Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Classroom 2.0

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Google Docs Collaborative PowerPoint Rubric

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Inclusion of students with disabilities in online learning environments

This is an example of teachers sharing knowledge about technology on classroom 2.0 web site (click on link above to find the site). This question addressed my need to promote inclusion in the classroom using technology. Some links can be found at Links for Life after Cal State on this blog - others - sorry you have to cut and paste.

Posted by Lorraine Ahlers-Mack on August 1, 2008 at
11:48am in Help or Feedback Needed

How can I as a new teacher include my students with visual or auditory
disabilities in online learning? I know that there are restrictions
for using some Virtual Worlds. Has anyone come up with a way to use it so that students can collaborate in the experience? What about programs like Moodle?
Can they be adapted with auditory enhancements? I would appreciate feedback.
Thanks in advance.

Replies to This Discussion
Reply by Karen Fasimpaur on August 1, 2008 at 2:21pm
You might check that your web site or online learning environment meets accessibility guidelines. (This will ensure that tools that disabled people use, like screen readers, work.) Here are some resources on this:

Hope this is useful.

Reply by Christy Tucker on August 1, 2008 at 8:03pm
Visually impaired students will probably use a screen reader. You can find a number of resources available for making content accessible to screen readers. You don't have to provide an audio equivalent for everything as long as your students have the right software to read it to them. JAWS is a common screen reader, but even Firefox add-ons like Click Speak and Accesibar can make a big difference in an LMS like Moodle. Virtual worlds like Second Life are harder, partly because everything has to be accessible by keyboard. Linden Labs does have some documentation of their accessibility features.

For students with hearing impairments, provide a text equivalent for any audio. If you have video, provide real-time captions if you can and a transcript if you can't. Second Life should actually work fine for someone with a hearing impairment as long as you use text chat instead of voice.

WebAIM has a wealth of resources on general web accessibility. I recommend starting with their Intro to Web Accessibility. Ira Socol's SpeEdChange blog has lots of ideas about accessibility specifically in education.

Reply by Sylvia Martinez on August 2, 2008 at 9:31am
Hi Lorraine,
You might want to check out Karen Janowski's blog
She's an expert on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and using technology to offer access to all kids, and her blog is a wealth of resources and ideas. She's a member here too!

A Collaborative Wiki

Click on the title to find:
A collaboration formatted according to designated grade levels. It is a compilation of interactive web sites for use in the classroom to support student learning in content areas, diversity and inclusion and English language learners.

EdTech Profile

This chart shows my progress over time regarding the use of technology. I have become solidly proficient in all three categories: Computer Knowledge and Skills; Using Technology in the Classroom and Using Technology to Support Student Learning

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Spreadsheet Using Excel for a Science Project

Journal 7

Kumar, Muthu (Fall 2004).Learning with the internet . New Horizons for Learning Online Journal. Vol. X No. 4, 12.

The author makes recommendations for teaching students how to use the Internet as a teaching tool. The recommendations on how to effectively employ the technologies and harness fully the new opportunities created by it to promote positive student learning experiences are authentic and practical and should be consciously considered when teaching.

The Internet can be viewed as providing the following three basic types of tools in the educational domain:

Tools for inquiry:
∙ to facilitate finding sources of information appropriate to a task;
∙ working to understand the information resources and;
∙ how the information resources relate to the task, and;
∙ applying this understanding in a productive way

Tools for communication:
∙ communication can be both synchronous and asynchronous and;
∙ take on many forms such as e-mail, mailing lists, newsgroups, chat and
∙ involve communication with students and professionals in distant places,
cultures and traditions as well as facilitating teachers to be in touch
with other teachers

Tools for construction:
∙ promote learning by scaffolding varieties of authentic learning activities
for students
∙ support the development of students' higher-order thinking skills
∙ enable students to demonstrate their conceptual understanding by
constructing products such as web pages
∙ enable learners to regulate their individual learning progress
according to their own experiences and expertise
∙ Enable learners to access a wealth of resources at their own pace and have
meaningful interactions with the content information
∙ are adaptable for both individual and cooperative learning

Caveats that educators need to bear in mind in their attempts to employ the Internet as a teaching aid.
∙ Students often go straight to the Web without waiting for guidance from a
teacher or librarian resulting in students having a difficult time
navigating the Web and locating appropriate information relevant to the
tasks in their homework
∙ Students may also not differentiate between authentic web sites and sites
that contain biased and inaccurate information but masquerade as being
∙ Students must be taught proper evaluation skills

Teachers need to consider practical constraints that might otherwise hinder the desired implementation of lessons:
Locating appropriate information on the Internet requires a variety of skills such as:
∙ ability to use Internet tools (e.g. search engines);
∙ knowledge of search techniques (e.g. browsing through an information
tree) and;
∙ ability to execute the search (Carroll, 1999)
∙ ability to apply Boolean logic rules (e.g., and, or);
∙ an understanding of how information is organized;
∙ critical thinking skills that allow the searcher to make informed
choices, and;
∙ a working knowledge of Internet notations;
∙ abilities such as searching for information;
∙ scanning and skimming information, and;
∙ strategies such as planning, monitoring and evaluating in executing
the search

Can I teach these skills within my classroom?

In my classroom it will be imperative that students learn these literacy skills. I will teach then in order to ensure that my students utilize the true potential of the Internet as a learning aid.

Can I formulate assessments to check for understanding of these pre-requisite skills?

I will formulate some method of ascertaining where my students are in terms of these skills prior to teaching them and formulate a collaborative environment for peer to peer teaching if applicable.

Journal 6

Starkman, Neal (July 2008).Teachers & Technology: June Weston. T.H.E. Journal. 12.

The American Education Corporation's A+nywhere Learning System provides curriculum at all grade and ability levels as well as a pre-post testing option that allows for accelerated student movement. It helped the students in the Special Needs Alternative Program (SNAP) get back on track both behaviorally and academically. June Weston used it in her one room classroom for students with special needs so that she could teach high school students a variety of subjects at a variety of teaching levels. This program also targets specific skill development in the areas of conflict resolution, social skill development, behavior management, and academic achievement.

June Weston describes her students as being fearful of failure and distrustful of adults in authority. However, their confidence begins to increase as they learn to use the computers because they control the pace of their learning. June’s biggest challenge was the mental gymnastics it took to assist many different students who were working on 10 different subjects at many different grade levels.

Can I use this program effectively in my classroom?

This program would be invaluable in an inclusion classroom. It would have been perfect for my classroom in New York. I hope that I can bring this technology with me where ever I might teach.

Can I convince my school district to invest in this software?

In light of the requirements of NCLB I believe that it is short sighted not to invest in this type of software. Teachers can clearly excelerate their student's learning and improve test scores! However, if I can't I guess it will be back to the fund-raising option.

Journal 5 - Wiki v. Blogs

My tool is the Wiki - I think. I viewed a thread on Classroom 2.0 where a teacher (Dai) using a moodle learning environment asked advice regarding whether to use a wiki or a blog for an online reading record. The consensus was that the wiki would provide the students with a more collaborative experience. One suggestion that I liked was to create different pages for each book so that the students working on that particular book could work collaboratively(Ric Murry). Another aspect which recommends a wiki over a blog is that all students could find out about all books even those that they are not reading(Ric Murry).

One draw back which was mentioned was how to keep track of students within the wiki environment because the teacher was using Moodle. This caused me to find out about Moodle and I signed up for it but have not yet decided if it is a viable option for me to use in the classroom.

The advantage of using blogs within Moodle might be to keep a quick record of how much and what students contribute. The grading becomes student-based in the blog, as opposed to book-based in the wiki.

The reason I would still go for the wiki is that I could monitor conversations daily, and as far as grading student contributions I would keep up with their participation daily instead of collecting their work at the end of the project.

However, Nancy Cavillones stated that: If you use an elgg-based such as Youth Voices, you can have students create their own accounts on YV, then create a community for each book. The students would join that community, and post to the community blog about the book.

So I have to say that I would still explore using the blog as well as the wiki....

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Journal 4

Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift
“Being Realistic Isn’t Realistic”
10th Annual Summer Leadership Institute
Cal State San Marcos

My most personal connection during the Summer Institute was with Norm. He made clear that the last cob webs of my preconception concerning people with disabilities have cleared away. I will always remember that he was so joyful when he said that he as a person with a disability was in our (educators and others) lives to make it messy. That is something I have been experiencing personally with my husband, who is a person with a disability, and it has taken me a long time to appreciate it. For many years I was guilty of, on some level, trying to “fix” him. I now try to embrace that messiness and the manner in which it separates us from others is no longer worrisome.

Norm’s rebellion and in your face advocacy is inspiring. Political advocacy has always been a large part of my life and seeing him do so on behalf of people with disabilities makes real all that I have been processing over the last several years. In NYC, my certification did not include working with people such as Norm and I am very hopeful that I will be able to do so in future. In fact, it is one of the most exciting parts of the process of redoing my certification here in California.

Norm stated that the disabled often have to think like Houdini. Houdini created more and more difficult escapes for himself to perform. People said he couldn’t do it and time and again he proved them wrong. As educators we must believe that our students with disabilities can do ‘it’. We must believe in them. We must allow them to create their own lives because we cannot possibly understand their unique perspectives. Norm believes that if we simply untie the knots for ours students that the ropes which we perceive as binding them will untangle themselves.


Can I allow students who are disabled to untangle themselves?

I know that I have control issues, who doesn’t, but I also respect my students and I allow that respect to govern me when making decisions about who will decide - my students or me. I hope that I can continue to involve my students at every level of decision making about their educations and their transitions. I know that I learn from my students. I hope to learn even more now that I have processed Norm’s point of view.


Who will you feed the happy dog or the mean dog?

Norm summed up my leaving the practice of law and going into education brilliantly with this story: “there were two dogs ‘happy’ and ‘mean’ the leader of a tribe of Native Americans asked the young people to go contemplate who will win in a fight- the happy dog or the mean dog.
They came back with their answers and the reasons for them and the chief said that they were all wrong because they could not know who would win because- the one who wins is the dog you feed.” I knew I had to get out of law because it was feeding the mean dog. Can I feed the happy dog in education? Yes I Can!

Journal 3

Richard Villa - keynote
10th Annual Summer Leadership Institute
Cal State San Marcos

Dr. Villa spoke about the current state of education. He stated that one of the greatest barriers to school reform is the lack of a clear vision.

If we envision the future we have a chance to get to it. If we do not how can we possibly get there? Hopefully, I will join a community (school) which shares this vision. If not, I will attempt to (as I had done in NYC) disseminate this vision to others in an organic manner during each phase of the school year. If I address the vision in terms of the best needs of the students, my colleagues with few exceptions, react positively. All teachers care about their students growth and development.

When I began teaching, I believed that I would focus on only one group of students – those who in my opinion and personal experience had been disenfranchised. My destination has changed. I want to reach out to all and include those who had inspired me to begin teaching.

Equalence in education (equity and excellence)
Democratization of the school system must be accomplished in the future of inclusive education.
Self-actualization of each student based upon their strengths and finding their zone of proximal development must be addressed in every classroom. I find the paring of excellence and equity a uniquely perfect blend as far as education is concerned.

Equity and excellence are powerful when combined. I am hopeful that I will establish this in my classroom, my school and my community. A lot will depend upon whether I can get all of these things: Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action plan = Change. Dr. Villa stated that they are all necessary to achieve it or confusion will reign. I unfortunately know about the confusion part. I had spent the summer as a Teaching Fellow preparing for a very technology rich learning environment. That was not to be. In fact, I had to spend quite a bit of money simply providing books and other resources for my students including maps, globes, art tools, photos, films and a lap top for the class.


How will I adapt if one of these is missing in my classroom? I know that if something is missing there is confusion and anxiety because I had a lot of anxiety that my students were not receiving the resources they needed to promote change. So what will I do if I am in the same situation? Can I adapt? I honestly don’t know the answer to this. I no longer have the means to simply try to bring in the resources myself. I am guessing that I will have to write grant proposals and call upon my fund-raising skills. Of course I am assuming that only resources will be missing from the equation above. I could also be working in a district without an action plan. If that is so I know that I can use my interpersonal skills to get a movement started because I did that in NYC. I made small incremental changes toward a greater inclusive classroom. But will I be patient enough this time? I don’t know. A year out of the classroom is a long time and I may have to wait even longer to get back there. I have a great sense of urgency and it has not abated. It is the passion which gives me strength to try to accomplish great change but it also makes me very impatient and that has only been exacerbated by this forced sabbatical.

I will try to remember that it’s all about the students.

“The most untapped resource is children themselves”

I will keep this foremost in my mind when I teach. This concept was something I tried to implement in my lessons and home fun. When I came to a method for reteaching or homefun that my students responded to I continued to use it. I often asked my students what they needed from me in order to gain mastery. This included rewriting the text book in world history. The most frustrating aspect of teaching at Martin Luther King High School was that there was no library but we went on field trips to the public library when time permitted and of course I used my finances to embellish the classroom library. This was one example of a “lack of resources” that I found astounding. Another was the lack of technology available to my students who, I started to notice were, due to scheduling, kept out of the computer room as often as possible, probably because of inappropriate behavior. Students often showed up after several weeks absence and had to be kept in the loop regarding the work we were doing in the computer room. There were times when it didn’t go well. Sometimes they had abused drugs before coming to the computer room as well. It was a difficult situation for all concerned. Eventually, I had to drop students off at the “office” when we were scheduled to go to the computer lab. Not my favorite memory.

“It is justice not charity that is wanting in the world.” Mary Wollstonecraft.
In New York City I came across many master teachers who were suspicious of the motives of all the NYC Teaching Fellows. As fellows, we were sometimes viewed as elitist, over achieving, white people who had come to ‘save the kids from the ghetto’. The issue of our pity response was often discussed. I understood that this was not what my students needed. I understood that my students had strengths that were somewhat unimaginable to me and I treated them as such.

We must create “A culture of artistry-If you work with your hands your head your heart and your soul you are an artist.”

• Culture where character counts
• Culture of collaboration
• Culture of creativity and courage
• Culture of differentiation
• Culture that values diversity


Can I create a culture of artistry?
I believe so. I will know that I have arrived at this culture of artistry when I can look at my classroom and see that germination of the seeds of the above cultures have occurred and are growing. I hope that they blow away in the wind and grow out into the school and the community.

My students will come into an environment where they can succeed as people because they will be giving back to the community, because they will be developing good citizenship and because they will feel as though they belong, they are accepted and they are loved.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Journal 1

ShiffletToledo, RenaCheri (June/July 2).Extreme Makeover: Updating Class Activities for the 21st Century. Learning & Leading with Technology. 35, 34-35.

The article is about using Web-based applications which are social in nature and enable users to collaborate and publish. Students can use Zoho writer to collaboratively create a newsletter and the final product can be published to the web. Students can use wiki’s to create collaborative research based materials and other projects.

The article warns of the dark side of these applications as well. But hopefully the authors state that this will be an opportunity to teach responsible and ethical use of collaborative tools. Activities should be designed to use the tools for constructive purposes.


How would I design a project so that students will use the collaborative tools for constructive purposes?
I would require student input into the creation of the project. If students choose their own project in a carefully guided atmosphere of course they are more likely to utilize the technology for the advancement of their own mastery of the content and use of technology.

Mader Smith, Jared Ben (June/July 2).Blogging Right Along. Learning & Leading with Technology. 35, 36-39.

This article focuses upon what it takes to become as successful science student. The students in this science class regularly demonstrate their learning through participation in classroom activities, experimentation, demonstrations, and lecture. Students also blog about their learning using iweb on a daily or weekly blog. They use a variety of media to demonstrate mastery of the material.

This allows:

  • teachers to identify that the objectives of the lesson were met
  • absent students direct access to the material
  • serves as a time line of classroom events for content review
  • Peer to peer assessment of assignments can occur
  • allows reflection of the process by teachers


How would I use a blog in my classroom?

Of course I believe that it would depend upon who I was teaching. But I certainly would make the creation of a blog a collaborative process. I would assess my student’s technological savvy first and be sure that the ELL students were not too tied to text based assignments. I would be sure that guidelines were clear for blogging and that students understood their ethical responsibilities for creation of this community online.

Journal 2

McFarlane, Sarah Heller (Summer 2008).The Laptops Are Coming! The Laptops Are Coming!. Rethinking Schools Online. 22, 1-7.

This teacher writes a reflection about her first year using laptop technology in her high school social studies class. She addresses the ethics and power structures involved. She reflects upon how we can create a learning environment which tracks the impact of technology on the "cognitive, social and emotional development" of students and educators.

It is interesting to see how a "dream come true," the provision of each student with a lap top created problems for her as an educator and for her students as well. She found that the introduction of the technology and the time required to implement to made it difficult to simultaneously analyze what was happening. Additionally, the mandates from her district such as professional development time, use of email, online attendance, grade entry and substitute request programs and eventually web site creation for all teachers, posting grades online and use of technology in class frustrated her because it took time away from teaching.

She found that her adolescent students were becoming disconnected from each other and the content of the course as well. And that her ELL students who were less technologically savvy and who were less adept at the text laden assignments because resentful of the lap top program. These problems were in her opinion based on a lack of social justice and equality and negatively shaped relationships and learning.


How would I handle a similar situation in my classroom?
I watched the videos available on the ISTE website when doing the Power Point Presentation and saw students working in groups on projects with "real life" experience (such as collecting data for the science project) and placing the data into prearranged programs on their lap tops. This will alleviate the student alienation and have students interact between the online world and the real world. Students would have to talk to each other as a result they would increase their social skills thereby alleviating the author’s concerns about alienation.

How can the use of technology in the classroom increase social justice and equality?
Using the web to increase social justice and equality would be an easy task if students were focused on sites such as "taking it global". Decreasing the amount of text laden assignments would also help ELL students to feel competent. And finally, using the technology to work in groups would allow students with various strengths and needs to support one another.

Check out the link to Digital Youth Network referred to in the article as a program that works!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Introductory Letter

To begin at the beginning I was born near Gracie Mansion in NYC (that's where the mayor lives) but I lived way uptown (the Bronx) for 13 a great accent there... Then the folks took me really way up town to Westchester County which was like going to Mars. So I of course went to college there since I wanted to be able to pass as a Martian anytime I needed to.
But after college I lived in NYC for 10 years because the air there was more natural to me.
Then I went to law school and practiced law for almost 15 years. But I got tired of having to be mean all the time so I decided to change and while I was trying to decide I taught some students and while I was doing that I realized I was happy again... so I morphed into a teacher.

Then I won a fellowship to become a NYC teacher and spent a year teaching in high school in a self-contained class in 9th and 10th grade and I was very happy, when my husband of 9 years said he couldn't breath anymore and some people on the west coast offered him some breathing apparatus. And so kicking and screaming I left for Cali where no one had ever heard of me and so pretty much ignored me for a while - a year (except a cute little stray dog who came to visit my husband and I and our 2 dogs and decided to stay) :) And so since reading Jackie and Rich's book changed the way I thought about Spec. Ed I came to Cal State where I feel included.

All of my experience with technology is self taught. I use a PC because it was what most lawyers used 10 years ago. I can usually figure out how to do anything if I am in a patient mood. I ran my business using a lot of technology for calendaring and putting together large documents, always being connected with a palm pilot etc. I have used google documents a lot. I have always used the Internet for research - lexis - Nexis (since 1990) etc... for legal stuff. My school in NYC (MLK HS) did not have computers in the classroom and since I taught a self -contained class with ED students sometimes going to the computer lab was trying (I taught 9th and 10th graders). So I am anxious to begin using the computer in whatever job I get. Did I mention I am looking for a teaching position? :)

Creating an Inclusive School profoundly changed my view of how to proceed as a special educator. I hope that the teaching position I obtain allows me to be collaborative but if not I know that I can collaborate with other teachers in an informal way as I did at Martin Luther King HS. I have been committed to social justice since I worked for McGovern. Being a part of an institution whose mission statement commits to diversity and equality and social justice is a very natural place for me.