Friday, November 23, 2007

How to Cook a Turkey

Head over to the Special Education Law Blog and read this post about "How to Cook a Turkey," or more appropriately, How NOT to cook a turkey!

And if you find yourself on this list, spend the weekend learning how to put your students first!

The Language of Play - Expanding Our World

While searching websites this morning, I noticed this site that announced that Signing Times!, a popular, award-winning series, is available on PBS stations throughout the country. This paragraph in particular resonated with me:
While Signing Time! is a blessing to all parents interested in the benefits of teaching sign language to their children, Rachel Coleman, co-creator of the series and mother of Leah (who is deaf), confesses a more personal goal. " One in 1000 babies are born deaf. I have no control over that. But, I can do my best to share my daughter's language with you and your children. I can't tell you how many times we've been at the park and other children notice she is signing and they don't know what to do. My hope is that the communication barrier between the deaf and hearing will dissolve; that every one will know a little ASL, just as most people know a little Spanish. And when your child sees my child at the park, there would be no awkwardness... just three signs... 'Hi ~ friend ~ play'...that is all it would take to change her world."

If you are fortunate to have the PBS program in your viewing area, watch it with your own children. (It is not televised in the Boston area. I'll have to look into that.) If not, here are a few sites that will help you learn some basic signs online:

ASL Browser - Quicktime videos of numerous signs, searchable by letter, click here for the sign for "friend"
Animated GIFS - multiple signs, click here for the sign for "play"

Now you know how to include a child who signs at the playground. And sit back and enjoy the language of play and fun in action!

Interested in learning more about American Sign Language? click here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Time Out for Some Humor

I tend to take things pretty seriously on my blog in my zeal to help ALL learners succeed and feel successful no matter what their skills. I admit, I bring an intensity to what I do.

In any case, to prove I do have a sense of humor, take a moment to enjoy the video I'm embedding here:

"I'm a Right Clicka"

(learned about this from Christine Southard via Twitter).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"What's Wrong with Me?" The Emotional Cost of Reading Disabilities

The 'code', the technology of written language, is the most influential invention in the history of history. It is the "OS" (operating system) of civilization. Becoming code users literally changed how our minds think, self-reflect, remember, abstract, categorize, and codify. Today's social institutions; our science, law, politics, organizations and technologies are all outgrowths of what the code made and makes possible in our minds. We are all, in a very real sense, children of the code. For some of us the code is an invisible, taken-for-granted, mind-enabling platform, for others it is an ever-present mind-shaming barrier that all but determines what is possible in life. -

Children of the Code, an online social education project and public television documentary series, addresses the complexities of fluently making sense of "the code" the basis of understanding the written word. The comprehensive website includes videos, over 100 interviews with leading experts in the field, articles, and resources for parents, students, educators and other professionals. The video section of the site included this video which explores the emotional toil on students who struggle to make sense of text. School constantly and repeatedly reinforces what is difficult for some children. The cost to their "sense of self" is enormous and requires us as educators to offset the damage.
"I always tell people that from the moment a kid gets up in the morning until he goes to sleep at night, the central mission of the day is to avoid humiliation at all costs." - Dr. Mel Levine
By increasing our own awareness of the struggles, we can lessen the damaging impact on our students and, instead, build upon their strengths. Try these simulation activities to better understand the challenges they face. And then use new tools and strategies to help make your curriculum accessible and help your students more easily demonstrate what they know. (The proliferation of read/write web tools allows us to do that in ways never before possible! If you need ideas, check out this post - Free Technology Toolkit for UDL in Every Classroom)
Children who blame themselves for the struggle of learning to read are in serious psychological and intellectual danger. They are at risk of becoming ashamed of how they think, how they learn, and who they are. (
You will spend hours at the website, but it is time well spent. Thank you to Lynn, at the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog, for pointing out this invaluable resource.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Why Reinvent the Wheel? Best of the Web

Vicki Davis at CoolCat Teacher blog created this post of her web favorites. This is incredible - check it out. There's a few new tools I need to explore.

Makes no sense to reinvent the wheel - this is an excellent resource for all of us. Thanks, Vicki!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Always Learning

Thanks to the network of educators that I am connected to via the QIAT list serve, a local AT list serve, the Assistive Technology Ning, Twitter and various other Read/write web tools, I am constantly learning new things. Here is one new tool and one application used in a creative way to support learners strengths.
(These will be added to the Free Tech Tool Kit post but I want to highlight them here as well):

Free Word Prediction - never knew free word prediction existed! you can adjust the background color, font size, number of choices, disable "learn words" (otherwise misspelled words are added to the dictionary), etc. I had a few problems with it but this may be worth a try for some of our students; it at least gives them the opportunity to try word prediction/word completion/autocomplete across all applications.

Project Spectrum - Google for Educators has created a manual for using Google SketchUp with students on the autism spectrum. This link gives you access to the download, just-in-time tutorials for teaching yourself SketchUp and a pdf manual for lesson plans that worked. Here is a video that demonstrates student success using this free google app.
Great example of thinking outside the box and providing additional tools that support learners strengths!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Is it AT? Promoting Success by Any Other Name

Scenario: you are asked to evaluate a High School student with learning issues, on an IEP for support in written language, reading, organization and study skills and social skills with goals written for each area.

There are three computers in the classroom with internet access, printer and scanner access.

You follow the SETT framework - identify additional appropriate student, environment and task information and develop your recommendations as follows:

IEP goal focus area - Reading (bright student reading four years below grade level)

  1. All material will be available in digital format so that it is accessible to student
  2. Recommend WordTalk, PowerTalk, Click,Speak and Accessibar be downloaded to each computer (All free, some offer highlighted words as they speak, color choices, can adjust speed and pitch)
  3. Recommend download higher quality voices from - student can choose which voice sounds best to him.
  4. Show power of voice and color tools that are available in Word (which school has)

a. Recommend use insert sound object tool, drag to toolbar for easy access whenever student needs it. Teachers use it to record directions, embed prompts when completing assignments

b. Create default for student with customized font, font size, font spacing, font color and background color that supports student's learning style.

IEP Goal Focus Area - Written Language

  1. Offer student multiple methods of expression to demonstrate what he knows.
  2. Pre-writing activities – use free online graphic organizers such as, mindomo, mindmeister, Mind42
  3. Explicitly teach spell check, synonym support to reflect use of grade level vocabulary
  4. Teach use of text-to-speech tools recommended above to improve editing skills
  5. Allow use of voice tools such as “insert sound object” in Word or Voice Thread

IEP Goal Focus Area – Organization/Study Skills

  1. Teach use of tools embedded in Word – highlighting, autosummarize, outlining, etc.
  2. Download electronic flashcards (for example, Cue Card, StudyCard) tools available on internet or use internet flashcard resources (for example, StudyStack
  3. Set-up student to use iGoogle or similar free resource, as customized homepage with tools necessary for organization success – To-do lists, Notes, homework assignments

IEP Goal Focus Area – Social Skills

  1. Create scenarios using digital video tools such as cartoon callouts with graphics in Word, Voice Thread, PhotoStory, Flickr with Captioner etc, that promote social skill development.

You get the point. Of course, there are more free resources, tools and strategies and I could also recommend tools such as Kurzweil, Read & Write Gold, Inspiration, etc. But by only recommending free resources or using what is currently available, is that still AT? The tools are supporting the student’s IEP goals and objectives.

(And you know that educators are more likely to incorporate tools that are easy to use and readily available and your goal is to promote independence and success for the student.)

Is this AT? Why or why not? Does AT for the high incidence populations have to cost money?

I strongly believe that this is assistive technology as defined by IDEA 2004 as these are "off-the-shelf" and "increase, improve or maintain" the functional abilities of a student with disabilities. It's all about independence and success and I believe we are setting a student up for success when we use these types of tools that are accessible ANYWHERE.

Your thoughts?

photo credit -

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ten Minutes of Your Time

Take a 10 minute break from the tyranny of the urgent and watch this incredibly powerful video of "The Last Lecture."

Update - November 3, 2007 - The YouTube video has been removed due to possible copyright infringement. The video is still available at Oprah's website here. Scroll down to "The Last Lecture" link.

Thanks to Brian Grenier and Karl Fisch for twittering and blogging about it.