May
23

Jump in, the water's fine!

       2007 Indianapolis 500 Starting field formation before start.

       Stick figure person running through door with

School is ending, the Indy 500 is this weekend, and pools are open for the summer! It’s time for a little relaxation. Oh, wait...this is a blog for educators. Back it up.


Odds are that you will be doing some kind of professional learning this summer. Is your district hosting a Summer of eLearning conference? Will you be participating in a book club with your colleagues? Maybe you are just planning on relaxing and reflecting. I would like to challenge you to do something this summer that is totally not something that you would normally do. If you are at a conference, attend a session that you normally wouldn’t, even if you don’t think it applies to your classroom. If you normally read fiction, read a non-fiction book or vice versa. Are you a knitter? Learn to sew. You get the picture. Just get outside of your groove.

pool frog floaty.
There are a couple of good reasons to try this. New experiences create new ideas. This could stimulate your brain and give you some creative leaps for next year. But, did you know that some scientists believe that the perceived passage of time is connected to the amount of new information you feed your brain? In other words, by filling some of your time with new experiences and thoughts you can make your summer seem to slow down.
 If a longer summer break sounds good to you, this may be the answer! Give it a try, even if it’s a total disaster, you’ll have a new story to tell!

shark
Watch for the PATINS Specialists at the Summer of eLearning conferences around the state. Come up and say hi!


Oh yeah, remember to take some time for yourself this summer too. Reconnect with what makes you, you. Have a great break!


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Feb
14

A Reading & Writing App from me to you!

Pink & read M&M candies in heart shape.This Valentine is better than candy!

I learn so many great things every year. I want to pass one of them on to you this time in my blog. Being the Secondary Age Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) specialist for PATINS allows me to introduce auditory reading/text to speech technology and writing supports like voice to text and word prediction to so many Indiana educators and their students. This powerful combination can be the difference between a graduation certificate and a diploma for students with learning or cognitive disabilities. They are capable of so much when they are properly supported. There are many great solutions out there. The correct one for each student depends on their environment and task

Claro SoftwareHere is a new option, ClaroSoftware. ClaroSoftware includes the following apps: ClaroRead for PC, ClaroRead for Mac, ClaroRead for Chromebook, as well as iPad, iPhone, and Android Apps. ClaroRead for Chromebook comes free with both ClaroRead for PC or Mac. This is great if a student uses different devices in different settings. ClaroRead for Chromebook can also be purchased on its own, however, it is not as powerful as ClaroRead for PC or Mac.  Here is a quick comparison of the PC and Mac versions. 

ClaroSoftware is different in another way. I know that it is all about the student and the tools, but sometimes it comes down to....Hand writing COST in blue marker across the screen.
The pricing structure includes a version where the app can be purchased for a one time cost. No subscription, just like when we downloaded software to specific computers for specific students. Now don't go thinking I've changed! I still think it should be on every computer for every student. That's best practice and also increases the likelihood of the students that have to use it, doing so. Now that I have said that, the pricing options across the board are pretty great too! 

More great reading & writing solutions:
TextHelp - Read&Write, Snapverter, Equatio, Fluency Tutor, WriQ, Browsealoud 
DonJohnston - Snap&Read, Co:Writer, and First Author

If this wasn't the valentine you wanted from me, here's another! Baby Shark Valentine
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Oct
11

Inclusion: The Ongoing Illusion!

On July 1, 2012, I became a PATINS Coordinator. At that time we each had our own library of assistive technology and were assigned to assist educators within a certain region of the state. I was fortunate enough to find myself in an office within the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation Administration Building. The special education department welcomed me and assisted me with my transition from a K-12 educator to a PATINS Specialist. At the forefront of that welcome and assistance was Dr. George Van Horn. So, typical to form, when I asked if he would like to be a guest writer for the PATINS Ponders Blog he immediately agreed to share his thoughts. 


George Van HornInclusion: The Ongoing Illusion!

George Van Horn, Ed.D., Director of Special Education, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation


street sign the corner of perception and reality







Image reference


I have long believed in inclusion. Inclusion is a school environment that welcomes all and provides what is necessary for all students. But believing in inclusion is not enough. Many people don’t realize that P.L. 94-142 did not create special education, it created general education. In an effort to allow children with disabilities access to the public school system, states and local districts started with the assumption that the environment was focused on educating only students who were already educated in public schools and a system needed to be created. Hence, the creation of general education. Prior to the passage of the federal law, the system educated “all” students. Through P.L. 94-142, “all” was expanded to include children with disabilities. In order to accomplish this, the system in place was kept, named general education, and continued to serve students. However, to educate students with disabilities, a parallel system was created because the existing system was viewed as only being for students without disabilities.

Venn diagram on mainstreaming with 3 areas: general education, special education and high ability. None intersect











As time moved on it became clear a separate system for students with disabilities was not effective and the initial solution was “mainstreaming”. Students with disabilities were still a part of the separate special education system, but would “visit” general education classrooms. This practice was useful in introducing general education educators and students to students with disabilities. But, the “home” for children with disabilities still remained the special education classroom and they were not members of the general education environment. This practice led to the next step in educating children with disabilities – inclusion.


Picture shows Mainstreaming with student going into a classroom and Inclusion showing an arrow where students can leave for support and service
Image Reference

Inclusion means all children are members of one educational environment, meaning there are no more general education and special education systems. As I reflect on the many years I have supported inclusion, I have come to the conclusion that in reality what many of us have accomplished is advanced mainstreaming. In most educational environments, children with disabilities are still viewed and treated differently. Many educators continue to struggle with the concept of equity versus fairness. Inclusion is not about giving all students the same (fair), it is about providing students what they need to be successful (equity). While progress providing equitable opportunities for all students has been made, there still remains two educational systems, general and special. While this is not our goal, it is a step toward achieving the goal of creating truly inclusive educational environments. What’s next?

Photo of students in classroom.

The barrier that has not been addressed is the need to create education environments that remove barriers and create options for instruction, assessment, and most importantly student learning. Until this occurs, it does not make sense for students with disabilities to be placed in classrooms where failure is probable because we have not changed why we do what we do, how we do it, and what we do. The focus in education needs to shift from the individual as disabled to the environment as disabled. I suggest the framework for accomplishing this monumental shift is Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

UDL is a framework that begins with several assumptions:
  • Variability is the norm
  • Disability is contextual
  • Focus on the learning environment and curriculum, not the students.
Through the use of the principles and guidelines of UDL in designing learning environments, educators can identify barriers and create options for ALL students. UDL is not about some students, but instead, focuses on improving learning outcomes for all students. Educators know that students come in all shapes and sizes. Variability is the norm. We know the students we work with will all be unique. In addition to variability, we also know that all students have strengths and weaknesses depending on the activity. Hence, disability is contextual. Everyone is disabled depending on the circumstances. For inclusion to become a reality, we must create one learning environment for all students that allows the students to choose what option works best given the activity. The creation of an environment where all students have a sense of belonging and ownership is our ultimate destination. While this is not an easy shift, it is necessary if we truly want to educate all children.


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Aug
03

We are all starfish!

Happy New Year           
Both as a teacher and as a student I have always thought of the days up to the first day of school as the real new year! The countdown is slower, but the ritual of making resolutions is the same.

New ChalkAs a teacher, I would be setting up my room and getting all of my lessons ready to go. I’d go to the office store and the teacher supply store. I would buy new things! New organizers! New pens! New decorations! This year I was going to try this. This year I was going to be ahead of that. Next came THE FIRST TEACHER DAY! It was the only day the entire corporation staff would be together! I would sit beside my best friend and listen to the instructions and pep talks from the superintendent and meet the new additions to the staff. Then back to the building and the principal where we would receive more encouragement and find out what was going to be different this year. It all boiled down to it’s a new year, take the best of the last and make resolutions to grow and improve this year. Think of the students and make this their best year ever.     

Colored Pencils

As a student, it was similar. Off to the store to get new folders, the newest binder/organizer etc. I was ready! THE FIRST STUDENT DAY! Every teacher was new. They all told us how to do well in their class. I was jazzed! I was going to try harder. I was going to pay better attention. I would turn in all of my assignments and I would read harder and read all of the material assigned. I was going to be the student everyone knew I could be! This year was going to be so much better than the last!

Flash forward 2 weeks…


As a teacher, all is going well. The pens are being used, the decorations look great and the organizer is either working or the parts that were have been added to last years model and are helping. I may be a bit behind on somethings, but I feel great and am excited about the year.

As a student, it was similar...to all the years before. I was trying harder, paying better attention, reading harder and organizing all of my material that was assigned, but I was starting to get lost. I know this path and if I can’t figure it out, I’ll get another D in math (just barely). I’ll squeak by in my other classes. I’ll get A’s when I am engaged in the content, I’ll get C’s when I’m not. I’d feel horrible about it, because I hated to let anyone down. I was fortunate. My family didn’t give up on me and neither did I. I would start over every year.

Happy New Year written on a sign behind a plane
As a teacher, I knew that student, just like me, was in my room. I structured my classes around this student. I taught with this student in mind. Soon I met other students, ones that were different than me, but had needs that I could structure into my daily plan that would help them do their best. Every year my methods became more diverse, more engaging, more student-centered. Every new year as a teacher, I tried to work harder, learn more, organize better, so that hopefully I could be the teacher everyone knew I could be.


I wish that at some conference or from some peer I had learned about Universal Design for Learning. The framework would have helped guide me to being that teacher. If you would like to take a try at Universally Designing your curriculum this year, I would suggest the PATINS UDL lesson planner. It is a way to take a long look at all of the thoughtful planning that goes into designing your classroom experience for every student. It shows what it takes to plan for that. Do one full plan and then start to incorporate pieces into your regular planning. Go back again when you are ready and do it for another lesson. Keep pulling pieces into your normal routine. Soon the UDL frame of mind will start to be incorporated into your daily planning. When you think you are doing good, go back for another lesson. Bit by bit, year by year, keep improving. Don’t give up on yourself and surround yourself with peers that won’t give up on you either. If you want more help, I’ll be here! I’ll bring my new bullet journal and erasable pens and we’ll hunker down and work through it together!

Sandi Smith standing on the beach with arms open like a Y and legs spread apartLady Bug on a leaf with the quote,
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Apr
20

Expectations

Expectations are tricky things. Sometimes they let you down, sometimes they lift you up! I had expectations for April to be a lot warmer by now, and yet I wait. The warm air may be late, but ISTEP testing, Senioritis, and transition fairs are all occurring right on schedule. This is the final stretch of the school year, expectations are being fulfilled! But the story for each student started much earlier.

ant 1       “Just what makes that little old ant                          
        Think he can move that rubber tree plant

        Anyone knows an ant, can't
        Move a rubber tree plant” *


Let’s talk about rigor in education. I have never liked that word. 
I associate it with the dictionary definition, “harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment”, but the education definition of rigor is quite differentThe Glossary of Education Reform is a great place to go when education speak gets in the way of understanding. It equates rigor with educational experiences that are, “academically, intellectually, and personally challenging”. When we challenge our students with a rigorous curriculum that is universally designed and equitably supported by accessible content and assistive technology we are showing that we have high hopes. Our expectations are that each student under our care will be challenged and supported so as to reach their full potential. 

 "But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes"                 Ant looking left


So as this year’s finish line approaches, keep pushing, and search for why they are pushing back. 
Equip them with all they need to access the curriculum for the 175 days they aren’t testing so that on the 5 they are, they know and show their potential. Give them all the skills and knowledge they need to earn the transition of all our dreams!
ant with hands on hips                                               “Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.”*

*Writer(s): Cahn/Van Heusen
Frank Sinatra High Hopes on YouTube

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Jan
11

Viral UDL

From the Flu to you!

Sandi is sitting on her couch with a blanket over her and two dogs on her legs. She is typing on her computer and has her sick table materials beside her.
For the first time in a long while, I am sick. The flu epidemic did not spare me this year. As I sit here with my “sick table” fully stocked with my hot tea, Halls cough drops, Puffs Tissues Plus Lotion and Vicks, and a nasty wastebasket full of used tissues, I find myself thinking about things that are infectious and contagious.
 
Wikipedia tells me that, “In the United States, the flu season is considered October through May. It usually peaks in February.” According to the CDC, this year’s flu strain is the H3N2 virus. The estimate is that the Flu shot is only 30% effective against this flu strain, but you are still urged to get it. The Definition of contagious is to move easily from one person to another.

Influenza Activity Estimates Indiana and much of the nation have sporatic outbreak in October. In November Indiana is still sporatic but other states are showing local activity.  By December all contiguous states show widespread flu reports.
Between November and the end of December, the flu spreads rapidly because we are traveling to see out of town friends and relatives for the holidays. We are leaving our normal geographic boundaries and reaching out to others.

Infectious diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses. Great ideas can be spread that way too. I am getting ready to work with a small team of educators that wants to learn more about Universal Design for Learning (UDL). We are going to meet twice a month and discuss how to UDL their classrooms and lessons. We don’t know where this will go, but we are hoping it will become contagious! This is the way PATINS works. Groups of educators step out of their mental geographic boundaries, try something new and share it with their colleagues. The same principles of contagion apply to learning great educational frameworks like UDL as do the flu. The difference is great results for Indiana educators and students.  

I’d love to infect you with the UDL virus! Reach out to me and let’s get some positive educational pedagogy spreading around your school!

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Oct
04

We Are Allowed to Learn and Change

I saw a colleague of mine from my first years of teaching. We were catching up, and he mentioned that he was teaching the same old thing he always had, every fall for the last 30 years. I am sure his style, methods, and materials have evolved since we taught together. The changes may be subtle, but they have been based on things learned and observed from year to year.

When I speak to colleagues that have known me for a while I sometimes hear:

I remember when you said…
I thought you were against…
You never used to…

and they are right, but hey!

I am not still wearing big shoulder pads & leg warmers. My hair may be curly, but I don’t have a perm, huge bangs or a rat-tail, (I miss that tail.). That said, I still love Ray-Ban sunglasses and when fanny packs come back in style count me in! Those things were handy!

This is the time of year when the PATINS Library gets some big new technology for educators to try with their students. This year I ordered a piece of technology that I had previously found "absolutely no use for". Suddenly, when I viewed this technology from a different perspective, I saw practicality, benefits, and a need.

What I’m trying to say is that opinions can change. Just like fashion, some methods and technologies just get stale or outdated. Changing an opinion on a technology based on peer-reviewed research or a growing use for it does not make you a hypocrite. Your integrity is not in question. It shows that you are reflecting and re-evaluating your methods.

Keep the classics, replace the things that don’t work, and stay flexible!


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Jun
22

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

David Bowie said it best:

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes
Don't want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes
Just gonna have to be a different man”

This has been a big year of changes for me. Some I could control, most I could not. Some I anticipated, some smacked me upside the head. Regardless, they happened and I, like all people had to “turn and face” them. Strange, bizarre, positive or anxiety causing, I see them as a positive disruption of the status quo. An opportunity.

My favorite thing about change is that it makes you think. Without disruption I find myself drifting through a situation, just getting by on muscle memory, prior experience and luck. When you are busy and have many different people/obligations pulling your strings in various directions it can be nice to coast for a bit. Too much of this makes me complacent. I prefer to spend life on the balls of my feet, not the heels.

Change likes to create chaos. It makes you pick favorites and prioritize the rest. It acts as a filter through which you sort your time, space and desires.

Summer break creates a huge change in the daily schedule. Suddenly you find yourself with a totally different arrangement of time. How are you using it? There are lots of great opportunities. Some of them don't even involve professional development! However, you plan on using this time, keep in mind that you can’t do it all. Make space for the things that make you a more relaxed and well-rounded individual. Sort your time through a filter that will help you to be ready for the next big changes around the corner.

If professional learning is on your list, there are plenty of opportunities left. See here for Indiana’s Summer of eLearning. The PATINS specialists are out and about! We take vacations, but we are also available to help prepare for the new school year when you are ready.

The pessimist complains about the wind;
the optimist expects it to change;
the realist adjusts the sails.
-William Arthur Ward                                      

440px 2013 Ahmanson Cup Regatta yacht Zapata II b photo D Ramey Logan




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Mar
08

SETT and the Right Tool

Screen Shot 2017 03 08 at 6.57.53 PM I am currently doing something I’ve always wanted to do, I’m flipping a house. I’ve been watching professionals do this for years on TV. I’ve always enjoyed doing things like that. One week I rented scaffolding, repainted a two story great room, stairs, kitchen and bedroom and tiled (for the first time) the kitchen backsplash. I have learned two good lessons through doing these things and I suspect a third.

Lesson #1 - It is all about having the right tool for the task. Screen Shot 2017 03 08 at 7.34.21 AM

The available assistive technology is varied and vast. There are as many solutions as there are questions. The trick is not just to figure out the correct solution, but to realize when the question may have changed. I use the SETT Framework by Joy Zabala when trying to help educators and students find the right AT solution.

The SETT Framework works through four specific areas to facilitate choosing the correct solution to fit the problem. SETT stands for Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools. Student, Environment and Task are all considered at the same time in no particular order. These three things are closely connected. Change one of these three pieces and the entire picture changes dramatically. The Tool becomes the answer to this equation.

Student + Environment + Task = Tool

For the past three years, I have been looking at adding an AT tool to our Lending Library. It is a communication device for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It was never requested by a teacher for loan and when I discussed it with teachers and my peers, they thought it would be useful in the outside world, but not as much in school. This year, when considering this tool, we framed it in the setting of transition. In that situation a student looking at college and work interviews would benefit from being familiar with this device so that they could carry it with them to facilitate communication. That change of Environment made all the difference. Now it was a good idea to have this tool in the Lending Library

If we change the task, we are looking at an entirely different tool again. Perhaps the task is reading instead of speaking. Same student same challenges different task, different tool. It's all about having the right tool for the task.

Lesson #2 - It is ok to get some help from the professionals.

I’ve busted some pipes, gotten in over my head on electrical wiring etc. My favorite contractor pays for his golf games thanks to me! Here’s where I remind you to email or call us. You knew that. But really, it is what we do, and we all love doing it.

Unlike my contractor, PATINS provides professional help at no cost to you, but you knew that too. The thing is, the other educators, general and special educators, may not. Help them out. Introduce them to us! Bring them to the PATINS Tech Expo on April 12th!

That brings us the lesson I think I'm going to learn...
Lesson #3 - In flipping houses the person who always makes money is the contractor. I’ll let you know. The bathroom is done and the kitchen is ½ way. A contractor is there painting today. We are hoping to be done at the end of the month.


* Shaved Shih-Tzu update:

UDL (Universal Design for Learning) works in this area too!  
Our haircuts are now uniform and cute!Screen Shot 2017 03 08 at 6.58.21 PM
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Nov
16

The Shaved Shih Tzu Effect or The Case for Universal Design for Learning in Everyday Life

Pei Pei 1   In March I brought home a shih tzu puppy! 

Included in the care of a shih tzu is grooming.
Pei Pei 2 The first time went well. Pei Pei 3


Pei Pei 4But it grew out quite quickly.  

It was time to take her back and I had a few other requests.  

Just a bit of a change.  
Not much really... just keep the hair around her nose and mouth a bit shorter this time.
Not so much mustache and beard.  

So, I took her to her 6 week appointment and I think I said just that.


Pei Pei 5

Obviously I had failed in communicating my request.  I was disappointed.  In my mind, I blamed the groomer.  How could they have done this?  
They took my puppy away.  As I looked at my poor hairless baby, I reflected.  How could I have made myself clearer?


This reminded me of when I would fail to teach something I was really passionate about, like weather.  I would stand up in front of the class and give
some of the best lectures of my life.  Full of energy, (hand motions are required) sound effects, (boom, crash, swoosh, zoom!) engaging anecdotes
(hold the camera still and be quiet)!  Then I would give my students a lab that I thought they were totally prepared for and some would be, but most
wouldn’t.  I would be disappointed.  Why didn’t they learn?  


We forget all the work that we have already done in our brain that we take for granted.  I have taken numerous courses and had several extensive field
experiences.  I have read and internalized all of the information that I will be providing them.  I designed the entire experience.  No wonder I would succeed.  
So how can we be better guides for those who have not had this experience? Universal Design for Learning (UDL).


Universal Design for Learning tells us that if we want our students to understand and embrace what we are teaching we need to employ multiple means to:

  1. Engage them - interest them in the activity.
  2. Represent the information to be absorbed - facilitate different modes of communication to create understanding.
  3. Action and Expression - allow for different ways to show that they comprehend the information.

So, let's UDL my next grooming appointment:


Step 1:  Engagement - Upon entering the new groomer I will show them pictures of my dog before and after our previous appointment.  We will brainstorm
ways that she could look cuter than she did following that last appointment.  They will gain ownership of her hair care and connect with past knowledge
of shih tzu hair appointments.


Step 2:  Representation - I will offer alternatives for auditory information.  I will show them pictures of other shih tzus that I feel are very cutely groomed.  
I will clarify vocabulary such as “teddy bear cut” and “beard and mustache” through pictures and physical manipulation of the areas prior to cutting.


Step 3:  Action and Expression - I will break the assignment into manageable chunks.  We will begin with trimming around her eyes and trimming her ears.  
Once I am confident that we are communicating well I will continue with graduated levels of support to work towards a full grooming experience.


When we look at what we could have done, it is easy to see what we should have done. UDL is great in that way. We look at the barriers and the ways
that things could go wrong and place options into the lesson plan that take those barriers away.

For more UDL fun you should tune in to our Twitter Chats on Tuesdays at 8:30 pm. #patinsicam We always have great discussions peppered with
interesting points of view!

Until next time! Pei Pei 6

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Rachel Herron
Great Blog, Sandi! I love the tie in here...and, of course, the adorable pics!
Monday, 21 November 2016 11:33
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Aug
09

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/
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Jun
01

It's a crutch!

Admiral Ackbar Meme It's a Crutch!“It’s a crutch!  If we let students get by with listening instead of reading, how will they ever learn to read?”  This or some similar phrase has been heard or said by many of us.  One word in that quote jumped out at me.  Crutch.  When did that become a negative word?  It’s a noun, not an expletive! What is so bad about a crutch?  Crutches allow people to walk unaided who would otherwise need assistance.  If a student has a broken leg do we want them sitting around doing nothing until it heals?  What if it doesn’t heal?  Is that it?  Are we going to tell them to sit there while we place things across the room for them that they need and then fail them for not getting up to get them?  The organization
Crutches 4 Kids describes the reason for their work, Crutches help children access school giving them the opportunity to learn and become productive members of their communities..  Their slogan, “A Pair of Crutches Changes Everything” is just as applicable to us as educators.  

Using assistive technology to read digital material to a student has many titles.  Among a few are: Audio Supported Reading, Auditory Learning, Text to Speech and Reading by Ear.  What this refers to is having the words read out loud with the support of highlighted text.  crutch2.0

There is a history of Audio Supported Reading use in conjunction with braille to increase the speed and accuracy of reading in students who are blind or have low vision.  New research is beginning to show similar results for students who are struggling readers.  By scaffolding a student’s ability to decode difficult words they become capable of decoding the meaning behind the text faster.  This leads not only to greater comprehension but increased concentration and motivation.  Through the use of
Don Johnston’s uPAR testing software some of the PATINS AEM Grant Teams were also able to see a change in the comprehension level of their students over time who had access to Audio Supported Reading as a part of their reading support.  This is so exciting!  

Let’s talk UDL!  What was once a negative is now a positive.   In the past it has been hard on teachers and students when assistance has been given to one student but not all others.  Who hasn’t heard, “Why does he get that and I don’t?  I want that too!” and “I don’t want to look different.”  Audio Assisted Reading has many plusses for all!  For instance:  You want to assign your students research on the process of presidential elections.  The articles on the internet will contain words that not all good readers will understand.  This is the point of learning.  It is supposed to contain some things that are new to you!  By using a text reader for some of the more difficult words, a student can avoid skimming over them and missing the deeper understanding of the topic.  I used it to read the CAST article cited below.  It helps me concentrate and read slower so that I can focus on the content and meaning instead of just finishing the article.  I also used it to read this blog post out loud to me to help proofread.

Research:
The following article is a good beginning for understanding the basis in research and Education Law for the use of Audio Supported Reading:

Another good read on this subject can be found in this 4-part article. http://www.readspeaker.com/does-text-to-speech-technology-help-students-learn/


Some of my favorite crutches are:  

There are many more, including some that come standard as a part of the computer or tablet!  

Some internet sites have it built in.  Look for symbols like these:
button for text to speech button for text to speech button for text to speech


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Mar
22

How do you find things if you don't know they exist?

fashion shopping girl clipartOne of the questions you get asked when people are curious about you is, “Do you have any hobbies?”  I have a hard time answering that.  I have things that I enjoy doing, but are they hobbies?  You tell me.  I really enjoy shopping.  I don’t care who I am shopping for.  I just want to find the one thing that will make someone smile and understand that, I get them.  I want to buy the perfect wedding gift or birthday gift, and I’m not afraid to hunt for it.  I search both online and stalk the stores.  Sometimes I know exactly what I want.  Sometimes I find it accidentally while shopping around for fun.  The thing is, I do it enough that I don’t have to wonder where to look for things when I need them.   

Recently I worked with a school district that is going through an abrupt change of status with one of their students.  In the blink of an eye that student’s method for learning and expressing their comprehension was drastically altered.  The learning professionals banded together to find a path to learning for this student through a forest of technology that they didn’t even know existed.  They built a team that included administrators, technical support, special educators and regular educators because they knew that it was going to take the knowledge of all concerned parties to facilitate the student’s needs so that he could continue learning at his previous level.  The thing is, they didn’t know what they didn’t know.  Everyone was ready to pitch in, however they needed help finding out if the things they wanted to exist, did.  Moreover, would they work the way they needed them to.  

So, how do you find things if you don’t know they exist?

The need for assistive technology solutions in schools is constant.  It is always an emergency when a student is blocked from learning.   Resolutions need to be found quickly and this is where years of shopping experience comes in handy!  It is time to shop!

When shopping for Assistive Technology solutions I am particular about where I look. The sites must be credible. I need to see expert level analysis or be able to link to it. If they are comparing technologies I want to see the rubric. I appreciate having tech sorted through and rated on a consistent scale, but the scale must be pertinent to the activities to which it will be employed.

Screenshot 2016 03 22 13.17.45
Tech Matrix - "Assistive and educational technology tools and resources to support learning for students with disabilities and their classmates."  This site allows for searching by text, content area, grade level and IDEA disability category.  It then compares up to four products across that search criteria.  It also allows for the searching of up to 302 pertinent research articles.  This site is worth knowing for this function alone.

Since you are reading this blog I bet you know two other great AT searching opportunities...

That's right, the PATINS Library and PATINS Tech Expo.

Both of these resources come with expert level support to empower your search.


Whether we play a big part in the coordinating of a student’s assistive technology or a small part, everyone involved has an important role.  Once you have considered the student, their environment, and the task that is to be performed I will be happy to help you shop your technology options!







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