Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Assistive Technology

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices can help individuals who have a communication related disability.    There are many types of AAC devices.  In Chapter 5 of Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities by Bryant & Bryant, the various types of AACs are described.

In a school environment, a Speech Pathologist and Occupational Therapist might be part of the IEP team that works with the user's family to evaluate and make a recommendation for an AAC device. 

 Motor skills assessment is an important aspect in determining the best AAC for an individual. Many AAC devices require the motor skills to point and push to make selections.  Individuals with limited motor skills may use eye gaze pointing with a communication partner to make selections.

Many AAC devices rely on symbols and pictures.  Symbols and pictures convey ideas and concepts that can be easily understood.  It is beneficial for the user to utilize pictures that have meaning that transcends the classroom.

AAC devices range from high tech to low tech.  The higher tech devices are more costly.

I chose to explore my school and search for an AAC device to share. The Thinglink link below is a hot image of a communication board being used by a student in my school.  The board is a low tech solution. The pictures on the board are meaningful to the student and they transcend the classroom.  The student works with a communication partner on this board.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Digital v. Print an Infograph

This week for EDUC7726 Teaching, Learning, and Assessing in the Digital Era. We were asked to research and produce an infograph on a topic of our choice. What is an infograph? According to an infographic, "is a representation of information in a graphic format designed to make the data easily understandable at a glance.  As a library media specialist, I thought researching ebooks v. print text would be an interesting infograph topic.  I chose to present my findings using Piktochart.

I found Piktochart to be very functional. I was able to select a template to format my work. I had access to several pictorial objects, and various styles of charts and graphs. I could also upload picture objects from my computer and add them to my infograph.  Piktochart also allowed me to include video.  I wanted to explore Piktochart and therefore decided to try the software's various functions.   I encountered small problems using Piktohart. On occasion, I was unable to save my work.   When this happened, I had to log out and log back in to continue editing.  Additionally, Piktochart's text wrapping was a problem.  I used a template for infograph and found that hard returns worked to help correct wrapping problems with my text.  Despite these small problems, I feel Pikotchart allowed me to produce an informative and visually appealing infograph. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and with Piktochart you can certainly accomplish this.

In my search for data on digital and print text, I used Google's advanced search tool to limit my search results to this past year.  I wanted the source of data for my infograph to be current.   Once I found information,  I was able to use Piktochart to produce various styles of charts and graphs to represent the data I found.

My professor, Laura Greenstein, provided a rubric for the infograph.  The rubric identified requirement such as:
  • cite sources used
  • at least 6 facts presented
  • include related graphs and charts
  • evidence of analysis
  • visually appealing
 In my opinion, the infograph rubric clearly set the expectation for grading.  As a student, I knew exactly what was expected of me to earn full credit.  I plan to use a modified version of this rubric with students when we work on creating infographs or other visual representations. I would make adjustments to the rubric to specifically meet the objective I set for my students.

The data I found shows that print is still king over digital text. More books are published in print than in digital form.  Middle school students prefer digital text. Surprisingly,  college students prefer to learn from print textbooks over digital textbooks. There are individuals that prefer the feel and look of a book. Some who purchase e-books also purchase the book in print form. Some prefer print because they dislike being tethered to a computer to read.  College students like digital textbooks because they are less expensive, but they dislike that they can't resell their digital textbooks as they can  their print textbooks.  Self publishing is  a fast growing publishing area.   The Internet is the highway of self-publishing and e-books are the vehicle.  These were some of my finding. Please take a look at my inforgraph.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Socrative Seminar

Imagine living in 440 BC and you are gathered with a group of disciples to discuss life under the guidance of Socrates. Socrates asked questions to lure his students into conversation and  discussion in order to get to the root of an issue. This is how knowledge was uncovered and understanding was gained by his students. This method of discussion can be very engaging for students today.

This week I had the opportunity to sit in on my first Socratic seminar. I along with 7 of my ED7726 Teaching,Learning, and Assessing in the Digital Era classmates participated.  We formed 2 groups of 4.  Four in the center circle faced each other, the other 4 sat outside the circle to listen, take notes, and assess the discussion based on a rubric provided to us by our professor, Laura Greenstein.  

The questions to be discussed were in an envelope. They were based on readings we had been assigned. Included were student generated questions.  The readings were about the various dispositions towards technology usage and technology integration in the classroom. Included were statistics from the Pew Center,  resources about effective technology integration, and information about opportunities to improve education.  We pulled a question out of the envelope and read it aloud. We each took turns once around answering the question and referencing the reading materials.  The discussion ensued.   We all agreed as educators in the 21st century we need to embrace technology to make education meaningful and relevant to our students.   We discussed how we can support and encourage teachers to use technology in their lessons. We discussed assessment and how we could utilize technology in assessment.

I consider the Socratic seminar an excellent learning and assessment activity. As we answered questions, we began discussions, and knowledge and understanding about the topic surfaced. I learned from my classmates’ comments and ideas. I believe by including student generated questions our student’s curiosity and desire to explore can also be satisfied.  The Socratic seminar was also an opportunity to assess our knowledge and understanding of the reading materials.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the Socratic seminar activity.  It was an interesting and a novel way to conduct a discussion and assess for student understanding.  Our professor reviewed the rubric prior to starting the activity.  This was very helpful because we knew what her expectations were and what we were being graded on. Some of the questions used in the activity were actually student generated questions that our professor requested prior to the seminar.  The Socratic seminar can be used by upper elementary grades and up.

Prior to the Socratic seminar, our professor instructed to review this Youtube video that shows students participating in a Socratic seminar. I too recommend that you watch the video to get a feel of the process. I would show anyone planning on participating in a Socratic seminar.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Apple's VoiceOver Screen Reader

Mac’s VoiceOver technology is a free screen reader software that ships with all OSX and IOS products.  This product is integrated into the operating system therefore there is no need to download and install software. VoiceOver works with keyboard controls as well as with Multi-Touch screen.   When using a multi-touch screen device, users can hear a description of the  objects they are touching. There is specific tapping and finger/hand gestures that control VoiceOver functionality.  It is very easy to turn VoiceOver access on. I was able to turn VoiceOver on all my Apple devices without any difficulties.   

To learn more about how to use this product I watched a tutorial on the product. 

There were also various web pages that highlighted commands and keyboard shortcuts.  VoiceOver works at the operating system level and can be used with other products running on the device.

In 2005, the American Foundation for the Blind did not give VoiceOver a good review. They felt the product was difficult to use and the keyboard controls were cumbersome.  The AFB also felt Apple had rushed the release and not included enough user documentation. Improved documentation from Apple was needed for VoiceOver users. Apple responded with improved documentation.  There are quickstart and function tutorials for the product and website resources on how to use the program.

In 2009, Steven M. Sawczyn, a blind assistive technology consultant wrote, A Second Look At Apple’s VoiceOver.  In this article he criticizes Apple’s late entry into the screen reader arena, but does present VoiceOver in a positive manner. He identifies the operational differences between PC and Mac as the underlying reason why PC users experience difficulty when learning to use VoiceOver. Mr. Sawczyn was once a PC users but has been a  MAC user since the Leopard operating system release with VoiceOver.  For his work and his specific needs, he feels that VoiceOVer is a great product. 

In 2013 AFB AccessWorld Magazine, Janet Ingber makes recommendations for using VoiceOver. She providers  tips for helping those wishing to make the transition from PC to Mac.  

On the Common Sense Media website,  a 7 year old wrote a review on VoiceOver, "Apple's Voice Over text to speech program is pretty cool. The only thing I don't like about the application is that the voices don't sound natural compared to other services."

As a teacher, I feel the products availability and the compatibility across multiple platforms, Mac, ipad, iphone, ipod touch, make VoiceOver a strong contender when screen reading technology is needed. There is a great advantage if Apple products are already in the classroom. An even greater advantage if the student had access to Apple devices as part of BYOD and at home.  Its ability to work with other Mac software is a big plus. It helps the user have access to all products residing on the device. A teacher/specialist would need to work closely with the student to be able to teach them how to use the program effectively.  Students would need to learn the commands, key strokes, and hand gestures  to navigate the screens.  

VoiceOver is also available for Chrome users.


"Apple - Accessibility - OS X - VoiceOver." Apple - Accessibility - OS X - VoiceOver. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <>.

"A Second Look at Apple’s VoiceOver." A Second Look at Apple’s VoiceOver. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <>.

"Member Reviews for VoiceOver | Common Sense Media." Member Reviews for VoiceOver Common Sense Media. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <>.

"Product Evaluation." Not What the Doctor Ordered: A Review of Apple's VoiceOver Screen Reader. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <>.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Technology Ingetration

This week in UNH EDUC 7726 I was asked to enhance a lesson with technology.  I read about Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model for integrating technology in lessons.  SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. Each of these categories represents a method and purpose for integrating technology in lessons.

This is how SAMR applies to the lesson I chose to modify and enhance. The original lesson had technology embedded. The original lesson asked students to research a musical instrument and produce a Publisher brochure about the instrument.

  • Substitution refers to the use of technology to substitute something that is done without the use of technology. Using Publisher is a substitution for having students create their brochures using paper and art supplies.

  • Augmentation refers to additional capabilities that a technology offer its user. The teacher who originated the task had students include digital imagery to enhance the appearance of their work.

  • Modification refers to how technology can be used to change the learning environment to improve learning.  The learning goal remains the same and technology is used to enhance learning to meet the learning goal.  As my colleague +Elizabeth Hick  commented, using a variety of multi-modal resources, print, website, video is an example of using technology to provide a variety of resources for students to use in learning. I recommend students’ practice website evaluation. I provided multi-modal (text and video) resources for students to learn about the 5ws of website evaluation.

  • Redefinition refers to a new task that can only result from the use of technology. I enhance the lesson by creating a new task for students.  They would search the Internet to find a multimedia clips of the instrument.   Listening to audio/video clips of the instruments is using the affordance of the Internet for providing sound and video. The audio/video clip would be played as they presented their brochures.  Their brochures had to include a reference to the link of the audio/video clip they used. My colleague +Elizabeth Ferry recommended a change to what students produced. She recommended using software that provided the integration of multimedia.

In addition to this task, I read the study, Technology and Education Change: Focus on Student Learning by Barbara Means. In the study, the characteristics of software and technology usage resulting in above-average student gains was compared to classrooms experiencing below-average gains. Among the recommendations from the finding of the study are:
  • training on the implementation of technology is essential to its effective use
  • technology is used frequently
  • teacher is facilitating and assessing students work on the computer
  • teacher using data reports to measure student progress, identifying trends, and opportunity to improve student learning
  • structured and taught entry and exits from using technology to maintain efficiency and classroom management
  • low computer to student ratio is best

In the Ted talk by Raj Dhingra Can Technology Change Education, Raj Dhingra suggests that not having big budget should not be a barrier to technology in the classroom. He presents how other have creatively addressed technology needs with small budgets. He references a mobile computer classroom used in Turkey to educate students. He also suggests using low cost alternatives such as those provided by n-computing.  The Bring Your Own Device initiative will also help Districts with small budgets reduce the ratio of students to computers.

Collaboration among educators will improve technology integration in lesson planning. The comments and suggestion I received from my colleagues this week helped me reflect on how I could improve my lesson. I feel teacher collaboration to review the effectiveness of a lesson after it has been executed is also valuable. Collaboration between teachers is a learning experience in itself, as teachers are able to share resources and ideas.

This week’s materials and activities have helped me reflect on best practices to use when integrating technology in the classroom to enhance student learning.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Evolution of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Throughout the years Assistive Technology (AT) has evolved in the classroom. In  Chapter 1 of Assistive technology: Access for all students by Beard, Carpenter, & Johnston, and in Chapter 1 of Introduction to Assistive Technology Devices and Services by Bryant & Bryant the evolution of AT is documented. The progression is grouped into 3 periods, the Foundation Period (Pre- 1900), the Establishment Period 1900-1972, and the Empowerment Period 1973- Present.  The advancements made within each of these periods has resulted in the use of AT  in the classroom.  
During the Foundation Period, innovations and inventions emerge that assist individuals with disabilities. The wheelchair is patented  to assist soldiers who have lost mobility as a result of the American Civil War.  Schools to assist individuals with disabilities are built. The American Asylum for Education of the Deaf and Dumb later renamed as the American School for the Deaf is established.   During this period Braille code is perfected.
During the Establishment Period,  government enacts laws aimed at helping individuals with disabilities.  These laws are in response to the growing percentage of the U.S. population with disabilities sustained either through war (WW I, WW II, Korean War, Vietnam War) or as a result of illness. There is growing pressure by organizations on government to pass legislation to assist individuals with disability in the areas of education and the workforce.   The Social Security Act of 1935 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1943 are passed. Innovations and technological advancements continue during this period.  They include the use of the guide dog and the laser cane to assist the blind.
During the Empowerment Period, ATs appear in the classroom as a result of laws that mandate the education of students with disabilities.   Throughout the years, the laws enacted have evolved to create  equal opportunity and access to instructional materials for students with disabilities.  Lawsuits filed in the 1990s against Medicaid highlight the importance of AT to individuals with disabilities.  The use of computer technology emerges and provides accessibility to information for individuals with disabilities.  
The following laws led to  AT use in the classroom:
  • In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act is revised to include Section 504 stating that anyone receiving federal money cannot discriminate against people with disabilities. Section 504, Title II, specifically calls for all public entities to provide auxiliary aids to individuals with disabilities in order to provide equal opportunity to programs and services.
  • The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) of 1975, protected the right to education for students with disabilities. Prior to EHA, many children with disabilities were not permitted to attend school.  This was the beginning of special education services for students with special needs.
  • In 1985, the law was modified to mandate the consideration of AT for all students with disabilities.
  • 1988 Tech Act provided funding for states to develop training programs to meet the needs of AT of individuals with disabilities
  • In 1990 EHA was changed to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA required that students with disabilities be included in general education classrooms.
  • In 1997, IDEA was further refined to specifically call for students with disabilities to have access to the general educational curriculum.
  • In 1998, the Assistive Technology Act was passed to support programs and grants to states to help them meet the technology needs of individuals with disabilities.  
  • In 2004, the Assistive Technology Act was modified to provide aid directly to individuals with disabilities. An educational mandate for access to instructional materials.
Innovations and technological advancements made throughout history, and the series of laws passed requiring equal access to education for children with disabilities have led to the evolution of AT in the classroom.  Individuals with disabilities have the desire and right to live life to the fullest.  Individuals and organizations will  continue to research, invent, organize, and rally for laws that will further equal opportunity and access for those with disabilities. As a result of these efforts, classrooms are using AT, low and high, to support and further the education of students with disabilities.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Technology Tools to Support High Yielding Teaching Strategies

This semester of the Instructional Technology & Digital Media Literacy program I am enrolled in ED7726, Teaching, Learning, and Assessing in the Digital Era. As my first assignment, I am learning about high yield teaching strategies presented by Dr. Robert Marzano and John Hattie. Dr. Marzano’s research identifies nine highly effective teaching strategies that educators can use in the classroom. Marzano is clear that these strategies are not the only effective teaching strategies available to teachers, but should be included in a teacher’s repertoire of teaching strategy tools.  The strategies are known are the Marzano 9 and are divided into three categories. Strategies 1-3 are strategies that will help students learn by creating an environment of learning, strategies 4-6 helps students develop understanding, strategies 7-9 will help students  extend and apply knowledge.  Marzano’s 9 strategies are:
  • (1) Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback
  • (2) Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition
  • (3) Cooperative Learning
  • (4) Cues, Questions, and Advanced Organizers
  • (5) Nonlinguistic Representations
  • (6) Summarizing and Notetaking
  • (7) Homework and Practice
  • (8) Identifying Similarities and Differences
  • (9) Generating and Testing Hypotheses

John Hattie research offers teachers several strategies for improving instruction and student achievement. He organizes the strategies by their effectiveness. These include:
  • showing what success looks like (modeling)
  • not labeling students
  • exposing students to examples and models 3 to 4 times not at once but during a period of time and varying the strategy used (modeling and practice)
  • teaching at a high level or accelerated pace
  • self and peer reflection  to improve instruction

My first assignment was to select technology that supports high yielding teaching and learning.  I began planning a unit in which students will create a book trailer of a book of their choice. The students’ objective is to create a visually appealing and informative book trailer to entice others to want to read the book.  This lesson addresses the following CCSS:

As I planned and developed this unit, I looked for opportunities to use technology to help students achieve the task.  The technology tools I selected are  Thinglink, Animoto, Screencast-o-matic, and Google image for searching.   I feel these technology tools will support the high yield teaching strategies I’ve identified and included in my book trailer unit. These technologies will support the high yield strategies I’ve incorporated in the unit.

At the onset of the project, students should be shown models of good book trailers. This will help students identify the characteristics of a good book trailer.  

Graphic organizers will help students plan their book trailers.  The story’s events can be identified and organized to help students organize and sequence the events. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.3.  Planning begins with a graphic organizer. This will allow students to identify images and events to include in their book trailers. The website provides many graphic organizers that will help students idenfity and organize story events.  Animoto, a slideshow generator, will allow students organize and sequence digital images as they build their book trailers. Modeling these technologies is essential for students to successfully use the tools. Screen capturing software, such as screencast-o-matic, can be used to create tutorials on how to use the tools to accomplish the task. This is my Animoto tutorial.  Tutorials can help students revisit instruction and can provide additional support for students who need it.  As teachers assess their student’s progress, they can have students revisit a tutorial for additional support.  

Having students find pictures and illustrations to demonstrate their learning will engage students by making learning personal and meaningful. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.2.a  Selecting appropriate pictures and illustrations to convey a message that furthers the understanding is a desired learning outcome of this unit.  Students must develop an understanding of how images can represent a thought and help convey the thought.  Practicing this skill is essential to helping students identify appropriate pictures and illustrations for their book trailer.   Thinglink is a tool that can help students practice associating images with ideas and thoughts.  Teachers can share an image and students can identify related ideas. Using screencast-o-matic, I developed a Thinglink tutorial for students to use.

Hattie identifies reflection and self assessment as an effective method of improving teaching.  Opportunities to discuss and share outcomes amongst peer is a very powerful strategy teachers can implement.   Reflecting on how well the objectives and standards of the unit were met will help teachers make necessary adjustments to the unit. Similarly, student self assessment  and reflection is a powerful way for students to learn.

This assignment asked to identify technology that would support high yielding teaching strategies.   Technology is a tool that can help improve student learning. Teachers should look for opportunities to integrate technology in their teaching to support student learning.