Sunday, September 26, 2010

iAccess- Is That an iPod....

....why yes it is.
This year I decided to purposefully start using iPods in my classes. The main intention for the use of the iPod as an access tool & assistive technology device is as follows:
  1. To increase access to content area learning, 
  2. To provide a gateway to reading and math proficiency.
  3. To assist students in developing strategies for task performance.
  4. Create opportunities for self-monitoring, self-reflection, empowerment, and independence 
  5. They're pretty cool.
  6. ....
As many may know I am a special educator. I teach across content areas, provide intensive intervention in math, reading, social skills (affective needs), collaborate through consultation on behavior, differentiation, accommodation and modification, etc. Reading and math intervention tools such as Corrective Reading, Language!, Math Navigator and others have become tools of the trade for special and general educators alike. Well, sometimes these interventions can come across pretty bland. Lets face it, these tools for intervention, used as a tier 2 or 3 can be cumbersome, dry and lead to continued academic apathy in kids who already have low motivation for school.

Over the course of the year I intend to build interest and motivation related not only to the aforementioned types of academic interventions, but to foster and establish an interest in the ownership of education. I do not presume by any means that the iPod/iPad is a "magic pill" that will eliminate all academic problems. To do so would be naive. I do however believe in the power of access. It is my sincere belief that tools such as the iPod and iPad can impact student achievement, student perceptions of school, the conceptions of self and ability, while providing them tools for independence, collaboration, and preparation for the possibilities and opportunities that await them in adulthood.

As we look at building capacity within our models of schooling and developing effective, sustainable systems of intervention and practice, I feel strongly that these tools can provide not only the intangibles necessary for educational motivation but for content knowledge and academic growth.

So, please stay tuned as we embark on this adventure through a world of possibilities, opportunities, and exploration.

Preparing For Success- Choices, Not punishment!!!

Do you have students who are consistently oppositional and Reactive?

Here is one strategy that may work...

I like to call this one, Choices or as it is often referred to by others; "Controlled Control". In many cases, when we respond to undesirable behavior by using punishment the student will react and rebel and the behaviors may become more troubling. Instead of punishment (ie. isolation, etc.) use choices to empower him to have control over his environment.

One thing that we MUST remember with many of these students is that any punishment given may not compare to the circumstances of their lives. Punishment will likely push the student away from you and build a cycle of opposition between you.

ex. Start every redirection with "Which would be better for you?" or "You choose. Pick one of these. You can..."

Before providing choices it is often worth assessing whether the student understands the task objective and determining that their behavior is or is not due to a lack of understanding. An example in which the student might exhibit off task behavior or has a lack of work production, might go something like this-- " I see that you are having a hard time staying focused on your work.  Which would be better for you? For you to sit over on the other side of the room, or for you to sit near my desk?

Remember, behavior is learned, it has a specific purpose, and the behavior we see does not define any child. 

Students with these struggles need us to be patient with them, show them we care, and show them that we won’t reject or abandon them if their behavior becomes difficult. After all, they all need to have their teachers in their corner. It will take time, but the return on your investment of positivity, patience care and understanding will set students up for success.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pedagogy Shopping...

What do we imply? What do we mean? When we say "It's about the learning, it's about what's best for kids." How do we really know? This somewhat benign statement has been the foundation of exclusion for years. Now we say RtI will fix the problem, except for the fact that now we've just found another way to exclude. For example, a stdt w a primary disability of SLD & a secondary of EBD who's achievement falls 2 grade levels below expected performance benchmarks for both math & reading. Both areas have highly sequential and ordered task requirements in demonstrating proficiency, yet instead of providing intervention in the classroom to build logical models/competencies of processing and expressing we find a "program", a research based curriculum to target the deficit. Meanwhile, in order to be a part of this intervention this student must be pulled from class for "specialized instruction", pulled from class altogether and placed into an "intervention replacement", and the list goes on. WE MUST STOP placing students in full replacement courses, exchanging elective classes for a targeted math intervention, etc. If it's about the learning, if it's about what's best for kids, our teachers need tools to apply practical, effective intervention in the in the classroom. Looking at a set of student test scores should not indicate intervention placement. That's reactive, poorly planned & purposeless intervention. This kind of reactivity to intervene (because the intervention is there, it has 10 spots, so let's try it) is not what's best for kids. This "hit-and-hope" style of planning makes it about the intervention and not about the learning. Teachers should be experienced, possibly, dare I say, expert learners. So in this fashion I again challenge all educators to learn. Learn about their students & their profession. To reflect. To reflect upon their practice, their interactions, their experience, the experience of their students. To build. To build with those who can lead, inspire and excite. Finally, I challenge teachers to explore. Explore the dreams of their students, explore the possibilities of imagination, and to explore new ways to learn. This is where intervention begins.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Preparing for Succes-Connecting with Students

As teachers we all have those certain students whom we find it hard to connect with. They are distracted, seem to be disengaged, would rater be somewhere else, show disrespect, etc. We all wish that things would be easier, that the student would pay attention, focus, or even show something as simple as a smile. Well, here is one practical strategy, based on principles of positive behavior support and effective classroom management. Give it a try and see how it works.

Start each class with a positive acknowledgment.
ex. "I see your on Time today Student, you're really getting the hang of your schedule." or "I see that your prepared for class today with all your materials, good job."

These are just 2 examples, but it will be important to connect with the student before class begins or right at the beginning of class to let them know you see them doing something well. It can be private, a comment heard by others, and you decide what's best given specific student needs. Think of it as a deposit in the behavior bank. We deposit positives so that the return on that investment gains interest. In this case, as the student is positively reinforced for doing something right at the beginning of the hour, he is less likely to associate teacher communication with getting in trouble.

M.J. Vannice 8/27/2010

(Dr. Laura Riffel- frequently uses the bank deposit analogy)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Profesional Learning Community & the Special Educator

Recently I read this article about closing the gap between research to practice, and the use of Learning Teams. The focus in this manuscript is on teacher learning teams as related to components of school improvement. It is asserted by the authors that these Learning Teams, in which teachers collaborate to improve instruction focused on what students are struggling to learn, can effectively work to meet the needs of all students.

I believe that the context of specific schools cannot be ignored, and thus I would like to open this question to special educators, special service providers, principals, general educators, parents, and all others interested. I am curious of the experience of others in this area of school improvement. 

**Where do special educators fit into these teams? 
**Does a mixed model of consultation and direct service provision work?

What are your thoughts? 

Gallimore, R., Ermeling, B.A., Saunders, W.M., Goldenberg, C. (2009). Moving the Learning of Teaching Closer to Practice: Teacher Education Implications of School-Based Inquiry Teams. The Elementary School Journal. 109(5).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Inclusion Reform- Is It Really An Education Innovation? (Repost)

Wordle: inclusion & innovationI decided to re-post this entry, as I have found it to be continually relevant in regard to the design and redesign process associated with inclusive educational practice, the evolution of Response to Intervention, and the national focus on reducing drop-out rates. Slight changes have been made, but the essence remains the same.

When I think of reform, change and innovation in education I think of growth.  I try to be continually aware of the processes associated with this change. However when thinking about the impending changes to The ESEA and its increasingly direct link to The IDEA I find myself with some curiosities. 

How are our systems changing to meet the requirements, needs and directives of legislation and the push for evidence based practices?

Weather we acknowledge these changes as innovation or otherwise, education in this country is in a state of transition. As we look for ways to build capacities within our students we are concurrently struggling with the fundamental aspects of how to transform the capacity of the system. This requires systems-wide transformation, a paradigm shift, the wholehearted embrace of change.

As we look at inclusive practices and its role in the change process, educators, administrators and policy makers will be well served to view these initiatives as transformational. It is important that entire school communities be involved in thoughtful, carefully researched transition. Dramatic and imposed directives will polarize parents and teachers and create environments that are resistant to any change.

When we inquire about the nature and realization of  inclusive practice, we often ask questions about the values and priorities that guide our practice. Research has identified that in order for inclusion reform to be successful, the organizations (in this case the LEAs) guiding systems and strategies must change with the innovation.

Additional thoughts that arise when inclusion reform is on the table seem to focus on some recurring issues. Issues related to pedegogical philosophy and foundation seem to be at the root of addressing inclusionary practice.

Thought 1--Do we value all children equally?
This is a loaded question. Is there really such a thing as equal treatment? Should there be such a thing? Most teachers do value their students equally. In fact, I can’t imagine a single teacher who does not truly believe that they value all children equally.  Educators are passionate, and they must be. The issue however, lies in the term “equally”. The paradigm of inclusive practices is not dependent upon the “equal value” of all children, but rather respect, care and concern for the individual and the “unique value” of all students. So, I challenge that we adjust the question, thus giving us the information to establish a foundation for further dialogue.

Maybe the question should be- What does it look like when we value each student for their independent and unique ability?

Once we identify our collective and diverse answers to this question, only then can we explore what inclusion and inclusive practice indicates in regard to successful and purposeful implementation.

Next steps then lead to discussion of what inclusive practice means.

An aggregate definition of inclusion from multiple resources provides us with the following:
Inclusion and inclusive practice expresses commitment to educate each child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in their neighborhood school and in the typical school and classroom environment with their peers. It involves bringing support services to the child, an integrated set of coordinated services, providing means and ways to increase access to learning opportunities (rather than moving the child to the services).
Above all, inclusive practice entails a spirit and belief in each child’s ability to attain, and maintain a reasonable benefit from being in the classroom.

What does this mean for practice, and for transformation? While our research will most likely inform our practice, it is important that our systems are developed with student-centered, outcomes focused planning. Our beliefs and values will inform our individual investment in any process we undertake. However, we must not forget the one constant within any reform movement, it's not our education, it's theirs.