Monday, December 21, 2009

A Values/Life Skills Multimedia Strategy

Hi all,

Just in case anyone is curious about our final project, I thought I would share the details with you here. Working with Ms. Chiu at the Cooke Center, a school for children with special needs, my group designed a multimedia strategy that would allow her to use video, audio and visual materials to supplement her existing curriculum. Ms. Chiu designs her units in 2-3 week intervals based on various values and life skills that the students in her class need to obtain.

Feel free to peruse our strategy and associated resources.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


On December 3, the UN appoints Stevie Wonder as the new Messenger of Peace on International Disability Day. This is a great step in the right direction towards accessibility for all.

To that end, I wanted to introduce you to Edutopia, the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Their mission is to highlight what works in public education and focus on six areas of development: Comprehensive Assessment, Integrated Studies, Project Learning, Social and Emotional Learning, Teacher Development and Technology Integration.

They have a huge collection of videos that profile teachers, students and other models of successful education. Here are few inspiring stories related to assistive technology. But, there are lots more so check out Edutopia!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Quotable Quotes

For my final blog posting (for this class anyway), I was asked to provide a quote that reflects my view of technology. Well, I couldn't choose just 1 so here are my top 5 quotes.
  1. "This is perhaps the most beautiful time in human history; it is really pregnant with all kinds of creative possibilities made possible by science and technology which now constitute the slave of man - if man is not enslaved by it." ~Jonas Salk
  2. "The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential." ~Steve Ballmer
  3. "Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer, deserves to be." ~David Thornburg*
  4. "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." ~John Dewey*
  5. “Students today are raised on technology, fundamentally changing the educational environment and how students interact, learn and share. Continued focus on eliminating barriers to education by leveraging technology and the network will help bridge the digital divide and deliver world-class education to everyone. Today's students are the leaders of tomorrow and it is our duty to provide the education they need to shape the future.” ~Scott McNealy
I hope that you enjoyed my blog postings this semester. While I can't guarantee that I will post as regularly going forward, I do plan to maintain this blog for all things related to adaptive technology and education. So, see you soon!

*Came from a slideshow on Education & Technology quotes. I picked two but there were lots of great other quotes which are also relevant.

Funding and a collection of AT resources

Before you can implement many of the suggestions made throughout this blog, you'll need money. Lots and lots of money. So, here a few links that address funding issues to get you started.
The rest is a catch-all post for an assortment of resources that didn't fit anywhere else. Check them out when you get a chance...
I hope these will be helpful as you add to your AT repertoire.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Adaptive Technology for Classroom Use

There are so many interesting topics in the area of Adaptive Technology that it's hard to know where to start. But, the important thing is that you DO start. Listen to this video of several students explaining why it is so important to figure out how to include all students in the classroom. See the list of AT devices referred to in the video.

So, what is the best way to start thinking about AT devices that are appropriate? A general rule of thumb is to look at low-tech and mid-tech options first. Some good places to start include:
This video highlights some low-tech alternative that helps students and others to live more independently:

Beyond this, there are some higher tech AT devices which may be appropriate. It's always important to remember, however, that each student should be evaluated prior to AT recommendations to ensure the correct match and effectiveness. Trial usage of AT devices should also be encouraged, as available. There are two main categories that I will discuss with regard to AT devices: Adaptive Input & Augmentative Communication.

Adaptive Input - These AT devices generally include alternatives keyboards and mice, and other input methods. There are also Adaptive Output devices such as screen readers and braille printers. Check out this interactive presentation highlighting many of the available adaptive input devices. Here are some additional resources on the subject:

To introduce what I mean by Augmentative Communication, here is a video from one teacher explaining how technology has helped her improve the ability of her students to learn and communicate:

Adaptive and Augmentative Communication (AAC) - This area of AT devices encompasses the technology that allows students to be more active participants through alternative means of communication. This 30 minute AAC video highlights many of the devices available today. Other resources include:

To wrap up, you can find lots more resources at NATRI, the National Assistive Technology Research Institute including a segment on how AT services can go awry. This is useful as you prepare to utilize these technologies in the classroom. Another great resource is this Assistive Technology Implementation Plan that should be used as part of an IEP to ensure that students get what they need to be successful.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Kurzweil

This exercise asked us to explore a popular tool in the world of literacy and learning support known as Kurzweil 3000, or just "The Kurzweil". You can request a 30-day demo CD from their website. So, I took it for a spin.

First of all, I was quite frustrated with the installation process. The first time I tried to install it I was told that I had to restart my computer before it would work. Well, I have about a dozen different things open that I was not prepared to shut down. So, I tried my backup computer but alas I have no speakers on that computer and it didn't want to work through the sound card. Then, I tried my laptop but I didn't have enough space on C and it wouldn't let me install to D. So, back to the first computer, write down what's open, shut everything down, install, restart and finally use Kurzweil.

I then opened the Reading for Math.kes file provided by our teacher, a document that had already been scanned in. I went through the tutorials provided which basically showed me how to move around the tool bars and then began the process of trying to add a text note. The tutorials did not go through that so I checked the help menu. The help menu said to go to the "Study Skills Training" tool bar. Guess what? That's not where it is. It's actually under "Test Preparation". Anyway, I added several text notes to indicate where the student should fill in the form and what data was being requested. The text notes were next to name and questions 1-3, 5 & 6.

Question 4 asked the student to circle items in the picture shown.

The question is: How can a student do this within the program (or can they?). And, the answer is, yes they can but only after some edits are made by the teacher. As is, the student would not be able to use the circle tool on the "Basic" toolbar because the picture is not one of the zones. So, using Zone Edit (which I learned about from the video) I made the crayons into a zone. The students would now be able to circle the number of crayons the question is asking for.

So, yes it's possible. Finally, I added a bubble note to be read before the first question. This allowed me to review the task and ask the student to consider the appropriate strategy to use to solve the problems. The bubble note allows you to request input from the student but doesn't provide a mechanism for stating whether the selected answer is correct. Another flaw that I noted is that while you can slow the speed at which the program reads, there seems to be no way to add appropriate pauses or interjections. It just continues to read as if it were one long block of text.

I think that more exploration of this tool would be necessary to use it in real classrooms with actual students but I do see potential for this as a useful tool for some.

Interactive Whiteboards: Markers & Chalk Be Gone!

Interactive Whiteboards, often referred to by the brand name "SmartBoard", are the greatest thing since desks and notebooks in the world of education. When I first heard about them, I wasn't sure about them being more than a glorified projection screen. But, that was until I saw them in use. Now, I can't imagine classrooms without them.

One of the things that makes these SMART Boards so powerful is the SMART Notebook software that accompanies it. The first thing you should do is download the software and play around with it, although you'll need to get a license number from your school for the installation. There is a plethora of training materials that will help you get started on the Smart technologies site. To learn more about effective uses in the classroom, check out this great review of recent literature on the use of Interactive Whiteboards in education. Also, check out this profile of a district in Westchester using SmartBoards.

In addition to the standard tools that come "out of the box" with SMART Boards, there are a number of companies that are making tools and software that compliment the system. Check out TEQ's Education Resource Center for an assortment of complimentary tools and visualizers by Samsung. There are many manufacturers of these document cameras but the Samsung visualizer is one of the smallest. There are also "clickers" that work in conjunction with these interactive whiteboards. SMART Response and SMART Response LE (formerly Senteo) are available from SMART Technologies. These clickers provide a more interactive environment for students and allow teachers to assess student's prior knowledge or effectiveness of a lesson. Finally, it might be useful to consider a projector mount
(again, many manufacturers make these) if you have an older SMART Board without the projector built in. This will help ensure a safer and more effective classroom environment if your facility is capable of wiring the connected computer through the ceiling tiles or other concealed areas.

Finally, there is a reason that I chose to name this post "Interactive Whiteboards" rather than "SmartBoards." SMART technologies can be expensive which is a serious consideration for schools and districts with limited technology budgets. An alternative favorite of mine is the Wiimote Interactive Whiteboard that you can create yourself. If you check out Johnny Lee’s website he describes the project (Low-Cost Multi-point Interactive Whiteboards Using the Wiimote). I actually created a lesson plan for an engineering class around this where they make the pens themselves. However, if you don’t want to take the time or effort and are just looking for a cost-effective alternative to SmartBoards there are plenty of pens you can buy yourself. Penteractive sell pens and other accessories. sells software similar to SMART Notebook. There is actually a whole development community around this project so there is lots of exploration you do. Check out the Wiimote Project Forum for more information.

For our final project, my group has decided to present a multimedia strategy to the teachers at Cooke Center in the form of a SMART Notebook file. See a future post for information on how we created this file, how it can be shared with other teachers, and how it can be used to create interactive lessons.

Using Storyboards in the Classroom

Storyboards are useful for helping students visualization content they are studying and there are several ways that they can be used in the classroom. The first way was demonstrated in my PhotoStory posting of Shel Silverstein's "Where The Sidewalk Ends." Teachers can either prepare these in advance for students to use, or students might actually create these storyboards themselves.

This handout describes Visual Think-Alouds and a process by which you can help students get started. You will also want to help students locate images and music that they can use in their digital storyboards. Here are some resources that you can share with your students:
Finally, this pdf document provides a simple Tutorial for getting started with PhotoStory.

Another way of thinking about storyboards is that they are alternative methods for "reading". For individuals with visual impairments or learning disabilities, there are many resources that provide books in alternative formats. Here is a sampling of e-Text providers:
For a master list of these sites and more detail about each, check the resources page. Finally, here is a list of some additional resources to explore:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

All About Boardmaker

Boardmaker is a new software tool that was introduced to me recently. Unfortunately, it is not free but I was able to use it with a semesterware license. The idea behind Boardmaker is that you can help students by presenting information visually and associating it with words to help them learn.

I remember that my cousin Josh used boards similar to this when he was younger to help him communicate what he wanted or needed. I definitely see the benefit that this assistive technology can bring to students and others with disabilities.

Our assignment for Boardmaker was to create a "Memory" game for visual discrimination. We had to select an object and make 2 sets of 10 images that were varied in one way or another: rotated, flipped, color change, lines added, etc. I choose a Tennis theme because I could easily visualize the racket and ball in numerous positions. I also thought that this board could be easily adapted to discuss various tennis terms like overhand, backhand, net shot, practice, and love by simply changing the word "Tennis" above the image to the appropriate term. Here is a picture of what my Board looked like:

If you want to get started with Boardmaker, and are lucky enough to have access to the software, here are some tutorials that might help:
Remember, you can always use low-tech options if you don't have access to software or other technology devices!