Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We're Going Global? What Does That Mean?


We going global? What that mean?!
For the past two or so years, many (literally hundreds) of apps, websites, and programs have been introduced to our campus and the most impressive (at least to the curriculum team) are implemented across the district as a supplement to teaching and/or used as after-school enrichment/tutorials. Now the challenge has moved directly to the classroom and the sole responsibility for planning and delivery is the teacher. How will these goals be achieved?  Where do we find resources?  We need information, time, connections...Help!!!!  Here is where professional and personal learning needs to enter the scene.

I have spent the past year diving deep into educational technology and how it can be applied to the classroom setting in order to enhance student engagement and learning.  The year was spent with many professionals who either share the same passion I have for technology or who wanted to know more because they know this thing called educational technology isn't going away. In my quest, the reoccurring theme has been real world, authentic and engaging lessons.

So, my tech goal this year is to go global. Yes, I said go global. What could be more real world, more authentic in our diverse world, and more engaging than learning with others who live,play, work and learn outside our immediate communities.

What could be more relevant and authentic than actually interacting with and learning from other students and professionals around the world?  Reading, writing, science, math, and social studies are taught and learned differently due to cultural differences, language, and economics. Allowing students exposure to these various differences can only spark engagement and provide a path to developing life long learners eager to solve real world problems through collaboration. This is the ultimate goal of going global!

Here are a couple of ideas and projects teachers and I have explored and/or currently participating in:

Pernille Ripp's Global Read Aloud
Blog's on daily weather reports from various locations within and out side our country
Globe Tracker's Mission
ePals
Across the World Once a Week
Mystery Skype 
Google Hangouts with authors and classrooms across country and the world

And all we needed was a few books, web cam, microphone,and a Internet connection. Wallah! Gone Global!


















Monday, October 14, 2013

Caution: Learning Out Loud Can Be Messy

It Just Might Lead to Failure...  And that's when the learning opportunities grow!
 
I am taking a journey with a 3rd grade teacher using technology with her students to participate in real time discussions with another classroom in Canada.  She is participating in the Global Read Aloud (GRA) project created by Pernille Ripp. This is a global collaborative project where classrooms all over the world connect and read the same book and meet up online to discuss ideas (similarities/differences) together.

Teachers select a book that reflects their grade level ability and interest.  And using Edmodo and the GRA website, teachers seek out other teachers/classrooms that are reading the same book selection.  A projected schedule of lesson/chapters to read before a meet up is posted on the GRA site.  Next, teachers communicate how they want to connect their classrooms (Google Hangouts, Edmodo, KidblogsSkype, etc.).  Classroom teachers set up a time and day to meet up and facilitate students in sharing thoughts, ideas and questions about their classroom readings.  The process is continued until the entire book is read and the students have successfully participated in a global sharing experience that provided a unique learning experience that foster cultural differences and acceptance, languages, and new knowledge through shared collaborative products, if possible.  

After reading chapters one and two and having some classroom discussions for the purpose of constructing of good questions, we prepared for our first meet up.  Our chosen format with our partner class was Skype.  It was our first time using Skype in a classroom setting and we were excited about the new experience.  We sought out a webcam and external microphone/speakers.  We practiced logging in and connecting with one another. We had prepared for a great experience. 

We were Ready, Set...hello?  Are you there?  Oh No! Our partner class could not hear us.  We could see and hear them. What could be the problem?  We practiced using Skype the day before and everything was working.

This is a good excuse for teachers who don't particular appreciate technology in the classroom.  Well, attempting something new can have a learning curve.  And this moment was exactly that.  So, as any good teachers would do, we forged through the mess and addressed the goal for the meet up.   And that was to share thoughts, ideas and questions about a book with a class from Canada.  Students had written their questions on post cards as a reminder, but they now became a necessity.  Remember, they could not hear us and could only see us.  Quick thinking lead us to use the chat feature in Skype to pose questions to the teacher and the student's using the student's written question held up to the camera.  Genius!  

OK, maybe not, but it worked and the learning objective was meet.  The students discussed the first two chapters, cultural difference, language, foods, weather, geography, etc.  Wow!  Communicating with others beyond your community is great.  I learned a lot about Canadians just listening.  To be so close to Canada in terms of geography, I felt worlds apart.  But the big take away was how dangerously close we came to defeat.  Good thing we believe in our efforts. It was not an epic fail, but an opportunity to learn through the mess (failure).  We'll try again...next week we are attempting a  Google Hangout :)  Success not guaranteed!

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill









Thursday, September 19, 2013

Too Much Passion?!?!

Today the words, "you can overdo your passion," was verbalized out loud. It was a response to a conversation on doing what you do well, love and how 'that thing' influences everything you do. Sir Ken Robinson calls it the 'Element'.

My initial thoughts were to not respond but analyze the statement in context to the prior comments. Maybe, I missed the point or misunderstood the intended meaning. But, being spontaneous when I hear words of criticism, I responded with, "my passion cannot be directed or weighed by someone who doesn't share or understand what I find most engaging." In other words, what is right for me might not be right for you, but best believe that what is right for you may not be right for me. The younger generation would say, "you do you and let me do me."

I suppose it is human to judge and compare ones self to others. But why not direct your focus on encouraging others to use their gifts and passions to impact a life or change the world? Who knows, your positive words and actions might be the catalyst to someone achieving greatly. Besides, who are you to belittle or diminish anyone's gift or passion?

I do not believe you can not overdo something that you have an aptitude and love for. And in the words of Brene Brown, "It's Not the Critic Who Counts." Did George Washington have too much passion when he revolted against the perceived oppressor? What about Harriet Tubman? Did she have too much passion when she helped slaves attain their freedom?

What if Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton never felt strongly about women's rights? Would women be voting today? Imagine Martin Luther King, Jr. uninterested in civil rights and equality....the Blessed Mother Teresa not dedicated to the poor...Bill Gates discouraged from spending time learning to code?

Too much passion? No! The above people changed the world because of their passion. Passion is putting more work into something than what may required to achieve it. It is not just enthusiasm or excitement, but ambition that manifest into action. It is when you put your heart, mind, body and soul into something to make it a reality. So...

daringgreatlybadge

If you are a critic...you don't matter.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

There's No Such Thing as an Over Achiever

There is no such thing as an over achiever... just people who have low expectations of others.

 "You are such an over achiever."  Have you ever been told that you are an over achiever?  I have been told this message from my mother and a supervisor in the past year.  Once I held this statement as a way saying I was doing a good job. I smiled with pride that maybe I impressed someone with my ability. But lately I have been rethinking the term over achiever.

I believe in putting forth effort.  Doing things to the best of your ability.  Being a role model for others. Excelling in matters that you are passionately about. Continuing professional development without employee mandate, but for the sake of self enlightenment. I sincerely want to improve on today for the betterment of tomorrow.  I want to grow!

Is that over achieving?  I don't think so! The above statements are things we want to see ALL of our students doing in their academic lives daily.  We should expect ALL of our students to exceed expectations.

I succeed because I seek different paths to grow.  I am willing to take risks and fail learning if necessary. I am passionate and knowledgeable about the opportunities I pursue. So call me me an over achiever and I'll ask, "why do you hold such low expectations for me."

url.jpg

Monday, September 9, 2013

Loving #EDUC115N- Give the Gift of a Growth Mindset

A friend recommended an online course being hosted by Stanford University on how to learn math. She called it a MOOC. I was skeptical. I have seen the acronym many times before, but never once stopped to decode the meaning. And besides, I am a little insecure about my own math skills. Well, a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. MOOC's are online courses aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. The letters in the acronym are negotiable. (check out the poster below) And since I teach math to elementary level students, I thought this would be a great professional development opportunity for my summer break, as well as an opportunity to improve my own mathematical thinking. It would be a chance to mingle with educators and parents from all over the world in which I could interact with on a subject area most believe you have to be smart to understand.

Well, there are well over three thousand people enrolled. So, interacting is an understatement. It is more like an online PTA (Parent and Teacher Association) meeting. And to think I thought the course would teach me new teaching strategies for math instruction. But, it turns out to be so much more than that. This MOOC is all about how math is vilified as a subject that only a few lucky mathematical inclined individuals succeed in. We are learning how a fixed mindset (mostly likely learned from parents, media, and school) is the reason why many students struggle with math.
A fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset could very well be the difference between a great learner and a struggling learner. Attitude matters. How we cultivate healthy academic attitudes is important.
Well, the post is not about MOOC's but about how this particular course is discussing hw we can cultivate a growth mindset in all our students. First, a fixed mindset is not just what low performing students have. Our high performers can also suffer from a fixed mindset. See, once anyone believes that they are simply born academically challenged or gifted, they might be in danger of a fixed mindset. Neither of the above two groups can handle new challenges that may be difficulty or present failure.
But, a growth mindset, allows for students to embrace change as an opportunity to grow and develop new skills. They are not fearful of the unknown, but curious about the what ifs. They are more open to different ways of thinking. Problem solving is a way of finding solutions, not just an answer to a math problem. Students with a growth mindset are willing to fail in order to learn.
So, what can be done to foster a growth mindset? Glad you asked. Stop making negative statements about your own abilities. Students internalize those statements and make them their own. Now they are full of self doubt and fear failure. Example: My mom says she was never good at math, so I will not be good at math. Now the student does not expect success but failure. Effort in achieving is non-existent. Why try. I was born the way.
On the opposite spectrum, stop telling kids how smart they are, and start praises them for their great effort. When high performers are accustomed to succeeding in many areas of their life and finally face failure or a road block (and we all know they will because life has a way of happening to us all), they do not have the skills to cope and now see themselves as failures. In their minds they have never failed or struggled before, so what is different now. They believe it should come easy for them.

So, you are ready to learn how to foster a growth mindset? You can join this MOOC hosted by Stanford University on OpenEdX called How to Learn Math or visit the Mindset Works website for insight. This is a real way to experience a MOOC and learn more about the research conducted on a growth mindset and it affects student learning outcomes.
So, be cautious of your words and practice a growth mindset in all areas of your life. Be a positive model and others will follow.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Will Be the Change

" You Must be the Change You Wish to See in the World." Mahatma Gandhi

I cannot wait to see all the innovative teaching and learning that has been been tweeted about, educators write about and teachers prepare lessons to produce. This must manifest into greater student success; academically and socially. I spend a lot time in multiple personal learning networks (Wikis, Pinterest, Edmodo, etc.). But, I must confess, I have been very quiet about how excited I am about my passion for educational technology and the learning outcomes that will come from such transformational teaching. I have been a lurker. I have been sitting on the sideline listening and learning, but not really participating and sharing. I am Angelique, a special educator, mother of a previous special needs child (imagine that), team player, #edtech enthusiast and also known as @flipmylearning. I chose my Twitter name because I wanted my own learning and teaching strategies to be flipped. And I have experienced nothing less than life altering knowledge this past year.

As of today, I will no longer participate in the traditional teaching most will continue to practice that has been prescribed for hundreds of years. It is antiquated and lacks the ability to meet the needs of a growing global and technological world. It is not producing citizens that can improve, create and solve global issues. I will no longer teach quietly, passively, and selectively to a few lucky students. I will look at the curriculum and content through a lens for the future. I will actively voice, share, and support instructionally and professionally ALL students and teachers who are willing to explore and possibly fail along side me. This will be the first change I see in my world. It will start with me. I will be the change agent that I wish to see my students and colleagues embrace and implement in their own learning and teachings.

So here is my motivation, my mantra, my reminder that I must step outside my comfort zone and learn out loud for all to critique, modify, model, and if I am successful, follow.



Yes, yes!! I must be brave no matter if I am discouraged. I must persevere and hope the results speak for themselves. I do not want to produce great test takers but great problem solvers, leaders, and inventors. I know my passion shines bright everyday in my actions. It is fuel for my behavior and decisions inside and outside the classroom. I want to empower students with an attitude and the tools that will allow them to create their own destiny. If technology is here to stay, we must teach students content integrated with the technology of today as if we know what we are preparing them for tomorrow. The sky is the limit, and frankly...it is limitless.

Here is a tweet I received from a good friend and fellow teacher/learner. "Be the change you wish to see." It's like she read my mind. She doesn't know that she was the change agent in the way I see my career as a teacher today. You never know how you will influence someone, so always be willing to be the change you want to see in your world. Just like a match, be the strike that fires it up.

Reference:  
Hall, Don. "Learning & Leading Through Technology - August 2013." Learning & Leading with Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2013. <http://www.learningandleading-digital.com/learning_leading/201308/?lm=1374552597000&pg=13#pg13>.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

New Math TEKS!! How Do You Prepare for the Changes??

"The Only Thing We have to Fear, is Fear It Self." Franklin D. Roosevelt

This week I attended a workshop provided by Region IV. It was a two day session on the newly revised/changed Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for math. The changes will impact some grades more than others. But, they will certainly effect ALL STUDENTS despite the grade level. The changes and revisions will no doubt challenge students and teachers alike. Content has been moved around to others grades (some moved from higher grades to lower and vice versa) and the rigor of skills have been enhanced. The good news is the new TEKS for grades three through eighth will not be assessed until the 2014-2015 school year. The not so good news is that there is only one school year to figure out how to implement the changes and cover any gaps beore the new TEKS will be assessed formally. And there will gaps in student knowledge from grade to grade.

Educators will do what we always do when presented with a new challenge. We will come together, discuss changes, create a plan and do the work. A lot of cooperation and collaboration will be needed to fill in the holes. And instruction and curriculum will need modifying to ensure we are preparing our students for the new math expectations. Teaching and learning will continue.

This is where Region IV (or your local eduction service) can be of service. First, it is their responsibility to assist local school districts in meeting state goals. Secondly, they have some pretty cool resources that may make the evaluation of the new changes in the TEKS easier to decipher. I am going to go ahead and give you those and below I will discuss what they shared in the workshop that might be of interest if not intriguing.

Region IV provides professional development and other resources like the side-by-side document that compares the current TEKS to the new TEKS in color coded way. The pink shaded text indicates content that is deleted from the TEKS. The green shaded text indicates content that will remain or has been more clearly defined. The content may stay in the same grade level, may have been added to the grade level, or will be deleted from the grade level. The blue shaded text indicates content that is new.

Below is a view of what the document looks like.

page3image26660

The document above can be found at website Project Share. You can find many resources including instructional lesons, a gap analysis, focal points of the new TEKS and the mathematic process standards (which composes the majority of the test). The mission of Project Share is to provide an interactive and engaging learning environment for teachers and students. Texas Education Agency (TEA), of course, has the current TEKS available in their usual spot. To see the newly revised ones, click here.

Now during our two day session, many other documents were shared, but none provided the direct comparison like the side-by-side view. However, the most informative and interesting information was shared by the presenters themselves. I do not remember any names, so no one can be quoted. But a little research can confirm what I am about to share.

1. The State Assessment of Academic Readiness (Texas' state assessment) for the school year 2013-2014 will only test content from the current TEKS.

2. The State Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for the school year 2014-2015 should begin testing the newly revised TEKS.

3. Now it gets interesting. According to the Region IV facilitators, the 2014-2015 STAAR assessment will include test items from the current STAAR assessment content (maybe released items) and possibly a few items will be included from the newly revised TEKS (these might just be field questions).

According to TEA, during the year of implementation they plan to assess students on the “overlapping” student expectations for each grade level. For example, consider the current 7th grade STAAR bank of test questions; during implementation year they will only include those questions that assess a current student expectation and simultaneously a student expectation from the new TEKS. Students can still expect to see field test questions on the STAAR assessments.

This is good news and also tantalizing. Good news in the sense that more time will be given to instruct new content and close learning gaps before students are assessed on it. Awesome news if students will get more time adjusting to the just two year old assessment of the current TEKS.

The down side and possible flaw in the system is using current test items, especially if released items can show up on the assessment. No doubt districs, schools, and teachers will use these public released items as instructional guides and practice material. This could possibly invalidate scores and provide data that sends a false sense of success and student ability. It is essentially teaching to the test. It could also provide the means for many schools and districts to meet the annual yearly progress and thus redeemed the state from further negative ratings.

Since many schools were hit hard because a waiver was not applied for by our Texas govenor prior to implemented the new STAAR test in 2011. Many schools and districts have failed to meet annual yearly progress (AYP) required by federal law. A drop in student scores is typical when a newly developed state assessment is introduced. (Koretz, 2000.)

Nevertheless, there is work to do and a limited amount of time to achieve success. Start looking at the above resources and begin making plans to change everything you did last school year. You will now have a new goal that will take teamwork and organizational support.

My disclaimer: The Region IV facilitators only shared bullets 1 though 3 with the attendees. Anything discussed after those are my own opinions and there is no proof that those are the intent or goal of the state. I hope I have sparked your interest with my conspiracy theory and motivated you in some way to begin your lesson preparations for this up coming school year by looking at changes in the math content. Feel free to comment, criticize, or educate. I am a life long learner who believes everyone has academic value. I welcome you to share your wisdom.

Reference:

Koretz, D. (2000, May). Limitations in the Use of Achievement Tests as Measures of Educators’ Productivity.

Ring Out the Old and Ring in the New. (2013, July). In-Sight A Neswletter for Curriculum, Instruction, & Assessment.

 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Refections on ISTE 2013 San Antonio

This was my first experience at the International Society of Technology in Education. It was an awesome opportunity and I am thankful for the chance to attend. There was more than 13,000 people in attendance. And with over 500 exhibitors, everyone was running around attempting to make the most of everyday. Daily seminars and sessions provided multiple opportunities to discuss and learn new information as it pertained to educational technology. And, it was mainly NOT about the hardware/devices.
Who Owns the Learning
Alan November & Angelique Moulton

A great part of the ISTE conference is to spread the use of technology as a way to inspire creativity, motivate learners, teach problem solving and processing skills, assess new knowledge, and many other unconventional ways to teach and learn. The conference also brings passionate educators together that have similar interest in the use of technology. Connections are made, ideas are shared and progress in educational technology improves. ISTE was a bee hive of what #edtech looks like in action.

Here I will highlight things that caught my interest (not in any particular order):



  • DigitalStorytelling - This is not new to many of us, but I was introduced to the StoryTellers and StoryKeepers (SIGDS) group. There is a ton of resources related to digital storytelling, even a page dedicated to apps.
  • Flipped Learning/Screencasting- I went to a lecture that detailed how a school in Arizona flipped their elementary classrooms. It was really a lot of the same we already know about flipping. However, the primary grades are the least likely to participate. So, I attended not expecting to learn much new. And I didn't.  I am not sure what I am looking for in the area of flipping a classroom, but I will know when I hear/see it. Here is one of the presentation handouts from the multiple classroom flipping sessions. ISTE Screencasting and Flipping
  • Blogging in the Classroom - I did not discover this during ISTE's, but it was affirmed there. I am a believer in blogging. For me it is therapeutic. But, it can be a valuable tool in getting students to develop good communication and writing skills. I attend the poster session: Creating Student Blogs. Edublog was highly visible at the conference. Here are a couple of articles you can read.
  • Global Collaboration-Flat Classroom® Projects - Home - I love the idea of a partner school/classroom of learners who can share learning opportunities while developing cultural awareness and global collaborative/cooperation skills.
Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
Keynote speaker Jane McGonigal
  • Gaming in Education - Now this was a complete surprise to me. I had heard that games in eduction was on the rise, but I never knew to what magnitude. Wow is all I can say. The opening keynote speaker, Jane McGonigal, truly sparked my curiosity. The 10 emotions hooked me. This is probably an area I will find great interest this school year. I must make it an enrichment after school class. Students creating ode is also on my list of exploration. Scratch is one computing curriculum I will spend time researching.
  • Student Technology Clubs - I sought out this topic for a fellow teacher. We have some very tech savvy students in our building and would like to utilize their existing skills while teaching new ones by creating a tech crew. Their jobs would be to problem solve in the effort to assist teachers and peers when in class minor tech issue arise. This will help avoid delays in getting district tech support (which can take days). Jessica White, the presenter of the session, has a web page with many resources and tutorials to help get us started. We will need much more, but it is a start.
And just as Shirley Caesar sings, 'I Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey,' I do not regret any time I spent at ISTE. Whether the sessions were informative or not. The energy felt in the convention center and discussions I had with random educators inspired me to plan a year of exploration. I will not promise to try all the above ideas, but I will share and recommend when an opportunity presents itself.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to Use Blogsy

Welcome to Blogsy!

Let's get started.
  1. Set up your blog by going to the Settings Menu → Service Settings. Then choose your blog platform and fill in your information.
  2. Tap on the Post Info. button to get to all post information.
  3. Tap on the Plus button to start a new post or open a local draft.
  4. Tap on the Online button to open an online post in Blogsy to edit.
If you would like to Edit HTML or need to paste embed codes then just swipe with three fingers across the screen to flip to the HTML side.
Here's a quick overview pointing out where to go to do all the things you want to do.

How-To Videos and How-To Guide

To get more information about how to use Blogsy go to "Settings" → "How-To Videos" or "How-To Guide".

Friday, June 14, 2013

TV Special: TED Talks Education

As I sit home on my first day off work from my summer school position, I decide to browse the Internet to seek new connections for the upcoming ISTE conference.  I run across TED talks (I really like TED) and notice a series on how can we create an education system that works for kids, instead of against them? There are eight individual speakers who all have a background in teaching or educational leadership.  They all address different issues we face in our schools. 

This was my goal for the day and now I am way off track.   But I am rejuvenated about my choice to be a teacher. Sometimes, all it takes is little encouragement from like minded people to remind me that teaching is a most rewarding job.  When we keep in mind who and why we teach, nothing but positive relationships, academic success, and responsible citizenship can prevail. 

 I love what I do even though it is not viewed as the most glamorous  career in the U.S.  I know my influence will touch more lives than most people can count friendships. 

I took about an hour to watch and listen to all the speakers. 
My favorite speaker is Rita Pierson.  "Every kid needs a champion." Below is a link to the entire program. 

TV Special: TED Talks Education 


Enjoy the program and take time to listen to John Legend sing "True Colors."



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Yet Another Teacher Appreciation Message!!!!


Please read the following blog post by one my favorite bloggers.  It speaks volumes about the teaching profession and how most educators feel about their chosen careers. 

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!!!!


http://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/it-true-i-teach-because-i-cant-do-anything-else-teacher-appreciation-post/

Monday, May 6, 2013

Is Teaching Really a Thankless Job?

Today is the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week and many will be acknowledged for choosing the teaching profession.  And it is well deserved. It is one of a few careers that greatly influence and impact the lives of so many young people.  A teacher has the ability to change the course of a child's life.  

But, in comparing teaching with many other professions, it came to mind that we are much like people of the cloth.  Teaching is much like being a pastor in terms that we deliver messages of hope, teach life lessons, encourage and motivate, counsel through tough times, and generously provide charity.  

Teaching truly has it moments when it can mimic many other careers/jobs. Most days teachers are doctors, psychologist, counselors, and foster parents in addition to providing instruction. And that is the one thing about teaching that makes it the most important career one could dedicate themselves to.  

Is teaching a thankless job as it is often stated?  If teaching is judged by the salary and it's lack of elite career status (at least in the U.S.), then maybe it can be defined as a low paying and under appreciated career.  

But, if you look at the final product of most teaching, you have presidents, nurses, astronauts, geologist, CEO's, pilots, lawyers, engineers, and any other job title one can think of.  

When all has been said and done, teachers create all the other professionals in the world.   So, as we celebrate this fact, seek out a teacher (preferably one who has touched your life) and give a little hope, encourage them, share your life lesson, and generously provide charity through volunteerism and mentoring. 
Or simply, thank a teacher just for choosing such an honorable profession.  

Thank you Ms. Ransom for teaching me the importance of reading.  Thank you Mrs. Washington for showing me how small my world was through global travels. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Personal/Professional Learning Communities Start Yours Now!

Start a personal/professional learning community and do it now!  Many of you probably already have one do not recognize it as a PLC or PLN (personal/professional learning network).  If you have a Twitter or Facebook account and use it to communicate and share ideas with other like minded individuals, that's your learning community.  


What are the benefits?
  • Access to innovative ideas, research and newest technology 
  • Ability to learn beyond the school work day; you decide when and how you continue learning 
  • Expands your professional network beyond district boundaries and can take you global
  • Immediate feedback and responses possible
My personal favorite network is Twitter.  I have begun following many experts, enthusiast, and professional educators that share my interest.  Most provide important content or retweet information that address areas that impact education in one way or the other. It is an unlimited resource that increases my exposure to new and innovative ideas changing how we educate.  I personally enjoy connecting to others who share similar interest and can add their unique experiences to a discussion.

Below is a blogger and Twitter user who often tweets valuable information on the flipped classroom.  Here he is discussing what  PLC's are and why they are an important part of an educators professional development. Take time to read it and maybe join on the blogging/Twitter bandwagon. Nevertheless, start up your PLC or PLN and let the learning begin. 

Part 1…Professional Education Learning Communities … Definition…Process…Common Core


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reading Support Needed? Bookshare Got You!

What can you do with a struggling fifth grader with severe dyslexia, but with great comprehension on material read aloud, vocabulary above grade level, and the will to succeed despite all?  You accommodate their needs with Bookshare.  

Bookshare is the spot to visit.  Bookshare is one of the world's largest online libraries for people with print disabilities.  Individuals with eligible disabilities can sign up for a membership.  But, organizations that work with and service individuals with print disabilities (like dyslexia) can also assist in providing individuals access.  There is unlimited access to books, textbooks, newspapers, and magazine.  

Bookshare Home


Thank goodness I work in a district that has a special education technology person dedicated to exploring and approving available applications and programs to assist our special needs kids in meeting their potential as well as state expectations.  This program is often incorporated into a student individual education plan as a needed accommodation.  

Bookshare allows you to download almost any book published.  Once you download a book, it can be read aloud on any compatible device.  The text is viewable so students can follow along and make the text to speech connections.  Now a student has access to grade level text that once would have been inaccessible.  

The student that was once relegated to picture books is now magically participating in class discussions.  Technology can very well unlock doors for individual with unique needs.  



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Everyday is Truly Special

It's me again...

I am getting to like the idea of blogging.  This is a very effective platform for reflecting on instructional decisions and ideas.  As an educator of students with special needs, reflection is par for the course.  

My last post centered around Devin, a dyslexic student. He qualified for assistive technology and currently works with an iPad device.  He has had his device for a little over two months.  His needs are mostly writing and reading support.  There are many apps and programs available to aid in these areas, but we selected specific ones just to suit his academic needs and grade level expectations.  These will likely change as grade expectations change and increase.  But, for now, he is accessing grade level reading materials and sharing his own ideas.  This is great progress for a student who once appeared to be working below a first grade reading level and incapable of writing his own ideas on paper.  It is like the light bulb came on, the heavens opened up, or the blind seeing.  I am sure Devin has his own story to tell and a word to describe his experience.  Maybe one day he'll share it. 

My future post will discuss and explore the applications and programs we selected to address Devin's specific needs.  I hope my experience with Devin will inspire and motivate others to seek out technology as a way to address the needs of students that simply need accommodations to access the general education curriculum.  No child should be left behind because they learn differently.  A different approach is all that is needed. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The 27 Characteristics of A 21st Century Teacher ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

Having special needs doesn't mean "can't learn"

Ok. It has been a while since my last post and much progress has occurred.  

When I last posted I discussed Devin who receives Special Education services for a learning disability.  However, he is severely dyslexic and this disability impacts him the greatest.  His reading level is low and writing is even more delayed or shall I say just plain difficult.  But he never lacks comprehension and ideas when given the proper support.  

When I started providing services for Devin I immediately noticed that he was a highly motivated student who actively participated in classroom discussions.   He could explain and answer questions asked by the teacher without prompts.  There was no obvious indication of a learning disability.  But, once he was in a small group setting and was asked to read or write, he came across as incapable.  

More observation took place.  I began to think of ways to record his oral responses.  I could I capture his ideas and thoughts.  Hmm!  

My school district is deep into incorporating technology into instruction and curriculum.  Maybe Devin needs technology to access the curriculum.   What would this look like?  How can this work in and out the classroom?  What about high stake test that aren't tech friendly?  

I had many questions and sought them from my diagnostician.  She's great by the way.  She calmly and professional suggested a assistive technology consult.  This means paperwork, but the worse case scenario is he doesn't qualify.  So, I gave it shot.  Used my personal device to test out some possible apps/programs to assist in reading and writing.  Received suggestions from our special education tech advisors.  

The consult was completed and more resources were provided.  Next, they approved Devin for his own device.  We all agreed that Devin needed technology assistance to overcome his deficits in reading and writing.  Without help, he appeared below level.  But, with technology, he shines like a gifted student.  Devin is truly special and gifted.  

I wanted to complete my last post and quickly get to where Devin is now.  He has had his device for about two months and he will likely need some kind of assistive technology for the rest of his life to address his needs.  But, he will be great and achieve academic success with the right support.  

Tune in for my next post where I will share what app and programs we have used and how it makes all the difference in Devin's world.  Tell next time.....


Thursday, February 7, 2013

To Blog or Not to Blog?

  What shall we blog about?


Yesterday was the beginning post of this blog.  It was a suggestion by my school educational technology specialist and I obliged. When asked to create a blog, I was hesitate.  I am currently participating in a group blog and a wiki. I thought that was enough.  But, now I have a story to tell/share.  So, here it goes. 

This year I received a new group of students in fifth grade.  One of those students is severely dyslexic and labeled LD (learning disabled).  This student, who I will from this moment call Devin, has demonstrated the struggles of dyslexia and the strength of human will.  Devin struggles greatly with handwriting and decoding in reading.  Current district reading level is around first grade.  The lack of strength to decode also affects fluency.  However, comprehension is above expectation and average.  Anomaly, yes! And you must witness it to believe.  Oh! And vocabulary development, incredible.  Devin is typically the student who shares out in class discussion what unknown or unfamiliar words mean.  The teacher is always amazed.  

Now some of you might be thinking, "What's the big deal?" Special education student struggling with reading. Devin is unique, exceptional, and mysterious.  Devin can not demonstrate the ability to read above a first grade reading level, but yet manages to pass grade level reading assessments.  This blog will focus on Devin's strengths and weaknesses, and all the tools, strategies, accommodations, and technology available to make the instructional time effective.  

Check back soon to follow our journey to academic freedom despite our struggles with a lifelong disability. 




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

You Need a Professional Learning Blog!

Today I was encouraged to start a professional blog.  It has to have a technology component and relate to my daily practices.  Well, I'm a special education resource teacher and everyday is special.  Some days include more or less technology and it certainly depends the unique needs of my students.  But check back as often as I post to follow my daily specials on instruction and technology in the resource room.