Sunday, October 31, 2010

The iPad = Educational Access (my proposal)

Although my proposal (in part below) for an iPad integration project did not yield the results I was hoping for, I thought I'd share my thoughts and ideas. So, enjoy. I'd love comments, suggestions, etc. if you have any.

Thanks, Matt

To what extent can the use of the iPad as an assistive technology impact the development of reading fluency and content area achievement for students with disabilities?

Education as an institution is in a stage of transformation. In regard to this process we know these things. Inclusive practices are a reality. High class-sizes and the broad range of student abilities within classes, across content areas, have placed innumerable challenges on schools, their teachers and their students. With the charge of closing identified achievement gaps, special educators must look to build capacity within students through empowerment, skill development, and academic competency.

When students can’t read, they can’t access curriculum. In essence, when they can’t access curriculum they are excluded even when included in the general education setting. For inclusive practices to be successful students need to build reading fluency and skills that generate access to content. Through the use of assistive technologies such as the iPad, students can develop content readiness through the following application of activities. Concurrent use of the iPad within reading intervention programming such as Corrective Reading, Read 180, Language!, and others. Provide process level differentiation across content areas to build pathways to learning. Create opportunities for self-monitoring, empowerment, goal creation, collaborative processing, and metacognition, in which the active progress monitoring is infused within all activities. Integrate fluency and reading instruction throughout the curriculum, in an engaging format.

Research (Tomlinson, 2005) suggests that high quality curriculum is engaging, authentic, varied, interesting, connected to prior knowledge, and incorporates technology, amongst other characteristics. Thus, it is imperative that we meet the students at their level of desire and need. For some, simple exposure to technology is necessary, while for others it can develop skills and become an equalizer for learning. Two specific ways in which I plan to utilize the iPad within this context are as follows: Effective fluency instruction consists of three main activities, modeled reading, assisted reading, and practice. In meeting these elements of effective instruction I will have students record, rehearse, paraphrase, listen, and follow along with reading materials. The ability to read a digital story while listening to it, record individual oral reading, listen and observe fluent models of reading, and reflect upon performance on a single device can be a powerful tool in supporting fluency and access to content.

Over the course of the year I intend to build interest and motivation, and foster self directed learning through empowerment and ownership of education. It is my sincere belief that tools such as the iPad can impact student achievement, student perceptions of school, conceptions of self and ability, while also 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.

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! 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. I do not presume by any means that the 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.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thoughts on Assessment-How, Why, When,...

No, these are not new thoughts. What I write in the following lines has been said before. I guess what I can add to this topic is a willingness to explore and discover.

I believe that as education becomes more individualized and differentiation becomes a mainstay in classrooms. It is important that we assess student ability in effective and efficient ways. The implications of our culture of data can overwhelm and dishearten teachers, as well as discourage and disenfranchise students.

We cannot ask our students to be accountable for what they have not been taught. Nor can we expect our students to use skills, strategies, or reasoning which they have not been provided opportunity to apply in practice. Assessment needs to be an opportunity for the learner to "show off" what they've learned.

It doesn't really matter what type of assessment (ongoing, progress monitoring, formative, summative, or other), if we don't completely understand the how, why or what, then we have potential systemic issues.
So, I guess this is where I shall continue my personal exploration:
If the goal is to activate and empower the learning process, how does effective assessment fit into this perspective?

Monday, October 18, 2010

This is where we MUST begin...

I was privileged to be witness to a great quote from a pre-service teacher (pursuing their degree in elementary education at the University of Northern Colorado) and interviewee for a prospective Learning Center Aide today re: students & their individual talents. "I heard from teachers how difficult this one student was. But what I came to find out was that he was really a great kid & that some of his distractions were actually his talents."

This is the mindstate of possibility. It comes from a person first perspective, it values difference & diversity, it shows care and concern, it models empathy & frames the foundation for resiliency.

This is what ed reform needs to be. Where it needs to begin.

iAccess Day 1: Exploration & Discovery

Well, just as expected the iPods are a hit with the students. Today we worked on getting familiar with the devices. It was an "Exploration Day" so to speak. I was surprised with the little exposure some students have had with iPods. Some seemed to hold it as if it would break while others dove right in. To sum up our first day, there were definitely a few satisfying and exciting moments.

Here are few-

This student (above) was excited about every single aspect. He wanted to use the "twitter" app to share what he was learning. In fact I think he asked at least 5-6 times today. Sounds like validation to me.

A couple students immediately went to the "Maps" app to search for their house. They found them pretty quickly too.

One student began taking pictures & video of white board drawings in an attempt do some stop motion animation.

Another student wrote a note to wish her older brother a happy birthday via twitter.

For what it's worth it was a GREAT first day. I'm looking forward to more, I think the kids are too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

On Education Reform...

Anyone familiar with the work of Dr. W. Edwards Deming? Well, what he was saying back in the World War II era seems earily similar to the need for changing perceptions of public education. Yes, his philosophy is rooted in business, but good ideas are just that, it doesn't matter where they come from.

Deming’s 14 Points
1. Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service.
2. Adopt the new philosophy.
3. Cease dependence on mass inspection.
4. End the practice of doing business on price tag alone.
5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service.
6. Institute programs of training.
7. Institute leadership.
8. Drive out fear.
9. Break down barriers.
10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for theworkplace.
11. Eliminate numerical quotas.
12. Remove barriers to pride and joy of workmanship.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and retraining.
14. Take action to accomplish the transformation.

Another approach to change & the development of capacity in regard to professional development which has some similarities (in my view) to Deming is the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM). This model came out of research done in the 1980's, nearly 40 years after Deming's work in Japan. Check out more about the CBAM here.


Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis (Deming, 1986)

CBAM, (Hall & Hord, 1987; Hord, Rutherford, Huling-Austin, & Hall, 1987; Loucks-Horsley & Stiegelbauer, 1991).