Hello! My name is Jeanne Stork and I am a semi-retired special education technology teacher who recently completed a doctorate in Instructional Design and Technology. I teach part 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 supervised a specialized computer lab for about twenty-five years. I enjoyed it so much that I returned to university for a second master’s degree and teaching certificate in instructional technology then obtained my D.Sc. at Blue Marble University. My work is rewarding, challenging, interesting, frustrating, and exciting; often all at the same time. I used to spend more time in my computer lab than I did at home, so it’s a good thing that I loved my job. Now, as a substitute teacher, life is more relaxed and I still enjoy helping others.
Teaching continues to keep me very busy, but I get excited whenever I go to work. 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 at the bottom 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, and bring our paperwork home. I teach because I love it, not for what looks like shorter hours.
Many 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 primarily work in an elementary site. I have students who have not mastered using a single switch (i.e. Specs Switch and Big Red similar to the photograph below) or a touch device (i.e. IntelliKeys — see the second photo below), and I have students who know the mouse well enough to quit their work on a regular basis. When possible, I programed both main mouse buttons for the primary/left click and turned off all smaller buttons because most of my students were not yet able to differentiate between left and right clicking. Although the majority of the students are classified as having severe disabilities, a few students have severe emotional or behavioral needs but are close to grade level academically. I love the variety, but it does present its own set of challenges. Most students are able to use the computer mouse, a single switch, a touch device, and/or a tablet; with or without assistance from staff members.
I primarily used existing software in my lessons. When I developed my own curricula, it was based on pre-existing tools such as InteliTools Classroom Suite (no longer available, but it still ran on my lab’s computers). I creatd my own activities and modify activities I collected from various web and other sources to meet the needs of my students. Classroom Suite had a unit builder function I used to create units that included my own and collected activities. Over the years, I used a variety of software, but I relied primarily on Classroom Suite for students who have more severe disabilities because I could create and modify activities that address those students’ significant educational needs. Many of the students were also able to use Unique Learning (https://www.n2y.com/products/unique/). The students who were comfortable using a computer and were more advanced academically used Imagine Learning (http://www.imaginelearning.com).
Many of my students also used Smart Board Notebook activities that I created or downloaded. These activities worked regardless of the type of interactive whiteboard the students were using. I preferred to teach fewer group lessons because I sometimes had 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 purchased iPads for classes who could not come to the computer lab so that those students also had individualized technology instruction. The iPads were organized into three different academic levels; I matched students with iPads that had appropriate fine motor and academic work. I spent a large amount of money on these iPads, but the educational benefit that my students received made the money worthwhile. I tried writing grants for iPads, but most grantors would rather give money and supplies to classroom teachers. I 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, G-Suite, 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 also used G-Suite (formally Google Apps for Education) and added all of the teachers to the school’s G-Suite account. Some staff 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 our 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.