Tuesday, 24 September 2013

An evening with Joy Zabala...

Tonight in my Assistive Technology class, Joy Zabala skyped in!


Some Joy quotes from the evening....

  • "An attitude about creativity and possibility can do wonders"
  • "Assistive Technology can be a barrier if to cumbersome."
  • "AT doesn't eliminate the need for instruction in social and academic skills."
  • "Don't talk about the tools until you have talked about who is going to use them, where they are going to use them and what you are using them for."

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Assistive Technology Legislation In Canada

Did you know that in Canada there is NO legislation that makes considering assistive technology for students with disabilities mandatory?

I have to be honest… Every time that I have an American textbook, I quickly peruse the chapter that looks at the legal focus of IDEA because it does not apply directly to me.  Last spring, I took an Assistive Technology Implementation course through Portland State University (PSU).  I was 1 of 2 Canadians in the group, with Americans who were from different states across the USA.  My American colleagues were very surprised to hear that in Canada we do not have the same type of policies related to Assistive Technology that they do in the USA.  IDEA mandates that assistive technology devices and services be provided to students with disabilities if the technology is essential for accessing education and education-related resources (Dell et al, 2008).  

Popular Misconceptions - Assistive Technology

This semester I am registered in 2 graduate classes - Research Methodology (not my favorite topic!) and Assistive Technology (one of my passions!!!).  We are currently reading:

Bugaj, C. R., Norton-Darr, S., & International Society for Technology,in Education. (2010). The practical (and fun) guide to assistive technology in public schools. Eugene, Or: International Society for Technology in Education.

In Chapter 2 - Bugaj and Norton-Darr discuss Popular Misconceptions in Assistive Technology.  Here is their list of "Things That Aren't True"

  • the purpose of assistive technology is to help students become independent
  • assistive technology is only computer stuff
  • assistive technology makes a teacher's job easier
  • assistive technology is just for students with severe disabilities
  • i'm not tech savvy enough to implement assistive technology
  • an evaluation needs to be done to provide assistive technology services
  • assistive technology is just for students with communication difficulties
  • assistive technology always costs a lot of money
  • a trial needs to be conducted for every assistive technology device before it is purchased
  • only people with specialized training in assistive technology can provide assistive technology services
  • a separate implementation plan needs to be written for every assistive technology device
  • a formal evaluation for assistive technology can take place anywhere

This is NOT AT…  Things I found interesting:
  •   “The purpose of Assistive Technology is to help students become independent” – I agree that this isn’t the purpose, but it is an AWESOME by-product of AT.  For example, our kiddos are not going to be able to depend on having a “reader” in the “real world”, but they will be able to be independent with difficult text using text-to-speech (TTS) software.  The purpose could be to have the student access text and material they couldn’t before.  The by-product is increased academic independence! 
  •  “Assistive Technology makes a teacher’s job easier” – I agree with the authors.  I actually think it is time consuming and a lot of work.  The student will need support with the AT, the teacher may need training with the AT and there will be data to collect – more than the “typical” student.
  • “Data should be collected on every assistive technology device”, “A trial needs to be conducted for every assistive technology device before it is purchased”, “A separate implementation device needs to be written for every assistive technology device” – These common misconceptions I found interesting!!!! 
    • I think doing a trial before an individual purchases “high-tech” software is important.  High-Tech Tools can be very expensive and I think it is important to trial it before spending a lot of money on something that might not be the best fit.  Do I think a trial needs to happen for all low-tech tools –NO.  A pencil grip is less than a dollar – just buy one and use it!!!  Without collecting data, how will you know if the technology is supporting what you had hoped it would?  I think data collection is important in the AT process; however, I think the data should be student focused not device focused.  I also think the an implementation plan is part of the data collection process – once again I don’t think you need a separate AT plan for devices, but the AT should be student focused by collecting what worked, what didn’t work and what could be improved.     
What do you think of Bugaj and Norton-Darr's list of "Things that aren't true"?  Do you agree with them all?

Friday, 2 August 2013

Specialization... Where now?

Over the past few months I have been thinking about the future.  As I am coming to the end of my Masters degree in Special Education, I have been thinking now what.  Through my professional and graduate work I have found my passion - Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning.  However where do I go from here?  Do I specialize more in these areas?  Do I pursue another master's degree?  Do I pursue a doctorate?  I'm not sure...  But one thing is for sure, I love working with kids and I never want to loose touch with the classroom!  I was once told that, "In education there are many people who are great at many things, but who are not experts in a field.  Stick with your passion and you will have an opportunity to be an expert."  I'm not sure if I want to become an "expert" but I do know I want to continue to learn and grow as an educator.  Therefore, I want to share an old video that was shot during my second year of teaching.  This class was and still is my inspiration for teaching with assistive technology!

(Click on Ethan 2009)

Too all my Canadian friends I hope you have a wonderful August Long Weekend!!

Monday, 17 June 2013

"Is English a Dreadful Language?"

Reading Development and Difficulties - Chapter 1
While reading this chapter I came across a poem I have never read before, but must post in my classroom next year.  The poem is called "Is English a Dreadful Language?"  I feel as I must share it as well as the youtube link of people singing this poem.

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you.
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead - 
For goodness sake don't call it 'deed'!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear;
And then there's dose and rose and lose - 
Just look them up - and goose and choose,

And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go an thwart and cart - 
Come, come, I've hardly made a start!

A dreadful language?  Man alive!
I'd learned to speak it when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I sigh,
I'll not learn how'till the day I die.

Now for chapter definitions from pages 22-24:

Ability match or reading-age match design
§  Research design in which the performance of a group of kids, such as poor readers, is compared with that of group of children (typically younger) who are at the same level of reading ability
Alphabetic writing system
§  A writing system that represents the phonemes of a language
§  A group of words comprising a subject and a predicate, which must contain a verb “The cake (subject) was very tasty (predict with verb).”
Content words
§  Words that convey meaning such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.
Cross-sectional design
§  A research design in which the performance of different groups is compared.
§  The ability to translate letters and letter strings into pronunciations.
Developmental dyslexia
§  A condition in which the development of word reading and spelling abilities is impaired.
Function words
§  Words with a grammatical role, such as preposiions (at), determiners (the) and pronouns (it)
§  A letter or group of letters that represents a phoneme i.e. “sh” in the word shop
§  Words with different meanings that sound the same i.e. bark of a dog and bark of the tree
§  The process of going beyond the explicit information in a text to make links between different parts of the text or between the text and general knowledge
§  The mental store or dictionary of words.  Also referred to as the mental lexicon.
Logographic writing system
§  A writing system that represents the meaning (words or morphemes) of the language.
Longitudinal study
§  A research design in which measures are taken for the same individuals at different time points and analyzed to assess whether some variables predict later ability and/or growth ability
§  The smallest linguistic unit in a word that carries meaning.  There are 3 morphemes in unreadable (un-read-able)
§  A letter string that does not form a form a word.  Can also be referred to as a pseudo-word.
§  The writing system of a language.
§  The smallest unit of speech sound, which can change the meaning of a word. 
Phonemic awareness
§  A type of phonological awareness, specifically the ability to reflect on and manipulate the phonemes in the spoken language
Phonological awareness
§  The ability to reflect on and manipulate the spoken sounds in the language.
§  Occurs when 1 stimulus influences a person’s response to a later stimulus
Sematic priming
§  Involves the presentation of 2 stimuli related in meaning.  i.e. “prime” dog would lead to a faster response to the subsequent target word bone.
§  A grammatical unit made up of one or more clauses.
Syllabic writing system
§  A writing system that represents the spoken syllables of language
§  A unit of a word that can be spoken without interruption comprising a vowel or a vowel plus consonants.
§  The aspect of grammar that specifies word and phrase order in language.
Training and intervention studies
§  A research design in which at least 1 group of individuals receive tuition in a type of knowledge, skill or strategy, thought to be casually implicated in the development of the skills of interest such as reading
§  A letter of the alphabet that stands for a spoken vowel, which is a speech sound made with the vocal tract open.
Word recognition
§  The ability to derive a representation of a printed word that enables access to its meaning.

(Cain, K. (2010). Reading development and difficulties / Kate Cain. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K. : BPS Blackwell/John Wiley, 2010.)