Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Course Summary: 3 Lessons Learned

1. Presuming Competence
Over and over - in case studies, articles, webinettes, and discussions - about students who were frustrated at school because they were not able to demonstrate what they were truly capable of because they hadn't yet been matched with the proper technology, be it high or low tech. They acted out these frustrations through absenteeism, learned helplessness, disruptive and off-task behaviours, and a variety of other avoidance behaviours. This presumed incompetence is rarely based in disrespect or negligence, but it is nonetheless harmful and limiting. We must remind ourselves daily that just because a student isn't demonstrating the understanding or communication we want doesn't mean that aren't able, they just aren't able yet, and it's our job to continually research and test new methods of accessing their knowledge.

2. You don't have to be an expert
I think it's extremely important to note that you don't need to be a techie expert to effectively utilize technology in the classroom. It doesn't take advanced training and hours upon hours of research and testing to be able to work the majority of apps that we've played with - all you need is to be given the freedom and opportunity to take an iPad home and play with it for a few evenings in a comfortable and low-stress environment. There is such an incredible variety of apps for any subject that you are almost guaranteed to find something that will fit your needs. Related to this is the importance of support for the use of technology on the part of the administration. In schools where teachers are handed iPads and encouraged to 'play', those teachers quickly become comfortable with the technology and are more able and willing to take risks by using them in their classrooms.

3. Trial and Error
Although it may not be the most efficient method of experimentation, informed trial and error really is the best way to explore apps. A search on just about any topic will yield multiple apps, and the only way to ascertain the best fit for individual students is to take them on a 'test-drive'. There is such a variety of free and lite apps that you can do this for minimal cost and effort, and students get to have a degree of input and control over their learning. I found myself surprised several times during my case study in which apps that I thought would be great turned out to be, well, not great, whereas a few of them that I thought would be beyond the ability of my student turned out to be a pretty good fit. And the beauty of it is that the whole process was free! This was also another great reminder of Lesson 1 - presume competence!

Case Study Theme Night: Presuming Competence!

What a great night!  Here's what we heard...

Case Study 1: S. (Gr. 3) sounds like such a fun student - it's not everyone who can be described as positive, works well in groups, and takes pride in her work!
- Lucky to have all that tech available at home.
- PaperPort: use tap and speak to add thoughts to a paper graphic organizer that she's taken a photo of. Sounds like a great app for kids who become bogged down and frustrated by the minutia of spelling.
- iWordQ: the product that she created was great, and it was lovely to see how the two apps worked together for her to allow her to overcome the barrier of spelling (rhyme, famous, etc)
- "I didn't even get frustrated" - so sad that students are forced to do work in ways that frustrate and slow down students when the technology exists to let them really 'show what they know'

Case Study 2: J., Grade 6 - articulate, extra-curricular activities, risk taker - has become a role model in this area because Anne is so good at creating a comfortable class environment :)
- Interesting that a child's voice isn't compatible with some speech to text programs like Dragon Dictate, particularly if they have any speech impairments.
* Once again we come across a student who has such great ideas that are trapped inside them, and only with technology are they able to share that with us.
- Great teacher comment - using technology allows him to "profile his work, not mine or a TA"
- Loved Anne's slip when she referred to 'playing' with the apps, and then corrected herself to say 'learned' the new apps - that's the whole point, that when they are enjoying themselves and the frustration element is removed, the learning seems more like playing!

Case Study 3: Jack in Grade 1 - Non-verbal, global delay, indications of genetic disorder and autism, gross and fine-motor difficulties, IPP from beginning of Primary.
- Highlights the importance of home and school working together to share what works and what doesn't.
- Using Proloquo2go at school only until just two weeks ago - "heartbreaking to see him plug in his iPad at the end of the day and go home without it" (PSA)
- home was told that the AT programs he used at school were 'too difficult to set up' at home
* Even his parents weren't aware of what he was able to do before the technology was brought in.
- "I want a drink" = best story of the course :) *sniff*
- Hello Colored Pencils app - good for disgraphia?

Case Study 4: J in Grade 9. ADHD and difficulty reading social cues, inappropriate behaviour, no longer medicated, in first percentile for many areas according to psyc-ed
- difficulty with lack of information
- focus on life skills - organization and impulse control
- uses an iPod, iPad, and a computer at school: parents support what the school is doing in theory, but are of the philosophy that learning/teaching happens at school
- the importance of students having a team of teachers and administration who support using technology for learning cannot be emphasized enough - the difference between schools like Anne's and Janet's when compared with places where administrators dictating that monies be used for hard copy books even when teachers want to spend it on technology.
- "he's just happy" - that really says it all!

Case Study 5: A. (Gr. 7) is non-verbal with very high sensory needs, diagnosed with ASD.
- knows very limited sign language, and what he knows he does not like to use
- previously used an 'old-fashioned' Go-Talk, now has it on his iPad
- lives in a residential facility, and is able to take and use his iPad in all areas - he has a voice everywhere now
- he is now able to make choices and have some control
- the importance of trying lots of different apps to see which ones 'work' - trial and error may not be the most efficient way to go about things, but sometimes they surprise you with what they can do and what they enjoy - I found this myself during my case study.
- Tappie app - great relaxation/free time app, Playing in Sand, Music apps - Bloom HD, Piano, Baby Lullabies Lite
- with his folder of hard copy social stories (made with Comic Life) he is able to indicate when he needs a break and what he would like to do.

Case Study 6: Three Gr. 1 students reading below level 1, far below expectations in letter sounds and word ID, indications of slow processing speed and some off-task/avoidance behaviour
- always important to explicitly think about and teach 'how good learners/readers/writers/math students learn'
- apps: Magnetic ABC, Show Me (similar to Educreations) allows you to examine their letter formation
- I like the idea of a 'highlighting' card rather than a masking card - having done LLI myself I can definitely see how that would be an improvement
- I also like the idea of trying out the stability balls to help give focus to their extra energy. I have always wondered what it would be like to replace my classroom chairs with them - explore the JFit accessory for them to increase safety.
- Great use of low tech!!!

Case Study 7: Ziggy in Gr 5
- mentoring younger students is such a wonderful activity for all students, but especially for those who don't often feel success in their academics
- finally diagnosed with an LD last year - globally very low, but high average in visual thinking and reasoning skills
- disadvantages of scribing when she isn't able to read it back again - enter technology, and suddenly that whole barrier is removed - amazing to think how different her life can be with the technology we now have available
- Choice Bin - have 3 activities ready to go at her work station, student has control over the order of completing them
- Britannica for Kids app - great content that can be read
- Importance of building on students' superficial knowledge of topics of interest (guinea pigs) - if they're interested in something, use it! Then they can take that content knowledge and start exploring concepts - in this case, life cycles, fictional stories, procedural writing, etc., etc. If you build a solid base of information, students will be more prepared to take risks when applying that knowledge.
- Learned helplessness is always a concern <=> independence is always a goal

Student Presentations

We got the honour of being invited to an iOpen House put on by the Grade 6 group at Hebbville Academy. It was a great experience to be taught some new apps by the kids, and even more fun (I thought) to be retaught the ones we already knew - it was so interesting to hear what the students thought was important to teach us in the brief time we had with them.

We learned some great new apps, of which my favourites were the GeoBoard app, the electricity app for Science, and especially the myCloud app to help students keep all their digital information organized.

The most important part of the night, as far as I'm concerned, is that the school was full of parents and school board members - that is who needs to be convinced that technology is the way to go!!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

AT Assessment Models

When matching person and technology, you become an
investigator, a detective. You find out what the
different alternatives are within the constraints.

-From Living in the State of Stuck: How Technology
Impacts the Lives of People with Disabilities

Matching Person and Technology (MPT) Model

"Technologies are meant to make our lives easier and better. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way. It is important that individuals feel comfortable with technologies and know how to use them to their benefit. While a user must adapt to the unique features and demands of a technology, a technology must be adjusted or adapted to accommodate the individual needs and preferences of the user." 

The MPT model uses tools like questionnaires for the primary and secondary users which consider the user's environment, characteristics and preferences, and the function and features of the technology itself.

Click here to visit the homepage for the Institute for Matching Person & Technology, Inc.

Student/Self, Environment, Task, Tool (SETT) Framework

Developed by Joy Zabala, a former Educational Consultant in Assistive Technology in 1995, this model was developed  "to help reduce the misfits and under usage of technology" . 'Tasks' refers to active participation in the activities within the environment, and 'Tools' are the system of tools needed for the student to address those tasks.

Consideration of the way these four areas overlap is an essential part of the evaluation process. Questions such as 'How does the environment affect the student?' and 'How is the task supported by the environment?' help to determine the optimal fit between student and technology. 

Click here for a comparison of the SETT, ETP, HTC, and ATC models.

HATT (Human Activity Assistive Technology Technology) Model

This model was developed to study human performance in tasks involving technology. It was developed "by human factors engineers and psychologists … to assist in the design and application of technology." It is used to describe the success of a human performing an activity in a given context or environment.

Human: the primary user. Their skills, needs, and interests are all taken into account. 

Activity: 3 main areas (self-care, work/school, and free time)

Context: physical surroundings, social and cultural contexts are all considered.

For further information, please click here.

Education Tech Points

This model was coauthored by Penny Reed and Gayl Bowser, two American professionals in the AT sphere. All products and publications by the two women are available here, and all proceeds are donated to the Coalition for Assistive Technology in Oregon and are used to purchase AT devices for children with disabilities in Oregon.

There are seven points in this model:

1. Consideration and Referral: the team discusses the student and their potential eligibility for AT.
2. Evaluation: Data is collected on the primary user by the team.
3. Trial Period(s): the student takes the recommended AT on a 'test drive'. The team evaluates the student as they explore the technology "until they find the device or combination of devices that meets their needs".
4. Plan Development: Yearly meetings are scheduled to evaluate the progress and plan for the year ahead. 
5. Implementation: The team monitors the student as they integrate the use of assistive technology into a their daily educational program.
6. Periodic Review: The team analyzes and discusses the student's progress and modifies as needed.
7. Transition: Preparation for beginning the next school year so that progress is continued.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Low Tech AT

Full disclosure: I haven't looked at anyone else's blogs yet this week, because I'm sure you've all got great ideas and I don't want to feel like I've copied anyone else's! Can't wait to see what you've all thought up :)

1. Elbow Pipes 
 Great tools for quiet reading time - we call them 'whisper phones' and they're great for kids who have trouble reading silently. The pipe amplifies their voice so they can speak very quietly but still hear themselves. Helps to keep them focussed on their reading and practice making their reading 'sound like talking' (fluency).
2. Gardening scissors
Spring loaded scissors that only require squeezing frees kids up from the coordination needed to open and close regular paper scissors. Please attempt to find ones that are blunt on the end, these ones look deadly!

3. Toddler light switch extension: designed for toddlers but great for anyone in a wheelchair, these light switch extenders make all types of light switches accessible at a lower level. They even glow in the dark!

4. The Clapper: who knew these were still available? Great for anyone with mobility challenges, turn electronics not able to be controlled with a remote on and off without having to move!

5. Staple-free stapler: I want one of these. For anyone with fine motor issues that would make reloading staples into a traditional stapler, check this out! All you have to do is mash down the button and it crimps the paper in such as way as to make it as secure as a if you used a staple!

6. Ruler: For students with attention issues or vision impairments, can be used to slide down the page as they read to help keep their eyes where they should be. A transparent coloured plastic ruler can also be used as a highlighter over the words instead of a line under them. Also makes a handy number line for kids who have trouble with arithmetic and need that visual component - much less obviously than having a paper number line taped to their desks.

7. Hand mirror: Great tool to help autistic students practice their facial expressions. Students can look at photographic models (or a human partner) and try to match their expressions.

8. Glue pen: once these are empty, you can fill them with plain water and use them to practice printing on a chalkboard, construction paper, sidewalk, or even the wall of the school. They come in a variety of thicknesses from skinny to chunky, which helps you customize 

9. Hourglass: These come in a variety of 'times', and are great visual reminders for students with difficulty staying on task and independently managing their time efficiently.

10. Electrical tape: Great for visually impaired students to tape a path along the floor or wall for them to follow. Also good for students who need assistance to stay in their seat (ADHD for example) - tape out an area around their desk as 'their space' to help them contain their movements.

Monday, 3 December 2012


Is it just me, or can someone not get this woman an iPad and some Proloquo2go or similar software and save these lovely people $23 000 or so?? Seriously, can we discuss this?

Patricia Phonchareon and her sister Penny Kitchen look over a loaned communications device in Halifax on Tuesday. Friends of the 49-year-old woman have started a fund to raise $25,000 for a new device to help her communicate. (PETER PARSONS / Staff)

Update: Damn. Her needs are too high and this really is the best AT for her.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Presentation Night #2

What an interesting night! It felt like one of those jewellery parties but for apps, which is so much more fun! (And also, much cheaper, which doesn't seem right). Here are some of my favourite finds that can't wait to put into my rotation to accessorize my teaching :)

This is My Body: Anatomy for Kids

Learn the basics about human anatomy in a bright, engaging app that includes subheadings for My Skin, Mu Senses, My Skeleton, etc. This would be an amazing app for any elementary teacher, as the Health curriculum includes all of these aspects. I want this!!

Bone Scan Bob

A super fun app for anyone trying to teach a topic that would tend to be a bit dull. 
I like that it keeps track of student scores, as this is a great way to self-motivate.

Skeletal 3D

As the ladies pointed out, this is an awesome app for high-functioning autistic 
students or for for students who qualify for enrichment.

Journalling, or as it should be known, expressing your thoughts and ideas, is such a huge part of Writing and Representing, I couldn't wait to see all the apps that the group had found...

Dragon Dictation

Mister Rogers Make a Journal

A picture-based app for students to create a representation of their ideas. Different scenes like classroom, playground, home, etc. 

Puppet Pal
I WANT THIS!! Place characters and make up your own story. You can include a photo of yourself (your best friend, your Mom, your dog) to be a part of your story. I use 'old fashioned' story starters every day to get my students excited about writing, and this is just fantastic.

Record yourself telling a story as you draw the picture in real time. Can be saved and played back at anytime.  It plays like a movie - you hear the story being told as the picture develops before your eyes. Amazing tool for students who are prewriters!

An email app that you can draw in, add stamps to, etc. then actually email to friends and family.

iDiary for Kids
Really cool password-protected, personalized diary. Time stamped, can write, draw, use stickers, change font, size, and colour, add photos. Can be printed, emailed, etc. 


Free app that essentially turns your iPad into a magnifying glass - you can choose the magnification. You can also pause it (like a screen shot) so that you can read what you were looking at. You can also change the magnification on this screen shot.

Getting to watch the poem on youtube was a great reminder that the simple things can still be great tools - how much fun (i.e. how engaging) did that make a poetry reading?