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.....