Monday, July 16, 2007

MITS Speaker Very Inspirational

As I have been putting this blog together, I am compelled to write about my experience at the Michigan Integrated Technology Supports (MITS) Conference that was held the end of June 2007 in Traverse City. The first day was devoted to the speaker, Dr. Denise DeCoste, who was very eloquent in her delivery of the topic of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). She spoke to us about how the UDL is our responsibility as educators to incorporate flexible curriculum into our daily teaching methods for the sake of all learners. UDL is the practice of embedding flexible strategies into the curriculum during the planning process so that ALL students can access a variety of learning solutions. She has discovered what this looks like in the educational setting for all persons involved in the educational process, which include general educators, special educators, and therapists of all kinds that need practical applications of how to engineer the curriculum to meet the needs of diverse learners. It is proven that "in-the-moment" accommodations and instructional retrofitting are inefficient; therefore, it is imperative to build more flexible materials from the onset of curriculum planning to benefit all learners. UDL harnesses the power and flexibility of modern technology and technology provides the flexibility needed to adjust to learner differences. Although this concept of UDL is still in its infancy, it is imperative that we, as educators, bring it to the forefront for our students' future in our highly technological society.

$100 Computers

I just read where Intel and OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) are giving the opportunity to purchase $100 computers to other countries. I am confused as to why large corporations would prefer to give other countries computers for their children's use vs. providing our nation's children with the same opportunity first. Why is it not possible to get our students up-to-speed with the technological advances where we have classrooms that are available to them to be taught. Most classrooms in the US have one, or maybe a few more, computers within the classroom and some even have Computer Labs that are utilized weekly to teach basic skills to the children. Why not provide our children the opportunity to have a $100 computer first so our children can be prepared to support our nation; after all, they are our FUTURE! Don't get me wrong, I do feel that all children should have the same opportunities but first I think we should take care of our own and then help those on outside next so we can help and teach them what we already know. We are selling out our own children for the sake of being humanitarians to others. Please let us remember that "it takes a village to raise a child" and in this case, "it takes a nation to better our futures and our children's futures."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Utilizing Technology Within the SpEd Classroom

This is my first attempt at creating a weblog so I am not so sure how to begin. I will give some history of how I got here so that you may understand why I chose this topic for a weblog.

I am currently taking a correspondence course through Learner's Edge (Course 681: Web EDU; I highly recommend the course!) that requires me to create this weblog to pass this course. I have always had a strong interest in technology and almost pursued it as my major in college but was unable to for one reason or another, anyway, I do what I can to try to stay abreast of the ever-changing world of Technology which is VERY difficult to do. I am currently on my school district's Technology Committee and recently attended a Michigan Integrated Technology Supports (MITS) Conference in Traverse City, MI (a very beautiful place to visit!) to try to stay up to date on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that is a new requirement being implemented in order to keep our students up-to-date on technology and all it offers.

Now for the reasons I brought up this topic as a weblog... I have some major concerns as to how this can all be implemented with the bare necessities to create an online podcast (not to mention the resistance of many teachers who are not "tech savvy") due to budget issues within the school district. Currently, all monies allotted are going to the upper grades since they are closest to graduating and moving on to the "real" world either in secondary education or the workforce. Since I am a Special Educator and have a categorical classroom for Mildly Cognitively Impaired students grade K - 2, I don't receive a lot of technological support for hardware. I have one computer that is two years old that I and the students use, then there is one that is older and is very slow that my paraprofessional uses, when it works. As you can imagine, my computer is the one that the educational games work much better on and keep the students entertained and focused. I must say I do have the ability to use United Streaming videos which has been wonderful for curriculum enhancement. I have used it to help teach letter sounds, learn about insects, and much more. I also use an overhead projector to keep the students' attention more focused when doing worksheets together, learning about money and what it looks like, playing Bingo (letter, shapes, and word families).

My students do go to an itinerant computer class once a week and have done some wonderful things in there that I think could be utilized on a podcast. Fortunately for me the Technology Instructor also attended the conference and she was just as excited as I was about trying to implement many of the "freeware/shareware" that is out there to be had by anyone. We do plan to work together on creating a few things together for the next school year and trying to get the rest of our school staff on board as well.

My biggest question for any teacher out there is, how do you use technology in your classroom/school with students who have disabilities? I don't mean augmentative devices but actually using the Internet for interaction with other students around the nation, and even the world! I want my students to know that there is a much bigger world out there that is not so far that they can't interact with it. Any suggestions?

And parents, what do want to see happening with your child and their interaction with their world around them? How can we help them to learn more about their place and how to function in this world of ours?