Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Favorite Readings

My favorite reading from this semester is in the Shelly/Cashman book. Chapter 6, discussing the integration of technology into lessons, is very meaningful to me. Because there is a relatively new emphasis on technology purchase and subsequent integration in my school district, and because I am a classroom teacher, the information in Chapter 6 fit with my life exactly. My colleagues and I spend a great deal of time deciding how to best integrate our new technology into lessons that we already have planned. As it turns out, I am the best person at my grade level in my building to do this because of this class. This is quite a change for me, but it represents growth! I found the information in the chapter to be practical and useful. It is information that I can use right away. I don't have to wait to be in a library to use it. I fully related to the attitudinal changes that teachers must make in order to comfortably integrate technology into their classrooms.

My second favorite reading is Chapter 8 from the Shelly/Cashman series. I liked this one because I was able to integrate it into my real life. I believe that's when the most effective learning takes place for my students, and I think that this is also true for me. Before entering graduate school, I had a working relationship with computers that was on a need to know basis. If I didn't have to know it to do my job, then I avoided finding out about it. Now that I am an online student, I have found that there are many things that I must know how to do with technology in general, and with computers specifically. This experience dovetails with my school district finally entering the 21st century. Suddenly, there are all kinds of technology cropping up in my job. The more I work with all this technology, the more comfortable I am with all of it. I have come a long way this semester toward conquering my fears about using technology. Also by necessity, I have learned how to cope with computer related issues that result from asking older technology (home computer)to do the same work as newer technology (school/work computer). Without the anxiety I have formerly felt, I have been able to relate almost all of the information in Chapter 8 to my personal situation. This was truly helpful information to me, and very applicable to my life.

Shelly, G. B., Cashman, T. J., Gunter, R. E., & Gunter, G. A. (2008). Teachers discovering computers: Integrating technology and digital media into the classroom (5th ed.) Boston: Thomson Course Technology.

Monday, November 30, 2009

AT module 5

One of the best and most authentic ways that the students in my classroom learn about people with disabilities is to have a student (or more than one) with disabilities as part of the class. For the last couple of years, my classroom has been the one chosen for second grade that includes students from the life skills room in our class. Last year we had three students with varying disabilities, and this year we have one second grader who has MR and seizures.

Our student joins the class daily for a portion of the Language Arts period. He participates as he can in the activities the rest of the class is doing. The children benefit from seeing this young man from day to day. He has made progress in his speech, which everyone can notice. He also uses a "talking box" called a Mo that can be programed to say phrases that are likely to be used in different situations. The screens can be changed to accommodate different settings, where different words would be said. Everyone has gotten used to the different sounding voice from the machine, as well as used to the types of things they may hear from this particular student.

This has been a good way for young students to learn to accept differences in people and in learning.

P.S. I don't remember the Seer being blind in The Giver (LibraryThing booklist of books about people with disabilities). Is that correct?

AT week 4

I have to say that I enjoy talking about and learning about assistive technology.

I teach regular second grade. The second grade teachers assembled the kids one day for the sister of one of our parents to talk with them. She is deaf, and the hearing parent interpreted her signs for us and used sign to ask her the kids' questions. It was useful to all of us for a few reasons. First, second grade was reading a story about a deaf child (part of the Moses series), so it was helpful for them to visit with a person who doesn't hear. Also, the kids loved learning sign language and seeing it in action. Of course, the women were much faster than we were teaching the kids. It was also good for them to see that a person who doesn't speak or hear at all can look like just another mom and be a part of the community. Our guest told us that although there are ways that she could feel music rhythms, she doesn't have a desire to "hear" music. It helped all of us to not feel sorry for her when we saw that she has a full life without hearing.

The quiz on the AT blog was easy for me because I am certified to teach special ed. My expectation was that I would be a special ed teacher, probably in life skills. It comes as quite a surprise that I was hired to teach regular second grade.

Annotated websites on AT:
Wikipedia explains what assistive technology is. It lists several disabilities and what types of technology would be helpful for those persons.
The National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education's website gives a brief overview of what technology may be helpful for some individuals and provides a link telling what those technologies might be.
Google images shows many people, including children, using a variety of assistive technologies. This gives people an idea of what some of these things look like when they are in use.
This site is a family guide to assistive technology. It is very lengthy and thorough. This would be a good resource for someone who is purchasing a first piece of technology and who needs all the information available about it. This would be a good buying guide, but not for brand names. It just discusses what features are important.
The Ability Hub website gives information in a question/answer format that is easy to use. Links within the answers to questions show products that fit the criteria in the question.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wow! There was a lot of information about assistive software this week! I spent time looking at several of the options presented and placing them in the rubric that follows. All the options were useful and would help people with a variety of disabilities achieve more independence.
Inspiration proved to be an interesting way to present information. I have thought for a long time that pictures presented with words make more of an impact on people. When I present information to my students, I almost always have some kind of picture of graphics to go along with my words. I created a very simple overview of the lessons and activities that I would teach associated with the story Chinatown. I loved how Inspiration allows so access to so many features, like a dictionary and all kids of graphic organizers. Everything was extremely easy to use and the work was easy to save. There was not enough room for a great deal of detail, which I would need to present actual lesson plans. Unfortunately, I can't link my Inspiration lesson plan to this blog, and I can't copy and paste it, either. It exists in my Farmer file for school.
I was very interested to see Kurzweil 3000 in action, and spent over an hour downloading it, but there ultimately ended up being some kind of a problem, and I didn't get to use it. I read all the info about it, and it really got me excited about using it. I wanted one for every kid in my class!

I'm glad I checked out the accommodations that Windows has already made. I didn't realize that so many aids were already in place to help people with disabilities. Some of these accommodations would be great for people who aren't disabled as well.

Last, I knew we could count on the libraries of our land to provide people with the information they seek, whether they can see it or not. To be a librarian is to provide services to my patrons - no matter their issues.

Assistive Technology Rubric


Software is noted in pink.

Name of Technology





Positive Features

Negative Features


  1. iCommunicator

iCommunicator Company


iCommunicator Software Setup CD's
• Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional
• Plantronics CS-50 (or equivalent)
• Visikey Wireless Keyboard
• iCommunicator Installation Guide


Translates spoken words into text, sign language, or a computer-generated voice.

Allows people with hearing impairments to be independent and to work at their own paces.

Helps people who are deaf practice speech.

Internet access. 

High cost.

Must have computer with program loaded on it at all situations where the iCommunicator is needed. 

While expensive, the iCommunicator is an extremely helpful tool for hearing impaired people.

2.Dragon Naturally Speaking

Nuance Communications, Inc.


Turn your voice into text three times faster than most people type with up to 99% accuracy. It's so easy, you can use it right out of the box. It learns to recognize your voice instantly and continually improves the more you use it. Dragon NaturallySpeaking works with the most commonly used desktop applications, including Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer, AOL and more! Just about anything you do now by typing can be done faster using your voice. Create and edit documents or emails. Open and close applications. Control your mouse and entire desktop

Types faster than most people can.

People with speech impediments or accents can use this.

People with physical impairments can produce documents without someone else typing for them.

Works with most desktop applications.

Easy to install and learn to use.

Voice commands can control most functions performed on a computer.

Reasonable price. 

User is limited to the computer that has Dragon Naturally Speaking installed on it.

Because of its reasonable price and versatility, Dragon Naturally Speaking would be a good choice for many people, not only those with some sort of disability.

3.Project Gutenberg

Michael S. Hart, founder


downloadable collection of 1/2 million eBooks

People with visual impairments can enjoy books.

No cost.

Collection is growing.

People without disabilities can also use. 

Must have appropriate technology to download books.

Not everyone is an auditory learner.

This tool is excellent for everyone who prefers to listen or who must listen to a book to access it.

4. Braille Plus: This handheld, personal digital assistant boasts an 80GB hard drive, wireless Internet, Bluetooth, stereo speakers, a built-in microphone, and a Mini Secure Digital storage slot. By using the telephone-style interface, the user can access an address book, music, digital books (including those from Audible,, NFB Newsline® and the National Library Service for the Blind), a word processor, a calculator, a stopwatch, the Internet, RSS feeds and podcasts, and more. The Braille Plus includes a set of Perkins-style Braille input keys for rapid text entry. American Printing House for the Blind. Price: $1,395.

Access to many forms of technology for people with visual impairments.

Offers independence to visually impaired people.


Cost may be too high for some people.

If other physical issues exist, more modifications may be needed for a person to use.

User must know Braille.

This would be a good way for visually impaired people to access information and be independent in all areas that support Internet access.

5. Bookmaker Braille Printer (also called Braille Bookmaker): This is a 50-pound portable or desktop 80 CPS interpoint Braille printer with built-in ET Speaks speech synthesizer, and a 512K-text buffer. The menus are spoken, and the printer can be used as an external speech synthesizer. Enabling Technologies Company. Price: $9,995.

People without sight or mobility can use this, as it is speech activated.

Printer can produce Braille or speech. 

Heavy; immobile.

Must know Braille.


This would be a good product for someone to use at a job site or a home office.

6. Talking Business Calculator: This is a fully functional business calculator with speech output. Each key is announced when pressed. The visual display calculations and results can be spoken with a press of a button. In addition to the usual arithmetical functions, this calculator offers items such as: repetitive addition/ subtraction, chain multiplication/division, constant multiplication/division, and much more. Electronic Technical Services, Inc. (ETS). Price: $358.66 (please use this order number - Canon TBC-1).

Makes it possible for visually impaired people to perform math functions independently.

Must be able to use hand/finger function.

Somewhat costly. 

This would be a great tool for visually impaired people, although less expensive versions exist.

7.Kurzweil 3000

Cambium Learning Technologies


Software grades 3–Adult

• Built on text-to-speech


• Reading, study skill, and

writing support

Provides users with learning disabilities the opportunity to have material read to them.

Material is scanned into the machine, making use quick and easy.

Highlighting tools and split screen enable users to make notes and prepare written work while having the reading material open in front of them. 


Must be loaded on a computer.

Not available for younger children. 

While costly, this looks like an excellent learning tool for anyone who struggles with reading or assembling their thoughts.

8. Trekker: This is a stand-alone device that consists of a shoulder strap with a GPS receiver, power module, speaker, and PDA. Several GPS receivers are available including a Bluetooth receiver for wireless connectivity.  When connected wirelessly the PDA may be stored in a pocket or on a belt clip.  The GPS receiver is attached to the shoulder strap for ease of operation.  Several maps may be loaded into the PDA, covering the regions the user is traveling in.  Ear buds or an ear phone may be used in place of the speaker so the user can hear surrounding traffic and noise.  HumanWare. Price: $1,695. With Maestro option, $1,995.

Independence for people who are visually impaired.

Works with more than one type of receiver.

Earpiece can be used instead of a speaker, making the user less noticeable.

Could be used by people without impairments also. 


Must be kept charged. 

This is a good way for visually impaired people to gain mobility, even in areas with which they are unfamiliar.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Assistive Technology Week 2

solutions that would be useful additions at your school or workplace
I focused on ergonomic designs, special keyboards, and classroom participation helps that a regular education classroom could use. I teach regular second grade, and as I watch those young children learning how to keyboard, I think of how useful it would be for them to have larger keys that are in different colors, like some of the ones I found on the Infogrip website. As a person who spends a lot of time typing, I would love to have one of the ergonomic keyboards for myself. I see so many adults wearing carpal tunnel supports on their wrists, and I wonder that we allow this for ourselves. I also found the option to have the keyboard letters arranged any way you want them to be interesting. I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. William Daggett speak, and he mentioned that the letters on a typical keyboard are arranged for the least efficient, slowest typing as a throwback to the old days when typewriters used to get stuck when the letters crossed because the typist was going too fast for the technology. Now we our technology can go as fast as we want it to, so if we rearrange the letters, we could communicate even faster. This would be great for someone who uses a keyboard to talk. Last, I liked the classroom items I saw on the EnableMart website. Again, as a teacher of young children, they could benefit greatly from some of the technology that is designed to aid children with disabilities. Many of them are still developing cognitive and motor skills needed to manipulate more "adult" items like keyboards and spinners.

I wish I had done this week's assignment before I started my assistive technology plan. A lot of the things that I laboriously searched for are right here at my fingertips!

implement simple accommodations in various

While I was searching for hardware for my assistive technology plan, I came across a thumb drive that enables any PC to magnify and read on screen information to the user. It can be easily removed and transported to other PCs, so the person isn't limited to a single computer. It's called a dolphin pen.

The Task Builder is a nice tool, both for children who cannot cognitively process multi-step directions and for young children who lack maturity to recall multi-step directions. It records the steps of a process and the child can play them back until he or she has completed all parts of a process.

As a software application, word prediction is a great feature for both children with disabilities and children who are still learning how to write. When a group of letters is typed in that do not match with a known word, the program suggests likely possibilities. This would make writing easier for a person who has motor or cognitive issues, or help a young learner with the complex task of writing.

particularly helpful in developing your knowledge about assistive technology

EnableMart was particularly helpful to me. I actually did my own research last week for an assistive technology plan, and I came across the EnableMart website and found it to be informative and have a large number of hardware and software items for a wide variety of needs.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

AT module 1

Here I am starting a new chapter in tutorials - this one is all about assisstive technology. As I write this, I am being assisted by the use of Spell Check, and I am grateful for the help. When I received my teaching degree in 2006, I fully expected to be using my degree in Special Education to work with students with disabilities. To my surprise, the school district that I chose to work for placed me in a regular education classroom. Here I am daily confronted with the reality that most of my students have special needs of one type or another, and that the pace in my classroom is expected to be "regular", if not academically rigorous. So, while I am familiar with the experience of adapting my lessons and centers to a variety of skill levels, much has changed on the technology front even since I graduated from school.
I teach second grade. Currently, I have one child from the life skills room who attends part of each day in my classroom. Bruce has a "talking box" that we call a Mo. It has several screens that, if he touches a picture on any of them, will do his talking for him. The phrases are rudimentary, but since Bruce is extremely limited in his speech, it gives all of us a good idea of what he wants. Early in the school year, Bruce's aid and I introduced the Mo to our classroom so that everyone would know what Bruce had and what it does.
Similarly, if I needed to teach Braille to my students, I would introduce it whole class. Hopefully the student who uses it would be proficient enough to demonstrate how this works and why it is important to know. After showing some of the letters and combining those letters to make words, I would have the children practice using Braille in pairs. This would lend itself well to my elementary aged group because of the tactile nature of Braille. After some practice, we would use our new knowledge to interpret some Braille literature. To continue to reinforce the skill, I would have a Braille center that each child would rotate through on a biweekly basis.
In reviewing The National Center for Learning Disabilities website, I clicked on most of the links to see if there was new information out there for me. As a teacher of emergent readers, I often am part of the diagnostic process when a child has a learning disability, and as part of a team of educators, I have access to many modifications and ideas about assisting these children in a regular classroom. The information I saw on this website reflected current thinking, but it was more general in each area than the information that I have been working with. I would use this more to expose or introduce educators to the types of needs they may experience int heir classrooms.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Week 9,Things 21, 22, and 23

Well! Suddenly, I am finished with the 23 Things that 9 weeks ago I didn't know where to find them! This feels good. I have reviewed things that I had been exposed to , but had not tried, in other classes. Although I struggle with technology, I see that I CAN figure out many things that before seemed too overwhelming to attempt.
I located a group of podcasts created by an elementary school group, older than the second graders that I teach, but nonetheless inspiring to me. These kids sound GOOD! My class made a podcast last year, associated with an animal report, and I relied heavily on our technology support person for help. This year, I know more about what needs to be done. I will still use her help, though (let's be real - I want it to be done before the end of the school year!). Part of the issue for me is that I need time to both complete my graduate studies, do my regular job, and then I need time to learn how to use some of the new technologies and make them fool proof for my students and my colleagues.
This is true for the ebooks and audiobooks. I love the idea of choosing a book, downloading it to my ipod, and listening to it when I'm not reading something else or working on something. That doesn't happen in my life right now. I hope when I have free time (next Aug. before school starts again) that technology won't have changed too much that I can't recognize what to do!
Back to podcasts, I found one of my favorite radio shows on iTunes. I gave it us when school started because I didn't have time to listen to it in the car, where I can tune it in. I cant' get it in my house. Now, I can listen to it on my computer. Podcasts are not at all scary when I realize that they are radio shows. During the early decades of the 20th century, people broadcast radio shows from their homes regularly. Everything old is new again! Fannie Farmer has written one or two books about characters who did just that. Thanks to Chris Kretz's clear explanation of all that goes into a podcast and all the uses for a podcast in a contemporary library, I no longer feel a hollow feeling in my stomach when podcasts, or other types of technology, are mentioned. In fact, I really need to know what what I'm talking about, because I tend to be the one at my grade level in my building who knows the most about these topics. Now, that's a surprise.

Kretz, C. (2007). Podcasting in libraries. In Nancy Courtey's Library 2.0 and Beyond. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.