Sunday, June 12, 2011

LeapFrog Tag School Reader

The Tag School Reader is a  handheld tool designed for students in PreK-3rd grade.  You use the tag reader to read specially-printed books by touching the tag reader to the book.  It can read a whole story or just certain words.  You can also place it over the pictures for more information about the story.  There are activities to go along with the story after finishing the book that focus on comprehension, phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary.

I think this sounds like a great tool to use for a literacy center during guided reading.  This is something that students can do on their own to either listen to a story and have help reading the story.  This device also comes with headphones so it is not disrupting to other students.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Software Evaluation

Learning Today is a provider of elementary reading and math software. It is an award winning, web based individualized learning program for each student.  Students take a placement test and lessons are based off of that assessment.  It focuses on phonemic awareness, phonics, high frequency words, vocabulary development and reading comprehension.  Each individual area is assessed in the placement test so students could be at different grade levels for each sub section.  There are interactive lessons which can be individualized, small group or whole class instruction.  It also has lessons that can be used on an interactive white board.
 The math program is set up the same way as the reading program.  It focuses on numbers and operations, measurement concepts, geometry concepts, algebra, and data analysis and probability.  

The cost is figured per student or there is a classroom pack.  A classroom pack for both reading and math for 25 students is $1220 for a year.

This seems like it could be a worthwhile program if you had access to a classroom set of computers on a regular basis.  Parents can also access this site and have their child participate in this program at home.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Assistive Technologies
Assistive technology- is any equipment or device that is designed to help people with disabilities or physical limitations to be independent. It can be anything from a simple, low-tech device such as a magnifying glass, to a complex, high-tech device, such as a computerized communication system. It can be big, such as an automated van lift for a wheelchair, or small, such as a pen gripper according to the Iowa Compass website .

After teaching special education for four years I needed to use assistive technologies on a regular basis.  They were as simple as a pencil gripper or a reference chart for math, to a laptop a student used to type with because the student had difficultly writing.  A few of the others I used were social stories, highlighter tape and wiki sticks to help with tracking during reading.

While I was teaching I had a couple of students who had Autism or fell on the spectrum somewhere.  We tried several different ways to help them communicate better by using visual cueing systems, written directions, and one on one assistance.  This is a link to an assitive technology website for children with autism (Written by Susan Stokes under a contract with CESA 7 and funded by a discretionary grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction). It also has links to low, mid, and high technology strategies and devices.  One of the devices I found that was in the mid technology category was a talk pad.  This allows the teacher to record 1-4 steps of directions.  The student pushes the buttons one at a time which also has visual cues on it to prompt the child to complete each step independently.

KEYTEC, INC. is a site that has several touch screen products and devices for students to utilize to help them communicate.  It also states on their webstie that Magic Touch products are an assitive technology that is approved by the Federal Government, so federal funding is available to help purchase the touch screens.

Another helpful website I found is from the Autism Community. It gives several different types of assistive technology devices available. They are grouped by category and have links to different sites where you can purchase these devices.

After doing some research online I learned that you can acquire some information about assistive technology as well as the actual technology from the Iowa Compass website, a Disability Information and Referral site. The Easter Seals also have a website where you can check out different assistive technology devices as well as other equipment individuals may need for their home.  You are allowed to check these devices out for 30 days to see if this is really something you want to purchase.

With the advancement of technology there seems to be a lot more choices for high technology devices such as touch screens and hand held computers.  After doing a little bit of research on the internet it seems that the devices are out there, it just may take some researching on the part of the parent or teacher to find what is most beneficial for each child.

An example of a visual cueing system to help students communicate.
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This is a picture of a few of the technology devices available.
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Friday, May 27, 2011

Wikipedia and The Future of the Written Word

1. I can see Wikipedia being useful in teaching students how they have to double check their information and how to find out if they have a credible source.  Since anyone can post anything on Wikipedia it is important students realize they cannot believe everything they read on the internet.  As for how Margaret Santori uses Wikipedia it is an interesting thought.  I could see it being useful in showing how people communicate with each other respectfully even if they don't agree.  Of course we all know that when people are writing on certain topics emotions can run high and some disrespectful comments could be made.  It would be important for teachers to preview these sites before showing them to their students. 

2.  The future of our written word is almost hard to fathom.  At the beginning of this course I would have said that paper and pencil writing will for sure be around.  After reading several different articles and our textbooks I am not so sure about that anymore.  We are able to have access to the internet almost anywhere at anytime.  I think we will have pens, pencils and paper available but their function may change.  Instead of students being required to bring pencils and pens on their back to school list maybe it will say smartphone or laptop. I still think this is several years off but eventually this could be possible. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Flix

Imagine being able to watch your favorite stories come alive on the computer screen.  Well that is the purpose of a new program from Scholastic called Book Flix.  This program uses video storybooks from Weston Woods and pairs them up with nonfiction ebooks.  This program is geared for students in grades K-3 and will be available through the Iowa AEA Online by August 1, 2011.

There are over 90 books that students have access to with over 25 of them also available in Spanish.   The stories are animated where the students can read them by themselves or the computer will read it to them and hi-lite each word as it is read. For each fiction-nonfiction pair there are extension activities to help build comprehension and vocabulary skills.  Students have a chance to meet the author by reading a short biography about them and are directed to other books or websites by that author.  There are also several activities for educators such as lesson plans, pre and post activities as well as standard alignment.  These books are also whiteboard and smartboard friendly.  There are also links to safe age-appropriate websites of related topics so students can explore more information. 

This seems like a great program to really make favorite children's stories come alive.  It seems teachers who have whiteboards or smart boards would make it easy to do a whole class story if there wasn't access to a classroom set of computers.  I think students would love seeing the animated version of a story.  It may also spark interest in reading for a reluctant or struggling reader.  Teachers may be able to take this a step further and create their own animated books in the classroom.
Below is a video from a teacher in Virginia Beach showing the use of Book Flix within the classroom.

Monday, May 23, 2011

3, 339

3, 339- The number of texts on average a teen sends in one month, according to the Nielsen Company, a consumer research firm. This amounts to more than six texts per hour.  Students are obviously staying connected to their friends throughout the school day.  How do we as educators handle this?  I easily found two different newspaper articles that discussed texting in the classroom and another blog from a teacher. There were reactions on both sides of the argument from educators.

"Chuck Martin, a marketing lecturer at the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business and Economics, had one of his classes conduct their own market research survey in which half of the 1,043 students surveyed felt guilty about texting during class when it was not allowed. Nevertheless, this did not stop people from doing it. In fact, 65 percent of the students surveyed said they sent at least one text message during a typical class."

I personally would not allow my students to text during class.  Yes, it only takes a few seconds to send one text but if students are texting repeatedly during class they are going to miss out on instruction.  Jay Mathews an education columnist for The Washington Post brings up an interesting point that if the educator is engaging, the texter should be more interested in the class than sending another text.  I think as educators we are always looking for new ways to engage our students and help them learn.  Of course students are always going to be concerned about what their classmates are doing and saying and want to communicate with them, but can't we keep the texting to in between classes, before school, after school or during lunch. We as educators need to continue to focus on how to keep students engaged during classroom instruction and keep outside distractions to a minimum.

On the other side of the argument Elona Hartjes, Ontario Certified Teacher, states that she doesn't think it is a big deal to text during class and compares it to passing notes.  She feels there are always going to be students who pass notes and students who try and text.  She feels this is the least of her problems in her classroom and chooses not to fight this battle.  This is one way to handle the situation but at the same time it seems like a defeated attitude that I can't do anything about it so why try.