Final wrap-up…………………….

Jessica Hodsman and I got started right away brainstorming just what we thought would be the best unit to start making into a blended course for our Vocational Alternative Program.  Read here to learn more about who we developed these modules for:

Submitting our prototype for a random sampling of colleagues within this class to provide feedback for ourselves was both daunting wondering how we would measure up to the rest, and equally exciting to share what we had put together!  The peer evaluations were wonderful and provided us with a lot of feedback to think on and decide how and what we might change up before using this module in our classrooms.  The first major feedback that we received and were waiting to hear about was that our module was not accessible for a couple of days after we had submitted it!  Talk about STRESSFUL!  We apologize to those that were waiting to go in and give us feedback.  Kelly and I brainstormed and emailed back and forth with Katia and Alec and long story short, had to re create our modules into the UofR Google Classroom domain.  Thank you for your patience and to Katia and Alec for replying to all of our late-night, frantic emails!

In our classrooms this would not have been noticed as all of our students are set up with RBE domain emails, but for any “outsiders,” they would only be able to log in using the Uof R account.  Kelly and I would also like to send a thank you to Kelsie and Andres for the quick replies within our Community – notice the same initials as Katia and Alec!!

There was a lot of great, positive feedback as well:)  Our peer evaluators found our modules to flow well, with a suggestion to add in more modules as there was just the 2 of us.  They mentioned that the LMS (Google Classroom) was attractive, easy to follow/navigate,  and our course profile was a great help as it sounded like those that provided feedback didn’t have experience teaching in a VAP classroom.  They also liked the variety in teaching methods and resources – thanks!

In moving forward, I liked the suggestion of providing a brief video or some other type of introduction to us as the teachers to allow for the students to know who their teachers are.  I like this idea, and think it would be a fun way to introduce the lesson, but all of the students should be coming to school everyday and working within our classroom.  Introductions are always nice and would be another fun way to have students use technology.  An activity similar to the one we first did on our first class in EC&I 834 would fit well.

Another piece of feedback was being sure to teach students all of these technology applications prior to assigning them.  This is great advice and something that we should maybe have spoken to in our profile.  Students are all set up in Google Drive and in some classes with other teachers, use Google Classroom.  Kahoot has been used before in our classrooms.  Blogging would be new and we would have all students create accounts at the beginning of the semester so they would be able and comfortable with the blogging assignments.  We would also look at re-doing the video in module 2 – Kelly has a house full of teenagers and needed to get to somewhere quiet…while we had a good laugh, he also agrees that he would re-do that recording somewhere else before any of the students are in the actual module!

Thank you to all of you that provided the feedback and for the opportunity to learn with and FROM so many of you techy, techy people!   I am so enjoying enhancing my lessons with these fun and engaging apps and plan on putting all content into Google Classroom for all of my classes in the fall!

Congratulations to Jessica for completing her Masters program!  I’m so very proud of you!!


Our Prototype Project was a Success!

Final Stages of our prototype: Vocational Alternative Program (VAP)

First off, I just want to say how great it was to partner up with Jessica.  She is not only a wonderful and talented person, she is also an expert in the area of Alt Ed.  She has a wealth of experience and really understands this population of kids.  So, working with Jessica just added so much value to the project itself.  Thank you, Jessica, for your time and dedication to the project!

Secondly, I just wanted to say how nicely the project came together and the sense of pride we had when we put it all together in the end!  It was not only a sense of accomplishment but I think we both felt that we could incorporate or continue on in this path going forward.  The beginning stages of the project were challenging because we didn’t know what this would look like and we didn’t know exactly if we were on the right pathway.  Now that the prototype is complete we both feel more confident with using Google Classroom, posting materials up for students and assessing our students.  We also believe that by using Google Classroom, our students were be more engaged and motivated to learn!

This was an Awesome Experience!!

Experience + Time = Openness = Authenticity

I am very thankful for taking ECI 831 and 834 because they have exposed me to a world of dialogue and openness that I would not have otherwise known.  I admit though, these 2 classes have taken me to some uncomfortable places…blogging, tweeting and posting online!  At first I was very uncomfortable with this format but with experience and time, I began to share more and more.  I have to be honest, I’m still not 100% comfortable with posting things online because it is not my personality type.  On the other hand, I really enjoy reading and have learned so much from reading other teachers perspectives.  In my opinion, it’s hard not to want to be a part of this open, sharing community!

My first grad class (ECI804 Curriculum Dev) was a closed sharing environment.  The Prof had us sharing online in small groups.  I remember thinking that this was pretty cool because I had never experienced this before and then I enrolled in ECI831 the next semester and had learned new formats such as Google+, blogging and Twitter.  In ECI831, we were shown how to set up a Tweetdeck and one of the groups I still follow is #Spedchat.  Sharing and learning in this open space has been an amazing experience.  This group of people has made me realize the power of sharing in an open space!  I still follow this group and I’m surprised at the level of sharing, integrity, open and authentic conversations that take place here!

Blogging would be a great Start in an Alternative Ed Program!

I enjoyed this week’s blog prompt because it made me think about what I would do if I was back in the classroom!  I would love to try blogging with my students who have specialized needs utilizing Google classroom to facilitate this.

The project that +Jessica Hodsman and I are working on is geared toward students who are in the Vocational Alternative Program (VAP).  Students who qualify to participate in this VAP program are students who are unable to meet the learning objectives of the secondary level regular education program even after the adaptive dimension has been applied extensively.  The student must also be diagnosed with an intellectual disability and/or be four or more grade levels behind peers academically.  Students in this particular cohort have a great deal of difficulty with expressive and receptive communication so this particular blog prompt made me think about what type of student/student-instructor interactions would best fit.

I think I would be comfortable starting with blogging because it is similar to journaling.  When I was in the classroom, I would journal with students in the morning and at the end of the day.  This journal would typically start with a prompt and depending on the level of the student, I would have to adapt to the students’ needs.  For example, I would start a prompt that was fairly general and then with each student I would adjust to where they are at.  Some prompting could go as far as a whole sentence and then leaving a blank so that the student would have to come up with one word to finish off the sentence.  The range of students is our program is so wide – we have students who cannot write a word (non-verbal) or who may use their own assistive technology to communicate.  Basically, we have to adjust everything we do in our classrooms which we can do because we have 12-15 students and therefore can adjust.  However, i think students would love the opportunity to blog as it seems whenever they get the opportunity to use technology, they really enjoy it!!

Barriers to the use of assistive technology for children with disabilities

Assistive technology has aided children with multiple disabilities to improve access and participation in their school and home environments. Effective educational outcomes from assistive technology use are dependent upon a coordinated assessment and implementation process. The literature on assistive technology with children was reviewed in order to identify current barriers to its effective integration within schools. These barriers were found to include:  lack of appropriate staff training and support, negative staff attitudes, inadequate assessment and planning processes, insufficient funding, difficulties procuring and managing equipment, and time constraints. A team model for assistive technology assessment and planning is proposed to optimize the educational goal achievement of children with multiple disabilities. Such a model can help target the allocation of occupational therapy resources in schools to best promote educational and broader functional outcomes from assistive technology use.

There is evidence that AT can have significant beneficial effects for children with multiple disabilities. There is also a strong indication, however, that AT is currently implemented within educational environments in a less than optimal manner.

Benefits of assistive technology use

The benefits of AT use for children with multiple disabilities is as a means of enabling mastery or control over their environment, including enhanced exploratory play and independence in activities of daily living. Independence (including development of autonomy and self-determination) was among the most frequently cited benefits identified by parents and teachers.  Other outcomes include enhanced social interactions, increased motivation and self-esteem. A further area that has been demonstrated to improve with the use of AT is skill acquisition and enhancement, such as handwriting, motor skills, reading, visual attention and perception, and maths skills

Problems in the effective application of assistive technology

Studies of AT utilization have suggested infrequent use of prescribed devices in home, vocational and community settings, poor rates of use by teachers and other professionals who work with children with multiple disabilities, and concerns regarding the way in which AT programmes are being implemented at school and at home.

Staff training and attitudes: Lack of suitable training for school personnel, devices provided without the necessary training and follow-up/support services being offered.

Assessment issues:  Assessment of an individual’s AT needs and subsequent identification of appropriate equipment has been called by some researchers a process of ‘trial and error’.  The literature suggests that the deficiencies of AT assessment centre on two major factors: less than comprehensive assessment of individual needs and lack of team involvement in the assessment process.  One other shortcoming of AT assessment is that of inadequate team involvement in the assessment process. In other words, if staff members are not included in the assessment process they tend not to use the technology with the student as intended.  Of equal concern is the lack of collaboration between the school and the home.

Planning issues:  Beyond the process of assessing AT needs and acquiring the necessary equipment, careful planning of the way in which students will use AT to address their goals is critical. Studies that have tracked AT use by students with severe and multiple disabilities in their educational settings consistently reveal a lack of planning for successful implementation.

Funding issues:  A common concern expressed in much of the literature is the high costs of AT devices and the lack of funds available to meet these costs of equipment, repairs, maintenance, replacement and customization.

Equipment issues: Problems reported in the literature in relation to AT equipment reflect difficulties accessing the equipment, criticism of the design and features of specific equipment, and problems in the use and maintenance of equipment.

Time constraints:  Given the difficulties already discussed with respect to obtaining and maintaining equipment and training in its use, it follows that time is at a premium for teachers and therapists who use AT with their students.

Overcoming barriers:

Recognition of the problems encountered in the effective application of AT in schools has resulted in some practitioners developing and undertaking trials of systems and approaches to allow better delivery of AT services to meet individual needs. In addition, many researchers have proposed recommendations to circumvent the AT pitfalls identified in the literature.

Apart from changes to funding mechanisms and equipment access and management, the range of solutions advanced can be grouped into two broad areas: training and support, and assessment and implementation of technology plans.

Training and support:  A multi-faceted approach to training and support is deemed necessary, particularly in view of the range of knowledge and skills required. Knowledge with respect to disability, hardware and software, adaptive devices, systems for procuring equipment, design and construction of individualized equipment adaptations, and the settings in which the technology will be used is fundamental.

Of equal importance is the type of support provided and the way in which this is delivered. Technology specialists often train one or two members of a student’s educational team, as the time required to train large numbers of staff.

Assessment and implementation of technology plans:  The literature supports the need for more effective ways of determining students’ needs, matching these with appropriate AT, and allowing more careful selection of equipment that is guided by forward planning of the student’s future needs.

In summary, there are a number of issues impacting on the current use of AT with children with multiple disabilities. Broadly, these issues relate to resources available to educational staff and the processes used to evaluate AT needs and implement plans. The way forward is the integration of team-based assessment and implementation, with clear identification of individual goals and provision of relevant supports and resources.

Tech advances help students with additional needs

I very much enjoyed this week’s reading.  It made me reflect on my personal learning preferences and how this presents in my own teaching style.  My preference for teaching are print and video.  I enjoy both of these formats and tend to utilize with my students or colleagues in the same manner.  I particularly enjoyed reading about audio format because it is not something I have used or considered using in my teaching or personal life and I would probably agree with Bates that it is sometimes audio is a format that is overlooked!

When I was in the classroom teaching students with special needs, we did use some technology but it was usually specific or individualized to each child.  In other words, we utilized specific tech based on an individual’s needs – we rarely used technology as a whole class.  In the classroom, i would use technology/video but it would be on an overhead projector, at the time.  Fast forward to today’s classroom, I would continue to use print but i would use more technology.  When i was in the classroom there was limited availability and/or access to technology.  When I first started teaching in a high school education program, we had to book out and/or share a large computer lab!  With greater access today to computers and the internet, i would be accessing these tools more greatly!

One of the other challenges for many of my students was that they had limited ability and/or exposure to technology – so everything we did took a long time!  For example, turning on the computer and logging would be a constant challenge!  So, i began to ask myself if this was a best use of our time?  Again, fast forward to today, there is much greater access to technology for society in general, including students with special or additional needs.  I think with greater access there should be greater opportunities!

The goal in our special education programs today has always been to increase a student’s level of independence and utilizing technology can really help many of our students!  Today, i see laptops, iPads, and cel phones being used and learning being applied in these areas.  In high school programming would be: learning how to use technology independently, safely as a function of their everyday lives.  For example, learning how to access Google Maps to get around the city, City of Regina Transit maps, City of Regina activities, Library’s, or things like the LeaderPost, etc.

I have enjoyed taking this class with Alec and Katia for many reasons but i especially appreciate the exposure to many different media that we incorporate and allowing us time to give thought to our current pedagogy and where we might want to go in the future!  Thank you for this opportunity!

Camtasia Vs. Screencast-o-matic

Camtasia Vs. Screencast-o-matic

I spent some time this week exploring the topic of screencasting. In my work as coordinator for Intensive Supports, I work more closely with Teachers than students.  Finding time to meet and collaborate with teachers is challenging so I wanted to learn more about screencasting and looked at some Youtube video’s and blog posts from students in our class.

Here are some of my findings:


This looks like an awesome product with some great features however, it is costly and I think it is best for a high end user! (Not a beginner like me!)

  • The cost is approximately $180/yr (education pricing) and requires a very steep learning curve.




I also looked at Screencast-o-matic and it appears much easier to use and you can’t beat the price at $11/yr. It allows you to record your webcam as well as your screen.  The huge advantage of it being free is that you can ask students to install it on their computers without worrying about hitting the pocket book!

While Sceencast-O-Matic is free to use, it will limit you to 15 minutes and puts a small “Screencast-O-Matic” watermark in the lower left corner of the final published video.  There is a Pro version which unlocks more features such as video editing (for longer than 15 minutes).  It also records videos in higher definition, allows publishing in more video formats, removes the watermark – and more.

Screencasting in general can help demonstrate and teach the use of software features. This would especially be useful when we are sharing knowledge around IIP’s.  Screencasting would allow us to share out information to colleagues in a succinct manner vs. bringing teachers in for professional development or software training as we have done in the past.

Educators may also use screencasts as another means of integrating technology into the curriculum. Students can record video and audio as they demonstrate the proper procedure to solve a problem on an interactive whiteboard.

In classrooms, teachers and students can use this tool to create videos to explain content, vocabulary, etc. Videos can make class time more productive for both teachers and students. Screencasts may increase student engagement and achievement and also provide more time in which students can work collaboratively in groups, so screencasts help them to think through cooperative learning.

In addition, screencasts allow students to move at their own pace since they can pause or review content anytime and anywhere. Screencasts are excellent for those learners who just need an oral as well as a visual explanation of the content presented.

Google Classroom in a Special Education environment

Hello fellow classmates!

Last week’s class looked at various LMS systems that are on the market today and we were given the opportunity to look at a couple.  Canvas does sound like a great vehicle to utilize but after some dialogue with my partner Jessica, we both feel it will be an easier transition to Google Classroom to facilitate a blended learning environment for our model.

The classroom prototype that we are looking to build out is based on the Career/Work Experience (CWEX) module which can be found in the Alternative Education Curriculum and utilized in a Vocational Alternative Program.  This program is designed for students in high school who have special or additional needs that cannot be met in a mainstream or modified curriculum.  The academic range is varied – it can be as low as grade 1 and usually max’s out at grade 4 or 5.

I don’t have any experience with Google Classroom so I started with watching some Youtube video’s to help provide me a visual and some real examples of what this tool could do for me in the classroom.  The first video I watched was by Annie Brock entitled, “Creating Activities for Google Classroom”.  It was for the primary grades but I enjoyed looking at how she used the tool.  Anne brought it a lot of picture/symbols and I would see myself using this in the Alt Ed program because we have students who are unable to read.  For example, creating a work sheet that shows time clocks (analog and digital) or money math.  The cool thing is that it is easy to use and once I became familiar with the product, I could easily create a specific work sheet that can tailored specifically for my classroom or group of students!  I was really impressed with this tool!

After being inspired by Annie Brock I switched to another 59 min video by Alice Keeler who many of you spoke about.  She presented a good video but it was a little bit long and I didn’t learn as much because she didn’t show many examples entitled, “50 Things you can do with Google Classroom

+Jayme Lazorko linked me to Google Classroom Help Center which was helpful because when we start to build out the prototype the Help Center provides a great step by step process for making assignments or whatever you wish to make.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Google Classroom and how it will help me in the classroom!


Alternative Education Curriculum Prototype

Hi everyone,

My project/prototype will be developed with a colleague and friend, Jessica Hodsman.  We taught together in the Vocational Alternative Program (VAP) at Campbell a few years ago.  I am very happy to be teamed up with Jessica to develop a prototype that we can use and share with other VAP teachers in Regina Public Schools.  Jessica and I are both special education teachers and we will be using the Alternative education (locally developed) curriculum outlined in Sask Learning Policy and Guidelines.  At this point in time, we have not decided what modules we will focus on but once we do this we will then focus on what skills the students have in her program, the resources we have access to, and then we will focus on how we will incorporate technology into our lessons and assessment.

We will keep you posted as we begin to develop this great prototype!


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