Month: April 2016

Reflecting on EdTech 541

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ReflectionScreen Shot 2016-04-23 at 5.48.34 PM

This class is the one that I was most looking forward to taking. I enrolled in the MET program at Boise State because last fall, my high school gave each student a Chromebook. It was as simple and as challenging as that. I have always been passionate about using technology, but in an economically disadvantaged school district, as a special education teacher, there have not been many instances where technology could be seamlessly introduced and used on a regular basis. Now that my students have access, I need to be able to use that technology effectively to enhance their learning and increase their chances of success in what is arguably one of the more difficult subjects they face, algebra. The biggest thing this class taught me is that I can do it. Many times I read the list of assignments for the week and had no idea how to apply them to my subject area. Each assignment pushed my levels of creativity and challenged me to find new tools and methods of implementation. Creating instruction by relating different content areas to math was daunting. I found that the more difficult the assignment was to relate to math, the more I had to research beyond what the book gave me. This increased my learning exponentially, and it shows in my projects and my classroom. I have already used several of these lessons with my students. Applying these in my classroom showed me what I could accomplish when I consider the pedagogy, what tools are available, the relative advantage of each tool and strategies of application. Ensuring that each was appropriate for both algebra and special education added an extra level of constraint. My teaching has improved based on what I have learned this semester. I have learned to really look at the relative advantage of using a particular piece of technology, and implement it because it will enhance the lesson, not take over the lesson. While my mindset has not changed because of what I have learned, my level of understanding is deeper, making me more mindful of how I use technology with my students. At heart, I am a Constructivist, but my teaching style has always been more Instructivist because often that is what my students need and can handle. They struggle with project-based learning and will either give up or shut down completely. They find technology engaging enough that they are willing to put more time and effort, more perseverance into their learning. Using technology also allows me to pursue the Connectivist theory, by teaching my students ways to help themselves by finding tools that will allow them to find success and solve problems on their own. And that, for me, is why I am here.

Standards

Artifacts

AECT Standard 1 (Content Knowledge): Candidates demonstrate the knowledge necessary to create, use, assess, and manage theoretical and practical applications of educational technologies and processes. All of the projects created for this class clearly fell into both the Using and the Evaluating categories under AECT Standard 1. I researched and chose technology to implement and then assessed the relative advantage of that technology and its use in my chosen area, special education high school algebra.
1.2 Using – Candidates demonstrate the ability to select and use technological resources and processes to support student learning and to enhance their pedagogy. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
1.3 Assessing/Evaluating – Candidates demonstrate the ability to assess and evaluate the effective integration of appropriate technologies and instructional materials. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
AECT Standard 2 (Content Pedagogy): Candidates develop as reflective practitioners able to demonstrate effective implementation of educational technologies and processes based on contemporary content and pedagogy. This class made me consider how best to implement chosen technology, while reflecting on the pedagogy behind the process. I struggled with the application of these projects in an algebra classroom but researching the pedagogy was helpful. I needed to consider not only the best way to apply technology to the math, but also how to adapt and create materials that will assist my self-contained students and allow them to find success with concepts that are often abstract and difficult to grasp.
2.1 Creating – Candidates apply content pedagogy to create appropriate applications of processes and technologies to improve learning and performance outcomes. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
2.2 Using – Candidates implement appropriate educational technologies and processes based on appropriate content pedagogy. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
AECT Standard 5 (Research): Candidates explore, evaluate, synthesize, and apply methods of inquiry to enhance learning and improve performance. My students tend not to do well with project-based learning. As a result, my teaching style has been more Instructivist in nature. My time spent researching, using and creating materials by using technology for enhancement has given me methods I can use to incorporate more Constructivist methodologies to my teaching. While my classroom will never be wholly Constructivist, this class has given me the tools to at least blend the theories, making for a better-rounded classroom experience. Interacting with my classmates has also given more credence to my thoughts of Connectivism. My goal has always been to teach my students how to find tools to help them problem solve.
5.1 Theoretical Foundations – Candidates demonstrate foundational knowledge of the contribution of research to the past and current theory of educational communications and technology. Relative Advantage Chart
Instructional Software Lesson Plan
Software Support Tools
Interactive Presentation
Spreadsheet Lesson Framework 
Shared Docs Lesson Framework
Video Integration Project
Internet Enriched Lesson
Social Network Learning Activities
Game-Based Learning
Math/Science Learning Activities
Art, Music & PE Learning Activities
Language Arts Learning Activities
Assistive Technology Project
Resource Page 
5.2 Method – Candidates apply research methodologies to solve problems and enhance practice.  Resource Page 
5.3 Assessing/Evaluating – Candidates apply formal inquiry strategies in assessing and evaluating processes and resources for learning and performance. Resource Page 

 

AECT standards. (2012, July 16). In Association for educational communications and technology. Retrieved from http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/aect.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/AECT_Documents/AECTstandards2012.pdf

 


Performance Assessment

  1. Content – My blog posts are thorough and contain references to both the readings and my personal experiences. They are written with the reader in mind, and contain an attempt to display my thought process, what I have learned, how that new knowledge applies to my world and any extra research I did to learn more. I feel I earned the full 70 points for this area.
  2. Readings and Resources –  Each blog post references at a minimum, the reading from the class text. I often referenced other research that I did to further my knowledge and satisfy my curiosity on topics I found most relevant. I believe I earned the full 20 points for this area.
  3. Timeliness – This was the hardest part of the blogging assignments for me. Writing is a difficult process for me. I am more comfortable speaking in a group than writing my thoughts. I need time to finish the readings, do more research if I felt it was needed, process my thoughts and then put them into written form. The majority of my posts were completed by midweek, but some of the topics I found more difficult were posted later. Because of this, I am going to say that I earned 15 of the 20 points in this section.
  4. Responses to Other Students – I made at least two thoughtful substantial responses to other students’ posts for each blogging assignment. I included my thoughts on what was posted, as well as personal experiences and commonalities. I believe this should merit the full 30 points for this section.

 

Accessibility Features on a MacBook Pro

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apple-loveMy computer of choice is an Apple MacBook Pro running the current version of OSX, El Capitan. I also have an iPhone, iPad, and an Apple TV. Apple prides itself on its accessibility features and assistive technology. This company is very vested in helping people with disabilities access the world around them through their technology. As Tim Cook puts it, “We design our products to surprise and delight everyone who uses them, and we never, ever analyze the return on investment. We do it because it is just and right, and that is what respect for human dignity requires, and it’s a part of Apple I’m especially proud of” (as cited in Ritchie, 2014).

I have a student who is severely disabled. The school has provided him with an iPad because of the accessibility features built into the IOS. Through my two years working with this student, I have learned a lot about the assistive technology that Apple provides. While I was aware that many of the same features are built into my Macbook, I had never had reason to research them until now.

For people with vision difficulties, the OSX has several features:

  • VoiceOver – In simplistic terms, VoiceOver is a screenreader but in reality, it is so much more. It will read whatever you have placed the cursor on, in a voice of your choosing, in over 40 languages. It works with apps and can even work with a Braille keyboard.
  • Zoom – magnifies the screen up to twenty times.
  • Dictation – allows the user to talk instead of type.
  • Cursor Size – easily makes the cursor large enough to see. Swiping rapidly on the trackpad enlarges it briefly for easier detection. I have to admit; I have spent some time making the cursor bigger just because it is fun to see.
  • Contrast Options – the user can invert the colors or use grayscale to enhance visibility. I use my computer so much that my eyes get strained, even though I keep my screen as dark as possible. Inverting the colors helps reduce the irritation.
  • Siri – while Siri does not yet exist in OS X, there are rumblings out there that she will be a feature in the near future (Gurman, 2016).  This will increase the already impressive accessibility features by allowing users to tell the computer what they need and have it react accordingly.

Users that have auditory difficulties also have a wide range of features. As a person who does have issues with hearing (I have had seven surgeries to date on my ears), I use many of these.

  • Face Time – video messaging that allows for the use of sign language and lip reading. This is a great feature even if you don’t have hearing issues. It’s nice to put a face with the voice.
  • iMessage – text messaging system. Because all of my technology is Apple-based, I can text anyone from my iPad, iPhone or even my laptop. I much prefer to text than talk, as I then do not have to pretend that after the third time I have asked someone to repeat something, I understood them.
  • Screen Flash – instead of an audio cue, the screen will flash to get the user’s attention. I use this at work as I do not hear my phone when it is on vibrate. My laptop screen will flash when something requires my attention, such as an incoming text message.
  • Mono Audio – for those with hearing problems, both audio channels will play in both ears through a headset. The user can adjust the volume in each ear independently. This was a feature that I did not know about. My right ear is worse than my left, and it seems every time I get sick, it settles in that ear, making it even harder to hear. It really made a difference allowing me to play everything through both the left and right earpiece. It was also a relief to be able to turn the right earpiece volume up while keeping the left earpiece volume low. I will definitely be using this feature a lot in the future.

Users with physical or motor challenges will find the following feature helpful. I have explored many of these on my student’s iPad but had not played with them on my Mac.

  • Switch Control – this feature allows someone who cannot physically interact with technology to use various devices to control the computer. My student uses a joystick, but that is still hit or miss for him. We are currently looking into a head switch to see if that will increase his accuracy.
  • Slow Keys – this feature adjusts how sensitive the keyboard is. The user can set the keys to respond to lighter touches.
  • Sticky Keys – this is a feature that I had heard of but never explored. Instead of pressing keys simultaneously, such as command-print, turning on sticky keys lets the user press one key at a time. This will be very helpful for my student, as he cannot press multiple keys together.
  • Onscreen Keyboard – this feature places a keyboard up on the screen, allowing the user to use some type of pointing device to type.
  • Automator – allows tasks that require multiple steps to be executed with just one click. It works like the coding blocks we used in class for the Hour of Code, just drag the actions into a workflow and the computer will perform them. They can also be recorded and saved.

There are also features built in for people with learning disabilities. As a special education teacher, I often use these features with my students. They give them a measure of autonomy, while not making it obvious to their peers that they have a learning disability.

  • Simple Finder – this feature makes the dock on my Mac much less cluttered. It takes it down to three folders and allows me to limit the apps that can be accessed. This would be helpful for students who are easily distracted or overwhelmed.
  • Dictionary – Apple has a dictionary built into the operating system. Highlight and right-click on a word and the user is given the option to look up the definition. This is a great feature for many of my students. Learning to find the definition of a new word by themselves is an important life skill.
  • Text-to-Speech – this feature is the one I would use the most with my students. The majority of my self-contained students have the accommodation of material read to them. It is impossible to read material to everyone at the perfect speed. Some need it repeated multiple times; others work ahead because I am reading too slowly. Text-to-speech will read a highlighted section to the user. I can choose the voice to be male or female, and the rate can be adjusted. As a plus for ELL students, this feature supports over 40 different languages.
  • Word Completion – sometimes my students will be unable to pull a word out of their heads. They will know what it starts with, but then they get stuck. Word completion allows the user to type the first few letters, press escape, and the computer will suggest words that meet the criteria.
  • Summarize – most of my students are easily overwhelmed by a lot of words. They will often give up without even trying. This feature allows the teacher to shorten passages, all the way down to one sentence if that is what is needed. This feature allows students with focusing problems or students with learning disabilities to get the information in smaller segments.

These accessibility features allow people with disabilities to overcome some of the challenges they face, often without being obvious. I am currently taking EdTech 503, and my design project is about creating narrated tests using VoiceThread. It is impossible to read math tests to a group of students, and our current system of stigmatizing students by having them take their tests in a different area is unacceptable. According to McLeskey, Waldron, & Redd , “rather than treating differences as something that need to be addressed in segregated environments, the premise is that individual differences should be considered an ordinary feature of inclusive classrooms and addressed in ways that are a typical part of classroom instruction (as cited in Roblyer, 2014). One piece of my project is a video of my students’ thoughts on this process. It was eye-opening and heartbreaking to listen to their feelings. If you are interested, the storyboard with their original comments is here: acmistoryboard – The Reality of Questions Read. The more we can level the playing field for these students, the better the chance they will stay in school and graduate. If we can use technology to level that playing field without singling out IEP students, even better.

References

Gurman, M. (2016, February, 24). Apple plans Siri for Mac as tentpole feature for this fall’s OS X 10.12 launch. Retrieved from http://9to5mac.com/2016/02/24/apple-siri-osx-10-12-2016/ 

Ritchie, R. (2014, July, 9). Apple and accessibility: Pushing back against unacceptable realities. Retrieved from http://www.imore.com/apple-and-accessibility-pushing-back-against-unacceptable-realities

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.) Massachusetts: Pearson.

 

 

Obstacles and Solutions for Integrating Technology into a High School Algebra Classroom

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While integrating technology into a mathSolutions Not Problems Notice On Board classroom should be a goal to strive towards, there are some significant obstacles to full integration. The first and most daunting is the difficulty writing math functions and symbols on the computer. Drawing graphs, typing square root or cube root signs, creating fractions, even writing simple vertical addition and subtraction problems becomes a challenge when one is trying to type them on a computer. Fractions end up looking like this: 3/5 and my special education students often misconstrue the meaning. Even the graphing calculator has programming to make fractions look like fractions, so the inability to write them in the same format across multiple platforms is a problem. Without access to special math terms, typing a square root problem looks like this: \sqrt{4}. This is LaTeX, which is used in gMath, Google’s answer to inputting math terms. My students find this task very difficult, rendering the relative advantage of using gMath very low. There are many solutions to these issues, ranging from not using technology at all to trying to piecemeal something together to make it work. My favorite program for inputting formulas and symbols is MathType by DesignScience. My math department has been using it for years with no issues until we became a GAFE school. It does not integrate with Google Apps for Education which we are encouraged to use. The add-ons that Google has to input math are weak. It is much faster to write things out with pencil and paper. I use my Elmo to project what I am writing, or I have been known to snap a picture of a problem and throw it up on our Classroom site for discussion. When I must type equations in a document, I use Word instead of Google Docs.

Sometimes technology makes things too easy for students. GeoGebra and Desmos are wonderful graphing programs, but they don’t allow the student to graph the equation. All the student is required to do is input the equation or the points and the program will complete the graph. This makes the technology too helpful and removes that learning curve and with it the understanding we earn when we create something for ourselves. In my classroom, the solution is to use these programs as a check after completing the graph on paper or a dry erase board. If a student is truly stuck, I will scaffold the assignment by having them input the information into Desmos and using that to create the graph. As they gain confidence, they will use it just to check their work.

The graphing calculator used in high school classrooms is a very controversial topic. Many teachers do not like the reliance students have on this tool, stating that it erodes knowledge of basic facts and becomes a crutch. In the eyes of a special education teacher, this calculator is a tool that allows students to participate in deeper, richer mathematical discussions. My students are missing many of the basic skills. They do not know the times tables, nor how to divide. Many are unable to do basic addition and subtraction. Without the calculator, they cannot manage algebra. Using the graphing calculator skillfully levels that playing field. Teaching them how to use it well is an important part of my curriculum. As my overall goal for my students is to teach them how to solve problems by finding needed information, the graphing calculator fits that criteria. As an adult, if I don’t know how to do something, I will look it up or find a tool to help me. My students need to learn that same life skill. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, “ When teachers use technology strategically, they can provide greater access to mathematics for all students” (NCTM, n.d.). My solution to this argument is to encourage use of the calculator as a tool. Many of my students will try to do the math in their heads but often get it wrong. We talk a lot about finding and using tools to help us be the best that we can be. I find they are more willing to use a tool, then something they feel they need because they have an IEP.

The issue with graphing calculators is the question about why we are using them at all. They are old, outdated and prohibitively expensive. None of my students can afford their own, and while my district supplies each teacher with a classroom set, this does not help when they are trying to work problems at home. Desmos is the beautiful, FREE solution to this problem but we are not there yet. I teach my students how to use both the ti-84 and Desmos. The only reason I use the 84 at all is because New York does not allow the use of Desmos on the state exam. It is my hope that eventually we will follow Texas, which is now allowing a special testing version of Desmos on the Star Assessments. This needs to happen and happen quickly, as the continued use of this expensive, outdated piece of technology further widens the digital divide.

Technology is an important part of today’s mathematics classrooms. According to the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, “students have to be better prepared to use technology efficiently and fluently both so they can learn mathematics better and apply what they learn in the workplace” (as cited in Roblyer, 2016).
As programs, apps, websites and tools continue to evolve, the relative advantage of using technology in the math classroom will continue to rise. It will also create new challenges and obstacles, such as the newest apps that allow students to snap a picture of a problem and then it will solve it for them. Luckily the ones that I have tried so far have not been consistent enough for students to rely on, but I am sure that time will come in the near future.

References

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (n.d.). NCTM. Retrieved from http://www.nctm.org/Standards-and-Positions/Position-Statements/Strategic-Use-of-Technology-in-Teaching-and-Learning-Mathematics/

Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.) Massachusetts: Pearson.