Monday, November 30, 2009

Netiquette and Digital Citizenship

I enjoyed reading the articles regarding netiquette. I never even considered that it would be rude to cc rather than bcc. I always figured that I have nothing to I know :0) The information seemed pretty straight-forward. It seemed mostly appropriate for adults rather than students; however, I don't think it ever hurts to teach kids etiquette. Our computer facilitator does indeed have a netiquette poster posted. In addition, my school district has strict rules regarding email.

The next portion of our assignment regarding digital citizenship was something I am quite familiar with. The district in which I currently work utilizes the Olweus Anti-Bullying program. We are well-versed in plans of action against bullying, whether it in the classroom, on the bus, or online. Cyber-bullying is growing at terrifying speeds. Even in my childhood I can recall the use of multiple email addresses and screen names. They were used as a tool to intimidate and bully others, including myself. I know these possibilities are a greater problem now with the social networking and use of cell phones. I think it is of paramount importance that the students know that when these instances occur, they have to get somebody involved, be it a teacher or parent.

Module #4 Etiquette

1. Invite someone with a disability to your school and speak with the kids about their experiences.

Though I was not able to invite a person to come speak with my students due to the nature of my position, I was able to be a member of an audience of a speaker with a disability. He did not have use of one of his hands. He spoke of how most of his teachers treated him like a baby and did not challenge him solely because of his PHYSICAL disability. By fourth grade, he had one teacher who made him feel like a million bucks. She challenged him and essentially ignored his disability. Thirty years later, this gentleman was still speaking of the profound impact she had on him by not allowing him to take the easy way out. By challenging him to achieve what everyone else could, regardless of his apparent struggles. His speech left me feeling energized and reminded me that a person cannot be measured by what they can't do, but what they can or should be challenged to do.

2. Take this quiz if you’re not sure if your knowledge and attitude relating to a person with disability is adequate and discover what areas of etiquette may still need some improving. Good luck! Write about your results and your reaction to those results.

I feel fairly comfortable with my interraction as well as my awareness of people with disabilities. I can't say I was shocked by any of the findings; however, I was shocked that this information is not common knowledge for the public. Watching the role reversal video enlightened me to how it must feel when the ignorant treat those with disabilities improperly. I am hoping to share the content of this step with my administrator as a possible exercise or inservice for my building.

3. Check out your local Independent Living Center (ILC) and Assistive Technology Centers and find out what services are offered. Post your observations to your blog or journal. tell about the positive and negative aspects of what you observed at the sites.

The Independent Living Center that I researched was the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I spoke with an employee over the phone as well as a thorough investigation of their website. I was pleased by the core services that they provide: skills training, information and referral, advocacy, and peer support. In addition, there were a number of other services available that include housing, transitioning, and personal services. The website provided both an overview of assistive technology available as well as the equipment that the TRCIL has. What struck me as most profound was the mission statement for the organization. As a teacher, I believe we often lose sight of what happens to a child once they graduate from our particular building. This service provider makes it clear that the goal is to continue a person's development to his or her potential. I am copying the statement only because a paraphrase would not give it justice:
A Center for Independent Living (CIL) is a non-residential, non-profit, community-based human service agency. Its purpose is to enable people with disabilities to lead self-directed and productive lives within the community.
CILs believe that each person with a disability should be empowered to function at their highest achievable level of independence. This is accomplished through a combination of systems change, individual advocacy and provision of direct services. CILs believe in the principles of consumer control, consumer choice, equal access, and equal opportunity for all people with disabilities, regardless of diagnosis or age.
A CIL is unique in that it serves individuals of all ages with any type of disability and, according to its by-laws, a majority of its staff and board members must be people with disabilities.
I hope to continue to use my increased awareness in the classroom by having a more global view of disabilities. I hope that I am able to now look at the bigger picture when I want to complain about IEPs or putting in some extra work. Every human being deserves to thrive and grow throughout his/her lifetime. My goal is to be a contributor to that very dream for of my students, with or without disabilities.

4. Increase your knowledge and do a web search on “Assistive Technology.” Annotate five (5) websites that proved useful.

Three Rivers Center for Independent Living
Assistive Technology Store
Wikipedia Article on Assistive Technology
YouTube Video Created by a Special Education Teacher
Able Data, a Great Source for Assistive Technology Information, minus the marketing

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Module #3

1.Develop or download a rubric to use to evaluate software for assistive technology.

I chose to customize a rubric that I found to evaluate Dragon Naturally-Speaking and e-Speaking, both are speech recognition software. I chose to evaluate the products by product and overview, features and hardware, and support options available. I felt that by including all of these elements the intended audience would get the full picture of its capabilities, not simply the product.

2.Download a 30 day trial of Inspiration. Create a sample lesson for your classroom or library OR design a project for your workplace.

I thoroughly enjoyed the offerings of Inspiration. While I was exploring, I created the basic outline for a five paragraph essay. In addition, I created a page with the bubbles that could be a place for students to brainstorm ideas. My intent was to use this program as a tool for teaching students an effective way to write a five paragraph essay. First they would pick a topic, then brainstorm, complete the outline, and finally, compose the essay. All stages could be handed in and graded.

I also plan on using this software tomorrow as I embark on my own research paper for my classes. I am a strong advocate in outlining and this program saves me time and formatting headaches :0)

Finally, I consulted another website for reviews of this product that I felt was quite helpful:

3.Download a 30 day trial of the read out loud software program, Kurzweil 3000. Experiment with it.

I was overwhelmed with ideas for use of the Kurzweil 3000. Though I enjoyed experimenting on my own, to fully appreciate its offerings, I suggest visiting These videos provided a true representation of just how useful this program can be. I thought immediately that the Reading Specialist at my school would particularly enjoy this site. I liked that it could be used as assistive software for students with specials needs or simply assistive software to be utilized in the everyday classroom. My one critique, which cannot really be helped, would be the pronunciation of proper nouns. This may confuse some children as the voice did not always pronounce them correctly; however, overall, I was thrilled with this program.

4.Look at the accessibility features already built into your computer's operating system. Choose your operating system and watch the demonstrations.

I have Windows 7, so unfortunately, I was not overwhelmed by the accessibility features available. One feature that did surprise me was the magnifying glass. Very often, I just need a minute detail of something enlarged. The magnifying glass, now that I know it is there, will be quite helpful. In addition, the text enlarger was also key. I remember being a part of the TappedIn session and felt frustrated that I could barely read the text. Like Windows 7, the program had an easy feature to enlarge the text to a more comfortable size. Other features, such as personalization and adjusting the volume were not new to me.

5.Check out InfoEyes, a library service for persons with visual impairments.

InfoEyes seems like a practical application for those with visual impairments. Instead of having to type questions, a person can schedule a live appointment with a librarian. Seems like a very direct approach to overcoming this need.

6.In your journal or blog, write about how you can implement assistive technology at your school or library. In California, a good place to start is the California State Library website.

Regarding my personal situation, I plan or already do use a number of assistive technology devices. I would like to purchase a microphone that has multiple channels. This microphone is worn by the teacher. All students can hear the amplification; however, students with hearing impairment can wear headphones and screen any sound other than the teacher's amplified voice. I am considering budgetting for such a device both as a voice saver for me and for those with special needs. A useful device that I already have is a wall-mounted SMARTBoard. This board allows for students to use a giant touch screen while working with music reading. The board can be used as a projector as well. I use the SMARTBoard daily by creating programs through SMARTBoard Notebook software. This technological device saves me time from having to print numerous copies or make posterboard visuals.

7.Using the rubric you created or downloaded, write a review on each of the software packages.
I chose to review two speech recognition packages that are available. The rubric for comparison of Dragon Naturally-Speaking and e-Speaking is posted on Blackboard. I did provide the needs assement and justificiation for reference.

Software Selection-Needs Assessment

It is our goal to have students learn in the least restrictive environment. Students with disabilities can bridge the gap with the use of assistive technology. Assistive technologies allow for meaningful and developmentally appropriate learning to occur without changing the learning object. Cerebral palsy is the term used to describe the lack of control of the muscles or joints due to an injury during brain development, which results in disrupted coordinated movement. Seizures, mental disabilities, auditory problems, visual problems, communication problems, and possible impairments of other senses are sometime parallel with this disability. Our student who has cerebral palsy may need support walking, talking, and eating. In addition, she has difficulty working with the computer for long periods of time due to her poor fine motor skills.

While less intensive use of the computer can be remedied with the hardware selections, the addition of speech recognition software could help her easily navigate on the computer or “type” a paper. Speech Recognition is a technology that allows the computer to identify and understand words spoken by a person using a microphone or telephone. The ultimate goal of the technology is to be able to produce a system that can recognize with 100% accuracy all words that are spoken by any person. The following software is a recommendation in order to increase her independence and productivity during the school day and specifically while using a computer during her time in the library: Dragon Naturally-Speaking and e-Speaking.

Though the difference in price is extreme between Dragon Naturally-Speaking and e-Speaking, I do find Dragon Naturally-Speaking to be the most effective choice. The major advantages to the Dragon Naturally-Speaking versus e-Speaking is that it provides the necessary hardware, has a high accuracy rating, has telephone support, and works on all operating systems other than a MAC. The district’s intent is to upgrade to Windows Vista within the next two years. e-Speaking would no longer work on this operating system. In addition, Dragon Naturally-Speaking provides its users with a manual as well as tutorials for support. This software program could help the student with cerebral palsy significantly by allowing her to independently work on the computer without the use of her fine motor skills. In addition, this product can be used by others as a tool for dictation. The Dragon Naturally-Speaking software is a small investment that would result in large success. Wilson Elementary should purchase this software immediately.

For more information about the software:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Assistive Technology Module #2

As I have been working on my assistive technology plan, I have struggled to find quality sites that provide both the equipment plus a detailed explanation of its use. I was quite pleased with the wide spectrum of both hardware and software available as assistive technology. As I browsed a multitude of websites I was bombarded with thoughts of students that would benefit from these devices. I think that the purchase of a keyboard that can be both one-handed and two-handed would be useful for a student with only one functional hand as well as students who are able to use two hands. In addition, I appreciated the voice recognition software for those students who do not have the fine motor skills needed to use a mouse. I know a particular student in my school who uses his aid rather than assistive technology. I imagine he would appreciate very much to be independent. The final device that I found would be useful in my situation would be a microphone that has multiple channels. This microphone is worn by the teacher. All students can hear the amplification; however, students with hearing impairment can wear headphones and screen any sound other than the teacher's amplified voice. I am considering budgetting for such a device both as a voice saver for me and for those with special needs.

Hardware Selection-Needs Assessment

It is our goal to have students learn in the least restrictive environment. Students with disabilities can bridge the gap with the use of assistive technology. Assistive technologies allow for meaningful and developmentally appropriate learning to occur without changing the learning object. Cerebral palsy is the term used to describe the lack of control of the muscles or joints due to an injury during brain development, which results in disrupted coordinated movement. Seizures, mental disabilities, auditory problems, visual problems, communication problems, and possible impairments of other senses are sometime parallel with this disability. Our student who has cerebral palsy may need support walking, talking, and eating. The following hardware is a recommendation in order to increase her independence and productivity during the school day and specifically while using a computer during her time in the library:

Hardware Device #1: Half-Qwerty Keyboard

The Half-Qwerty Keyboard provides the flexibility of using one or two hands on the keyboard. Because the student with cerebral palsy does not have functional use of both hands, this keyboard would be a realistic choice for her needs. In addition, the keyboard can be used to meet the needs of future students who may only have use of one hand or arm because you can use it right or left-handed. Finally, With two Half Keyboards embedded into a standard keyboard, a student can use one hand or two, providing ultimate flexibility and use.

Hardware Device #2: Mouse Button Box

The Mouse Button Box is a USB connected mouse that minimizes fine motor movement to button presses as opposed to the sliding of the mouse. This device would allow a student to keep the hand fairly stationary to perform the tasks accomplished by the traditional mouse. This device is easy to plug (via a USB cable) and is cost effective.

My hardware selection was made within because I was so pleased with the information presented. The website provided photo images, specs, and information regarding what need the product would address. I felt that the prices were reasonable considering the obvious benefit of the technology to be acquired.

Overall, I was quite interested in all of the information presented both in Discovering Assistive Technology as well as the Jurkowski text. I was so touched by the fact that the goal was not to alter the learning objective but rather to alter the way in which a student is able to accomplish something. I think too often we, as teachers, forget that many disabilities such as cerbral palsy or hearing impairment, do not affect a students' ability to learn unless we let it. I have had no training in assistive technology and feel flooded with ideas on how to make the learning experience better for those students in need.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Assistive Technology, Introduction & Module #1

The videos that we viewed via YouTube were outstandingly powerful. It is not everyday that my homework brings me to tears (unless it is cataloging.) I know so little about assistive technology and was eager to learn what I could. I dove right into all of the literature and was overwhelmed with my findings.

Discovery exercise #1 sent me sifting through link after link of information for students with blindness. I found that the best approach to teaching sighted children about braille with a blind student in the classroom would be to treat the blind student as the resident expert. That can make anyone feel proud! I would encourage that student to tell us all about the system. Following that discussion, I would encourage the sighted students in the class to learn braille through flashcards, books, writing, etc. To increase their awareness of blindness I would choose books and movies to expose the students to that have someone in it who is blind. Throughout these activities I would continually invite the student who is blind to assist others in understanding.

Discovery exercise #2 led me to a number of fascinating articles. The most profound of these was, "Common Sense in Education and Research." This article presented a bulleted list of common sense statements that sometimes get shadowed by our best of intentions. The article essentially leveled the playing field for all students saying the goal is effective instruction for everyone...period. No situation is perfect. Not every child is going to meet "our" criteria. A teacher can't teach every student in the same manner. One approach is not always going to work. The article, though perhaps a bit brutal at times, poignantly expressed that we must continue to strive for the best opportunities for everyone and not get bogged down by all of the little stuff. Education is a lifelong journey. We don't and never will have all the answers; however, we should use our common sense and teaching ability to make it the best possible scenario.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Week 9, Thing #23 I MADE IT

What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey?
There were many worthwhile experiences. To name a few, I plan on incorporating a library blog, delicious, podcasts, and Library Thing into my future classroom.

How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals?
This program has definitely affected my lifelong learning goals. My motto has always been, "It takes time to save time." This technology that is constantly evolving will really save us time and will aid students in understanding; however, it is our responsibility to consistently put the time in to stay current with offerings.

Were there any take-a-ways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?
I consider myself fairly technologically savvy and never considered that the majority of the online tools that were introduced to me, I had never even heard of!

What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept?
Nothing, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience.

If we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you choose to participate? If so, check out Discovering Assistive Technology.
At this time, I would not due to my obligations in my current master's program; however, I would certainly love to join another program similar or a bit more advanced when I have a little more time to do some independent learning.

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?
Being in Classroom Learning 2.0 gave me the opportunity to learn about great technological tools that can be used in the classroom that I would have never stumbled across on my own :0)

Week 9, Thing #23

As I stated in my previous post, due to my long commute to work, I like to listen to things other than music in my car. I am a HUGE fan of the audiobook. To me, there is nothing better than sitting back and listening to a good book while I drive to and from work everyday and throughout my errands. I consistently rent audio books from my library simply put them in order in my cd player. Its reading, without the reading part :0)

I am also familiar with ebooks, though I do not own a device, such as a Kindle. I borrowed one once to experiment with and had difficulty getting past the lack of a book spine and that library smell. Maybe I am a traditional girl after all. For those that have a space constraint and enjoy hoarding books, rather than renting from a library, the ebook seems like the perfect scenario.

The ebook which is available immediately online (almost like an online database entry) is something else I also use regularly. The inherent problem with this scenario is that my computer does not always fit in my purse to take with me.

Unfortunately, when searching the Gutenberg Project, I was unable to view any of the ebooks. It kept saying, "Page could not be found." Though I was dissappointed, I am quite familiar with ebooks through my public library experiences. I was also able to view the many titles available.

Week 9, Thing #21

Wow! I feel good about this lesson too. I just listened to a Podcast this morning of my pastor's sermon since I was unavailable for his preaching. It is so nice to have this technology available.

I am an avid Itunes user and have only recently ventured into the world of podcasts. I enjoy having options other than music to listen to and love the fact that podcasts (at least for the most part) are free of charge. I think it is important to note that as the text states podcasts are rarely used as an interractive tool. It is more of a lecture style teaching that can be quite useful...especially for those of us that have a longer commute to work.

I was quite proud of myself that I was able to add the podcast into my blog that I felt was relavent to what I do (musicteachers 911) I did not find a whole lot of information that would be relavent to children but more continuing education for teachers.

Podcasts would be a great tool in which to give a book talk or even a distance learning story time. I tend to think that having a live lecture is always a better option when possible; however, more and more that is not possible. Podcasts bring a personal and live experience without it being personal or live.

Week 9, Thing #20

I have been a fan of YouTube for quite some time. Though I can see its use in the classroom, I tend to use it more for entertainment purposes. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the videos that were sent by Classroom Learning 2.0; however, I was even more excited to search based on my the given criteria. I chose a video that was a book talk by a number of students. They critically analyzed, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days," by Jeff Kinney. This video was an easy choice for me because my goal was to find a real life example of how YouTube could be used in the classroom. I can imagine students would be thrilled to create a video giving their analysis of a given book they had read. I never knew embedding videos was this easy! I will be using this skill a lot.

In addition, I do see some of the obvious problems with YouTube, such as the ability to monitor content. A lot of school districts do not even allow access to YouTube due to some of the explicit content. The best answer to this dilemna is the resource, TeacherTube. This website is geared toward a more educational setting. Another downfall is that parents may not be interested in having a video of their child displayed for the world to see. I can argue both sides of that argument.

Finally, I think that YouTube/TeacherTube can be useful to show videos that others have developed as an aid in the classroom. Perhaps it could be a book talk, a movie clip, or a performance of some sort that could help in understanding a given concept.

Generally, I think YouTube is a good site with a lot of legit just have to be willing to sift through a little garbage :0)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Week 8, Thing #19

I loved the Library Thing website! I thought it would be an excellent way for a person to track their own collection. In addition, I couldn't help but think of what a great resource it could be in a classroom (any grade level.) I have already been speaking to my librarian about collaborating with her on a project where the fifth grade students create a wiki of their book reports. This week I came up to her to discuss the possibility of them creating Library Thing accounts. Library Thing would be an excellent tool for the students to track books they have read in specific genres at their library. Wouldn't you have loved to keep track of all of the books you read in your lifetime? In addition, once the students complete a book, they could rate it and provide comments for others to see. Though I liked the idea of the wiki, I am even more excited about having the students create Library Thing accounts. Utilizing this resource could also give them a chance to catalog and organize rather than us doing it for them!

Here is my Library Thing collection for my Modern Day Shakespeare WebQuest:
I chose a variety of books for my lesson that I felt would help the students in various stages of the process. One book had the complete collection of Shakespeare's works. Another gave hints and examples regarding how to write short stories. I chose two books to help the students analyze their chosen plays, and finally, I chose a book that would give them the nuts and bolts of making changes to photos in Photoshop. I chose books based upon use as a resource...not to be used as a cover-to-cover read.

Week 8, Thing #18

This post was posted via the online productivity tool, "Zoho Writer." I read the information in Classroom Learning 2.0, a discovery resource, as well as the brief explanation of features presented when I first signed in. I am quite excited about the possibilities of Zoho Writer. I opened a previous Microsoft Word document while I was investigating Zoho and started comparing the two. Both seemed to have similiar features. I was quite shocked at how easy it was to simply sign-in and get moving with the Zoho Writer.
I can absolutely see why this feature would be popular for those who travel. My first response was imagining how nice it would be to not have to carry my zip drive from work to home on a daily basis. Though the features on the toolbar were named differently than on Microsoft Word, I had little to no difficulty maneuvering my way through the options. I appreciated some of the added features (such as the option to publish in various forms and to various places.) I also liked the ease in adding an emoticon. (I love adding them for emphasis in less formal writing.) I did, however, miss the clip art feature available in Microsoft Word. I was able to copy and paste the URL address of a picture and essentially "paste" that picture into the document. I was not able to adapt the justification of the picture such as sending to back, tight against text, etc. Perhaps that feature is available, and I was just unable to find it. Overall, I liked this program very much and look forward to sharing it with my colleagues and friends.

(document posted via Zoho Writer)

Laura E. Zuraski

LS 583 W4

Library, Literature, and the Young Adult

July 31, 2009

Critical Response Paper

Mondowney, JoAnn G. Hold them in Your Heart: Successful Strategies for Library Services to at-Risk Teens. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2001.

Hold them in Your Heart: Successful Strategies for Library Services to at-Risk Teens is an excellent resource for all readers entering or already working in any library setting. Mondowney shares all of her insight regarding her work with at risk teens, which really solidifies her love for this focus group, and backs up the information and suggestions she provides. The text is divided into seven chapters: Lessons Learned, Making the Case for Library Services to At-Risk Youth, Public Library Services for Youth-At-Risk: The San Francisco Bay Models, Strategies for Gaining Support, Conducting a Youth Needs Assessment, Are We There Yet? Planning and Evaluation, and Money Talk: Grants and Gifts, Beyond the Bay: Model Programs Elsewhere. The chapter titles along with the content within them make this text a great read from cover to cover or a reference material for at-risk and general library services. After reading the text, many points including factors necessary for success, library models, and the extensive list of special projects make this book an invaluable resource for any librarian.