Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Free Tech - Ubiquitous Tools as Individualized Supports

This is the 3rd session of the day and I have great hopes that it will be GREAT!  The presenter is Ira David Socol, a teaching and research assistant at Michigan State University (where I went to school a few times).  He has a blog called SpeEd Change and his presentation is available there on Slideshare.  He's got a Today's Meet backchannel set up, which is very cool.  I'm not sure if the audience knows what a backchannel even is, but I sure appreciate it.

I'll be taking notes of the free tools that are shown.  He considers the following tools as "Basics." 
OK, this was the session I came to the conference for.  I can easily share some of this with teachers in my district and beyond. 

Read Out Loud

The second session I'm attending is Read:OutLoud Universal Access...Get IT! Read IT! Learn IT! - Oh the Possibilities.  Read about the software here.   I didn't realize that it was sponsored by a software company, Don Johnston, so hopefully it will not be a hard sell.  Facilitator is Cortnee Snell.  I'll receive a free copy of the software, and will be comparing the features to what comes free in Microsoft Office. 

You can import files:  web pages, pdfs, Word docs, and a few others.  It will read word at a time, sentence at a time, or the whole passage.  The audio sounds mechanical, but perhaps a bit better than the built in reader in Microsoft Office.  You can change the rate, pitch and volume of the voice.  You can also use the built-in dictionary for any word in the selection.  There are different colored highlighters for identification of main points and supporting details.  There is also a note taking tool for paraphrasing and a bibliographer.

The teacher side of the program allows the teacher to assign assignments and look at student work.  Sounds like you need the "networked version" to see student work from a different computer than the one used by the student.  There's got to be a similar web-based reader available to take away the logistical issues of downloading the program to a limited number of computers and how to conveniently get access to students who need it in many different classrooms while following copyright/licensing restrictions.

UDL in the General Ed Classroom

It's day 2 of the Michigan Integrated Technology Supports Learning Institute in Traverse City, Michigan.  My first session is about to begin.  Title:  UDL in the General Ed Classroom.  The facilitators are Terie Elvers and Teresa Karney, both middle school general ed classroom teachers.  I'm hoping to pick up some ideas and maybe present on the same topic for my district's Spice it Up! technology conference in August.

From the session description: "Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the practice of embedding flexible strategies into the curriculum during the planning process so that all students can access a variety of learning solutions, including, but not limited to technology solutions."

Terie and Teresa were selected to participate in a state of Michigan pilot project, "Model UDL Classroom."  The teachers feel strongly that a UDL classroom philosophy helps students of ALL abilities and interests.  

According to the presenters, the CAST website is an excellent resource.  I looked at this website a few years ago and plan to check it out again to see what is there.

Terie talked about one of her students who was disengaged at school.   She assigned a project where students picked any book and related it to music in a five paragraph essay.  This student became engrossed in the project and soon had his project on youtube.  So, seems that PBL (Project Based Learning) is a natural fit for UDL strategies.

Characteristics of a UDL Classroom:  non-threatening, student-centered, flexible seating/grouping, music, and acceptance of differences. 

The teachers are talking about "whisper reading," something I have never heard of before.  I just googled it and found an explanation/description here

They also have silent reading time, some students listen to audio books on mp3 players simultaneously.  Students use sticky notes as they read to take notes for a digital scrap book. I'd like to see or learn more about what was included in the digital scrap book and what tools were used to create it.

The teachers showed many videotapes of their classroom, the clips showed the teachers providing instruction as well as the students working.  The clips showed instruction that would help students will many different learning styles (movement, visual imagery, symbolism, art, etc).  Students are allowed to show their learning in many different ways.  About half choose to use a computer in some way.  Rubrics and check lists are used to communicate expectations.

The facilitators made it clear that using technology is not the same as UDL.  They say that technology often is used as part of a UDL classroom, but that the act of using a computer doesn't necessarily make a good UDL strategy.  I think that is a very important point.

Planning is critical.  Begin with objectives, think about accomodations and options (consider learning styles, engagement, materials available, etc), look for resources (online, books, textbooks), consider assessment methods (rubrics), then create the assignment.  They suggest using the CAST Lesson Builder

UDL ideas include: using special pencils and paper, pencil grips, word processing, record audio instead of writing, video taping, using a scribe, draw and explain, act it out, scaffolds, and podcasts. 

UDL assessment ideas include: paper/pencil, presentation, survey monkey, podcasts, videos, slideshows, online books, printed books, and music. 

Many books about brain-based instructional strategies were passed around the room.  :-)  Books included those by Marcia Tate, David Sousa, and Kathie F. Nunley, and Brenda Utter (Pick and Plan).  I've attended a Marcia Tate workshop that was outstanding and love her books.  I've not seen the others; will need to add it to my Shelfari wish list! 

Monday, June 22, 2009

"High Tech" Assistive Technology in the Math Classroom (High Tech = Computer Required)

Part 2: Assistive Tech in the Math Classroom.  See notes below.

Use Adobe Acrobat Pro, version 8 and up, to Scan and convert Math worksheets to PDFs.  Enable the typewriter so that students can write on the PDF using their computer.  They can use the comment and markup toolbar to insert comments, draw diagrams, etc.  Students do not have to have the Pro version, only the free Adobe Reader.

Use PowerPoint to create presentations with one problem per page.  Students work in edit/layout mode and therefore can move images around, add text, etc.  Remove background from the images first (make transparent; easy click of the mouse in Word and PPT).

Microsoft Equation Editor Menus - see images of button menus available in Word.  In Word, go to Insert > Equation (in Symbol group).  I just fiddled around with is for a bit with Word 07 and find that the Equation Editor is much easier to use than last time I used it with Word 03.

Microsoft Excel conditional formatting.  Put problem in column A, they put the answer in column B.  Use conditional formatting to make the correct answer be green, the incorrect answer be red.  Conditional formatting is found from Home > Conditional formatting (in styles group).  This allows students to self-check their work.

Fast Rabbit Software's Talking Calculator is a computer calculator that talks and is large, works nicely.  $10. 

Math websites:
National Library of Virtual Manipulatives
Math Forum

Closing thought of presenter:  Goal of assistive technology is to make students more independent.  If the tool does not do that, it is the wrong one. 

The day is over and I have picked up a few tricks that I'll be able to share with teachers in my district (and beyond).  I'm extremely disappointed that  web-based tools and resources were not even mentioned until the last five minutes.  I know there are plenty out there, available for free.  Hopefully more emphasis will be placed on online (and especially collaborative web 2.0) tools tomorrow.

Low and Mid-Tech Assistive Technology in the Math Classroom

I am at the MITS Conference (Michigan's Integrated Technology Supports) in Traverse City, Michigan.  The conference is being held on the same day as a The ETLC (Educational Technology Leadership Conference) at Holt High School, and I would like to be at both.

Participants are mainly special education teachers.  The sessions
include Universal design for learning (UDL), assistive technology
(AT), augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and accessible
instructional materials (AIM) focused on improving access and

I'm in my first session now, "Technology and Math: Assistive Technology in the Classroom," facilitated by Judi Sweeney of Onion Mountain Tech, a company I've never heard of.  Many handouts are available here, although the handout for this session is not there.  Paper copies were distributed...

Brain-based learning:

  • The brain looks for patterns to make sense of information, once done the brain can work on storing new information.

  • Memorization:  NCTM ways that students need to know math facts to 12s by grade 5.  Moving from short to long term memory is the key and a challenge because students need different amounts of time.  Some kids in the same classroom need just 2 seconds, others need 60 seconds.  Hopefully suggestions of strategies that teachers can use in their classrooms to provide learning experiences for students who have such different needs will be given later!

  • Making it Real: Tying learning to your life experiences increases memory, interest, and neural connections.

  • Music, movement, and math go together.  Playing music for just 5-10 minutes prior to math lessons can make a dramatic positive difference.  The beats per minute of the music works best when it is 60-72 beats per minute.  Could be classical, could be rap (or any genre), the beats/min is the most important.  Studying music improves temporal-spatial reasoning that is associated with math.  50% of teens need to move in order to learn.  Many options were discussed (exercise balls, rubber bands, chair cushions, gum chewing).

Learning Preferences

  • You can determine learning preferences by observing eye movement.  When you ask a question that requires recall "What did you have for dinner last night?"  If you look up when you think of the answer, you are a visual learner; if your eyes move back and forth, you are an auditory learner; and if you look down, you are a kinesthetic learner.  Don't tell the person you are looking at their eyes, or results won't be accurate.  Most teachers are visual learners and tend to teach that way.  More than half of all special ed students are auditory or kinesthetic learners.  BIG PROBLEM.

Thinking Styles

  • Global thinkers see the big picture and often miss details.  They often skim or read the end first, and skip steps, and are most concerned with the right answer.

  • Sequential thinkers see the details, but often miss the main idea, read top to bottom, must do all the steps, and are concerned with the process.

  • The vast majority of math and science teachers are sequential thinkers (not global thinkers).

Low tech math tools are used in "Least Restrictive Environments," since they can be used anywhere.  Examples:

  • Color: color can be a visual-perceptual issue for many students.  The research says that 40% of the general population would be  helped, at least part of the time, if you change the color of the background.  10% of people should NOT read text on white background.  You can buy colored filters to put over the paper.  ADHD kids prefer flourescent green or yellow.  It helps them focus and attend.  Changing the color of the filter can improve fluency immediately.  Color handout hereColor Evaluation Form hereColor Filter Comparisons hereColor Tendency per Disability hereOrder filters here.

  • Magnetic boards/magnets can be used to solve problems without writing.  You can make your own magnets with supplies from Staples.

  • Hands-on Equations is a manipulative product that works for algebra.  Students describe their thinking  at the same time they are moving objects.  The objects are color-coded.  Watch this video of a 3rd grader doing an algebra program on youtube. There are books for high school algebra that have been very successful.

Using "high tech" to make low tech items (use computer to make simple assistive technology tools).

  • You can use Microsoft Word to create specialized paper.  Make a table and add or change the line type and width.  Add shading for columns.  Presenter demonstrated a computer program called Startwrite.  $40.

Mini-books/Digital Note Organizer: Print a foldable document for study aides, notes, etc.  It allows you to change an 8 page document into an ultimate note card.  PocketMod and PocketMod to PDF.  Examples:  formulas, geometric figures, foreign language dictionary, story book.  Font must be at least 24 pt font.  Free.  Mac and Windows version available.

Pen scanners are available that hook to a computer and sends to Word and simultaneously reads the text aloud.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer School with Discovery Education

Get ready for a new school year with the DEN!  The entire month of August is jam-packed with free webinars.  Tell a colleague, invite your principal and join us for Summer School with the DEN.  Enroll today at: http://community.discoveryeducation.com/webinar.All sessions begin at 11 AM EST. 

Digital Storytelling Week

  • 8/3/09: Thinking Outside the Slide: Creating non-linear PowerPoint presentations and learning centers with Discovery Education Media

  • 8/4/09: Digital Storytelling Made Easy: Using Discovery Education Content with Animoto and PhotoStory

  • 8/5/09: Director’s Cut: Discovery Education Media and MovieMaker (PC)

  • 8/6/09: Director’s Cut: Discovery Education Media and iMovie (Mac)

Leadership Week 

  • 8/10/09: The Information Society is HERE: Are our schools up to the task? with Dr. Scott McLeod

  • 8/11/09: Policies, Safety and Social Networking

  • 8/12/09: Web 2.0 for Administrators and Others: Schools, Tools, and the 21st Century

  • 8/13/09: Data Driven Decisions with Discovery Education Assessment

Science Week 

  • 8/17/09: Myth Busted: Easy Ways to Integrate Digital Media into Your Science Classroom

  • 8/18/09: Getting Your Hands Dirty with Discovery Education Science

  • 8/19/09: Differentiating Instruction with the Discovery Education Science Assessment Manager

  • 8/20/09: More and Muir Tech Tips for Going Green

Web 2.0 Week

  • 8/24/09: Get Your Glog On! The DE streaming Builders and Glogster

  • 8/25/09: The Thread that Ties it All Together: Discovery Education Content and Voicethread

  • 8/26/09: Two Roundtrip Tickets to Anywhere in the World: Designing Virtual Field Trips with Discovery Education Media and Google Earth

  • 8/27/09: Learning Through the Funnies: Mixing Discovery Education Content with Free Comic Tools

Enroll today!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Google Earth Updated Imagery



Google Earth released new and updated imagery and higher resolution 3D terrain for many locations, including Michigan!   If you have not visited Google Earth lately, you need to check it out!  I took a quick screenshot of Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes (NW Michigan's Lower Peninsula).  I have vivid memories of running up and down the dunes with my family as a child.  It's time to go back for a visit!  Does this sound interesting to you?  Visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors Bureau website.