Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Animoto Video

My Animoto Video

Click on the above and be directed to my Animoto Video.

Google Reader

There is so much information available at our fingertips, literally, now that really the question becomes how fast can you sort through it for relevancy, and how well can you manage or organize it.   Google Reader helps you do those things.

When you search for topics of interest and add those blogs, sites, magazines, or newspaper topics with tags to your reader, new posts pertaining to your interest automatically are sent to your reader for viewing.  For example, I would like to know about the latest advancements in assistive technology.  Therefore, I have added many subscriptions to my Google Reader concerning assistive technology (AT).

Following are three blogs that I came across on my topic of interest, AT.  These blogs contain a treasure  trove of information about assistive technology, devices, software, hardware, uses in schools, uses for adults, definitions, power point presentations, and information about how assistive technology and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are inherently connected.

Assistive Technology Blog at Virginia University

Assistive Technology of Alaska Blog

Glenda's Assistive Technology and More

Check these sites out.  There is a great deal to see.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Views on Technological Resources & Devices And the BIG Question – How Will All of it Affect Teaching?

By Linda Tillinghast

Well, I have just completed the first course in my Advanced Certificate Program at Dowling College in Computers in Education, EDE 7669 Technology in Education Practicum.  To say my head is spinning would be an understatement.

In ten days, I have become acquainted with six SOCIAL media tools including Linkedin, Skype, Twitter, FaceBook,, and Delicious.  In addition, I have utilized four SERVICE media tools including Gmail, Google Apps, Pass Port, and AuthorStream.  I was already a member of one SOCIAL media tool, School Leadership 2.0.  As a result of my experience with blogs and creating my own blog site, I was able to post several blogs to School Leadership 2.0, something I would never have done before.

I have to admit that prior to taking EDE 7669, I had not considered the educational potential of the social and service media tools mentioned above.  This was of course based upon my view of how I learned, and the limited knowledge that I had concerning the technological 21st century learning landscape.  Oh, I knew about e-readers, the Internet, how to search or at least I thought so, e-mail, and presentation tools, but that does not even begin to scratch the surface of what technology has in store for education.  I think it really hit me when I watched the YouTube video developed by a student taking a course on the American Psyche, called The Networked Student.  The video proposed what education will look like and how the role of the teacher will change, not go away, just change.

Aside from oodles of resources for educators to immerse themselves in, there are many nifty devices now and always newer, better, faster, and smaller on the way.  These include laptops (PC or MAC), netbooks, iPods, iPads, interactive white boards, and let’s not leave out the iPhone or other smart phones.  All of these devices are capable of accessing the Internet, downloading video, being highly interactive, and with the click of a button save and share with the student next door or the student on the other side of the world.  Teachers are not left out in this sharing, as the many social networks available to them allow for accessing lesson ideas and information from anywhere anytime from any of these devices.  You just need to know what you are doing.   This will take time, work, and practice.

So, the big question – how will this affect teaching practices?  As a special educator, I am use to students not learning the first, second, and third way I present something.  I am use to task analysis (the concept of breaking a concept down into its incremental pieces and teaching linear sequentially).  Task analysis becomes very difficult when you have students at different levels and with different needs in your class.  This is the case for classroom teachers, and believe it or not for special educators who are faced with all of the most difficult to teach/reach all the time and frequently at the same time.

Students with disabilities should now be able to take advantage of laptop computers with software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking (headphones with microphone required), which syncs voice to text so students with dysgraphia or severe difficulty composing can still complete book reports, essays, and DBQs.  Furthermore, students with dyslexia or severe reading difficulties can now utilize e-readers, Book Share, and Kurzweil – a text to speech software program with many other useful features as well.

Students with disabilities usually need a great deal more repetition to learn or remember something such as the math facts.  There are a plethora of programs available on the web that are free, interactive, and engaging to help SWDs master such skills as math facts, spelling high frequency words, reading sight words, and learning vocabulary.

Technology is not just for students with disabilities.  It is for the average student and the above average student as well.  Schools should be investigating how to offer one-to-one programs such as the Westhampton Beach model.  The one-to-one model allows for:
differentiation of instruction (not everyone/group has to be working on/reading the same thing)
teacher flexibility to meet more students’ needs in small groups
more time for individualized student attention
increased student engagement/time on task.

Schools should be investing in wireless accessibility.  This will allow teachers to develop lessons that incorporate Internet sources and build in student interaction.  Students, who are reticent to raise a hand, may be more likely to push a clicker button, or post a short response to a video clip.

Teaching with technology can make learning accessible to all students, a concept known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  I have an old saying, “The one doing the work, is the one doing the learning.  Therefore, the teacher needs to do less, the student needs to do more.”

I heard someone say that technology is the great equalizer.  I believe it is also the great motivator, and not just for students.  I believe that the final piece to this is professional development.   Technological advancements will enable teachers to truly practice UDL, but I firmly believe that will only happen with strong district commitment and support in the form of PD and other resources such as devices and software.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Educational Technology – Truly an Adventure for Everyone!


Dr. Elsa Sophia Morote, Chair of Educational Leadership, Administration, and Technology at Dowling College, describes her quests in keeping up with the continual changes and improvements in educational technology in her blog, Educational Technology, My Personal Adventure.  The analogy to an adventure is perfect because following the rapid advancement in technology is like a trek through uncharted territory, especially for the casual user, such as myself.

The YouTube production The Networked Student by Wendy Drexler helped me to begin to understand the learning landscape in the Technological 21st century.  The best analogy that comes to my mind after viewing The Networked Student is an octopus and its tentacles.  The delightful animation describes what a student in this technological age will need to be aware of and be able to navigate -- from . . . Google Scholar to obtain reputable sources of information on a topic, a social bookmarking site such as Delicious that keeps track of your favorite sites and allows sharing, to blog sites for sharing opinions and RSS readers to subscribe to blogs on topics of interests.  Let’s not forget Wikki spaces that are places for more formal postings of factual information versus opinion or views.  It does not end there, because iTunes U offers a plethora of informative podcasts and Open Sources of information including college courses from world-class professors for FREE!

So, what does this mean for education, instruction, and teachers?  Change.  Real change.  The kind of change that can transform the way the world works, lives, learns, and plays.  It does not mean fewer teachers.  On the contrary, teachers are at the heart of the matter.    It means teachers’ roles will be changing, the places of instructional delivery will be changing, the form of instructional delivery will be changing.  Change is coming.  The technological network is ready and waiting.  All of the tools are available to us now.  We have a lot to learn, but we are teachers.  We are the best learners.    


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Exciting New Ways to Engage Learners

When I was in school, the teacher spoke, the children listened, and that was that.  As we grew, not much changed . . . the teacher spoke, perhaps used an overhead projector, an occasional film, the children listened, and we learned to take notes, and then that was that.

Today, we live in a whole new world.  It's called the age of technology!  Frequently, education is slow to integrate what the rest of the world has been at full throttle with for oh, maybe a decade.  Unfortunately, such is the case with technology integration into education.

I'll give you an example.  I was working with some 8th graders on Social Studies and English research papers and the students needed some on-line references.  I suggested Wikipedia.  My suggestion was immediately met with astonishment on the part of my students.  It seems they and their teachers knew something I didn't.  You see, Wikipedia can be edited by any old hack as one of the students informed me, and he then said that they were NOT ALLOWED to use Wikipedia as a reference.

No matter how I tried to explain to the students that a part of learning  involves checking your sources and comparing information and that Wikipedia is one such source, I could not convince them to go against their teachers' edicts.  The students had been sufficiently brainwashed that Wikipedia was just a bunch of worthless nonsense.

So funny, today I was browsing Open Sources and guess what I found?  An MIT Professor who actually used and embraced Wikipedia!  An MIT Professor!  By the way, this MIT Professor willingly shared his entire course on the Open Source.

Anyway, getting back to Wikipedia, why all the fuss?  I just read the article 77 Web Resources for Teachers to Explore This Summer by Richard Byrne (see the link below) and there was a great example of a teacher using the Wiki application in her classroom.  The students had actually compiled more information on their topic of study than the textbook contained.

Remember the old days, the teacher spoke, the children listened, . . . I didn't say we learned.  Learning implies utilizing information in a variety of ways across domains of high level thinking.  I can't say we did that.  I did have to learn it.  I learned it the hard way by trial and error in the work place and in college.  However, I know I certainly need to be able to do it as an educator and a professional, and I am certain our students are going to need to be able to do it.  A Wiki seems like a great classroom application for compiling information on a topic of study that will foster higher level thinking and engagement.

Another area that Richard provides a plethora of information on is programs to help students with skills, content, and/or processes.   Today there are programs for reading, writing, math, and content areas.  I started this blog with . . . when I was in school, the teacher spoke, the children listened, and that was that.  Well, that was rather boring.  The programs available now allow the teacher to change up the game plan,  provide more individualized attention to some while others use the computers.  Please see links to a small sampling of these programs below.

Students expect a lot from teachers, parents expect a lot from teachers, administrators expect a lot from teachers, the state expects a lot from teachers.  I think teachers should make every effort to become as technologically savvy as possible, because in the end, it will make their teaching easier and their students soar.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Barriers to Technology Integration in Schools

I used to think of myself as fairly competent in the use of technology.  Then I started an Advanced Certificate Program at Dowling College in Computers in Education and realized how little I know.

Technology integration has begun to blossom over the last several years in the district I currently work in.  SmartBoards have been installed throughout the district, and I know of some teachers who are very adept with it.  I also know of some teachers beginning to use blogs and streaming videos.

However, I have heard some comments made to the effect:  "I can't put all the time and effort into creating SmartBoard lessons for everything when I can't be sure it is going to work consistently."  So, I believe some teachers will make a lesson here and there, and then use the SmartBoard basically as an expensive chalkboard.

Hence, one barrier is definitely teacher perception of dependability.

The other part of the comment made to me, however, dealt with time.  Recrafting lessons into digital formats initially takes a great deal of time from already pressed teachers.  If teachers could have time to start recrafting lessons, I believe it would motivate them to utilize the technology.

The last barrier is based on my personal experience.  While I am thoroughly enjoying learning about all of the exciting avenues technology opens up for educators, the trial and error factor can be frustrating.

The third barrier, is a lack of constant and relevant Professional Development so that teachers are not having to try to figure out things as they go.

I am sure that there are other barriers that are more logistical in nature for a district to consider.  The three I mentioned were perhaps the ones that would give teachers the most trepidation in venturing into technology.