Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just for Fun!

Here are two great websites that are so much fun, and also encourage reading and writing.
Shelfari is a tool to create your very own virtual bookshelf and show off the books you have read, want to read, and are planning on reading. Teachers can create a bookshelf for parents and students to visit; and teachers, students, and parents can discuss books online. You can also post your bookshelf on a blog (see mine to the right), wiki, or other website that you can insert code into. I love Shelfari for the following reasons:
  1. I can find a new book to read by checking out What's Hot under the Books tab
  2. I can recommend books to my friends on Shelfari and find out what they are reading
  3. I can create a private group for a book discussion
  4. I can look for reviews on books I am considering reading
Wordle is the other fun website I suggest you go and play on. In Wordle you can take any text and have it turned into a great piece of word art. Take a look at this Wordle:



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Using RSS Feeds to Organize Your Input

As I find more and more blogs, podcasts and wikis that I want to read regularly, or at least try to remember to read regularly, I find that RSS feeds become the only way to organize and keep track of the many sources of information that I rely on for both personal and professional development. To learn more about RSS and how to sign up for an RSS Feed, such as Google Reader take a look at this slideshow from Slideshare.net
Using Rss
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: rss google)


Another good slide show on this topic is also posted
RSS in Education
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: rss education)

Friday, October 17, 2008

WriteOnline Provides Accessible Writing Supports Across Settings


I am at Closing the Gap this week and am scouting out what's new and exciting in Assistive Technology. While, uncharacteristically, there are not a lot of new products being lauded and launched at CTG, there are a few that really deserve a mention. My favorite AT tool for students is a new writing tool, WriteOnline from Crick Software. The best of it's many features include:


  1. Completely online, this tool will be a boon to educators who have to worry about whether installed software will conflict with their network.

  2. Additionally, students will easily be able to login at home to finish up writing begun at school.

  3. The program features a very MS Word like toolbar (with standard features, like spell check and mispelling cues), text to speech, word prediction, WordBar banks, and writing frames.

  4. Students can even access their work without an internet connection, if they have been logged in within 3 days.

  5. Teachers will love the available analysis of document statistics and history, including whether students have pasted text in and a record of spelling errors and corrections.

  6. The program is completely switch accessible!!

Take a tour of all the features at http://www.learninggrids.com/us/WriteOnlinePage.aspx Free 30 day trials are also available at the website.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What is a Blog?

This is a post for my JHU Technology and the New Science of Educators course. I was trying to decide how to present information about what a blog is and I decided that what better way than to do it than within a blog post! Plus I can encourage folks to respond to my blog, since they are getting graded on their class participation. (of course anyone out there in the blogosphere is welcome to comment as well) Wow, I love the power of being in education ;)

1)Take a look at this great description of what a blog is from Commoncraft


2) Take a look at the blogs I have tagged on del.icio.us (we will talk about Social Bookmarking in a couple of weeks) http://delicious.com/possbeth/blogs
Make some observations about some of the blogs you look at:
  • What do you see as common components of all/most of these blogs?
  • What are some things that may be very different from one blog to another?
  • What are some of the audiences for these blogs?
  • What are the tone of the blogs?
  • Are all blogs equal? Why or why not?
  • What other comments do you have about these blogs? (Remember you will be choosing a blog to follow for 2 weeks--it can be any of these or any other blog related to your educational interests)
  • How are these education related blogs similar or different from any blogs you may have looked at on a more personal interest level (ie, politics, news, sports, etc)
I look forward to your comments!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Easy As Making a Peanut Butter Sandwich

Wow! It has been 2 months since my last post. Summer just consumed me and I never got a chance to get into a rhythm of blogging. With the new school year, comes new school year resolutions and mine is to blog at least twice a week. It is not that I sat around the pool eating bon bons this summer. I was busy teaching my Web 2.0 graduate course for Johns Hopkins University School of Education and I was working hard to become a PBwiki Certified Educator. I became a PBWiki Certified Educator by completing the PBwiki Summer Camp, a six week online, wiki based Professional Development course on using wikis in education. What a great learning experience! While I have used wikis in my graduate course and as a vehicle for collaboration through the Maryland Assistive Technology Association (check out this awesome wiki for extensive info and resources on AT), participating in this online course gave me an opportunity to learn about many great features available on PBwiki. Did you know that you can add sortable tables to your pbwiki? You can also add footnotes, great Google Gadgets, videos and lots more. The summer camp also went into great detail about security and privacy features available on the different levels of pbwikis. As a bonus, everyone who completed the summer camp (including all the assignments!) got a free Platinum PBwiki for a year, which has lots of great security features (including totally private pages available to only selected members of the wiki--great for staff on a school based wiki). If you want to sign up for the next PBwiki Summer Camp, check out this blog entry from The Daily Peanut, the official blog of PBwiki--the link to sign up is at the bottom of the entry.
Ta, ta for now--I promise to post soon--really.
P.S. Let me know if anyone is actually reading this blog by clicking on the Followers tab at the top of the page!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Washington Post.com Article: Technology Reshapes America's Classrooms

Jason Szep's Washingtonpost.com (originally from Reuters) article, Technology Reshapes America's Classrooms starts off with exciting examples from a charter school in Boston that is using technology in revolutionary ways not seen in many public schools.
It has no textbooks. Students receive laptops at the start of
each day, returning them at the end. Teachers and students maintain blogs. Staff
and parents chat on instant messaging software. Assignments are submitted
through electronic "drop boxes" on the school's Web site.
"The dog ate my homework" is no excuse here.
The experiment ... began two years ago at cost of about $2 million, but last year was the first in which all 7th and 8th grade students received laptops. Classwork is done in Google Inc's free applications like Google Docs, or Apple's iMovie
and specialized educational software like FASTT Math.

Unlike traditional schools, Frederick's students work at vastly
different levels in the same classroom. Children with special needs rub
shoulders with high performers. Computers track a range of aptitude levels,
allowing teachers to tailor their teaching to their students' weakest areas,
Socia said.
The potential implications of this are exciting for an inclusion advocate, like myself, although I imagine the students with special needs are probably students with high incidence disabilities, as opposed to the students with low incidence disabilities that I typically support in general ed settings. It is nice to see mainstream media acknowledging the impact technology and a Universally Designed for Learning classroom (even though it does not use this term) can have on teaching.
The article goes on to discuss the impact of the internet on education and the prediction that 50% of high school courses will be taught online by 2019. It makes me think Karl Fisch's 20/20 Vision may run ahead of schedule, beyond even his foretelling of President Obama!



















Monday, July 7, 2008

New Online Book Collection


The Center for Literacy and Disabilities Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill has a wonderful new project, The Tar Hill Reader, which is both a collection of accessible online books for early readers of all ages and an online, open source software program for creating books to add to the library.

The books run the gamut from the quirky Socks Having Fun, to the more educational/curriculum related Polar Bears. This great resource, while only up since early June, is already filled with a variety of texts, mostly with pictures from Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons. All books are switch accessible and and have text to speech capabilities. They can be run directly in Firefox or can be downloaded to PowerPoint, Impress, or Flash. The books are generally low reading level/high interest, and would be especially great for teens and young adults who are at a beginning reading level, and need age appropriate materials to be engaged in. There are plenty of appropriate books for young readers, as well.

It is very easy to navigate the site and to build books in it. To begin writing a book, go to the Write a Book page, and get started. To get a registration code, to building a book email Gary, the site administrator /brains behind the program.

Thanks to Samuel Sennott, for alerting me to this great website! Check out his blog post for detailed directions on how to use Tar Heel Reader, including a complete set of screen shots.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Picture Can Create a Thousand Words

In my previous post, I shared a handout from a workshop on Web 2.0 tools to support student achievement. Blogs and photos from photo sharing sites such as Flickr and Picasa are a great way to encourage students to write. Providing a word bank can allow students support with challenging vocabulary and it allows them to either copy by typing or cut and paste the text into their respones. Here is a example.

What do you see in this picture? What stage of the life cycle of a butterfly does this show? Use the word bank below to help you write your response.

adult larvae egg

butterfly chrysalis caterpillar

For more photos of the life cycle of the butterfly check out my Butterfly Album on Picasa

Monday, June 16, 2008

Here is the handout from my presentation at the IU 13 Conference in Lancaster, PA on June 17th.

Web 2.0 to Improve Student Achievement

Beth Poss

possbeth@gmail.com

handout available at

http://matnonline.pbwiki.com


Universal Design for Learning = Front loading for Flexibility = Digital Media = Access for All Students = Improved Student Achievement

What is a Blog?


As defined by
Wikipedia, "A blog (a portmanteau of web log) is a website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog." ( Wikipedia) Essentially, a blog is an online journal that allows readers of the journal to offer comments and feedback.

Blogging allows you to easily create a simple webpage that generally is a place to post your unique ideas and information that you think is of value to others. Other characteristics of weblogs include archives, a unique URL for each post (called a permalink), an RSS feed to syndicate the blog’s content, dated and time-stamped entries, the capability of the software to allow readers’ comments, and use of templates to assist in page design and layout. (See Parts of a Blog.)

Blogs have become very popular because they can be used in so many ways, from personal diaries to online portfolios to announcements to commentaries on politics and world events. They can be written, edited, and updated from any computer with Internet access at any time of the day or night. Through the ability to comment, readers of blogs can interact with the author, and with hot links, they can point to related sites and ideas. Blogs have become an accepted form of communication and a way to express and explore ideas. They give writers a public voice. In education, blogs have become a forum to encourage students to write and express their ideas while receiving feedback from teachers, their peers, and even the larger world, when a blog is made public.

One who blogs is a "blogger."

Blogs to check out:

Students Blogging

http://students2oh.org/

http://web.mac.com/g4husky/Husky_Howler_Network/Howler_Blog/Howler_Blog.html

http://vcs.21classes.com/

http://fhsblogs.21classes.com/


Teachers/Educators Blogging

http://www.teachingeverystudent.blogspot.com/

http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/

http://perkone.edublogs.org/

http://snobles.blogspot.com/

What is a Wiki?


"A
wiki is software that allows users to create, edit, and link web pages easily. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. These wiki websites are often also referred to as wikis." (Wikipedia) Wikis allow anyone to create or edit a website or webpages with little or no knowledge of hypertext markup language (html). Wikis and wiki pages can be password protected, however, to control who can edit. Wikis allow for collaboration on projects and promote ideas.

A wiki is like a blank webpage you can write on with simple tools--text, photos, graphics, videos, links and more. Wikis store the history of page changes so you can see how a page has changed over time, and can revert to an older version if you'd like.


For students, wikis are an opportunity to engage in a collaborative writing process. Wikis are also a great way to engage in and organize group research projects, as each individuals contributions can easily be seen in the history and revisions.


Wikis to check out:

www.wikipedia.org

http://simple.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page

http://www.matnonline.com

http://weblogged.wikispaces.com

http://schools.wikia.com/wiki/High_School_Online_Collaborative_Writing


Want to create a wiki?

www.wikispaces.com

www.pbwiki.com


What is Social Bookmarking?

Social bookmarking is a method for Internet users to store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages on the Internet with the help of metadata.

In a social bookmarking system, users save links to web pages that they want to remember and/or share. These bookmarks are usually public, and can be saved privately, shared only with specified people or groups, shared only inside certain networks, or another combination of public and private domains. The allowed people can usually view these bookmarks chronologically, by category or tags, or via a search engine. (Wikipedia)


It is tagging or marking a website, like you would a favorite. However, instead of saving them to your web browser, you are saving them to the web. Never again have trouble remembering the URL of a website you want to go back to. Since the bookmarks are online, you can easily share them with friends, students, colleagues, etc.


Bookmarking sites to check out:

http://www.diigo.com

http://del.icio.us


What is Photo Sharing?

"Photo sharing is the publishing or transfer of a user's digital photos online, thus enabling the user to share them with others (whether publicly or privately). This functionality is provided through both websites and applications that facilitate the upload and display of images." ( Wikipedia)

Once the photos are online, different photo sharing sites offer a variety of tools to organize, print, display, edit, annotate, tag, manipulate, and use them.

You can add "
tags" or keywords to your photos. That will help you organize, sort and find information.


Photo sharing sites to check out:

http://www.flickr.com/

http://picasa.google.com

What is Podcasting?

A podcast is a series of digital-media files which are distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and computers. The term podcast, like broadcast, can refer either to the series of content itself or to the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also called podcasting. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster.

The term is a portmanteau of the words "iPod" and "broadcast",[1] the Apple iPod being the brand of portable media player for which the first podcasting scripts were developed (see history of podcasting). Such scripts allow podcasts to be automatically transferred to a mobile device after they are downloaded. (Wikipedia).


http://oedb.org/library/beginning-online-learning/100-ways-to-use-your-ipod-to-learn-and-study-better


Podcasts to check out:

http://www.mpsomaha.org/willow/Radio/

http://www.princetonreview.com/vocabminute











:





Beth Poss 2008 possbeth@gmail.com

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Expand Your Vocabulary and Feed the World!

Help end world hunger

Take your students to the wonderful website to help them build their vocabulary and work to end world hunger at the same time. While not a highly accessible site, the vocabulary word can be read aloud.

FreeRice is a sister site of the world poverty site, Poverty.com.

According to the website, FreeRice has two goals:

  1. To provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.
  2. To help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the sponsors who advertise on this site.

USA Today says,

“Feeling guilty about wasting time on computer solitaire? Join the growing guilt-free multitude at FreeRice.com, an online game with redeeming social value.”

School Library Journal says,

“A teacher of fourth and fifth graders on the Yurok Indian reservation in Klamath, CA, . . . emailed the WFP. ‘My students absolutely LOVE the FreeRice site. Almost daily they earn several thousand grains of rice!’ she wrote. ‘You cannot imagine the joy in my heart when I look out and see 25 kids doing vocabulary work and enjoying it.’”


I played on the website today and find it is really quite addictive! I enjoyed learning new vocabulary words and watching how many bowls of rice I could fill. I imagine many students will be motivated to keep going with the vocabulary just to see how many bowls they can fill! It would be easy for a teacher to create a goal for a minimum number of bowls or a competition in the classroom for who could fill the most bowls. You have got to play:)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Flash Card Maker

Love, love, love this tool! Flash Card Maker allows you to create flash cards, with graphics in just minutes. They can be printed out or used online. For use online, Click Speak easily read the text on the flash cards, and single switch access can be provided with any mouse click set up, if the mouse is left resting on the Next Card button when in Study mode. I easily created vocabulary flash cards for my daughter's English vocabulary test, with about 30 cards in about 15 minutes. It is simple to insert graphics for additional support for text as well. You can also search through thousands of already made flash card sets. I easily found a set of cards for the science unit, Force and Motion, that closely corresponded to our county's unit of study.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blurfing in the Blogoshpere

Thanks to Lori, a student in my graduate class, who taught me a new vocabulary word the other day—“blurfing” or blog surfing. I was so excited to have something to describe one of my favorite pastimes, just clicking on links from one blog to another. I decided to finally do something practical with all of my blurfing and let others know about some of my favorite blogs and blog posts related to education and accessible technology.

Since Karl Fisch is one of the 1st blogs I started to read, I must mention 2 of his great posts:
2020 Vision is a profound reflection on the state of technology in the year 2020.
Is It Ok To Be Technologically Illiterate? is a frank discussion of the need for educators and others to develop media literacy. His statement,
“If a teacher today is not technologically literate - and is unwilling to make the effort to learn more - it's equivalent to a teacher 30 years ago who didn't know how to read and write.”
is thought provoking, to say the least.

Another thought provoking blogpost, is Will Richardson’s URGENT: 21st Century Skills for Educators (and Others) First where he discusses the need for technology to be a focus in Educational Reform. The comments to this post are as interesting to read as the post itself.
Karen Janowski’s Free Technology Toolkit for UDL in All Classrooms - Spread the Word! post from her EdTech Solutions: Teaching Every Student Blog is a gem, filled with free tools for creating a UDL classroom is updated regularly, most recently on 2/14/08.
Let me know what your favorite blogposts are!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Free clip art, photos, and other media for educational use



This week I was helping my daughter create an ABC book on China for her World Studies Class. She has learned in school how to use Google Images to search for pictures, but doesn’t really understand that many of these pictures are not legally free for her to use in school projects. It is a common misconception made by many individuals, including educators and parents, that if they are using an image off the web for educational use, that it is fine to do so. In reality, many, if not most images on the web are not free to copy, download, or print, even for use in school projects by students. However, there are a growing number of graphics, images, and other types of media that are available legally for the public to use. These public domain, copyright free, or Creative Commons licensed images are out there for individuals to use, without charge for a variety of purposes.

As educators we often look for images to use for a variety of purposes, from graphics from multimedia presentations in PowerPoint, to use as picture graphic symbols for augmentative communication systems and adapted curriculum materials. Here is a list of some of my favorite sources for images that are free and legal to use.

  1. Microsoft Clip Art Gallery: If you have a MS program on your computer (Word, PowerPoint, etc) you have access to this huge (over 150,000) assortment of clip art images, photos, sounds and animations. You can search by keyword the entire collection, or within specific categories of media and collections. When you download the media, it will automatically store these images in your Microsoft clipart folder in My Pictures. You can then search these images at any time within Microsoft applications.
  2. Flickr: This online photo sharing website is filled with tons of photos and images. Be careful, though, as many photos are not free to use. To be sure you are only using images that are made available for public use, search for images licensed under Creative Commons, at http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/ . Creative Commons licensing allows individuals to set parameters on the use of their work, such as attribution or no modifications, without having it copyright restricted.
  3. http://www.pdclipart.org/ is a great website that has 25,000+ clip art images that can be used without restriction.
  4. Clker.com has royalty free clip art that is great for picture graphic symbols for adapting curriculum or creating communication boards. The clip art is generally simple and uncluttered, without backgrounds or distractions. It is where I found a likeness of me (the cute redhead pictured above!).
  5. For historical images, go to The Library of Congress’ American Memory collection. The American Memory Collection provides free and open access to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience, such as this advertisement for Spalding baseball equipment.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Switch SlideShow on Picasa


Kate A. who is a member of the QIAT listserv, has created a great Picasa web album featuring switches from a number of different manufacturers, as a resource for AT providers and others. Check it out at

http://picasaweb.google.com/teechkidz/AdaptiveSwitches

While on Picasa, which is a great online photo site, I saw this blog post by Todd Bogdan, a Google Software Engineer

Quick tip: super-fast full-screen previews

If you spend a lot of time in Picasa, here's a keyboard shortcut that may come in handy: When you're in Library View, move your mouse cursor over any picture thumbnail, hold down the 'ctrl' key, and then press 'alt.' You'll instantly get a full-screen view of that picture.

Obviously, this wee bit of trickery isn't meant to replace a full-screen slideshow -- the moment you take your finger off the 'alt' key, you'll be returned to the regular Library View. But it's a great way to quickly jump in and out of full-screen zoom so you can preview pictures in detail. This trick also works on the current photo when you're in the Edit Room.

If you're looking to quickly compare a few adjacent thumbnails with the benefit of a full-screen view, simply scroll the mouse wheel when using the ctrl-alt key combo. (This is especially handy if you've just imported a clump of similar photos and want to quickly decide which to keep.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Webkinz—Just a Kidz Craze Or Is There Educational Value?

So, my 9 year old and 11 year old are not on Facebook or MySpace, yet. They have email accounts, but don’t really use them very much—mostly just to send each other a Hi and I love you (sort of the same excitement of getting snail mail cards), or to email their teachers with a question they are too shy to ask them f2f at school. However, they are OBSESSED with Webkinz, the stuffed and virtual pets by toy company Ganz, and the Webkinz website. Time on Webkinz has become my bargaining tool—they have to have all homework done, read for at least 20 minutes, practiced their flutes, taken their showers, etc before being allowed on, and if they fight with each other or don’t listen to me, it is the first thing they lose.

At first I thought it was just wasted time online, but that it was ok as a reward. Then I looked a little deeper. They were working (ok, playing arcade type games) to earn Kinz Cash to purchase clothes, furniture and treats for their virtual pets. When buying these items they have to make decisions about the best way to spend their money and how much time it was going to take them to earn more if they spent all they have. They are learning some social networking skills and how to look for their friends user names online and send a “hi” or a gift to them, and how to never, ever respond online to anyone they don’t personally know. There is a craft corner where there are ideas for offline Webkinz crafts and activities, and a gallery where they can post pictures of what they have done offline (pictures do have to be snail mailed in, unfortunately). The Kinz Chat area only lets kids chat with pre-constructed messages from menu, which means that not only is chatting a safe activity, but that kids with developmentally younger literacy skills can participate with minimal support. Many of the games require only the use of the space bar or enter, so it is easy to set up access for students with physical disabilities (some timing skills are still needed). There are even grade leveled educational games (that they earn Kinz Cash for playing) in the areas of reading, math, science, and social studies that I found to correspond well with my daughters’ curriculums at school!

Do I want my daughters spending endless amounts of time playing on Webkinz when they could be reading, playing with friends, or riding their horses? No, but at least I feel better that the time they do spend is not a total loss. I even plan on using Webkinz to work on literacy skills with some of my students at school (unless I find the server has blocked the site, as not educational in nature!)

What do you think of Webkinz? Take a minute and let me know.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Creating a Web 2.0 Classroom

A really successful UDL classroom integrates a range of digital tools to support learning. With that in mind here are:


10 Ideas for Incorporating Web 2.0 Tools into Universally Designed for Learning Classroom

  1. Plan for podcasting your classroom lectures and discussions. Be sure to get permission from school administrators if you allow students voices to be a part of the podcast. Then allow students to download lectures from the school website for review and reteaching
  2. Create scaffolded notes using Google Docs, print them for in class use and post to your school website/broadcast the link in an email to parents—take it from one who knows, parents will love being able to see the notes! This is also a convenient way to easily provide materials for students who are absent, disorganized or are just poor note takers. In addition, the materials will be readily available in a digital format for those students who have text to speech accommodations or just benefit from being able to pull up notes on their computer.
    1. Start out with a thorough set of notes, with all points covered, and the least notetaking needed. Save
    2. Working with the first version, delete key vocabulary words or key points, creating a fill in the blank set of notes, for students that can add these key points in as they listen to the lecture.
    3. Working with this next version, keep sentence starters or key points for notes to be filled in by student and delete the rest, creating lines for students to continue filling in the information as they listen to the lecture.
  1. Use a social bookmarking site, such as del.icio.us or diigo to tag resources for projects or units. Utilize features of the bookmarking site, including notes to highlight important things for students to pay attention to on the website.
  2. Start a classroom wiki and have students post drafts of projects or papers for peer review and editing. PBwiki is a good place to start for a kid friendly wiki.
  3. Use Flickr for young students to create a photo portfolio of their work, including activities and actions across the year. Be sure to have a digital camera readily available at all times.
  4. Using cooperative learning groups, have students plan and write a podcast script based on a curriculum topic. Utilize UDL tools such as Intellitools Classroom Suite, Write Outloud or Kurzweil for writing the script for those students who benefit from text to speech software. Record the podcast and post to the school’s website.
  5. Have students plan, write, and create multimedia poem using Flickr or Picasa Web based on a theme. Each photo in the sequence would be accompanied by a line or stanza of the poem.
  6. Create a classroom blog to post curriculum related discussion and questions from students to the teacher and to each other. Students comments should always be moderated by the teacher.
  7. Use a classroom blog to create an online book group. As an introduction, show students the blog created to discuss the book The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd.
  8. Use Google Earth and Maps to create a virtual field trip to a geographical area being studied. Create placemarks and keep track of where you have visited for a school year.
For more great ideas on integrating Web 2.o in the classroom take a look at this post from Langwitches, on the Best Web 2.0 Applications for Elementary School Classrooms.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Universal Design for Learning Basics

Yesterday I taught a session on Universal Design for Learning as a part of a course on Web 2.o Technologies for graduate students at Johns Hopkins University. This was intended to be just a brief intro to the principles of UDL, however when I walked away from the building at the end of the class, I felt that I had not communicated my message as well as I could have. As sometimes I have a tendency to do, I overcomplicated something that needed to be stated much more simply. I thought about just sending out an email to clarify and summarize the lecture, but decided instead to blog about it, since I figure there are lots of folks out there (some of whom may some day just happen across this blog--who knows, stranger things have happened!) who are looking for a basic explaination of Universal Design for Learning. Soooo....

UDL in a Nutshell

Principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) (summarized from CAST)
1)Multiple Means of Engagement
Stimulating interest and motivation for learning (the "why" of learning)
2)Multiple Means of Representation
Presenting information and content in different ways (the "what" of learning)
3)Multiple Means of Expression
Differentiating the ways that students can express what they know (the "how" of learning)

A key to UDL is how the inherently flexible nature of digital materials allows for these multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression. While UDL does not exclude the use of low tech materials and strategies, it definitely emphasizes the use of technology to achieve differentiation. Additionally, a UDL environment or classroom is frontloaded with these materials and strategies, rather than having to put them in place as a fix to a learning need.

Some ways that technology can be used to create a UDL environment are:
1) The use of multimedia (graphics, video, sound) for presentation or expression of information, such as PowerPoint presentations, Windows Movie Maker, or use of United Streaming video content (there are many more ways, as well)
2) The use of digital text that can easily be manipulated to meet the individual learning needs of students
  • text can be enlarged to meet needs of visually impaired
  • text can be highlighted or color coded to provided organizational cues for students
  • text can be read aloud via text to speech programs for students with poor reading skills
  • text can be easily simplified for students with comprehension/cognitive limitations

3) The choice of multiple means of expression for student work, including the use of

  • video presentations
  • word processing (as opposed to hand written)
  • audio/oral presentations
  • multimedia presentations

While this is far from the be all end of of UDL, this is the essence of what I had hoped to communicate to my students yesterday (and my apologies to you all for not having done what I had set out to do!!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Information Literacy--Teaching Students in the Digital Age

As educators who advocate the use of technology in education, we have a responsibility to ensuring that we and our students develop not only literacy skills, but Information Literacy skills. On Alan November’s website, November Learning, there is a wealth of information on information literacy, including an Information Literacy Quiz and follow up activities.

This is a great way to find out what skills you have, or to find out what skills students have (probably no younger than middle or high school students). It is very eye opening to see how websites evolve and change over time. The activity on website validation was really thought provoking. It gave great examples of how to sort out facts vs. misinformation. I especially liked using the Wayback Machine at www.archive.org. While many websites changes are for the better, it is surprising to see how some websites have changed in order to deceive, including sites funded by White Supremacy groups.
While the dangers of allowing young people access to chat rooms or not supervising their Facebook/My Space pages have been made quite clear, the importance of teaching students that just because it is on the Internet does not make it true is really emphasized by this activity. I encourage all parents, educators, and teens and young adults to go through these activities in order to gain information literacy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Are You Smarter Than A 6th Grader?

Are you smarter than a 6th grader? My 6th grader has just taught me how to create graphs in Excel. In under 5 minutes she quickly and beautifully created a bar graph for her science expo project, showing the absorbency of different animal beddings (very practical applications for this for her goats, chickens, and horses; but that is whole other blog). I am quite excited, as I often want to put graphs into reports and other documents I am creating, but I never quite knew how. For anyone else who is not as smart as a 6th grader, directions for this are as follows:
(courtesy of my daughter’s 6th grade science teacher)

Open Microsoft Excel

  1. A table looking screen will appear with letters across the top row and numbers along the left column. There will be many individual data boxes on the screen.
  2. Enter your data into the empty boxes. Each box gets just one data value.
    You should enter your data into the boxes based on the set up of your data table values.
    Hint: place a particular set of data values into its own letter column. Do not just list all of your data straight down in one column.
  3. Once all your data is entered use your mouse to highlight all of your data.
    Then, click on the Chart Wizard button, which is depicted by a bar graph with three bars of different colors.
  4. A box will appear that will allow you to choose which kind of graph you wish to make.
  5. Click on the Chart Type you wish and then choose specific Sub-Chart Type you wish.
  6. After you have chosen your chart type and sub-chart type, click the Next button.
    A new box will appear that depicts what your data looks like based on the way in which you entered it in Excel.
  7. If you like your graph, then click Next.
  8. If you have more than one set of data, you may wish to click on the Series Tab in order to label each line, bar, etc. that is displayed on your graph.
  9. To do this, click on the first series, Series 1, and provide a name for it in the Name box.
    Then, on the values box, click on the white box and then highlight the data on the excel spreadsheet that you wish to represent that particular series.
    You may do this for however many different data series you wish to have on your graph.
  10. When finished this step, click Next.
  11. Fill in a Chart title, Category(X) axis, and Value (Y)axis in the blank boxes based on your data/experiment.
  12. Then click Next.
  13. Finally, click on the bullet to have the graph displayed “As a new sheet.”
  14. Then click Finish
  15. Remember to SAVE your GRAPH!

Now the point of this blog entry (in addition to explaining how to make a graph in Excel) is to illustrate the simplicity of using the power of technology for digital natives like my daughter. Digital immigrants, like myself and so many teachers of digital natives never use many features of technology, because they are unfamiliar and don’t seem intuitive to us. However, we have to remember that our children and students have cut their teeth on technology we never even dreamed about 10 years ago.