Friday, December 18, 2009


I enjoyed the fairly straightforward texts we were assigned this semester. It was nice to read once and understand, rather than laboring each week to find even partial meaning to the texts.

I felt like the chapter on "professional development" in Jurkowski was very useful. I suppose it's a reflection of how much I am in the mindset of a classroom teacher rather than a librarian that I expected this chapter to discuss opportunities for my own professional development, rather than what I as a teacher-librarian can and should offer to my staff. I am used to being a passive participant in professional development, but thinking back over my years in education, the best school-sponsored sessions have been the one which my media specialist coordinated. I have learned as much from my current media specialist this school year as from my Clarion classes!

Also in Jurkowski, I enjoyed the chapter on "school library websites". I do not have vast programming knowledge, but I am slowly learning everything I can so that I can, one day when I leave the classroom in favor of a media center, create and maintain an effective and attractive website for my school. Last year, I dabbled with Dreamweaver and made some changes to the school media center website, but unfortunately I wasn't given network privileges and my changes were never posted. It was a great learning experience, however, one which I will refer to when I am once again in the stages of website creation.

After our Wimba presentations, I feel that I have added yet another technology to my tool box, in addition to those that I have acquired in the course of this class.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Assisstive Technology, Module 5

1. What one thing did you learn, and what will you do differently as a result?

My training has always focused on cognitive disabilities: this course helped open my eyes to the variety of other disabilities, and the countless possibilities for assistance that exist. I will strive to change my teaching style to be more inclusive: even though I do not currently have any students with physical disabilities, I need to reconsider things like classroom arrangement now.

Because of this class, I have begun looking for ways to incorporate literature about disabilities into my classroom. In January, my 7th graders will spend a month learning about Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, reading "Miracle Worker", and practicing sign language.

I also want to incorporate the book list for my 8th graders, and have them read and respond to a text which presents a main character with a disability. I have to look more closely at my lesson plans to find a way this fits in, but I liked the "READ IT" lesson posted in this module.

All in all, this has been an eye opening, positive experience for me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Assistive Tech, Module Four

The links on netiquette this week were basically things that seemed like common sense to me, although I was surprised at the frequency of the recommendation to utilize smileys and emoticons. I guess it's because I view email on par with letter communication, and for me, internet correspondences are more formal and it would not be appropriate to use emoticons or abbreviations. I think I will share the information with my students, and when I am in a media center, netiquette will be the first thing I teach my student users.

As far as etiquette and awareness goes towards interacting with persons with disabilities, I feel fairly confident. I did well on the quiz, since the biggest thing to remember is the "person first" philosophy, which I try to apply in my interactions with all people. It was a bit of a wake up call to see the comment against distracting aide dogs without their owners' permission: that's not something I've thought about before, and I am one of those people who will coo over a cute dog when I encounter it on the street. I need to be more aware of this in general, I suppose, and check with the owners first (whether the owner has a disability or not!)

I wanted to mention a few of the websites I have found that deal with assistive tech:


This link has a really great visual (heart-shaped) for understanding assistive technology and the circular nature of advocacy and assistive tech.


This site provides a guide to families to help them understand and implement assistive technology for a loved one. While the site is mostly text based(making it hard to read for long stretches), there is a lot of information provided.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Assistive Tech, Module Three

I have been focusing my work on voice recognition software and hardware, and a thought just occurred to me. These tools would be doubly useful (and justifiable in purchasing) since they can aide students who are both permanently and temporarily disabled. What I mean is this: there are students who will constantly need the help that voice recognition software presents, and then there are students who may only need it once in their education, after breaking an arm. With athletics and just general kid-ness, many of my students come to school temporarily unable to write due to a fracture. As a Language Arts teacher, this can be frustrating, but if my school made the purchase of assistive tech such as voice recognition software, my students could utilize this when temporarily incapacitated.

EBooks are another great example of assistive tech that is not only useful to learners with some form of disability. Access to classic ebooks allows students to read via school computer, even if they do not have computer access at home. This is useful because an ebook can not be "Lost", so students will not have to remember to return library books, sometimes depriving their classmates of the same text. My students are about to read "A Christmas Carol", and I have found a full text eversion of the novel that I am going to ask that they read at home, to further enhance our in-class reading and discussions.

There are so many ways to apply assistive technology in ways that help all learners! It's really amazing what is available: such a far cry from my own childhood when the internet was still a novelty.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Assistive Tech, Module Two

The videos this week are really powerful. The graphic artist is particularly inspiring to me because it is so easy to get tunnel vision and view artists within the stereotype of standing at an easel, holding a paint brush in one hand and a paint pallet in another.

I also had no idea how many assistive tech hardware options there are out there! The foot controlled mouse is just one of many options.

In thinking about assistive tech in terms of my school library, I have been thinking most about a young man who is confined to a motorized wheelchair and has no body movement. I don't teach him, so I am not sure what his diagnosis is, but we exchange greetings in the hall just about every morning. To that end, I think I want to focus on voice recognition technology, and the piece of hardware that I have selected is this, the Cyber-Acoustics Speech Recognition Stereo Headset. To be used in conjunction with voice recognition software, this headset would enable the student at my school to compose works on the computer orally, since he does not have use of his hands.

My one complaint about all the amazing hardware available is the price. The headset alone costs anywhere from $26-$45, and this is very much the low end of the spectrum. How will school districts and public institutions which have already faced severe budget cuts in recent years afford the technology that would help make learning inclusive for all students? The expense should not be preventative, and the prices I have seen on enablemart make me think that may be the case.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Assistive Tech, Module One

In my educational training, the focus on students with disabilities was much more centered around cognitive impairments, so this week's module has opened some interesting areas for me. For example, I am intrigued by the "Braille is Beautiful" teaching resource sold by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). It would be really interesting to tie in a unit on Braille for my Language Arts students with the use of the play "The Miracle Worker." Currently, I do not have any students who are blind, but this would be a good awareness raising activity for all my students. Something to think about and ask my department head if there is money to purchase the kit!

In the broader world, I found JAN (the Job Accommodation Network)to be an amazing resource, one which I am surprised I have never heard of. JAN exists to help not only persons with disabilities but employers as well, and I was impressed with the training they could offer a potential employer to increase the hiring of people with disabilities. This would be a wonderful resource in high schools, for the guidance counselors to navigate and make available to any students they may serve who would benefit from it. This site would be useful for special education educators at all levels, as well.

I am excited about the AT modules, because I have felt a bit unstable in my training to serve my students with disabilities in the best way, so these modules should provide me with a better understanding and some ideas to incorporate into my classroom.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week Nine, Thing Twenty-Three

1. What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey?
I think my favorite discoveries during this program were wikis. I had been introduced to the idea of a sandbox wiki before, but the possible classroom applications really seem endless, and this experience made me start thinking about those options.
2. How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals?
My lifelong learning goals have expanded to include cutting edge technologies (such as the 2.0 options). Prior to this experience, I was solely focused on learning in the physical sense, through action and interaction, but these different 2.0 technologies can enhance that goal and are things I want to continue to learn and work with.
3. Were there any take-a-ways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?
Honestly, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed blogging on an academic topic. Taking my MSLS online has been stressful for me, mainly because I have missed carrying on conversations with teachers and classmates, but blogging in this manner gave me a way to really reflect on my learning experience, and to see and respond to the experiences of my classmates.
4. What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept?
I didn't have any difficulties with Classroom 2.0, and I really enjoyed this program.
5. If we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you choose to participate? If so, check out Discovering Assistive Technology.
I think I would certainly make time to participate in something like this in the future.
6. How would you describe your learning experience in ONE WORD or in ONE SENTENCE, so we could use your words to promote Classroom Learning 2.0 learning activities?
Unexpectedly easy!