Thursday, January 9, 2014

Week 9

          This week I really enjoyed reading about effective classroom adaptions for students with visual impairments. I have never had the experience or opportunity to work with students with any type of functional blindness or blindness at all.  Last year in our classroom we had a student who was wheel chair bound whom had Cerebral Palsy.  He had some visual impairment which called for adaptions and accommodations in print size, position, and large images.  He used a slanted desk in order to help see objects more clearly.  When they were flat on the desk, it was more difficult for him to see and read.  On the computer he used a font size that was extremely large as well.  This is the extent of my experience with students with visual impairments. 
         It is extremely important to be aware and recognize the types of accommodations that can be made for students with visual impairments.  Although, I feel as if visual impairments are not as common, it is more apparent with students with disabilities.  The idea of having a visual specialist in the classroom to assist with accommodations and help the student in the general classroom, I believe, is critical for student learning.  My question that I have after reading this article is: how does one go about teaching students braille?  How do you help students to picture objects associated to words when they can't visually see it?  I like how the article discusses ways to help students learn through the various other senses such as touch.  I hope to experience students with visual impairments more often so that I would be able to learn first hand how to make accommodations.  As a future special educator, I would like to read more about how to enhance student learning for students with visual impairments.  It is an important to learn such information when going into teaching - of all kinds. 

Week 8

I really enjoyed learning about assistive technology and early childhood education.  It is important to recognize that technology is not necessarily a form of media.  Technology is everything from play, communication, language, mobility, literacy, computer access, and apps on the iPad.  Some types of assistive technology that we use in our classroom includes: slant boards, pencil grips, different shaped crayons, adapted scissors, letter stamps, tactile numbers and letters, iPad apps, laptop computers, visual schedules, and, last year: powered and manual wheelchairs and walkers.  
         One assistive technology tool I believe has been very beneficial for our students, especially those who have autism, is the visual schedule.  Every student in our classroom how their own schedule posted on the wall.  Included are colored dots which correspond to stations in the classroom and Board Maker visuals for fine arts and general education classroom.  Using a bell to signal a transition in schedule, students will then go to their schedule and grab a dry erase marker off the board.  With that, they will then cross off the station they were just at and check to see where they are going next.  Visual schedules allow students to be independent in their transitions throughout the day.  Furthermore, they help greatly with routine.  For one of our students, it is important that we make any changes on his schedule prior to him arriving to school.  Once he sees his schedule he knows what to expect throughout the day; however, if something is changed and it is not on his schedule then it becomes a battle.  
         I really enjoyed the PowerPoint that provided examples of iPad apps that can be used, adapted books for young children, interactive books, and writing websites that are accessible.  I would really like to explore all the technology out there in order to maximize learning in my classroom for each and every student - no matter the capabilities.  Each and every student (besides kindergarteners) has their own iPad for school use.  There are so many different apps to be used on the iPad that is is crucial to explore the most beneficial ones. 

Week 7

          I really enjoyed the communication resources guide paper this week.  The first thing that stuck out in my head greatly was the quote at the very beginning by Bob Williams : “Every person, regardless of the severity of his/her disabilities, has the right and the ability to communicate with others, express everyday preferences and exercise at least some control over his or her daily life. Each individual, therefore, should be given the chance, training, technology, respect and encouragement to do so.”  This quote really sums up the main idea of special education as whole. It is about giving people equal opportunities to participate in daily life in a way in which they can be successful.  It is part of a persons rights as a human being in America: the right to free speech. Therefore, it is important to provide people with the proper tools necessary to flourish as an American. 
          I enjoyed reading the Communication Bill of Rights, and I found it interesting that it was not developed until 1992.  What did people who had trouble communicating do before?  Were they allowed the resources and tools necessary?  Did they have access on all levels to resources and communication devices if necessary? 
          I feel as if I learned a lot more about AAC.  I always understood the purpose; however, I was not always aware of the different types that are included.  I learned that gestures and writing, facial expressions and eye pointing, head shaking and drawing are all commonly used by the general public.  Without even recognizing these types of AAC, people do them every day of their life.  It just goes to show how important communication is.  People also use computers, telephones, typewriters (not so much any more), and fax machines as another technological way to communicate with other people. 
          ACC is an important aspect of everyday life because it helps people communicate in a variety ways.  It allows people to be an active member of society and participate in education, family life, and in social life.  It allows people to become independent and develop self-confidence and determination because they can communicate what they are feeling.  As part of one of my assignments for a previous class I had to do an hour of silence to gain a sense/idea of what it would be like to participate in conversation without verbally talking.  I developed a sense of frustration and like I was just a listener and not actively involved.  I felt like an outcast and I had so many things I wanted to say.  Imagine having to live life like that completely?  Well, with the help of ACC people with disabilities do not have to!

Week 6

This week I read about the SETT Framework and what it consists of and is.  This is the first time that I have read about the SETT Framework.  I learned that it stands for: Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools.  It is used to determine the tools that can help foster student success through understanding the student, the environment in which the student is learning, and the tasks that encourage students to be an active participant in their learning experience  Playwright Eugene Ionesco said, “It’s not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”  I really enjoyed this quote and think that it speaks greatly to education and learning.    It plays into the idea of critical questions in order to guide further discussion.  
It was very helpful that the article went into further detail about the different aspects of the SETT Framework.  When talking about the student it somewhat reminded me of the part of an IEP where it talks about the students present level of performance.  In order to help students succeed it is important to understand their strengths, special needs, current abilities, and what they need to be able to do independently.   I like that it mentioned that the tasks need to be very specific.  Without specific tasks in mind, it is extremely difficult to understand the progress that students make.  Like in an IEP, goals need to be specific in order to ensure they are measurable and understandable to all people included in the students life.  
The description of tools is very beneficial.  When people think of tools they don’t necessary think of all aspects of what tools means.  Tools, according to the reading, include devices, services, strategies, training, accommodations, and modifications.  There are so many different tools includes in a students learning and it is important to explore all options.  
The critical elements of using the SETT Framework include: shared knowledge, communication, collaboration, multiple perspectives, pertinent information, and flexibility and patience.  Everything is also an on-going process.  All of these critical elements are also critical elements of being a teacher.

Week 5

This week I found it really interesting to read about technology and it’s impact on math instruction for students with special needs.  I agree with the article when it talked about how math has become more difficult, especially for students with disabilities, because today there are higher expectations in education, a more complex curriculum, and changes in standards.  I have a student that struggles with math because of languages processing and reading challenges.  He has dyslexia, and his problems with reading transfer over to math.  Recognizing basic math problems becomes a challenge because there are so many different ways for equations and problems to be represented.  It is important that students practice basic skill on a daily basis as much as possible.  Repetition is extremely important and it takes students with special needs a longer time to register things into long term memory.  
It is essential to provide students with manipulatives - something that was use on a daily basis in my classroom.  Using manipulatives provides students with a visual representation of simple math problems.  I disagree with the article when it says that basic facts should not be practices simply by rote.  I think that once students can see visually, using manipulatives, why a basic fact is the way it is - they should then use flashcards to practice, practice, practice! Again, repetition is key for students with special needs. One strategy that our students use for simple addition problems is the use of touch points.  Touch points give points to numbers.  For example, a number 1 would have 1 touch point, and number 2 would have 2 touch points, and so on.
           One thing that I really liked about the article was the examples they were provided.  It is so hard to find math websites sometimes that can be beneficial to student learning. Many of the websites listed I have never heard of. I can’t wait to take a look at them and see how I can use them in the classroom.  It is nice that the table listed explains the math topics that are covered in the website, the types of directions and feedback available, and other information about the site itself.  I think that math needs to be meaningful in order for students to learn.  Of course anyone can learn math if they practice and practice; however, the more meaningful and related to life math can be, the easier it can become to learn.  Furthermore, the potential for math to become a part of everyday life and the future is greater if learning becomes meaningful.  Students need to be able to see the importance of doing math problems, working with money, and other aspects of mathematics. 

Week 4

           This week I enjoyed the PowerPoint’s and the information provided as well as the reading.  One thing that stuck out the most to me was the idea of effectively reaching students in all aspects of reading: vocabulary, phonemic awareness, fluency, phonics, and comprehension.  There are so many different variables when it comes to reading, which, I believe, is why reading can be so difficult for some students.  I love how there are an abundance of technological resources available that target each component of reading. 
            We use the program Read Naturally in our classroom; however, it is not effective with all students.  One of our students is has decoding problems, and information processing issues.  Last year he was in a general education classroom and would come to our room two times a week for remediation using Reading Mastery.  At this moment, he is not even at the lesson that he ended at last school year.  His focus, motivation, and processing issues influence this greatly.  Out of all of our second graders participating in Read Naturally, he is unable to because we are still focusing on the fundamentals and simple aspects of reading and not too much on fluency at the moment.  Nonetheless, I think that Reading Naturally is a fantastic program.  Students are able to track their progress, see their goal, and monitor their reading.  It is motivating when a student sees him or herself reading their reading goal or even go way above it.  It gives students the opportunity to be proud of their selves, and at the same time gain fluency in their reading. 
            It is amazing to me the abundance of reading resources available on the web.  In particular, I really like Tumble Books; however, I hope to discover more and more resources and websites that encourage reading.  With phonemic awareness it is important to choose a program that is accurate.  There are some programs that are very computerized and say “robot sounds” even when slowing down, exaggerating, and altering sound patterns to recognize easier.  For students with disabilities, it is important that they constantly hear the correct way to say or read words because it takes them that much longer to remember and embed that into their brains.  There is no time to have them hear how to say words or sounds the wrong way because it just further puts them back.  This is why I love the Reading Master program: it offers immediate feedback and corrections.  There is so much repetition involved. 
            I agree that although students have the tools available, they still must be taught how to use those tools.  Otherwise, those tools are completely useless and not meaningful or effective.  The concept of UDL is also very important – especially in the special education classroom.  Students have to have multiple ways of learning information and teachers need to learn effective ways to teach subjects and concepts in multiple ways.  Technology, I believe, can be an important resource in relation to UDL because it also those opportunities for students to learn in various ways, teaching to teach in variety of ways, and students to engaging in various of ways as well. 

Week 3

            This week I found the extra resources very helpful.  I especially liked the article about the benefits of a slanted desk.  I never realized how much a slanted desk really affects ones writing.  One of my students in my class uses a slant board whenever he writes (as suggested by the OT), and his writing and letter formations have improved dramatically.  It was interesting the hear about the benefits of having a slanted surface while working: reduces neck tension, allows your body to sit in a more upright position, eliminates wrist pain, gives writer more control, and use different muscles.
            From the PowerPoint Twice Exceptional, I learned a lot of the characteristics of gifted students.  I was aware of some of the characteristics of a gifted student; however, I was able to expand my knowledge.  I don’t really work with any gifted students so my experience is limited.  Nonetheless, it is important to recognize those characteristics of a gifted student in order to maximize learning.  I don’t agree that gifted students with disabilities should necessarily be placed in a regular classroom. It depends greatly on the severity of the disability.  Furthermore, I think as a special educator and as a teacher it is must easier to help students that are lower than it is to enrich learning material for gifted students.  There becomes a challenge on how to meet the needs of those students who are twice exceptional.  It is important to figure out different strategies for teaching and understand student’s strengths in order to effectively differentiate learning.  
           One thing that I thought about during this week’s activities and readings was my classroom and my students.  On a daily basis they are exposed to technology whether it be a SmartBoard, individual laptops, or OT tools.  All types of technology that my students have in their class have helped and benefited students on ALL levels. I can not help but think about schools and classrooms with such limited resources and the impact that it has on student learning.