Hello! My name is Jeanne Stork and I am a special education technology teacher who just completed a doctorate in Instructional Design and Technology. I teach full time, assist other staff members with their technology needs, and write grants when I can. I have taught students with severe and multiple disabilities since 1989 and worked as an assistant before that. I have run the computer lab for about twenty years. I enjoyed it so much that I returned to school for a second master’s degree and teaching certificate in instructional technology and then my D.Sc. at Blue Marble University. My work is rewarding, challenging, interesting, frustrating, and exciting; often all at the same time. I often spend more time in my computer lab than I do at home, so it’s a good thing that I love my job.
Teaching keeps me very busy, but I get excited whenever I step into my lab or assist the classrooms with their technology needs. I enjoy helping my students and my colleagues! This could be anything from conducting staff development workshops about a new website that the school is using for instruction to hooking up computers to our two networked printers. I wish I had more time for this work because I hate telling teachers that they have to wait.
See my posts for what I’ve been doing and some of my ideas concerning instructional technology and special education (links on the right side of this page).
I would regularly work twelve-hour days (half of it off the clock) if I had the energy! I know very few teachers who only average forty-hour work weeks. We come in early, stay late, or bring our paperwork home. I teach because I love it, not for what looks like shorter hours.
Most of my students are developmentally on the infant through the third-grade level, although they range in age from 4.9 through 11 years old. My school goes up to age 21, but I work in an elementary site. I have older students who have not mastered using a single switch (i.e. Specs Switch and Big Red similar to the first photograph, below) or a touch device (i.e. IntelliKeys — see the second photo below), and I have younger students who know the mouse well enough to quit their work on a regular basis. When possible, I program both main mouse buttons for the primary/left click and turn off all smaller buttons because most of my students are not yet able to differentiate between left and right clicking. Although my students are classified as having severe disabilities, a few students have severe emotional or behavioral needs but are on or close to grade level academically. I love the variety, but it does present its own set of challenges. Most of my students are able to use the computer mouse, a single switch, a touch device, and/or a tablet for learning purposes; with or without assistance from staff members.
I primarily use existing software in my lessons. When I develop my own curricula, it is based on pre-existing tools such as InteliTools Classroom Suite (no longer available, but it still runs on my lab’s computers). I create my own activities and modify activities I collect from various Web and other sources to meet the needs of my students. Classroom Suite has a unit builder function I use to create units that include my own and collected activities. Over the years, I have used a variety of software, but I rely most on Classroom Suite for students who are more severely disabled, because I can create and modify activities that address those students’ significant educational needs. Many of the students with severe disabilities are also able to use Unique Learning (https://www.n2y.com/products/unique/). The students who are comfortable using a computer and are more advanced academically use Imagine Learning (http://www.imaginelearning.com). Many of my students are able to use activities I create or download for Smart Board Notebook during group lessons; these activities work regardless of the type of interactive whiteboard they are using. I prefer to teach fewer group lessons because I sometimes have students on the cause-and-effect level and students who can read in the same class. Individualizing work takes more time, but it allows me to address the abilities and needs of each student and give each student work that is appropriate to his or her academic level.
I have purchased iPads for classes who cannot come to the computer lab so that those students can also have individualized instruction. The iPads are organized into three different academic levels so that I can match students with iPads that have the appropriate fine motor and academic work. I spent a large amount of money on these iPads, but the educational benefit that my students receive makes the money worthwhile. I have tried writing grants for iPads, but most grantors would rather give money and supplies to classroom teachers. I have successfully received grants for computers and interactive whiteboards and expect that in time iPad grants will become easier to obtain.
The New York City Department of Education currently uses Microsoft 365, Google Apps for Education, and the “Special Education Student Information System” (SESIS, only for New York City Department of Education personnel who work with students in special education) to communicate with parents and other staff members. I set up a technology group for my school in Microsoft 365 to help us communicate and work on projects easier. I am learning how to more fully utilize G-Suite (formally Google Apps for Education) and have added all of the teachers to our G-Suite account. Some people in my school district would rather us use G-Suite because they think that it is easier for our students and parents, but New York City purchased Microsoft 365 subscriptions for all staff and students, so both options are available in my school. SESIS is specific to students with disabilities. I help develop student goals, track quarterly progress, and look up what other teachers and therapists have posted in SESIS. Students and families do not use SESIS, but it helps teachers, therapists, teaching assistants, and administrators to keep up-to-date on issues concerning their students. Microsoft 365, Google Apps for Education, and SESIS allow me to communicate with a wide variety of people within the school community.
I hope this gives you a better feel for how I use technology in my school. I will update this description as my responsibilities and technology use change over time.