen Podcasts @ the Cheshire Public Library

OCLS Teen Podcast

Prime Speaks