Saturday, March 22, 2008 - Text-To-Speech

Famous Persons with Learning Disabilities Quote

"I, myself, was always recognized... as the "slow one" in the family. It was quite true, and I knew it and accepted it. Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me. My letters were without originality. I was an extraordinarily bad speller."

See the reveal of the above quote at the end of this blog entry.

I am always on the lookout for good online Text to Speech Technology (TTS) to assist students with reading disabilities. I located while searching on Go2Web20Web great directory for interactive websites). is a free, web-based service that allows users to generate an audio file from almost any written material. The service offers many options to input text to be read including:

  • Upload MS Word

  • Upload Adobe PDF

  • Upload HTML File

  • Write Text Content

  • Cut and Paste Text

  • Input Website Address

  • Input RSS Feeds URL

Listening options include:

  • Listen to your reading online

  • Download to ipod or other mp3 player

  • Broadcast as a podcast

  • Post on a website or blog

The program offers 15 voices to sample and select before creating the reading. The site boasts that their readers can generate 1 hours worth of reading in less than 1 minute. There is also an option where you can receive the reading via email. You can set up a free account in less than a minute with the promise that your registration information will not be shared.

Famous Person with Learning Disabilities Revealed:

"I, myself, was always recognized... as the "slow one" in the family. It was quite true, and I knew it and accepted it. Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me. My letters were without originality. I was an extraordinarily bad speller...

...and have remained so until this day."---Agatha Christie

Play online games based on Agatha Christie novels at Casual Game Guides:

And Then There Were None

Death on the Nile

Peril at End House

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Faking It

" Until I began to acknowledge my weaknesses, I did not realize I had so many strengths. As I better understand my learning disabilities, it is easier to reassure myself that I truly am not stupid, and, in fact, have some really strong abilities."

Christopher Lee offers a view into his world as a person with a learning disability in his book Faking It. I recommend this book to teachers and parents of students with special learning needs. You can also view his video which shows Lee’s devotion to helping students with learning disabilities using technology.

Speech Recognition Software

Famous Person with Learning Disabilities Quote:

"I'm dyslexic, quite seriously dyslexic -

I still have trouble reading – so I hated school. It was the worst period of my whole life, the first 12 years of growing up". –

See the reveal at the end of this day's blog

Speech Recognition Software

I am currently using speech-to-text software with a student who has dysgraphia and difficulty using a keyboard. Through his Individual Education Plan (IEP), he was assigned a laptop for school and home with software including the speech recognition program Dragon Naturally Speaking. He is now more independent in his class work completion and he is also in the process of writing the next screen play to rival “Star Wars”.

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Here is a website that provides a video demonstration of the speech-to-text software program, Dragon Naturally Speaking at Nuance Communications, Inc.

Famous Person with Learning Disabilities Quote Reveal:

Robert Rauschenberf

Described as "The greatest living painter

Monday, December 31, 2007

Famous People With Disabilities as Inspiration

"I couldn't read. I just scraped by. My solution back then was to read classic comic books because I could figure them out from the context of the pictures. Now I listen to books on tape."

Every student with a learning disability I have taught through the years can remember a particular point in time where they realized something was different about the way they learned. The student's dislike of school and self criticism can usually be linked to this period or event. Some students remember a specific phrase by a teacher or classmate, others remember the embarrassment of having to stand in front of the class unprepared and red faced, and most can recall being pulled out of regular education for resource help. When I meet the students assigned to my special education caseload as Sophomores in high school, I want them to look at how the learning disability has formed their attitude as a learner and determine what impact it has had on their dreams and aspirations for the future. I used the Schwabb Learning Disability website that is linked at the bottom of this page and created a multimedia project for students to view that includes persons from past and present who had learning disabilities, but did not let it prevent them from fulfilling their life goals. I will use this blog to showcase these wonderful people who have provided inspiration to many young people with learning disabilities by using a quote at the top and revealing the famous person at the end of the day's blog.

The reveal for the famous person quote at the top of the blog is:

---Charles Schwabb,

founder and CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation

Schwab is listed as the 50th richest person in the United States with a fortune of approximately $4.6 billion.

Top Topic of Tweens and Teens on the Internet Social Scene is School!

Tweens and Teens are replacing passive television watching during off school hours with online social networking according to a study conducted by Grunwald Associates LLC in cooperation with the National School Boards Association and underwritten by Microsoft, News Corporation and Verizon. The study was made up of three surveys including online surveys of 1,277 nine to 17-year-old students and 1,039 parents, along with telephone interviews with 250 school district administrators who make decisions on school policies regarding the Internet.

Interesting findings of the report include:
  • 71 percent say they use social networking tools at least weekly.
  • More than one in five online students (21 percent) say they post comments on message boards every day; four out of 10 (41 percent) say they do so at least once a week.
  • Students report that one of the most common topics of conversation on the social networking scene is education.
  • One in six (16 percent) say they use online tools to create and share compositions that are more sophisticated than simple art or stories, including virtual objects, such as puzzles, houses, clothing and games.
  • Nearly one in 10 (9 percent) submit articles to sites at least weekly or create polls, quizzes or surveys online.
The report can be seen at the National School Board Association Website

Teacher Tube: 24 Hours in the Life of a Digital Native

A Kinder Kindle, Please?

There is a new kid on the block to rival e-book devices. The Kindle device, marketed by Amazon, offers wireless connection through Whispernet (which is provided by cell phone carriers and has a wider coverage than Wi Fi). Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says, “This isn’t a device, it’s a service.” The Kindle is looking to take on other portable readers by mimicking the size and shape of a paperback. It weighs just a bit over 10 ounces and uses breakthrough technology called E-ink, which gives print book clarity on a six-inch screen. However, the real boon of the Kindle device is the longevity of the battery, boasting 30 hours per charge and a recharge within two hours. The font size can be changed which will be appreciated by the small print-challenged, however the downfall is that there is not a text to speech capability for persons who are blind or dyslexic. Perhaps the creators will go back to the drawing board and upgrade the Kindle to be a “kinder device” for the reading impaired among us. For the time being, I will have to keep my service.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Education and Technology

There is no doubt in my mind that our educational system is stuck in the Industrial Age. Education is not only stuck in the Industrial Age, there are still remnants of the Agrarian Age. We still continue with the attendance practice of summers off to accommodate farming.

We are in a period of adjustment with technology that is very uncomfortable for many people. The paradigm shift is at an angle that has us reeling and feeling off balance. I am willing to embrace the technology, yet I stand back because it is moving faster than I am capable of making decisions. When I did the Great North American Paradigm Quiz in McCain and Juke's "Windows on the Future", 27 out of 29 of the statements described my experience before age 20. Bubble gum was a penny and people used to schlep through the grocery store with a cigarette hanging from their mouth. I send my husband off to do computer purchases because it overwhelms me. I get frozen in the middle of the questions of what technology can do for us. I see the speed at which information is accessed and tasks can be completed; on the other hand, hours of my time can be devoured while I browse – with no productive completion of my task at hand.

There are so many issues to resolve. Technology futurists insist that education has to change to match the needs of young people today. Research is showing that growing up in a media rich environment actually changes how the brain works and the best way to deliver learning is through the gaming format that children are drawn to. This terrifies many educators because the terms of play and games are antithetical to what is accepted as education and learning. The current method of education is based on the need to have obedient workers who become skilled in a specialty and stay with it to produce efficiently and proficiently. The education system mirrors the factory assembly-line that made us the economic power in the world: compartmentalize by grouping children by age, specialize by training teachers in different areas, move the kids on down the line and use tests and grades for quality assurance. I believe this system is not working for students today. I make this statement, but I do not have any answers. I look to the leaders in the field to direct us. That is why I decided to get my Master's Degree in Education Technology. I want to be an educator who is part of the discussion and not blocking it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Are U.S. Students Hungry Enough?

According to “Toward Equality of Access: The Role of Public Libraries in Addressing the Digital Divide”, a report sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which can be downloaded in pdf form at, the digital divide has lost ground in the spotlight. The report claims that the term was firmly established in the media science community in 1995 due to the report “Falling Through the Net” by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The divide identified the gap of internet and computer technology use as directly related to socioeconomic status and claimed the disadvantaged in the U.S. were going to lose even more ground due to their race, geographic location, economic and education level. The current concern of the report is that the spotlight of this dilemma has diminished. It was strong up through 1999 but has lost ground due to attention drawn to other world events and less media coverage. The report also blames the NTIA for reports in 2002 that claimed the technology was available to people through schools and public libraries but the gap remained because people were “choosing” not to use the technology (blame the victim!) Recent studies are showing that the numbers of Americans who use the internet and technology is increasing however the disadvantaged groups from the early days are still lagging. Programs to increase the public access to computer technology by both the government and private corporations are essential. The Bill and Linda Gates Foundation is the leader in this area with a focus on bringing computers to libraries in underserved communities. I also like the recommendations of mentor programs to promote ongoing use of computers. Another area we have to look at regarding the digital divide is how we prepare our students to use the technology we have at hand. My sister was recently let go from General Electric because they are outsourcing their Accounts Payable department to a company in India. She stayed on to train the new department and left with a great education package and pretty sweet payoff, however she is close to 60 years old and facing the search for a new job. According to “News From India” Posted by Outsourcing SEO Services, IBM is the largest multinational firm in India with over 40,000 workers and Google has sales and marketing offices along with research and development centers throughout India. The digital divide may open up to include students who have access to technology but have not been given the education that provides them the "real world skills" to move on to careers that businesses are demanding. I recognize that India and China are providing businesses with work forces that cost less; however, I believe the workers in India and China are hungry for the new tech jobs and are spending their time and energy to learn the skills. I do not see that hunger in the students in the school where I teach.

EPIC 2015

EPIC 2015 is a Flash movie that came out in January 2005 and has provided fodder for discussion on the effects that current and upcoming sources for news may have on journalism and society as a whole. You can locate and view the movie by doing a Google search. My first response to the EPIC 2015 movie was that whenever new technology enters, the fear it will go to the worst form of abuse usually follows. The apocalyptic version seems to appear whenever control moves from an established institution to the unknown. It was interesting to have the news media referred to as the 4th Estate. We have always looked to the news media to provide information to the masses as a means to control the political and monetary powers that exist.

I guess I fall into the group who believes that more information to the masses is a good thing. It does concern me that some Internet news sources may be controlled by a monopoly with filtered information based on documented interests and consumption. I would prefer to be challenged with information that goes beyond my Internet searches and online purchases. I have faith there will continue to be alternative sources of information other than the news delivery projection called Googlezon. The amount of information and the number of people providing and editing information could create a confusion to rival the Tower of Babel; however, I have faith that the librarians among us will organize it in a fashion that will allow us to determine what is valid. Certain Internet sources will be annointed by “the masses” as the providers of the most valuable and reliable information, just as we, “the masses” determine what products are the most valued and reliable.

I looked at Wikipedia to get more information on the references used in the video. A bit of trivia I found interesting was that the name on the ID card was Winston Smith who was the main character in George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Virtual Field Trips for Career Exploration

I am fascinated with all of the Virtual Field Trip offerings for curricular areas such as science and history. There are also great interactive online field trips to augment novels that students are reading. However, my personal “quest” for this assignment was to find Virtual Field Trips that would work for career exploration. There is a great web article at which describes how a VFT can be designed and used for a vocational curriculum. The rationale comes from a National Health Interview Survey which found that “79% of adults without disabilities were working at the time they were interviewed and that only 37% of those with disabilities were employed” (U.S. Department of Labor, 2005). This is a dire fact that indicates special education is not putting enough effort and resources into transition from school to work.

Career Virtual Field Trips would be an incredible resource for working with students with disabilities during the transition phase from high school to work or college. Many students come into high school without a clue as to what they will do after graduation. Coming from a small town with limited opportunities to view different types of jobs they may be limited in their ideas of jobs that are available. The other side of this problem are the students who may have their hearts set on a career that does not match their skill level or potential.

I was so excited as I typed in my searches for “career virtual field trips”. Many different search attempts using many combinations of words has not resulted in much beyond web quests. What I was looking for were VFT’s with photo, audio and video opportunities for students to see different job settings. I finally came across career videos at College . I also found a great set of videos from Career Explorer .net for students to view on You Tube This is important because of the time constraints and the ease that a VFT offers to visit many different work sites. It is also very important when looking at the special education population where there may be physical disabilities or behavioral issues to address.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Quotes from "Thinking About the Future"

Electronic School interviewed leaders in the field of education to garner thoughts about how technology will affect education back in 2000. The predictions of some of these leaders can be seen at Many education gurus are championing the possibilities of the new technologies, but we need to remain open to the caveat that Lowell Monke offers: “Our students have more information than they can deal with…we have to reverse the trend of teaching children to rely on high technology and start helping them understand the Faustian relationship we have with it.” I was intrigued by his concern and did a Google search which produced an article he wrote called “Charlotte’s Webpage: Why Children shouldn’t have the world at their fingertips” located at He believes computers isolate children and are so engaging they take kids away from the human and natural connections. He used a teacher’s statement that her students were so excited by a webpage assignment based on Charlotte’s Web that they stayed in from recess to work in the computer lab. He also says there is no research that shows computer use improves student performance and heavy computer use may be detrimental to kids academically and socially. I can see his concern; however, he seems to take the computers in education movement to the extreme. I do not see a future where schools will have students chained to a computer doing only simulated activities. Balance is the key. This is where educators have to place themselves as the guides for students into the Information Age. Let the kids have their unstructured, unsupervised lessons on the playground, but prepare them for the inevitable influx of the new and powerful technologies.

Unlike Monke, Frank B. Withrow compares advances of the digital technology to the printing press and speaks to my hopes for how computers will change education. He writes, “Learning in traditional schools has been effective for the top 15 percent of students, but far too many schools have wasted the potential of many learners... With technology we can provide individual learning plans and programs for every student.” As Sue replied in an earlier discussion, computer software is being developed that assesses a student’s learning style and progress and adjusts to the user. The student is not pushed through a lesson and the top 15% are not held back.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Georgia on My Mind

My heartfelt welcome to the new little "digital native", my grand-niece Georgia, daughter of Ariana and Kristofer (She is in the picture... mom's laptop is providing the additional role of a privacy screen while nursing). They are the poster family for the new generation that education needs to be ready for! Click on the title above to view a movie posted on You Tube which I made to honor a beautiful pregnancy and birth using the software program Muvee auto Producer.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reflection Paper on a Multimedia Lesson Unit

You Are the Producer in Your Life”
A Transition Project using Muvee autoProducer

I started the multimedia project with the intention of doing a morph project with my students. It fits into the instruction unit that I am doing in my special education biology class with the connection to evolution. We are completing a unit on evolution and continuing the study of naturalists and field biologists. I have the students working on a collective PowerPoint presentation where each student is researching a biologist or naturalist and locating biographical information along with information on their contributions to the field of biology. The emphasis is to connect it to careers and what motivates people to become passionate about their life’s work. As I experienced the multimedia class and worked on the morphing project, I felt it could be incorporated as a lesson for students to look at their own evolution – in order to determine their dreams and goals for the future. Students that are in the special education program do ongoing work toward transition goals. As a teacher in a high school special education resource room, I am continuously interweaving self awareness, career investigation, and personal goal setting into activities and lessons in the resource room. As one of the students was studying Jane Goodall, we came upon a lesson that reflected the biopoem. It was on Goodall’s Lesson of Hope website which invited students to draw a tree where the roots represent the people that support them and the branches represent their hopes and dreams for the future. Adding the morphing assignment seemed a likely enhancement to this unit. I initially worked with Winmorph as the software program but struggled with the technical and manual dexterity required. I searched online and located a morphing software that was more user-friendly called Fantamorph. Students were able to enter multiple photos in the program and use a “face locator” which automatically detects the facial features (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.) and places key dots on appropriate positions. The program offered entertainment and interest from the students, however it moved from the Winmorph which was too challenging to too automatic. I moved from the Fantamorph to the Muvee autoProducer software that resides on my new HP Pavilion laptop (a gift from my hubbie to ease the challenges of the Master’s program I am enrolled in …bless his heart!) The students became much more engaged with the Muvee software where there was more interaction and choices to individualize and personalize. The student involvement has ranged from Steve who put the minimum number of photos on and added images of cars as his downloads to represent his dreams and aspirations in life to Marie who is learning how to use the video computer software to make digital video clips from VHS movies of the UW Marching Band, which is her dream to step high with. She is thrilled to learn that the muvee maker has the capacity for up to 75 video/photo files - and she intends to use every bit of it.

The inspiration for this multimedia project which was the connection to the evolution unit in biology has proven itself to be an evolution in itself.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Assistive Technology Inclusion Unit Plan

Of Mice and Men:
Reading and Writing Unit

Created by Maggie Kate Moran

Content Area: English 9 & Special Education Collaboration.
Accommodations & Modifications are designed for a student with dyslexia who is reading at 3rd grade level.

Software: Co-Writer, Inspiration, Microsoft Word, WYNN Reader
Hardware: Computer with Internet Explorer, Printer, Scanner

Activities: Unit plan may cover several days up to two weeks.
* Students learn new vocabulary using the online vocabulary flashcards with audio at
* Students read “Of Mice and Men”
* Students complete teacher made quizzes on each chapter.

Accommodation for diverse learner:
* Student uses Books on Tape/CD version for reading
* Student completes online gapfill exercises to fulfill quiz requirements for each chapter. See sample at
* Student completes a Character Chart

Modification for diverse learner:
* Student uses Inspiration software to complete a Character Map
* Students demonstrates acquisition of vocabulary and terms from the novel and banned book topic

Culminating Activity: Students write a 5-paragraph essay based on the teacher prompt “Should this book be banned?”

Modification for diverse learner:
* Student listens to NPR Tavis Smiley online audio interview on banned books located at
* Student uses Inspiration software to brainstorm ideas for the assigned essay.

* Student uses Inspiration to create a character map.
* Student uses WYNN Reader to access the online Internet graphic organizer on TeAchnology website. By using the graphic organizer, the student will complete an outline for the essay

* Student uses Co-Writer word prediction and spell-checking software. Post-writing:
* Student utilizes WYNN computer speech capabilities to assist in the proofing process

Preparation for Diverse Learner Accommodations and Modifications: Have software installed on the computers. Have a scanner with OCR capabilities to scan information from print sources. Have previously instructed the student on the use of the software before this lesson. Have 20 word topic dictionary on WYNN program of most important terms for the unit

Word Topic Dictionary:
* Novel specific topics: Great Depression, migrant workers, New Deal, banned books, First Amendment, censorship, offensive language, obscenity, Telecommunications Act

* Literature topics: plot, setting, symbol, theme, figurative/literal meaning, metaphor, foreshadow

Assessment: The unit will be assessed by observation, oral and written quizzes on reading and vocabulary, and a rubric for the essay based 6-trait writing. The rubric will be modified to reflect the student’s level of written language and will be based on the students writing goals in the Individual Education Plan (IEP)

Reflection on Assistive Technology Inclusion Unit Plan

The assistive technology (AT) changes required for inclusion of students with diverse learning needs would be identified by the special education case manager, occupational therapist or physical therapist through assessment and observation in both the regular education and special education setting. Research would be done by the special education or supportive services staff on available assistive technology and the computer technology staff would be enlisted for feedback and technical support. If the AT was low tech, inexpensive, or would likely benefit many students (such as in the case of a software program for building basic math or spelling skills) the request would be through the standard special education budget process. If the AT was student specific, high tech and costly, the issue would be addressed through the Individual Education Process (IEP) where the school district would have to approve the requisition. Once a purchase is made for sophisticated AT equipment or software, the case manager (or OT/PT if the student is receiving these support services) is responsible for knowing how to use the technology and training the student to use it. The computer technology staff is available for hardware and technical setup and troubleshooting, however, they distance themselves from the use and training of the equipment and software. This is understandable, because their time could easily be gobbled up by frustrated case managers who have a hard time reading manuals and using the help menu to learn a program. The school district is also willing to provide access to training for staff to utilize AT. In summary, assistive technology would be discussed with the computer technology staff, would be addressed in the student’s IEP meeting, and the school district would authorize the purchase with observation in the regular education setting and collaboration with the teacher. Along with making the AT changes, the special education case manager is usually the person to make accommodations for diverse learners; however this area tends to be more collaborative. The support staff is excellent and the communication is such that their recommendations are taken for serious consideration because of the time they spend in the classroom setting and working one-on-one with students. The accommodations that are made for a student with a severe reading and writing disability could also be used to benefit all students in the classroom. Books on Tape are an excellent way for students to listen while they read along to build reading fluency, develop a sense of expression while reading, and remain focused. By hearing the words read while reading the written word, the information is being delivered in two modes, audio and visual which is promoted as an effective instruction strategy by proponents of multi-sensory research and methods. Most students would also benefit from the auditory method for editing their writing. It is very difficult to be objective and edit one’s own work. When the computer reads the writing assignment, there is an element of “a step removed” and it is more likely the student will catch errors. With portable word processing options and ear buds, students can use the computer “read back” method to improve their editing capabilities. The majority of accommodations for this unit would be easily made by other special education staff. The online graphic organizers and books on tape are used as a standard by aides and teachers. The use of Inspiration and WYNN Reader would require training. The Information and Technology Literacy Standard (ITLS) have been listed in the Unit/Lesson Plan. The student will identify that media and technology will open up ability to focus on strengths instead of disability. The media and technology aspects of the ITLS standards include learning technology terms and capabilities from ranging from the standard (CD’s and tape recorders to innovative (word prediction software and text-to-speech reading software). The use of computers to create and present information is so important to level the playing field for students with learning disabilities, especially in the areas of reading and written language. The main advance is in the ITLS category for independent learning. Instead of relying on resource teacher and aides, the student is more likely to demonstrate self-motivation and increased responsibility for their learning. Reluctant or non-readers can develop confidence and greater competence which will lead to appreciation for literature and creative expression. My role as special education teacher gives me the opportunity to be in many classrooms. I have developed a strong, collaborative relationship with the majority of teachers on staff. The regular education staff teaching style (as it relates to differentiation) varies from ownership of all students to “your kids/my kids”. I will continue to work with the resistant staff by providing suggestions for accommodations and modifications in the regular education setting as warranted by the student’s Individual Education Plan.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Lesson Plans for Special Education using Technology

You Are the Producer in Your Life
A Transition Project using Muvee autoProducer

Created by Maggie Kate Moran

Grade Level: Special Education Middle School or High School

Subject Area: Resource/Transition/Careers

Project Description: This multimedia project is part of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) Awareness Unit for students in a Special Education Resource Class. This lesson will focus on Transition which is the process students use to think about and identify desired outcomes for life beyond high school. The project is designed with the intent to inspire students to bridge the gap from childhood to adulthood and dream for lifetime career and aspirations.

Learning Goal: Students will demonstrate use of multimedia to communicate their career goals and aspirations

Learning Objectives:
Students will demonstrate competency at using an automatic photo/video editing software Students will investigate and express personal goals and interests

Technology Standards:
A8.1 g. Scan, crop and save a graphic using a scanner, digital camera or other digital equipment
A8.1 i. Capture, edit and combine video segments using a multimedia computer with editing
A8.2 g. Use a graphics program to create or modify detail to an image or picture
A12.2 d. Identify common graphic, video and sound file formats
A8.4 b. design and produce a multimedia program

Materials: Photographs from birth to present Images that represent personal interests and career aspirations Music/audio samples such as CD, MP3, WAV

Computer/Multimedia Equipment Requirements: OS: Windows XP & Windows 2000 Recommended Hardware:1GHz Pentium III, AMD Athlon, or equivalent processor with MMX support 256MB RAM 16MB Video RAM equivalent processor with MMX support 256MB RAM 16MB Video RAM

Other requirements: Screen resolution of 1024 x 768 or higher

Required Software: Microsoft DirectX 9.0 or higher Muvee autoProducer 4.1 or greater (free trial available at MP3 Creation plugins to convert Audio-CD tracks into MP3 format in Windows Media Player (WMP) for Windows XP.MP3. Creation plugins at can be downloaded fromCyberlink MP3 PowerEncoderIntervideo MP3 XPack CD –to MP3 Software such as Winamp or RealOne Player

Prior Knowledge/Instruction:
-Students have investigated career interests on CareerWays computer program to identify career interests and aspirations -Student have completed a Sketch-a-Tree activity from the Jane Goodall “Lessons of Hope” website
“The tree illustrates the root structure that supports you, i.e., the important people who give you a foundation in life. The shoots or limbs will represent the hopes and dreams that you are branching out toward in your life.” -Goodall -

-Students have been instructed to bring photos (baby to present) and to locate images that represent hopes and dreams as identified in the Sketch-A-Tree activity

-Students have completed instruction in copyright and ethical use of computers pertaining to images and audio obtained for personal use

Location: Classroom and Computer Lab

Introduction: Students are introduced to the Muvee autoProducer by group demonstration of samples provided by the software and instructed to bring photos to produce their Muvee

Conducting the Lesson:
-Students are introduced to the basic steps of scanning photos to the correct format (jpeg), editing and saving images to their student file.

-Students are introduced to the basic steps of downloading music and transferring music files from nondigital to digital formats (MP3 or wav).

-Students are introduced to the basic steps of Muvee autoProducer -Add photos and images from student file -Add music from student file -Choose a style -Click “Make Muvee”.

-Students are introduced to the advanced features of Muvee autoProducer -Change the duration of Muvees -Shuffle the sequence of shots -Weave pictures into videos -Blend the original video soundtrack with the music -Personalize title and credits -Work with Magic Moment TM and other advanced features to highlight/exclude specific shots.

-Students are instructed on how to save and burn muvees to a DVD

Extensions: Produce video to be used in Muvee autoProducer; create micromuvee (less than 45 seconds duration) in a compressed email format (ASF or WMV)

Field Biologists Research: Then and Now
Lesson Plan using Handheld Technology

Created by Maggie Kate Moran

This lesson will be part of a unit study of biology where students will research various scientists/biologists in the past who have contributed to our knowledge of insect, plant and animal life.

Grade Level: Special Education, Middle School or High School
Subject Area: Biology

Lesson Overview: Students will gather and formulate information from various sources to determine techniques biologists in the past conducted field studies and compare with techniques and resources available today.

Learning Goal: Students will develop an understanding of science as a human endeavor by studying the nature and history of science.

Learning Objectives: Students will analyze the practices of field biologists throughout history and recognize the contributions made to the study of life sciences. Students will use paper, pencil, and palm handheld technology to collect information from observations of insects, plants and animals in the field including notes, graphs, sketches, and photos. The end product will consist of hand written/drawn field observation notes, graphs and sketches which will be compared to Palm handheld word processed notes and graphs, Sketchy drawings/animation, and Veo pictures.

Technology Standards:
A.8.1 Show that technology has allowed us to further the efforts of science and, in
turn, science has enabled us to develop better technology
A.8.2 Explain the need for and application of knowledge and skills from other
disciplines when engaging in technological activities
A.12.1 Contrast the increasing complexities of technology with its ease of use

Materials: drawing pads/notebooks, pencils, Palm handhelds with VEO camera

GoKnow's Handheld Learning Environment
Sketchy - Creating animations FreeWrite - Word processing
Minimum System Requirements:
Palm OS 3.5 - 5 (Palm OS 4.1 - 5 recommended).Windows 98 or higher, running Palm Desktop 4.0.1 or higher
Macintosh OS 9.x or OS X running Palm Desktop 4.1.114 KB memory needed for full installation.

VEO camera for handhelds
Minimum System Requirements:
Microsoft™ 98/ME/2000/XP with Pentium™ 300 MHz (or higher)
200 MB Available Hard Disk Space
32 MB RAM or Better
Pocket PC Handheld with ActiveSync Cradle
800 x 600 Display with 16-Bit Color

Prior Knowledge/Instruction: This lesson will follow the research portion of the unit where students have researched field biologists, completed a research paper, and presented a PowerPoint which included samples of drawings and field notes of biologists and naturalists including Mendel, Darwin, Audubon, Lewis and Clark expedition, Muir, Ansel Adams, Jane Goodall...

Students will have received instruction and have basic to proficient skills using the Palm Handheld and software: FreeWrite, Sketchy & Veo

Location: Recommend taking students to school forest, area park, zoo or botanical garden.

Introduction: Prompt students to think about how the field studies of biologist have helped us in understanding individual organisms and their part in the environment. Explain to students that they will be experiencing the practice of field study as it was before the technology of cameras, video and audio recorders and comparing it to the practice while using technology that is available today.

Conducting the Lesson: Given a predetermined time frame, students will do field studies using notebooks for hand drawings and notes/data collection
Given a predetermined time frame, students will do field studies using Palm handheld technology for notes, sketches and photos

Assessment: Develop a rubric for the unit which would include their research papers and presentation on field biologists and the student field study project. The criteria for the unit could include Research Information, Spelling/Grammar, Bibliography Citations, and use of handheld applications including Sketchy, FreeWrite and Veo camera. Assign points and expectations to each criterion to determine what students should strive for.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

AdvantEdge Reader and Scanner: Text to Speech in a Portable Format

AdvantEdge Reader is an assistive technology system that allows print from documents, books, and magazines to be accessed using text to speech. The system was developed by The Assistive Technology Center in Sacramento, California. The developer is Robert Leblond who has had the mission for the past two decades to develop computer technology to benefit individuals who are blind or have reading disabilities such as dyslexia. He has developed an integrated and portable scanner and text reader.

AdvantEdge Reader” combines adaptive technologies to create the pocket scanner and reader. This system could prove to be the next step for independence for student to achieve more independence and mobility. Instead of having to go to the computer lab or resource room to use table top scanners and desktop computers that currently have OCR and text-to-speech software programs, the student can stay in the classroom and scan and read materials as needed.

Leblond was a pioneer in the field of Braille transcription using scanners and faxes in the 1980’s. The AdvantEdge system combines current reading technology for easier, more portable use. The operation is fast and simple and involves inserting the material to be read into a portable scanner. The sheet is recognized and converted to text with OCR application and a text reader application automatically reads the material using current high quality speech with AT&T Natural Voices™ .

The AdvantEdge system used and modified the existing Visioneer strobe scanner, which is a tiny, portable scanner. The modified strobe scanner was installed onto a hand held computer called SmallTalk and a recognition program and hardware driver were added to complete the package. The screen reading software used “Window Eyes”, by GW Micro. Leblond’s philosophy for the creation of the system was to take existing technology and combine and tweak to improve it. This has been a successful approach as opposed to competitors who are attempting to design systems from the ground up.

Along with being the first portable scan and read system, the AdvantEdge Reader is also a full Windows XP computer. It has a docking cable that gives it desktop computer capabilities. The docking cable connects to an external monitor, printer, network, keyboard, firewire devices, and other external features. The Reader also includes Bluetooth and Wireless LAN technology.

Product Specifications of the AdvantEdge system include:

  • SmallTalk dimensions--The Small-Talk Ultra is 4.9 inches long, 3.4 inches wide, and 0.9 inches thin, and weighs a mere 14 ounces.
  • Strobe Scanner--The Strobe Scanner is 1.5 by 2 by 11 inches and weighs 11 ounces.

The impact of this technology for students with vision and reading disabilities is major. The current cost of $3000 for one system is high and beyond the reach for many individuals and school districts, however the price will come down along with new development of systems that are smaller, faster and easier to use.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A New Way to Look at Ourselves

There are so many students who are bright who are failing in our school system. Is it drugs? is it attitude…poor parenting? Or, could it be the education system? I refer to the students that are not doing well in school as the canaries. They are telling us that the air is bad in the mine shaft!

I read a blog by Mark Wagner who is doing his dissertation in ed tech and referred to Marc Prensky, author of Digital Game-Based Learning. In his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: A New Way to Look at Ourselves and Our Kids - Part I. Prensky labels students today as the Digital Natives and teachers who were not raised on computers as the Digital Immigrants.
He writes, “It is amazing to me how in all the hoopla and debate these days about the decline of education in the US we ignore the most fundamental of its cause. Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.”

I see myself in Prensky's description of the immigrant. I am the computer user who has to print a hardcopy of a document in order to edit it… and I often print an important email to store in my paper file. He would refer to me as someone who has a heavy “accent”. He sees the main problem with education today as schools populated with immigrant teachers “struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.” He calls this the native/immigrant divide. “Smart adult immigrants accept that they don’t know about their new world and take advantage of their kids to help them learn and integrate. Not-so-smart (or not-so-flexible) immigrants spend most of their time grousing about how good things were in the old country”.

Prensky believes educators need to reconsider both methodology and content because brain-based research shows that children attend to activities including television in bursts rather than extended segments. He cites research done by Sesame Street which involved kids watching tv. Two groups were compared - kids with toys in the room and kids without toys to distract. The kids with toys watched 47% of the time whereas the sans toys group watched 87% of the time. When both sets of kids were tested on content from the show (what they remembered and understood) both groups scored the same.

In Digital Natives Digital Immigrants- Part II. Do They Really Think Differently? Neuroscience Says Yes. Prensky presents new findings in neurobiology and social science that throws what we learned in child development classes to the wind. Brain research is showing that certain types of external stimuli can change the structure of the brain which affects how people think--- and this continues into adulthood. It gets very technical with explanations of neuroplasticity and malleability, but the upshot is that children’s brains are developing physiologically in a different way. To highlight, here is a listing using the terms in his article:

10 Differences between the Thinking Style
of the Digital Native and the Digital Immigrant

twitch speed ---------- conventional speed
multi-tasking --------- single focus
random access ---------- step-by-step
parallel processing ---------- linear processing
quick-payoff ---------- goal oriented
viewing graphic first ---------- reading text first
active/interactive ---------- passive/receiver
play and fantasy ---------- reality and work
techno-savvy ---------- techno-fear
We do complain and see problems with students on how they read and think. Prensky addresses this concern regarding reflection. In the fast paced, nonlinear, random access delivery of information that they are exposed to there is very little chance for reflection. This is the area that educators have to focus on. Education theory maintains that reflection allows for generalization and generalization allows for creating a model that can be called on for problem solving and continued learning.

Prensky suggests we have to find ways to design education in a game format that works. It is not enough to present the old drill and practice with graphics and sounds. He gives an example of a success as Fast ForWard by Scientific Learning which is a computer game program for remediation of students with reading problems. The field studies for the game showed in 35 sites throughout the US that the delivery was successful with 90% of the students making significant gains in reading. With reading, you have to practice. And students that cannot read hate to practice! The key is to engage them in an activity that they enjoy - “they must be practicing the right things, so design is important.”

To end my review of Prensky, here is a quote he inserted in his writing

“The cookies on my daughter's computer know more about her interests than her teachers do.”
-Henry Kelly, president of the Federation of American Scientists.

I’m glad that I know what a cookie is!

Prensky rules! I have so many questions regarding the complaints I hear of students use of technology and computer programs in school. Recently, I was told that Wikipedia is not a good resource because of the controversy regarding “everyone’s an editor”. This also ties into the concern of students with text messaging and photo capabilities on their cell phones. Prensky does not react with indignation or resignation - instead he addresses the concern head on with the statement that we cannot stop the influx and should welcome it. We should put our energy into teaching students the appropriate use of this technology. For example, instead of banning cell phones, it is our challenge to teach students the ethics surrounding cheating and privacy. In regards to Wikipedia, we need to teach students the difference between search and research. He implores teachers and parents not to ban the new technologies but to take our job seriously in showing them the “power and the limitations” of these new tools. How do we do that? We have to start using the new tools so that we understand them.

Project Based Learning Powerpoint

What an amazing time it is to be a teacher. We are in an era of transition from the old method of delivering education for the generation of the industrial era to the new global, tech-savvy generation.

“ The biggest obstacle to school change is our memories” -Dr. Allen Glenn

What I got from Dr. Allen Glenn’s quote on the Project Based Learning PowerPoint is that we continue to do the business of education using content and methodology that does not work for today's students. I am reminded of a discussion that I had years ago in a college class regarding how action in the present rarely keeps up with technological advances. A great example is the years it took to come up with the attached garage. For years the family car was stored in the carriage house next to the horses. It was not until the 50’s when people got sick of walking down to the outbuilding (and having the car smell like horses!) that the attached garage came into use. The class where this discussion took place was studying Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage. He was considered the futurist and guru commenter on electronic media at the time. The upshot is that it takes many years for people to let go of the traditional to embrace the experimental and move on.

When I did a Google search to reacquaint myself with McLuhan I located information in a 1995 hypertext essay titled Media Determinism in Cyberspace by Samuel Ebersole

Ebersole writes that McLuhan proposed the advent of the printing press had a negative impact on social history. He maintained it caused alienation because the social norm of story tellers and listening groups moved to reading as a solitary activity. McLuhan did not live to see it, but the Internet, in a strange way has brought literacy back to a group activity.

"I link therefore I am" - From Hypertextual Consciousness - Mark Amerika


Is it real or is it artificial? Do the ends justify the means?

I played a joke on my sister. We both bought hydrangeas (flowers) that can either grow to be blue or pink depending on acidity in the soil. Many people long for the beautiful, blue hydrangeas you see on the east coast and in the south, but Wisconsin does not have the soil to produce them. Nurseries give instructions on how to add ingredients to the soil to change it, but there is the risk of hurting the plant and, even if it works, it is minimal and short-lived because earthworms will churn it back to the natural ph level.

I decided to take my trompe'loie skills along with my artist mentality and grabbed a spray bottle and blue watercolor. When my sister came over I took her out to see my beautiful blue hydrangea. She was oooohing and aaahhing until I came clean with the joke I was playing on her. When she found out how they came to be blue, she turned away from the beautiful flower and declared, “That’s just not right!”

We carry mindsets of what is acceptable and not acceptable – In my mind, with the art mindset of “trick of the eye”, I am quite willing to accept the painted hydrangea and even believe it is a better route than using chemicals to change the dirt. She, on the other hand, believes that alteration one step removed from the actual plant is alright but altering the actual plant is unacceptable.

What does this have to do with technology in education?

The system of education in the U.S. is a behemoth of brick and mortar in need of a major demolition crew to make way for the new. Accepting what technology has to offer the new design will involve a great deal of review and revision of established mindsets.

Great Lesson Plans using Technology

Kathy Schrock ‘s Guide for Educators website Best Practices of Technology Integration offers lessons created by Michigan teachers that demonstrate how technology can be used as a valuable tool in the classroom.

Future Career Visions

Description: This is a great lesson plan to use for any class that wants to integrate technology/careers into their curriculum. Intended Grade Level(s): 9-12 (could be revised for Elementary and Jr. High) explore Careers and a way for students to present their findings to others. This lesson will require the students to integrate technology into the curriculum. They will research the latest career information on the Internet. Not only will the students do an in depth personal exploration, they will also have the opportunity to work with one of their peers in a problem situation. They will have fun creating a Career Flyer or Brochure and a PowerPoint® Presentation on the career areas. This lesson will also help the student with public speaking as they present their career presentation for an audience.

I located the final two lesson plans doing a Google search "lesson plans using technology" which directed me to Microsoft Education.

Diseases of the Human Body

Description: Students choose a disease to research from a list provided. They research the disease using the Internet, encyclopedias, and materials from the library. They then create a presentation in Microsoft® PowerPoint®, a brochure, and a Web page to help present their disease to the rest of the class.The third lesson plan

Creating Multimedia Time Lines

Description: Use a timeline to track the discoveries that led up to the Human Genome Project. Time lines enable students to quickly grasp the relationship of events. With today's technology, you can trace, track, and chart events by including photographs, illustrations, and even music in a compelling multimedia format. When students select, analyze, and organize timeline information, they have an opportunity to construct a clear and lasting understanding from the curriculum.

Required Software & Tutorials : Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word 2002 or later, Microsoft Visio 2003
Create a Timeline in Microsoft Visio
Create a Timeline in Microsoft Word

Vision of Public Education in the Year 2025

The vision of public education in the future must be realized through proactive design so it is not determined by a chaotic reaction to its ultimate downfall. Due to the fast pace of technological development and the need for schools to catch up, the education funding and delivery of public education needs a complete overhaul to allow innovation and technology to become entrenched and allow for a system that can prepare children for the challenges of the 21st century. The vision is for schools in the year 2025 to be learning environments where children can develop to their personal best. These schools are possible and will be created through a complete overhaul of public education funding and delivery in partnership with the utilization of technology.

The time has come to stop using ongoing research and pedagogical debate as an excuse for inaction. Instead, the public education system must look at business, government and universities as examples of systems that are moving forward to compete and flourish in the Age of Technology. In order to move ahead quickly and establish flourishing schools by the year 2025, the public school system needs to be funded by sources directed by the federal government and corporations. Leaving the development to the states and local districts will not allow for the expeditious change that is critical. Education leaders and researchers can also determine best practices in education and weed out methods and delivery systems that are ineffective and inefficient by utilizing computer data processing capabilities that exist today. The vision for schools in the year 2025 has to be motivated by research that shows up to 20 % of students are not responding to the back-to-basics and high-stakes testing mandated by “No Child Left Behind”. With federal legislation and support by private philanthropic organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the United States can build strong school systems to ensure its citizens will become interactive and productive citizens.

The schools of 2025 will embrace the constructivist theory of education and will provide environments that address the social and emotional development of children along with the academic. Students will progress through the schools on a developmental basis rather than on same-age groupings. Level 1 though 9 students will focus on basic academics and be engaged in learning environments that encourage the development of a passion for learning rather than the acquisition of predetermined content. Levels 10 through 12 will be the transition stage for students to have opportunities for career investigation and community involvement. Small local schools will be set up to provide community building and promotion of health and fitness along with basic academic instruction. Each school will be furnished with the technology necessary to compete nationally and internationally.

The model based on the “Tribes” format will be used in schools to build caring relationships. The “Tribes” model promotes active group and cooperative learning with a focus on positive social interaction. The success with students is based on teachers establishing close relationship with students and their parents with a common goal of success in school and post-high transition. All students will receive special status with an advisor who is assigned a manageable case load of no more than 20 students. The advisor will stay with the student through each school stage. The advisor does not just deal with the academic needs of the student but also arranges to deal with social, emotional, health and family issues. This creates a powerful triumvirate with a connection between the school, the student and the parents. Parents will not only be encouraged but expected to attend school via Internet connections throughout the school year. The school of 2025 will have the capacity for parents to log in and monitor classroom happenings. Web cam and microphone capabilities in the classroom will allow parents to observe and interact with the students and teachers in real time. Homework helpers will be available with student tutors and staff that are available after school hours in open labs, or via the Internet and email. The support for school assignments and projects will be available to students any time and anywhere.

Schools of the future will offer programs investigating personal health and fitness and team sports. Interactive gaming that has been found to be very motivational for students for physical activity such as “Dance, Dance Revolution” will be available. Students will no longer be forced into rigid class structures for physical health. The student, parents and advisor will meet regularly to review the student’s health and fitness program. A student who is showing success with karate only will be allowed to continue with that program if that is what motivates the student to be active.

At Levels l0 through 12 , students will be more mobile with mentoring and volunteer opportunities in the community at regional facilities created by a consortium of school districts for Workforce Development and Training, Performance Art, Multimedia Centers, and Sports Facilities. Students will attend these academies based on personal interest and aptitude. Students at this stage will also act as tutors to motivate younger students by seeing older students enthused about learning. Student Exchange programs will be developed to address the “Digital Divide” where student may not have access to the same technology experiences. The exchanges can be national (with urban and rural exchanges) or international.

In the schools of 2025, academic instruction will be based on the Constructivist model where the student is involved in active interaction of knowledge. Teacher roles will be as collaborators, guides and facilitators who are co-teaching or running thematic units with other teachers. All students will be provided with personal computers for school and home use. The computers will be handhelds with the ability to project images on any surface. The personal handhelds will also have webcam and microphone connections, photo and movie making, and voice recording capabilities. Technology will be utilized based on success seen in private industry, the military, and university applications and will include computer instruction, simulation, and game-based instruction. Academic courses will be delivered with a combination of Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS), multimedia, distance and online learning, simulation and game-based interactive theaters. ITS allows computer delivered instruction that analyzes student learning style, provides instruction, monitors progress, and modifies instruction to meet the need of the individual student. When the student has mastered a particular lesson the computer determines when to move to the next level of instruction. Distance and online learning will be offered to students to take courses not taught in-house from other campuses. Schools will subscribe to a distance learning and on-line library that is set up to provide enrollment and connection for courses taught by different schools. Reciprocity agreements will be set up to provide students with a wide range of class offerings. “Real Time” and “On Demand” options will be available to make use of the anywhere and anytime possibilities of eLearning. Textbooks will not be used and most assignments will be submitted by computer rather than hard copy. Simulations will be used to train students for skills that are not discovery based. The simulations will be used to evaluate strengths and allow for investigation and training for careers such as pilots, doctors, engineering construction and other areas that involve skills that cannot afford trial and error.

In the web based article “Thinking About the Future: Leaders of technology education tell us what they see ahead” Frank B. Withrow compares advances of the digital technology to the printing press and speaks to the hope that computers will change education. “Learning in traditional schools has been effective for the top 15 percent of students, but far too many schools have wasted the potential of many learners... With technology we can provide individual learning plans and programs for every student.” The students today are the canaries in the mine shaft signaling that the system is not relevant or functional for most of them. With changes in how schools are funded we can begin to develop learning environments based on Constructivist model and utilize the rich technological advances. If the transformation begins now the future looks bright. The schools in the year 2025 will finally be a true, democratic representation of successful public education for all students.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Favorite Websites

My favorite education website is LD Online at - a great resource for learning disabilities. I send my students there to get inspiration from individuals who have succeeded in spite of a learning disabilty: examples are Stephen Cannell(Hollywood screenwriter) and Charles Schwaub (investment mogul), the list goes on and can be checked out at the link at the bottom of this blog.

My personal favorite to see what people are doing on the web is Favorite Website Awards at . I like that you can search by categories, such as education, art...

Other than the websites I have listed, I am constantly doing searches on Google for information related to teaching and my interests in gardening and sculpture.