Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Adaptive and Assistive Technologies (ATs)

What policies or procedures do you have in place for adaptive and assistive technologies (ATs)?
Neither Pleasant Plains School District nor Pleasant Plains High School has policies in place for adaptive and assistive technologies. General education teachers routinely infuse AT tools into their classrooms for all students. The special education department reviews each student individually and determines the best adaptive and assistive technologies necessary for that student, making the AT part of the IEP for the student.

Does your school/district have ATs? If so, what are they?
According to the PPCUSD8 Technology Plan, the district does not have any adaptive or assistive devices. However, the special education and general education classrooms have ATs that are routinely used.

While it is not a global practice at the high school, in several general education classrooms, PowerPoint presentations are made available online for students to access before, during, and after in most classes; assignment and project instructions with due dates included are made available online for student and parent access; essay and project rubrics are made available online for student and parent access; and classroom expectations and policies are made available online for both students and parents. In addition, textbook companies such as McGraw-Hill, the provider of our Glencoe Literature books provide a digital textbook for pc’s/mac’s that allows students to take notes, listen to professional readings of the literature while reading along, highlight text, do a quick search for text, zoom in/out, and place post-it notes on the pages of the text.

Like most teachers, I have learned to be creative in my classroom in creating ATs. I have converted text from articles, websites, or essays to pdf so students with reading difficulties could listen to Adobe Reader read the passages aloud as they read along. I have also tracked down audio versions of literature either through the internet or through the library when necessary.

Pleasant Plains High School has continuously been striving to increase reading skills for all students with various reading strategies. Some of these strategies include the use of graphic organizers in all content areas possible. Pre-reading, reading, and post-reading strategies are also highlighted in all content areas. Ongoing professional development in reading strategies has been a core of Pleasant Plains High School.

According to J. Peterson, the use of AT tools in special education classrooms includes an OCR scanner that reads aloud printed text to the student, Jamestown Reading Navigator software for increasing reading skills, books on tape/cd, spellcheckers, a social skills software program, and math textbook company software for notes and tutorials (personal communication, June 21, 2011).

Are there other AT tools that you have used and have found beneficial in your classroom or school?
I use McGraw-Hill’s digital textbook with my American Literature students and am pleased with all of the ATs available within it. It was interesting to see students from all skill levels access the tools, which seemed to erase any stigma a student with reading difficulties might have. While Edyburn mentions that “the traditional textbook has become a representative symbol of an inaccessible curriculum” (2008, p. 62), it appears that textbook companies have begun to create tools that have become valuable assets in the classroom for all students. In addition to the textbooks, I have used Google Docs to share class notes/presentations with all students and Primary Pad to save collaborative classroom written discussions that all students could access afterwards. This past year one of my students, who is dyslexic, researched Spaaze for a speech project about a web 2.0 tool that can be used in the classroom and liked it so much that he began using it to stay organized.

Edyburn, D.. (2008). Research and Practice. Journal of Special Education Technology, 23(4), 62-65. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1767837251).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Educational Technology Issues

What are your personal concerns about education technology?
One of my concerns regarding education technology is that education technology is not and likely will not catch up with business technology. In preparing students for college and career readiness, the technology that schools are using is already behind that of business technology. Students may well be using technologies that businesses have already cast off. The endless game of “catch-up” that schools play to get as close as possible to using relevant business tools is a concern. However, if educators are addressing the 21st Century Skills, then students will have the efficacy to handle new technologies as presented to them.

My other concern getting teachers to accept the concept of life-long learning and create a culture where Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) are the norm.

What technology issues are affecting your school/district?
While the district, like most other districts, is faced with the issue of funds for technology, the main issue is professional development for educational technology. There are so many web 2.0 tools available as well as cloud computing, that even hand-me-down computers/laptops are making do when necessary. The real issue appears to getting teachers trained to use technology that pertains to their curriculum and be able to use that technology to improve student learning. Professional development of the past has been a one-size-fits-all model that will not suffice any longer. McCombs (2010) discusses using “regular daylong collaborative planning sessions, [where] teacher leaders provide mini-lessons that highlight new technologies they have used in their classrooms since the last planning session” (p. 12). Administration and teachers at Pleasant Plains school district have just recently begun discussions for professional development activities similar to this.

Based on issues identified by your classmates, how have you resolved them (or how would you resolve them?)
Funding issues have been addressed by soliciting monetary or hardware donations from local businesses and booster organizations. Since the Pleasant Plains student population has a small percentage of low-income families, the district often does not qualify for any grants. However, several teachers have found organizations such as Donor’s Choose to be helpful.

As president of the Pleasant Plains Education Association the past two years, I strongly advocated for 21st Century Skills. I introduced both the faculty and administration to the concepts of PLN’s and pushed for collaboration between teachers. I facilitated Teacher Share websites at each building where teachers could post various project plans, rubrics, classroom management ideas, Web 2.0 tools, PLN nings to join, and, finally, twitter hashtags for collaboration. As I got teachers to start talking and sharing with each other, I started to have discussions with the administration regarding professional development. While the plan in the past for professional development has been to demonstrate a technology tool to teachers with the expectation that they will just “go use it,” the administration and I discussed the need for Teacher Technology Share Fairs where tech-savy teachers can demonstrate tools that they use. We then discussed giving teachers multiple professional development blocks of time to work independently or in teams to plan lessons that incorporate technology tools that make sense in their individual curriculums.

As administrators and teachers work together to build this model of professional development next school year, they will also need to look at collaborative evaluations of the professional development to allow for adjustments as they progress. Smolin and Lawless (2011) note that “by engaging stakeholders in both the processes and the outcomes of evaluation, professional development can be dynamic, responsive to the needs of a greater number of stakeholders, and sustainable over the long term”(p. 97). Professional development regarding 21st Century Skills is a long term need. Having a good plan going into the Professional Development and an evaluation tool to make sure professional development is effective only makes sense.


McCombs, Brenda. "Culture of Collaboration." Learning & Leading with Technology Nov. 2010: 10-13. ERIC. Web. 13 June 2011.

Smolin, Louanne, and Kimberly A. Lawless. "Evaluation Across Contexts: Evaluating the Impact of Technology Integration Professional Development Partnerships." Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education Spring 2011: 92-98. ERIC. Web. 13 June 2011.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reflections on Educational Technology

What is your personal definition of education technology?
My personal definition of education technology is that technology first, and foremost, a tool using in teaching the curriculum of the classroom. With that stated, I also believe that it is highly important to infuse technology into the learning process whenever and wherever it makes sense. Infusing technology into the curriculum will not only align with the way students learn, but will also provide the much needed 21st Century Skills students need to be ready for college and their future careers. Teaching technology tools just for the sake of learning the tool is preparing students for 21st Century Skills. Integrating the tools into lessons as a means for the learning process is the right path. I have been a driving force in my district advocating for technology as such a tool in the classrooms. I have organized Teacher Share websites for each of our district buildings where they can more easily share what works and possible uses. I feel that communication between teachers and time to explore are crucial to staying current with education technology.

How long have you been in educational technology? During this time, what are some changes in technology that you’ve experienced in your school/district?
As a high school English, speech, photography, and yearbook teacher at Pleasant Plains High School for 14 years, I have been an advocate of using technology tools in presenting lessons, in the learning process, and in the product created by students. Printed out word processed essays have evolved into collaborative Google Docs, blogs, emailed research essays, video essays using VoiceThread, etc. Speech class has progressed from presentations within the isolated walls of the classroom to global communication and involvement in flatclassroom projects such as the NetGenEd Project. Photography technology has grown out of the darkroom and into a fully digital photography class focusing not just on the photography skills and photo-editing skills, but also on an online digital portfolio that students can maintain to promote their art. Finally, yearbook class began with film cameras and UPS mailings of photos to the publishing company – a process that currently consists of digital photos as well as text placed in InDesign software and electronically submitted to the publishing company. Next year the process will transition to online software that students can access on any pc in which they have internet availability.

How has technology impacted your approach to teaching?
As a geek, I am continuously researching ways to improve not only my curriculum, but also fresh ways for students to acquire the knowledge and to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts. I have found that my methods have evolved each year as technology has improved. In the last couple of years, as technology has allowed, I have reached out to colleagues in other areas to create collaborative projects that our students could work on together, even challenging myself and my students to get involved in global projects. I encourage backchannel chatter in Google Chat and use Today’s Meet chat during class to open the classroom discussions to include everyone. I am available to my students through email, twitter, and telephone if they have any questions. When I first started teaching, I never thought about how learning can and does occur outside the classroom. I have been able to “be there” for student questions, comments, and demonstrations through technology that I would have missed otherwise.

How much has the process of teaching and learning changed over the last 100 years?
While teaching and learning have made significant changes over the last 100 years in terms of learning standards, reactions to globalization, etc., the major shifts in education are occurring during this century. Student learning has become an important part of the equation. Barbara Chorzempa identifies areas that new teachers need to address to make themselves proficient teachers (2011). These areas include developing a literacy base, creating a positive classroom learning environment, and preparing students for 21st Century Skills (Chorzempa 2011). These areas have become the hot topics of education. Teachers are encouraged to improve themselves not only through mandated continuing education requirements, but also through a culture created by our colleagues throughout the world to maintain literacy in both our areas of study and in technology. Nings like the Educator’s PLN and Classroom 2.0 are just two amazing ways that educators can stay connected and collaborate. Teachers have also tapped into Twitter, using hash tags such as #edchat and #edtech, among others, to collaborate. Personals Learning Networks no longer involve asking advice of the teacher in the room next door – teachers are now able to connect with their peers around the globe.

Chorzempa, B.. (2011). Don't Get Left Behind! Improve Your Experiences as a New Teacher. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 47(2), 72-75. Retrieved June 9, 2011, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 2219873841).