New Device?

Recently, I had the pleasure of keeping my cousin for the night, while her mom got a much deserved night off. My cousin is 5 years old and in kindergarten and came armed with her iPad. I kept her busy most of the time, but as we were winding down she decided to play on her iPad. I was curious and watched her interacting with the device.

I noticed right away that although she had many apps on the iPad, there were not many fun, learning type apps. I had recently purchased many puzzles for her and I knew she loved puzzles, so I installed some puzzle apps for her. She was also just beginning to write, so I found some fun tracing/writing apps for her as well.

I mentioned to her mom the next day that I had added some apps and she was very grateful. She said she had meant to take a look at them. Parents have so many responsibilities, so I was glad I was able to provide some assistance. If you have questions or need recommendations for educational/learning-centered apps or software, please contact a member of the PATINS staff. We also have many apps and software titles available to borrow in the PATINS Lending Library.

If your child received a new device for Christmas, please remember there are a number of factors to consider. One consideration I would make would be to be aware and to be involved. Please consider what apps and software are being used on the device. There are many apps and software programs that are both fun and educational.

Another consideration I would make is to have parental involvement with the device. Consider how long your child spends on their device and spend time interacting with them as they play. If they are particularly interested in a certain subject or area, find an app or software program that would interest them. If you have the ability, stream their device to the family television, and “play” together or read a story.

A third consideration I would make is to have clear guidelines for device usage. Will you allow the device to be used during meals, at bedtime, in a room without a parent? Do you have the password for your child’s device? Will they be allowed to use social media? Can they access or purchase apps? Will parental controls be set on the device? Consider a Family Media Contract, there are many available through a Google search.

Lastly, keep in mind that there are many accessibility features available for devices. Apple has many features built-in; you can find these features under Settings, General, Accessibility. You can find accessibility features in Windows and Apple computers as well. If you have any questions about any of these features, our PATINS staff would be glad to assist you!

I hope you have a Happy New Year! 


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Study Skills

My daughter and I.jpg


As I sat and pondered another topic for my blog, my mind drifted again to my daughter. So I apologize in advance, but I can’t help myself. My daughter is now at Murray State University in Grad School pursuing her dream of becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist. Sorry again to those who have heard this a time or two. She Skyped me recently from her office, in her professional dress clothes, beaming with excitement as she spoke about working with her clients and using terms such as “articulation.” As many of you know the road to this accomplishment was not an easy one. She struggled along the way, but she never gave up.

We spent countless hours on spelling words. We used magnets on the refrigerator, we taped spelling words to our walls all over the house, we used flash cards, and somehow we survived spelling although I must tell you that she is still not a good speller. Luckily because of the technology available, she doesn’t have to be. She uses the tools that I taught her, she asks Siri, she uses spell check, and she loves auto-correct (most of the time)!  Looking back at the many, many hours we spent on those spelling words makes me wonder if this was an efficient use of her time.

My parents and daughter.jpg


She also was not a good test taker. To this day, I’m not sure she has figured out exactly why she struggled taking tests, but she has overcome this obstacle as well. One of the best tools I found to help her with test taking was Quizlet. It allows you to put in the information you need to study and then it has a test generating feature. You can make a multiple choice, true or false, or short answer test and practice! It will even grade it. She also used plain old paper index cards and still does. I would have bought stock in index cards if I would have known how many she would go through in her school days. What I learned along the way was that she preferred using the index cards over the electronic cards most of the time for repetitive learning which, to be perfectly honest, surprised even me.

Another realization for me was that the study skills she needed to succeed were not taught to her in school. This is such an important skill and it is often overlooked. If you need help or want to explore tools to assist in your student’s success, please contact us. You can make a big difference and some day a mom like me will thank you!


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Summer Time Fun!

Most people, who don’t know me well, may not know that my summer days were spent outdoors. Every day in the summer the neighborhood kids and I would go outside and play. We played baseball, using a tennis ball so we didn’t break any windows, played tag, and rode skateboards from the time we woke up until our parents made us come in at dark.
 Sandy Stabenfeldt
I played Little League Baseball; it was fast pitch baseball back then, not softball. We practiced and played games almost every day of the week. We also spent many days at the neighborhood swimming pool.

I was thinking about these fun summer days the other day when I noticed a few girls riding their bikes up and down the street. Unfortunately, it was the only kid activity I had seen on our street since we moved in months ago.

Have the fun activities that I enjoyed as a child disappeared or have they been replaced with new activities? I’m not sure, but I truly hope that parents this summer will encourage their children to get out of the house and play! I have so many memories of these fun-filled days outside.

I also think of how creative we were, we were always coming up with new ways to keep busy. We could make a game out of anything. We would find a crack and see who could jump over it the most. We would find a rock and see who could throw another rock to see who could get the closest to the first rock. Many of my friends and family think I might be a bit too competitive, but I’m not sure about that.

Nowadays I can be found out on the tennis courts, I still love to play, and I have shared my love of tennis with my daughter. When she is around I have someone to play with!

Sandy Stabenfeldt and Courtney Cantrell
I also spent time in the summer at the local library. My mother always made sure we made it to the library at least once or twice a week. I developed a love of stories, and I always looked forward to summertime fun reading! I still have my love of stories, and I still love the feel of a book in my hand. Many of my friends have tried to convince me to try reading on a device, but I prefer a print book, although I do need a little larger print now.

There are so many choices for children during the summer, I hope you will encourage your children to find something they love and enjoy.

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Some Days....

Some Days….

Every once in a while everyone needs a reminder that what they are doing is important and they make a difference. This is true in any occupation, but especially important in the education field. Some days are difficult and trying, some days are easy and uplifting, but most days are a blessing for those of us lucky enough to be in the education field.

I was having a difficult, trying day recently and all I could think was “some days!” I made it through the day, as we all do, and was glad to put the day behind me. When my husband asked how my day was, I just replied, “Some days!”

Later that evening as I watched television with my laptop in my lap, as I usually do, I noticed an email that came in from an Occupational Therapist that I had recently assisted. I had recommended some apps for a home-bound student, and I was able to send those apps to the parent’s iPad through our mobile management system.

After the day I had, I almost didn’t open the email. The email contained a video of the student engaging with her iPad using a head switch. The email said, “She has not engaged in switches this well ever! Her homebound teacher is very excited! Thanks for your help!”

As I watched the video, it was hard not to cry, realizing what my time and effort had meant to this one student, or starfish as we like to call them! I have asked permission to share the video, hopefully we will be able to get permission so we can share on our social media outlets.

My husband looked over to see what I was watching and asked what I was doing. All I could say was, “Some days…..”

If you would like to try an app that might make a difference, please take advantage of our Lending Library. We can send an iPad with apps installed or if you have your own Apple device (that is not managed by Filewave) we can send it directly to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.


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Tutoring teaches me some lessons!

I have had the pleasure of tutoring a young man in mathematics for the past 4 years which I’ll call “George.”  George is in the 7th grade and we have been working together since he started having trouble with math in the 3rd grade. 

We have had many challenges over the last four years.  One of our first challenges was communication with his math teachers.  We have had teachers respond very quickly and we have had teachers not respond at all.  Some teachers posted assignments and due dates online and others did not.  The lesson I learned about communication is it is a key element in helping students succeed.  It was extremely difficult for me to assist George in succeeding without communication.

puzzle

The next challenge we faced was my own challenge of having preconceived notions of how math facts should be learned.  I, like many other teachers, believed using your fingers to count should be avoided.  George struggled mightily and I could see him practically hiding his fingers under the table so he could use them!  This opened my eyes and I changed my course of action.  As well as I also remembered I had used my fingers for years to learn my multiplication factors of 9.  The lesson I learned about pre-conceived notions is to throw them out, each student will learn in their own way!

fingers


We were also faced with the challenge of when to use a calculator.  George had so much homework not just in math, but in all subjects, so we decided that using a calculator would be highly beneficial.  His math homework was exceptionally repetitive and there were so many problems to complete.  I would have George complete the first few without a calculator to make sure he understood how to complete the problems.  Then I would allow him to use the calculator to save valuable time.  This also taught him calculator skills which he did not have.  In addition to we talked about the importance of being able to solve problems without a calculator, but also discussed how using a calculator could help him focus on problem- solving.  I explained to him these skills would be highly valued when he entered the workplace where using a calculator isn’t considered cheating.  The lesson I learned about calculators is the use of a calculator is a skill and we need to teach this skill.

This year we were faced with another big challenge.  George has ADHD and takes medicine to help control his symptoms.  He takes his medicine in the morning and by the afternoon it is much less effective.  Unfortunately, his math class is the last period of the day.  This makes it immensely difficult for him to concentrate in the class where he struggles the most, this is not a good combination.  This is the only math class available so there were no alternatives.  Most days I would have to re-teach the lesson as well as having to help him complete his homework.  The lesson I learned about class schedules is sometimes they are not flexible and you just have to come up with solutions!

success

It has been wonderful to see George succeed in math although the road has been long and filled with challenges.  He has taught me as many lessons as I have taught him.
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Don't forget the Parents!

As I have been presenting this summer at the Indiana E-Learning Summer Conferences, I have been approached by many parents. Some are educators and parents, and some are just parents who are attending the conferences to gain additional information about how to support their children.  This reminded me of my experience of being a parent to a student, I was lucky to be in a field where I had exposure to many tools and resources.  Other parents are not so lucky, but many of them want to learn and gain knowledge along with their students so they can help them build a foundation for success. 

I shared with one particular group of parents how to turn on Speak Selection on the iPad and the iPhone. They were all unaware of this feature and all very excited about the possibilities of them and their children using this function. Speak Selection allows anything on your iPad or iPhone to be read out loud if you can select it. Unfortunately, these devices ship with the option turned off, so most people are unaware of the feature. I encourage everyone to enable this feature on all their devices especially in the school setting.

There are many accessibility features available on iOS devices as well as other platforms which can greatly benefit parents and students. The PATINS Project can to teach you how to benefit from these accessibility features on many different devices, just contact us!

Another area of great concern that was expressed to me was in organization skills. Students have trouble organizing all their different files, papers, etc. One great organization tool that I use is Evernote. Evernote is available for many different devices and platforms. I take lots of pictures of notes, snippets from the Internet, and receipts, then I use Evernote to organize them. It allows me to keep everything in one place.

I have also discovered Wunderlist this summer and it has also helped me to stay organized. Wunderlist is an app that allows you to make things to do, things to buy (groceries, etc.) and any list at all. It also allows you to share your list. I can't tell you how many times I have arrived at the grocery store without my list, but now I always have it because it is on my phone. I also share this list with my daughter and husband so that whoever is at the store can see the list. Then with a click, the item is removed from the list so we all know it has been purchased.

As I was sharing this app with my daughter, I was reminded of the many times I spent teaching her and sharing tools to help her to be organized. I must have done a good job, because she is one of the most organized people I know. She is a senior at Murray State University in a very difficult major, Speech-Language Pathology, she is President of Student Ambassadors, the Vice-President of Best Buddies, she is a member of the ASA sorority, she volunteers at the Speech Clinic, and she finds time to spend with her own Best Buddy Zach!  In the summer she works as a counselor at the Mesker Park Zoo.  She could not succeed without her great organizational skills.   

I would encourage teachers and parents to spend some time with their students to teach them great organization tools. I would also encourage teachers not to forget the parents, they want to learn also and can become great role models. Of course don't forget if you need help, the PATINS Project is here to help. We offer free training; all you have to do is contact us!
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Senior.....What?

Courtney and her Best BuddyAs I was chatting with my daughter the other day she mentioned that she was registering for her senior classes at Murray State University. What? How had the last 16 years passed by so quickly? Courtney was in Kindergarten when I took the assistive technology job with PATINS as a Coordinator. I was new to the field and Courtney became my test subject.  I was convinced that this Kindergarten student who told me endless stories non-stop could become a great writer with a little help from Co:Writer. I did not realize that although word prediction was a powerful tool, the student had to have enough tools to guide the story rather than letting the word prediction change the focus of the story. She would begin in writing about a bat, but when she typed ba and it predicted ball her story would take a new direction. It was a great lesson that I needed to learn and she would help me learn many more lessons over the years. I am happy to report that she is a great writer and although she never used word prediction, she was cognizant of this tool as well as many others. She now uses both low-tech (a wonderful proof-reader and my best friend, Donna) and high-tech (Grammarly).

Spelling words became a real challenge for Courtney in 2nd grade. Fortunately for her, I had just attended Universal Design for Learning(UDL) training at the Center for Applied Special Technology(CAST) in Boston, MA. UDL taught me that students need multiple means of representation, meaning that teachers should present information and content in different ways. Teachers should also provide multiple means of action and expression which means differentiating the ways students can express what they know. Lastly, teachers should provide multiple means of engagement meaning teachers should stimulate interest and motivation for learning. I could only address the first concept, and address it we did!

Courtney would write the words the required amount of times as the teacher required, but that was never enough for her to learn the words. We would write them out with magnets on the refrigerator, we would write them out with markers and tape them all over the house. We would make flashcards and quiz on them, we would sing and dance them out, and she would give me the words and make me spell them so she could hear them. I cannot tell you the number of hours that were spent in learning to spell those words. When she had her last spelling test, I can't remember what grade it was, but it was many years later, I wanted to celebrate. I'm sure her teachers never had any idea how many hours we spent and unfortunately none of her teachers ever applied any of the UDL principles I had learned. I'm not sure all those hours were productive, Courtney is still not a good speller but with spell-check and speech to text, she doesn't have to be.

I also learned to be very proficient with Quizlet and Flashcards apps as well as paper flashcards as Courtney entered Jr. High School. She would enter her terms in Quizlet and it would create instant flashcards for her to study on her new iPod Touch! Back then you had to use Flashcard apps that synced with Quizlet since Quizlet did not have their own app at the time. Quizlet was also great because you could use the website and it would create various games in which the terms would be used. You could also search and find flashcards that others had already made so you didn't have to enter them; you could just download their flashcards and tweak them to meet your needs. It was also great because you could create a practice test in any format you would like, multiple choice, true/false, or fill in the blank.

She also used paper flashcards quite a bit. Back then she began using the paper flashcards for the times when she could not use her iPod. Now she is in college and I would have thought she would have used all electronic flashcards, but she doesn't. It seems she is still teaching me lessons. She says it helps her to write the terms out. It also forces her to really think about the term and the answer, she says it is too easy on the iPad or iPhone to just sort of flip through the cards without really thinking about the terms and the definition.

In high school Courtney's school did not allow any mobile devices of any kind, no phones, no tablets, and no netbooks! This was hard for a child of a technology parent who had every device possible at her fingertips. In a casual conversation with a teacher at her high school, Courtney mentioned using electronic flashcards on her iPhone. The unnamed teacher actually allowed her and anyone else in the class to use their phones to study in her classroom. As far as I remember she never got into any trouble for this action, but I remember being flabbergasted that such an allowance might cause trouble for this teacher.

Courtney signed up for the peer tutoring class in the severe/moderate classroom in high school to no one's surprise after being immersed in the special education/assistive technology world for so many years. She was outstanding as a peer tutor and cared very deeply for her fellow students. She won a college scholarship after being nominated by the staff for her fantastic work in their classroom.

Courtney taught me many lessons and became a great teacher and it is no wonder that as I write this today she is at Murray State University studying to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. I am so proud of her and I can't wait for the many lessons that she will teach me in the years to come. Thank you Courtney for all the lessons, students from all over Indiana have benefited because of you!

If you have students who are struggling, please don't hesitate to contact me, I am always excited to learn new lessons!
Courtney and her Best Buddy

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