Thursday, December 2, 2010

Our Dependence on Technology

Between CEP 452 and CEP 416, I've learned a lot about different types of technologies and ways to incorporate them into my future classroom. It is amazing to me how many different types of technologies there are out there, and how each of them offer so many different possibilities. As a result of this, however, our society has become incredibly dependent on technology. Personally, I have no idea what I'd do without it. I've recently fallen in love with online shopping, simply because of its convenience and my ability to get my holiday shopping done in my apartment. If I want to order food, instead of calling, I can now view the menu, schedule delivery, and pay online. Instead of talking to a friend face-to-face or scheduling a time to meet for lunch, I can Facebook, text, email, etc. to get in touch. Instead of going to the library to rent books for a research paper, I can look up almost any book online and read it, or find online sources in order to get my papers written and homework done without leaving my apartment as well. In fact, a lot of classes and homework and exams are administered online as opposed to having a scheduled class time and meeting face-to-face! Why are we so dependent on technology? Two (or maybe even one) generations ago, our grandparents had absolutely nothing technological to rely on, sometimes not even a TV. Even still, my grandparents openly refuse to touch cell phones, computers, the Internet, etc. and solely rely on a home phone and TV.

According to the New York Times, technology is taking a toll on society. The first line of the article stood out to me the most: "Are your Facebook friends more interesting than those you have in real life?" It is almost entirely true of my generation, because the word "technology" for my generation is typically nowadays defined by "Facebook."

Almost everything we do utilizes technology, so, as I asked before: Why are we so dependent on technology? More importantly, what would we do without it? I, for one, can't imagine living in my grandparents' generation, and find it interesting that they similarly want nothing to do with my generation that is so dependent on it. Unfortunately for them, however, I don't think society is ever going back to the time when technology didn't exist. At this point, we are forever dependent on technology.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Writing IEPs

In lab, we talked about writing IEPs. In terms of becoming a Special Education teacher, writing IEPs is what I'm most nervous about and what I have the most questions about. Each lab group was assigned a story and asked to convene as an "IEP team."

Our lab group chose a story called Out, written by our professor Ira. It is about a student named Pete, who is considered to be an emotionally impaired student. Here is the story:

by Ira Socol

It's 8:17. See, I can tell time. Nobody thinks I can do anything. But that's not true. It's 8:17 and I know school's only been in for seven minutes but I also know I need to be out of here in less than forty-five minutes. Yes, time and arithmetic. Because I need to be on my way by 9:00 so I can meet Derek by 9:30 so we can catch the bus to the subway and be on the way downtown by only a little after 10:00. That's the plan and I've got less than forty-five minutes.

Sam's coming past me and here's chance number one. I stick my foot between his and trip him, he falls in a wild, uncoordinated sprawl, knocking over Tina's desk, books flying. I'm not ready to be obvious yet, so I just smile.

The smile sets Mrs. Girardi off, not that this takes much. But the key here is I can't just get sent to the Resource Room. If I get sent there I'll need to start all over and besides, you know, the standards are different there. I'll need to work much harder. So when Mrs. Girardi says, "What is the matter with you? Are you so stupid you think that's funny?" I prove my growing vocabulary skills with the response, "I'm so stupid I think it's hilarious." Which of course gets this entire class of fifth graders, except Sam who's still on the floor, and Tina, who's glaring at me, into a fit of hysterical laughter.

This teacher is beyond predictable so I can stay ahead easily. She starts to scream. I start to scream back. She tells me to come up front. I tell her to come back to me. When she actually starts to come toward me (can you believe she'd fall for that), I get up and start running around the room. The fact that the class is still laughing is making her crazy. She sure doesn't like laughter. So she actually chases me for half a lap before figuring something out.

They all say I "make bad decisions." Everybody says that. But they're wrong about that too. I make decisions they don't like, but they're not bad. Sometimes they're really carefully made decisions designed to get me exactly what I need. Right now I need to get out of this school so I can run with Derek who got suspended yesterday for the rest of the week. He did it by punching out Kenny DeMuro. I'd rather not do that. Kenny looks like he's still hurting.

Now I need to make sure. I need to give the principal no choice once he gets the phone call. I need less lecture time from him and more of that "oh my God" look because that'll only take ten minutes. He'll call home. Nobody'll be there. He'll say "go straight home" in that very intense voice, as if he thinks I think he doesn't know. Really, he knows I know he knows, but he's got to sound like he's doing his job. And if he's going to do his job, I've got to do mine. I pick a book off Carrie's desk and toss it, not hard but accurately, at Mrs. Girardi, who immediately screams, in her best psycho mode, "You're out of here you little moron, you'll be gone for at least a week." And I take off right out the door, right under the clock: 8:23.

We then used a sample IEP from to create an IEP for Pete: Pete's IEP

Although we didn't know the student and had to make a few assumptions concerning what would be best for him and work best for him in his academic environment, using a story to practice writing IEPs was definitely beneficial and good practice for what we will be doing quite often as Special Education teachers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Assistive Technology

On September 9, Next Montreal's Ben Yoskovitz released an interview with Andrea Prupas and writes an article titled Assistive Technology Helps Kids with Learning Disabilities. In it, he says that prior to meeting Prupas, he had no idea what assistive technology was. According to Prupas, "assistive technology is a broad term for any device that helps an individual bypass the challenges associated with their disability." He learned that popular devices such as iPads and similar touchscreen handheld devices could be used to help children with learning disabilities.

Prupas has her own site and company, inov8 Educational Consulting, with a mission statement that states, "We offer the most current and effective educational solutions in order to provide our clients with the tools that they need to be successful learners in school, and beyond." In other words, her company provides special needs students with assistive technology in order to help them succeed in school. According to her company, assistive technology can be divided into two categories: "learning and educational aids," which "are specifically designed to help an individual actively engage in the learning process and overcome academic difficulties," and "augmentative communication aids," which "are technologies that provide individuals with an alternative method of understanding or communicating language."

I found this interview incredibly interesting, especially because I've heard plenty of information about assistive technology, but have never heard it separated into separate categories. I always defined assistive technology as a combination of Prupas' "learning and educational aids" and "augmentative communication aids" categories, and never thought about dividing them to help those who don't know what it is further understand. Assistive technology is incredibly crucial to special needs students because of its ability to help further their education and provide additional learning with resources that wouldn't typically be readily available to them.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Google Docs

Google Docs is a free website by Google that allows users to create and edit presentations, spreadsheets, forms, and documents and share them and collaborate with other Google users. A Google user can create one of these and then opt to share them with other people. With the share option, the creator can attach email addresses to the document, and they can choose to edit or share the document with additional people.

We used Google Docs in class for a group project, and it was pretty easy to use. Two people in the group created documents--one created a presentation, while the other created a presentation. The rest of the group members told the two creators their email address, and the creators attached each of the group members to the presentation and document. When we all had access to the documents, we edited them and put our ideas into each. In this light, we all owned a piece of the document and all became "creators."

Google Docs is nice for group projects because it allows people to instantly collaborate and edit the documents created as opposed to emailing back and forth one documents each time edits are made.

If my description of Google Docs didn't make sense, try this video: Google Docs in Plain English

Monday, October 18, 2010


Do you have entirely too many bookmarks on your internet browser and check them daily but wonder what it would be like to not have so many tabs open and not have to continuously sort through them?

Here is your solution: RSS (Really Simple Syndication)

RSS is read through an RSS reader--I use Google Reader--and it can be set up to feed everything you have bookmarked on your internet browser to your reader. This way, you can narrow the amount of bookmarks you have and view the blogs, websites, and news sources you frequently read in one place!

If my description of RSS isn't cutting it, try this video: RSS in Plain English.

Create an account with an RSS reader and try it! There are many options besides Google Reader out there, including FreedDemon (Windows), Simple RSS Reader (Firefox add-on), NewsFire (Mac), and many more! Trust me, it makes life much easier for those of us who love to read, read, read!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Digital Texts in a Digital World

Clifford Lynch's The Battle to Define the Future of the Book in the Digital World discusses the future of printed books and E-book reading appliances and software. In today's society, everyone is becoming quite dependent on electronic means of communication and education--but does this benefit everyone?

Over the summer, I received a link to a survey from MSU asking my opinion on the switch to E-books, meaning printed textbooks and coursepacks that we are all so used to wouldn't be as readily available in the bookstores, and all readings would be either digitally scanned onto ANGEL or purchased and used on one of the E-book reading appliances and software mentioned in Lynch's article. I immediately thought about how much that would change my ability to effectively learn in almost all of my classes, especially with multiple and/or large textbooks, and the amount of reading assigned each week. Not only can I not imagine staring at a computer or any other electronic means of reading for that length of time, but I wouldn't be able to highlight the text or take notes on the side of the page without printing it out, which is both a waste of paper and ink, and defeats the purpose of producing the books electronically as opposed to printed.

Best Practices in Accessible Text is a very practical, accommodating article--in it, options to academically accommodate a wide variety of needs of students are discussed. For visually impaired learners, there are large print and Braille readings, and for hearing impaired students, texts are visually accommodating, either through video or sign language. For those with learning disabilities, there are texts with more pictures than words, or flashcards and storyboards, and texts can be read aloud through the computer. Although it is sometimes overlooked, there are many ways different types of readers can be accommodated to, especially when simply reading a printed text in a bound, 12 point Times New Roman font is not an option or is difficult.

In a digital world, printed texts are eventually bound to become obsolete. Although I am a strong advocate for printed text, society is becoming so dependent on technology. Hopefully, however, the accommodations discussed in both articles, especially Best Practices in Accessible Text, will become more prevalent in technology, making the switch to a technologically dependent society much easier for all students, and printed technology won't be as missed.