12/03/2011

Final Class - Case Studies

Oure final class - it's really hard to believe! I am so glad I took this course - I have learned a great deal.  I really enjoyed our final class and getting to see all of the interesting things each person did within their case studies. I jotted notes as people presented as a way for me to remember (They are below and aren't complete, but provide a general idea of each presentation which I may need to refer to in the future.)
What I was most impressed with was the varied experiences. It was a great learning experience. I really enjoyed Michelle's presentation - her passion was very apparent and I could easily see that this was a very powerful experience for her! We need more teachers like Michelle, I think!

Jill Swaine - 20 month twin fraternal girls, developing normally, but are already recognizing numbers and letters.  Used four apps with the girls to further develop letter and number recognition; to encourage a love of lettes and reading and have a head start with numbers and eventually math
teachinglearnerswith - see Jill's blog for this link

Michelle Hill - Nick - Grade 2, young 7, Reading and writing tried wiggly cushion then game goo - neither worked then tried Starfall and it worked - then tried Cowriter and it was amazing! Awesome progress - a very different little boy afterward! Fantastic results and excellent presentation.

Jackie Lake - teachers both ELA and Math; chose to work with 5 students, 4 of whom have diagnosed LDs. WordQ - 3 of the kids liked it - 1 did not. Math Bingo- for mental math - liked the competition and liked it overall.

Alana Pyke - 8yr Grade 3/4 French Immersion - ADHD; sees resource for reading development; is very slow and disorganized - focussed memory, focus and organizational skills with him - used fidget toy and sit & fit cushion, mini laptop for writing (open office, comic life and kidspiration) responded really well.

Kari MacDonald - used RazKids with her  (PTA supported this)- Grade 3 for whole class, but focussed on 4 who needed it. They loved it! Great improvement!

Jillian Fullarton - age 7, Grade 2:  attention, tires and frustrated easily, working memory. Reading at a level c, writing is very difficult - used Dragon Dictation, Classroom Suite and CoWriter. Found that Cowriter was most effective - he was able to read back and self correct

Bev Kronfii- Jr. High boy , ADHD -Focus: short term memory, Reading comp and reluctant writer; attention issues: used TumbleReadables on computer; worked very well for him!

Jennifer Fletcher -Gr.7 student - language disorder - writing challenge -tried WordQ, but it didn't work; he preferred Microsoft Word, recommended: Dragon Dictation, CoWriter, Apps for voice recording

Amy Wilde - Katy, Grade 1, has wolf-hirschhorn syndrome - which means she is not verbal, wheelchair bound, used ChooseItMaker2 to help with IPP goals of making choices, also used IPad for motivation

Shauna McNeil - Gr 7, 13 yr old boy- very disorganized, social problems, suggested writing disability, ADD; used Fusion and Word; will use SOLO (incl CoWriter, Draft Builder, Read Outloud, Write Outloud) and Ginger (word prediction) when installed.

Adele Tiggins - 8 yr old in Gr 2 French Immersion - bored in school, is anxious and says she cannot read; does not phonetically decode, used iPhone - Magic apps, Goo Games (Earobics) online, Literactive; was more willing to attempt reading and is growing in confidence.

Mine - shorter than the 15 minutes!

Joanne Kennedy - 11 yr old (Gr 6) boy - writing - Fusion writer - feels like he can keep up with his thoughts now!

Jennifer Lilly -  Using IPads with three little girls to use Literacy Apps ( two 6 yr olds and one 8 yr old) Apps: ones available on the HRSB iPad.(Sight words, Spellblocks, Word Bingo, Story Wheel, Ebooks) Worked quite well.  Good night, iPad!

The Goodnight iPad was very cute! Check it out here:




11/19/2011

Class #5 Response

Today's class was a completely different format and yet equally as powerful as the others we have had in this course! It is our last class together prior to the presentations of our case studies. I have mixed emotions because this has been such a great learning experience and it has to end. And that is kind of how the rest of the class was as well - full of mixed emotions!

Barb shared some videos with us today about two children with different Learning Disabilities and they certainly affected me.  I was frustrated, angry, sad, joyous and relieved all in one class while viewing the videos. They were certainly very powerful! 

While viewing the videos, Barb had us do a task analysis of the writing process in various ways. First, using pen and paper, then our laptops and finally with a writing app on the IPods. This wasn't easy. Even though she had given us the writing task analysis she had completed weeks ago, thinking of all the things we do before and as we are writing is a challenge! Here is a picture of the writing task analysis Barb created and shared.  

It is quite obvious, even though it's impossible to read, just how intricate the writing process is!  But, you get the point!

The videos Barb shared with us came from a series of videos found at her blog: misunderstoodmindsLD.blogspot.com
Meeting Nathan and Lauren clearly demonstrated how students who go undiagnosed face great challenges.  This was so frustrating to watch, both as a parent and then as a teacher! I really felt terrible for both sets of parents and their children. Poor little Nathan who appeared to be an overachiever prior to school had a really. Finally, he was diagnosed by Dr. Levine, co-founder of All Kinds of Minds. http://www.allkindsofminds.org/ Read an interesting interview with Dr. Levine at http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/levine.htm
Nathan had a weakness in phonemic awareness.  As described in the video series, he had a tangle in his wiring which causes him not to be able to learn. Poor little Nathan, who appeared to be reading prior to school, but in fact had magnificent coping skills (memorization), repeated first grade, had a tutor in Grade 2 and just was not succeeding, had a Learning Disability.  He was placed in the Resource room during Grades 3 and 4 (not sure I agree with this!) When he had to write a State test at the end of Grade 4, he received the accomodations he needed: he was able to dictate his answers and he scored an unbelievably high score! Finally, Nathan would receive the assistance he needed!!
Lauren's (an 11 year old) challenges were different - she was off-task, disorganized, described as 'in another world', yet very creative, and experienced great social problems. Her parents had her switch schools, hoping that would help. Then, she saw Dr. Levine and it was suggested she get a 'Focus Coach' to help her. He also suggested she needed a drug like ritalin because she had a lack of dopamine in her brain. However, her parents were resistant to the idea of having her on medication.  So, she spent the next few years without it. When her parents finally agreed to using medication, (in 8th grade), the changes were phenomonal, both socially and academically! Something she said that really hit a note for me was that when she took the medication it was like it didn't really change her, but 'tuned her up a little'. Two amazing children who struggled unneccessarily for years all because they went undiagnosed!

After viewing the videos, we discussed the writing task analysis and talked about some AT available for writing.
Co-writer is a word prediction program that sits over any application and has dictionaries that can be modified to create your own. Check it out at: http://www.donjohnston.com/products/cowriter/index.html
Take a look at this video: 

WriteOutLoud is another great assistive tech - a talking word processor that can work in conjunction with CoWriter. http://www.donjohnston.com/products/write_outloud/index.html

Check out a demo at:


Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice recognition software that makes it really easy to interact with your computer. http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/by-product/dragon-for-pc/index.htm  There is also a dragon app for the Ipod.



WordQ: WordQ + SpeakQ is the first and only integrated word prediction and speech recognition tool available. It is a FREE download! Check it out at:  http://www.goqsoftware.com/en/
Check out a video here: 

Also, many PCs have a built in speech recognition program that is quite good. It can be somewhat tricky to use, but it does the trick. We tried it out in class, but it was a little challenging because of all the background noise.

So much to think about and so little time!!!

11/18/2011

Great APPs for the classroom

App:  Writing Prompts
What Is it? An app that has six different categories of writing prompts.
Who would it benefit? All students, but particularly students who have difficulty coming up with ideas for writing.
How would you use it? I would use it with everyone to start, by demonstrating it for the class. Then¸ I would give my students time to explore and choose a writing prompt, perhaps in pairs. Then,   individually. Then, it would become a tool available for students as they wanted to use it! I would also have my students add their ideas to it because it has that                                                       capability.
                                          Cost $1.99


App:  Writing Tips
What Is it?  An app that has an abundance of writing tips.
Who would it benefit?  All students
How would you use it? I would use this with everyone in the beginning to introduce it. Then, I would have my students explore it to find helpful tips and share them in groups. I would encourage its usage independently  as well.

Cost:  $.99


App:   Note Taker Lite
What Is it?  An app where you can write your notes in handwriting on the IPod.
Who would it benefit? Everyone! Teachers included!
How would you use it? I would use this with all students (and some staff!).  It allows one to write notes on the screen by hand and then saves them. They can be converted to jpegs to email! A great little tool to use  in the classroom torecord important information; ie: notes, dates, events ,etc.  
Cost: Free



App:  Doodle Buddy for Ipad What Is it?  An app that is an area to doodle on your IPod.
Who would it benefit? Students who need something to do during whole class discussion; students with ADHD, Autism.
How would you use it? This would be used with any student in my class

who could benefit and help them to direct their attention.
Cost: Free

Link to group partners' blogs to view other great apps.
alanapyke.blogspot.com
shaunamcneil.blogspot.com

11/15/2011

Class #4 Response

APPs, APPs, APPs and more APPs! This has been an interesting class! Despite the lack of wifi connectivity we persevered and got the work done. First of all, we used a new app (Reel Director) in groups to create a 60 second commercial on some form of AT! So, first of all, we had to figure out how to use it and could not access the internet to see any videos or tutorials, so we tried to figure it out on our on. Really, it was not that difficult at first, but then we ran into a couple of problems. Luckily, we were working in an area of the school where a very nice NSCC student logged us on to one of the computers, so we could get our questions answered through Youtube and a tutorial!
Anyway, we came up with an idea, created a script and recorded it. I am not sure it was the best commercial given the time constraints, but in the end, we had a better understanding of how the Reel Director app works!
Then, Barb asked us to think about how we could evaluate this activity should we use it in our classrooms. (I will use a Grade 9 ELA class as that is the subject I have taught for the past five year.) First of all, I think a rubric needs to be set up with input from the students about the necessary criteria. I would hope things like planning, involvement of all group members, creation of script, decision-making, technology skills and self-evaluation would become apparent. (If not, I may suggest these things!) I would record observations in regard to various outcomes in all three strands of ELA - Speaking and Listening, Reading and Viewing, and Writing and other forms of representation, in particular, media literacy. I would also record observations in regard to group work and being on task. But, the time frame would discourage loss of attention. I think the kids would really love this!

10/27/2011

Class #3 Response

Compensatory Reading Software Presentations
We started the class by pulling together our group presentations. Having this time to regroup and organize our thoughts was great! I had an awesome team with whom to work and I think our presentation went quite well. But, I am glad that as a class we are going to spend more time on Kurzweil. It is an awesome program!

Kurzweil 3000 - I think this is the best program (and NOT  because it was the software we presented!).  It offers many great features, some of which include text-to-speech (with very realistic voices), translation, writing and study skills tools. My favorite is that it can be very portable (available on a USB for any PC) and that this is the program that is available in all NS schools.

My Study Bar  - I really like the portability of this program! I think it is almost as good as Kurzweil and it's FREE! I like the floating tool bars and how easy it is to use!

WYNN - I really liked this program too! It has many of the same features as Kurzweil (but not all!)  I also really liked the prepared handouts supplied by this group!

Natural Reader- This is a text to speech program that also offers MP3 creation which is nice. It is very economical and would be good to use if other programs were not available. The voices are not that realistic, but others can be downloaded at a charge.

Texthelp AKA Read&Write Gold- I really liked this program! It is a FREE download! It has many of the same features as the other programs, but the one I like the most is the speech-to-text! This would be awesome for many students, myself included!


Five Unique ways to use Pictello
  • Older students can visually represent a story with their younger reading partner that they have created together.
  • Share photos of projects created at home with class and teacher.
  • Use as a way to communicate during show and tell for those students who prefer not to speak in front of the class.
  • Create group stories using IPad on an interactive white board.
  • Creating visual schedules for students who need them.

Ipod usage and Apps

Having the opportunity to use the Ipods today was definitely an enlightening experience!  Now, I want one - or do I want an IPad 2?  Actually, I'd like to have both! (Thanks, Barb!) These little gadgets are fabulous and it seems like the Apps are endless! We only had less than 2 hours to take a look, investigate and play, but we learned exactly how useful and intuitive they are and the implications for our classrooms! C'mon NS School Boards, it's past time to lift the ban on hand held devices!  We NEED these in our classrooms.
I was especially interested in the Apps available for students with ASD as I have chosen to work with such a student for my Case Study and I know he's not using his IPod in school.  (Now, I just have to convince his teacher....) There's my next challenge~but I think once she sees the uses, she won't hesitate!
Take a look at the apps I discovered!
My Top Five Apps:
Doodle Buddy (Free) - This would be a great app to have for my students who need to doodle or do something instead of just sitting still as a way to focus their attention.
CBC News (Free) - This would be great to use for research particularly about current events.
ROM Guide (Free) - What an awesome way to do virtual travel to a fantastic museum most of my students would never have visited!
Socialcam Video Camera (Free) - This would be a great way for my students to do video for various projects!
Instant Poetry HD (only $1.99) - I LOVE this! For my reluctant writers, especially, but I think everyone will like it!

 Now I can't wait to do my case study and go shopping!

Wordle: Awesome Apps

10/18/2011

Clicker5

Using Clicker 5 to create a multimedia project. Check this out!

Reading

Class # 2 Response
The Reading Task Analysis certainly was an eye-opening experience!  It really is amazing how many steps, processes, etc. are involved in reading and many of us take it for granted on a regular basis.  Working together with a group and being able to bounce ideas off one another was very beneficial. But, what I found most beneficial in this process was seeing what other groups created. It was very humbling listening to the presentations because we had what we thought to be a very thorough representation of the analysis. However, our web was not nearly as detailed as some! I particularly liked the presentation Anne MacDonald’s group did. http://thenextchapter-acadia5163.blogspot.com/ It was very well organized and made sense to me visually.  I enjoyed the opportunity to explore Inspirations a little further, as well.
Exploring the online reading programs and websites during class was really interesting.  I have a daughter in Grade One who will benefit greatly from using some of these sites, so that made this very personal for me.  (I tested out the Literactive site with my daughter and she loves it! She also really enjoyed the Starfall site and had used it before at school.) I found many useful sites for her age and ability as well as many useful sites for students at the middle school level which is where I teach. Please check out the list on my blog. I think my favorite of all for Middle School students is the Tumblereadables. It is so difficult to find high interest books at this level that our students are willing to read and now – here they are and they are online and interactive! It’s a win-win situation.  I only wish I had known about it last year!  I can think of some students who really would have benefitted from using this site. 
I didn’t have a chance to check out some of the suggested sites until after class. I had heard about some of the Don Johnston programs prior to the course, but had only really used Simon Sounds it Out.  Check out Bailey’s Book House, Millie’s Math House and Word Maker through the link under Awesome Sites.  Upon looking at the website, I was intrigued to investigate further.  I was particularly interested in the higher education software available. The Read out Loud program is amazing.  It is not only a text reader but encourages use of various strategies to improve reading and writing.  The link here provides an overview:   http://www.donjohnston.com/media/flash/product_demo/readoutloud6ue/index.html
During the afternoon session, we worked together in groups to begin investigating compensatory Reading software so as to create a tutorial for our classmates. Our group was assigned Kurzweil 3000. I had some limited experience with an older version of the program, but this one looks much better! I am looking forward to investigating it further.

Having Barb present the Powerpoint about where AT fits in reading and linking it to Marilyn Jager Adams’ four processes was very helpful; it was like putting together a puzzle to see the final picture.  The last visual in particular really stood out!

diagram created by Barb Welsford

I am really finding every class so practical and I truly appreciate that!




10/01/2011

Free/Almost Free Reading Software

You have to look at the sites I've found - they would be amazing to use in your classrooms!

Read Write Think: One of my favorite sites I have used in my classroom is ReadWriteThink.  There are lesson plans, interactive activities, printables, and more.  Activities are arranged by grade level (P-12), themes and/or learning objectives.  There are many activities the students can do right on the site.  One of my Grade 7 students' favorite is the Comic Creator.  The possibilities are endless with this site and the best thing: it's free!

Starfall:  This site is great for readers from pre-reading right up to about a grade 3/4 level.  It would be great to use for ESL learners as well. There are phonics activities, interactive books, read- alouds, songs, and a lot more!  Preschool, elementary and program support teachers would love this site. Check it out at http://www.starfall.com/

Tumblereaders:  This is an awesome site for students in upper elementary right through to high school! Students can have popular books read to them. There is great voice and selection of books at all levels which really impressed me as I work with Middle School students and it's difficult to find high interest books at that level!  There are quizzes and lesson plans too! Students can also submit online book reviews which is great. The pricing may cause some difficulty at $499.00 per year. But that provides unlimited access at school. I think it is certainly worth it!  Sign up for a free 30 day trial and check it out at: Tumblereadables .
Raz-kids:  This site has interactive books, activities and quizzes. Teachers can create a roster and assign readings, activities, etc to individuals, groups or whole classes. Students can access this at home or school. It is fantastic for elementary students up to about Grade 5! The fee is $79.95 per class which is quite reasonable. The only problem I can see is that the students will need to be able to read the directions independently, but once they are used to the site, that shouldn't be a problem. There are some free books that can be used without a subscription. A free 7 day trial is available. Take a look at: Raz-kids sample

 This is udltechtoolkit.  It has numerous links to free websites - everything from reading to math to technology! You have to take a look for yourself because there are too many to mention! One of my favorites is Literactive as it has interactive books and games for children from preschool age and up. A great resource to use!

Reading Task Analysis

9/28/2011

Pictello

What AT is

Wow this first class was certainly packed with information!  I am going to love this course – it is practical, informative and hands-on!  A colleague of mine had taken this course a few years ago and recommended I take it; she certainly didn’t steer me in the wrong direction.
The suggested readings for the class were very helpful in providing background information.  The Shaywitz article about dyslexic children and the chapter of Sousa’s book provided an excellent definition of dyslexia as an ‘unexpected difficulty in reading despite adequate intelligence, environment, and normal senses’. The idea that some children learn to accommodate and read accurately but not fluently really struck a chord with me. As a Grade 9 ELA teacher, I often see this with my SRW students. They may be able to decode well enough or have memorized words to be accurate, but are not engaging with the text fully and therefore; the comprehension of what was read is absent.  I have had experience in using Kurzweil in the classroom, but, at times, it was frustrating as it didn’t work properly and then of course, there is the challenge of convincing the student to use it. A lot of my students who have an LD refused to use AT in the classroom for fear of being viewed as ‘different’.  The Edyburn article about learning from text presented the problem of remediation versus compensation. Particularly at the middle school level, we are faced with this challenge.  Most often, due to time constraints, we find that compensation is what we do. But this is frustrating and we are often asking ourselves – is this best for this student?
The process of successful reading requires the coordnation of three neural systems as is outlined in this diagram from Sousa’s book. When there is a difficulty in one or more of these systems, reading is impaired.  When working with students at the middle school level, it is necessary to have accommodations in place for students who have reading difficulties to ensure their independent success. I guess at the time, to provide independence, these accommodations are best for the student.

(Sousa, 6)

In our discussion of what AT is, it was like I had déjà vu – I knew I had heard this before, but had to dig deep to find it!  It was definitely defined for us as not being IT! It’s funny that that descriptor was provided because in my experience, many teachers feel that is what AT is and shy away from using it in their classrooms because of their own lack of IT confidence. Often times, the supports are not in place (either in the form of EAs, training or the AT itself) which makes it increasingly difficult to implement necessary accommodations for our students. I think this takes a concerted coordinated effort by the entire staff, student and parents to ensure success. Using AT can be done and it works beautifully when supported fully by everyone!

Training, training, training, training and more training – we heard this phrase repeatedly in our first class and it is so true. There are always new technologies, differing needs with our students and the need to access those tools is huge!  After all, I think we came to agree that AT is a dynamic process providing access to a task and improving performance of a student with a disability.  If I have plagiarized, please forgive me, but this is the definition I came up with in my notes during class.  So, in my mind, AT can be anything that helps someone with a disability become independent in completing tasks. 

I really enjoyed watching the video of varying samples of AT usage. I found myself becoming quite emotional when viewing the success and independence these students gained, especially with Tyler. I have a friend who had a son with cerebral palsy. They lost him when he was ten. He was an amazing young man who was very independent thanks to a multitude of assistive technologies.  He was verbal, but had no control below his neck.  He used a wheelchair and a speech to text technology to help in school and at home.  He loved the simple things in life and inspired all who knew him to appreciate those things as well.  It is always amazing and inspiring to see people with disabilities able to perform tasks independently!  Also looking at the list of AT Ryan uses reminded me of another little boy I met this summer. He has Autism and is considered high functioning, but he would greatly benefit from using his Ipod in the classroom as he uses it outside all the time. He is very adept at using a variety of technologies and loves them. He says he hates school and doesn’t want to go, but being able to use his Ipod in the classroom may be the key to inspiring him to enjoy school more.

Having the opportunity to use the Ipad 2 and Pictello was great! I can definitely think of some former students who would have loved this program and the independence it provides. My biggest concern is the cost of such technology – not all students have their own Iphone or Ipad to use!  I know in our little rural middle school we don’t have the funding and even through our AT services at the board level, we may not be able to get such technology. I’m wondering if there is a similar program we could use on a netbook or laptop –I guess it would be powerpoint!

Being faced with the challenge of creating a task analysis of the reading process seemed quite daunting in the beginning especially when seeing the task analysis of the writing process, but once we started in class, many ideas flowed. It is great that we have the opportunity to use the technology (like Inspiration) while completing in class assignments!  Linking the ideas together seemed a little difficult at first, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I am sure the suggestions provided in class will help.
Using Blogger is another first for me this class.  I hope that once I have the opportunity to play with it on my own, it will make more sense. Right now, I have titled my blog incorrectly so I have to figure out how to fix that.  But, I know that my students would love this and they likely have been using it already! 
I am looking forward to many challenges to come in the weeks ahead.  Remember – training, training, training!  That is why I chose this course because I know I need a great deal of training when it comes to AT!