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.