Thursday, July 10, 2008

Washington Article: Technology Reshapes America's Classrooms

Jason Szep's (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.