Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Curriculum Connections - Module #5

I am really excited about making curriculum connections between what I do in the library and disabilities.  I feel that most people separate themselves from people with disabilities for the main reason that they don't know how to act around them.  I am so glad for the Discovering Assistive Technology program.  I learned so much more than just assistive technology.  I feel like I have a better understanding of the person (who has a disability).  This program just increased my compassion for others and my desire for everyone to have the resources needed to live and function the best way possible.  I want to be able to share those things with my students.

I am glad that the California School Library Association created a recommended reading list of books about people with disabilities.  I had read some of the books on the list before, but the one that stuck out in my mind was Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson.  It is about a girl who has Cerepral Palsy and attends camp for the first time as a teenager.  I have a weakness for teenage camp books, so I really enjoyed the book.  But most of all, I enjoyed reading about this girl and understanding her a part from her disability.  She had the same hopes and dreams that I had as a teenager, and the book helped me to look at the person and think about them as I want people to think about me.  I highly recommend the book for teenagers (and adults).

I would also highly recommend the Assistive Technology Tutorial.  My only suggestions would be to break up some of the week's workload into more manageable chunks - like the 23 things program, and to make sure all the links are working or replaced with links to other sites.  Ultimately, I am amazed with all I have learned through this course.  I am grateful to the California School Library Association for making these programs available to everyone.

Etiquette & Awareness - Module #4

What a great topic to read about.  I find that sometimes I don't always know the proper way to address a person with a disability.  This week's information was very informative.  I was disappointed that some of the links did not work, but I did take the quiz which tested my knowledge and attitudes about people with disabilities and only got one wrong.  After the answer key, there was a page that listed The Ten Commandments of Communicating with People with Disabilities.  Learning how to address people with disabilities is something everyone should learn.  What better way to do this than in a classroom setting.

Take a look at this commercial.  I remember watching these commercials growing up and just thinking they present a great message in a short amount of time.

Here are other informative websites regarding people with disabilities.

Abilities in Motion is the website for our county's center for independent living. It includes information for all ages, from children to those entering a nursing home.  They list their programs and also have a section listing volunteer oportunities in the area.  They provide links to national, state and local organizations and services that promote independent learning.

Disability.gov is the federal government's website dedicated to providing information and resources to people with disabilities.  They provide information about education, technology, health, employment, civil rights and many other areas.  It also provides links to local services and links for educator resources. 

Easter Seals has been helping those with disabilities and special needs live their best life possible.  Their website has articles about disability etiquette, myths and facts about people with disabilities, understanding disabilities, helpful hints when meeting friends with disabilities, and so much more.  This is a great site for educators and parents to explore and gather ideas.

Education World is an Educator's website that gives teachers ideas and links to help them in the classroom.  They have a section specifically about teaching about and for students with disabilities.  There are a lot of ideas, lesson plans, and additional links.  A few of the links do not work any longer, but there is still a lot of content.

The Family Center on Technology and Disability is a great website that provides information about assistive and instructional technologies.  It provides reviews of resources, a list of disability organizations, the basics of Assistive Technology, a glossary, a monthly newsletter, and a 54 page family guide.  If you are new to the concept of AT, this website is for you!

I definitely believe that knowledge is power!  When people know the proper way to do something or address someone, it can give them confidence and hopefully help them be a better friend.  I like the idea of teaching students proper netiquette and about bullying.  I specifically thought the Boston Public Library's Netiquette for Kids would be helpful for students.  I also liked the Stop Bullying Now! website.  I think students would enjoy playing around on the site while learning what bullying is all about.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Software - Module #3

Learning about the different types of assistive technology has been very eye opening.  I enjoyed exploring the different software.  I had heard of Inspiration before, and have seen my kids use Kidspiration in their classrooms at school, but I really didn't know that much about it.  I downloaded the 30 day trial and am hoping to create some graphic organizers for the library.  I watched the videos about Inspiration and Kurzweil 3000 and am very impressed at all they could do.  I was most impressed with the accessibility features on Windows Vista, my current operating system.  I couldn't believe all the options and was surprised that I didn't even know they were there before this course. 

You can look at my Software Evaluation Rubric to see detailed information about the different software I read about this week.

There are so many different possibilities on implementing assistive technology into the classroom.  I liked looking at the California State Library website and looking at what is available.  I think publicizing accessibility information is a great idea.  Many times, as in the case of my operating system, people just don't know there is anything out there to help them.  As a librarian, the best way to begin implementing assistive technology is to understand the population that uses the library.  If there are students that need assistance in utilizing the library, I would look at what I could do to accomodate them.  The biggest obstacle is money.  While there are inexpensive things that can be effective, such as bigger signs, using different teaching styles, making aisles wide enough, and providing handouts for lessons and directions; special hardware and software can be rather pricing.  Creating a needs assessment would help to make sure that the resource requested fits into the library's and school's technology plan and would be appropriate for those using the library.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Assistive Technology - Module #2

Discovery Exercise #1
EnableMart is a great website for showing different assistive technology materials.  I can't believe all that is available out there.  Of course there are many resources that would be beneficial to the library.  One of the big areas within the library that students may need some assistance with is the computers.  I like the idea of having screen magnifiers for those who are visually impaired, a screen reader for those who have difficulty reading text, and large keyboards and touch screens for those who have mobility limitations.  The biggest concern I have for these wonderful innovations is finding the funds to make the most of the library for all users.

Discovery Exercise #2
Making sure your students can have the best environment in the library does not have to always involve expensive equipment.  There are simple accomodations that can be made with little effort and great effect.

For the visually impaired student:
  • Use larger fonts for signs, overheads, handouts.
For the hearing impaired student:
  • Provide handouts for directions and procedures.
For the mobility impaired student:
  • Make sure aisles are wide and free from obstacles.
For visually, hearing, and mobility impaired, and all students:
  • Use a variety of teaching styles
  • Have staff readily available to help students
  • Provide alternative forms of materials
Discovery Exercise #3
I am going to focus on a TouchScreen for my tech plan.  I think it is a great device, not only for students who are mobility impaired, but also for young students who have trouble understanding and manipulation a mouse.  It could really be a useful device for all those who would use a computer.

Discovery Exercise #4
EnableMart seems like a comprehensive list of all the assistive technology available.  It is helpful to be able to go to one site and look at all the products.  To enhance my knowledge of assistive technology, I really enjoyed browsing the National Center for Learning Disabilities website. It covers so much from the basics, to in the home, to at school, to choosing the right technology, to news, and other links.

Discovery Exercise #5
I loved watching the video on Beth Anne Luciani and her DynaVox machine.  It is so wonderful that there is technology to give people like Beth Anne a voice.  It is heartbreaking to think about the people who could not communicate before this technology was invented and how frustrating they must have felt that they had the words within them to speak, but could not verbalize them.  I know this is just one example of how assistive technology is helping people.  No matter what equipment is used, when you can enhance the learning and everyday living of someone - that's priceless.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Assistive Technology - Module #1

I was very excited to begin the Discovering Assistive Technology Learning Program.  We are learning so much new technology, but we can't forget about the individuals who need adaptations to technology and programs in order to use them effectively.  I checked out the website on celebrities with disabilities.  It is amazing to read about them and learn how they handle and cope with their disability.  One of the most amazing to me was learning about the actor Jimmy Stewart's stuttering.  I never realized it before, but he did show signs of stuttering in his movies and it became part of his charm as an actor.  I just thought that was his acting style.  It is great that there are so many assistive devices and techniques to help those with limitations.  I have noticed in school settings, that accomodating others' needs can actually benefit everyone.  In my daughter's classroom at school, there is a child who is hearing impaired.  The school purchased a special microphone for the teacher, and so the teacher's voice becomes clearer and louder through the device.  The whole class has benefited because they can now hear the teacher more clearly. 

Discovery Exercise #1
After reading through the National Federation of the Blind's website and reviewing their videos, I have a better idea of the types of resources available for the visually impaired.  If I had a blind child in my mathematics classroom, I would begin by getting a Braille label maker and labeling the things in the room that the child would need to use or need to know to participate fully in the class.  I would also purchase manipulatives so the class (not just the student) could do hand learning.  I would provide other necessary equipment such as Braille rulers, talking calculators, talking software and books to give the student the same learning capacity as the other students.

Discover Exercise #2
I took a webtour of the Job Accomodation Network.  It is exciting to see that there is information for both employers and employees about disabilities and accomodating those disabilities in the workplace.  I then went to the National Center for Learning Disabilities website.  I was amazed at all the information on the website.  This is a resource that all teachers should be aware of.  Just looking at the accomodations page, there were 15 suggestions to help students in the classroom - and they were fairly easy to implement.  Then, there are a ton of ideas on the effective teaching practices page.  I don't think teachers should feel like they don't know how to accomodate children with disabilities after checking out this site.  Using any of the suggestions would certainly enhance how I teach and interact with children with learning disabilities.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Week #9 Thing #23

Yea!  I made it through The 23 Things!  I had so much fun doing all the projects!  I am so grateful for this program and the creators who made the process easy to follow and provided such wonderful activities.  I learned so many things.  I think my favorite discoveries were Image Generators, RSS, Rollyo, LibraryThing, and all the great links to available resources!

Going through this program has helped me realize that I don't have to be afraid of technology.  It is there to help me, and there are plenty of tutorials on how to learn and use the technology.  The biggest thing that I will take away from this experience is that I need to stay in the loop of technology.  When I hear about something new, I need to investigate it and find out if it is something I want to use!

I think the only thing that could have been better about the program is for the links to have all been current and working.  There were some links that sounded interesting, but they just weren't available.  Those links should be replaced.  I would definitely be interested in other discovery programs!  They are nonthreatening and a wonderful way to enhance your skills and knowledge.

Week #9 Thing #22

Wow!  I was so excited to see that there are sites where you can get ebooks and audiobooks for FREE!  I spent a lot of time navigating throught the different websites to see what was available - it's like having your own library right in your home!

In the library where I work, we just set up a listening station where students can listen to a story while looking at the book.  I think this is a great way to encourage beginning readers!  We don't have any ebooks though, and we don't have any audio books to check out.  I think a major reason why we do not is because of money.  I was surprised that I have never heard about these sites before that offer free books.  I only started listening to audiobooks last year.  My family and I took out a couple of books for our annual seven hour trip to Cape Cod.  I found it very hard to concentrate in listening to it with four other people, and I found it nearly impossible to drive and listen at the same time.  I did enjoy listening to a story I had already read - it made concentrating a lot easier.  We listened to Anne of Green Gables.  I also had to listen to some audiobooks for a previous class.  I did find those enjoyable while sitting by the pool on a hot summer's day.  I definitely see the benefits of ebooks and audiobooks and think they would be a great asset to any library.

I checked out the the World Ebook Fair site.  It didn't seem very user friendly, but I think if you browse the site enough you would become more familiar with what is available.  I liked looking at the different collections to get a better idea of the types of books the site offers.  I also checked out The Ultimate Guide - the best places to get free books.  You could spend hours looking through all these sites!  They provide great classic books that can be downloaded in a variety of formats.  I chose to download Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen from ManyBooks.  I found that particular site very user friendly.  It had popular picks, pictures, categories and recommendations.

The one thing I am not sure about with these free books is if a library could download them, or are they for personal use only?  With monetary resources on the decline, that is something libraries should check into.

Week #9 Thing #21

Podcasts are something I've heard about, but I've never subscribed to one before.  I was excited to start using them.  After reading week 9's instructions, I went to the Yahoo tutorial link.  I was disappointed to see that Yahoo didn't provide podcasts anymore.  I then headed over to YouTube to look at one of my favorite learning devices: Podcasting in Plain English.  Then, I checked out the three links given to find podcasts:
1.  Podcast.com
2.  PodcastAlley.com
3.  Educational Podcast Directory

I spent a lot of time on these sites.  Because listening to podcasts was something I've never done before, I really didn't know where to start.  I just kept browsing around and checking out different categories to see if anything caught my eye.  I finally decided on setting up an account on Podcast.com.  I subscribed to Young Adult Literature Reviews.  I thought that would be a great way to keep up-to-date in young adult literature.  I think podcasts can be a great asset to the classroom.  We are so used to watching videos, I think listening can be great for sparking the imagination and enhancing listening skills.  Check out the link below to hear the podcast I chose! Also, I think it's great that podcasts have an RSS feed that can be put right into my Google Reader - now I will know when there's a new episode without going to the actual site!

I also would love to have students create their own podcasts!  There are so many tutorials on creating great podcasts with minimal equipment.  Learning becomes so alive and personal when students can create their own work and become part of the teaching process.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week #9 Thing #20

Okay, going on YouTube to complete an assignment can actually end up taking hours!  It is so much fun to look around at what people post and videos that bring up good memories.  I looked at some of the videos listed for this week's assignment.  There are many cute videos to watch.  The listing for commercials gave me an idea of a commercial I wanted to find.  It was a video of Fonzie (from Happy Days) getting a library card.  I remember hearing that after the airing of that commerical, the number of library cards issued soared.  However, I couldn't find it on YouTube - I was a little disappointed.  I then stumbled across this video of Mo Willems.  I love his books!  I chose this video because I love seeing a connection between a favorite story and the person who wrote it.  I also think that giving students the opportunity to "meet" the author lets them see that authors are regular people just like them!

I like the idea of using videos and video clips in the classroom.  There are many different possibilities - like using someone else's video, creating your own to post on the site, or having the students do video projects for class.  My biggest concern with the site is allowing students access to it.  Even though there are some great videos on the site, there are even more that would not be appropriate for a school setting.  I would be anxious to hear how teachers have dealt with the issue in their classroom.