Kindness

Kindness
Kindness.  This is a very personal topic for me, and I thought I would share it with you as we start this new school year.


"Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible."  Dalai Lama


I recently was fortunate enough to attend a week of Universal Design for Learning training through CAST at Harvard.  I won’t lie, I felt pretty intimidated at first.  Harvard is a big step for someone who graduated in the middle of her approximately 1000 member high school class.  While there, Jon Mundorf talked about reading the book, Wonder by R.J. Palacio with his students and recommended we read it.  It had nothing to do with UDL, and maybe it was just a throwaway statement, but I took his advice and ordered it right then.  I am so glad I did.  I’m not going to give away any part of the book, other than to tell you that it is written from many points of view.  This gives the reader insight into several individuals heads and explains their actions from that point of view.  This is a powerful message.  At one time there was a TV commercial along these same lines.  People saw other people’s thoughts.  We were asked, “If you could stand in someone else’s shoes… Hear what they hear.  See what they see.  Feel what they feel.  Would you treat them differently?”  


“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” - Dr Wayne W. Dyer


As teachers, we are possibly the only people in a student’s life that can constantly model kindness to our students.  They get sarcasm, friendliness, anger and conflict from their friends.  Parents are in charge of love and all the other parental emotions.  Teachers do many other things, but we are the default role models for kindness.  We get the consistent opportunity to give others the benefit of the doubt.  We get to give second chances.  We get to offer help when none is asked for.  We get to recognize needs.  All the while, our students are watching us and maybe just maybe learning to do this for others in their lives.  Is there any other job this great?  


“We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.”  R.J. Palacio, Wonder


One of the kindest things we can do for our students is to make school a safe, comfortable place for them.  Not just the building, but the curriculum.  A universally designed curriculum is a great way to do that.  We would like all of our learners to be resourceful, knowledgeable learners.  Students who are engaged and have the tools and ability to know where to go for assistance and where to look for information.  In a Ted Talk, Dr. Todd Rose speaks about size 8.5 running shoes and Usain Bolt.  To summarize, we were to imagine if all runners were to be judged on their ability to run while wearing size 8.5 shoes.  He goes on to say that Usain Bolt wears a size 13.  We can assume that he would not be the World's Fastest Man in a size 8.5 shoe.  We might even say that he was a bad runner!  Taking this analogy all the way out, do you think Usain Bolt even wears shoes off the rack?  I bet he wears shoes that are custom made just for him so that the shoes are not a barrier to his performance in any way.  UDL is about designing learning so that there are no barriers for our students.  As teachers, we kindly take into account the different barriers to learning that our students may encounter prior to them beginning their learning in our room.  They are naturally scaffolded so that each is challenged yet secure in the knowledge that we are guiding them towards the goal (standard) of the lesson.  They are guided towards being purposeful, motivated, resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, and goal-directed learners.  That is how powerful the kindness of universalizing instruction can be.  


“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”  Mark Twain


I wasn’t the only PATINS specialist to attend this week of learning, most of our staff was there.  We are all excited to share what we have learned with you.  We are just a phone call or email away!  I want to also take this time to thank all of the schools and educators who opened their mind to us at PATINS this summer during the Summer of eLearning conferences.  As always I am humbled by the dedication, intelligence and kindness that exists in abundance in Indiana’s teachers.  Together, you all make the world a kinder place.  Thank you!


Follow Jon Mundorf on Twitter https://twitter.com/Fundorf?lang=en

TV Commercial  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDDWvj_q-o8

Todd Rose on Variability  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WClnVjCEVM

UDL at CAST:  http://www.cast.org/
Rate this blog entry:
0

Food Trucks & Snow Cones & Grasshoppers, Oh My!

Food Trucks & Snow Cones & Grasshoppers, Oh My!
I have a slight obsession with food trucks.  I follow the food truck schedule on FB. Then, assume most people around me are just as excited as I am that one is parked in our office lot.  (They’re not.)  Recently, I have honed in on snow cone ice.  I passed a food truck this summer that HAD snow cones!  I felt like I was in heaven. 

When I get gas at the station, I HAVE to end the dollar amount on a zero (0) or a five (5).  I struggle with beginning a project and having to stop in the middle.  I am allergic to hay and as a young child, got bucked off of a horse and quickly found out what manure tastes like. (It tastes like it smells…blah.)
Boy holding nose in disgust
Watching scary movies as a child has left me STILL to this day, always pulling the blankets up past my neck to keep vampires away; and occasionally jumping up on the bed so no Boogieman can grab my feet.  (Yes, I am a grown-up.) As if that isn’t enough, mice will make me find a safe spot on top of furniture; but grasshoppers can nearly make me pass out from fear.

If you have never met me or maybe even DO know me, you probably would not know those things about me.  I’m terrible about talking about “me.”  It’s out of my comfort zone to share things about myself.  This reflection made me think of students in the time we are at now…BACK TO SCHOOL!
Back to school!

As teachers, the first weeks of school are spent getting to know your students, students getting to know you, and students getting to know their peers.  For students who struggle with expression and communication, this can create high levels of anxiety; or students who are nonverbal may be unable to get to know their peers equally.
With that said, while being focused on the implementation of accessible educational materials (AEM),let’s not lose sight of being socially accessible as well.  Here are a few ways to make that happen:

telegami logo   Telegami:  Create a quick avatar, typed or spoken text
 
TeleStory Logo  TeleStory:  Write and tell your story via video

ChatterPix Logo  ChatterPix:  Take photo, draw line over mouth, and record voice

Photo Mapo Logo    Photo Mapo:  Great app to share summer adventures or wish list places

Book Creator Logo  Book Creator:  I feel like this should be a “staple” app; but is great to use for digital About Me books.
 
Give all students that voice for introductions, regardless of barrier and allow them multiple ways to find their own zone of comfort to open up and share with their peers.  Let the friendships begin!

Drawing of boy and girl happy
Rate this blog entry:
0
0 Comments

Break it… Just Break it.

collage of Daniel, laptop, guitars, motorcycles, and a truck

...Buy it broken. Accept it damaged and worn. Welcome it ripped, ragged, and rough. 


…Don’t just stand there because it works ok right now. Don’t just stand there and talk about the pieces of it that don’t work ok right now. Dive in, take it apart, try something new with it!  For Daniel’s sake, take a chance on breaking it! Here’s why...

When I literally steal a moment away from other things I should be doing to sit in the breeze to assuredly think about the things I’m truly good at; the list is definite, short, and the items on the list are unmistakably bound together with 3 common threads…

The things I feel confident other people would identify as those I’m good at are all things I’ve: 1. Had to learn out of necessity to fix something, 2. Taught myself by seeking out resources and through trial and error, 3. Were born out of deep passion. 

Not many people likely know this about me, but almost every single thing I know about computers, programming, assistive technology, motorcycles, cars, photography, welding, or music, I’ve taught myself. These things, I taught myself because I either HAD to learn to fix problems I created for myself, couldn’t afford something without pre-existing problems, or simply NEEDED to know NOW…before I could wait for someone to teach me!  

When I was 16 years old, I broke my leg playing the sport I was best at. A subsequent domino effect from this unfortunate event proved highly negative to the point I lost almost all of my friends; some of whom I’d had since kindergarten. Long story short, I could no longer march in the marching band as a snare drummer, which meant that I couldn’t be in any other bands in my high school. Devastated to have lost two of the things that I most valued, in addition to my friends, I sunk deep. I bought an old Peavey guitar with the last $150 I had from working the previous summer cutting grass. Not being able to walk, drive, or even hang out… I taught myself to play that guitar. It kept me going and the necessity to have something to keep me going required me to learn something I may not have learned otherwise. Now, playing the 6-string is a return-ticket to a place where I’m deeply rooted and can return, re-focused and recharged to some extent. 

At 17, I was so ready to have my own car. I had loved motorized and mechanical things for as long as I can remember. As a child, I remember very limited things, but I most definitely remember disassembling nearly every toy I owned.  ...taking them apart, exchanging pieces with other toys, sanding off the paint and repainting in differing colors, and sometimes never actually getting them back together. I always felt like I’d gained something though and never felt like I’d “lost” a toy. I always gained the knowledge of the inner workings of my things, which meant so much to me. It was a most certain gain that would apply positively to the next thing I took apart! I’m not so confident my mom saw it the same way as she stepped on parts and pieces of toy cars, action figures, bicycles, speakers, radios, and OUCH…legos! So, I bought my first truck for $700 with money I’d earned by tagging successfully hunted deer at the local sporting goods store in my small town. You’d be accurate in thinking it needed a lot of work.  …work I had no real idea how to do and parts I didn’t have and couldn’t afford. Long story short, I got really good at searching salvage yards, applying-sanding-painting bondo, and shifting that manual 4-cylinder in such a way that I could limit it’s back-firing, which would cause me undue attention in that little red truck that could. 

When I bought my very first computer in 2000 (yes, just 16 years ago), I pushed that poor laptop to do things that nearly made it blow smoke and cry… which in turn caused it to have issues that required me to blow smoke and cry! I spent MANY late nights learning coding and writing script to fix the problems with my Windows 98 installation that I didn’t have a disc to fix and couldn’t afford to buy. I was literally eating macaroni and cheese 4 nights a week out of a Frisbee with the same plastic fork. I had a special education degree to finish and well …that computer simply HAD to live and I was the only surgeon on call!

The same is true about photography (which I learned DURING the professional transition from film to digital), website building (back when we had to do it all in html code), and both riding and maintaining motorcycles. 

Almost everything I know on a deep-understanding, passionate, and highly confident level with regard to all of those things...is self-taught for the reason that I HAD to fix things, learn things, try things, rebuild things, redesign things, and seek resources. These were (and still are) problems that I mostly made for myself. But many kiddos are not permitted the opportunity to create situations for themselves which require such trial and error type of learning. We have been taught to set them up for success, which isn’t entirely bad! But…

While this may sound a bit silly to some, I feel there's no better, deeper, more comprehensive or true way to learn something.  …to fully KNOW something in a way that you feel confident in pushing it to it’s potential, than to experience breaking it …and subsequently repairing it, seeking resources, improving it, redesigning it, and ultimately gaining OWNERSHIP of experiential knowledge. 

This is one area I think we often may fail our students. We care about our students and we want to protect them and keep the space in which they exist safe and secure.  In doing so, we sometimes limit their space to ‘existence,’ which is not the same as ‘living.’ While I’d never advocate for creating an unsafe environment for a student, I undoubtedly feel that without allowing them the dignity of risk to fail, frustrate, and re-build, we are plainly denying them the opportunity to truly and deeply KNOW a thing at it’s core measure.   

We CAN offer that opportunity to students in a way that props up curiosity and DEEP understanding of THINGS in a way that is secure and encouraging!  We can! …and in doing this, we encourage independent people! I recently heard a speaker say something that nearly made my eyes too wet… “We don't have to TEACH kids CURIOSITY...they came to us that way. We have to NOT siphon it out of them!” Thanks @goursos. 

We have to focus more on the result of the 27th re-build, when they finally “get it” and it works, than the 26 times we stepped on Legos, thought about the cost of dis-assembled ‘things,’ or placed our own value of whole-things over the value of BREAKING IT and learning to re-create, improve, re-design, rebuild that’s so essential to our job of building independent little individuals. Independent and proud little faces ONLY ever result from allowing the dignity of risk, which can require a difficult transformation of philosophy about what’s best for learners. 

I’d go so far as to say that many education professionals have denied themselves or have been denied through a variety of reasons, the same opportunity to explore something, potentially break it, and subsequently truly LEARN it by having to re-construct it. Many who’ve heard me speak probably know my “just jump in the shark tank” philosophy.” If you don’t, just ask me sometime. I like to share. 

Likely through a combination of policy, fear, and conditioning, many educators may feel discouraged from pushing anything to it’s limit without the confidence of being reinforced, propped up, and encouraged to struggle through repairing it.   

When we consider the weight and prominence of “HIGH EXPECTATIONS” and “SHARED RESPONSIBILITY” for ALL STUDENTS set forth for us in both ESSA and the November 2015 Dear Colleague Letter, I feel strongly that we often have had safety goggles on when we should have been sporting binoculars, microscopes, and welding helmets! To arrive at achievement levels beyond what we currently are experiencing, we MUST value the dignity of risk in being the reinforcement for teachers to TEACH DIFFERENTLY, and for students to LEARN DIFFERENTLY, which might require rebuilding and redesigning, and we MUST value the opportunity for ALL of our students to feel absolute pride in THEIR confident stride toward independence through temporary downfall and subsequent, necessary, and repeated rebuilding! 

It is only through this process of experiential acquisition of knowledge with an authentic purpose or audience, that one becomes an “expert learner,” which should be the ultimate goal of what we are trying to achieve through all educational experiences. The task, the tools, and the method can be counted on to evolve. Those things will not be the same in 5-10 years, I promise. The desire, passion, and experiences to be an ever-growing LEARNER is what separates existence from living. 

So…Twist the throttle until something smokes. Smash the brakes until traction is temporarily lost. Take something apart solely for the purpose of knowing how it works in order to put it back together BETTER. Sit on the floor and just look at something that works OK as it is and IMAGINE what it COULD BE if you took off panel A  and B and moved some things around between the two compartments or found a totally new component to install. Or …Just simply take it apart, look at the pieces, put it back together exactly as it was….and truly KNOW how it works. 

PATINS has parts and pieces. We have passionate people who want to support your journey.  We have high-fives, encouragement, strategies, data, opportunities to push expectations for yourself and for your students. In fact, THIS is WHY WE are here…we’ve taken ourselves and the things around us apart and we’ve arrived HERE to support you during your experiential road-trip. …just find one of us and say, “watch this….”  We’ll be there. Break it.  


Rate this blog entry:
0

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!
Rate this blog entry:
0

The Value of Human Connection

Years ago while I was finishing up my master’s degree, I was also substitute teaching. Which may put me in the category of Wimp-I know many of you continue your education while teaching full-time. I salute you for that.

I had a 6 week assignment to teach a 2nd grade class during the teacher’s maternity leave. It was a dream. Teacher had left concise lesson plans and extra activities to be used as needed, for every day. So once I learned the children’s names, we sailed. We were able to follow her plans exactly, the children kept up their hard work, it was clear they missed their teacher, and wanted to make her proud of them. They were used to that.

There were several students with an IEP, 5, maybe 7. The classroom accommodations were well chosen and easy to follow, and Teacher had left me personal notes about the children’s preferences and quirks. When one was pulled out for the resource room or a related service, they knew exactly what to take with them, they were cheerful to go, and to return. They were very nice, very well-prepared children.

Of course if your absence is sudden, this kind of preparation is likely impossible. When I complimented Teacher on making this experience seamless, she said, modestly, “Well, I did have several months to get this ready for you.” I would come to learn though, that her preparation went way beyond concise instructions and great lesson plans for the sub.

Every morning I would greet the students at the door. I remember those sweet little faces, and it’s one of the things I miss the most about not being in the classroom: those shiny happy little faces in the morning, usually with a story they wanted to tell.

The children would hang up jackets and backpacks and put away personal belonging, sort their homework papers in specific boxes, and then they could go to centers while they waited for the bell. I loved to quietly hang out around the classroom and listen to the conversations during this morning transition.

One tiny little girl wanted to take care of everyone: if someone sneezed, she got them a tissue. If someone coughed, she patted their back, if someone was sad or disappointed, she supported them: “It will be all right. Today at lunch, you can sit with me.” Both her parents were nurses, Teacher had written, “she will remove her shoes and give them away if someone asks for them.” She told me to “intervene as needed.” This one had vision in only one eye, and wore very thick glasses. She was a heart-stealer.

One little boy was noticeably sullen and gruff, but soon I saw that he was very sensitive and often had his feelings hurt by the more outgoing children. Eventually, I won him over with smiles and attention, and learned that his parents were separated. He was with this mom during the weeks, and with his dad on weekends. His sister, who was in middle school, did the opposite: she stayed at their dad’s apartment during the week, because it was closer to her school, where she was involved in cheerleading and clubs. Then she came to their mother’s home on weekends. They saw each other for just a little while during this child-swap, and sometimes a parent would take them both for ice-cream or go shopping. But, he really missed his sister. I emailed teacher, she knew of the separation but did not know his sister had moved. She would communicate with mom.

Even while caring for her new baby, Teacher wanted daily updates on her kids, wanted them to know she was thinking of them. Her love for these children was a major support in their lives. She sent me emails of encouragement to share, and pictures of her baby sleeping.

It was clear that these young students had been infused with certain competencies that would, I hoped, stay with them throughout school, college, life: The children possessed a level of self-control that was obvious when they waited their turn, raised their hands to speak, and did not constantly nag me, “just a sub” to get a hall pass for the restroom, go to the nurse, or call their mother. Their class had a schedule for certain activities, and usually no one made requests to vary from that. I had subbed for older students who were way less mature!

They were decision makers. For instance, to choose a center, they had to remove a tag from the wall, for the center they wanted to play in at a given time. There were 5 centers, and no more than 5 students could be in a center at the same time. Also, they could not just move from center to center. This was understood, and although sometimes someone might show brief disappointment when a friend could not choose the same center they were in, every child would interact with anyone else in the center. They had to choose, they knew to follow the rules.

Most of the students presented a sense of autonomy. Now and then someone would have a “moment” or a little “meltdown” but largely these students knew who they were and why they were at school: to learn. There was a little girl with mild CP, who obviously moved and walked differently from the others. She wore it well, so her physical differences were accepted by the others. For instance on Fridays after lunch, I would write sentences with errors for them to correct. She would come on up in her jerking little gait, and do her work like everyone else, unembarrassed. If she dropped her dry erase pen, she would awkwardly pick it up and move on. She got applause, like everyone else, and she expected it.

This classroom experience was wonderful for me as a beginning teacher. Teacher insisted she had great kids from great families, but I learned from conversations with others, the PT, SLT, and the teachers on my hall, not all of the kids came from stable families. There were divorces, a jailed father, couple of addictions, some domestic abuse. What I’ve come to regard as “normal traumas.” Teacher saw what was lacking and endeavored daily to fill in the gaps. She developed relationships with the parents where she could, and especially with her students. They trusted her, she valued their trust, and they learned from her that even if things at home were imperfect, there are codes to living in the world away from home that will allow us to experience success.

These were 23 small people learning to navigate a big world, and it was fascinating to be a part of that from a different perspective: not as a parent, and not as a constant figure in their lives. In fact it made me sad to know I might never see them again. But for thirty days I developed relationships with nearly 2 dozen little people, who knew how to do that because of an exceptional teacher who understood the value of human connection.

Rita Pearson:  Every kid needs a champion
Rate this blog entry:
1

Universally Designed Blended Learning

The term Blended Learning is all abuzz in the world of education — and why shouldn’t it be? Our students were born into a digital age, and using technology comes naturally to them. So it only makes sense to use it in our daily lesson plans to give students opportunities to explore online content, allow new forms of expression and displays of content knowledge, and to connect with other students from all around the world.

face-to-face plus self-paced plus online equal blended learning
While we are enthusiastic about engaging our students by implementing technology into our teaching, we must remember Universal Design for Learning. This makes it important to ask yourself — How will I make my blended learning environment, content, and activities accessible to every student in my classroom? Will students who have visual, hearing, motor, and/or cognitive needs have the ability to access my curriculum just like my other students?
 female student using braille reader


Well, making that content accessible without practice is no easy task, and intentional planning is necessary, but I assure you it can be done!  

We know that images and videos increase interest in our content and that many students are visual learners. Yet, in order to make these features accessible to all students, videos should be closed-captioned and images should have alternative text (allowing a screen reader to read a short description of the image).

Fancy fonts can be fun to use, but sticking to a minimum 12-point font size in fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana is preferred. These types of fonts, known as sans serif fonts, can be easily magnified for students with low vision. 

Format your documents with the tools given to you in the program you are using. Avoid using multiple spaces for indenting, creating your own spacing for bullet points, or using text boxes as screen readers will not read these elements correctly. 

I personally love color-coding for my own use, but relying on using only color to convey meaning makes a document inaccessible for students who are colorblind, have low vision, or are blind. 

Blinking and flashing content should be limited to no more than 3 seconds — if not completely eliminated – due to risk of headaches or seizures.

Check out http://webaim.org/intro/ and https://www.ada.gov/websites2.htm for additional guidelines on website accessibility that you can translate into accessibility standards for your content. I expect to find new rules coming down the pipeline over the next few years that will mandate specific accessibility features in state and federal government websites, which includes K-12 public schools and public universities. This could certainly affect how your content is being delivered to your students as well as the content itself. 

In the meantime, making a conscious effort to ensure all of your students have access to the curriculum, will only make following the future rules that much easier. And, of course, we are always here to help you along the way.


Rate this blog entry:
0
0 Comments

My Quest for Gold

It’s time for another blog entry and after posting my previous one it got me thinking about what I do.  I moved from the PATINS Central Site Coordinator position that I held for 17 years to become the ICAM (Indiana Center for Accessible Materials) Technology Coordinator just less than a year ago.  It has been a year of learning the details of what happens when a student qualifies for digital print materials and how we get it to them.  As a site coordinator I would troubleshoot with the Digital Rights Managers as how to use the technology they needed to open files like NIMAS, ePubs, PDF, etc. for use with their students.  My current position offers me the opportunity to get the digital content from the publishers, the NIMAC (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center), Learning Ally among other sources.  I also process orders and still offer technical assistance when needed, which is often, but hey that’s the job and I like a good challenge now and then.

If you read my first post, “Mimi, would you read this to me?” you know my confession, but more importantly it was about how crucial it is for children especially young children to be read to.

Sometimes things come full circle and I’ll explain.  We had a family vacation not long ago to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We have been there 4 times before and last year my wife thought it would be worth trying an audiobook for the drive so she downloaded the first chapter of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I’ll be honest again, but driving through the mountains of Virginia at night and trying to concentrate on the road was much more than I had in mind.  Needless to say it was over before chapter two.  She wanted to try it again this year, but had planned to do a couple of chapters when the stress of driving was minimal.  Together we worked at logging on to our local library, downloading the Overdrive app on her iPhone and selecting an audiobook.  The process was relatively easy.  The audiobook that we chose was The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.  Once on our way and traffic tolerable, we popped the auxiliary jack into her phone and started with the Preface.  I have always enjoyed sports through participation or observing, but never thought of just listening to what was being described.  For the first time in a long time it was enjoyable.  The anticipation of the next chapter was figuratively and literally just around the corner.  We listened to half of book on the way there and the other half on the way back.  I know what you’re thinking, why did you wait a whole week to finish the book?  Again, it was anticipation for me.  It was something to look forward to during the boring part of the drive.

I opened this blog with what my job description is in a nutshell, but this experience was one that the students with a print disability and even those that don’t experience every day.  It was a glimpse for me to walk in their shoes if only through one book and to really feel what I have been a part of over so many years had come to fruition. 

There are many “tools” for supporting access to digital content and selecting one or two might seem like a daunting task, but the PATINS Project and ICAM staff can help with making that easier with the right background information.  It’s not your quest for gold, but it is for your students.

Rate this blog entry:
1

Special Needs featured on the Big Screen!

Disney PIXAR blockbuster Finding Dory opened this week.  If you haven’t had the chance to see this sequel to Finding Nemo, it is well worth your time and admission cost.  It MAY even remind you of a student you know, family member… or yourself!   

Dory The movie is about an adorable, but forgetful, blue tang fish named Dory, a fan favorite character from Finding Nemo.  This sequel clearly suggests that Dory’s short-term memory loss is more than a quirk; Dory has a special need.  It is easy to see that Dory’s special need hasn’t impaired her popularity at all and she is no less lovable with Ellen DeGeneres as the voice behind that cute face.  Dory has a positive attitude despite her challenges.  She identifies her strengths and finds ways to work with them. 

In flashbacks, Dory’s memory lapses are presented as something she was born with and learns to manage.  Her parents build seashell trails to help her find her way home, role play how to engage peers in social settings and tearfully wonder if she will be OKAY on her own.  (What parent hasn’t had that same thought about their child?)  They repeat the phrase “Just Keep Swimming” over and over again so she can hopefully recall that one action in case of danger.  Her ocean buddies have their own sets of challenges:  Destiny the shark has impaired vision, Bailey the whale struggles with echolocation, Hank the octopus deals with anxiety and Nemo has that undersized fin.

Her teacher, Mr. Ray, is reluctant to take Dory on field trips for fear she will wander away from the group.  This is consistent with how some caregivers choose to interact with children who have developmental disabilities.  Instead of providing options and structure that allow kids to function within their abilities, they tend to exclude them from any group activity. 

PIXAR’s willingness to give disability such high-profile exposure is pivotal in the conversation of Special Needs and Universal Design for ALL.  Their message in this movie is acceptance of everyone and their differences.  We see that in the end, it’s not about the direction Dory swims in, or how she gets there – it’s that she just keeps swimming.  It might take her a little longer, but the way she gets there is no less valuable than how anyone else gets there.  

Rate this blog entry:
0
Recent Comments
Glenda Thompson
A good phrase to keep in mind, indeed! I think this movie will open the eyes of many children and adults to the world of adaptati... Read More
Friday, 24 June 2016 12:30
Glenda Thompson
Hey, everyone...Finding Dory passed $300 million in domestic box office sales after just 12 DAYS of release - a pace that could ma... Read More
Saturday, 02 July 2016 11:15
5 Comments

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!

Rate this blog entry:
0
0 Comments

Thanks for the Memories!

As you have probably heard, I will be retiring soon.

I want each one of you to know that it has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with you. I have admired your expertise, appreciated your generous assistance, been inspired by your dedication, and enjoyed the camaraderie of our Team.

People - including my husband and children - have often asked me why I am still working late into my retirement years, and I want to share a little story with you which might explain that.

I was born in 1946, when wounded, weary nations were still marching up to tables to sign the Peace Treaties of WWII. The women who had built airplanes and tanks, produced top secret maps for our war rooms, and helped to crack enemy codes were going back home to their children. And the military men who had survived were returning to the workforce to take their jobs back - including my father, who had spent 18 months in a NAZI camp after his plane was shot down over Germany. Women had been a necessary, but temporary, war-time filler in the workplace. Only one woman in my family continued to work; most of the women in my community never pursued a higher education, and many never even drove a car.

By the time I was in high school, the idyllic post-war years had erupted into chaos. Kennedy and Khrushchev were squaring off like nuclear gun slingers while grim citizens built bomb shelters in their basements and back yards. Civil Rights activists were marching. Vietnam War protesters were burning flags. Hippies were embracing free love and LSD. Women were burning bras. Girls were suddenly attending college in droves - and not to major in Home Ec. Even so, it was understood that a young, educated woman would stop working as soon as her first child was born, and would only work again if her husband died. And the trio of jobs considered acceptable for nice Catholic girls were nursing, teaching and becoming a nun.

When Spalding University's Psychology department offered me my first paying job, working with disadvantaged children in a Neighborhood House on Market Street (Louisville's notorious red-light district), my horrified parents threatened to wait outside the school building and drag me into their car to prevent me from holding that job. My long, difficult campaign to maintain the right to work in the fields of my choice continued for years, and created rifts in my family that never healed. I have always considered it a right worth fighting for to be able to earn my living, and a gift to be able to earn it doing the things I loved.

Discomfort with women in the workplace was still widespread. At one job interview, in a LAW OFFICE, after answering the usual questions about my marital status (single) and my faith (Catholic), I was refused the job with the explanation that I would just be spending the rest of my life having babies and they had no interest in paying me for that. A friend of mine, who was pleasantly plump, hid her pregnancy from our employer until the baby was born, because they would have dismissed her immediately if they had known, and she needed the job.

Each time we transferred to follow my husband's career, I started over - working as a display designer, a newspaper reporter, a retail manager and interior designer, an employment counselor, a computer operator, a system owner and corporate trainer, a computer programmer, a graphic designer, a secretary for the Methodist Church, a member of a day treatment team in a mental health facility, and in between, I helped install quarry tile in a Chrysler plant. Once, to pay a medical bill, I temporarily added a second shift - tossing the pepperoni onto the pizza in a pizza plant.

Juggling marriage, children and work has often been challenging for me, as I am sure it has been for all of you, both men and women. But the struggle to be a part of the workforce has always paled beside the excitement of being able to participate in the fascinating, powerful changes which that workforce has created and ushered into our world.

Now, I pass the banner on to you. I hope your chance to be a part of it all will bring you as much joy as it has brought me.
Rate this blog entry:
1

Copyright 2015- PATINS Project