In Jurkowski, I can't really decide between either the chapter on Professional Development or the one on School Library Websites. We are already using BrainPop and UnitedStreaming in our school environment, but I found the other sites recommend in the Prof. Dev. chapter to be very interesting. Some require a subscription fee after the trial period, but I am considering recommending some of these to our district. The School Library website provided me with many good suggestions for setting up and maintaining a site which is both professional, interesting for students and attractive. Our current school website has actually covered all four of the priorities list which Jurkowski recommends. In Courtney, I enjoyed the Podcasting chapter. I have had little experience in this area and this chapter provided some practical suggestion for uses and a list of websites available for further information.
The first paragraph mentioned that October is Disability Awareness Month. At our school, our wonderful team in the Special Ed department actually celebrates quite extensively. One item they run is the MD (multiply disabled) cafe where the students in the program run a cafe for a day. Faculty members come in during their break to purchase items that these special students have made. Food items, handmade crafts, personally illustrated writing papers, and flowers/plants grown by these students are offered for sale. Proceeds from this day go to fund field trips for the students in the program. Next, I reviewed the lessons plans. I was very impressed. In fact, I would like to add disabilities as a topic for my sophomore research paper. Currently, they are required to write on a social issue, but I think that having them research a disability might actually help them to be more understanding and sympathetic towards these students in our school and community. Some of the links I attempted to follow were not working. What have I learned? I think these activities have made me much more cognizant of the difficulties faced by those who are disabled. I will definitely speak to our teachers from the Special Education department about the tutorial and provide them links to the sites. Lastly, I'll provide a link to the site here: I hope others will find the site as helpful as I did. Hopefully, this time my link will work: http://www.librarything.com/catalog/CSLA2Team
My husband and I will be away next weekend for our 30th anniversay (it was last year but we never got away then) so I am posting this early. The document attached to this week's assignments provided very useful sites for future exploration. I reviewed the Digital Citizenship WIKI which listed many good suggestions for teachable moments. I was not surprised that in their survey of middle schoolers, over 13% had participated in a sex chat and over 8% were involved with nude photos. We are having a great deal of trouble in our school with these issues. I also was impressed by the Stop Bullying website, and the Fact Sheet which recommended that students take a "screen shot" to stop harrassment or bullying. These can then be used to prosecute the offenders! I had already viewed the completed all the classroom learning 2 activity 15 exercises in an earlier week, but it was good to see some of them again. The first 2 links in the module 4 were not working; however, the YouTube video on life in a world where disablilities were the norm was impressive. It was upsetting to see what being on the outside might feel like. I was impressed that I got a perfect score on the disability etiquette quiz so at least I am doing something right. I was very surprised to learn that NJ has 17 independent living facilities! I know of 2 near my home. I was disappointed to learn that the only Assistive Technology center is located in Shrewsbury which is pretty far from my home in south/central NJ. The company is called Tech Connections.
I was surprised to find that such a wide range of assistive technology exists for those with ADD/ADHD. Although my original plan to work cooperatively with some of the other teachers from my school will not work out, I have still learned much through these exercises. My school is actually looking to improve technology in the area of special needs students and the school life skills programs, like cooking. They are going to be researching safer, easier to use and access appliances and items of that nature. I shared some of the information from our course, but they are just getting started and won't have their recommendations in place until Spring 2010. As for Mod #3: We were asked to make a rubric to evaluate our resources. I believe that the important items in our rubric would be cost, effectiveness/success, Number of students needing this type of assistance, easy of use, availability to upgrade. I downloaded the 30 day free trial of Inspiration; however, I thought it was very difficult to use. Additionally, I worry about "free" downloads and my laptop which is running Vista. I have had some issues with programs like these and my laptop. Fron what I could see, this program should create organizers like charts and graphs which visual learners find very helpful. I'll keep working on it to see if it gets any easier. When I tried to install the Kurzweil demo, it kept offering to send me a CD version; however, I never could get it to run on my laptop. I figured that I would not receive the CD in time for the course so I did not order that. Next, I looked at all the assistive tech available on my laptop running Vista. I was shocked to learn that I could change the contrast for easier viewing, work with no mouse or an altered one, that I have Speech recognition installed although it apparently takes a while to "train" the system to recognize my voice. I also visited InfoEyes which is a wonderful aid for the visually impaired. I have already asked a librarian a question online for another course, but this actually allowed you to set up an appointment for a live chat. My software selections are posted in a document on our DB, but they are PlayAttention, Watchminder2, BrainBuilder, and the Listening Program.
Most of the Jurkowski chapters listed I had already read so I started with the Microsoft decision tree. The description is very straight forward but I found the tree itself to be really complicated. I guess I'm not much of a visual learner. I had consulted with some of those suggested by Jurkowski, for example, my school Special Education teachers, some Child Study team members, our Media Center Specialists, and the school psychologist. She also suggested including the superintendent and principal as well as possibly a board member. Our school has approximately 1550 students of which 13.2% are classified with special needs. A great number of this population are afflicted with either ADD or ADHD in varying degrees. Unfortunately, none of the sites to which we were directed listed many assistive technologies for this population. My hardware suggestions are listed on our DB, and I attached a document detailing my rationale and answers to the questions. Ironically, as I discussed in the DB posting, our special education department is considering writing a grant this year for the purpose of improving the technology available for our IEP and 504 students. We have begun sharing our findings so, hopefully, I'll have some suggestions for the plan.
Sorry for the late post...I was only released from the hospital late Tuesday evening, and I am really wiped out. I was excited to explore the websites again this week. We have, of course, several disabled students in our school of over 1800 ranging from the very mildly handicapped to one student who visually appears to be a toddler, but who is in fact, high school age. He is wheeled around each day in a modified stroller/high-chair vehicle. He is rarely awake and usually crying when alert. We are all very aware of how lucky we are when we witness disability to this extreme. First, I checked out the universal design section. I watched several of the videos including the one with Ms. Chappel and several on Down's Syndrome, noted as the most common disability. The SD sights were particularly moving since I was told the my last child may be affected with this genetic disorder. Luckily, he was not and is a very bright, happy senior looking at colleges today. I was surprised to learn of all the assistive technology now available, such as the visual headset. In fact, I was fascinated to learn that people with disabilities are now our country's largest minority group. Next, I viewed the famous people with disabilities. I had actually used some of this information previously when teaching the short story "Harrison Bergeron." I had listed the disability and asked the students to guess which "celebrity" suffered from it. They, and I, were fascinated to learn that so many recognizable individuals suffer from disabilities. In our site this week, I found names I could add to my list, like Dan Akroid, a favorite of my son's from Ghostbusters who suffers from dyslexia, not to mention Billy Joel, a personal favorite of mine who suffers from mood disorder. Next, I viewed the National Federation for the Blind website, and I was astonished with the available aides/technologies. Speech synethesizers, like TRiple Talk, Screenless laptops, like Lap Talk. How would I approach Braille if I had a blind student??? Well, I hope that I would be informed of this student before I walked into the classroom so that I could prepare; however, in the real world this doesn't often happen, and with all the demands on teaching, frankly I don't know how I would handle it. If I was given time to prepare, like learning about the student before the summer break, I would spend a great deal of time learning Braille and other accommodations before I got to the classroom. How would I engage sighted students to learn Braille? I don't think this would be difficult. I think that most students are willing and anxious to learn about others if the task is presented in a respectful, positive manner. In fact, I have seen a class who was willing to cut their hair in support of a classmate suffering from cancer. I also looked into aides that help blind students learn technology through the use of Braille note takers, Math with various hardware and software like Braille books tactile materials, and accessible calculators not to mention aides for teaching engineering by specialty like Quest Challenges through NASA, accessible calendars for the blind. Subsequently, I looked at Job Accommodation Network (JAN) which seeks to improve the life of disabled and their employers. They help the disabled find work and make them aware of their resources and rights while helping employers to find and hire the disabled and benefit by lessening the company's insurance and worker's compensation costs. Lastly, I visited the national Center for Learning Disabilities specifically the teacher's link. I was not surprised at the general information, most of which is available in our school's Special Education department. I team teach with a new Spec. Ed. teacher each year. I was surprised at their program for teaching expressive writing through the use of mnemonics, think sheets, etc. I would like to try some of these innovations in our class and plan to discuss this with my team-teacher.