Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Technology has become increasingly valuable for educators and students.  When incorporated correctly into the educational setting, our students are able to accomplish set goals more efficiently and productively with the vast array of programs and applications available.  Teachers are able to reach all types of learners and meet the needs of special education students by using assistive technology and programs designed for the challenges of today’s special needs population, as well as regular education students.  According to Roblyer and Doering (2010), the goal of assistive technology is to “harness the potential of technology in ways that offer an individual with a disability increased opportunities for learning, productivity, and independence –opportunities that otherwise would not be available.”  It is important to note that disabilities or special needs include students with physical, cognitive, or sensory disabilities.  This list also includes students with speech recommendations and gifted and talented learners.  I look at every one of my students as special needs, although they may not be classified.  I believe every child has a special and unique way of learning, and technology is able to enhance their success if each lesson is tailored to their learning style and needs.

This week I had the opportunity to visit many sites which described specific assistive technology resources. I clicked around on the Assistive Technology Glogster and was amazed at how many of these unique applications had free downloads and ideas for specific learners. The Universal Design for Living (CAST, 2002-2010) was the most useful in advocating technologies that enhance instruction and support the learner in order for them to be successful and independent.  This website promotes Planning for All Learners (PAL) which “promotes access, participation, and progress in the general education curriculum for all learners” – There is a toolkit that includes tools, resources, guided lessons, models of instruction, and templates in order to facilitate educators when planning to meet the needs of their diverse classroom population.  Teachers must have mentoring and training to keep up with the latest methods of reaching all students, and this website addresses educator’s needs fully.  After reviewing all of the resources available, I questioned some of my own teaching methods, as well.

I recently had a visit from a former student who now follows an IEP for his specific learning disability.  This student struggles with expressive writing and language, as well as difficulty getting thoughts on paper.  The task has always been tedious and frustrating for him, and he was thrilled to tell me that his teacher is allowing him to use the word processor.  This seemed like a fabulous idea for this child since I know the potential of his creative imagination.  I asked him to show me his work when he was finished.  A week later he came to see me, but looked like the same frustrated child I witnessed weeks before.  He muttered under his breath that he “can’t write”.  I asked to see his work and immediately noticed all the points taken off for grammar and spelling.  I was a bit frustrated for him since I knew he had used a word processor.  Why were there so many errors?  Out of pure curiosity, I asked his special education teacher if I could teach him to use the spell and grammar check on the computer thinking this might help his self-esteem.  I respected her answer when she informed me that she didn’t allow that since it would not teach him spelling and grammar.  Perhaps using this icon would be a crutch, however, I wished there was a better way to help this child.  Consequently, his spelling and grammar did not improve from a poor grade.  What next for this child?

After this week’s research, I found a wonderful website that I believe would be beneficial for this student’s needs. I am not a special education teacher; however, I will share this site with our special education team. The program Word Prediction, provides the student with the opportunity to pick from word choices for spelling, and listen to their writing with text to speech ability.  The child can then hear if a word is missing or if the work is not making sense.  The child must pick from a grammar choice, henceforth, will receive a concrete lesson while working.  Unlike spell and grammar check, the program basically tutors the child trough the process.  I could never fault faculty for not being aware of this program.  Schools are not always capable of providing additional professional development when it comes to assistive technology.  Due to budgetary constraints there is the usual visit from vendors and the tendency is to concentrate more on physical disabilities.  I am optimistic that technology training in this area will become more prevalent in the future.

There are enumerable websites and information available about the latest assistive technologies such as, cameras for wheelchairs, text-to-speech applications, switch operated pc mouse, classroom audio enhancements, magnification of computer screens, iPod Touch applications, etc. We were given a wonderful resource in my graduate course called UDL Toolkit Wikispace. This website provides links to all of the wonderful assistive technology advancements.  I suggest visiting this particular site to see if any of these technologies will assist your special learners in order to provide them with an equal educational opportunity as those children in the general education population.  Some of these assistive applications will even help advance at-risk students who could benefit from learning through different means and diverse learning styles.  Keep your students in mind as you browse through each application and technology.  You may be as surprised, as I was, at how you can give each student a new way of learning and opportunity for success.  Please share your thoughts or experiences with me through your comments, since I am also new to the world of assistive technology advancement.

CAST . (2002-2010). Supporting educators in learning about and practicing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) . Retrieved April 20, 2010, from CAST Transforming Education through Universal Design for Living: http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/
Roblyer, M.D., & Doering, A. (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc

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Unquestionably, language Arts incorporates the reading and writing process. Before discussing technology and it’s advantages with reading and writing, it is necessary to remember that many other subjects within our children’s school day require reading and writing skills in order to address the core curriculum content. Mathematics lessons often require children to explain in written form how they came to a particular conclusion.  Science projects require research and a comprehensive understanding that must be transcribed into a succinct version of the topic.  Social Studies include many forms of reading and response to a particular area of schoolwork.   Health and language topics also require reading comprehension and the writing process.  Each subject in the curriculum requires students to read, research, and write about a particular topic.  Technology is often overlooked in this process as a valuable tool that has the ability to enhance these learning skills.  Technology has the capability to motivate the learner, while providing students with the literary skills vital for success with today’s curriculum.

As a kindergarten teacher, I am currently focusing my efforts on the science curriculum, and developed a thematic unit on Weather and Seasons for my students.  Many of the resources we use from the Internet and library require literacy skills for success with the students’ projects. My students are required to keep a journal in which they log their science learning activities and ideas.  They complete this written journal using small sentence formation and illustrations appropriate to their age.  I taught them to use Internet Resources such as Brain Pop, which includes a “Write about it” tab.

Educational technology is embracing literacy instruction beyond its oral and print-based tradition. “The Internet is constructing global bridges for students to communicate, by changing the way that information is absorbed, processed, and used. Technology is influencing how people read, write, listen, and communicate.”(Holum, 2001)  With this in mind, my students are also encouraged to communicate with their ePal partner schools in a shared writing lesson, an activity providing this young generation with the ability to jointly watch the writing process being developed appropriately.  I usually complete this assignment on the Smart Board so all students’ attention is focused on how we develop appropriate written work, and how we can edit our ideas once we’ve read our work aloud.  The students are much more attentive when using the Smart Board, rather than when I use chart paper or the chalk board.  They are excited and know that the work they are doing is special and something some of their caregivers or parents did not have the opportunity to do during their kindergarten years.  I hear this sentiment repeated from caregivers everyday, which helps to solidify my belief that technology enhances student motivation with use in school day assignments.

Kindergarten students are still developing the required phonics and decoding skills for successful reading comprehension.  I find many of them talking home e-books that helps increase their oral vocabulary related to weather terms.  The students are also provided with effective decoding skills when these terms are used in a Power Point presentation for drill and practice.  Not only are the young learners able to read these scientific terms, but  they are also given the opportunity to use these terms in a sentence.  We use Kid Pix so the students can type new vocabulary and create digital drawings of each new vocabulary term.  When all of these technology-enhanced lessons are combined, my young learners eagerly take ownership of their reading and writing skills.  New words become familiar reading words and each student is capable of using the new vocabulary appropriately when discussing the daily weather.  When using an e-book, rather than a read aloud, I am able to focus my full attention on my learners’ comprehension while assessing and questioning the comprehension of the students.  Teachers who use audio books are able to make more effective use of questioning and discussion time because they could pay attention to the content and meaning of the text, focusing on students’ comprehension process and not just their own spoken performance”.(Hobbs, 2007)  My students can also listen to chosen e-books in classroom centers and share them with their families at home.  They find it more enjoyable to use the computer than struggle with flipping pages in their tiny hands.  These books provide another visual, so important for keeping the attention of little minds.

Today’s classrooms are filled with rich literacy content across the curriculum.  Each subject and grade level is required to go beyond the basic skill content and enhance writing and reading lessons through thematic units.   Technology promotes learning even further by motivating the students and engaging all learning types and special needs.  Technology- savvy teachers become an inspiration to our profession.  Typically, you see a high success rate from their students and a level of enthusiasm palpable upon entry to their classrooms.  At this juncture, technology is here for the duration.  It is evident that it is in everyone’s best interest, especially our students, to utilize this dynamic tool within the educational day

Bibliography

Hobbs, R. (2007, May 17). Using Audio Books to Promote Critical Listening Skills Using Audio Books to Promote Critical Listening Skills. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from School of Communication and Theatre; Media Education Lab: http://mediaeducationlab.com/using-audio-books-promote-critical-listening-skills

Holum, A. P. (2001,October). Critical Issue: Using Technology to Enhance Literacy Instruction. Retrieved 2010, 17-March from North Central Regional Educational Laboratory: http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/content/cntareas/reading/li300.htm