The Pie of Life and A2E

The Access to Education (A2E) State Conference, formerly PATINS State Conference, is right around the corner! Woo! Hoo! What does that mean to us? High energy, reuniting with people we haven’t seen for a while, meeting new folks. We will learn so much during these two intense days. So much information, so little time.

There is a nifty chart, called the Pie of Life. I picked it up from a book called Values Clarification (Values Clarification, by Dr. Sidney B. Simon, Leland W Howe). This particular exercise involves a blank circle. The key is defined by what you do in your 24 hour day. You start by listing the activities of your day, and then assign time values to them. Once done, you plot the circle. So for simplicity, I have listed these general areas with four hours each: Leisure, Community, Family, Self, Work/School and Home.  

Pie Chart of 24 hours in a day
It is a lot easier when given tidy parameter such as these.  

When we just list what we do in a day or want to do in a day, it is easier to come up with numbers well off the chart. But even so, given these categories, this individual still came up with 28.5 hours in a day, as noted by bar chart below.
Bar Chart of Hours we think we have in a dayPie Chart of Hours we think we have in a day with percentages
It makes sense of course that work/school and sleep should take up the lion’s share of a person’s day. After all, learning and growing is the “job” of students. The point here is to look at that balance. I think of this when I consider homework for students, and especially homework for students with special needs. From my perspective, it is more of an economy of time and effort and less of a Three Musketeers "All for one and one for all" approach. We know that some of the students must work, some are athletes, active in community/church works, some have medical needs that take time. We know all students must show evidence of learning. So, if some students can access homework or schoolwork differently or produce the evidence of their work at a different time or by a different means, then outcomes of learning may be better demonstrated and measured. As a society we do encourage well-rounded students so they will be well-rounded, contributing adults, participating fully in their communities. So in this scenario, here is what a 24 hour day can look like for students.

Bar Chart of Student 24 Daily hours
As we enter this next week of wonderful exploration into the world of assistive technology, curricular access and attempt to synthesize it all, let’s remember.  You, personally, do not have to know everything about access. Be comfortable in knowing resources are available to assist with solutions that may elude you as you teach a diverse classroom. That is what we do at PATINS. Take advantage of what other conference attendees and presenters also know.

All these nifty charts are intended to show that there is so much for all of us to learn. Both adult and children learners. It is helpful to always view information from a perspective of a feature match. By that I mean, does an item/product/technique match the needs/abilities of the the user and meet the intended outcome? or How will this help my student more efficiently/effectively complete an important task using a useful skill?

When not helping to put on the Access to Education (A2E) conference, I will be looking for technology and supports to help students and staff blossom given their strengths. We know students have had plenty of practice demonstrating the areas of their disability. Now, with my nifty Pie of Life exercise, it is clear that no one has any time to waste reinforcing the areas of difficulty. Let’s focus precious time on growing those well-rounded students so they will be well-rounded, contributing adults, participating fully in their communities with time, energy and satisfaction enough to take on the next generation of children for whom the Pie of Life will mean something.
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Summer Musings, Student Thoughts


Summer. What a great time to store up some natural vitamin D, enjoy the outdoors, and clear our minds from the doldrums and cobwebs that some of us collect during the winter months and look for renewal for the upcoming school year.


At our house, we remodeled our kitchen and, that was an undertaking! It only took three times longer than anticipated but the end result is gorgeous. One does not realize how old something is until it is updated though to be sure, my daughter did try to advise me of this for a while. I took the opportunity afforded by dust, chaos, and disarray to purge the rest of the house. This made the mayhem worse. The saving grace for me was in knowing this messiness was temporary and actually, in my relative control. We have expanded some of the renewal to include new carpeting, which should be installed next week. So it is not smooth sailing yet. Then, of course our family get together is happening before the carpet comes in so it is not “perfect”. There is a lesson in there, too. Perfect is not necessary. 

As I gear up for the 2017-2018 school year, I cannot help but reflect on the daily lives of some of our students. This is not a statement of poverty, class, background or anything else. It is just life. The issue of clutter, chaos and stability crosses all the lines. So, how does this impact our students?   

On an individual level, consider how each of us is able to focus, find things, concentrate, think, create, remember or recall in an environment where we feel we have control, or where we feel we do not. A great example of this comes to mind with the topic of homework. How can homework get done in the midst of chaos? Let alone get done effectively. What does it take to set students up for success when it comes to homework completion? We have to look at individual needs on a universal level.

If we follow the UDL principles set by CAST and follow up work at the UDL Center we have an expectation to facilitate students ability to become expert learners. How can a child and young adult be resourceful and knowledgeable; strategic and goal-directed; purposeful and motivated amidst clutter, chaos, mayhem and limited choices? I think of students with complex disabilities.  Again, the issues cross all the demographic lines. Without a voice or a way to effectively communicate, an individual is dependent on the organizational style, timelines, thought processes of those around them. I do not see how this can promote the development of expert learners.

As an occupational therapist, we look at the whole person, not just the physical aspects of disability. When I see homework not getting completed, there are usually a number of reasons and punitive measures do not seem to get better results. These other reasons can include many issues including significant/subtle learning disabilities, no adult support, poor executive functioning, and emotional issues. This is obviously not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea. Also, a question that is good to ask is “What is the purpose of the activity?” The answer to that question alone can make a big difference in focusing on critical elements of performance for a student that is useful in growing their expert learner potential. This can even be explored with seating and positioning in the classroom. Without control and confidence of one’s physical state, learning becomes the secondary focus. So, homework, in-class work, whatever the work of a student is we need to know what we are working toward universally, know the student individually, and intentionally plan upfront for all the diversity and chaos eager to learn this year!

Let’s find “techy” ways to help students find their own control and stability in a chaotic world.
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"Crazy"


Charlie Brown and speech bubble with the words good grief
 


OK, so, I missed my blog deadline this time around and it made me think of how crazy our lives can get. I am not so sold on the benefits of multi-tasking. So here is a YouTube link to Gnarls Barkley (CeeLo Green and Danger Mouse) singing "Crazy". At the bottom, I included a copy of the lyrics from the St. Elsewhere Album. It’s really fitting for all of us, I believe. Parents, educators, students, administrators, support staff. Craziness is for anyone who is putting themselves out there to make our world a better place.  


Feel free to slow down and take 5 minutes to enjoy a song not usually connected to what we do, and is inspiring in its own way!

As we all strive for control over our lives, it seems many of us (attempt to) do this through schedules. In our paperless office, I find I still need the print version of a calendar to ground me on a daily basis.

Here is a little of what I have learned over the years:

Digital calendars/schedulers:
  • Great for portability
  • Great for ease of adjustability
  • Easily searchable, depending on how it was set up
  • Easy to set repeating appointment
    • And my favorite
      • Great for color coding/categorizing
  • Downside:
    • Too easy to misdate or delete something
Paper calendars/schedulers/appointment books
  • You can see what you erased!
  • Easier for me to see a week at a glance.
  • I am able to glance at weeks more quickly.
  • Easier to quickly glance on the road.
  • I can make notes right on the document.
    • including…my mileage
  • Downside:
    • If you leave it at home, you are sunk.
Conclusion:
  • There is no one system that works for me and believe me, I have been looking for a long time.
  • About the time I think I have a good system, I find it may be perfect on a desktop, but not on a mobile set up.
  • Or it was better with a previous email system, but not a new one.
  • Or a new data collection system changes my personal coding system.
And it is all good!
OK, anything useful here?
  • First of all, we all have to work with the materials at hand and the resources available.
  • Decide how to visually organize your life and go from there.
  • We also look at ourselves or who we are considering. 
  • So this is where the feature match comes in. 
    • I can be pretty flexible with some basic features and allowing myself to print out a working calendar document. 
    • Anything else is just crazy!
Choices:
  • These are more schedulers than organizers, but the list might get you thinking. These are a drop in the bucket I currently have eleven in a folder on my phone that I have explored.

Gnarls Barkley (CeeLo Green and Danger Mouse) singing "Crazy"

"Crazy" St. Elsewhere Album Lyrics
I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place.
Even your emotions had an echo
In so much space

And when you're out there
Without care,
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Possibly [radio version]
probably [album version]

And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice, that's my only advice

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you're in control
Well, I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
Just like me

My heroes had the heart to lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember is thinking, I want to be like them
Ever since I was little, ever since I was little it looked like fun
And it's no coincidence I've come
And I can die when I'm done

Maybe I'm crazy
Maybe you're crazy
Maybe we're crazy
Probably

Uh, uh

Credit AZLyrics 

Thanks! Julie

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How Do We Know What They Know?

A person who is severely impaired never knows his hidden sources of strength until he is treated like a normal human and is encouraged to shape his own life. quote by Helen Keller
Following up on Jim’s Santa and gift message, I am reflecting on thoughts of thankfulness and anticipation. This is something for all professionals, educators, staff and loved ones to work together with students. We all have perspectives and skill sets that can make a difference and place a piece of the puzzle where it counts for challenging students to achieve in school. How do we know what they know?

When it comes to children with significant needs, we talk about needs and wants. But what does that really mean? Every year, we write it in goals for them and then we try to measure progress on those goals. Parents hope to know what their child’s wants and needs are, but how do we drill down from such a genuine but general statement to something meaningful for each person involved? How do we get to the richness, the fabric of life? This is truly a challenge and a noble effort. These are open and honest questions intended to go beyond comfort and safety into a different level of challenge for some students. How do we know what they know? In thinking about Christmas or Hanukkah or any holiday that might be celebrated we note a richness of the season. For those who do not celebrate holidays, each day on earth is enough of a celebration. This celebration is found in the seasons, the colors, the brightness, the sounds, the activity, the energy, the countdown, the clothes, the food, the gifts, the visits and the list goes on. How do we tap into this for our significantly or complex or medically involved students? How are they an active part of this cycle of life? How do we know what they know?

Here are some perspectives I’d like to share:
Some of these students are the most medically fragile students to attend school. This is difficult for some educators to balance because the medical status can be very overwhelming and demanding. Balance that with requirements of academic accountability and other limitations and it can seem a bit much at times, especially when various people have different perspectives on what is the right way to do something. We know learning occurs when one is actively involved. So let’s focus on thoroughly and actively engaging complex medical students in learning in the school environment. One little blog cannot possibly cover it all but here are some opening teasers:
  • Provide a schedule of events for each child
    • Engage them visually/auditory/physically with “their” schedule on or near their person within their visual/physical/auditory range.
    • Provide a purpose to every activity
      • You know what you are doing, so clue the student, son, daughter, sibling, in on it as well. It is an easy thing to unintentionally overlook. 
      • This requires full conversations, instead of just a single action or directive.
      • Rather than, “Put the spoon on the table,” explain the activity preferably with steps included, with rich vocabulary, because
    • Students need to know:
      • What are we doing?
      • What comes next?
      • How will I know I am done?
      • Is it worth my time? :)
    • Likely Result:
      • Positive behaviors will improve
      • Communication will increase
  • Home-school connection is important
    • Exact duplication may not make sense because of the two very different environments
      • (I can tell you that what worked for my children at Grandma’s had nothing to do with home life. Haha).
      • But we can usually agree about carryover and consistency and consensus
  • Determine a consistent and appropriate YES response
    • This response should be simple, consistent, not reflexive or not increase muscle tone.
    • Negation is not as critical. A long pause of silence can be a no response. If you can get a consistent "No" response, great.
    • Eventually a Y/N location on a board can be achieved.—even eye gaze.
  • Partner-Assisted Communication can be initiated at this point to engage complex medical/physical/communication students. 
Then communication can go beyond wants and needs and delve into richness of life interactions. Students can have a means of initiation and continuation. Students can have a means of ending a communicative moment. Interests, humor, dislikes, topical interests, preferences, depth, knowledge, background information can be explored or revealed. Once a student has established cause and effect, they have it. That’s it. Move on to something more challenging. If they start to fail at something they have been successful at, consider that the student might be bored or ready to move on. If the student sleeps a lot and it is not necessarily a medical or schedule issue, it may be boredom or a statement of negation. This is the potential for our students. Getting to the solution may not be fast, and there are a lot of factors that get in the way of progress for some students, yet knowing that we can all work together. Positioning, access, language, range, breathing, working around seizures. All this is a challenge. I will admit that some students are very difficult to figure out, yet overall let’s agree to raise the bar high, get excited about the seasonal offerings of variety and assume they are waiting for us to get on board with engagement, action, expression and multiple means of representation.

If Stephen Hawking were disabled sooner, would we have known his brilliance? If Helen Keller was left to roam around the table for scraps, would she have been the first Deaf-Blind person to receive a degree in America? If we expect our students to tell us what they know and keep trying to find ways to help them communicate, will they some day?


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We can do this-Together!

There are so many things to talk about and today PATINS itself, seems to be a good topic. We welcome additional employees, we are in the 21st year of what was originally a 5 year grant and we are restructuring into areas of specialty to better meet the needs of staff and students in Indiana. I start the year with a sense of excitement. Ok, it is true, I start every year with a sense of excitement. There is a quote I used to post on my wall to keep me grounded and here it is.

 Ralph Waldo Emerson“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I like to think this is true not just daily, but for a new school year as well. So, let's move on. Goodness knows the children have! So reflecting on why I get up every morning. When I think of work, it is PATINS. Really, our mouthful of an acronym. Promoting Achievement through Technology and INstruction for all Students.
Promote  
Achievement  
Technology  
INstruction  
Students  
The big words may say it all, but it is the little words: the prepositions, adjectives and conjunctions that really send the message home.
     
    through  
    and  
    for  
    all  
       
    According to state records, (http://compass.doe.in.gov/dashboard/overview.aspx IDOE Compass reports) there are 1,046,527 students in Indiana public schools. Close to 156,910 or 15% are identified as requiring special education services. No matter what scale this is measured with, it could easily be overwhelming if a teacher feels alone in their one room school within a building. Let's start with the belief that children want to learn. We know teachers can feel isolated in classrooms within schools. As we learn to work together to open doors and walls amidst our daily blunders and absurdities, we should remember to Promote Achievement through Technology and Instruction for ALL Students. The task is and has always been to build local capacity and PATINS is here to help. Let us be part of your reason to leap out of bed in the mornings! Or at least grin as you reach for your caffeine of choice.

    Till the next time!
    Julie
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    Summer 2016 eLearning Reflections

    Here is my second blog for PATINS and based on what I have seen, I am not the Blog Wit of PATINS.  Sorry about that!  While I am funny in my own right, I am intensely passionate when it comes to specialized technology and helping teachers and students in schools and I find my humor to be more spontaneous.  Yes, I am a punster.  There, I said it.  I also like third grade jokes.

    In reflecting upon a busy Summer of eLearning week, I find myself thankful for the opportunity to present a series of sessions again this year.  I have had an opportunity to travel to schools I have not visited before in parts of Indiana heretofore unknown to this Michigander.  I am struck again by the great teachers and administrators I work with in Indiana.  We are doing great things for students!  The passion, creativity and enthusiasm is contagious.  My heart breaks whenever a valued teacher retires.

    I have selected three topics this year to share at these eLearning conferences.  They are repeat topics, and I believe that is good.  There are always folks who are new, folks who need refreshers or folks who have been around but never knew about The PATINS Project.  So, for my part, I am spreading the word about PATINS by talking about our humble beginnings, our evolution and what we do now in variations of “PATINS 101”.,  a.k.a “PATINS: Explore Indiana’s Treasure Trove for Public Schools”. 

    Another session is a review of the built-in features of the iPad in a session called “iPad Magic”.  We discuss the amazing features this tool has right out of the box, without even discussing additional apps.  The focus is on a Universal Design for Learning framework for meeting the needs of many students as quickly and seamlessly as possible. To this end, the session time is focused in the ‘Settings’-‘General’ area.  And in the ‘Accessibilty’ settings.  Folks learn that one does not have to be in special education to benefit from these features.  Try the contrast setting when you are tired and reading at night.  It is so much easier on the eyes!

    My third repeating session is a more detailed session focused around Universal Design for Learning called, “UDL, Unpacked, Engaged and Ready for Action and Expression”.  This session lays out why and how UDL is vitally important in today’s classroom and educational framework and sets the stage to simplify the concept and process.

    Speaking of presentations and trainings, the last item to draw your attention to is the PATINS Training Calendar.   We are busy setting up future training sessions and I see some of mine are getting filled.  Great News!!  Please search the calendar for something of interest.  If you don’t see what you want, let us know, we can try to make it happen.  Unless you tell us what you want, we propose what we THINK you want or what we want to talk about!

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    A Salute to Indiana Educators

    This week’s blog edition is dedicated to the Indiana educators.  In reviewing my year, I have logged a whole lot of miles and met with a whole lot of school staff.  It has been GREAT! What an amazing group of folks.  My life is truly richer for these experiences.There has been a number of topics that we have covered.  Much of what we have talked about is how to include all students in the curriculum and I can tell you that is a loaded statement. It sounds simple, but it has a lot of layers when you really look at it.  For some presentations, there is a slide I show of a Venn-type diagram of 6 circles.      Slide03                           I think this describes education today.

    1.  I put students in the center.  As educators, we know students really are and have always been the central focus.  
    2.  Just above that is a circle of Diversity.  We can all agree there is much diversity found in the classroom ranging from academic abilities to socio-economic, cultural, language, religious, and the list can go on.  As a consultant, I include teachers and staff in the diversity pool and this is something that must be considered for communication and for accessibility as well.  One size does not fit all.  Neither for students nor staff.
    3.  So next to children and diversity, we find student achievement.  I list this third, purposely, as we are not dealing with a product here that can be measured in purely economic or statistical terms.  Achievement is very important to be sure.  Educators have always found a way to measure student achievement.  So the fact that we have and need student achievement is a given and absolutely necessary.  The thing is, student achievement is best measured when there is a good match between what the children know, can do and demonstrate with what is expected.  That brings us to the last three circles of the Venn Diagram.  

    The Stuff. Instructional Technology (IT including infrastructure), Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Assistive Technology (AT)
    4.  In the middle we have the Instructional technology provided for all students/staff, regardless of educational placement.
    5.  On one side we have AT which is required for students to benefit from their special education where ever it is i.e. general ed class, special ed class. So those make sense and have been around for awhile.
    6.  The other player is UDL, which serves as more than a bridge between the two.  It has been called a framework and I look at it as a warm embrace for education.   Purposeful, planned, front-loaded, collaborative. A future blog can go into this in more detail but suffice it to say that UDL brings education full circle, and honestly, I have seen this kind of work in action all around Indiana.

    Schools today operate with technology.  They really always have.  It used to be the slate and soapstone, or the vellum and quill, or the #2 lead and paper. Pick your era. There was always a way to use a tool for education, so really, there is no difference now.  The discussion should not be to use technology or not. The question is, "How do children demonstrate what they have learned?"  The discussion should include brainstorming multi-modal ways to engage students, multi-modal ways to present information and multi-modal ways to have them express and demonstrate understanding, while building in layers of increasing independence.  The challenge is on to find out what students know and to find ways to challenge all students.

    It has been an absolute joy to meet teachers and educators across Indiana engaged in dynamic ways of reaching students and who seek out more ways to reach children who learn via atypical means and methods.  Keep up the good work!
     






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