Apr
08

Employee of the Year

Employee of the Year Cheesy 1990s school photo featuring a cream colored chihuahua looking off in the distance as the misty backdrop set against a neon laser background, with another picture of the same chihuahua in the foreground looking at the camera with

I had a student we’ll call Todd. Todd’s favorite things were the zoo, reading animal books, and quizzing people on their animal knowledge. One of my favorite days working with him started with a very rough morning with a writing assignment.

“It’s a letter to anyone,” his teacher explained. “We’ve been at this all morning and he only has one word written.”

Todd looked crestfallen. After animals, pleasing adults was one of his favorite things. His teacher knew that if Todd hadn’t started something, it wasn’t because he was “stubborn” but he struggled to get started with new tasks and needed another way to approach it.

We went back to my "speech room" and looked at the blank paper. I had lots of tools at my disposal: adapted pencils, keyboards, voice dictation software, wiggle seats, kits and binders of visual supports for writing, and of course I had free access as an Indiana public school employee to the PATINS Lending Library to borrow whatever I thought might help Todd. I thought of my tools, I thought of Todd and what he needed and remembered his special nerd power.

“Do you want to write a letter to a dog?”

Todd nodded, still a little hesitant after an hour of trying to write and nothing coming out.

“You could write to my dog, if you wanted. She would write you back.”

“You have a dog?!”

So I told him about my chihuahua, Winnipeg. Winnie was abandoned on the street in Indianapolis and we adopted her. She loves blankets, snuggles, and sandwiches. I had a hunch she loved reading and writing letters.

Todd immediately scribed five sentences (one of his accommodations, since tools like speech-to-text software were not accessible for him), and put the periods and capitalization in himself:

Dear Winnie,

Don’t eat all the treats. Why are you a little dog? You are a good loving dog. Play tug of war with Mrs. Conrad. Don’t wake your dad Winnie.

Love,

Todd

It may never make it into a library or be critically acclaimed, but it is one of my favorite written works a student has ever produced. I felt like Winnie earned Employee of the Year that day. Relationships paired with the best ways for access wins every time.

Some of our pets have put in more hours and done more service to humanity in general and Indiana students specifically than they’ll ever understand. They’ve been especially treasured and faithful companions this past year, while we spent way more time on “their” home. They are therapeutic little creatures who remind us to enjoy simple pleasures, take care of ourselves, maybe take a nap in the sun sometimes.

If you’d like to see some of our PATINS pets, I created a short quiz. See if you can guess what pet belongs to which staff member!

Todd got his letter from Winnie the next week, and he was rightly suspicious:

“Did she write this by herself?”

“Good question, what do you think?”

“She can’t use a pencil.”

“No, she can’t.”

“But maybe you can scribe, like how you do with me.”

“I think that’s a great idea.”

I'd love to hear about your pet and the little acts of service they do for you, your family, or students!

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Apr
01

SETTing Students up for Success and Counting Every Move for Communication


5 min read

Artist Name - SETT-Blog-Audio.m4a


Boardmaker symbol of frustrated young man with the printed word frustrated

I've been working with a student and his team. They have moved successfully albeit slowly through using the tools below. At some point a few years ago, this student was evaluated and deemed to be a candidate for a dedicated speech generating device (SGD) with eye gaze (very expensive but a key part of a communication system for the right person). His team (student, parents, teachers, SLP, OT, PT and support staff) was keen to make his SGD work for him. The student has cerebral palsy that reduced his limb movement/accuracy, so much time had already been invested AND after all, this solution was expensive.

Why change? This can be awkward. How do you bring up the topic of a significant change to access and trajectory of the student's goal/language programming? Two things; the eye gaze never really worked as well as expected AND the student became increasingly frustrated often abandoning the device. Eye gaze could be revisited but it was important to recognize that it was not working. Time to think about the S - Student, his M - Moves, his C - Clicks and his C - Chats. More about that later.

Head control/calibration were hurdles interfering with access. Using the tools mentioned below, this student demonstrated enough consistent and accurate improvement to control switches with his head and hand for scanning. His language setup was changed (Core Scanner on an Accent 1400) to work more efficiently with two switch scanning (i.e., he presses one switch to move through icons and the other switch to select his word).

He is reportedly thrilled with his new access method. He smiles more and enjoys communicating often producing spontaneous sentences.

excited preschool girl with open hands raised near her face looking at device screen

First of all, you must gather data. If you don't have data, it's just your opinion.  

I sometimes hear that students "inconsistently respond" to stimuli or questions, it "depends on how they are feeling", "if they're in the right mood", "they are being stubborn", etc. Maybe. Perhaps we have not presented motivating stimuli, observed the tiniest of responses,  offered the most appropriate access method, or given the student adequate wait time.

SETT is an acronym for Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools created by Joy Zabala. It is a FREE resource. "Although the letters form a memorable word, they are not intended to imply an order, other than that the student, environments, and tasks should be fully explored before tools are considered or selected. Some people have tried to explore the first three separately and in order, however, that is nearly impossible because the first three are closely linked." The SETT Framework is so important, it's at heart of our process for the PATINS AAC Consultation Request form.

Another important tool to set the groundwork is the Every Move Counts, Clicks and Chats sensory based approach (EMC3). It is available to borrow from the PATINS Project Lending Library. EMC3 is a sensory-based communication program. It is based on the idea that everyone communicates in some way. The COUNTS Assessment explores sensory, communication, and symbols. The are seven sensory areas: vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory. The CLICKS Assessment looks for purposeful switch use. The CHATS Assessment is used to collect communication skills. It states that "Assessment results are seldom 'final'. Needs, abilities, and environmental demands change over time."

A third tool useful for SETTing students up for success is to establish a baseline for communication skills and determine goals. The Communication Matrix is an online/questionnaire tool for anyone in the early stages of communication. The first 5 assessments are FREE. Communication is more than just receptive and expressive, students also need methods to refuse, obtain items, socialize, and gather/share information. These functions of communication can be measure/quantified by using the Communication Matrix.

Hand in hand with these pieces is understanding the absolute need for flexibility, continuous learning, and ongoing assessment with students. It is a fluid process that can and should be revisited periodically as the student changes, technology changes or when things stop working as well as they had in the past.

SETT your students up for success. Use the SETT, EMC and Communication Matrix to better understand the student, environment, tasks/needs, sensory responses, access abilities AND communication skills. THEN consider the T - Tools to empower your students and goals for success. If the tools don't seem to be working, collect data and try something else!

If you would like to learn more, check the PATINS Project training calendar or reach out to a PATINS Project Specialist for more information.

The PATINS Project Tech Expo is fast approaching - Thursday, April 15, 2021. It's FREE. Get registered!

Additional resources:

SETTing Up Successful AAC Use - Lauren Kravetz Bonnet, PhD, CCC-SLP

The Dynamic AAC Goals Grid DAGG-2

Symbol Assessment

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Mar
25

PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE - Exciting Updates!

PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE - Exciting Updates! Tech Expo PATINS Project with IN*SOURCE. Virtual 2021. Students and teacher using assistive technology.

Around this time last year, you pivoted with us to the first ever virtual PATINS Tech Expo with IN*SOURCE allowing us to ensure the health and safety of everyone, while also bringing you high quality presentations, resources, and time for connection. It still amazes me how quickly everyone -- attendees, presenters, PATINS/ICAM staff -- adapted for a successful event!

As I am currently writing this, a small part of me is waiting for the frantic rush to get everything into place for the second virtual PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE like last year. I have checked my to-do lists many times, communicated with presenters/exhibitors, and assigned duties to our top-notch PATINS/ICAM and IN*SOURCE staff. Everything is running on schedule and humming along nicely for April 15, 2021. (Knock on wood!) What’s left to do? Get excited!

PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE has new and improved features and extra perks for the virtual event! With a record number of presentation submissions, we have added 4 additional sessions from amazing organizations dedicated to support students. That’s 24 presentations to choose from to earn up to four Professional Growth Points (PGPs)! Due to popular demand, we have divided the sessions into strands to help you determine the best presentation agenda for you. The strands are:

  • Access
  • Advocacy and Social/Emotional Services
  • Communication
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Blind/Low Vision
  • Literacy
  • Tech Tools 

Your time is limited and valuable, which may make it tricky to choose only 4 sessions. Even if you are not sure if you can fully commit to attending live, we encourage you to register for no-cost to receive access to presentation/exhibitor information as well as presentation session summary videos for the opportunity to earn up to two more PGPs!

A major upgrade for the 2021 event is the opportunity for attendees to speak with exhibitors live! There are currently close to 50 organizations eager to share their transformational products and services with Indiana administrators, educators, pre-service teachers, families, and advocates. So even if you only have 10-15 minutes to drop in, visit the Exhibitors to learn about products and services which can support your students’ academic, communication, and social/emotional skills.

I hope to see your name come through on our registration list before April 12, 2021 when the form closes.

If you would like to start the Tech Expo 2021 celebrations early with us, download and use one of these free themed virtual backgrounds on your upcoming video conferencing meetings!


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Mar
17

For the Love of Reading

For-The-love-of-Reading
QR Code to audio For the Love of Reading Read by Author
Artist Name - For-the-Love-of-Reading-Audio.mp3


For the love of reading 
By Amanda Crecelius

I love reading. I love reading for pleasure, for current news updates, for educational purposes, for self-improvement, and tips and tricks. I love reading with my eyes and with my ears. I L-O-V-E reading. I often have a stack of books by my bedside that I have started to read, some in the living room, and at least one in my daughter’s swim class backpack. My Audible account has around 30 books on my wishlist waiting, not so patiently, for my next credit. My top two genres are Historical Fiction and Psychology. Sometimes, I read both at the same time. As my eyes move over the letters on the page or my ears tune into the tone of the reader, my mind chain links the information to various parts in my memory, my knowledge, and my experiences and it is close to euphoric. There is nothing equally as satisfying yet saddening than finishing a good book. As I look around my world, I see fellow lovers of reading and others who have little or no interest in reading at all and this baffles me. This mystery has been slowly deciphered as PATINS’ staff work our way through the LETRS curriculum, along with several social media groups and podcasts dedicated to the science of reading. Through each I am reminded that our brains have not evolved to naturally develop reading like our brains pick up the spoken language. According to the US Department of Education, most children aren’t reading until the age of seven. While speech development can be heard in the babbles of babies shortly after birth according to The Journal of Child Language

I have blocked out my own reading preparation and the challenges that I faced in a curriculum of guessing and memorization. I forget that I myself struggled with reading early on and that I still have a mini panic attack when I need to read out loud (also when I read aloud for blog recordings). Those panicked moments bring flashbacks to sentence counting, so that I could practice the words that I would be called upon to stumble over in front of a class full of excellent readers. Every now and then I come across a word that I do not recognize and I stop, pronounce each letter, and my usual response is “huh, so that’s how you spell that.” Since working at PATINS these personal experiences and the knowledge that I have gained through professional development, including the LETRS training, have enriched consultations and webinars. One of those sessions is coming up on March 30th as we discuss the overlapping literacy strategies used for English Language Learners and students with Specific Learning Disabilities. Register here.
 
Over the past few months my daughter, who is nearing the end of kindergarten, has been going through this learning process. And although she is learning through methods fueled by the science of reading, she still has to force her mind to practice and focus on rewiring itself for comprehension of the letters on the page. Frustrations can result in books flying through the air or a stalemate when it is time for bedtime reading or doing homework. 

So how did I develop the love of reading that I have now? I remember my mother sitting with a book in her hand at the kitchen table, on the sofa, in the car, at my volleyball practice, and basically any free second in her day. She read book after book, sometimes not able to put them down until she was finished. I was drawn into her passion for reading. And she filled our lives with exposure to books. She took my siblings and I to our small local library to listen to storytime and let us pick out books to take home for her to read to us. As she read the books she replicated an imagined voice of the characters, showing excited energy for each word on the page. She took us to “The Big Library” which was a two story building in New Albany, IN. For a small town girl, this library was gigantic. She let us wander around freely choosing books and playing throughout the stacks and shelves, as she worked on research. I remember checking out materials that sparked my interest from “The Babysitters Club” to the latest issue of “Seventeen” magazine, even learning Spanish via cassette tapes. Being able to obtain information in a variety of different formats opened the door to the travels, tales, and tips that made me keep coming back.  

Valuable strategies to help students with developing reading skills, include phonemic My daughter sitting on a bench with legs crossed, holding a book in front of a wooden wall that looks like a bookshelf with books on it.awareness, vocabulary building, and comprehension. These strategies build the ability to read but do not necessarily create a love of reading. A love of reading is held in examples of others reading with their eyes and ears, of others sharing their reading experiences, of connecting stories and information to student’s interests, and allowing them to choose from and float around in the sea of reading options in the different formats including read-to-me, audio, parent/teacher/peer read alouds, ebooks, captions on videos, and physical books in large, small, and braille print.

Although I value my daughter’s development of reading skills, I also want her to love to read. So tonight as the stack of Bob books (a series of simple phonetic stories that we use for practicing reading)  sit at my daughter’s bedside, I ignore them and the urge for me to rush her brain to learn all the strategies of reading. Instead, I let her dash excitedly to her bookshelf to find her favorite adventure for the evening. As I prep my character voices, we cuddle up and turn the pages to take us away to a castle or a pirate ship and I watch my daughter’s eyes light up with love.

Sources:

Oller, D. K., Wieman, L. A., Doyle, W. J., & Ross, C. (2008, September 26). Infant babbling and speech*: Journal of Child Language. Cambridge Core. 

Typical language accomplishments for children, birth to age 6 -- helping your child become a reader. (2005, December 15).


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Mar
11

Accessible Materials & Competent Authority: A Step Closer to Equity & Access in 2021

In October of 2006, I was an assistive technology (AT) coordinator with PATINS and just four months into the job! As if the world of AT and Universal Design for Learning wasn't overwhelming enough to a new PATINS Coordinator, fresh out of the Intense Interventions classroom, I was about to be tossed head-first into the world of Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) as well! With help from Jeff Bond, I started the NIMAS and Digital Rights Managers (DRM) Podcast on October 6, 2006, when the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM) was officially opened to the state of Indiana.

The ICAM was created that October of 2006, to support Indiana Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in meeting the
National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standards (NIMAS) Regulations of the IDEA 2004. Provisions in this federal mandate require state and local education agencies to ensure that printed textbooks and related core instructional materials are provided to students with documented print disabilities in accessible formats in a timely manner. This was a huge step forward for access in that it was, essentially, the federal and state governments acknowledging that specialized formats of the same content was a necessary accommodation and that denying access to information because of a disability was a civil rights issue! While we were all beyond excited for this, we also saw the "fine print" that limited who could serve as a competent authority to qualify students with print disabilities, in order to receive these specialized formats. It was right then, that many of us committed to doing whatever it took to expand this! The first thing that the ICAM did was to develop our old Form 4, which helped, but most certainly did not alleviate the barrier.

During the 15 years since October of 2006, through thousands of conversations, demonstrations, and pleading, we've arrived at another milestone in accessible materials! Given the timing of my turn to blog again combined with the deeply important and impactful changes to who can certify students as qualified to receive Accessible Educational Materials derived from NIMAS files, I'm confident there is no better guest blogger for me this week, than our very own ICAM team of Jeff Bond, Sandy Stabenfeldt, and Martha Hammond!

"The ICAM under the guidance of the Chafee Amendment identifies the print disabilities as: Blind/Low Vision; Orthopedic Disabilities and Reading Disability resulting from Organic dysfunction.

In the cases of Blind/Low vision and Orthopedic disabilities, the qualifications have always been straightforward. In order to qualify to receive K-12 textbooks and core instructional materials in accessible formats rendered from NIMAS files, the student must have: (1) an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP); and (2) a certification of a print disability, by a certified Competent Authority (CA), on file with the school district. A CA is defined to include doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, ophthalmologists, optometrists, registered nurses, therapists, professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (e.g. social workers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents).

However, it was determined by the National Library Service (NLS) of the Library of Congress that Reading Disabilities from Organic dysfunction, dyslexia being the most frequently identified of this group, could best be confirmed by a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathy. When the ICAM was created it was decided it would follow the NIMAS law as written. Still, the requirement for a doctor’s signature has historically been a barrier to receiving Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) for many students. This has also been an obstacle for the ICAM, because our goal from the beginning has been to provide AEM to any student who needs it. 

The ICAM is ecstatic to announce that a change has been made. On February 12, 2021, the National Library Service (NLS) published the regulations that go along with the Library of Congress Technical Corrections Act of 2019. In addition to expanding the list of persons who may certify a student’s eligibility for accessible formats, the Library of Congress removed the requirement for certification by a medical doctor for those with reading disabilities. Educators, school psychologists, and certified reading specialists are now among the professionals authorized to certify students with reading disabilities. These guidelines have been revised to align with changes to copyright made by the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA).

This is a profound procedural change, so it is not surprising that there has already been some confusion on how to interpret the law. So allow us to emphasize:

There is no change to the eligibility requirements. The student must have an IEP.  The presence of a print disability is still a Case Conference determination. The change is who may certify reading disabilities resulting from organic dysfunction. 

ICAM/IERC NIMAS Form 4 may now be signed by TOR, school psychologist or reading specialist. The ICAM has created a guide to provide clarification of the AEM process for the Case Conference Committee and is intended for use during the IEP meeting, please refer to this guide for additional support.

The last year has been a difficult one for students and for educators. Let’s celebrate this move forward together by providing paths to literacy for more students! Please contact the ICAM staff with any questions concerning this important policy change, or any AEM-related queries you may have, moving forward.

Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back. – Chinese proverb"

Big Thanks to our own ICAM team and the work that's gone into this already and all of the work that will continue as we strive to get accessible materials to ALL of the students who need them!
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Mar
04

Laverne & "Surely"

Screen-Shot-2021-03-03-at-2.25.34-PM Laverne & Shirley
Laverne & ShirleyQR Code to audio version
Artist Name - blogLS.m4a

Have you ever seen the old sitcom, Laverne & Shirley? It was one of my favorite funny things to watch when I was very young. I loved everything about it, from the physical humor, how the characters engaged with one another, their accents; but more importantly, how Laverne wore the letter L on all of her clothes. I wanted to do that and I wished my name started with an L!

When I was in 2nd grade, I remember walking into the classroom for the very first time and seeing a row of the most beautiful letters I had ever seen hung on the wall. It was the cursive alphabet. This may seem strange to some but I have always been engaged in visuals and textures. Never passing a roadside sign without admiring how the letters would not only share a message but to me, was a creation of art. Even today, my camera roll is filled with photos of random signs, textures and quirky roadside attractions. 

While gazing at the cursive writings, the one letter that caught my eye was the letter “L.” The letter “L.” Laverne’s marking on her shirt. I felt that it looked magnificent. My teacher explained that we would be learning how to write those letters. Each day, we would learn how to write a new letter, and I could not have been more excited. Especially knowing that in 12 days, I would know how to create my L on paper. 

So, each day we would practice a new letter...A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K. It was finally the eve of getting to that L and I went to bed early just so I could wake up! The morning came and I woke up alright with a fever of 101 degrees. As you can imagine, I was devastated. 

The following day, my teacher didn’t skip a beat and we are onto the letter M. I still write the letter M disgruntled a bit. 🤪 All I could say to myself was, “Surely, I can figure out that letter L on my own.” 

You may be thinking, what in the world does this have to do with anything? Well, let me ask you this before I move on: 

  • Do you know what motivates your students? 
  • Do you know their passions? 
  • Do you know how they feel most comfortable in a school setting? 
  • Do you know how they would prefer feedback? 
  • Have you ever asked your students, “What do you hope this school year will look like for you?” 
  • Have you asked your students how they feel about online learning? 
  • Have you ever asked your students to share when they feel engaged in school and even when they do not? 
  • Have you ever asked your students what they wish they could be better at achieving?
  • Have you asked your students what they feel they are good at doing?

At recess, I would air draw the letter L to practice. My teacher had recess duty and asked me what I was doing with my arms. When I told her about the day I missed and how sad I was, she listened. “Surely, we can find ways for you to learn the letter L,” she said. She gave me chalk to practice on the pavement. She let me write the letter L on all of my papers that I would turn in. She would let me write the L on the chalkboard and she would let me help others practice the letter L

You know what else she did that impacted me as an educator today? She never let another student miss a letter if they were absent. She heard me and made that change. It mattered to me and she made it matter to her.

What matters to your students? Do you know? If not, surely there is still time. 

  [drawing cursive L]

On a side note: If I am ever participating in an online activity like Kahoot, etc with you, know that I am always the Laverne in the room.
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Recent Comments
Guest — Laura Knoke
I totally remember that show! My name does start with "L"! Thank you for the inspiring story and your timing at this point in the ... Read More
Thursday, 04 March 2021 17:01
Guest — Paige West
Wow what a beautiful story of how your teacher really knew what mattered to you and applied to other students. Thank you so much f... Read More
Thursday, 04 March 2021 19:40
Guest — Glenda Thompson
Way to remind us to open our eyes ears and hearts to those around us, Kelli. One never knows what can make a small or big differe... Read More
Sunday, 07 March 2021 08:01
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Feb
18

Helping Others

The pandemic has changed so many things in my life, but some things have remained the same. I have always enjoyed helping others and this current environment that we live in makes this even more important than ever. Many of my relatives including my parents are in Florida and they were finding it nearly impossible to get a COVID-19 vaccine even though they were qualified to get one. 

The process in Florida is very confusing, especially for seniors to figure out. First, they must use a computer or cell phone to register. Then, after registering they have to find out when shots are being released via a website or Twitter. Many can figure out email and use technology, but Twitter is an unknown world to them. Next, they log in to their already made account at the exact time that the shots are released and then they can possibly get an appointment if the stars align.

There was no conceivable way my parents and many like them in Florida could have ever figured out this maze of craziness without my help. I was able to use my technology skills and get the process completed for them. I am happy to say they have had their first vaccine shot and their second vaccine shot is scheduled. I felt like I had hit the lottery the day I was finally able to get their appointments made after several weeks of trying and coming up empty. Even when you do all the steps correctly and login at the proper time, there is still a chance that you will not get an appointment.

Once I figured all this out, I wanted to help as many people as I could. I want to help them get their shots as well. So far, I have been able to help 8 people get through the process and they have all received their first vaccine shot. I will keep offering my help and I hope I can help others. I encourage everyone who can help to reach out to anyone who needs a helping hand. We all have skills that can benefit others and right now I am grateful for my computer skills. Hopefully, soon we will be able to get the vaccine easily like our flu shots but in the meantime, let’s find ways we can help those that need it.

Helping others is also important to me in my professional life and is a big part of what I do. PATINS/ICAM is here to help you with many issues we face due to remote learning made necessary by COVID-19 as well as in-person learning. We are available via email, Facebook, Twitter, or just an old-fashioned phone call! We have many training opportunities available on our Training Calendar. Let us know how we can help you!


 
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Recent Comments
Guest — Glenda Thompson
Where there's a will there's a way...and that "way" could be Sandy! I've used that "way" many a time over the years for my techno... Read More
Thursday, 18 February 2021 13:55
Guest — Martha
Sandy, so happy you use your skills to help so many. For sure, your tech skills have helped me many times over! Thanks so much!... Read More
Thursday, 18 February 2021 14:17
Guest — Bev Sharritt
If we all helped 8 folks that would be alot! Thanks Sandy.
Thursday, 18 February 2021 14:21
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Feb
12

Everything You Know


When I was in college there was a tagline my friends and I would use when appropriate and necessary: "Everything you know is wrong." Had memes been invented back then, this would have been a good one. It's a sweeping statement to be used in very specific situations: you know and understand the subjunctive tense, until the test. You know you have enough gas to get to work until you have to call a friend to pick you up. You know that 3 days will be plenty to write a comparison of Beowulf and Jesus. Nope. Everything you know is wrong.

You know by now, as an educator, that you have experienced enough odd surprises that you are prepared to handle anything. Unexpected new student? Welcome. Fire drill in the bleak mid-winter? Okay. Nosebleed in the cafeteria? No problem. 

Then comes a global pandemic. Schools are closed. Teachers are asked to provide remote instruction to not just the 1 student who is home with mono, but to everyone in all your classes. You have to make learning packets because some students don't have internet service at home. Others can get service but have no device. You are familiar with online platforms such as Zoom, but not like this, not the hours of integration and navigation required by day after day of presenting lessons written in the wee hours. You had become quite adept at monitoring IEP goals during classes, you could write social stories on the fly and provide unplanned task assessments just because the student seemed well-rested. Now they are so out of reach. Are they sleeping? Eating? Reading? So much instruction time is lost for all students, how will you and they ever catch up? 

Catching up lost instruction time will not be an equitable process, as described by a recent study released by McKinsey & Company, reported in Time magazine. "While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss." Preaching to the choir, right?

Education theorists are coming up with creative solutions for this loss of instruction, including a strategy being incorporated in several Massachusetts school districts called "acceleration academy" which focuses on Literacy, Math, and ELL--the content areas where the loss of instruction time is most evident--and provides in-person and remote instruction outside the typical school day, such as during fall and spring breaks, and for several hours on Saturdays. This strategy is having positive results. How We Go Back To School is an informative and helpful eight-part series by Education Week (must be a subscriber) that provides clear, illustrated descriptions of timely issues that educators now must consider: social distancing at school, rearranging schedules that adhere to safety measures, and instructional needs, student transportation, making remote learning work for students, teachers, parents.

The most profound losses may not necessarily be academic and will likely be the most challenging for everyone. Many students have lost family members and friends during the pandemic. Many parents became unemployed, which has led to food insecurity for more families, loss of health insurance, loss of home. Many families who already experienced these particular hardships are now "competing" with many more others for limited community resources. 

A marked rise in domestic violence is a dark response to these losses. Teachers as mandated reporters are often the first to identify possible/probable child abuse, but now, children may have been confined at home with despondent, depressed, and yes, violent adults. Teachers can't report what they do not see. 

And then there's just plain loneliness. Your students are not seeing their friends, not giggling together between classes, or sitting together for lunch. They are not whispering behind shelves in the library or sending silly messages in the computer lab, all the social acts that make school a fun place to be. And they miss you. Their teachers. You are their parents for seven or more hours a day, teaching them subject content and modeling for them how to adult. Then, COVID changed all that.

Those who know me well know that I believe in journaling to help us through difficult situations. I know it works. One doesn't have to be a good writer to keep a journal, and keeping a journal can certainly help someone become a better writer. While I was teaching 7th grade Language Arts, one of their assignments was to write in a journal. They could choose how often, but at least once a week. It was for their eyes only, if they chose. They would just come up and show me the new entry, and they would get a point. Often they asked me to read their thoughts, which was quite helpful in understanding their moods, propensities, and even their appearance. One boy only drew illustrations, which told his stories perfectly. And now, of course, there is digital journaling with a smartphone or iPad. Some of these have a free app, with more features available for a monthly fee.

Our students are living through a historic time. There have been several pandemics and epidemics that have profoundly affected the United States in the last several generations; COVID-19 is the worst because it's here. Now. And it's everywhere. As in-class instruction picks up, no one expects that to be "normal". So we must forgive students if they struggle to pay attention to what we are trying to teach. Support them if they seem distracted and sad. Encourage them to express their fear, anger, frustration, whatever it is, in productive, creative ways. Every day. At the beginning of every class. Whatever it takes. 

Not a bad practice for the adults in the room, either. Because suddenly you may feel that everything you know is wrong. And it is not. You will have to add to what you know, so lean into the PATINS Project--check the PATINS Training Calendar--for tools and ideas you can use immediately. Like adding captions to everything you do. Like overlapping strategies for ELLs and students with SLD. Like creating accessible materials for distance learning, using APPs for sensory and self-regulation, or learning new ways to help the littles participate in virtual preschool instruction. Whatever you need, just ask. PATINS Specialists are magic that way. They will do the research, design the training to fit your needs, then present it all to you so you can increase everything you know.

 

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Feb
04

Level Up!

Level Up Your Virtual Platform Level Up Your Virtual Platform

Last year I brought you the most popular blog post of last year: Top 5 Reasons for Captions in Schools. Did you see that the post was viewed and shared over four thousand times? Soon after that blog was published we all know what happened that dreaded month (I am not going to say it, you already know)... which led to a mass influx of virtual learning. This increased the number of teacher and school staff videos to an all-time high. The PATINS Project provided training and individual staff consultations with school districts on ways to make their educational materials accessible through their various learning platforms. It was a learning curve that benefited the masses. 

So, the great news is that the information that captions are a must reached schools and teachers and applications are now integrating the software into the products for us. 


But wait, there is more!  What if I told you there is a way to put the captions into your virtual learning platforms camera? Also, this application works across virtual platforms such as Webex, Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams! 



You can create different scenes that fit your needs for your virtual classroom. I have included the PATINS logo in mine. You could include your virtual classroom link or school mascot. You can even make a scene that includes your slide presentation. 

With your creativity, the possibilities are endless! Please share what you come up with and how you are using this application for your classroom! 

Check out this month’s PATINS TV Episode where I show you how cool, creative, and accessible this application is! 

Don’t forget there are written instructions for you to take and share with your colleagues when you are leveling up your skills for your virtual classroom! 

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Jan
28

Communication is Key

Key and keyhole with the text communication is key


This Jamie Witheringtonmonth I'm thrilled to present a guest blogger, Jamie Witherington. She has been a teacher for students with intense needs for 19 years. Her career began with Indianapolis Public Schools before moving to Greenwood Community Schools, where she has taught for the past 14 years. She presented at the PATINS Access to Education (A2E) Conference in 2019 and was also a Project Success Model Site Teacher during the 2019-20 school year. When she's not passionately supporting her students' communication in the classroom, she is a mom to 3 amazing kids, coach, friend, and lover of all things gnomes.



Have you ever had a day where you couldn’t get your thoughts and feelings into the words you needed? Have you ever been so frustrated or overwhelmed you couldn’t articulate those feelings and just felt like screaming or crying? I know I have had days like this. So many of us take for granted that we can have a verbal conversation with someone and share those thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. But what if you couldn’t… what would you do? 

I often think of these things as I work with my students with complex communication needs. Many of my students use an alternate method of communication or numerous means of alternate communication. I work with students who use modified sign language, Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, picture boards, and verbalizations. I have worked really hard to try and make sure every student I teach has a mode of communication… it may not be a standard mode to some… but it’s a mode that works for that student. I have had students who used eye gaze, facial expression changes to indicate a response, picture cards, pointing, etc. The main thing it comes down to is building a relationship with each student and figuring out what works for them to “show/tell” what they know. 

I currently have a student that when he moved into our district had some basic sign language, but did a lot of screaming and vocalizing his displeasure. We started with choosing pictures to communicate his wants and needs. We continued to work on growing his base of understandable sign language signs, using American Sign Language (ASL) as the goal, but knowing his physical needs, we knew some signs would not be perfect! Today, he uses a communication device and has learned to scroll down to what he wants. It wasn’t easy; it was days of a lot of headaches, but the smile on his face now when he uses his device to communicate what he wants to us, that’s why I do what I do. 

This has become my passion, my purpose, my “why” if you will. Communication is key to every area of our lives. How do we function without it? We can’t. We have to communicate-- behavior is communication, body language is communication, facial expressions are communication. There are so many ways to communicate if we just take the time to learn what works with and for our students. 

If you follow me on Twitter (@JamieWithering2) you have seen me tweet about the importance of visuals. I love visuals! I need them to function in my daily life. I need them to communicate to me what is happening around me and what I need to do. The red octagon telling me to STOP, the green light telling me to go, the yellow telling me to be cautious, my color coded lesson plans and calendar telling me who I am supposed to be working with and when. If our daily lives need these types of visuals to keep functioning, think how much more important it is for students with complex communication needs to have access to visuals. 

Side by side photos of visuals. The left pictures a check in visual that allows students to indicate how they feel about the lesson and whether the understood it using different emoji faces. On the right is an I Can statement. I can create a 3 or more word sentence using the Core Word of the week.
My students have a visual daily schedule that tells them what is happening and what time it is happening. I have classroom rules and expectations visuals, “I can” statement visuals, and even more importantly, core word and communication visuals all around my room. Students need access to ways to communicate. Students need teachers and speech therapists willing to stand on their heads if need be to give them that access. I have learned that the more I am willing to go that extra mile to find the communication tools, visuals, access points, etc, the more I am able to connect with my students and the more they connect with being able to communicate. 

Side by side photos. On the left is a photo of a large augmentative and alternative communication board posted on a whiteboard. On the right a photo of a folder visual with the top showing to do items and the bottom is open for moving these items to the done side using Velcro

I have also learned that Teamwork Makes the Dream Work. I have partnered closely with my Speech Therapist, PATINS Project, and other passionate educators in my district to create an Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) team. By sharing my passion for communication and visuals, my team was able to create two Playground Communication Boards. They are pictured below with students using them. These boards were a dream for my Speech Therapist and myself, but they became a reality thanks to the buy in from teachers across my amazing district. They were constructed by the high school Industrial Technology teacher and his students. I truly believe it takes a village to make great things happen for students. 

Side by side photos of a two different young male students pointing to words on a large outdoor augmentative and alternative (AAC) board

All this to say Communication is Key! Don’t give up on students, have high expectations and presume competence. In the end, it’s all for students, and don’t they deserve to have a voice no matter what that looks like?!


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Guest — Rachel L Herron
Fantastic Blog Jamie! Your students are so lucky!!
Friday, 29 January 2021 12:37
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Jan
20

Helen Keller in Color


Color photo of Helen Keller as an elderly woman. It is a head shot and her gray hair is pinned back with some waves in the front. She is wearing a white buttoned up shirt and pearl earrings, and she is looking into the camera and smiling
I am not a TikTok user. I did try to learn a dance during the early days of Covid as a way to get my family to exercise. I’ll spare you the video, but share that the teens in my house burned a bunch of calories by laughing. 

One of those teens recently shared a lie that’s been propagated on TikTok and other social media at my dinner table: “Hey, you work with people who are blind. Did you know that Helen Keller was fake?” I barely choked down whatever I was chewing along with my anger and confusion. Then, while (mostly) calmly addressing this with my foster daughter, I took the opportunity to cover truth, verification, and empathy.   

After our conversation, I did some research and found out the falsehood  originally started as a “joke”, and bloomed into full blown conspiracy theories. These theories center around the ableist notion that Helen Keller couldn’t have accomplished all that she had in her life, because of her disabilities. At their worst, they deny Keller’s existence altogether. 

With respect to all 15 year olds, I do admire healthy skepticism. In researching this blog, I discovered that Keller herself was among a minority that believed that Shakespeare did not write the plays attributed to him. While she did publish 12 books in her life, her manuscript about this topic was rejected as the fake news of her day. This astounded me as I’d always thought of Helen Keller as enlightened in every way, but she latched onto a trendy outlying academic group that saw “coded” text within the plays as a pointer to a different author. It also humbles me to challenge myself to root out any big lies I might be buying into because of my biases. 

The Niagra Falls of information flowing over our brains from the internet daily is overwhelming. We are finding for Gen Z what that deluge is doing to a generation of children expected to learn, but addicted to the consumption of screen time. This clearly mandates teaching about media consumption, and giving resources to students for finding and verifying information

This particular instance also mandates the difficult work to overcome ableism. At the heart of my foster daughter’s rejection of historical facts was her disbelief that someone having experiences so far from her sensory experiences could learn anything. I told her about my 2 summers of training as an orientation and mobility specialist under a blindfold. My brain was forced to do some very different things, but my brain was still my brain and also did the things it always does when it is learning. Here are some ways to discover your own ableism and work towards understanding differences. 

We will be listening as a family to Helen Keller’s autobiography to hear it from the source. I also told my foster daughter about some of the folks with deaf blindness whom I’ve met and taught, and about others I’ve followed on Twitter. Haben Girma just published her story of being the first person with deaf blindness to graduate from Harvard Law School. She uses braille technology to access communication, literacy, and her employment. I wonder if she has a TikTok account?

Haben Girma, a woman with light brown skin looks into the distance. Her dark hair is pulled back and she is wearing small gold earrings.
I hope that by connecting to their stories my family and others would see and respect their differences, and know their humanity is not a hoax. 


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Jan
14

Books, yes, real books!

Books, yes, real books!

If anyone has viewed my blogs, you know that my subject matter is family, primarily my grandchildren. Oh, sure I mix relevant content to school and the like, but I have shared a lot on the subject of reading.

My very first blog was “Mimi, would you read me this book?”. That was in April 2018 and it has been almost three years ago since my grandchildren sat on Mimi’s lap as she read to them.

Fast forward and over the past three years my school-age grandchildren have been reading to Mimi. The three oldest grandchildren, Dean, Logan, and Kenzie have found reading to be a window of information, anticipation, and excitement.

Interestingly, all three have access to technology provided by their school and what is available at home. All three however have found that their mode of choice is books, yes, real books! The ones that you hold in your hands.

Technology is amazing when you think that you can have hundreds, if not thousands of books available almost instantaneously. eBooks are readily available at your fingertips, just waiting to be pulled up.

We can change an eBook font, text size, background. We can highlight, bookmark, take notes, and even have it read aloud to us. Can a real book do all that? Or do we want it to?

This blog was inspired by a Facebook post I saw recently. It was an image. The more I looked at it, the more I thought about my grandkids and their choice for a book, yes, a real book!

The book has descriptions of no glare, no batteries, no pop up adds, no dog ear, smells good and probably won't get stolen at the beach.

 There are arguments for and against either mode, but in the end, it is a personal choice or preference, call it what you like.

It fills Mimi and me with delight and satisfaction (particularly Mimi) that the simple “Mimi, would you read me this book?” would open a world of information, anticipation, and excitement for three inspired grandchildren.

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Jan
07

Insult and Injury: Toxic Positivity in Schools

Insult and Injury: Toxic Positivity in Schools blue background of smiley emojis with an occasional sad or mad emoji face, black text highlighted in yellow "Insult and Injury: Toxic Positivity in Schools"

Many years ago I sat in a terrible staff meeting. Positions in our school were being removed, a colleague’s illness had taken a turn for the worse, and one of our dear students had lost her father. Everyone was feeling heartbroken and frustrated.

“We just need to put a happy face on it!” the administrator chirped and moved on to bus duty schedule announcements. There was a clear expectation that we weren’t supposed to discuss what was going on and we all needed to “leave the negative at the door for the children.” That was not good advice or developmentally appropriate.

Toxic positivity, that message to “bring good vibes only” has serious negative consequences, both psychologically and on the outcomes in the workplace and classrooms:

  1. Denying or minimizing experiences and feelings leads to mistrust and shame, see Brene Brown’s “Listening to Shame” TED Talk and the lethal effects of shame that are very applicable to a classroom
  2. Suppressing emotions has negative consequences for mental health
  3. Not acknowledging negative emotions prevents you and others from learning from these painful feelings and experiences
  4. It undermines the UDL framework we need to ensure learners (and expert learners) voices are heard

The message to “focus on the positive” and “it could be worse” was silencing our ability to grieve, process, and be empathetic towards each other.

So what do we do instead? Some points that have carried me through tough feelings and interactions:

  1. It’s okay to not feel okay. These “bad feelings” are not inherently “bad,” they are morally neutral and part of the human experience. Feeling this way doesn’t make you a bad educator, family member, or leader.
  2. Listen to other’s emotions and experiences. It’s okay for others to feel sad, angry, or upset when you are not. Unless asked for, it’s probably not a time to offer unsolicited advice and don’t attempt to police their tone.
  3. Set your boundaries and respect the boundaries of others. “I want to vent. Are you in a place to hear me right now?” with your trusted go-to person might be a good way to start. Recognize when others are producing toxic positivity and set boundaries with them.
  4. Seek support. All these hard and big feelings (whether you are feeling them or others are feeling them) can be difficult to manage. Mental health services like Be Well Indiana or your employer’s Employee Assistance Program often have free or reduced-fee services. They can support you and help you find ways to listen and empathize more effectively, find motivation, set boundaries, and return to a happier and healthier state.

As we start a new year, which may be the hardest year some of us have ever lived: all vibes are welcome. PATINS’s support and kindness are here when you need it when providing healthy, sustainable, and respectful access and engagement for all students.

More resources:

Article: Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes (and their handy Examples of Non-Toxic and Accepting Statements)

PATINS Blog: Feeling the Burnout

Article: Should You Hide Your Negative Emotions From Children? 

Indiana Resource: Be Well Indiana for mental health resources, crisis hotlines (both for voice and via text), and assistance

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Guest — Bev Sharritt
"vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change." Brene Brown. Thanks Jessica for this timely blog. Sitting ... Read More
Thursday, 07 January 2021 12:05
Guest — Glenda Thompson
Kindness is the first step to healing and moving forward with 2021. Thank you, Jessica, for this blog as a friendly reminder. So... Read More
Tuesday, 12 January 2021 11:53
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Dec
30

Bump in the Road

20212021

Hello! It's here again, then end of another year. New Year's Eve. But not just any year. This was the year of 'rona (a.k.a. COVID-19). Good-bye 2020. You were a HUGE bump in the road and we are still feeling the jolt. Many changes and so much loss (loved ones, instructional time, face to face time, family time…normalcy). The year has been difficult in many ways for students, parents, families, teachers, frontline healthcare workers and more. Everyone has been affected in one way or another but we continue on. Two days ago marked the three year anniversary of my son's death. This remembrance hit me harder than past years. However, we must focus on what we can control and how we can support our students. They are counting on us to lead, teach and support them.

Talking with my family has helped. Who can you talk to?


We have all experienced "bumps in the road" this year. What follows certainly caps off my 2020 year. Yesterday, as I was delivering a cup of perfectly brewed and sweetened coffee to my wife, I misjudged (subconsciously) with my eyes the proximity of my dog's bedside steps. Thankfully (NOT), my second toe located it for me. OUCH! CRACK! It was one of those "It hurts so bad, you have to laugh to keep from crying." No curse words. I tried to walk it off.  The pain finally subsided but later the reality set in. Oh no, I didn't run yesterday and now I won't be able to run tonight. What about my over year long streak of Sunday long runs? Runners don't often listen to their own bodies, the advice of doctors or even Dr. Google. 

This "bump" will alter my next few weeks (Rose colored glasses view. Reality might be, ugh, "several" weeks. Sad face). The bumps and losses from the virus have been worse for some but have affected us all. These have been months long changes that will now carry over into a year of changes. Masks, virtual learning, no handshakes, no fist bumps, no hugs. I only provided TWO onsite school visits since March. I am a people person. I miss working directly with people. We have adapted and I believe it will get better. Here's a related blogpost from Jeff Bond, PATINS ICAM,  "I just don’t like this isolation stuff."


I have some close colleagues with whom I connect
. Can you be that someone for a colleague?


Our routines were dramatically altered this year and we adopted the "new normal." We had to adapt in order to continue serving our students, families and stakeholders. Virtual learning. Drive through pick ups at school. Equipment porch drop-offs. No more face to face meetings. Virtual continuing education conferences. Increased phone calls, emails and tons of VIDEO CONFERENCING! I worked to improve my webinars, presentations and materials to better support educators' service delivery methods. I attended numerous professional development opportunities, watched lots of videos, read and listened. Are you teaching the same way you also have and using the same materials you always have? We are all busy but we all must adapt and improve. Amanda Crecelius, PATINS Specialist says it well here:  "Our DIY School Year."


I continue to run (for me), read (for pleasure and learning), listen to new podcasts (for pleasure and learning), try new AAC solutions and just began learning how to 3D print (That has been a learning curve like no other). 
What things are you doing to nourish your mind and body and to make you a better teacher?

Most recent books (usually Libby App (FREE Library books) OR paper copies from Barnes and Noble - I support Brick and Mortar as much as possible): All We Ever WantedThe Nightengale, and Atomic Habits

Most recent podcasts: Ten Junk Miles (running - edgy), Talking with Tech, and Hidden Brain

New and/or FREE AAC/AT Solutions: Flexible Mounts (video), Accessible Switch Activities, Tar Heel Reader, Shared Reader, Gameplay


We have made it this far, let's see it through! Come on 2021!!! I have mentioned before that I run marathons. I'm still stuck at 42 states completed. The New Orleans marathon in February was my only 2020 marathon, all others were cancelled. Ugh. I'll get there. We will get there. It will get better. The PATINS Project and ICAM are here to help. We can provide FREE trainings tailored to the needs of your team, school or district. All you have to do is ask!


Check out our Training Calendar for upcoming FREE trainings!


Borrow something from our Lending Library for 6 weeks with FREE shipping both ways!


Register
for the PATINS Winter Edcamp 2021 on February 9!

EdCamp Winter 2021EdCamp Winter 2021 PATINS Staff Bitmojis participating in various winter activities on Ski Slope

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Dec
23

The One Gift All Educators Need This Year

The one gift all educators need this year. The one gift all educators need this year.

At the end of October, I start to see gift guides for anyone and everyone in our lives such as “The Ultimutt Holiday Gift Guide” or “Your Dad Doesn’t Need Another Tie - 20 Unique Ideas.” While I love exchanging thoughtful gifts with family and friends, there is one gift I am valuing more each year - time. Specifically, time to engage in hobbies, time to learn a new skill, time to learn a language, and even time to be bored once in a while. 

As educators, we know time is a critical resource. It is always at the top of my speech-language pathologist (SLP) wish list. Alas, we cannot wrap up time and top it with a bow to give to colleagues, but we can gain more of it. This year, more than others, time has been at a premium encouraging me to find creative ways to get everything done. I’ve compiled five reflection questions which have proven helpful to me in gathering up more time. I hope you find these helpful too. 

  • Am I inventing things to do? I heard this on a podcast and it stopped me in my tracks. (I wish I could remember which one to give credit!) As educators, we may think “Of course, everything I am doing directly benefits my students.” While I have no doubt we all have the best intention of doing right by our students, there may be a more efficient way to approach certain tasks. For example, as a SLP, did I really need to laminate every speech therapy material? Absolutely not! I could create or find digital materials, print one time use visuals, or use a page protector. I saved hours each week by freeing myself from the unreliable laminating machine and directed this new found time into analyzing data for better educational reports as well as leading to a better work life balance. A major win for me and for my students!
  • Can I “outsource” part of my work? The students on my caseload very much preferred receiving a pass from the office rather than having me picking them up from their classroom. Nothing hurts your “cool” factor more than a random lady breaking up gym time with your buddies. This left me creating hundreds of paper passes each year until I outsourced this work. In lieu of a study hall, some students were “pass runners” for the office staff during a class period. These helpful students were more than happy to cut the passes for me and one of them even offered to laminate a bunch for me so I could reuse them, saving me even more time!
  • What can I automate? Automation is huge in the business world right now. It is one of the main reasons Amazon can get items to your doorstep in two days. Educators can reap the benefits of automation right now with technology readily available on your devices. Do you need to send reminder emails for IEP meetings? Do you need to collect data and send daily/weekly communications to parents? Do you need to speed up the calculation process for progress reports? Automate it all! If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to PATINS Specialists for ideas on how to optimize your work day.
  • How often do I need to check my email/phone? Did you know it is estimated that every time we stop a task to check our email or phone, it can take us roughly 25 minutes to refocus on the task? (View the study “No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work.”) That’s why a seemingly simple task can end up taking us three times longer than originally planned. Also consider this scenario, if you check your work email from bed, on your way out the door, or in the car and then decide you need to be at work to focus on answering it, you are devoting twice as much time to the email reply. To combat these pernicious time wasting habits, dedicate a few times a day when you check your email and voicemail. It’s important this is not the first thing you check though. You want to get your most important tasks on your to do list completed at the beginning of the work day. This new habit has been a game changer for me!
  • How many things can I actually get done in a day? Two. I have averaged it out, and I can get two major tasks done in one day. If I try to do 3 or more tasks, usually I am working overtime or it’s not done well. This realization has been both shocking and empowering. Shocking since I originally estimated I could get five to ten tasks done each day. Two sounds like a low number yet, think about if you completed an entire language evaluation, reported all grades, or developed lessons for the entire week or month in one sitting. Those all require major time commitments and are often completed in smaller chunks throughout time. This information was also empowering because the knowledge of this causes me to be “choosier” about the tasks I agree to and reminds me to reflect again on question one above. Plus, when I happen to get more than two things done, I feel super accomplished!

I believe it goes without saying that the demands placed on educators this year has stretched our time thin. However, we are the only ones who can give ourselves more time. I hope the reflection questions posed help you gather up chunks of time by eliminating, “outsourcing”, and automating tasks to do what you do best - teach Indiana students!

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you might approach your work after reflecting on the five questions above. Is there anything you plan to do differently? Are there any other ways you give yourself the gift of time that I did not mention?

Suggested time management focused reading:

40 Hour Teacher Workweek by Angela Watson

Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam


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Guest — Laurel Blough
Jennifer, you said it! Thank you for this en-pointe post about the greatest professional gift we can give ourselves.
Wednesday, 23 December 2020 20:19
Guest — Jen Conti
Thank you Laurel! I hope you're able to "gift" yourself some time for the second half of this school year. ... Read More
Monday, 28 December 2020 15:02
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Dec
16

Our DIY School Year

Artist Name - Read-by-Author-DIY-School-Year.mp3

QR Code(to the audio version of blog DIY School Year)








[QR Code to Audio Version]

After much of my adult life as a happy nomadic creature, my husband and I decided to
put down roots and purchase our first home. We found our nest tucked in our favorite neighborhood and near some of our favorite people. It had just a few “fun” DIY projects. Once we started the DIY process I discovered that it really stands for Discovering an Infinity of Yikes, rather than Do It Yourself. We dove into project after project with high hopes that our inspiration could overpower our inexperience. We wanted to do each project correctly from the start, knowing that a good investment now would help create a home we could truly love. Despite the ups and downs, we came through with a beautiful home filled with love AND with sore muscles, paint splotches, tears of frustration, and lots of other things that we shoved into closets.

Our home, a view from the front yard of a red brick house.

I see a lot of parallels between my family’s DIY home projects and the “Discovering an Infinity of Yikes” school year. Just as a strip of duct tape here and glue there can be quick patches, this school year has seen a number of temporary fixes. But, I believe that if we take the time to make repairs correctly from the start, we can reshape our educational system into one that we all love.

The Right Tools

This school year, we awkwardly slipped back into remote learning with packets and phone calls. The struggle was similar to turning a rusty screw with a butter knife. Yes it might eventually work; but, the extra time and effort, combined with the possibility it might not work should be enough to start the search for a better tool. In my family’s case, an electric screwdriver made seemingly impossible tasks more manageable. It was just one example of our learning process, as we moved through various never-before-needed gadgets and equipped a toolbox with enough to be the envy of any contractor. 

Just as my family struggled, through tears of frustration and sore mental muscles many teachers and schools have started utilizing support tools (like Schoology, Google Classroom, Canvas, and Seesaw) to enable centralized communication for students and parents. The hard work early on of teaching students (including Kindergarteners) to login and find assignments built independence and a foundation for success when students later moved to remote learning. Through evaluation and reflection, schools using synchronous learning moved from full-class zoom calls to focused, short, small-group sessions with specific goals like collaboration and interaction. Schools also created a balance between asynchronous and synchronous learning, adding even more tools (like Epic, Starfall, Khan Academy, ABC Mouse, BrainPop, Kids Academy, TED, Mendeley) to help balance teacher workload and student engagement in other ways. Another example of added tools were: a variety of Chrome extensions and apps for students are used to practice, learn, and respond in a variety of ways supporting a more universally designed classroom. This has included the increased acceptance of accessible materials and assistive technology, breaking emotional and educational barriers for many students. 

Tips, Tricks, and Expert Advice

When we first opened the door to our adventure in home remodeling, we had many inspiring dreams of what could be; but, the reality of our inexperience prevented us from taking the first steps. So, we called in the experts. We had many professionals give us recommendations on types of paint, low-cost options for tile, and how best to arrange our kitchen. Without this advice, we would have spent countless hours struggling to do these projects. With this support to boost our confidence, we googled how-tos for smaller issues and watched YouTube for our mini projects. 

For teachers, this year has been Professional Development after Professional Development (PD). Consults, webinars, and YouTube tutorials have been equally accessed. Teachers have been in a state of emergency, training and (in some instances) being forced toward technology integration. 

Some popular tips from PDs that I have noticed include: creating a Bitmoji classroom to build a fun space to communicate with students, using Flipgrid to create videos for and by students, and using interactive slide tools like Pear Deck

Inexperience with technology is a barrier that continues to be a stopping point for some teachers trying to reach their students. At PATINS, we have seen an increase of teachers and administrators requesting personalized/individualized training or one-on-one sessions (provided by the PATINS/ICAM team) to create universally designed online classrooms for ALL students. 

The Risk

For many of my family’s projects, one of the biggest barriers was fear. Fear of the first step, fear of messing it up, fear of the cost, and fear it would take too much time or turn into something we hated. One of my biggest fears was to use power tools, especially the table saw. It is big, scary, dangerous, and once you have cut something, it is final. However, at one point in a project, we needed a small piece of wood to be cut before we could move forward. Waiting for a contractor would have increased our wait from one week to up to three months! I stayed up all night convincing myself that I could use this saw. I finally got up, put my safety goggles on, and picked up the table saw. I practiced on a couple of scrap pieces, took measurements, and marked where to cut. I blasted through it with no fear. Did I do it perfectly? No. But, we were able to move forward quickly after that point, and I now can start building my table saw skills. Before this school year, many teachers dabbled in technology integration in the classroom, but some avoided it at all costs. 

Today, many still struggle with the same barrier: fear. One of my AEMing for Achievement Grant  team members, Melissa Harrison, has an inspirational quote in her office: “You never learn anything by doing it right.” In many of life’s fearful experiences this rings true, such as bike riding, public speaking, going on a date, or starting a new career. The level of risk is high, but necessary for success. 

As for our DIY school year, we have all been risk takers and continue to learn new methods and use new tools. The results are not perfect, but the more steps educators have taken toward a seemingly scary new form of teaching and learning, the more enriching experiences have resulted for both students, parents, and teachers.  We are forming bridges and exploring methods that have not been utilized before, and as a result, we are seeing a bright path toward an educational system that we can all love.

Melissa Harrison, smiling and holding a sign that says, “You never learn anything by doing it right.”

Like any new homeowners, our new place will probably be under construction for the rest of our lives, but the process of creating and recreating a space that we enjoy and cherish is invaluable. Similarly, teachers, parents, and students continue to grow as our schools are reimagining what education could be. We still have a long journey ahead, but a universally designed educational system is in our sights. Just like any home remodel, it was not easy and there are still are many unfinished jobs, surprise repairs, and exhausted workers. But we can continue to build our toolbox, seek expert advice, and be brave enough to take risks with that we can continue to build a place we truly love. 

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Dec
10

The State of PATINS 2020

Staff Portrait Collage of the PATINS Project Staff

It's been quite a year for me, and very likely for all of us, for a variety of reasons. A common theme however, for all of us Indiana educators, is almost certainly the transition to, from, and back to again, remote instruction and learning due to the COVID19 pandemic! 

As 2021 draws near, with a mere 21 days left in 2020, I recently carved out a some time to reflect on a few major aspects of my life. One of which, is my 2020 knee injury and a second is the PATINS Project itself, which has been the greatest consumer of my time and my passion for the last fourteen and half years! It's become apparent to me, during my reflecting, that Indiana is quite fortunate to have PATINS and during this unprecented time for us, the PATINS team has shown it's colors in ways that shouldn't go without notice. 

142 days into 2020, I fully dislocated my right knee, tearing all four of the ligaments and meniscus.That means, for the last 233 days, I've had to figure out new ways of doing things that used to be simple. I’ve had to work hard on getting repaired, facilitating healing, re-building strength, seeking flexibility, and re-gaining my balance. ...a strong analogy for public eduction during the pandemic, as well! 

3 Image collage of Daniel riding dirtbike
I'm proud to say that last weekend, I finally threw a leg over a dirtbike again for the first time in 233 days. During those first few minutes, riding through my first easy trail, I realized that it's been the support from my "team" that was integral to that moment of accomplishment. My wife for the daily balance between push, protect, and comfort. My kids for helping with things I just couldn't do. My family and my riding buddies for the constant check-ins, pushing me to work out and go to Physical Therapy PT (pain and torture), including me in their riding videos even when I couldn't be there. The list goes on and on... the common theme is, TEAM...Support...Perseverance. The result is success. The feeling is hope and energy


I'm even more proud to say that during the past 274 days of the COVID19 pandemic, the PATINS team has rallied in ways that have not only provided continuous support to Indiana's public schools educators, but also serves as a model for what a team can look like and confirmation that this particular team can and will re-tool, adjust, accommodate, and leave no stone unturned when it comes to supporting our Indiana educators! 

New Ways of Doing Things:
Two PATINS staff, Specialist Lisa Benfield and Assistant Director/Specialist David Jackson celebrated their first anniversary with us during the pandemic! Specialist Amanda Crecelius also celebrates her first six months with us! These new PATINS additions have not only spent their first year learning a new job, but helping to figure out ways to do their new job in entirely new ways! My hat is off to you three! Visit their pages on the PATINS website, reach out to them, and embrace the knowledge and skill they bring to their new-ish positions on this team! 


For over 20 years, PATINS has held two annual statewide events; our November Access To Education conference and our April Tech Expo. In 2020, both events were forced to either be cancelled or held virtually for the first time ever. We chose the latter. I'm proud to say that this team, lead by our Event Manager Jennifer Conti, (2 yrs w/PATINS) didn't hesitate to jump into planning and implementation to effectively host two of our most successful events ever! Tech Expo 2020 doubled our usual in-person registration numbers and Access To Education 2020 had participants telling us it was the best one they'd ever attended! A handful of attendee comments from those two events: 

"All presenters were great.  Virtual learning recharged my momentum for teaching". - Lena Cummins, Special Education Administrator, Charter School of the Dunes

"I am extremely impressed as to how you pull this event off virtually, I got a lot of information from the presentations as well as the virtual exposition hall, I visited quite a few of the websites that were presented there and I got valuable information!"  - Sandra Durham, Occupational Therapist, Indiana State University

"I really felt that the quality of presenters and topics this year was great! I came away from this renewed and ready to continue serving my students no matter what environment they may be in." - Kelsey Norris, Special Educator, Perry Township Schools

"Lance McLemore provided inspiration and a reminder of why I got into the special education field. He was amazing!  I found that Apps & Extensions and Alternative Pencils gave lots of great ideas, many of which I could use right away. I appreciate that many of the ideas were free!" - Mandy Narcaroti, BLV Teacher, Cooperative School Services

"I truly gained from all of the session, they all offered things I can use today. Thanks so much." - Kimberly Gauck, Special Educator Greensburg Community Schools

"Supporting Families through Integrated Supports, Low Vision and Blindness Supports for the Classroom, and What's New and What to do with Saltillo. I believe all three of these to be equally valuable to me in my educational setting". - Melissa VanLue, Special Educator, Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

"The information presented by Dr. Grillo on assistive technology and incorporating AT in the IEP was very beneficial to me.  This is information I did not previously know, and I'm looking forward to having access to the booklet with all the AT that can be used with state testing."  -  Kristin Girton, Cooperative School Services

"Technology was so smooth today!! THANK you for the captioning! I am totally impressed with how you all were able to transform this conference to 100% virtual!"  - Laura Knoke, NEISEC, Teacher of Students who are Blind/Low Vision

Repair & Heal:
As with my old knee, sometimes things within PATINS break and we have to find ways to fix or make them whole again. During the period right before the pandemic, we lost two valuable staff members and were forced to work with a new fiscal agency. While the timing of these things made for some difficult months, current staff Jennifer Conti and Felisia O'Bold (2 yrs w/PATINS) stepped up to take on additional roles boldly, and new staff Amanda Crecelius worked creatively and tireless to quickly repair any start of hole in the bottom of the boat! We also realized quickly that all of our friends out there in the schools were also scrambling to repair their ships! This PATINS team immediately pulled together to produce a listing of resources specific to Continuous Learning to do COVID19 here, regular Open Virtual Office Hours, and the PATINS team Commitment to Anti-Racism here.

Building Strength and Being Flexible:
One might consider it enough to be able to say that your team has worked hard to maintain the levels of pre-pandemic, but it's actually really easy for me to say that this PATINS team has built even more strength through offerings and services than ever before the pandemic! Consider our YouTube playlist of NINE Access to Education 2020 training videos by PATINS Specialists, Kelli Suding (8 yrs w/PATINS), Lisa Benfield, Jena Fahlbush (5 yrs w/PATINS), Bev Sharritt (4 yrs w/PATINS), David Jackson, Katie Taylor (2 yrs w/PATINS), Amanda Crecelius, Jessica Conrad (4 yrs w/PATINS), and the ICAM Team of Sandy Stabenfeldt (19 yrs w/PATINS), Jeff Bond (22 yrs w/PATINS), and Martha Hammond (10 yrs w/PATINS)! ...check out all NINE great training video titles PLUS the first-ever virtual Assistive Technology Exporatorium recording


...and by the numbers, this school year so far, PATINS has:

-responded to 1,145 requests for technical assistance from Indiana educators. 

-supplied nearly 1000 braille, large print and tactile graphics to over 100 school corporations, thanks to our amazing IERC staff!

-
supplied 1,507 accessible versions of textbooks, thanks to the ICAM Staff!

-attended nearly 500 meetings and conducted over 150 meetings.


-provided services to 98% of the Special Education Cooperatives in the state.


-provided services to 68% of the School Corporations in the state.


-worked with 485 unique School Buildings in the state. 

-provided a Virtual EdCamp and Make It At Home Training for 120 educators.

-fulfilled 38 unique requests for 80 individual devices for PATINS Refurbished Technology

-loaned out 504 pieces of assistive technology from our Lending Library! Yes, you read that right! Even with school buildings being closed down intermittently, our Lending Library Managers, Sheri Schoenbeck (19 yrs w/PATINS) and Carrie Owens (14 yrs w/PATINS) have been ultra-creative and diligent and we are still shipping items to schools AND paying for them to be shipped back to us at the end of your 6-week trial! Here are a few comments from recent PATINS Lending Library borrowers: 


"I have no idea what I would have done if not for all the guidance PATINS has provided. Everyone has gone above and beyond to make sure my student has what he needs and is succeeding."

"Thank you for offering your services.  It helps so many of our students in deciding what device works best for them."

"Thank you so much for always having what I think I need for my students. You are much appreciated."

"Thankful for the time and thorough training given for everyone involved with the use of the AAC device"

"Thanks for allowing us to extend the loan of this device!  That was a super easy process!"

"PATINS is a blessing to our students and staff."

"The district is buying LAMP WFL and getting him a separate iPad for it so he will have access 100% of the time."

"We will likely be purchasing a different device but this was an excellent shoe in the door for us.  It let us compare/contrast with some other AAC options." 

"I appreciate your availability and ease of use"

-and... drumroll please... provided 401 individual trainings/professional development (all virtually) for 2,542 educators in Indiana! If you haven't checked out the powerful training offerings by the PATINS Specialists lately, you should! Find them all here on our training calendar and here on our condensed Professional Development Guide!

Seeking Greater Flexibility & Gaining Balance:
Sometimes, even though things are highly positive within our team, these unique circumstances demand that we have grace and patience with each other and respect for everyone's strengths and responsibilities. The members of this team fill-in for each other when unexpected things come up. We virtually high-five one another through our "It Matters to This One" internal recognition system, personal emails, Skype messages and informal Zooms! We have staff like Kelli Suding who sets up a virtual holiday exchange and gathering for us on a Friday over lunch! We aren't afraid to reach out when we are overwhelmed and need flexibility, understanding, or help! We realize that a balance must be maintained between work and re-energization and we respect guidelines for time as much as possible. 


In all things, PATINS is more than work, we are a family and a team. We're a team that looks at anything that arrises, evolves, or that is thrown suddenly in our faces, and we say, "YES, we can do this IF...," rather than, "No, we can't because..."

I'm deeply proud of this team and the service and product we are able to provide. I encourage you to remember that our services are all at no cost to Indiana public schools and that we can and we will, work together with you to find a solution to your unique needs! ...every...single...time. Reach out to us!



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Dec
03

Executive Function and Online Learning

I cannot express how grateful I am that Dr. Lisa Beth Carey is my guest blogger this week. Dr. Carey is the Asst. Director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education (CILSE) at the Kennedy Krieger Institiute. Her knowledge and brilliant approach with the principles of Universal Design for Learning always in the forefront, creates a welcoming and accessible space for fellow educators to be positively impacted in a way that allows them to immediately want to implement resources/strategies that she develops. Dr. Carey is an out of the box thinker with a great twist of humor as well, to which I have the upmost respect. I have learned so much from her and I have no doubt that you will too.

graphic of student sitting by computer

Imagine: It’s early in the morning. You go to your kitchen and go through all of the motions of brewing yourself a cup of coffee. You can do this half-asleep because you’ve done it so many times before.

Now imagine: You wake up and realize the power went out overnight. You’re running late, the coffee maker’s not turning on, and you realize that you need to go find the circuit breaker to restore power to the outlet. This new set of circumstances is out of the ordinary. Nothing about the power being out is rehearsed. This morning, you cannot brew your cup of coffee while half-asleep. In order to complete the task of making your morning coffee, you will need to use a set of cognitive skills called executive function.

Executive function is an umbrella term for the cognitive skills that work together to help us complete a task or goal (Diamond, 2013). The core executive function skills are inhibitory control, working memory and flexible thinking (Baggata & Alexander, 2016; Nigg, 2016).

  • Inhibitory control: Purposefully stopping/pausing when your immediate reaction will not help you accomplish your task.
  • Working memory: Holding information in mind temporarily in order to manipulate it.
  • Flexible thinking: Switching between different concepts and considering multiple perspectives and scenarios.
Executive function skills work interactively to support our ability to perform tasks that are novel or under-practiced. This important set of skills develops from birth through young adulthood, providing ample time to be shaped by the environment (Diamond, 2013). How we design our learning environments to support the development and use of executive function, or over-burden these still-developing skills, has a major impact on student academic achievement.

How Does Student Executive Function Interact With the Learning Environment?

How well we perform any skill is based on how well-matched our skill is to the demands of the context. For example, I’m a very strong swimmer, but put me in a riptide after a long day of swimming, and I’ll struggle, possibly even drown. Executive function is similar to swimming in various conditions. A calm, shallow pool is very different from rough, deep open water.

Likewise, students will do much better in a well-supported learning environment that matches their executive function skill levels, as opposed to in an unsupported learning environment with multiple executive function demands that are mismatched to their skill development. When there is a mismatch between the executive function demands and the skills of the individual, the result is an expression of executive dysfunction (Jacobson & Mahone, 2012).

Behavioral indicators of executive dysfunction (Gioia, Isquith, Guy, & Kenworthy, 2015) include:

  • Impulsivity
  • Distractibility
  • Difficulty with complex task completion
  • Difficulty with transitioning between activities
  • Difficulty shifting patterns of thought


How Does Online Learning Impact Student Executive Function?

An online learning environment is often highly demanding of student executive functions. This is even more true if the device, software, application or website being used is new, or if the student has limited experience using it for learning activities. Many times, we ask students to use an unfamiliar device, software, application or website on top of learning new academic content or skills. This causes many students to struggle to use their executive function skills to engage in tasks meaningfully. They start to exhibit the behavioral indicators of executive dysfunction listed above.

For example, students who are asked to use new software to record a response to a reading comprehension prompt will need to use their executive function skills to navigate the software, while also engaging their executive functions to organize their thinking and respond to the prompt. This combination of executive function demands is very likely to overwhelm a student and lead to difficulty completing the task.

In studies of students using personal devices (tablets, laptops, phones, etc.) for learning activities, teachers and students reported increases in student behaviors that aligned with the behavioral indicators of executive dysfunction (Islam & Gronlund, 2016; Kay, Benzimra & Li, 2017; Lei & Zhao, 2008; Sarıtepeci & Durak, 2017; Tallvid, 2016; Tallvid et al., 2015). Students using personal digital devices were more likely to become easily distracted, had trouble initiating and completing tasks, were engaged with off-task media or were attempting (unsuccessfully) to multitask, and had difficulty problem-solving when technology didn’t work as expected.

If we consider the role environmental demands play in students’ ability to use their executive function skills during learning activities, it’s unsurprising that online learning environments would place greater demand on student executive function skills. There are more chances for distraction, and thus more need to inhibit responses to all types of exciting stimuli (e.g., a chat from a friend or a link to a YouTube video). There are increases in information, and thus a greater demand on working memory. There are more ways in which to navigate a digital device than a notebook, and thus a greater demand on flexible thinking.

This is not to say that we should ditch our tech! Technology offers greater amounts of accessibility, connectiveness and collaboration. And in the age of COVID-19, we really need technology to safely connect at a distance. We just need to make sure that we are mindful of creating online learning environments that are responsive to student neurodevelopment (meaning that we don’t overtax student executive function with too many novel tasks and digital tools) and that provide executive function support as needed.


Tips for Supporting Executive Function During Online Learning

In any learning environment, we should take a two-fold approach to avoiding contributing to student executive dysfunction. We should reduce executive function demands that are extraneous to the content being taught, and we should provide supports, as needed.

As you design your online learning environment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my instructional design/tool/learning management system (LMS) overly demanding on my students’ inhibitory control? (i.e., do they have to focus on stopping/pausing impulses to engage in the task?)
    • What can I do to reduce the demand?
    • What support options can I add?
  • Is my instructional design/tool/LMS overly demanding on my students’ working memory? (i.e., do they have to keep multiple pieces of information in mind as they manipulate the information to complete the task?)
    • What can I do to reduce the demand?
    • What support options can I add?
  • Is my instructional design/tool/LMS overly demanding on my students’ flexible thinking? (i.e., do they have to focus on coming up with multiple ways to approach a task or problem, and do they need to independently troubleshoot their technology?)
    • What can I do to reduce the demand?
    • What support options can I add?
Striking the balance between executive function demands and supports is critical for students to get the most out of their online learning experience. Keep in mind that students are highly variable, and that supports will need to be flexible to meet the needs of your various students. Stay tuned for future posts that include teacher experiences teaching online while considering student executive function!


References:

Baggetta, P., & Alexander, P.A. (2016). Conceptualization and operationalization of executive function. Mind, Brain, and Education, 10(1), 10–33.

Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135–168.

Gioia, G.A., Isquith, P.K., Guy, S.C., & Kenworthy, L. (2015). BRIEF2: Behavior Rating  Inventory of Executive Function (2nd ed.). Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.

Islam, M.S., & Gronlund, A. (2016). An international literature review of 1:1 computing in schools. Journal of Educational Change, 17, 191–222.

Jacobson, L.A., & Mahone, E.M. (2012). Educational implications of executive dysfunction. In S.J. Hunter & E P. Sparrow (Eds.). Executive Function and Dysfunction: Indentification, Assessment and Treatment (ed., pp. 231–246). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Kay, R., Benzimra, D., & Li, J. (2017). Exploring factors that influence technology-based distractions in bring your own device classrooms. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 55(7), 974–995.

Lei, J., & Zhao, Y. (2008). One-to-one computing: What does it bring to schools? Journal of Educational Computer Research, 39(2), 97–122.

Nigg, J.T. (2016). Annual Research Review: On the relations among self‐regulation, self‐control, executive functioning, effortful control, cognitive control, impulsivity, risk‐taking, and inhibition for developmental psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(4), 361–383.

Sarıtepeci, M., & Durak, H. (2016). Examining student perceptions regarding to usage purposes of tablet computers distributed under the scope of in FATIH project in the course processes and by students. Participatory Educational Research, IV, 171–181.

Tallvid, M., Lundin, J.L., Svensson, L., & Lindstrom, B. (2013). Relationship between sanctioned and unsanctioned laptop use in 1:1 classroom. Educational Technology & Society, 18(1), 237–249.

Tallvid, M. (2016). Understanding teachers’ reluctance to the pedagogical use of ICT in the 1:1 classroom. Education and Information Technologies, 21(3), 503–519.

Dr. Carey sitting beside student

Original Blog on Kennedy Krieger Institute

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Guest — Glenda Thompson
Thank you Kelli and Dr. Carey for taking your time to share this information with families navigating remote learning. I am part o... Read More
Saturday, 05 December 2020 08:28
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Nov
30

Thanksgiving

Cream and Brown Autumn leaves Background with the word Thanksgiving in uppercase letters Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving comes every year, I love to hear people reflect about what they are thankful for! Traditionally, as a family we go around the table at Thanksgiving and say something we are thankful for, so I thought perhaps I should mirror this professionally as well. 2020 has been a challenge for so many, but I’ve been reflecting on what good things have happened this past year. Professionally, I have so much to be thankful for. This month marked one year of my time being a PATINS Staff member, I want to share a few things that I am so thankful for!


Resources - Immeasurable resources are being shared daily. I have never seen such an outpouring of resources available online, as I have during the pandemic. I am thrilled to see multiple offerings. Check out the PATINS Training Calendar for more upcoming opportunities or make a request from the Lending Library for additional requests. 


Teamwork - I have been given the opportunity to work with the best team of coworkers! If anyone needs support, there is an entire staff to help stakeholders throughout the state. Check out our PATINS Staff, their specialities, and contact them! Just last week, another specialist and I collaborated to meet the needs of the educator supporting a student with communication, motor, and low vision challenges. It is great to gain the insight of my colleagues when we work together. Being an Occupational Therapist, I am able to bring a unique perspective to the table, but the richness of having another specialist with a background in speech and language pathology, blind/low vision education, deaf and hard of hearing education, or general or special education adds to the depth of the consultation and benefits all those involved.


Relationships - Through webinars, consultations, Twitter Chats, phone calls, and more I have been able to develop relationships with stakeholders across the state. Join us on Twitter every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm EST. My PLN, or Professional Learning Network, grows weekly on Twitter! This year in particular, I have met numerous educators in Zoom meetings. It is wonderful to put a face with the name!


Increased Accessibility - Our students in Indiana have had increased access to the curriculum this year, due in part to the quick action of educators to soak up all available resources, virtual training, and support available during the pandemic. Teachers and Administrators have embraced accessibility needs this year. We have an updated document of Continuous Learning support and YouTube videos available offering guidance on providing specific supports for all learners. 



As I wrap up my first full year at the PATINS Project, I am thankful for the new relationships and strong teamwork which have helped me to both learn and share new resources and increase access to the curriculum for Indiana students. I hope to assist many more educators this year in finding the best iPad accessibility features and ways to integrate them into daily plans, consulting and providing support with behavioral challenges, and increasing the use of Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Material for students in the primary grades. Feel free to contact me at any time! I will look forward to it!


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Guest — David Jackson
Great post!
Tuesday, 01 December 2020 19:26
Guest — Martha
Has it been a year? It's great having you with us, Lisa. We all have much to be thankful for.
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 13:19
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Nov
17

What is YOUR passion?

Sandy as a young girl in her baseball uniform.

Sports have always been a big part of my life. I played girls little league when I was 9 until I turned 13. Back then girls played hardball, just like the boys and we had a great league with many teams in the city. My cousin played with me and one year we even won the city championship. Then I was able to coach and be a manager for a few more years. Another cousin was on the team and we were able to spend lots of time together. 

As an adult, I started playing tennis and it has been such a great blessing. I have met so many wonderful women and made friends that have been there for me through bad days, bad tennis playing, and a health scare. I even ended up on a team with 2 ladies that I had played little league with. 

I have also shared my love of tennis with several family members and my daughter. It is fantastic to be able to play tennis with family, especially in today’s environment. 

Recently, I have taken up Pickleball and I absolutely love it! I have again made many new friends and my family members are playing with me as well. A great part of playing Pickleball is that my husband is able to play, his bad knee wouldn’t allow him to play tennis anymore. I also have an older uncle who shares my love of Pickleball and it is so much fun to play with him. My daughter’s boyfriend has also taken it up and it gives them a sport to play together.

Sports also take up a significant amount of television time. Golf, Tennis, Football, Basketball, and Baseball are usually on at my house. I love the social aspect of rooting for a favorite team. If you carry around a Steelers cup or wear a Yankees shirt you are sure to strike up a conversation. I also enjoy the texting and calling with friends and family when a game is on.

I have so many great memories that include sports. There was the time the Indianapolis Colts fans let me dance with them, but forced me to zip up my jacket to hide my Steelers shirt!

Sandy dancing with Colts fans.

Sandy with Indianapolis Colts fans.

I attended a football game in Dallas where there were just as many Steelers fans as Dallas fans and we won!

Sandy with Dallas Cowboy fans.

I have attended many professional tennis tournaments as well as baseball, football, and basketball games. I have attended my daughter’s sporting events: softball, swimming, and tennis. I have always had sports in my life.

Sandy and her daughter, Courtney.

What is YOUR passion?

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Guest — Rita
Great memories to share! Photos help capture a moment to let us relive again and again.
Thursday, 19 November 2020 11:56
Guest — Glenda Thompson
That competitive drive radiates from you. Ever present in your PATINS/ICAM work as well. That benefits Indiana staff and students... Read More
Thursday, 19 November 2020 12:30
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