Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Journal 9: First graders with iPads?

Getting, S., & Swainey, K. (2012). First graders with iPads?. Learning and Leading with Technology,40(1), 24-27. Retrieved from

First graders with iPads? This article, by Sara Getting and Karin Swainey, discusses the use of iPads in the classrooms of young students to improve success in "youngest at-risk readers." Getting and Swainey wanted to determine if iPads would aid in the reading achievement of their two lowest reading groups. Much to their surprise, facilitating the use of iPads in a first-grade classroom was relatively easy. Teachers sat the students down and gave them the iPads; any student who did not comply had their iPad taken away immediately. For those that did comply, many apps were used on the iPads to facilitate reading success. "Sight Words, Fluency, Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Literacy" were some of the areas of focus and concern for the teachers. The students were comfortable using the iPads and their attention and focus improved greatly. The students also began to collaborate with one another in groups.

Q1: What, if any, problems arose during the experiment?

A1: The teachers found some technical problems where the iPads would not sync properly in mass quantities. Some apps were also missing from some of the devices. Subject matter was limited on the devices as well and some of the apps were noisy and distracting. To solve the noisy apps problem, they purchased headphones for the group activities.

Q2: What was the outcome?

A2: One outcome was that the TOT "time on task" statistics for students improved, in some cases as much as 20%. Students learned about global awareness using Google Earth. The data gathered by the teachers confirmed that students who routinely used the iPad saw elevated average gains and/or higher scores at the end of the year.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Journal 8: Tools for Communication and Accessibility

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is the term used to describe the methods of communication available to those who are impaired from normal speech. These methods include tools that help people with speech impairments form words and sentences.

One low tech tool I decided to research for communication is called the GoTalk 9+ and is available from this link. This message-type board is considered to be low tech and allows the recording of up to 9 messages with a total maximum recording time of 45 minutes. You can put custom pictures of the actions/word buttons that are located on the device. This allows people with speech impairments to quickly communicate with others in a clear way. The buttons can be set for very common words such as "hello" or "all done" and can therefore allow communication to be available at the push of a button. In the classroom I can easily see this being used as a go-to tool for quick communications like questions, requests, and statements.

Interestingly enough, sign language is considered a low tech form of AAC according to

One high tech tool I decided to research is called the Boardmaker® with Speaking Dynamically Pro v.6 and is available from this link. I chose this tool because it is the most expensive on the site's best seller list. The Boardmaker® is software for Windows and Mac that gives students the ability to learn and communicate with many notable features like word prediction, abbreviation and expansion, and the ability to store frequently used phrases. In the classroom this is actually used as a learning tool for students to develop their writing and speech abilities. First they compose messages using the software's word prediction technology and then they listen to their messages to practice their speech.

For students with special needs where accessibility is an issue, an Input Device provides an easy way for students to reach out and communicate. These Input Devices are used mainly with students who have physical or mental disabilities and cannot use normal devices like keyboards. These students can use touch-sensitive pads, selection switches, or pointing devices.

Here is a link to a great pdf article that explains everything about these input devices:
Use of Computer Technology to Help Students with Special Needs

One hardware option I researched is called the Roller Joystick Plus and is available through this link. This joystick is a fully functioning replacement of a standard mouse and works with both Windows and Mac. Features include removable finger covers and recessed function buttons. Students can use this joystick to left-click, right-click, scroll, and double-click just like any ordinary mouse. You can also change the speed of the cursor. In the classroom and at home this tool is used as a replacement for a standard computer mouse for students with special needs. Now accessibility isn't as much of a problem; students can move their hands around this joystick instead of fidgeting with a mouse.

One software option I researched is called iCommunicator and is available from this link. This software provides a variety of different tools to help students with special needs communicate and is designed mainly for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. This tool is ideal for students with accessibility issues because it only requires the students to speak to the computer instead of having to type. Students can talk through a microphone and the iCommunicator software will turn everything they say into typed words and sentences. The software offers speech to text, speech or text to video sign language, and speech or text to computer voice. This seems like an amazing tool and can be used on a variety of students whose accessibility needs differ. In the classroom this can be used for everything from everyday communication to writing essays and reports. This software allows students to go to the next level and communicate through technology simply by talking to the computer. As a dual-use, teachers can also use this program to generate sign language videos for students and generate computer voice outputs of text.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Journal 7 PLN - Personal Learning Network


PLN stands for Personal Learning Network. A PLN is one's version of social networking for educational purposes. A PLN can network you with other educators who then may share with you valuable resources and information. Professionals often come together to expand their PLN's through online tools like Twitter. Twitter allows these educators to participate in regularly scheduled "chats" which are moderated and have new topics each time. The chats are a fantastic way to ask questions, share information, give opinions, and discuss the real problems that are facing education today. As a teacher, this can help tremendously; there are virtually thousands of resources shared on Twitter everyday. You can sort through the information to your specific subject and find the answers to many your questions. I plan to use Twitter to network with fellow Math teachers and become friends with them. When problems arise and I need help, I plan to look to them for advice and suggestions. Also in my PLN is a social booking website called Diigo. With Diigo you can bookmark websites that you find particularly interesting and share them with other educators. You can also use Diigo to network with other educators and get access to all of their bookmarks. This is an incredibly powerful tool by which you can search for websites with the specific content and materials that you seek. Last, I decided to join Classroom 2.0, which is a digital discussion forum; it is essentially a place where educators from around the globe come to share information in the form of forum posts. There are thousands of threads in the discussion forums that contain all sorts of information for educators. Also on Classroom 2.0 are labs, articles, recordings, and events.


I decided to participate in #edchat on Tuesday, July 31 at 9:00 a.m. I kept a look out for people who were educators so that I could follow them on Twitter. The topic of the chat was the future of the classroom.

I plan to use Twitter to further develop and maintain my PLN. Twitter is a great tool for meeting new people and sharing ideas about education. I'm impressed with the amount of weekly chats that are available specifically for those interested in education. The chats are a great way to spend a Tuesday morning and I will probably attend one at least once a month. After participating in the chat, I chose to follow a few educators who shared ideas similar to mine. Some of these educators have thousands upon thousands of followers! I view following them as a great way to receive trustworthy information, links, and ideas.


The chat is definitely fast. There are constantly new posts coming but what I like is that you can basically pause the chat by choosing not to view the new Tweets right away. This gives me time to actually read and follow links that people have posted to the chat.

One person whose account name is "Eye on Education" posted a link to a .pdf file containing "31 Days Worth of Online Activities: The Connected Educator Start Kit." I downloaded it and it seems really useful in explaining all the new online tools for education including Twitter and Web 2.0. Here is the link to the pdf: Tools

One person started a long discussion with the question, "How do you envision the learning places of the future?" Many teachers posted that they wanted to start transitioning their classrooms into laid back, cafe style atmospheres to inspire student collaboration. Some educators suggested that the classroom may change aesthetically over time, but it will always be a necessity in our society. As one person Tweeted: "Tech advancements are changing the definition of a 'classroom' but not doing away with it." Online and virtual environments including online schools are also changing the face of the classroom. But from what I gathered from this chat, most people agree that the traditional classroom is here to stay.


I'm using Diigo to maintain my PLN by bookmarking pages that interest me and tagging them with "PLN". The helpful links I get through Twitter chats and other pages are all send to Diigo to permanently store them for easy future retreival. Also on Diigo are many groups to follow. One group I joined, "Math Links", posts daily updates on new links and information. These updates are sent directly to my email account.

I'm currently following 2 math teachers, 1 person who is a department head of educational technology, 1 person who in interested in expanding his own PLN, and 1 person who is a regional technology coordinator with over 18,000 public bookmarks!

I tagged a few sites I gathered from the regional technology coordinator with "PLN". I chose these sites because they all have to do with mathematics in education. One site gives lesson plans and activities for grades Pre-K to 12. Another site gives tips on how to teach mathematics in a visual way that is easy to understand for students. The last site is a forum-type site that gives resources for teachers in a well-organized fashion.

Digital Discussion Forum:

I chose to join the Classroom 2.0 website and put the badge on my blog. I researched the article entitled "Kindelizaton: Are Books Obsolete?" In this article the author, Stephen Krashen questions whether physical books and textbooks will become obsolete in the future. He presents percentages that show huge increases in the number of adults who own e-readers and e-books. In addition, 62% of high school libraries use e-books and experts estimates that in 5 years, 84% will use e-books. I agree with Krashen's opinion that "kindelization" is far away even though more and more people are starting to use e-readers. As of now, cost is the most limiting factor for families who do not own e-readers and I think that many families would rather spend their hard-earned money elsewhere. It both excites and scares me to think that complete "kindelization" could one day become a reality.