Harry Potter

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

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!