Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Using PhotoStory for Accessibility

This task was designed to show how PhotoStory, a free download from Microsoft (if you have genuine Windows) can be used to extend accessibility for ELA. In this example, I have chosen the poem "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein.

video

The use of pictures and music alongside the words helps students who are visually impaired or struggle with literacy to appreciate the poem in different ways.

On the technology itself, I will say that Photostory does have some limitations and some advantages. Unlike MovieMaker, Photostory does not give you a way to add a credits slide or use video clips as part of your movie. It really is designed for slideshows with music or voice added rather than video-editing. A nice feature of Photostory is that it will automatically adjust music that is too long for the slideshow, fading it out on the last image. It's also very easy to use which makes it an advantage for students.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Spiration Family: Graphic Organizers and Education

This post focuses on graphic organizers as a way to help students learn in a more focused and organized way. The Spiration Family includes Inspiration, Webspiration and Kidspiration. Inspiration is the original concept mapping tool designed for older students and adults. Kidspiration as the name implies is focused on younger audiences and Webspiration is online version of Inspiration. There are two parts to this post. The first identifies two sample lessons using Kidspiration. The latter highlights three sample concept maps that I have personally created and used.

Good Kidspiration Examples:
The first example that I want to highlight is the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere Cartoon Creator lesson at
http://www.inspiration.com/sites/default/files/documents/CartoonCreator.zip. There are several reasons that I picked this one. First, the author provides both a .pdf of the lesson plan as well as a sample kidspiration file of what the resulting product could look like. The template that is used is built-in to Kidspiration under the Social Studies Content Area and the graphics are used from the embedded libraries but the teacher can also bring in their own symbol library. The lesson plan also emphasizes critical thinking skills by suggestion that the last two frames of the cartoon relate to the impact of the actions of the event. It’s also extensible to any social studies content area that the students may be studying.

The second example is actually from my student teaching experience. The teacher had his third grade class divide up into pairs to interview each other. They would be taking notes using the Writing view of Kidspiration. The template that was modified for this is the “Story of My Life” template in the Reading and Writing content area. The students then examine the graphical view to understand the organization of the interview, and to add images. The students then did a second round of interviews to provide the elaboration details. Finally, the students exported their kidspiration notes to Microsoft Word in order to publish their interview on the school bulletin board.

My Spiration Examples:
The first example is using Inspiration to design a webquest on the topic of Colonial Values and America today. In designing a WebQuest, organization is extremely important. Inspiration is a great tool because it allows for reorganization and multiple idea paths which is critical in WebQuest design. Using Inspiration in this manner would be helpful for students at the secondary level who are instructed to design a WebQuest of their own in order to gain a deeper understanding of the content areas that they are studying and to provide useful tools for students yet to come.

Here is the concept map that I designed for my WebQuest which you can find at
http://questgarden.com/79/14/5/090327191304/:


inspiration
The second example uses Webspiration as a group brainstorming platform. The advantages of Webspiration are that it is free and the concept map can be edited by multiple people through sharing. In a class where we had to design a lesson for a particular group of students using collaborative activities, my group chose to create a lesson on what it means to be a green citizen. It was targeted at the high school level. We all contributed to the resulting concept map shown below which was used to design the Green Citizen wiki and website that students would use to create their projects. This is a great example of how concept maps can be used by students working on group projects to get organized and come to consensus on the direction of their projects.

Here is the Webspiration map for the Green Citizen project (pbwiki:
http://greencitizen.pbworks.com/, website: http://sites.google.com/site/greenhs4052/home):



The third and final example is a Kidspiration project I designed for a second grade class at my student teaching placement. They were beginning a unit on New York City and specifically transportation today and at the turn of the 20th century in NYC. They would be visiting the NYC Transit Museum and this lesson was to be an introduction to the NYC subway system. The students had not been exposed to Kidspiration before so I created several templates for them to use. The students were divided into groups of three and assigned a subway line by color. This allowed me to differentiate the lesson as some lines are easier than others. The students would be identifying end points, numbers or letters associated with the line, the original line company (IRT, BMT or IND), important sights along the line and the boroughs through which the line passes.

Here is a picture of the completed template for the Green line:

kidspiration

PowerPoint: A New Perspective

I spoke briefly about this in my post on Web Accessibility Resources, but I wanted to expand on it here. In my original post, I wrote:

"Powerpointlessness - I love it! Until reading Scoring Powerpoints, I have generally been of the opinion that Powerpoints should never be used in the classroom as a way to say "I'm integrating technology". While still true, I do see now the benefits of helping students prepare effective Powerpoint presentations with accompanying supportive documentation since remains a critical skill in the 21st century. But, it can not be the only tool used by students! If you want to explore some of the ways that Powerpoint can be used effectively in the classroom, here are some Powerpoint Tutorials to get you started: Powerpoint in the Classroom, Internet for Classrooms."

That was before I completed my Interactive Powerpoint Assignment for class. I have created many a PowerPoint (or StarOffice Impress) presentation over the course of my career but I have never created one that was designed to be used as an interactive lesson. It proved to be an interesting and motivating challenge. The mindset in creating a presentation of this format is very different than a presentation one creates with the intent of a speaker using it as supporting documentation. The interactive PowerPoint needs to be a standalone module that interacts with all students regardless of any limiting disabilities (unable to read, hearing impairments, sight impairments, etc...) they may have. I had intended to actually use this lesson with a 1st grade class at my student teaching placement but it was rejected as it didn't fall within their curriculum guidelines or methodologies. In any event, I enjoyed creating it and would like to share it with you. Feel free to use in your own class. The link below allows you to download the PowerPoint show. If you would like the editable version, just let me know.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Interactive & Accessible PowerPoint

You can also take a look at the accompanying documentation designed for teachers which explains the lesson's goals, curriculum standards met, and differentiated instruction/accomodations. The document also contains numerous resources and citations.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Interactive PowerPoint Teacher Supplement


Finally, I have one more tutorial to share with you from the Florida Gulf Coast University. I hope that using the tutorial and samples provided you will be able to create your own fully accessible and equitable interactive PowerPoint lessons for your students. If you do, please share. I would love to see your creations.

Serious Games

Serious Games are a category of educationally focused games, activities and virtual worlds that are designed to help students think critically while they believe that they are "just having fun". You might also hear these games called "Games for Change." In this editorial by Suzanne Seggerman, she ponders whether Obama Plays Video Games? given the impact that these games can have on promoting change and engagement.

There are quite a number of these serious games that have popped up and I wanted to share some of them with you. Here are some games that I find particularly interesting:

Peacemaker - A game about the conflict between Israelis and Palestianians
Food Force - Fighting global poverty
Free Rice - A vocabulary game that donates 20 grains of rice for every correct answer
Peace Corps Challenge Online Game - Addressing issues of sanitation, microfinance, education, women's issues, water contamination and more
Play The News - Changing news consumption from passive reading to active engagement

To read more about these and other games check out "How Internet Games and Virtual Worlds Can Help You Deliver a More Global Education" by Laura Adriance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

RSS Feeds and Education

I’ve been a long time user of RSS feeds but only recently discovered a way to keep up on the RSS feeds that I follow.

I largely use Google Reader as my RSS reader however I do use FreeRange on my cell phone quite often as each of the sites below will note. I have occasionally also used the Windows Vista gadget to monitor feeds.

And now, here is a list of my ten favorite educationally related feeds.


1. A Life Without Limits – Rolling Into the Future

Blog: http://alifewithoutlimitsrollinintothefuture.blogspot.com/

Feed: http://alifewithoutlimitsrollinintothefuture.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Description: Debbie, an individual with a disability, maintains her own blog to push past the stereotypes and inspire others to pursue their dreams “no matter what.”

Justification for selecting this one: I was actually searching for a blog written by someone with cerebral palsy to prove that there are people with this disease who are doing it. I wanted to find hope and motivation for my cousin Josh who has CP. While I don’t know what Debbie’s disability is exactly, I thought the point was made that technology transcends disability and breaks down barriers of communication for all.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader.

2. Assistive Technology

Blog: http://assistivetek.blogspot.com/

Feed: http://assistivetek.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Description: A blog “on the topic of assistive technology, eLearning, mind mapping, project management, visual learning, collaborative tools, and educational technology.”

Justification for selecting this one: Since my area of focus is educational technology, I wanted to find a feed to follow that would identify appropriate uses of adaptive technology in education. It just so happens that the author of this blog, Brian Friedlander, is my husband’s cousin and I have been following his blog since he posted a recent update on Facebook.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader.

3. Mike Saggese’s Blog @ 508 Portal

Blog: http://www.508portal.com/?q=blog/555

Feed: http://www.508portal.com/?q=blog/555/feed

Description: TecAccess is an accessibility consultancy practice who maintains an accessibility and disability community blog. The blog spans at range of topics from “accessible technology and Section 508 to the business case for accessibility.”

Justification for selecting this one: While the blog clearly has its own agenda (selling it’s consultancy services), I found the posts to be interesting and relevant to bringing equity into the classroom.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader.

4. No Limits to Learning

Blog: http://nolimitstolearning.blogspot.com/

Feed: http://nolimitstolearning.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Description: The tagline for this blog says “celebrating human potential through assistive technology” and the author of the blog invites readers to comment on children, disabilities, assistive technology and education.

Justification for selecting this one: I found this site in searching for adaptive technology but it captured my attention through several posts on the use of Wii as an assistive technology. I am strong proponent that the Wii motion control should be embraced as a way to enable greater accessibility in education.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader.

General Education Interest

5. Cool Cat Teacher

Blog: http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/

Feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/CoolCatTeacherBlog

Description: Cool Cat Teacher’s philosophy is “teaching content with new tools, enthusiasm, and the belief that teaching is a noble calling.”

Justification for selecting this one: I found this site while looking at the blogroll of another blog that I follow and I am continually impressed by the interesting posts and technology integration discussions. I also really like the “Daily Spotlight on Education” series because it provides nuggets of information in a short post.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader.

6. EdTechTalk’s 21st Century Learning

Podcast: http://www.edtechtalk.com/taxonomy/term/9

Feed: http://www.edtechtalk.com/taxonomy/term/9/0/feed

Description: A web radio show that explores the intersection of education and technology.

Justification for selecting this one: I’m a big fan of EdTechTalk, a platform that hosts numerous podcasts for their community of educators interested in discussing and learning about the uses of educational technology. I picked the 21st Century Learning show to highlight since it meshes with my passion for utilizing Web 2.0 tools in the classroom.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader.

7. The Clever Sheep

Blog: http://thecleversheep.blogspot.com/

Feed: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/TheCleverSheep

Description: The author is a teacher who has self-proclaimed using media and other communication technologies in education for years. The blog desires to engage in meaningful conversations with other educators who also see themselves as learners.

Justification for selecting this one: This site is a new acquisition to my collection of blogs that I follow but I’ve been impressed with the informative nature of the posts so far. I’ve predominately read this thread on my phone and found myself sending posts to email for later follow-up. To me, this is a sign that the blog is worthwhile.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader.

8. The Power of Educational Technology

Blog: http://edtechpower.blogspot.com/

Feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePowerOfEducationalTechnology

Description: Liz Davis is the director of academic technology at an independent school near Boston. She is very active among the community of educational technologists and her blog postings inspire other educators to integrate technology in the classroom.

Justification for selecting this one: This was the very first blog that I began following. I found it through my network of educators on Twitter and quickly became a fan. She provides interesting and useful links to educational software tools and inspiring stories of successful classroom implementations. Additionally, her blog serves as a professional learning community through its various followers and associated comments.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader. In addition to these methods, I also get blog post updates delivered directly to my email.

9. LParisi’s Twitter Stream

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lparisi

Feed: http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/6212782.rss

Description: Lisa Parisi is a 5th grade teacher on Long Island who has created an environment in her classroom that is both respectful and collaborative. They use project-based learning approaches and lots of technology integration.

Justification for selecting this one: I spent half of my observation hours observing in Lisa’s classroom and I am supremely impressed with the levels of achievement and engagement by her students. I have chosen to profile Lisa’s twitter feed rather than her blog because quite frankly she updates Twitter a lot more frequently.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader. While I could use any number of Twitter clients to follow this feed, using a feed reader ensures that I don’t miss any.

9. Technology on CNN

Website: http://www.cnn.com/TECH/?eref=rss_tech

Feed: http://rss.cnn.com/rss/cnn_tech.rss

Description: This is CNN’s online Technology section, kind of like the Science section in the Tuesday Times. It provides an overview of the latest and greatest news reports on technology.

Justification for selecting this one: I’ve included this thread here as a reminder that it is always important to keep up to date on your content area of specialist. As an educational technology specialist, I need to keep pace on the latest trends in technology and not just the latest trends in educational technology.

Format Received: I use Google Reader as the method by which I get updates posted to this feed. I also use FreeRange on my cell phone. Free Range is a mobile application that presents the contents of feeds provided by Google Reader.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Computer Accessibility Resources

I spoke earlier about Web Accessibility Resources, but now it's time to think about Computer Accessible Resources. This includes any hardware or software features built into your computer and discuss possible computer add-ons that help make computers more accessible. Inevitably, this discussion leads to a debate of PC vs. Mac. I have been a PC user for years but I won't dismiss the fact that Apple has some very nice features included on the Mac that make it ideal for some applications (as in uses, not software), and even some schools. That being said, the PC seemingly is much better equipped for individuals with special needs than the Mac. To begin with, here is a testimonal on the PC advantage.

Beyond that, Microsoft has provided a wealth of resources about the accessibility features it offers - much more than Apple provides. Here is Apple's stance on accessibility. That''s it? Ok, sure, they say they have all these features but there is no additional supporting documentation. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

Microsoft, on the other hand (for all my complaining about its faults) has done a great job on this aspect. To begin with you can watch video demonstrations of four aspects of accessibility (Display and Appearance, Sounds and Speech, Keyboard and Mouse, and Accessibility Wizard). Then, jump on over to Microsoft's main accessibility page to see Fact Sheets and Tutorials for Windows, Office and Internet Explorer of various versions. If you really want to get down and dirty, check out Accessibility Technology: A Guide for Educators which also includes an Assistive Technology Decision Tree, some research reports on the topic and a great breakdown of assistive technologies by impairment.

Finally, although not solely focused on computer accessibility, eSchool News is a great resources for teachers.