Apr
02

The News I Did Not Get

The News I Did Not Get

I have something really important to share.

It affects your health. Your safety. Your ability to access education and justice. It might save your life.

Read it below:

grey square

What’s that? You can’t read it?

If you, your school, your municipality or other community servants are sharing pictures of text, it is not accessible to many of the people who may need it most. Pictures of text cannot be read by a screen reader and readers don’t have the ability to make it large print or high contrast. For people with dyslexia, blindness or low vision, or a poor internet connection that won’t load a picture, they don’t get the same information as everyone else. I lose out on the ability to auto-translate it to my language.

If that information was in a video and not captioned, it’s not accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing or cannot have the volume on right at that moment (shout out to all the parents juggling baby naptime and work simultaneously!) Interpreting and translating might be necessary.

If your job is to share information with your community, share it with the whole community.

Reach out to the creator if you see it. Point it out and offer suggestions for what to do differently. They will appreciate the information!

Lives may depend on it.

There are many other things we can all do to make our digital content accessible to everyone. If you need support and ideas for distance learning now, PATINS has curated many excellent resources for distance learning due to COVID-19. Our specialists are here to support Indiana public PreK-12 schools providing equitable access to all.

We have been the best kind of busy helping Indiana educators find solutions to providing instruction for all students. To the teachers learning to be YouTubers and taking on video conferencing, the porch drop offs of AAC devices and assistive technology, the extra training, professional development, and so many creative solutions for kids: you make us very proud to be working with you. We hope to see you at one of our office hours or at the Tech Expo next week so we can (re)connect and share your struggles and successes!

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Mar
25

Look For The Helpers

Look for the Helpers Look for the Helpers

As a friend to many emergency personnel, I have learned over many years a little of what it looks like from a first responder’s point of view and the sacrifice that comes with the calling to serve the people. The emotional, psychological and physical toll that comes with always being on guard for split-second decision making in order to maintain safety and order for all present challenges for managing life when days are suddenly atypical. In many ways, we all are experiencing this sense of hypervigilance with the pandemic. We are all in the same boat in that our typical lives have changed in some way. It’s taking a toll on each of us in some shape or form. 

I always thought I wouldn’t be a good first responder because I tend to freeze in certain situations. What I have found throughout my career in education is that there are always helpers in every given situation. We all have something that we can offer in a situation when we need to step up. We have dedicated our life’s work to improving the outcomes for our students. Even in rapidly changing current events, we come to help those needing assistance. I have witnessed many helpers sharing amazing resources not only to provide access to education but also to make sure our families are fed, utilities are maintained, and social wellbeing is addressed. 

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,

Many of us had great tools and resources for self-management prior to our new pandemic lives. Now, I am finding I need new tools and strategies to help myself regulate emotions, stay on track with daily remote learning for my own children, and keeping up with work and my own learning.  

Here are a few tools and suggestions I am going to try: 

HeadSpace : Headspace is an app that teaches you how to meditate.

ArtfulAgenda: Try this app to help integrate all of your calendars and keep organized all in one place. Mobile app now in Apple and Google Play stores. Syncs with Google, Apple, and Outlook 

Peloton App: Free for 90 days, Try a Yoga class

PATINS Staff is also on standby for your educational access needs while you are navigating remote learning. We have open office hours in a virtual zoom meeting room twice a day at 10 am and 2 pm EST through the month of April. Please feel free to jump on and have a team member guide you through how to use Zoom and any other questions you may have. You can find the office hours and other training on our training calendar

Please share what you are doing to help self-managing during this new normal. 

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Mar
19

What Does Distance Learning Look Like Anyway?

What Does Distance Learning Look like Anyway? Mother and child holding tablet looking at woman on the screen.

What a year this week has been.

Just look at all the massive steps forward we’ve taken as a society in the name of accessibility for all students!

It’s no doubt that every foot has been on the ground making the transition to distance learning possible and to minimize the disruption of key educational services. This week has proved that nothing can stand in the way of educators getting support to their students. From district-wide initiatives, such as continuing to provide daily meals and mobilizing buses to grant Wi-Fi access throughout the community to the administrators broadcasting read alouds (yay for reading with our eyes and our ears!) and over 60 educators spending their Tuesday night with first ever hybrid #PatinsIcam Twitter Chat and Zoom meeting (captioned recorded video to come soon). We’ve all embraced accessibility in many aspects of our lives quicker than I think some of us realize. 

Educators (and that now includes parents/adults at home) - You may feel like your kids didn’t learn anything this week. You may feel out of sorts and wondering how this is going to be sustainable until May 1, as announced by Governor Holcomb a few hours ago. You may feel like you’re recovering from a bout of whiplash because what is distance learning supposed to look like anyway? 

The good news is I can tell you what distance learning looks like - it looks like Universal Design for Learning (UDL)! And you’re probably already doing it...

Multiple means of engagement - “Which book are you choosing today?”

Multiple means of representation - “You’d rather listen to that as an audiobook. Okay, I know that helps you recall the information better.”

Multiple means of action & expression - “I can see sitting and writing a paragraph on what happened in the book is difficult for your right now. How about you choose from drawing a picture, creating a video, or another way you had in mind to retell the story.”

Now, the flexibility UDL allows can help eliminate barriers for many of our students but our efforts still need to be flexible, specialized, and with a keen eye on accessibility. A paper packet of work sent home with a student with dyslexia is inaccessible. A student with limited communication still needs a way to express themselves at home (and they probably need some additional fringe words to describe what they’re feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic). A parent with hearing loss may not be able to hear the instructions for e-learning if their are no captions.

So what can you do?

Continue to think about potential barriers. Check-in with the students and their families to see how it’s going. The PATINS Project has compiled a webpage with resources for distance learning which will help ensure the presentation of your content is accessible and allows all your families to feel successful.


Visit PATINS/ICAM specialists open office hours. These are now held twice a day at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM EST each weekday to address questions, concerns, brainstorm, anything you need to figure out. We believe all students can continue to make progress during distance learning.


Learn about educational technology and services at the first-ever virtual PATINS Tech Expo with IN*SOURCE 2020. Registration is open until April 6, 2020, and is no-cost for you.
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Mar
12

Sunrise or Sunset?

Is it a sunrise or a sunset, it is all in your perspective.

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to tell you all that I will be leaving the PATINS Project. I have accepted a position as a Various Exceptionalities/Exceptional Students Educator for Largo Middle School of Pinellas County Schools. 

beach clouds dawn dusk

It is my time with PATINS that has influenced my desire to return to the classroom. When I left Seymour in 2012, school corporations were on the brink of large changes. These changes would affect both the general and special needs classrooms. With PATINS I have seen 1 to 1 computers. The explosion of the iPad as an accessible, multifaceted AT device. I have seen renewed desire to provide all students with the least restrictive environment. Classrooms are more diverse. Options for graduation are diversifying and with that a renewed interest in how schools transition students into society. With technology, so many more students are able to receive accommodations where they once would only receive modifications. Differentiation is becoming Specially Designed Instruction and Universally Designed Instruction is on the cusp of becoming the norm.


With my PATINS experience I found myself wondering what kind of teacher I would be today. I am excited to find out by going back into public schools to teach, support and lead others in these practices.

Thank you for the insight and hope for greater things that you have given me. If it were not for the exposure and experience of working with Indiana’s exceptional educators, I would not be returning to public education. These experiences along with the fellowship and exceptional intellect of my peers has made me capable and hungry to share these skills with students.

Thank you all!
Sandi Smith










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Mar
06

Literacy, Performance, and Well-Being: Realizing Reading, Writing, and Accommodations!

Each year, about this time, educators all over Indiana are likely feeling drained, pressured, overwhelmed, and perhaps worried! I hear so much about state assessment and preparing for it, how it throws off schedules and routines, and how everyone in the building is a bit on-edge. I understand that feeling! I struggle a bit, however, with some of the reasons we allow it to occur. While we don't have a choice in many aspects of high-stakes assessment, we do have a lot of control over the other majority of the school year, which most certainly has an effect on the relatively short assessment portion! 

The things that come to mind are the concepts of literacy, of testing anxiety, and of the general well-being of people. The PATINS Project has a laser-like focus on improving literacy in Indiana PK-12 schools and in order to achieve that, we had to define literacy, which is where my struggles around high-stakes testing anxiety likely begins. The dedicated, passionate, and skilled PATINS team chooses to recognize and actively support the International Literacy Association's definition of literacy: 

"Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context. The ability to read, write, and communicate connects people to one another and empowers them to achieve things they never thought possible. Communication and connection are the basis of who we are and how we live together and interact with the world."

With this definition in mind, the PATINS staff meets every single week as a team to share, collaborate, and ensure that everything we're doing maintains a strong focus on improving literacy outcomes! While this intentional and deliberate focal point of our work is fairly recent, our services have always centered around literacy. I was reminded of this recently when I was asked about an old (2009) article that had been written about me as a classroom teacher, which you can find here, for some additional reading! 


Daniel as a first year teacher playing guitar for students.
Back in 2001, I decided it was time to leave the business I'd started. I had spent the previous 4 years establishing a system of working with very young students on the autism spectrum and had experienced some great success. While a very difficult decision, what I really wanted to experience was my very own classroom of students on a daily basis. So, I took a teaching position in a K-6 classroom with students identified as having "moderate - severe disabilities."  

When I arrived, eager and enthusiastic, I received a warm welcome, but I also received some advice about my students-to-be. I was told that they were non-readers and non-writers and that I would be using a lot of pictures and symbols. Not knowing my students, yet and also realizing that I hadn't ever had any real reading instruction in college, I took this advice. Not only did I take this advice, but I plastered by classroom with pictures I printed out and with symbols of all sorts! Schedules, social cues, tasks related to IEP goals... all pictures and symbols! I covered a 10' X 6' board with tempo-loop and laminated and velcro'd until my poor, raw, aching fingers nearly bled! We used these in my classroom day-in and day-out! 

a sample of Daniels classroom schedule in all text
While I realized that I was no expert in reading and really had no formal training in the science of teaching others to read, I also understood behavior and I understood fairly well, how learners often perceived things differently in their learning environment. I remember sitting back in my chair at the end of one school day, frustrated that my students were paying textbook rental for books that were inaccessible to them, that I wasn't able to work on writing (composing) with my students, and I looked across the room at my giant tempo-loop schedule. I looked at the symbols and it suddenly hit me that some of them, very much, resembled short words from that distance. It stood to reason then, that if that symbol resembled a word and my students were recognizing the meaning of it daily, perhaps they could just recognize words! ...And they DID! What I also very quickly realized and made all of my paraprofessionals and parents aware of, was that my students were not "reading" phonetically. They were recognizing symbols. However, these symbols they were recognizing were now far more functional in the real world than most abstract, stick-figure symbols, that I had to teach the meaning of anyway. Nevertheless, I knew that my students needed more, if they were to become readers (and writers). 

At this point, I implemented a systematic phonics program, but I also implemented word-prediction! Not really knowing how to teach phonemes, nor understanding reading science at the time, I did realize that by removing the barrier of spelling (with word-prediction software), that I could very quickly begin experiencing the ideas, reflections, and questions that were in my student's creative minds! ...thoughts that I often wondered if anyone else ever knew was even in there!  ...stuff we'd never heard come from these kids verbally, that was coming out in writing, because now they could compose without the impasse of spelling or physical handwriting!  Another amazing thing with word-prediction was that my students could hear the computer read their sentence back after they'd punctuated it, which effectively improved their self-editing and perhaps more importantly opened my mind to the powerful idea of them reading with their ears, and thus began text to speech in my classroom for all students, all of the time. They became VERY good and implementing it for themselves when they needed it and choosing to read with their eyes at times when they did not need it. They began leaving my classroom and joining their general education peers for more and more academics, for arts, and music, and on the weekends for birthday parties!  

As a result, I also worked out that text and language could be fun, engaging, and musical! We played with my guitar and made up words to made up songs and then wrote them down and discussed them, revised them, and laughed! Yes, we laughed! We had fun with language. We went from using stick-figure symbols to having fun with language.  

I look back and recognize this successful and fun 4-year experience in my classroom as a culmination of having high expectations, implementing assistive technology and accessible materials, and having FUN! ...also known as engagement!

Circling back, I wonder why more case conference committees aren't checking the boxes on the IEP that asks if Assistive Technology (AT) or Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) are needed when those two things can lead to such unthought-of outcomes, often at little or no cost. I wonder why, in many places, schedules change and test prep becomes such a focus that the stress and anxiety actually shows on the faces of educators. At the time, my students wouldn't have been permitted to use many of their accommodations on the state's high stakes test, BUT I can guarantee they still would have done better on those assessments with me providing them all year long until then!  

In summary, if you ever find yourself in an IEP meeting and those two questions about Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials aren't deeply discussed, I:  
  1. Encourage you to borrow items to trial (at no cost to you whatsoever) from the PATINS Lending Library.  
  2. Challenge you to initiate those discussions about AT and AEM in the IEP meeting. 
  3. Contact PATINS Staff, even during the meeting, for more information, consultation, and support on AT and AEM! 
  4. Implement something new with ALL of your students THIS NEXT week! It doesn't have to be in an IEP and you don't have to be an expert to try something new! 
  5. Reach out to the PATINS Specialists for specific training and support! 
  6. Come to the (no cost) PATINS Tech Expo on April 9th, to make yourself even more aware of some of the tools, resources, and strategies that are available!  
Photo of Daniel riding a stick unicorn in a literacy phoneme game       Word Play Root Matrix of word parts and phonemes


















Be brave this week... take a deep breath, think about literacy a little more broadly and try to have fun with your students doing something for at least a few minutes every day! It's OK to laugh with them! ...and, I'll leave you with this one fun literacy-based idea. I recently took part, as a volunteer, in a silly activity with respected educational colleagues from around the world called, "Unicorn Poop." Yes, you read that correctly. In this game, I was part of a team, "riding" on a stick-unicorn from one side of the room to the other in order to scoop a plastic spoonful of unicorn poop (skittles candy) and bring it back to my teammate who was making a new word and conveying it to our "teacher" allowing me to claim the unicorn poop on our side of the room! We ended up losing the game by only a half of a spoonful of poop, but I ended up learning so much about teaching reading instruction in the process. We didn't spend any time on letter recognition or even individual sounds. We put BIG words together by practicing understanding of smaller phonemes!
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Feb
26

#Dyslexia: Celebrating Those Beautiful Brains

IMG_1557-2 Beautiful Brain Sticker
I read an audiobook a few weeks ago by Jonathan Mooney titled Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive Outside the Lines. Jonathan was identified with dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) when he was a kid and did not learn to read until he was 12 years old. He writes with a hilarious twist of confessions and speaks about the uniqueness of learners. Jonathan leaves the message that instead of trying to fix these students...let’s empower them to be successful in their own way.

He shares after being sent to the office due to some choices he made and his mom was called to come to his school, “I had crossed that invisible line between the normal and the not normal, which we all know is there. Though we aren’t quite sure where it is all of the time, or who drew it, or how, or why. At that moment, I knew for sure that whatever normal was, I wasn’t it.”

I am constantly meeting and working with new students who have been identified with dyslexia. I am tasked with the privilege to explore with them ways that they may learn and ways they can feel empowered in their own learning. I often get to see their new learning journey with assistive technology accommodations such as text-to-speech, word prediction, speech-to-text, etc. to keep them from getting further behind in school. Each time I am with a student, they teach me something new which makes me a better educator. I am so thankful.

When meeting new students, I have to create relationships very quickly. This often begins with talking about anything but dyslexia. I have laughed so hard with students at the amazing conversations we have had and the stories they share about life in general. I have also left schools with my chest so heavy due to students feeling so stomped down from the weight they feel from struggling to read. They do not feel smart and feel shame, which leads to low self esteem and often matched with bullying. 

Instead of writing a blog about dyslexia, I wanted to put some faces to dyslexia. Each time we talk about dyslexia in schools, there is a face to every single number. Each time accommodations are denied, there is a face to that denial. We have to remain connected in order to prevent the disconnection of accessibility. 

So! I rounded up just a few kiddos who have impacted my own life in some way this past school year, brought together by dyslexia...but relationships built due to all of the other amazing conversations those beautiful brains have shared with me. I asked them a few questions and I have no doubt you will lift them up with me. 

First, Samantha was a feature on PATINS TV! After meeting her one time and working with her for accommodations on the iPad, the next time I came back, she showed me some ways she was using her iPad that I was able to share with other kids. She is brilliant!

Meet Sam
Sam
  Age: 11 years old

  Favorite book or type of book: Dog Man

  What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at doing?  Driving the ATV and maneuvering it with a trailer anywhere!

  Anything else you would like the world to know about you? Sam is in 4-H and shows ducks, chickens, and pygmy goats. This year he is going to try his hand at the lawn mower driving project and LEGO building project. When he grows up Sam wants to be a farmer because farming is cool. 

The first time I met Sam, we had a race. He was in his running shoes and well, me in my high heels. He won but I’m ready for a rematch. Sam is an impeccable problem solver. His thoughts take him into creative action on a route we may not think of at the time. I was fortunate to see Sam show one of his goats at his county fair. It felt like 110 degrees in the summer inside a metal barn; but Sam took it like a champ (unlike me sweating profusely). He had an adorable and rambunctious goat that he gave 100% attention to in the heat and he placed! Also, this kid can do the Floss dance better than I have ever seen and brings it alive on the drop of a hat! I can’t wait to see him one day on his own farm...living his dream and being a mentor for those who want to learn his craft of farming. He is unstoppable.


Meet
Precious
Precious
  Age: I am 16 years old. I’m going to be 17 years old in March. 

  Favorite book or types of books you like to read: My favorite   book is Dork Diaries

 What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at doing?
My favorite hobby is art. 

Anything else you would like the world to know about you? I am a homeschooled student. I want to show my artwork to encourage everyone. I am building my own art studio called Shout Loud. I want people to know, "You can do it!"
Precious's artwork of colorful tree

As you can imagine by her answers above, Precious is extremely kind and talented. I was honored to see her art spotlighted at an event in Indianapolis, Indiana. I noticed on her art displays, the first line was “I have dyslexia.” The way that she sees colors and puts them together truly amazes me.


Meet
Piper
Piper
  Age: 9 years old, March 1st!

  Favorite book or types of books you like to read: Adventure, crime solving
  and mystery genre


  What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at
  doing?
Art, ice skating, skiing, and acting.

  Anything else you would like the world to know about you? I would like
  the world to know that I love having dyslexia, because it helps me be even more creative than I thought.


Piper helped me out when I presented on assistive technology accommodations. After learning that she loves to act, I can see now how she stood in the front of the crowded room with me with ease. When I showed Piper the C-Pen Reader, she practiced and figured it out quickly. Then, she proceeded to try it out backwards, upside down and up and down. She then explained to me all the ways one should not use the C-Pen. Ya know, she is right...we need to know that part. Thank you, Piper! 


Meet
Reed
Reed
  Age: 9 years old

  Favorite book or type of book: Dog Man

  What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at doing?
  Shooting 

  Anything else you would like the world to know about you? If the world wants to
  know anything else, they need to meet me!!


Reed wasn’t so sure about me at first. He was the observer and then came over to me when he was ready, which works just fine for me. Once he did, he told me about Dog Man and was extremely well spoken about not only the book; but about anything we talked about. Reed heard me say that I had a fear of grasshoppers. At the end of my talk, he walked up to me with his hands closed and said, “Hey, I caught a grasshopper for you!” I thought he was serious for about .2 seconds, which felt like an eternity. He asked me to come back, but Reed, you better watch out! I like to play tricks as well! Reed is right, the world needs to meet him one day. I have a feeling they will as he will positively change the world in his own unique way.

Note: Sometimes kids are labeled as shy, when in reality they just need time or need a purpose to engage. As an educator, practicing wait time and as well as creating purpose can make all of the difference. 


Meet
Jackson
Jackson
  Age: 7 years old

  Favorite book or type of book: Dyslexic Legends Alphabet. This
  is my favorite book because it has the people that are famous
  because they have dyslexia. Even though you have dyslexia, you
  can still read using audiobooks! 


What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at doing? Playing baseball and hockey! I really enjoy reading audiobooks. 

(Hey Brent Sopel...I think you've got a huge fan in the making for more than one reason!)

Anything else you would like the world to know about you? That you can do any job that you want, even though you have dyslexia! Even though dyslexia is hard, you can still do whatever you want! 

Clearly, Jack is a true champion for himself in the way he learns best. When he says “...enjoy READING audiobooks,” that kiddo is ahead of the game! Of course he is reading! He is reading with his ears! Jack is an inquisitive thinker and I feel pretty confident when he is not playing hockey or baseball, he is tackling his younger brother. I am hoping to recruit Jack in a future training video on how we all read differently. We can all learn something from Jackson for sure. Besides, he and I have matching shirts... T shirt: Dyslexia is not a disability, it's a different ability.

Jonathan Mooney continues to say and I would like to echo this to all students…

“...I want you to know that normality is a problem to be struggled with, to be resisted, and ultimately, an idea to be rejected and replaced. ...When normal comes for you, I want you to be able to say what I couldn’t when it came for me. Normal sucks.”

What is normal anyway? It’s a measurement we can forever chase and never find. If we always consider the variability of all learners, presume competence, appreciate the diversity and be facilitators toward independence with accessibility in our instruction...our impact will be larger than imaginable. It can literally change life paths in a positive direction for all those faces for not only dyslexia but for all students.

#Presuming Competence is the easiest or the hardest barrier to #inclusion. The hardest because you can't force someone to believe in ability. The easiest because believing in ability costs nothing. It requires zero resources. The ? is, what side of history do you want to be on?
What side do you want to be on? Let's celebrate those beautiful brains...together! 


Note: Make sure you click on each picture to enlarge!  Also, If you have a student or child you would like to celebrate in ANY way, please email me at 
ksuding@patinsproject.org, tweet me @ksuding, or share in the comments below and I will lift them up with you and share!

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Feb
20

The Power of Connection

As the newest member of the PATINS Specialists Team, I have had the pleasure to meet many educators across the state in my first 3 months. I have seen the amazing work of educators across the state firsthand. I am asked to problem solve, find resources for, and train educators in my specialty areas. It has been an incredible experience thus far!  

One thing that has rung true the past few months is that we all are connected. So often I walk into a new school and I can find a connection to the staff member or the administrator I meet with. Feeling connected, or having meaningful relationships with others, is a basic need. Humans need to feel connected to thrive.  

Have you ever noticed the power of an unexpected kind word or gesture? Many students do not even know the need for connection exists until they are taught how to create it. They are struggling to navigate the pathways of life. School is one of the many areas they are struggling in. Learning to build positive relationships with others will help students in school and other environments throughout life.  

Educators care about students and their learning experience. The connection or relationship between an educator and student ensures they are ready to learn. Making a good and positive connection with your student will allow an educator to speak into their life. An educator’s role is mighty and multifaceted. One thing is certain though - connecting with all the students you teach will impact them profoundly.  

The educator-student connection may allow an educator to influence actions in the classroom such as work completion, attention, behavior, and success. At first, it may mean the educator offers lots of positive rewards, intentional conversations, and motivational moments. Your efforts will pay off when the student knows you care.  

In the relationship-building process, you will learn to appreciate each student for their strengths as well! I love learning about the educators and students I work with, as I am sure that you appreciate that connection too. Some students need help building positive relationships.  

Relationship Skills is one of the five Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Competencies. Some schools offer SEL programming. There are many resources available to help build the SEL skills needed to be ready to learn. This is one area I have connected with educators within my time as a PATINS Specialist. As social and emotional skills improve, students will become ready to learn. 

As I close my first blog, I want to offer a few ways educators can connect with students. We can empower students to learn through modeling positive relationships and connection. Here are a few ways you can build connection:  
  • Greet them with their name and a high five or fist bump in the morning. 
  • Write your student a positive note.  
  • Catch them being good and praise them for it.  
  • Share a favorite activity, game, food, etc.  
  • Find something you have in common to talk about.  
  • Attend a sporting event or extra-curricular activity or ask about it if you cannot attend.  
  • Call their parents with them to offer a positive report.  
  • Engage in play or a game that they like at recess.  
I encourage you to try one of these out today. Add a new one each week. Let me know what changes you see by Spring Break in the comments below!

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Feb
14

Is it Cheating...

One of my favorite sports is baseball. I have been a Yankees fan for as long as I can remember. Don Mattingly, the first baseman for the Yankees is from my hometown. The following is from Wikipedia if you are not familiar with him:

“Mattingly graduated from Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, Indiana, and was selected by the Yankees in the amateur draft. Debuting with the Yankees in 1982 after three seasons in minor league baseball, Mattingly emerged as the Yankees' starting first baseman after a successful rookie season in 1983. Mattingly was named to the American League (AL) All-Star team six times. He won nine Gold Glove Awards (an American League record for a first baseman), three Silver Slugger Awards, the 1984 AL batting title, and was the 1985 AL Most Valuable Player. Mattingly served as captain of the Yankees from 1991 through 1995, when he retired as a player. The Yankees later retired Mattingly's uniform number, 23.”

So I have been following the news on the Astros sign-stealing scheme with much interest. It seems the Astros were using a system called Codebreaker that operated by having someone watch a live feed of games and log catchers' signs into a spreadsheet with the pitch that was thrown. The algorithm would break down the correlation between signs and pitches. That later evolved into employees banging on trash cans just behind the dugout to notify batters which pitch was coming.

Now we are at the beginning of Spring Break and the Astros players are talking to the media about their roles in the scandal.  None of the players received any type of fine or discipline, nor do they seem to be very apologetic for their actions. I think about the many kids who look up to these players and see that they are only sorry that they got caught. None of them stepped up to do the right thing to stop the cheating when it was happening.

On ESPN, Mike Golic, who used to be one of my favorite sports guys to listen to, said, “You can be sorry you got caught, not really sorry that you did it. But you have to show that we got nailed here, our bad, this wasn’t a good thing.” I just think these explanations set a horrible example for kids.

This relates to my job as I am often asked if using technology is cheating. Students using tools to help them succeed should not be seen as cheating in my opinion. I’m sure if I asked a room full of adults what the capital of Bangladesh is, most of them would pull out their phones or laptops to “cheat” or to look up the answer.  

The New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities website answers the question, “Isn’t assistive technology cheating?” better than I could:

“Assistive technology is not cheating and should be acknowledged just like support for any other person with a disability. Wearing glasses when you have a visual impairment is not cheating and neither is listening to a text when you have a print-based disability. It is important to understand that not all people read with their eyes. Others access the information with their ears. Consider the learning objective when determining if the access is appropriate. Generally, students with reading difficulties are evaluated no sooner than fourth grade. Many curriculums shift the focus from learning to read, to reading to learn. A student that cannot read will struggle to learn without support.” 

I hope that the “cheating” that these students are doing when using technology supports to increase their learning and understanding is never compared to the cheating that grown men do in order to earn more money and prestige.




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Feb
07

Print Disabilities 101: Q & A

We’ve had several questions recently concerning print disabilities and how to identify students who may have them so that we can appropriately intervene. Keep those coming. Repetition can be quite clarifying, particularly when the language is so tangled and acronym-laden. 

Can a student qualify for specialized formats through the ICAM if they are a “struggling reader?”

We would like to say yes, but it’s not so simple.

The ICAM was created to assist Indiana public schools in meeting the NIMAS regulations. To qualify for ICAM services, 2 items are required, with embedded functions.
  1. The student must have a current IEP.
  2. The Case Conference must indicate in the IEP the presence of a print disability, which must be confirmed by a certified competent authority. In addition, the IEP must indicate that the student has at least 1 of the 13 disabilities recognized by the IDEA that impedes his or her learning. This will be the disability for which the student is receiving special education services.
Can a student receive special education services with a documented print disability?

Print Disability is not one of the 13 Disability Categories under IDEA. The term “print disability” refers to the functional ability of a student who qualifies for special education services due to 1.) low vision/blindness, 2.) physical disability or 3.) specific learning disability and for whom print is a barrier to learning. 

The print disabilities are:

a) low vision/blindness, b) physical disability, and c) reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction. 

Word for word, a and b are in the IDEA list. “Reading disability” is alluded to in the list, as 
Specific Learning Disability, and is indicated in the IEP with a qualifier: "Specific Learning Disability in the area of reading".


What is meant by “organic dysfunction”?

The print disability that seems to cause the most confusion is c) reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction. Organic dysfunction refers to structural differences that lie in the neural pathways of the brain. 

Why is a doctor’s signature required for this print disability and not the others?

The IDEA established that doctors are the ones who can best determine the presence of organic dysfunction. We do not necessarily agree with this; it seems those who witness the student in a reading situation, such as an educator, would be the better authority here. Our hope is that this part of the law will be amended. 

Dyslexia is the most frequently identified reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction.

What is NIMAS and what does it have to do with print disabilities?

The IDEA 2004 added provisions for students with print disabilities; these are the NIMAS Regulations. The National Instructional Material Accessibility Standard is a file standard that is used to create braille, large print, audio and digital formats, the specialized formats for students with print disabilities.

If the student has a print disability, an IEP that documents this, and confirmation by the competent authority, then we say they are Chafee qualified to use previously published work without seeking copyright protection. The Chafee Law has its roots in the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled Library of Congress.

May my student with other types of disabilities receive AEM through the ICAM?

Students with any of the disabilities on the IDEA list may qualify for AEM through the ICAM. For example, first on the list is Autism. A student with Autism is not automatically Chafee qualified or disqualified. However, if the Case Conference Committee (CCC) determines that the student also presents a Specific Learning Disability in Reading then they may be Chafee qualified. This goes for the other disabilities in the list as well. 

So, a student is qualified for special education services by a disability recognized by the IDEA. Then, the CCC determines that print is a barrier to learning for the student and that by using the appropriate specialized format, the student can learn from the general curriculum.

Once a student has been identified with a print disability, then on the IEP, how should I answer the question, “Does this student require AEM?”

The answer to this question will always be “Yes.” A print disability and AEM will always work together. The CCC has tools to help determine which AEM may best benefit a student. To learn more about these tools, contact a PATINS Specialist

The IEP says that my student has a print disability and will benefit from audiobooks. Isn't this giving them an unfair advantage over the other students?

The answer to this question will always be "No." Print is a barrier to their learning, hence the term “print disability.” Audiobooks remove the barrier and bring their reading up to grade level and beyond. Then, they can truly benefit from their education. This is called “Ear Reading.” You would no more take this away from a student than you would their prescription eyeglasses.

While reading this you may have formulated more questions, so just ask! We love to help teachers unravel issues that help students.

Thanks so much!
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Jan
30

Top 5 Reasons for Captions In Schools

Closed Captioning is Cool! Closed Captioning is Cool!

Top 5 Reasons for Captions In Schools


Captions… It's all the buzz currently in schools, including higher education institutions like Harvard University. If you aren’t currently using captions in your daily life or in your classroom you might be unfamiliar with why we need to provide them. They may even seem annoying to you when you see them on. However, I assure you they are coming to a workplace near you soon and here are 5 reasons why you should turn them on today:

1. Attention and Focus

Students who need support when it comes to attention & focus can benefit from the visual representation of the spoken words on the screen during class and videos. In a study conducted by the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit of the 1,532 students, 69% reported that closed captioning aided in keeping their attention as a learning aid in class (Linder, 2016).

2. Universal Design for Learning

Setting up your classroom with every type of learner from the beginning means that you plan to include captions (Morris et. al, 2016). For school districts needing to put a policy in place for providing captions and transcripts as part of providing accessible education materials, PATINS has you covered with a sample policy. 


Text reads

3. Reading 

Students building early literacy skills can benefit from captions since captions explicitly illustrate the mapping among sound, meaning, and text (Gernsbacher, 2015). Since one predictor of reading achievement is time spent reading, the use of captioned content has the ability to benefit each & every student in your classroom.

4. Language Acquisition

Students learning a new language can benefit from English subtitles of classroom audio media. Students are taught how to recall and build their auditory listening skills in the second language after viewing videos with closed captions/subtitles in the new language rather than just receiving the content via auditory alone (Gernsbacher, 2015). 

5. The Right to Effective Communication

When we have a student who is deaf/hard of hearing in our classrooms, we need to provide accurate, timely and effective communication. One way to achieve this is by providing closed captions on all. This is explained in ADA, IDEA and Article 7.  You can read more about the recent Harvard’s lawsuit resulting in all media including open online courses to include closed captioning.

Do you need help with the tools and implementation of captions? The PATINS Project has you covered with no-cost in-person training and webinars. PATINS’ Specialists, Jena Fahlbush and Katie Taylor have a live webinar, Captions for All: The Writing’s on the Wall! This will help get you acclimated to using captions in your classroom the very next day. 


Captions for All: The Writing’s on the Wall! Live Webinar 
Register for the next live webinar! 

As you build experience with captions, you will see the need for captioning to the public and in your classroom! Speak up! Request captioning in the gym, restaurants, and doctor's offices to help make every place an accessible place for all. 



References


Gernsbacher M. A. (2015). Video Captions Benefit Everyone. Policy insights from the behavioral and brain sciences, 2(1), 195–202. doi:10.1177/2372732215602130

Linder, K. (2016). Student uses and perceptions of closed captions and transcripts: Results from a national study. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit

Morris, K.K., Frechette, C., Dukes, L., Stowell, N., Topping, N.E., & Brodosi, D. (2016). Closed captioning matters: Examining the value of closed captions for all students. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 29(3), 231-238.
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Jan
22

Which Doors Will You Open for Your Students?

Which Doors Will You Open for Your Students?
Technology opens doors, both literally and figuratively, for people with and without disabilities. For example, it allows us to obtain advanced degrees from universities in other states. It opens a door for us when entering a building in a wheelchair or with a dolly loaded with boxes. It increases access to content in all parts of our daily lives. Just think of those times when you could not remember the name of that actor or that book; did you look using that handy little cell phone in your purse or pocket? 

When it comes to the classroom, technology is offering our students the same opportunities and is pushing us as their educators to engage our students with the curriculum in new ways. For example, technology is enabling students to learn about the importance and implications of financial loans through sites like Kiva.org that allow them to invest real money in global projects. Technology allows our students to improve access to reading and writing through speech to text or text to speech apps, software, and built-in features as well as through ePubs and digital textbooks. Technology brings content to life through captioned teacher and student made videos. It can even bring your recorded and captioned instructional message to your students when they are working with a substitute. 

Yet, with all of the possibilities and positives that accompany the use of technology in our daily lives, and especially in the classroom, some schools, parents, and educators are pushing back against the use of tech in the classroom. Is their hesitancy legitimate? For a while now, I have been reflecting upon this question and a few arguments and solutions have dawned on me that I’d like to share for your consideration whether or not you’re on or off the technology bandwagon.

Firstly, screen time. After a recent conversation I had with a friend who has a student in Kindergarten, it dawned on me that screen time guidelines may have something to do with the hesitance some feel when it comes to embracing technology in the classroom. We all know that too much screen time is typically not a good thing and that there are pediatric guidelines for screen time and young children. Not to mention, we know that screen time is sometimes used as a free or low cost babysitter. But, it does not have to be this way.

There is so much learning that can take place on a screen when we use technology as a tool (see next point) and when we take the time to interact with our screens together. I believe it’s when we remove the social aspect of screen time that the learning experiences we desire for our students and children are heavily diminished. We must intentionally design screen time so that we are supporting our students in their discovery of new information and the meaningful application of it to their lives. Screen time does not always equate to “me time,” it can and should be a social experience in both school and home. 

Secondly, it comes down to how and why the technology is being used. To be honest, there was a time in my classroom when I was gifted an iPad by my administration and told to use it with students. All I could come up with at the time was an app that allowed two students to face off in multiplication fact challenges. Probably not the best use of the tool or their time. 

Now, many classrooms have the opportunity to allow all students to use a device for an activity, for a day, or to keep for the year, and it is our duty as educators to use these devices as tools to create a learning experience that previously was not possible. We have the power to turn each device into a point of access for our students - access to content, access to accommodations, access to one another, and access to our world. 

We must step away from the thinking that the only ways these devices can be used is for digitalization of worksheets or for running learning management systems. Technology is the way of the future and there’s no getting around that. So, let’s utilize devices and tech to provide new experiences for our students that improves access to information while inciting curiosity and new perspectives. Below are a few websites to inspire your creativity. 
Remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many resources, strategies, and ideas are already out there for you to take and make your own. You don’t have to do this alone. Ask your colleagues what they are doing. Ask your personal learning networks on Twitter or Facebook. Visit DonorsChoose.org to see what other educators are doing and requesting funds for and do the same. Reach out and ask our team how to make your tech work best for you and your students. 

You have the power to teach students how to make the most out of their tools and to use them for growth and advocacy. You have the opportunity to teach life skills like digital literacy and understanding fact from fiction. The time is now to support your students’ intentional use of technology to empower their lives and to prepare them for tech-based careers that we cannot yet comprehend.

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Jan
16

Blue Crayons


12 blue crayonsJanuary is when I go for my annual eye exam, and as a specialist for issues regarding vision, I suppose my optometrist braces himself for that lady who has all the questions about eyes. My eyes are worsening each year, in no small part, due to screen use for work and I admit, due to viewing flowers, babies and political nonsense on social media. I’m working on reducing my screen time, and literally, taking a longer view, by scheduling time to look out the window.


My traveling views over the dashboard this winter are taking me frequently to my hometown of North Manchester. Manchester Community Schools is one of the several districts receiving our PATINS AEMing for Achievement Grant this year, and I have been assigned to help them with guidance and training. I’ve enjoyed visiting, and being reminded of my childhood in this small college town. The sledding hill at 5th and East Streets looks impossibly smaller than when I was 11. The injuries I sustained couldn’t possibly have happened there. The playground next to the little league field at the old Thomas Marshall School no longer has maypoles or tether balls. If you don’t know what either of these are google “playground hazards from the 1970’s”. Mr. Dave’s restaurant remains the same as does their tenderloin recipe. 

Part of the grant for Manchester’s schools provides specialized assistance with finding the right communication device or system for a student with more intensive needs. Jessica Conrad, PATINS specialist for AAC and I consulted with a teacher and speech therapist about a student who had puzzled them for a while. 

The student had a few words and some gestures to communicate but they felt like he had much more to say. Using picture communication had been inconsistent for him. As they described the student I started to hear some behaviors consistent with a cortical visual impairment. Cortical visual impairment, or CVI is where the eye itself is healthy but the visual pathways in the brain struggle to process an image. When the teacher mentioned that the student always chose a blue crayon or marker for a task, I was pretty sure that CVI was a possibility. Students with CVI often have a strong color preference (although it is usually red or yellow). 

cover of book titled Cortical Visual Impairment by Christine Roman showing a student viewing colored clear pegs on a light box

The teacher contacted his parent to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. The student’s team also immediately began to offer the student assignments copied onto blue paper. They changed the settings on his iPad so that a blue overlay would cover the display. They used communication symbols highlighted in blue. 

The team was excited to report after only a couple of weeks that they were seeing dramatic improvement in the student’s attention, engagement, and accuracy in pointing at communication symbols. 

view looking over a boy's shoulder at his iPad and school assignment printed on blue paper.

The brain never ceases to amaze me. As educators and humans, we need reminders of how perception can vary so widely from individual to individual. Whether it is the filter of perception through color or through the lens of long-term childhood memories, our view is highly individualized. Keeping this in our awareness as educators can only lead to better results in our work. The staff at MCS are also benefiting from an initiative in Indiana called Project Success that supports higher academic achievement for students with disabilities. I’m grateful for this initiative and the educators at Manchester Elementary who hadn’t given up on finding out what could give this student a voice, and a means for academic success.

graphic logo for Project Success


How are your eyes? Where are you looking?
How are your perceptions expanding?
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Jan
10

Humbled by Technology

I have always embraced technology which is one of the many reasons I enjoy my job. I have embraced challenges when others were ready to throw in the towel.

Technology has made enormous advances, just when you think you have them understood or mastered, things change. Here is my case in point.

I have never really considered myself a gamer. Over the years, I have had an Atari, Gameboy, Nintendo, Genesis, Commodore 64, Amiga 500, etc. 

I have been lured into these systems by the technology and most importantly the graphics that continued to get better and better.

I had for all intent and purposes “grown out of” chasing the latest and greatest systems so I have been out of touch for some time. Again, look at my previous systems.

I have been aware of the PlayStation and Xbox but they really didn’t interest me because of their price and their intimidating controller. However, I was always amazed by the graphics.

It wasn’t until I watched my grandsons play on their Xbox that I felt mesmerized by the details and the smoothness of the scrolling graphics that started to draw me in like a moth to the light.

I was amazed at the mastery they had at controlling the buttons and joysticks to move about with ease. It was almost effortless. It was if they became one with the system.

I mentioned that I enjoy technology sometimes as a challenge, but would I be any match for what is now at my fingertips.

I say fingertips because the opportunity became available to me when a pre-Christmas sale lured me (well not really) into buying an Xbox One S. It came with the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

My grandsons had told me how “Awesome” the game is and I had it on MY system! It felt like when I got Frogger, Tetris, Super Mario or Sonic. It was well, like Christmas.

I pulled it out of the box and started to assemble the components. It took me back to an earlier time of putting bikes and vanities together for my daughters for Christmas. It wasn’t nearly as involved until I had to download and install the game software.

I realized then that our Internet connection could probably use an upgrade, but I was already committed to waiting it out. During that time, I had the opportunity of handling the controller.

Remember that “one with the system” statement earlier? It wasn’t happening for me. There isn’t one or two buttons, but ten and two joystick controls I think in total. I can’t find my home row on the computer and it’s labeled! 

Pressing forward the game installed and it was time to meet my Jedi assignment. After what seemed to be forever to load, I was put in a futuristic repair yard to start my mission.

Me and my futuristic thing comrade were given instructions. My comrade took off leaving me to try to catch up with buttons and joysticks commands. I would have been better off watching the movie.

Let me say, however, the graphics are STUNNING! It was worth just standing in one place moving my Jedi figure around in circles and watching what was going on around me. I was content.

Let me jump ahead a couple of days to Christmas when we had the families together. I had three grandsons prepared to take turns to play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Let me recall the number of buttons and joysticks and my inability to comprehend the necessary interaction of each. That was not the case with any of my grandsons. 

I watched in awe as they managed to move through the labyrinth of settings and situations as if they were there. The orchestration of their fingers was amazing to witness.

In the weeks that followed, I have made it to the other side of the garage bay. I am not sure where to go from there. 

I have since purchased a couple more games that use a minimal amount of the controls and maybe that might help me along. Fingers crossed.

My expertise in this technology has been humbled by a quad trillion while knowing it is feasible to master. 

I saw on the news that schools are offering gaming classes. I wonder if I could sneak into a few or maybe just hire my grandsons as tutors. I wonder what their hourly rate is.

But wow the graphics…
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Dec
26

Don't Listen to Specialists

Don't Listen to Specialists
This unseasonable warm weather reminded me of when our air conditioner randomly turned on in the middle of last year’s winter. I am no HVAC professional, but even I knew we had a problem, so I did what every self-respecting millennial does:

I Googled it.


Because I didn’t really know what I was searching for, it took forever and didn’t yield results. I called a specialist from our thermostat hotline. The specialist asked for product information and had us perform some activities on our device. Something truly surprising happened:

Specialist: Go outside to your air conditioner condenser.

Me: Okay.

Specialist: Now unplug it.

Me: Okay, it's unplugged. What now?

Specialist: Is it still running?

Me: No.

Specialist: Excellent. Is there anything else we can do for you today?

Me: … Are you serious?!

The surprising part, in case you were wondering, was that I wasn’t speaking to a specialist, despite the title. I was speaking to someone who was prompted by a computer program, absent of any understanding of our house, the root of the problem, or what “problem solved” looked like.

So we called a real specialist, someone with 30+ years in the HVAC industry, who had built trust with us and our community. Several questions and some fancy equipment later, he figured out the root of the problem, explained our options, found us a temporary solution until the permanent one could be implemented, and taught us what to do if it ever happened again. I could have had the same fancy equipment and never figured out a fraction of what he did in 20 minutes, let alone the preventative training. That is what a real specialist does.

A good specialist is someone you listen to, who might have some special equipment and solve a problem well. A great specialist is someone you engage with, who listens to you, discusses big problems and plans for the future, and they make room for you to learn alongside them. They are someone who sits with the table as a "knowledgeable other" on your very knowledgeable team and leaves it better than they found it.

The next time you work with a specialist (or find yourself as the specialist) consider these questions:
  1. How do you gather and use the lived experiences of the student and knowledge of the family and staff who know their roles and the student best?
  2. What do you see as the root of the problem or barrier we identified? (Hint: if they say it’s the student, find another specialist)
  3. How can our team ensure we are on the right track when the specialist isn’t here? How do we reach additional help if we need it next week? In a year? In 10 years?
  4. When was the last time you had professional development in this area? What did you learn? How does it apply here?
  5. How can we identify goals for our student and team?
So I repeat: don’t listen to specialists. Leverage good specialists by fully engaging with them and communicating your high expectations for all your students. Really great ones are worth walking alongside, having one very long and inspiring conversation over the course of your entire career.

PATINS has a list of specialists ready to engage with you, as well as a process just for students who struggle to communicate and may benefit from Augmentative and Alternative Communication. We look forward to the conversation!
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Dec
19

A Lesson Learned from My Winter Break Disaster

A Lesson Learned from My Winter Break Disaster "A Lesson Learned from My Winter Break Disaster" over three snow frosted pinecones.
I lack, what my husband calls, “mechanical empathy”. Basically, I can’t tell how durable an item is and push it far beyond its limits.

Case in point - I was home from college for the winter holidays and went to take a shower. The hot water knob was stuck so I gave it a good yank and I, a person who can’t do a push-up, ripped the knob clean off the wall. 

(If you’ve ever wondered what why Chip & Joanna always turn off the waterline before replacing anything in the bathroom, you’ll soon find out why.)

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH.

A constant flow of water was aggressively hitting the opposite wall of the shower...5 feet away. To steal a line from my students, “I was shook.” First, that I was actually holding something that had been welded directly to the wall. Second, that the bathroom was quickly turning into Niagara Falls. Detached knob in hand, I screamed for anyone in the house to turn off the water. Quickly, my brother cut the waterline and a few hours later my uncle stopped by to survey and fix my destruction. I felt very fortunate to have my family clean up my mess, literally.

You’re probably thinking, “How did she get hired by PATINS?” Luckily, the Assistive Tech Lending Library, filled with devices, are far from my reach. Your loan items are safe, Indiana.

I tell you this story to remind you that educational tools and devices are objects that can be fixed or replaced. Plus, there is always someone close by to help you. While we ask that you treat borrowed items carefully and return them in clean, working order so our two Lending Library Managers, Carrie and Sheri, can speedily pack them up for the next eager borrower, we understand that life happens. If you’re anything like me, you breathe easier knowing that PATINS/ICAM specialists can be your emergency “Help-it’s-broke!” lifeline when a borrowed app stops working, the device won’t turn on, or you’re missing an important cord/connector.


You can trust the PATINS family will be there for you from start to finish all year long no matter the size of the problem.




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Recent Comments
Sandy Stabenfeldt
Thank you for sharing Jen! The Lending Library is a great service for educators!
Thursday, 19 December 2019 14:28
Jennifer Conti
You're welcome Sandy! I agree!
Monday, 30 December 2019 08:37
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Dec
12

The One Question I Ask All Students

The One Question I Ask All Students The One Question I Ask All Students with rainbow paint in the background.
What is the most interesting thing you learned?

Why is this the one question I ask all students? It seems simple at first, but this question alone has given me vivid insight into who my students are at their core while sneakily working on enhancing language skills. Here are 5 reasons why.

1. Build rapport. Instead of relying on the "About Me" worksheets students fill out once in July or August, you can keep the lines of communication open between you and your students all year long. We all know what's cool one minute, is out the next anyways.

2. Work on skill deficits. With this one question alone, SLPs (and anyone working in the school) can help foster social skills, correct use of conjunctions, and expanding verbal/written sentence length. For social skills, students can work on turn taking, topic maintenance, asking follow up questions, perspective taking and reading nonverbal cues. For example, "What do you think X found interesting? How do you know?" If students answer with a simple sentence, you can use a visual of conjunctions to prompt them for more information. FANBOYS is always a favorite.

3. Find out what they've truly learned. Wait 10-15 minutes, a class period, or even a day and then ask what they found interesting from an earlier lesson. It may be a small detail you've glanced over that actually piqued their interest while they may have forgotten about information needed for the test. Now, you know what needs re-teaching.

4. Learn more about what engages them and use that information for future lessons. Students may reveal surprising interests such as loving opera music or a passion for tornado chasing. These are two real life interests brought up by my former students and you bet these were incorporated in more than one speech session.

5. There is no "wrong" answer. It's a low stress way for students to participate who may not otherwise felt confident enough to speak up with their ideas. Even if they say nothing was interesting, they can explain why and what can be different next time.  

As you can see, "What is the most interesting thing you learned?" packs a lot of educational "punch" with virtually no material preparation (unless you choose to - this could easily be done on a Padlet, white board, or other discussion format should you like a record of it).

Weave this question into your school day and comment below your thoughts on my all-time favorite question. 




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Nov
28

Happy Holiday Season to All/Dyslexia Specialist COP

For my family, we celebrate a fairly stereotypical Thanksgiving. We are fortunate to have enough food and family to stuff our bellies with food and our homes with conversation and loud TV. Like many, we take this time to count our blessings.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am writing this to let you know that there is another opportunity for a group of us to come together and share our collective knowledge to support our students. This week I received an email from Joseph Risch, M.A. BCBA, who is the Reading Specialist with training in Dyslexia for the Indiana Department of Education. He offered the following opportunity:

"IDOE is creating a community of practice for each school corporation, charter school or co-op’s authorized reading specialist trained in dyslexia. These communities of practice will be divided into nine regions across the State of Indiana. Each group will share ideas and resources with periodic facilitated discussions. Please encourage the authorized reading specialist to complete the Jotform by December 6 to be included in these groups." 

During the holiday season time seems to go quickly. If you are your school's reading specialist, please fill out the form and join us! If you have any questions you can contact Joseph at JRisch1@doe.in.gov. I will a member of all of the COPs to offer the help that you look to PATINS to provide.

However you celebrate this time of the year, enjoy! 

Sandi Smith (with the help of David Jackson)







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Nov
14

What I Love More Than Pie

pie 6 pies including pecan, raspberry, pumpkin, apple cream and cranberry chess

I am well into my 5th year with PATINS, and I am wondering how I’ve made it this long without a focused blog about pie. How did this happen?


I love pie. 

My top 3 flavors would be chocolate, wild black raspberry, and apple cream. I enjoy making pie, but through my travels across Indiana as a specialist for PATINS I’ve decided I enjoy HUNTING for pie in small towns even more! I even created a pie map of Indiana, marking the coffee shops and bakeries where I’ve found good and great pie. 

Pie is a food about memory for me. I remember picking wild black raspberries with my mom as a child, and pouring our berries into a bowl to have enough for a pie. I remember my sister, Patty teaching me how to smooth out the ball of dough completely before beginning to roll it out to prevent cracks and tears in the crust. My enormous extended family has served pie instead of, or in addition to, cake at several weddings, and I remember joyful forkfuls from these celebrations.

When I find a new place on the road that serves homemade pie, I always think about the memories behind the recipes, and the stories of the folks in that town whose hands sealed the edges of the crust.

Yesterday, I scored big as a specialist in Jonesboro, IN. I met a new Kindergartener who is learning braille, and the brave paraprofessional who has signed up to learn to use a braille embosser, braille translation software, and a braille display device. Together, along with a wonderful general education teacher (who has welcomed the loud embosser into her room!) they will discover how to make a way for learning. It's Kindergarten--what's a little more noise?

I was instantly impressed by the paraprofessional who had loaded the software and connected everything correctly, but humbly confessed,

“I can’t figure out how to load the paper.” 

“And I hate asking for help.”  

She was intelligent, kind, and already talking about how she would help her student become more independent. I confessed that I didn’t understand the embosser either. (They keep changing the buttons!) So we dove into the manual translated to English from Dutch, and failed our way to success. 

Afterward, I also scored a delightful piece of cherry pie at Kammy’s Kafe in town. I sat and enjoyed my dessert while reflecting on the morning of training, knowing that this student will be included in her school and community. And I decided that I love determined paraprofessionals even MORE than pie. 
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Nov
07

Tutoring Teaches Me Some Lessons - Part 2

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 pieces










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!

finger method for 9s multiplication facts











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!


snippet of definition of 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.

Part 2

I have again started tutoring a wonderful, young man who is a 7th grader. This time I’ll call him “Alex.” Alex is similar to George in that he is struggling with math, but unlike George who had a strong, stable home life, Alex until recently has been in a very unstable home environment.  

Again, I face some of the same challenges as before. I am not only assisting Alex with math, but we work together on every subject. So, again communication with his teachers is one of the key factors in helping Alex succeed. Alex and George go to school in the same district, so grades and assignments are posted online, but as was the case with George, many of Alex’s teachers do not keep this up to date. I cannot stress how important it is for us to have this information updated. Alex is working very hard to become better organized and to use his agenda book to write down assignments, due dates, etc. He is getting better at this task. I have been working with him on the importance of these skills, but it is new for him. He was never taught these skills and the importance of being organized so we work very hard on these skills. Nevertheless, every once in awhile assignments do not get written down, and I depend on the teacher to post the assignment. If they are not posted, it usually results in an assignment being missed or late.

I would encourage all teachers to find tools that give whoever is working with their students, and in many cases, this is not the parents, a way to communicate with caregivers what the daily assignment is and when quizzes and tests are scheduled. It would be so beneficial to be able to go onto their website or to get a message. There are services such as Remind that can be used to quickly send out a message at one time. Many schools already have systems in place, but I cannot stress how important it is that they are being used and updated.

Just like George, Alex struggles with multiplication facts, so I am very grateful for the previous learning experience with George. My prior experience has been so beneficial in working with George, and he has picked up his multiplication facts so quickly.  

One of the most important factors in working with Alex has been in building his self-esteem. His self-confidence had been battered, and he did not believe that he was smart, but he is incredibly smart. His grades were mostly F’s when I started working with him, and this semester he made the B honor roll. I think about this often and wonder how many more students like Alex are failing and are being left behind and falling through the cracks. Nothing changed at school, the item that changed was the support that he is now receiving outside of school, so what can be done? I don’t have many answers just many questions; I know that teachers are working as hard as they can. I just know that there are so many smart students like Alex that do not have the tools or support that they need to succeed.

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Nov
01

Just Before A2E: Farewell to Glenda

Later this month the PATINS Project will host the A2E Conference at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Indianapolis. This will be the 9th State Conference, as we used to call them, in which I’ve participated. All PATINS/ICAM is looking forward to this, and the excitement is building.

No one is ever sorry that they’ve attended one of our conferences. Again, this year’s event is packed with relevant, enlightening breakout sessions that feature national and local speakers who are considered experts in their fields. Continental breakfast and lunch are provided on-site, which of course means the networking need not stop!  There will be 4 Keynote Speakers this year—please view the keynote addresses topics and conference schedule here.

This will be my 1st conference that has not been prepared, organized and executed mainly by Glenda Thompson. I remember my first conference; all day long people were asking “Where’s Glenda?” “Have you seen Glenda?” “Did you ask Glenda?” And throughout the days I would see her blonde hair and friendly face making the rounds, taking care of things effortlessly, efficiently. I’ve seen this at every state conference, Tech Expo, staff meeting, or any other occasion we are together, that requires materials, food, planning and oversight. This organizing and implementing is her element, ONE of them, and when she is in ONE, she is a force. A presence. A capable, strong and comforting support who knows how to keep things evened out and moving forward.

I know everyone at PATINS/ICAM would agree that Glenda kept day to day operations of the Project running, with a good heart and a generous spirit. Oh, the times she has let me in after the deadline passed! The times she said sweetly, “No worries. I’ll fix it” after I’d submitted a form incorrectly…Again. Her text messages asking if I’d gotten home alright after an event; Glenda knows I have a long drive home and a poor sense of direction. We are all so blessed to have had Glenda show us by example how to be professional and personal, busy and calm, efficient and tolerant, even welcoming of interruption.

I’ll bet she will be thinking of us for those 2 days in November. Is all the technology set up and working correctly? Is the signage in place? Name tags ready, breakfast set up? Do our speakers need assistance with any little or big thing? For lunch, does the kitchen have special meals prepared and labelled? Are over-flow chairs needed in any of the rooms? When Glenda awakens on November 20, I’ll bet she gets a familiar flutter of nervous energy before she remembers.

And Glenda, we will be thinking of you too. Don’t worry. A2E may experience some glitches without your skilled hands in charge. Still, it will come to pass positively and many people will go back to their schools armed with new strategies, techniques and technology for their classrooms.  You left us with a model of how these days should go and in this way, you will be our guide and help. Thank you for that, and years of unsurpassed commitment and service to this project.

I miss you, my friend. Talk soon!
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Sandy Stabenfeldt
I also look forward to the excitement of the A2E conference, but I also pause to take a back look. I have so many wonderful memor... Read More
Sunday, 03 November 2019 22:16
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