Harry Potter

Harry Potter
Even the world's best super spy needs a little help from assistive tech!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Last Post...or is it?

Well, here we are. The last night of class. It's been a long, strange trip down the rabbit hole of assistive tech but one that I am so glad I went on.

Tonight we had the rest of the case studies. Once again I was struck by how much technology can be a transformative process for these students. Trisha's student, S said that she was so excited to use the tech, that she didn't get frustrated. What a comment! I have loads of students that I see everyday that get frustrated for one reason or another and who could really use a boost in their learning. Ann's student Jaden was very informative as well, especially when she mentioned that he was an optimal learner as soon as he had the Ipad in his hand. It's not that surprising. My 2 year old nephew can use my IPod to find the music he likes now! It's all rote memory for him of course, but he knows which pretty picture to touch!

And Jack's story! Well don't get me started on that. The fact that his Mom was a little bit clueless when it came to his use of Proloquo to go at home but the brother understood it! Well, the group had tears in their eyes. Or at least I did.

The presentation on James was excellent as well, not in the least because he'll be my with me next year. It's good to see a student who has used the tech successfully to be more independently engaged in his own learning. Once again the word "engaged" was said at least 15 times in the presentation. That seems to be the key word tonight. That is what the new AT  and the Apps that students and teachers are using are helping them with and it's what all students need. We really need to get on top of this and make sure that all teachers are at least willing to embrace the new technology that we have and not get caught up in what we are "loosing". Education moves on people! Deal with it!

I took this class to begin because I didn't really know what was out there for students that was new and exciting and man oh man! Did this course deliver! There was so much to learn and know, but surprisingly it was all on one or two devices instead of the 12-13 that I remember using before I left for England. It makes it far more user friendly for me and therefore the kids as well. I am in a different role this year not being in the classroom proper, so I am really missing the chance to use my new found skills on a whole group of kids in a curriculum way. That's another reason for my purchase of the IPad mini. I can work on that in smaller classes and on an individual basis and get to know the Apps I will need when I go back into the classroom in a few years. And then, pass on those skills to the classroom teachers.

I'm not sure if I am going to keep this blog going or rename it and keep it going. I've enjoyed having a place to talk to whoever wants to hear my random thoughts on this course and every other random thought I have. I'll have to see if any random thoughts make their way into my brain. No promises about that though.

Thanks Barb for opening my eyes to a whole new world of AT and UDL and everything! I can't wait to help more students and teachers in the new year.

Case Study Night 1!

It's amazing to me that there are so many students in our board who are using or are in need of AT. Especially for the elementary students where understanding the basic skills of decoding and comprehension, number and word sense and sounds. I have a 9 year old nephew who is so excited about the idea that I might buy an IPad mini and is busy looking at the games that he can download. Little does he know that I am busy looking for educational apps for him to try instead...

I think that the presentation that Stephanie did on "Paul" was so fantastic. The world is truly becoming a smaller world with the tech we are using and if it can help someone like Paul to be happier and more successful even under the circumstances that life has given him.

The second part of the evening was really cool too. I loved the Apps that the students were demonstrating and how excited they were about them. The parents were excited as well, some were a little confused or looked overwhelmed but that's to be expected I suppose. We all feel that way as well and we are using it everyday!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Assistive tech shopping spree!

So as I was doing some Christmas shopping on Friday, I thought I'd combine that with Barb's second assignment of finding low tech for use in the classroom. I'm not going to lie and say I thought all this up as I was going through the dollar store. I asked the students I work with and other teachers and here is what we came up with. Please forgive the google images, my camera was left at school and the camera on my phone is awful.

Darcie's Top 10 Low Tech ideas:

1. Abacus!
My nephew has one of these and it really helped him with the number concepts he was just not getting at school.

2. Graph paper
To help line up Math problems or write in English class, you can even use a permanent marker to make the lines darker and easier to see.

3. Earplugs
This can really help to provide a low sensory environment for some students.

4.  Wrist Weight
Helps lessen the involuntary movements

5. Post It Notes
I use these all the time for my more visual kids and those with ADHD as the colours help them to focus somehow.

6. Stencils for tracing letters
I think this one is self explanatory...

7. Masking Tape
This has so many uses! As a number line at the top of the desk, sentence starters during English...and did you know that it now comes in different colours?

8. Book Holders
I use mine when I am baking, but for kids who have gross and fine motor control issues, this is a great help.

9. Foam shapes, paper clips and magnets
Glue these to the corner of the pages of books to help the students turn the pages!

10. Small soft toy or stress ball
This was a suggestion from one of my students who has a lot of anxiety. She said that when she feels herself getting a little stressed, she can pet this or squeeze the ball and it calms her down.

Obviously, there are lots more! I can't wait to read the other blogs to see what everyone else came up with!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Snow day and assistive tech!

Snow day, snow day, snow day! Barb tried t be nice and help those of us who have long way to drive seeing as how their was an impending snow-pocalypse on the way...which was non existent but the thought was a nice one!

In my search of the web, here are the models that I found that seem to be these ones:

1. SETT (student, environment, task, tools)
The student (learner)
  • What is the functional area(s) of concern? What does the student need to be able to do that is difficult or impossible to do independently at this time?
  • Special needs (related to area of concern)
  • Current abilities (related to area of concern)
The environment
  • Arrangement (instructional, physical)
  • Support (available to both the student and the staff)
  • Materials and equipment (commonly used by others in the environments)
  • Access issues (technological, physical, instructional)
  • Attitudes and expectations (staff, family, employees, others)
The tasks
  • What specific tasks occur in learners' natural environments that enable progress toward mastery of their goals and objectives?
  • What specific tasks are required for active involvement in identified environments (related to communication, instruction, participation, productivity, environmental control)?
The tools
In the SETT Framework, tools include devices, services and strategies; everything needed to help learners succeed. Analyze the information gathered to address the following questions and activities.
  • Is it expected that the learner will not be able to make reasonable progress towards his/her goals without assistive technology devices and services?
  • If yes, describe what a useful system of assistive technology devices and services for the learner would be like.
  • Brainstorm tools that could be included in a system that addresses learner needs.
  • Select the most promising tools for trials in the natural environments.
  • Plan the specifics of the trial (expected changes, when/how tools will be used, cues, etc.)
  • Collect data on effectiveness.
- the do-er, the operator - underlying abilities (sensory input, central processing and motor output) - need to take into consideration the person’s skills and abilities ability – basic training of a person, what he brings to a new task
skill – a level of proficiency
- 3 basic performance areas: self-care, work/school, play/leisure - the activities an individual performs are determined by that person’s life role(s) - activities can be broken down into smaller tasks ... need to know what these are ... helps determine points at which an individual may need assistance to accomplish activity
where the activity is being performed - setting (environment) - social context (e.g. with peers, strangers, family) - cultural context (influences social s context) ... will talk about the influence of culture on AT later - physical context (e.g. light, temperature, sound)
The AT
provide basis that allows human performance to improve

3. MTP (matching person and tech)

The Matching Person & Technology Model organizes influences on the successful use of a variety of technologies: assistive technology, educational technology, and those used in the workplace, school, home; for healthcare, for mobility and performing daily activities. Specialized devices for hearing loss, speech, eyesight and cognition as well as general or everyday technologies are also included.Research shows that although a technology may appear perfect for a given need, it may be used inappropriately or even go unused when critical personality preferences, psychosocial characteristics or needed environmental support are not considered.

 The Matching Person and Technology Model is operationalized by a series of reliable and valid measures that provide a person-centered and individualized approach to matching individuals with the most appropriate technologies for their use. The Matching Person & Technology Model and measures were developed by Marcia J. Scherer, Ph.D. beginning in 1986.

MPT process with accompanying assessment measures
  • Initial Worksheet for the Matching Person and Technology (MPT) Model -- to determine initial goals, potential interventions, and technologies needed to support attainment of the goals.
  • History of Support Use -- identifies supports used in the past and satisfaction with those supports.
  • Specific technology matching:
    • General -- survey of technology use
    • Assistive -- assistive technology device predisposition assessment, cognitive support technology predisposition assessment and hearing technology predisposition assessment
    • Educational -- educational technology device predisposition assessment
    • Workplace -- workplace technology device predisposition assessment
    • Healthcare -- healthcare technology device predisposition assessment
  • Follow-up versions of the measures to determine degree of use, comparison of expected benefit and realization of benefit and change in functioning and subjective well-being.
And finally,

4. LAP 
Primarily for those with more severe disabilities, it is more of a team based approach based on a collection of observations on the following categories:
  • Physical Resources
  • Cognitive Resources
  • Emotional Resources
  • Support Resources
  • Environmental Analysis

There sure is a lot more to this whole process than you would think. I find that a lot of teachers assume that the assessment is something that isn't that strenuous and then the kid gets an IPad...

They all need to read this blog.

This is the link to the really great power point that set me off on my quest for knowledge  this week.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

There's an App for that!

This was the best class so far! And that includes the night with the IBooks and the IMovie. This was such an eye opener and so helpful with all the apps that everyone used in their projects. I wasn't sure how I would be able to use them in my own school setting which is a couple of more grades above what most of my colleagues are teaching but I could see how I could use them in my own role as far as passing them onto the teachers in the school who may not be aware of them. I especially liked the HT recorder for IPad app that could be used for book reports and journals and all kinds of things for all kinds of classes as well as comic life. I think I might be adding those to some of the devices at school.

One thing is for sure: what I said last week is ringing even more true for me this week. We need teachers to be more open to this type of teaching! I spent most of the day today helping a student who had a list of IA's as long as your arm with an assignment that was the same for everyone. It was a very word heavy document (4 pages double sided!) and there were rivers of text everywhere. Needless to say, I managed to pare it down and reorganize it into 1 and the student is working away at it, but now I want to go back and re do it using these apps!

Oh well. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll get my chance in the near future...

Even Sesame Street knows this is the way of the future...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Lesson Planning in the Age of UDL

Tonight Trisha and I completed our programing for our fictional class of students in Human Biology 11. And all I can say is Holy Cow. My eyes are exhausted and my brain is fuzzy. I totally understand why some teachers are so resistant to UDL. It was so much work doing one tiny worksheet on the bones of the human skeleton that I can't imagine doing it every day...and yet, I would if I was in a classroom every day because that is where we are going to!

Barb was talking tonight about presenting to the BEd students at MSVU the other day and how surprised they were about the ways that Apple Tech can be used in the classroom. I wish I could say I was surprised but the entire program needs to be overhauled. When I took it a looooooong time ago, I can honestly say that there were very few courses that I have used in my own practice and those ones were all taught by teachers who were still in the classroom.

But back to tonight. It was a heck of a lot of work but once something like that is done, it's done forever so nothing says I can't use it again!

Anyone who is thinking of being a teacher in the 21st century, watch this

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Wonderful World of Webinars!

After a few glitches with the java script, I was ready to roll! As a PST, it's my job to be a bridge between the teachers and students who need support in the class and that includes everyone. I've had a couple of students in my classroom who were Autistic and some of these apps would have made life so much easier for those students, especially the sensory regulation ones. I think that a lot of teachers have no idea about what students on the spectrum are dealing with or even those kids wit anxiety about school. I have one student currently who is so anxious that it takes her about an hour to calm down in my office. Yesterday, I gave her my IPod to play with pocket pond and she left smiling and happy. I let her keep it for the rest of the day and rather than have to leave the class every 15 minutes to come see me, she just brought up the pond and she stayed in class for the whole day. It really made a difference to her and she told me today that her Mother might buy her an IPod for Christmas.

Sometimes, tech can be a real blessing. Today was one of those days.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

It's all there: Ruby with Proloquo2go

Whenever I see this app being used by a student who is non verbal or has communication issues, it just reinforces the fact of how important this kind of program is. There are more and more students in our school system who are going to need this to be successful. As Ruby's mother said, "this gives her a voice". Her PSA noted how her behavior had improved by 95% and how the program has allowed her to "unlock her communication".

Ruby is the kind of student that if we meant her before we saw her using Prolo, the majority of us would probably have assumed that she was not mentally handicapped in some way. As we talked about in our presuming competence discussions, we always go to the negative when presuming instead of the other way around. It's a good thing that this app is there to prove us wrong.

Watch how this app has helped Ruby:

Monday, 29 October 2012

Wednesday's child is full of woe...and ProLoQuo2go!

Tonight, I met Sam, Julie, Christian, Joe and Katie. These students are all non verbal and need to use the ProLoQuo2Go app in order to communicate at home, school and in the community. They were all fairly similar and yet had different interests and ideas. The thing about these students is that they were all made up. They don't exist. We got their info and then last week we programmed for them. It was so great to see how everyone did it and what they thought was best for the students. Some really cool ideas came out of this and it was very instructional.

We also had a chance to use another book creator app whihc was great fun. I can see it being used in all kinds of ways for all kinds of abilities and classes. For revisoin it would be really cool or for junior high social studies. Even language classes could us this as way of helping students into the task of using the correct tense when they are learning how to speak or to make up stories for others and share them. It's all really cool.

I just wish that the technology was being taught to BEd students in their degree. It would make the transition that much easier to usng it as a teaching tool but the majority of professors just don't get the use of tech in their own lives that they are just teaching the same old same old. It's incredibly frustrating to see all these incredible young, energetic educators who understand the power and use of technology but not being able to use it in the classroom. We really need a shake up of the education system! To the barricades!!!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Programming for "Sam"

Last week, we got the chance to be more hands on with the AT and actually design an entire program for a non verbal student that we were given. We named him Sam. After 2.5 hours of programming, my eyes were burning and my brain was buzzing. It was an excellent experience but the main thing that I got out of it was how hard it was. Even with all the tech available to us, it still needed two human beings to do the actual hand work. It was somewhat comforting to know that the computers haven't taken over everything yet.

It was good to work with a partner on this as well. Trisha had actually written down a lot of the cells and folders that we ended up using so that made it a quicker process than it might have been. Working together meant that we could see different areas that we may have missed or been weaker on. It was really hard work that brought home exactly how much communication we use in a day. I can't imagine how hard it must be to have limited communication in a world that is so verbal. These apps are goin to help more students become more integrated into the mainstream and by doing so, teach the rest of us some very important lessons.

Watch Max use Proloquo2go!
Love that max!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Presuming, Converging and Disrupting: Oh My!

After the heavy technology applications of the last two week, I must say it was actually refreshing to have a piece of paper in my hands last night at the beginning of the class! The whole idea of presuming competence had me a little thrown. As a literacy teacher, I was taught that we should presume that the students are a blank slate so we can teach them the strategies they need to succeed. I suppose it isn't too much of a stretch to think they may already have coping strategies that are in place and have been working just fine for them! It reminds me of myself in Math classes struggling to follow the way the Math teacher was doing the equations but I could do it myself in the way that I had made up. I still showed all my work (God how I hate that phrase! It sends shivers down my spine) but the teacher kept giving me a 0 because it wasn't that way SHE wanted me to get the answers! Needless to say, Parent Teacher Interviews were a lot of fun that term! The moral of course is never to assume as it makes an "ass" of "u" and "me" when it comes to thinking about what our students know and don't know.

Another topic last night that I found really interesting was the idea of convergent and disruptive technologies. As I have said before, the whole idea that one uber company seems to be in control of all this wonderful tech and that they are really cornering the market on education is something that I am having a real ethical problem with. It wouldn't matter to me if there were lots of companies and you could interchange the apps but some apps don't work on Samsung and vice versa. Soon we are going to be calling our schools after tech companies rather than places. Steve Jobs Middle School anyone? It is a good thing that students with needs can have all the tech in one place. It makes a great cost efficient argument for the DOE as well! But sometimes it feels like we are running before we can walk. The classroom teachers are not trained in this tech, they aren't all that comfortable with it in the room yet and I really can't blame them. It's a part of the job that they haven't been properly trained for and they are scared. And as Yoda said, "Fear leads to anger, Anger leads to hate, Hate leads to Suffering". That's the way a lot of teachers are feeling about all the new disruptive and convergent technology. 

Proloquo 2 go was great fun and I can see how beneficial it could be to those students who are trapped in a body that doesn't do what they want it to. Carly Fleischmann is an inspiration and makes me wonder how well I could cope if I was in her position. It must be so incredibly hard not to be able to communicate with the world. It's bad enough when you are in a country where you don't know the language, imagine living in a world where you don't know the langauge.

Last year when I was teaching Sociology, we did some work on communication and how language is developed and what it means to be human. My students came to the conclusion that you can be human and not communicate with language but that without it, you are missing the major part of being human. With all the new augmentative communication technology, maybe no one will have to miss any part of being human.

Ernie and Bert show off the importance of communication

How important is non verbal communication? Watch this and decide for yourself!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Living with an LD

I know that this is being written before the class on Wednesday but I wanted to write something else after the weekend that I had. I went shopping in Bangor with my sister, sister in law, Mom and Mom's best friend. Think of us as the Economic Stimulus Package. Anywho, every night we'd sit down with our receipts and tally up what we owed and how much we spent. On Sunday, I  noticed my sister was using a highlighter to help her find the totals like we all did but she was using other colors in other places on the receipts. Always being the teacher, I asked her about why she was doing that.

She reminded me that because of her dyslexia, she needed colors sometimes to help her organize her ideas and thoughts. She was using different colors to help her figure out who she had bought for and how much she was spending. She also told me that reading the numbers was hard for her and by highlighting them in blue it helped her to remember the order of the numbers so she didn't make a mistake. It wasn't until I was half asleep that night that I realized that she was using a very low tech version of assistive tech to help her with her LD.

I am very proud of my sister. When we went to school, there was no dyslexia, you were just stupid. Dee had trouble learning how to read whereas I was reading before I went to school. I used to read her homework assignments and then tell her the answers so she wouldn't get in trouble.She had no real idea why she couldn't read or retain information but when she 19 and out of regular school she took a test in a magazine and it told her she was dyslexic. From that point on she became a woman possessed. She went to the library (this was way before computers) and did exercises that strengthened her reading and writing and found out what the positives of her LD were and how she could make this work for her. She even taught herself to write with her right hand by copying fairy tales into a notebook because it helped her right and left brain to communicate. Today, she works at the Halifax Infirmary as a Pharmacy Tech: the first in her class to be certified and the first at the hospital to be checked out on filling the trays for people on her own. As she told me on Sunday, "I see in pictures and make connections visually. I can also remember long numbers and series of things that makes me a whiz filling the trays."

Well done Sissa. You are my inspiration.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Textbooks make the leap to the 21st century!

Yesterday,  I had the opportunity to play with an excellent app, IBooks Author. It's very cool and will cause a lot of educators and publishers to re think their entire knowledge base and revamp their skill set.

Excuse the hyperbole, but this is serious folks.

These text books are so cool: interactive, full of videos and ready made tests that it made me itch to create one for a Shakespeare play, or for a history module or for my study skills group. It would work for every learner in the classroom and allow everyone to access the information. Better yet, if those students who need AT have their own digital copy then the teacher can have their own copy as well and use it for the rest of the class. Universal design for learning anyone? It will be a game changer, if we get the funding and the support from the DOE!

And yet...all the fancy stuff can't take away the fact that the IBooks and the tech needed to support them are expensive and all from one company which isn't the one that all the schools currently use...more expense to re-place and re-train and yes, I know that you can use Apple products on PC's but let's be honest: they never work as well and they always freeze up when you need it the most.

Once again, this class has made me rethink and wonder about the world of assistive tech, which I suppose is a good thing in the long run.

An excellent article on misgivings about the apphttp://www.pigsgourdsandwikis.com/2012/01/ten-reasons-i-cant-recommend-or-use.html

First Impressions

Hmmmm... where to begin? My brain is buzzing about all the ways that these amazing applications can be used for students of all abilities and age ranges.It's hard for me to get my head around the fact that all this tech is there but we can't access it because of funding! And yes Barb, I voted today. 4 times with different emails (I checked the rules and there was nothing about that being illegal!).

And here's the other thing: I really don't like the ethos of the Apple Corporation. Don't get me wrong:  I have an IPod touch, I use a Mac at home that my sister in law has so I'm not unfamiliar with the systems and I find them simple and clear to use but  last year I had my economics class pick a TNC (trans national company) to research and we all decided that some of their business practices were not really what we would call fair and equitable. And I know that every TNC does it but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. That being said, as educators today we have to have that bad taste in our mouth a lot of times so I guess you have to get used to it. And I'm going to be buying an IPad after Christmas if they have any sales just to make sure I can understand the tech!

What did I learn on our first night? Traditional AT is giving way quickly to newer, faster, more powerful applications that the kids know more about than the teachers do which is exciting and scary at the same time. Some teachers won't be able to get on board as fast as they are expected to which will definitely cause tensions in the classroom and the profession. But maybe there is a silver lining in all this as more parents look around and see that government funding is needed for us to make our schools accessible and relevant to all students. More training is needed for us all if we are to be successful educators and continue to make a difference in our students lives.

Sigh. As I said, my brain is buzzing with lots of ideas so I know that I'm not being as clear as I could have been. I'm looking forward to figuring this all out and having some fun along the way!