Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Journal 9: Reading Redefined for a Transmedia Universe (NETS-T 5)

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and Leading With Technology39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/digital-edition-november-2011.aspx

 The article "Reading Redefined for a Transmedia Universe" by Annette Lamb attempts to find a definition of "reading" and "books" that includes the many new kinds of reading activities and materials that have become increasingly popular among children, adults, and classrooms.  The term "reading" is redefined as "constructing meaning from symbols."  This allows not only text, but graphics, sounds, and movements to be considered reading as well.  The term "books" is redefined as "published collection of related pages or screens," which includes computerized books and books made to be read on tablets, iPads, or smart phones.  Lamb goes on to describe some of the benefits of computerized books, such as the ability to have words or phrases played aloud from the computer or tablet, helping children with pronunciation, virtual bookmarking, visual aids, and learning activities to accompany the reading lesson.  Lamb explains that such methods of reading would benefit children in the classroom, and that teachers would not have to rearrange their curriculum to add this technology, but simply decide which tools would go best with their existing lessons.  
Q.  How would computerized books and reading on tablets or iPads help engage students who claim they don't like reading printed books?

A.  Transmedia reading includes many tools to engage students that printed books do not.  Audio to supplement the reading, graphics, videos, and learning activities are some of the things that commonly accompany e-books and help keep students engaged.

Q. What kinds of disadvantages, if any, to transmedia reading exist?

A. While all of the supplemental audio and visual aids can help students engage in their lessons, some students my be distracted.  Also, different learning preferences need to be taken into consideration.  Some students may not retain information read on a tablet or a computer as well as if they were to read it in a regular book.  Students may feel they are more engaged when reading a book and taking handwritten notes.  Transmedia reading has lots of advantages and is great in many respects, but it should not be considered a perfect system, as individual needs and preferences need to be taking into consideration. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

NETS-T Mind Mapping

NETS-T III: This Mind Map models digital-age work and learning by utilizing a tool that is commonly recommended for students to use during writing assignments and creating a digital image that can be shared. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Journal 8: Adaptive Technology


Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is any way of communicating other than through spoken language, such as through the use of writing, signs, symbols, facial expressions, or communication aid tools.  While we all utilize such methods of communication every day, AAC is most prevalent among those who are unable to speak, hear, or otherwise communication through spoken language.

Low-Tech Communication Tools

The most commonly used AAC tool is one that requires no technology: sign language.  Those who lack spoken language can communicate exactly what want to say through the use of sign language.  Sign language is also commonly used by children and adults who have mental and/or physical disabilities.  An incredible advantage to sign language is that it can be used easily in classrooms that are integrated with both mainstream and special needs students.  Teachers who are fluent in sign language can sign lessons as they are teaching them, assuring that deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students are able to follow along, while not taking away from other student's class time.

Another commonly used low-tech AAC tool is the picture exchange communication system (PECS).  PECS was originally conceived in 1985 as a tool to aid individuals with autism spectrum disorder, and has since become a integral part of communication with people who have a wide variety of disabilities.  PECS involves the the student learning how to use picture based cards to ask for or specific things are to communicate ideas.

 What Is PECS?

  The system requires a communication partner who also understand PECS and can honor the requests made through the cards.  Students using PECS begin their studies by learning how to use one card at a time to ask for specific items or to do specific activities.  The students then learn how to create simple sentences by using several cards at once. They also learn how to answer questions and to describe their surroundings and what they are feeling.  PECS is commonly used in classrooms as it allows students and teachers to easily communicate with each other without disrupting students who do not use the system.

High-Tech Communication Tool
DynaVox is an example of a very high-tech AAC tool.  DynaVox is a speech generating device, what allows those with limited or no speech to generate messages and have those messages spoke from the device in a computerized voice.  This device is very effective for many people with language disabilities, as it is very versatile in that it responds to several different forms of inputting messages.  The DynaVox will create a spoken message from a picture that is tapped by the user or a message that is typed into the keyboard, but can also track eye movement and puffs of air.  The latter two capabilities are extremely useful for those with severe physical handicaps, as they are not always able to successfully select pictures or type on a keyboard.  This tool would be very effective in the classroom because listener would not necessarily need to be proficient in the workings of the devise.  Most teachers and aids would be able to communicate with a DynaVox user very easily, regardless of their handicap.


Input devices are tools used to input information into computers, such as keyboards, scanners, and mice.  However, certain tools are specifically made for those with disabilities that affect language and communication.

A hardware device that provides aid to those with disabilities that affect motor skills is the IntelliKeys keyboard.  This keyboard works similarly any regular keyboard would, but it has an increased surface area and more space in between keys, making it easier to hit the correct key more consistently.  The IntelliKeys keyboard can be connected to any computer through its USB port, making it easily usable on school computers.

A software device that is intended to help those with physical and cognitive disabilities is the Word Prediction software.  This software predicts words that are being typed based on the first few letters of the word.  A drop-down list of possible words appears and the desired word can be selected.  This software decreases the number of keystrokes that need to be make in order to type a desired message, and therefore decreases the number of mistakes made.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Journal 7: My Personal Learning Network

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is one's web of friends, acquaintances, professionals, and resources centered around improving oneself as an educator.  There are many different ways one can build their PLN;  a few of the tools I incorporate in my PLN are Twitter, Blogger, Diigo, The Educator's PLN, and Classroom 2.0.

One of the tools that I use most often to expand my PLN  is Twitter.  Following specific topics such as "#edchat," "#ntchat," and and "#sped," allow me to see other educators in the Twitter community and the things they post.  Often times the postings of these educators are related to topics I am interested in and I can use their resources to learn and share with my online community.  In addition to my fellow technology classmates, I am following several educators in various fields from around the country.

My Twitter network includes principals, teachers, former teachers, parents of special needs children, educators focused on incorporating technology into the classroom, and other aspiring educators like myself.  All of the people I follow regularly post articles or links to tools they find interesting or helpful.  I frequently investigate these resources, and often "retweet" them to my followers.

An additional feature of Twitter that I have become increasingly involved with is the concept of "chats."  Chats are congregations of people who want to engage in an online conversation about a certain topic by posting with a specific hash-tag at an agreed upon date and time.  I recently participated in "#Edchat," a popular chat for educators and those interested in education that covers a wide range of topics from chat to chat.  I participated in #Edchat on 11/1/11 at 9:00 P.M. PST.  The topic of the chat was "Is the rift often found between IT people and classroom teachers a real issue?"  Many people had differing views on this topic, largely based on widely varying personal experience with working with IT people in either a positive or negative manner.  There were disagreements during the discussion, but they remained civil and participants were open to other viewpoints than their own.  It was interesting to see so many people with such different backgrounds and experiences participate in a discussion and share their thoughts on an issue that many educators struggle with.

This instantaneous flow of information among people with similar interests is an incredible tool for teachers and anyone aspiring to be an educator.  For example, if I as a teacher in a special education classroom had a question about how to engage high-behavior students in learning activities, I could simply "tweet" this concern to my network on Twitter with several relevant hash-tags and I would likely receive many responses from educators with experience in the area.  Accessing such information from people from around the world is a surprisingly simple task when using tools such as Twitter.

Another tool I often use when searching for resources is Diigo.  Diigo is a social bookmarking tool that allows me to create a library of resources I find on the internet that I find interesting and want to access later.  "Tags" can be attached to these websites, articles, or tools, which allow others to see what I have found when searching for that specific tag.  Conversely, I can search various tags and see what others have added to their library.  If there is a Diigo user with whom I share similar interests, I can follow that user and stay aware of interesting resources they find and learn from them, not unlike the way in which I follow users on Twitter.  I follow several educators on Diigo, all of whom regularly add relevant resources to their library.  I often find interesting resources in the library of a user I am following and after researching it, share it with my Twitter or Facebook network.  Upon finding a resource I find helpful or that I think others will benefit from, I give it a "PLN" tag.  This allows me to build a wealth of resources that I refer back to and share with my various networks.

In addition to Twitter and Diigo, I have recently joined the Educator's PLN, a social network created through Ning.  Upon joining EduPLN, I created my profile and began searching for people and resources.  Several of the people who I follow on Twitter and Diigo are also part of the EduPLN community.  The latest article I read on EduPLN was written by a Twitter user who I avidly follow, Lisa Dabbs, also know as TeachingWithSoul.  She is the founder of the New Teacher chat on Twitter (#ntchat), as well as The Teacher Mentoring Project, which was the topic of this specific article.  Ms. Dabbs created this online group project with the hopes of helping new teachers implement the many things they are learning in the first years of their teaching careers.  She made the point that new teachers are often very enthusiastic about new ideas and concepts to utilize in their classrooms, but they often are overwhelmed all the things that come with being first, second, and third year teachers.  This often leads to those exciting ideas being pushed to the wayside.  The Teacher Mentoring Project is aimed at opening lines of communication between new teachers and more experienced teachers who may be able to help them figure out ways of implementing all of the new and exciting things they are learning about, while staying up on their responsibilities as new teachers.  Ms. Dabbs points out that the benefits of this project go two ways.  Not only are the "mentees" helped by the guidance of the experienced teachers, the mentors are also enhancing their teaching skills and developing both personally and professionally.  The article can be found here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Journal 6 - Google+: The complete guide/Educators - Google Plus is for you

Parr, B. (2011, July 16). Google+: The complete guide. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/07/16/google-plus-guide/
The article  Google+: The complete guide, by Ben Parr gives a thorough description and explanation of Google+ and how it works.  The author starts off by stating that he the article is not meant to promote Google+, but merely to answer the question, "why would anyone want to use Google+."  Parr does just that.  Much of the article is comparing Google+ features to Facebook features, which is appropriate enough since just about everyone has a Facebook and is using it as a benchmark anyway.  Parr goes on to breakdown the different aspects of Google+ and describe their purpose, what makes them unique, and how one would go about using them.  For example, he explains the concept of "circles," one of the defining features of Google+.  He compares this feature to following someone on Twitter (in that following someone doesn't require them to follow back) as well as Facebook (in that streams of information are shared with and received from one's circles).  The article is very detailed, and would be useful to anyone who is new to Google+ and not familiar with its ways of functioning. 

Q - How might Google+ be a better educational tool than some of the other popular social media networks?
A - One aspect that could make Google+ more educator-friendly is the ability to separate one's various social circles in the same account.  Educators often describe having to have more than one Facebook or Twitter account: one for their personal use and one they can share with the students and co-workers.  With Google+ those different groups can be easily separated without having to create a separate account.  With "circles," one can group certain people together (business associates, family, students, friends, ect.) and share information with only the desired circles.  This could allow educators to better connect with his or her students by having all of his or her contacts in one place. 

Brogan, C. (2011, Sept 30). Educators – Google Plus is for you. Retrieved from http://www.chrisbrogan.com/gpluseducators/

The article Educators – Google Plus is for you, by Chris Brogan is written specifically for teachers and educators, and explains why Google+ is a great tool to use in the classroom.  In a step-by-step fashion, Brogan explains how to use the "circles" feature on Google+.  He also elaborates on the "hangout" feature of Google+, which is similar to a video-chat room, without the need for a specific invitation.  Brogan describes several different uses for "hangouts," such as virtual class time and accessibility to other educators on Google+ who can add to a class' educational experience.  With this article, Brogan clearly endorses the use of Google+ in the classroom, and encourages teachers and educators to utilize the tools it has to offer. 

Q - Could Google+ allow parents to be more involved in their children's classes and education?

A - Since Google+ is free, teachers could easily encourage parents to create accounts and be involved in the online portion of their children's classes.  Posting homework assignments and lessons online could give parents the opportunity to be more aware of what their child should be doing at home, and even make them better prepared to help their child.  


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Journal 4 - It's In The Bag (NETS-T 2)

Basham, J. D., Perry, E., & Meyer, H. (2011). It's in the bag. Learning and Leading with Technology, 39(2), 24-27. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/digital-edition-september-october-2011.aspx

In the article It's In The Bag, by James Basham, Ernest Perry, and Helen Meyer, the concept of a "digital backpack" is explained. The authors explain that the University of Cincinnati partnered with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Apple to design a toolkit which features digital tools for students to use in their classes. These digital backpacks are based on a UDL (Universal Design for Learning), which allows students with a range of academic abilities and technological experiences to utilize their digital tools as they need. The backpacks are also equipped with specific educational frameworks for the teacher to incorporate into their curriculum.  The article goes on to describe field testing of the backpacks with different grade levels, as well as tips for educators wanting to create their own digital backpacks for their students.

Q - How can a school that has been impacted by budget cuts utilize the concept of a digital backpack in its classrooms?

A - Teachers and principals could look for online tools, many of which are free, to use in the classroom.  Most schools have access to at least at few computers, so being aware of what resources are available for educators and students to use will make it easier to implement digital tools into the curriculum. 

Q - How can digital backpacks encourage students to participate in lifelong learning?

A - The tools and skills that the students learn utilizing their digital backpack will be generalizable to future grade levels and assignments.  Also, becoming acquainted with these digital tools serves as a building block to future technology learning.  If students become familiar with technology at a younger age, then they will be more likely to continue using technology throughout their educational careers and into their adult lives.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Journal 3 - Students Dig Up Dirt (NETS-T 4)

Morehouse, J. (2011). Students dig up dirt to learn about internet safety. Learning and Leading with Technology, 39(2), 34-35. Retrieved from http://www.learningandleading-digital.com/learning_leading/20110910?pg=36

The article Students Dig Up Dirt To Learn About Internet Safety, by Jesse Morehouse, describes one of the ways in which technology students can learn about internet safety and appropriate internet behavior.  Morehouse, a high school technology teacher, explains that he always spends a portion of his class teaching about internet safety, but that in the past he struggled to get the students engaged.  Morehouse came up with a lesson plan that involves "data mining," which involves seeking out public information about a specific person based on what information they provide about themselves online.  Morehouse explains that his students are always shocked by how much they can find out about a person based on a very limited amount of know information.  This hands on approach helps students realize how much other people can find out about them, and hopefully prompts them to take a second look at the information they provide on their Facebooks, or other social media networks.

Q - Why is it important for teachers to instruct students in the area of internet safety instead of leaving it up to parents?

A - Since technology is a quickly growing field, and many students are already more technology savvy than their teachers, many schools have decided to incorporate technology into the classroom and lesson plans.  If teachers are bringing technology into the lives of his or her students, then they must also instruct those students on how to utilize that technology safely.  Of course, in an ideal world the parent would talk to their children about all the things they will encounter growing up, but this is just not the case.  Many parents are not aware of the technology their children are using, or how to use it themselves.  Therefore, it is important for teachers to supplement what their students are learning at home about internet safety. 

Q -Some may argue that acknowledging that students have Facebooks and helping them monitor the information made available on them will send the message that Facebook is an appropriate activity for the classroom.  How can teachers teach about safely using Facebook without condoning its use in the school?

A - Teachers can generalize these safety protocols to many tools and networks that can be found on the internet, including educational chat rooms and discussion forums, therefore the tips for being safe on the internet are not exclusive to Facebook.  Even so, the fact that most teenagers and young adults have a Facebook is common knowledge, and explaining the most important do-s and don't-s of internet safety in terms of Facebook will help make the information relevant for the students, increasing the probability that they will be interested and engaged.