Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Journal 8: Adaptive Technology

Below is a research blog post I created covering the topic of augmentative and alternative communication. The post contains information such as high tech and low tech solutions as well as examples of each.


Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) is defined as any tool which helps individuals with special needs interact and communicate with the world. This type of communication can be achieved with low-tech solutions such as sign language or with high tech ones such as using an iPad. Whatever type of tool is used, the main purpose of Augmentative and Alternative communication is to give users the ability to interact with the world with ease.

Low Tech Communication Tool:

Low-tech ACC devises are categorized as those which do not require batteries or circuitry to operate. This can include anything from white boards, pencil and paper to hand gestures or facial expressions. An example of an ACC communication tool  is the use of Magnetic paint. This paint transforms any surface into a magnet board giving individuals more opportunities to communicate. With this tool users have the ability to place magnetic words or symbols on many more surfaces. For example, in a classroom the paint could be used to make cabinet draws into simple and inexpensive communication boards, giving students more opportunities to communicate.

High-tech Communication Tool:

High tech communication tools are defined as those things, which require the use of batteries or computers to help individuals meet their specific communication needs. Devices such as the Super Talker Progressive Communicator, is a device that can translate up to eight pictures into speech. The system has the ability to change and adapt according to the user’s needs by allowing the user to change pictures they find most helpful in their daily lives. Another example of a High Tech ACC, is freeacc.org. This website turns any computer or Internet capable device into a text and picture to speech generator. With  the plethora of devices such as cell phones, which are now able to connect to the Internet, this offers ACC users greater freedom to communicate with ease.


Input devices for students with special needs are defined as a device which helps students overcome their disability. These devices can take the form of either hardware or software solutions

There are many hardware solutions which make communication more assessable to students. The Twiddler2 is a great example of a mouse and keyboard, which can be operated by a single hand. It gives the user the ability to interact with a computer by simply  moving ones hand to move the mouse curser and pressing the keyboard on the same controller to type. Students who can’t use a traditional mouse and keyboard in a classroom could then use the Twiddler2 to interact, participate and more importantly communicate.

A type of software solutions used to make things more accessible is Soothsayer. Soothsayer is word prediction software that tries to anticipate the word the user is typing based the letters used. It not only makes typing faster for those who might need assistance but it can also be used as a type of short hand when typing. It makes communication faster for students who use text to speech technology or who have limited mobility. 

I commented on the following Blogs.
Melanie Hasty

Kristin Viner

Monday, July 23, 2012

Journal 7: My Personal Learning Network.

Below, I research and blog about the topic of a personal learning network and my efforts to cultivate and manage that network.

           A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a group of individuals with common interests who join to help one another gather and share information. In the past, this network probably consisted of people in close proximity, such as other teachers on a campus or friends. Now however with a few tools that network can be expanded on to a global scale. Using tools such as Twitter, a social networking site, Diigo a social bookmarking site, and by visiting forums on sites such as Classroom 2.0, I have been able to create a PLN, which will be indispensable as I begin my teaching career. By using a PLN, I have access to thousands of teachers who can help answer any question that I might have about my profession. They can offer me advice, share lesson plans, and help me to keep my classroom one-step ahead of the technological curve.

            When I first learned about using Twitter as a PLN, I was a little skeptical. I added people in my technology class, and my professor thinking it would be a great start. It was not until I participated in an educational chat in Twitter however, that I really began to grow my PLN in earnest. On July 24, at 9am I joined a discussion called #Edchat which so happened to be about PLN’s. The topic that day was “Has the idea of a PLN made a significant difference for you or is it a fad that will fade away.” The discussion lasted for more than an hour as passionate educators chimed in with discussions of how their own PLN’s have helped them with their teaching. As people tweeted, I instantly started searching through tweets that seemed to connect with me. I found myself exploring blogs and posts from people I did not know and sometimes finding it so interesting that I would follow them on Twitter. During the chat, I even asked the whole group a simple question about having too many PLN’s and instantly I was given advice on how to manage different sites, and about free tools to make my twitter life more manageable.

            If twitter is a way for me to get instant information from my PLN, than Diigo is a way for me to store, explore, and share that information. Much like Twitter, Diigo offers a wealth of information by simply typing in keywords called tags. It allows you to share information with your PLN as well as explore other resources that people have already found useful. Not only that, but like twitter it allows you to follow people who are tagging items that you find useful adding those people to your growing PLN. Each day that I searched for something, I seemed to find more people that I could follow. Currently everyone I follow is a teacher or will be a teacher that seems to be actively searching and tagging new and interesting sites. These people all seem to be actively contributing to learning and exploring teaching. Not only do I read what others have found however, I have also started bookmarking my own sites such as “web 2.0” and “edutopia” because they are great resources in learning how to cultivate and grow my PLN network.
            One of my PLN sites, ClassRoom 2.0, uses the ability to explore its forums in order to meet people, post, and explore topics. One of the topics I found interesting was by a teacher who was wondering if they should make time in their classroom to teach cursive handwriting. She felt it was an out dated art and was wondering if she could not make better use of her class time. That teacher got a multitude of answers from both the pro and the con sides. I do not believe she got a clear answer, but I was able to learn a great deal about the standard and as to why it is still included in most curriculums. If nothing else, I am sure she got more information to help her make an better educated choice about her class time. This forum offers me yet another place to get help by posting questions and maybe even offer some advice as well.
          These are just some of the many new tools teachers can use to help grow and start a PLN. While teachers were once limited to their schools or districts for information, they can now reach each other across the globe. Instantly, information can now be transmitted and put into practice with an ease and speed unimaginable just a few years ago. By using a PLN, professions such as teaching, which were once considered solitary and lonely practices, can now expand to be dynamic collaborative efforts.

Journal 6: Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives)

Spencer, J. (2011, 09 19). Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives). Retrieved from http://www.educationrethink.com/2011/09/ten-reasons-to-get-rid-of-homework-and.html

In this article the author speaks about his personal experience with assigninging homework and more so gives readers ten reasons why homework does not help students. Some of the more compelling reasons he states is the time limitation given to students. This limitation grows as students get older and join sport teams and clubs allowing less time for school. I have seen this with my eldest son who was a straight A student before he joined baseball but because of the time practicing secdual he often was doing homework late into the night and his grades suffered.  Also, he point out that while some students do have time to do homework others are busy taking care of siblings something which might sound like an excuse but clearly doesn’t not make homework time equal or fair to all. Another reason he claims is that most homework is bad or that is it doesn’t engage or foster learning. I believe that some educators see homework as a repition tool rather then an oprotunity to inspire a student to engage in their own learning. If we came up with better opportunities at home students might be more engaged in their education. He also touches on the subject of homework as demotivational rather than motivational. That by making homework mandatory you instantly take choise away from students making the assignment no longer interesting and demotivating them to work.

Five alternatives to homework
1)   Ask students to log on to edmodo, or twitter and write about something they learned that day and why.
2)   Give students the opportunity to come up with their own assignment
3)   Ask Students to talk to a parent about what they learned and see if their parent know anything about the topic.
4)   Send students on a YouTube scavenger hunt to find interesting videos about that days topics.
5)   Ask students to be creative and represent what they learned or their frustrations about what they learned by writing drawing singing or any other form of expression.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Journal 4: Join the Flock!/Enhance your twitter experience.

Ferguson, H. (2010). Join the flock!. Learning and Leading with Technology, 37(8), 12-15. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/issues/Join_the_Flock.aspx

Miller, S. (2010). Enhance your twitter experience. Learning and Leading with Technology, 37(8), 14-17. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/Libraries/Leading_and_Learning_Docs/June_July_2010_Join_the_Flock.sflb.ashx

The article “Join the Flock” talks about building a PLN network using twitter and the advantages for doing so. It demystifies twitter from its celebrity gossipy reputation, and shows how educators can really benefit from its use. The article also gives readers the basics on how to start building a personal learning network. It gives new twitter users advice on how to delving into the large steam of information by allowing them to become familiar with the tool before jumping in.  Basically it shows how twitter can help educators connect with the wealth of information that is contently being shared on the web.
The next article “Enhance your twitter experience”, gives readers information to help them sort through the multitude of tweets at their disposal. The article covers some interesting tool such at tweet deck, which can be used to organize and view multiple tweets at one time. It also explains the importance of hash tags in organizing ones twitter life. Also, for the first time tweeters the article breaks down a number of terms and definitions so that one can join in the conversation with confidence.

Can twitter information be harmful?
Information, like anything else really relies on the source. So just because it is on your twitter feed doesn’t make it so. While twitter can be a great tool, with great power comes great responsibility. If you find something you like, take the information with a grain of salt, research it, and please tweet responsibly.

Where can I find out more information about how to use twitter?
Google it! There are a lot of people lost in the sea of twitter and if you find your self lost your not alone. Google your question because chances are someone already asked the question and it was answered. Also, yahoo answers and Wikipedia are great jumping off resource to learn about anything on the web.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Journal 3: Upside Down, and Inside Out: Flip Your Classroom to Improve Student Learning

Fulton, K. (2012). Upside down, and inside out: Flip your classroom to improve student learning.Learning and Leading with Technology, 39(8), 12-14. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/issues/Upside_Down_and_Inside_Out.aspx

This article deals with a new approach to teaching, which “Flips” the way traditional classrooms have been taught. In this approach students are primarily instructed at home while doing traditional homework in the classroom.  The way this would work is teachers would film themselves lecturing on the content and instructing students on the task at some prior date. Students would then watch these videos at home much like they would primary watch their teachers instruct in the classroom. The next day the teacher would help students with their “homework” allowing them to differentiate instruction to those students who need more help with the content. In this model students could break off into small groups or work independently to finish the assignment. The approach allows students to not only work at their own pace but it also allows them to watch instruction from different teachers for better understanding of the subject. According to the article the early results seem promising with students test scores rising. Teachers who have “flipped” their classrooms also report that it has made their classes into a more student centered learning environment.

Could this approach be used to help in say an English class?
Yes, This class approach could be used in an English class in a verity of ways. Even if a teacher decided not to “flip” their whole class this model could still be used when teaching difficult concepts. For example, when teaching students about iambic pentameter a teacher could do the instruction of this and other pome forms though a video. The next day they could helps students identify iambic pentameter since it is a concept, which some students struggle with. The true power of “flipping” a class I believe is that it gives teachers the ability to have more in class time with students when they need it.

What problems if any do you see with the flipped classroom approach?

It seems as if this approach would work best in well to do school but not in poor districts. I understand that they offer students a cd but some don’t even have a tv. Also, the learning curve for teachers seems kind of steep since I would say a great number of them are not tech savvy enough to pull this type of thing off. I believe that this might be a little a head of its time. It sounds like a good start but not the complete answer. 

Journal 2: School 2.0 Reflection Tool

In this assignment I wrote a blog post exploring a NETS-T standard and explored an article related to that.

I choose NETS-T 1 which is to "Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity". From with in the NETS-T, I choose to explore topic three “I engage students in reflecting on and clarifying their own thinking, planning, and creative processes, in correcting misconceptions, and in using meta-cognitive thinking strategies with collaborative tools and environments”. The resource I then explored was Google Groups. I choose NETS-T topic and site because I believe that it can help engage students in their own learning. It not only helps them connect to other students around the world but they can actively participate using devices such as a smart phone to participate. This is important because as information becomes easier to access, we as educators can allow them to use the devices they are most comfortable using to get to the information.
This free online tool allows students to actively engage other students and classrooms all over the world. Students can explore a wide variety of already established groups to research or just talk about different content areas. The site also allows them to share multiple files types over a message board type system or through email, giving students the ability to share ideas or calibrate on assignments easily. Students can also give themselves badges to distinguish them selves in a group, making it more engaging. The most exciting feature that Google groups offers is the ability to translate post. One could imagine students in California engaging students in japan on the same topic and collaborating. Teachers also have the ability to create a classroom group that limits not only who can join the group, but also filter the type of conversations held with in the group. This gives the set up group a level of security for students to explore freely. The site offers students a way to engage their own learning and explore and discuss topics using a verity of devices to do so.
The only downfall seems to be that students need to have a Google account, which has an age restriction of 13. Though because of many public Google groups that can be accessed by students at home, the age restriction seems appropriate safety measure.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Journal 1 100 Things that make me Happy

1) My wife makes me Happy every day.
2) My two kids
3) My iPhone apps every one of them.
4) My dog even though she is crazy.
5) I love creating music.
6) I love writing stories for my wife.
7) I love being a geek that is social.
8) I love my Ipad.
9) I love when it rains hard.
10) I love when people laugh.
11) I love the computer program Flash.
12) Hacking anything just to see if I can.
13) I love cooking for my family.
14) I also love watching crazy people in Vegas!
15) I love when I tell my wife she is beautiful and she believes me.
16) Going on family trips to anywhere.
17) I love to hate nothing.
18) I love being so close to becoming and educator.
19) I love the sound of the ocean when the sun rises and sets.
20) I love when my computer just works.
21) I love Apple products.
22) I love to read books that challenge me beliefs.
23) I love to challenge others beliefs.
24) I love when I’m surprised by science.
25) I love waiting in line for apple products.
26) I love going to midnight movies.
27) My running shoes make me happy.
28) Seeing my parents still in love.
29) Walking and talking with my wife.
30) Creating web animations with my childhood friend.
31) Earl of sandwich makes me really happy.
32) My Xbox makes me happy.
33) Not having to drive makes me very happy.
34) Showing someone how to do something new on the iphone
35) learning how to do something new on the iphone
36) The world of color show at Disneyland
37) Reading about new science discoveries
38) Tivo, yes the Tivo makes me happy.
39) Bumping into friends.
40) Getting packages in the mail.
41) Listening to audio books
42) Watching my wife read next to me.
43) Magnets of all kinds.
44) Flashlights of all kinds.
45) A cup of coffee on a cold day
46) Finding the perfect gift for someone
47) Doing anything creative with my computer.
48) Fixing broken things.
49) Taking apart things broken or not.
50) Taking long hot showers
51) Popcorn and a movie at home.
52) My Gameboy on a long trip.
53) Finding new Music.
54) Going to large concerts.
55) Shopping on black Friday.
56) Finding inspiration to write.
57) Telling a great story to friends.
58) Watching my kids succeed
59) Playing any Mario videogame
60) Getting lost in my own thoughts.
61) Seeing my wife face when I walk through the door.
62) Fixing my music collection in iTunes
63) Getting lost with out having anyplace to go.
64) Drinking a cold drink on a hot day.
65) Opening and using a new pencil
66) Fixing someone computer
67) Making technology seem exciting to everyone
68) Warm soup when I’m sick.
69) Learning about history
70) Getting email that matters.
71) When a new season of my favorite show starts.
72) Wining at a game.
73) Touch screens
74) Touching buttons to see what they do.
75) Walking around zoos
76) Universal Studio’s tram ride.
77) Free cool software
78) My new Numark DJ controller.
79) Watching my kids Grow up.
80) Any book by Michael Crichton
81) Watching highlander the TV series
82) Finding the right wire in a box full of them
83) New socks
84) Watching my wife chase animals to photograph them.
85) Feeling like I can make a difference.
86) Shopping for her technology.
87) Ice cream
88) Date nights with my Wife.
89) Cleaning the cars makes me Happy.
90) Seeing Snow but being warm.
91) Listing to the wind blow hard.
92) Watching the Web series “The Guild”
93) 50% charge on my iPhone at the end of the day.
94) Teaching anyone anything.
95) Staying out all night for no reason.
96) Getting enough sleep.
97) Young adult books!
98) Walking in the rain
99) The feel of a clean Razor
100) Going to Disney world