Sunday, November 29, 2009

Assistive Technology - Module 5

I thought the sample lesson plans were really thoughtful, especially the first one. Having students choose a disability and then describe how a person with that disability would accomplish a task really allows students to put themselves into someone else's shoes. Oftentimes people take for granted the abilities that they have and forget that not everyone has the same physical or mental ability. This lesson will help to make students aware of others. The second lesson plan will also make students aware of the feelings of others with disabilities. I am going to keep these lesson plans on file for future use.

1. I would say that through this course, I have learned the challenges that students with physical or mental disabilities face. I have learned that there are plenty of devices and simple accommodations that can be made to help these students. As a result, I am going to look into purchasing some of the assistive technology devices for my school to help my students.

2. I think this tutorial can be useful for any teacher, librarian, or technology coordinator. I am going to tell the other librarians about the tutorial so that they can adapt some of their lessons and look into some of the devices available. The tutorial helps teachers become aware of the challenges students may face.

3. When I looked at the LibraryThing list, I was surprised that I had already read a good amount of books on the list. I didn't really even realize that many of these books had characters with disabilities until I thought back on it. Stories that have characters with disabilities help students to relate to these characters and sympathize with them. I think it is important to have a wide variety of books available and I am going to look into purchasing some of these.

This course really helped to open my eyes to accommodations that I can make and ways to help students with disabilities.

Assistive Technology - Module 4

When I was completing my undergraduate degree a few years ago, we were required to take a special education course each semester. At first I wondered why I would need a class of that nature if I didn't intend to teach special education. However, I soon discovered why it was necessary. In this ever changing world, students are being diagnosed with disabilities more often than in the past. Laws mandate that these students be taught in the least restrictive environment, which usually means inclusion in the classroom. Therefore most teachers will have at least one student with a learning or physical disability (usually many more than one student). Through these courses, I learned about using people-first language, which really made me aware of how I speak about students who may have a disability. I noticed that many of these terms were on the online quiz.

The YouTube video really reiterated how people with disabilities feel when we act different around them. It seems to me that most people with a disability just want to fit in and it is important as teachers and librarians that we treat all students the same. The quiz was an interesting way to see how we can use people first language and ways to act around people with disabilities. The main thing to remember is to act normal. I especially found it important to get on the person's level and speak as you normally would. With the increasing numbers of students with disabilities, we must learn to treat everyone the same and give everyone the same opportunities.

There is a Center for Independent Living in the city where I live. I was interested to read about the services that are offered. These centers teach people with disabilities the skills that are needed to live independently. This is so important. Also the center advocates and offers counseling and peer services. Along with an entire list of services, the center offers assistive devices to those who need it. I never knew that a center like this existed, but I can see why it is so important. There were not any Assistive Technology Centers listed within my state, but again I can see why this would be a useful resource.

I found several assistive technology websites that seemed useful. They are listed below:

1. Family Guide to Assistive Technology: - This is a guide that was prepared through a branch of the U.S. Department of Education. It introduces parents to assistive technology and gives ideas of ways assistive technology can be used. It is important as teachers or librarians that we work together with parents to find the best accomodations for our students.

2. Assistive Technology Training Online Project: - This is a site that provides teachers with information about assistive technology for students in the elementary grades. It provides links, tutorials, basic information, and resources.

3. AbleData: - This is a website that provides resources and information about assistive technology for people and students with disabilties. This site helps people locate websites, locate products, and locate grants and other funding.

4. Microsoft's Assistive Technology Site: - Although this site is primarily used for selling assistive technology devices, it does provide some useful background information about assistive technology. It also provides resources, case studies, and information about how to make the computer more user-friendly.

5. National Public Website of Assistive Technology: - This site can be used for adults and for students. It provides a list of items avalaible to make life a little simpler. Users can search by activity or by type of product. A wiki helps users connect with each other.

I was glad that I got the chance to learn a bit more about manners, both in person and online. It was interesting to read about how people with disabiltities feel when we treat them differently. I also like exploring some of the sites available.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Assistive Technology - Module 3 Software Reviews

I wrote a brief review for each of the software products in the discovery exercises. My software selections will be posted in the discussion board. I hope this is what we were supposed to do for the blog!

Inspiration: The Inspiration software is created by the Inspiration Software company. The price is $69.00 for a single license and $895.00 for 20 licenses. This software is designed to be used primarily for educators to assist students by providing visual tools that can help students learn in a variety of ways. The software is designed for students in Grades 6-12, although Kidspiration is also available for students in grades K-5. This software seems like a great resource for teachers. It helps teachers to create story maps, graphic organizers, charts, pictures, exercises, etc. that will help students to learn in a variety of ways. I really liked the various options it has and the website provides examples of lesson plans that help teachers get an idea of what the software can do. I am going to look into purchasing this item for my own use. I think it can help teachers become more creative and appeal to the varying learning styles of our students.

Kurzweil 3000: The Kurzweil 3ooo is a software that is created by Kurzweil Education Systems. This product comes in three different versions. The learn station is $395.00 and allows the students to open documents from the Internet or those that are already on the computer. The Color Learning pack is $1495.00 and allows students to scan items into the computer in black and white or in color. The Black and Write Learning pack is $1095 and allows the user to scan items into the computer in black and white only. This is tool that allows students to instruct the computer to read documents aloud. I am going to be requesting a similar tool to this. I think that this is an excellent tool to have for students who are visually impaired or students with learning disabilities. It helps students to make meaning of text and decipher unknown words.

Windows Demonstrations: These assistive technology devices are provided by Microsoft and are mostly included in Windows packages. I never knew that there was an Ease of Access section in the control panel. This area helps users who may have disabilities that impair how they are using the computer. This section has a tool that allows the user to input information about themselves. The tutorial then goes through and recommends settings that can help the user. This includes magnifier, adjusting displays and settings to make the screen easier to see, changing text sizes, having words read aloud, functioning with the keyboard and the mouse, functioning without the keyboard and mouse, speech recognition, and much more. I was amazed to see how many adaptations are available on my computer. I tried some of these out and found that they were actually useful to me. Sometimes more advanced software may be needed, but it is helpful to know that these are available if necessary.

Infoeyes: This is a free program that allows users with visual impairments to contact a librarian and ask him or her anything. The system uses iVocalize software to allow the user to make contact with the librarian. This seems like a useful tool for students who may have visual impairments. It allows the user to speak with someone and ask reference or other important questions. I thought this was a great tool that every educator should know about.

After looking at a few options available, I can see how these tools would help students with various disabilities. I was glad that we got the chance to examine some of these useful tools!

Assistive Technology - Module 3

Again, I never realized how many software packages were available that can assist students with disabilities. I was amazed at how many options there are for students who are blind, students who have difficulty speaking, students who cannot hear, and students who have learning disabilities. I thought it was great that many of these companies will allow teachers or students to test out the software to see if it is right for the school setting. This is important when budgets are restricted and librarians must choose the appropriate software fairly quickly. I enjoyed testing out some of the software and will definitely keep some of these options in mind for future purchase.

As mentioned in my hardware selection, I have a large population of students who have learning disabilities. Some of the assistive technology available can be useful to these students both in school and at home. There are a variety of software packages that read words aloud to students. This would be useful for students who have a hard time deciphering words, especially on the Internet or computer screen. Also, voice recognition software could help these students to type on the screen with ease. Oftentimes when students with severe learning disabilities type into Microsoft Word, the computer is unable to correct spelling because it is severely misspelled. With a tool like this, students could speak words in and the computer can type them out. There are so many tools that can assist students with learning disabilities that it is hard to limit the choices to a reasonable amount!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Assistive Technology - Module 2

Wow! I never realized how many types of assistive technology devices were available for those users who have physical disabilities. When browsing through the sites that provided these devices, I found some products that I feel could be useful in my library to assist students with disabilities. These are items that can be used to assist students in learning tasks and for student's personal use of the computer.

The first product that I thought could be valuable is a screen reader. A screen reader is a device that takes the words on the screen and reads them aloud to the student. This device is useful for students who have vision problems and for learning support students who are unable to make sense of the material because they cannot figure out what the words are. This could be easily added onto a few of the computers in the library to assist students with physical and learning disabilities.

The second product that I thought could be useful is the word completion software. The accommodations that need to be made in my library are primarily for learning support students. This software requires the user to enter a few letters into the computer and it will then provide the user with words that match the letters he or she entered. This can be useful for those students who have a hard time spelling words. Sometimes spellcheck is not enough to really correct errors in some students paper. This tool will provide students with learning disabilities some extra help when working on the computer to complete projects or assignments.

The final product that I feel could be implemented into my library is the reading pen. The reading pen allows the user to run the pen over words and it will read the word aloud. This is something that can be used in the library to assist students with hard to read words. It would need to be closely monitored in case of theft, but I think that it would be useful in a place where the meaning of words in so important. I am going to look into adding some of these devices into my technology plan.

I thought EnableMart was the most useful website that was provided in this weeks blog. It provided a wealth of products in eleven different categories. I found the products mentioned above through this site. It lets the reader know what each product can be used for, which is very helpful. I am going to bookmark this site to ensure I have a resource for locating assistive technologies.

I am glad that we got a chance to look at some useful products for the library. Many times when creating a technology plan, assistive technology devices are left out of it. Looking at these sites reminded me that it is important to meet the needs of all students and not just some. I also noticed that many of these devices do not have to be just for the students with disabilities. Many of the devices can be useful to any student. I thought this week was interesting and relevant.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Assistive Technology - Module 1

In my undergrad technology class, we learned about a variety of disabilities and how technology can be adapted to meet the needs of all users. However, I have not thought about that in a while and so have forgot how important it is to make adaptations to ensure that each student has an opportunity to learn. Watching the YouTube videos and exploring the sites given reminded me that it is important to consider each student and that it may be necessary to think outside the box to reach every user.

Discovery Exercise #1: After looking at the National Federation of the Blind's site, I realized how important it is to be prepared to make accommodations for students who are hard of seeing. This site provided a variety of strategies and exercises that can be implemented into a classroom or library. It is important to remember that not only can a teacher learn Braille to assist a student with sight difficulties, but sighted students can learn too. I think it is important to explain to students that there are many ways to communicate with each other and that reading Braille can be a fun and interesting skill to have. The Braille is Beautiful kit would probably be a good place to start. This kit helps teachers show students in their class what Braille is and why it can be useful. Students can have fun learning about Braille and also use it to communicate with classmates who have vision difficulties. The teacher should be a leader in showing students that this is something that needs to be taken seriously. This site showed many other programs that would be worth looking into. It is important to make accommodations so that all students can have the same learning opportunities.

Discovery Exercise #2: The Job Accommodation Network seems like a great resource for people with disabilities. Oftentimes when people have a disability, the individual (or their family) may think that they will never be able to have a normal life or a job. This site, however, can help people with disabilities find a job that can match their abilities. There are many companies throughout the world that are willing to hire people with disabilities and give them the training and accommodations that they need. I really appreciate this site. Also, the site provided a list of products that can be useful to help these people fit into their jobs. These products can also be used in schools and libraries to make accommodations for students.

The other website, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, provided a variety of resources for teachers that can be useful in a classroom or library. This site provided information on a wide variety of disabilities that I am going to bookmark to help me learn more about students in my classroom. The site also provided a section on universal design that I think was very interesting. It helps teachers to make accommodations in the classroom to ensure that all students receive the same amount of accommodation.

When using technology, it is important to remember that not everyone has the same abilities. Technology has given us a chance to make changes to ensure that each student can have the same chance and the same opportunities. I am looking forward to learning more about how to make accommodations when using technology in my library.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Week 9 - Thing 23

I feel like I really learned a lot through this course. I am pretty good with technology, but I was able to take away new strategies that I can use in my classroom. I had never used podcasting or mash-ups before, so I was glad to learn about these new tools. Also, although I knew how to use blogs and wikis, I was able to find ways to implement these tools into my classroom.

My favorite exercises were using the mash-up tools. There are so many programs out there that range from useful to entertaining. New tools are constantly being added and librarians need to find ways to take advantage of these technologies. I learned how easy it is to use these tools and that almost any technology can be manipulated for a library purpose. I really want to start adding some of these tools into my library instruction.

As a librarian, it is important to be knowledgeable and available to help patrons navigate through the online world. This course has seriously assisted me in learning new strategies and techniques. I thought the course was well mapped out and was just the right length for a short course. I would recommend it to others and thought it was a great journey to complement this class.

Week 9 - Thing 22

This site was pretty interesting. There are a ton of books available online. I found the search engine slightly hard to use. Also, I wish that this site provided a browsing tool or a subject search so that users could find information more easily. I had a hard time finding useful books. All in all, I think a site like this could be useful to libraries. Sites such as this can be used to compliment a libraries collection and provide patrons with easy access to other books outside of the collection.

I have been thinking about getting a Kindle or other reading device. I keep putting it off because I think that I like the feel of a book in my hand rather than holding an electronic device for hours. I enjoy turning the pages and smelling that new book smell. However, I also think that the Kindle looks neat. I have been getting most of my books from the local public library and from my school library, so I would not like having to pay for new books I wanted to read on the Kindle. Either way I think that e-books are going to be a part of the future of libraries and I am interested in learning more about them.

Week 9 - Thing 21

I do not have much experience with podcasts. I had never even listened to one before today. As The reading this week complimented this topic very well. I especially liked the ideas that Courtney gave for libraries to use podcasts. This technology is ideal for booktalks. I was able to locate several useful sites through the podcast directories that had booktalks for kids and teens. I may try to use these in my library to advertise some of the books that we have. I am going to become more familiar with the podcasts and choose some appropriate booktalks to play for my students. I added several booktalk sites to my RSS feeder. It was very easy to use and subscribe to.

Libraries can use podcasts for a variety of purposes. Storytelling can be done through this tool. Also, when a library has an author visit or a special artifact, a podcast can be used to make sure that all patrons are able to view or hear the event. I think that this is a technology that will continue to grow as time progresses. I was very glad to be able to learn about podcasting.

Week 9 - Thing 20

I have used You Tube quite often in the past several years. I personally like to use it to watch music videos or to listen to songs that I want to hear. It is really easy to use and the videos load and play very quickly. I like the auto complete feature on the search bar because it leads to other videos that I may be interested in watching. I also like that it provides the viewer with links to other videos from the person that uploaded the video you are watching and it provides related videos that the viewer may be interested in. The discussion board can be helpful and interesting.

My biggest dislike is that there are so many videos on the site and most of them are homemade. This sometimes makes it difficult to find the right video because you have to sort through all of the junk videos. However, I know that most users like this site because it allows them to add their own videos, which is a plus from that point of view.

Libraries can use this site to provide their patrons with instructions. Many of the videos on this site can give useful information. For example: my boyfriend was trying to learn how to tie a tie. So, he found a video on YouTube that walked him through it. Librarians can lead patrons to this site for demonstrations and instructions that may be more useful than reading it in a book.

This is the link to the video I chose: It is a Dewey Decimal Rap that I just found and it is hilarious.