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.