Tuesday, November 29, 2016

North Carolina Assistive Technology Program

The North Carolina Assistive Technology Program was very interesting, the technology they had were useful for all ages and you could see how a program like that would be beneficial to the individuals who know it is there. I liked how they had everything from switch adapted toys, to communication devices and even an adapted book collection for teachers to use. What I liked the most about NC ATP os that they allow you to “check out” the device you want to practice with and test before it is purchased by the individual or by the school system.

                I think my favorite equipment that was shown to us were the switch adapted toys. This was something that never struck me would be something you could adapt for individuals with disabilities. The toys were so easy to adapt, it took a battery interrupter and the cord to hook the switch into. Then depending on the toy, the only thing the user has to do is push the switch to make the toy work. Depending on the toy, you either have to hold the switch down or you push the switch once in order to make the toy function. This is important because if there is an individual who cannot access a toy because they do not have the fine motor skills required to use some of the toys, they now have a way to access them. NC State recently hosted a professional development on how to turn toys into adapted switch toys, especially with it being so close to the holiday season I think this is wonderful for parents who want to give their children the same experience as other students. I was also fascinated by the types of switches she showed us. I did not realize there were so many, I knew that ones like “Big Red” were available but I loved the soft switch that required the lightest touch to use. I liked this one because you could give it to an individual who doesn’t have the same amount of force to push a button like “Big Red”. She also showed us a switch that looked like a joist stick used in video games, I would use this with a student who maybe cannot push down at all but can move their arms side to side. 

                From switches, we moved into communication devices. There was one device in particular I really liked. This was the “Super Talker” which was really nice because it was also a kind of “grow as you grow” device. I mean this because the device had a storage spot on the back to store different number choice options. For example, if the individual receives the device at a young age when they only need to say one or two things there is an option for one or two choices. Then, as the student grows and has more than a two-word vocabulary, the device allows for you to give the student more choices. I believe you could have up to 8 options on this particular device. I liked this because we want students to grow and this device allows us to help them with that without having to replace the device every few years. Another communication device we were shown was very nice because at the top of the device was a row of 5 options for students to choose that you would keep the same no matter how many layers are programmed on the device. For example, on each layer my five options of, “please, thank you, more, I need, and help” would remain the same while the other options in the other rows would change. I like this a lot because you can tailor the layers to exactly what you are working on, while keeping key vocabulary on the device and not having to reprogram the device every time I change layers. She also showed us a kind of PECS system but this was more controlled. I would use this for a student who I eventually want on the PECS system but maybe need to start them off on a very controlled system. This system gave you a flip book that would give you a few options on tabs such as feelings or wants, and after you narrow down to what tab you want, then on that tab there are different options under the major category. I think this because it is consistent and when you need to find a word you can easily get there where as in PECS sometimes I think that words can get lost in the system. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning

Assessing the Relationship between Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning 

Assistive Technology can be thought of as any device that bridges the gap between the student's skill level and the environment demands. An example of Assistive Technology is that a student with dysgraphia may use a computer with a text-to-talk feature on it in order to allow this student to access his curriculum. Another example of Assistive Technology is that a student with a more severe disability may require a device that they can communicate with by moving their eyes and activating the device to speak the words their eyes fixate on. Eight other examples of Assistive Technology can be found here at Understood.org. Assistive Technology is meant to be the most effective but least invasive for students. For this reason, there is a continuum of Assistive Technology that flows from no technology to high technology, making sure that every student is given the technology that matches their learning style and environment better and is simply used to help them bridge the gap between their skills and the demands of the environment. The video below explains more about Assistive Technology and its uses.

Universal Design for Learning(UDL)  can be thought of as a framework that describes the different ways in which teachers engaged various types of learners by means of technology and instructional delivery. This approach to teaching is especially important for those students who need extra supports and students with disabilities. The Center for Applied Special Technology or CAST explains Universal Design for Learning as a way to optimize teaching for all students, based on what scientists know about the way humans learn and behave. Universal Design for Learning has three major guidelines which are: multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression and multiple means of engagement.  Multiple means of representation involves presenting information in an auditory, visual and tactile way so that all learners are able to access the information. Multiple means of expression involves allowing students the opportunity to display their knowledge in a way that they choose. Lastly, multiple means of engagement involves engaging students in a way that keeps them motivated to learn and work. UDL is important for students with disabilities because the framework reminds teachers that all students learn differently and that teachers should adapt their instruction so that all students can learn. 

We've now covered both Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning independently, it is important that we discuss the relationship between the two. In order to do that, let's walk through an example. The video on the right follows Mason, a student with visual impairments. In this video, you can see that Mason is using his Assistive Technology in order to access his educational curriculum and communicate. This is also how Mason is able to express his knowledge, or a part of the multiple means of expression as a part of the UDL framework. Mason's visual impairments has caused his teacher to think of creative ways to teach Mason in a way that Mason can learn and understand the content his is learning. This is another part of the framework, multiple means of representation.  UDL and Assistive Technology work hand and hand in that UDL is the environment made in the classroom by the teacher that Assistive Technology allows the student to access and learn from. Without the partnership between UDL and Assistive Technology, students would be able to access their environment buy that environment would not be one that was supportive enough for them to learn. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Social Media and the Classroom

Over the last few years, society has seen a social media boom. This boom in social networking has increased the policies for teachers and their use of social media both inside and outside of the classroom. For example, Guilford County Schools have an extensive list of do's and do not's regarding how they are to conduct themselves online.  Professionalism towards the school and towards the teacher as an individual is key. A quote from the policy directly reflects how serious school systems are beginning to take social media interactions, "The lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred in the digital world. By virtue of identifying yourself as a GCS employee online, you are now connected to colleagues, students, parents and the school community. Use these connections wisely and well. You should also ensure that content associated with you is consistent with your work at GCS and your role as a public school/State employee"(Guilford).  The full  list of procedures and policies can be seen at this website.  Of course policies vary by county and each policy is different. However, strict policies are starting to discourage the use of social media within the classroom.

"The myth about social media in the classroom is that if you use it, kids will be Tweeting, Facebooking and Snapchatting while you're trying to teach. We still have to focus on the task at hand. Don't mistake social media for socializing"(Davis). Never fear teachers of the world, there are ways of incorporating social media within your classroom setting and lesson plans!

1. Educational Social Networking
There are a variety of different social networks geared for students and teachers. Edmodo is an interactive social media platform that allows teachers to post "updates" to students and for students to be able to engage with one another outside the classroom. There is also a turn it in feature, where students have a way of turning in their work. This is helpful because it cuts back on the amount of paper being used as well as giving students the opportunity to learn how to do more with a social network than just "update their status". Other educational social networks include Canvas, a system very similar to edmodo the only difference being that teachers do not update a status. Blackboard and Moodle, used by many college campuses allows for teachers to post assignments and allows students to turn assignments in. There are plenty of ways to use regular social media ie FaceBook and Twitter to engage your students. Teachers use twitter accounts to post homework and they even "live tweet" from their classroom using a hashtag.

2. Applications 
There are many applications that can be manipulated inside the classrooms on iPads and tablets that are effective uses of this version of social media. For example, the Remind app allows for teachers to send reminders to their students about upcoming assignments and that reminder is sent straight to the phone of each student. Dropbox is another helpful applications that allows students to no longer need a flash-drive everywhere they go. Dropbox allows for students to save their work onto a storage system in cyberspace that they can access from any computer, or on their cellphone. I have been in classrooms that have used applications to communicate with a non-verbal student because he recognized the pictures, that student is now semi-verbal.  This application allowed for this child to socialize, a task that seemed unreachable only a year before. Applications may not be a typical form of social media, but they are enhancing learning in the classroom.

3. Skype 

Skype in the classroom is a great form of social media being used to its fullest potential within the classroom setting. Skype is like a virtual field trip, students could learn from someone different and engaging from any part of the world. Skype in that sense brings the world into perspective for students who would not usually get to see anything other than their county or state. In the video to the side, students are connecting with other students not only across their country but across the world. Skype is allowing students to experience the world, Imagine how an experience like that changes the mindset of a child. When they begin to think globally instead of just about the area around them.

4. Pinterest 
From bulletin board ideas, to creative manipulative, to classroom management ideas, ways to decorate your classroom and serves many other functions. Teachers today have been bogged down by teaching the same lesson day after day, year after year. Mixing up the lessons creates a more interesting environment for not only the students, but for the teacher as well. Pinterest offers a variety of examples of ways to decorate the classroom that allows for students to feel engaged. and what teacher doesn't love their classroom to be the best decorated on the hall. Pinterest is a great collaboration of teachers from all different places. It is like going to a conference without having to get out of bed.

More suggestions can be found at websites like this Edutopia site and this University of Phoenix  website. There are many more forms of social media being effectively used in the classroom, and not using the technology allowed to you as a teacher is crippling to the experience of students. As a teacher, it is your job to create a learning environment inside of your classroom. By shying away from using social media and technology inside of your classroom, you are not doing your classroom justice. "Social media is here. It's just another resource and doesn't have to be a distraction from learning objectives. Social media is another tool that you can use to make your classroom more engaging, relevant and culturally diverse" (Davis). 

Columbia Business Times. (2012). Social Media Icons 1.  Retrieved from http://columbiabusinesstimes.com/14239/2012/03/06/like-it-or-not/social-media-icons-1/.

Davis, Vicki, (2014, April 13). A guidebook  for social media and the classroom. Retrieved from  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/guidebook-social-media-in-classroom-vicki-davis

Guilford County Schools. (n.d.). Social media guidelines for faculty and staff.   Retrieved from

Skype. (July 2013 3). Skype in the classroom brings together classes in New Zealand and California. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YVeMPY5FqU