Accessibility Problems

I promise to do better in the future.

I just completed twenty-seven SiteImprove accessibility modules and learning paths. The topics ranged from accessible remote classrooms to accessible websites and accessible documents. All of this made me realize that my website and documents are not at all accessible. Unfortunately, I am too busy with remote teaching to make any of the necessary repairs right now.

I pledge that all new content will be more accessible than my old content. I am starting right now by making sure that this post has a heading 1. I have no idea when I will have the time to fix the mistakes that I made in the past, but at least I can do better beginning with today.

I sincerely apologize to everyone who depends on or prefers accessible content. In fact, accessible websites and documents are better for everyone! I am still learning, but I can and will do better in future posts and other additions to this website.

Choice Time in My Computer Lab

Choice time in technology class is not free reign on the internet. My class is an English Language Arts/Technology class, so all activities have to be related to ELA skills. I provide students with a variety of software and website options from which they can choose their activities. Students can only choose from my preselected options. This is enough motivation to keep many of my literacy group students in their work for the entire thirty minutes. I even have a few students who choose to return to their reading program after their required time is complete, but the majority of the students need an immediate reward for completing their work.

I have six leveled choice time accounts and assign each student to one account. The first level works on basic matching and sorting through beginning letter recognition. The sixth level works on fourth and fifth-grade literacy skills. Each account has a minimum of six activities so that students can choose what they want to do. I rarely use the top-level because the stories are too long and choice time is only the final five to fifteen minutes of class (depending on how long it takes each student to work a full half-hour on the computer). The work timer pauses whenever the student takes a break, so different students in the same class may earn different amounts of choice time. This has proven to be an effective reward system for most of my academic students.

My group learning how to use the computer does not have choice time, because it is meaningless until students are independent and have academic work to complete. In fact, this group’s most advanced level is also my academic group’s first choice time level. What is work for one student is play for another. I also use that level as a bridge to my more academic software. Once students have mastered “Purple,” they are ready to join the academic group and begin the literacy application that my more advanced students work on the majority of computer class.

Each account is given a color instead of a number or a letter. This reduces any negative feelings or potential bullying when different levels are more clearly stated. Colors work well except for just a few students who want to work on their favorite color’s account instead of their assigned account. With my students, every plan that the teachers implement seems to have a  few students who have difficulty following the procedure.

A Nice Start to 2020

I had a class last week that really surprised me. The “academic” students stayed in their work for most of the required thirty minutes before choice time. There was little of the normal complaining, and for the most part, they focused on their assignments. I am used to students quitting their reading program, and this behavior always increases after any breaks from school. One student did chew his headphone wire, but the behaviors are usually much worse after any vacation. I was determined to have all of my classes return to their technology class routines, and my efforts paid off.

This class has three students with varying verbal abilities from two-word sentences when prompted to complete sentences without any prompting. The other students are nonverbal and learning to use photographs and picture communication symbols. The three verbal students work on a literacy program in the computer lab. The other students work on basic access skills such as learning to use a mouse. On a normal day, the literacy group tries to quit their work several times a period. I choose literacy work that is also fun, but it still requires students to work on letter recognition, spelling, reading, and writing; depending on each student’s academic level.

My literacy group students in this class, and in my other classes, stayed in their work beyond my expectations providing me with evidence that an immediate return to the normal routine has nice classroom management benefits. I was unable to get any work done the last week or two before vacation (depending on the class) because the students were just too hyper and unfocused, but I was determined to show the students that school is for learning. We have a routine; we follow it; we earn choice time. I have only seen one day’s worth of students because of scheduling issues on Friday, but I sincerely hope that our first full week back goes just as smoothly as Thursday went.

Blue Marble University Review

I am delighted that I made the choice to attend Blue Marble University and am sure that this degree will help me to find a new job once I retire from teaching. The education that I engaged in will aid me in carrying out my current and future responsibilities.

I  just finished a personal review of my time as a doctorate student by going back through my private student portal and saving the information that was posted to all of my classes. Sure, as with any technology subject, some of my current skills will probably be obsolete in ten years (instructional technology is constantly changing), but I am confident in my ability to learn to use new techniques, software, and hardware for my ever-expanding bag of tricks to help my current school and all future endeavors.

Blue Marble University was a great fit for me. Is Blue Marble University for everyone? No, but people who are interested in expanding their skills or who have a general interest in innovative alternative education will benefit from investigating their offerings.

Click on this sentence for a more detailed discussion of my Doctor of Science in Instructional Technology at Blue Marble Discussion.

Review: D.Sc. Instructional Design and Technology

I am very pleased with my education at Blue Marble University. The lessons that I learned help me in my current career and may assist me to begin a second career when I retire from teaching. I am delighted that my D.Sc. in Instructional Design and Technology has been evaluated as equivalent to a United States Ed.D. degree by a foreign transcript evaluation company!

This was a successful program for me. I previously earned masters’ degrees from two different accredited United States universities and am working under two teaching certifications (special education and instructional technology). I chose a different path for my doctorate. I know people with Ph.D. degrees from prestigious accredited brick-and-mortar United States universities who could not find work in their fields. Nothing is certain in life regardless of our choices, but I am happy that I took a chance on Blue Marble University. I wanted a better balance between practical, theory, and research classes than I felt that I could get at typical American universities.

Thank you, Blue Marble University! I already use much of what I learned with the students and staff in my current job, and anything that helps me to be a better teacher and technology coordinator is a good thing.

I chose Blue Marble University after researching various options. I chose Blue Marble University’s Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) in Instructional Design and Technology program after having been accepted into three well-respected (including one quite prestigious) post-graduate (master’s degree required) programs in fully accredited United States universities. I had to drop out of each of these programs because of now-resolved issues that needed my time and full attention. Instead of returning to one of my previous universities, I weighed all of my options and chose Blue Marble University, knowing full well that it is not a legally accredited university. I did not dislike the other programs; I just felt that Blue Marble University could also help me to achieve my personal and professional goals. I particularly enjoyed the larger number of project-based courses. The less expensive tuition was a very nice bonus! As I told one of my bosses, I liked Blue Marble University’s balance between educational theory, advanced practical skills, and personal research.

If knowledge and practical skills are what you are after, you can learn them at Blue Marble University. My original idea was to go to a U.S. university then become a college professor, but I know too many out-of-work professors. I decided to take a different path. I love teaching children, and once I decided not to become a professor, I was free to choose an alternative educational path. Blue Marble University will not be for everyone. Some jobs and further study opportunities require degrees from fully accredited universities. I am very pleased with Blue Marble University and the education that I received.

I am extremely happy with my doctorate program at Blue Marble University. One transcript evaluation clearly states: “JEANNE ELIZABETH STORK holds the U.S. equivalent of a DOCTOR OF EDUCATION IN INSTRUCTIONAL SYSTEM DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY awarded by Regionally Accredited Universities in the United States.” There are foreign degree and transcript evaluators that will give you positive results when evaluating degrees and transcripts from Blue Marble University so you might have to try several different companies (or you might have success the first time). Some employers and schools only accept evaluations from their own narrow lists of pre-approved foreign transcript evaluation companies, which may or may not give you a positive degree evaluation. Maybe soon more evaluators will see the benefits of alternative educational studies; that would be nice.

I am pleased with my decision and encourage anyone who is considering innovative alternative education to look into Blue Marble University’s Doctor of Science in Instructional Design and Technology. I am also aware that this doctorate may not meet the needs of everyone who is looking for a doctorate program, depending on the requirements of current and future employers. Many employers will accept the foreign transcript evaluators who provided me with positive evaluations but not everyone. My work does not offer a pay increase for having a doctorate degree, so it was not as important for me to attend an accredited university that is accepted by my current employer. As I previously mentioned, there are no guarantees in life even for graduates of accredited United States brick-and-mortar universities, but I feel prepared for whatever the future may bring.

Blue Marble University was the correct choice for me.

Dissertation Videos

Here are three videos that accompany my dissertation. These videos are not required elements of the dissertation or of the doctorate degree, but they may assist people who have never worked with students with severe developmental delays to better understand my paper. The videos might also interest other teachers who want to learn more about how I teach my most severely disabled students to use computers and tablets.

The first video shows some of the software that I use with the students who are just learning to control the computer.

The second video is based on the PowerPoint presentation that I created to accompany my dissertation.

The third video shows a few of the many iPad apps that I use to teach students with severe developmental delays to use the iPad’s touch surface.

Both the PowerPoint and the related PDF are hosted on Figshare. The PowerPoint presentation cannot be viewed online, but the PDF is viewable online. (PowerPoint DOI: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.8108174.v5, PDF DOI: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.8109443.v4) The PowerPoint needs to be downloaded to your computer or tablet and run from the PowerPoint application or PowerPoint online in a Microsoft Office 365 subscription. The PDF version lacks the internal links and fancy transitions that are in the full PowerPoint version, but it can be viewed online by anyone.

Trackpad Versus Mouse for Elementary School Students with Developmental Delays

Click on the image below to view my dissertation: Learning Speeds for Mouse and Trackpad in Elementary School Students with Developmental Delays.cover page for Jeanne Stork's paper Learning Speeds for Mouse and Trackpad in Elementary School Students with Developmental Delays

Download my paper directly by clicking on this sentence.

This study compares student improvement in trackpad skills versus mouse skills. While the research focused on elementary school students with developmental delays, the information may be helpful to any school that is deciding whether to invest in mice, trackpads, or both. Improvement data was analyzed from thirty-six students ages five through ten, with moderate to severe autism or intellectual disabilities, who did not know how to use a computer mouse, to determine if they learned to use the trackpad or mouse quicker. Although no statistically significant results were noted in the overall improvement between the trackpad and mouse groups, the trackpad group’s fine motor skills and the five-year-old students’ trackpad use improved significantly more than corresponding mouse learners. Neither device is more appropriate than the other for all students.

Jeanne Stork is holding a trackpad.

I posted my dissertation to FigShare after debating about where to publish my dissertation for several months. I finally decided to use FigShare because it allows me to retain the copyright and to republish. My next project was to create a video presentation of this research: https://drjeanneestork-specialedu-dscedutech.com/2019/05/14/dissertation-videos/. All of the journals that I looked at either would not let me create a video of the study, or they stated contradictory rules in different sections of their websites about authors reposting their own work. Rather than risk a future Take Down order for my video, I chose to publish to FigShare where I knew that I would retain the right to publish to video.

Trackpads in the Computer Lab

My right index finger is touching a gray Apple Magic Trackpad 2

I am currently exploring the use of trackpads in my computer lab. I chose the Apple Magic Trackpad 2 in gray for its large size (compared to laptop trackpads that I have seen) and for its color contrast against my tables. This is an interesting option for students who are having difficulties learning to use the computer’s mouse.

M.S. Educational Technology Specialist

My first master’s degree was M.S. Edu. in Special Education: Severe and Multiple Disabilities from Hunter College in New York City. My second master’s degree was M.S. Educational Technology Specialist from New York Institute of Technology. That second degree is what eventually convinced me to begin my journey toward obtaining a doctorate. I have decided to make public the presentation that I created for my second master’s thesis. I am very proud of my research presentation and have posted it to ResearchGate. A pdf of that presentation is also included toward the bottom of this page.

I compared two different types of software that could be used to teach students with severe autism to click a mouse button. At the time, teachers were required to adapt general education materials to the needs of students in special education. Many people in government had the philosophy that students in special education would show educational improvement if they had access to the same experiences and materials as their general education peers. My research showed that students learned better using software that was specifically designed for their developmental levels and educational abilities and needs. After this study, I was given more freedom to use software that was specifically designed for the needs of students with significant disabilities if their educational needs could not be reasonably met using general academic software.

The presentation contains a large number of statistics; my advisor at the time loved statistics. But there are also some real-language slides that summarize what all of that math means for any readers who are not math-people. I was happy that I could create something that both helped me to earn another master’s degree (and become “highly qualified” by being certified in my subject area as recommended by No Child Left Behind) and also helped the students in my school and beyond. The research is over ten years old now, but the struggle continues to find appropriate ways to teach our students with the most intensive learning and language delay difficulties.

Research Methodology Part A

This is Jeanne Stork’s paper for the Research Methodology Part A course. I discussed referencing formats and the scientific process. The reference section of this paper contains links many helpful resources about the Americal Psychological Association (APA) formatting style.

The final section, just before the references, refers to an article published on the web. Click on the article’s title to read the article. Education and Dementia in the Context of the Cognitive Reserve Hypothesis: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analyses and Qualitative Analyses

Kayakers and Shark in Alice 2

Alice 2 Project Notes
Jeanne Stork
for Blue Marble University’s course:
Virtual Worlds Two

Development Process:
For the most part, these notes were written as I worked on the virtual world project. I want the reader to see my process and the resources that I used in the order that I used them. I did very little cleaning up of this document to enable me to present a more authentic presentation of my process. I decided to include the entire URL for each of my links. These URLs serve as a quick list of my references.

Alice 2, by Carnegie Mellon University, was downloaded from https://www.alice.org/get-alice/alice-2/.

This project began with the “Shark Attack!” tutorial then gradually expanded. Occasionally, a few of my students participated in helping to create this world, but it was too complicated for most of them, especially given the brief amount of time that I had to instruct them in what needed to be done. I had to do most of the problem solving, research, and reading myself, but I think that two classes could have participated more fully if I had the time to break down each step into a separate lesson and could spend a semester teaching the students how to create a project in Alice 2.

My computer lab is an English Language Arts lab and the same students who would benefit from an Alice 2 unit also benefit from their reading program, Imagine Learning. Imagine Learning is only instructional if students use it on a regular basis, so I do not interrupt their routine very often.

My notes and reference materials are listed below. I decided against organizing the information into a formal paper because readers me be helped by seeing the order that I found materials and reading my side notes as I wrote them. I also decided not to include a copy of my html export because the purpose of Alice is to learn the logic and basic procedures behind basic programming. I do not want anyone to copy my printout and claim this world as their own, but I would be honored if my work helped someone and was included in his or her references. Likewise, I have included all of my sources below and mixed in my personal notes where appropriate.

 Alice Tutorials: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials.php#essentials
“Name: Shark Attack! (2013)
Level: Beginner
Time: 30 min.
Date: July 2013 (Updated June 2015)
Corresponding Tutorials: Shark Attack!, An Introduction to Alice, and/or Getting Started with Alice
Description: An incomplete “Carnival” world challenges students to write in or fix code to make the world work using concepts learned in the introduction tutorials. There are also five short multiple choice assessments.” https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/sharkAttack/SharkAttack_v2_handout.pdf

Quad View: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice08/MotionOrientation/movement.pdf I quickly noticed that none of my shells and seaweed were rooted in place. They flew off into the air and escaped the island when I moved the kayak. I was unable to find a tutorial for attaching items to the land, but this tutorial included information on Alice 2’s quad view, which helped me very much.

Sunset:
I thought that the background was boring, so I added a sunset. Then, everything was too dark, so I lightened the scene. Lightening the scene turned the kayak red, and I decided that I liked the contrast of a red boat on a blue sea. I also like that the sky is a little grayer during the opening sequence when the camera is focused on the shark than when the camera is focused on the island.

True/False Decisions:
“Name: How Tall Are You? Introducing Decisions and the use of Functions
Level: Beginner
Time: 30 minutes
Date: July 2008 (Updated June 2014)
Prerequisites: one-hour beginner tutorial, or 4 part beginner tutorial
Description: This tutorial shows you how to make a decision by asking a question whose answer is true or false. If the answer is true, you can do one action, if the answer is false, you can do another action. You will make a decision with an IF/ELSE statement and using functions height and distance. You will help the guy and the penguin figure out who is the tallest. The tallest will then indicate they are the tallest.” https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/introFunctionsTutorial/introFunctionsTutorialHandout.pdf

Avoiding Collisions:
“Name:
 Checking for Collisions (2 objects)
Level: Intermediate
Time: 30 Minutes
Date: July 2008
Prerequisites: 4-Part Introduction Tutorial, Introduction to Functions
Description: This tutorial explains how to create and use a function that tests for the collision between two objects in Alice. Concepts used include functions.” https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/advancedTutorials/checkCollisionsTutorial/checkCollisionsHandout.pdf

Another Collision Method:
https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/advancedTutorials/simpleCollisionDetection/simpleCollisionDetection.pdf
These directions use lists and While the World Is Running instead of multiple collision functions (island, shark, and lighthouse) and an infinity loop.

I was unable to move the Move Kayak method into the if/then statement, so I devised a system of combining both sets of collision detection methods.

Two of my advanced students get very angry when they think that they have made a mistake; this can lead to anything from breaking the headphones to pounding their own heads with their fits. I thought about showing this project to their classes before adding the collision detection method. After consulting with one of their teachers, I decided to try the collision but I did not add any indicator of incorrect motion. I was informed that even a simple “nice try” or “try again” could bring on aggressive behaviors. I also have the scene wait a few seconds before the collision method begins to allow for a potential initial collision. Both students were fine with this approach.

My original attempt to modify a previous method did not work, so I hid my previous method related to the collision and started again by adding a new method. I then ran into another problem – the directions said to find the object’s width in the properties tab, but I found width in the functions tab. As with many of the tutorials, specific instructions may not have been updated but a creative person can often find a solution.

Loops: https://www.cs.bu.edu/courses/cs101/slides/CS101.Lect22.Alice.Repetition.pdf
This method worked well when I stopped pressing an arrow during a collision but allowed me to steer the kayak through objects so long as I kept pressure on one of the computer’s arrow keys.

 Adding Music: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/advancedTutorials/sound/soundTutorial4.pdf
A problem with some mp3 files is mentioned. I switched to the wave format, and the sound now plays throughout instead of stopping after only a few seconds.
https://www.alice.org/resources/alice-2-audiolibrary/

Jaws music was purchased in iTunes and the bird-song was downloaded from https://www.bird-sounds.net/blue-grosbeak/. I edited both of these sounds using Apple’s Garage Band so that they were a length and format (.wav) that Alice 2 could easily use. I will remove the Jaws theme music from the version that I post on YouTube because of copyright issues. I have recently read many articles warning teachers about posting even educational videos with background music. This article explains the issues in easily understood (non-legalese) language: http://schoolvideonews.com/Copyright/Copyright-issues-when-using-music-in-videos.

Walking: I had some extra time, so I decided that my people should walk into place along the edge of the island rather than simply gliding with the move motion. The scuba diver had a walk function, so I began with him. I only had to figure out how far to make him walk, how to get him to follow the land’s curve (not go off into the air or drop into the sand), and how to walk both forward and sideways (so that he could get into the boat later on as realistically as possible). The following tutorial helped me with the ballerina, but I had to greatly modify it. https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/methodsTutorial/methodsTutorial.pdf

Sometimes, one refinement disrupted another formally finished movement. For instance, when the scuba diver just moved into place at the edge of the island, I had him lower his arms as the ballerina was lowering her arms. Once I had the scuba diver walk to his location, the movement that was used to lower his arms made him cross both of his arms behind his back so that his hands stuck out on the opposite sides from where they once were. This was fixed by locating and removing the previous arm-lowering commands.

Last (or so I thought), I adapted the walking procedure to make the bird flap its wings.

Student Interaction with this Virtual World:
At this point, several of my classes tested my Alice 2 virtual world. Students interacted with Kayakers and Shark Virtual World in Alice 2 between one and five minutes each; depending on their age, abilities, and interests. When I showed the project to one of my students who can talk well but does not remember academic concepts such as letters and numbers, he promptly declared, “This is boring.” Students today are used to games with richer visual and animation aspects. Many of the educational games that are used by both non-readers and students who can read are more immersive than a simple Alice 2 project. My more advanced students who could participate in building the world and follow its story and directions enjoyed the project very much. One nine-year-old student with severe autism who has only been talking for about a year recognized the Jaws theme music. Another student in his class who knows how to read told the characters to “stay island;” he agrees with the original tutorial that the people would be safer on the island than in the water, but the coconut that flew up into the tree and the shell that flew into the ballerina’s hand did not phase him at all.

Several of my students discovered that the sunset and water do not last forever. First, the sunset disappears then the water disappears if the kayak is moved too far from the island. This happens when students press the forward or backward arrow too long. They also discovered that before they run out of scenery, the kayak moves too far away from the island to find its way back again. A couple of students even kept the kayak going until it ran out of sea (blue water).

Alice was developed to help students learn coding basics and not for teachers to use to develop their own activities. Although it can be used for the latter if a teacher has enough time, I strongly feel that its strength remains as a tool to introduce students to coding concepts.

My Final Improvement:
I showed this project to my mother and she wanted to see the shell hit the shark. Originally, the ballerina threw the shell in the direction of the off-camera shark, and the shell flew out of the scene toward the shark. Even though none of my students complained (they probably never even noticed), I decided that this would be a nice challenge to see the shell hit the shark. It took a bit of work to make this happen in a method that I liked, but I finally succeeded in having the shell hit the shark, making the shark react, and having the camera watch the event then return to the island.

I think that I am finished with this virtual world, but one can never be sure. I may make additional modifications in the future or I may use this as part of an Hour of Code lesson and allow my students to make modifications. I will make sure to keep this original just in case the students’ “improvements” cause something to fail.

Video:
I am unable to upload my Alice 2 world to WordPress, so I decided to create a video of it in motion. This also prevents anyone from completely stealing my ideas because I never show the entire code. While I am grateful to the numerous people who post Alice tutorials and offer their assistance, I would not want anyone to copy my entire project.

I had to record the video and the audio separately because Alice has started overheating my personal computer. The activity monitor says that Alice 2 uses anywhere from 90% to 107% of my CPU (central processing unit) capacity even though I have a quad i7, 16 MB RAM MacBook Pro that exceeds the operating requirements of Alice 2. This appears to be a known issue, but the fix listed at http://www.alice.org/community/showthread.php?t=7216 is not available in my version of Alice (2.5). For now, it is enough to know that I do not want my computer’s fan to be recorded with my voice.

YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/lyWc7Ucm8oE

Questions?
If you have specific questions about how I did something, submit them using the comment section below. I am not willing to give anyone my entire coding printout, but I will answer simple questions.

Student Worksheet:

Kayakers and Shark in Alice Challenges, Jeanne Stork, Adapted from https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/sharkAttack/SharkAttack_v2_handout.pdf

 Challenge 1: Return to the front of the island.

Challenge 2: Use the arrow keys to move the boat around the island.

2A. Circle just the island by going between the lighthouse and the island.

2B. Make one large circle around both the lighthouse and the island by keeping both items in the center of the circle.

 Challenge 3: Use the arrow keys to make an eight or an infinity sign as you move the boat around the island the island and the lighthouse. You will have to go around the island in one direction and around the lighthouse the other way.

Advanced: Complete challenges 1 – 3 without bumping into the kayak into the island, the shark, or the lighthouse.

 Challenge 4: Move the boat to the front of the island so that the bird clearly faces you. Figure out what letters move the bird.

Letter              Bird Moves:

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

 Challenge 5: Open the coding blocks and change what the characters say.

Website Administrator

I  have been the calendar editor for an environmental organization for the past year, but my responsibilities have grown! As of July 8, 2018, I am now in charge of making additional modifications as they become necessary. I am not the “owner” of the website, so there are some changes that I cannot make because my administrator credentials do not cover everything, but I have access to most of the pages and content. I am eager to help New York City Friends of Clearwater whenever the board members or officers want my help. I do not develop content, rather I take content that the other members have developed, edit it into a web-friendly format, and post it online to their website. I also edit pages when requested to do so by the officers. This is an exciting new step for me and gives me a chance to learn a different form of web development.I do not have the time to be a fully active volunteer, but I have been told that this small volunteer effort is very helpful to the organization and its members.

http://nycfriendsofclearwater.org New York City Friends of Clearwater is a small environmental organization that is affiliated with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. It is not affiliated or aligned with any political party or group. Although I have been a member, a board member, and held all of the officer positions at various times in the past;  I do not have the time to be a fully active volunteer. I have been told that this small volunteer effort is very helpful to the organization and its members.  I will be putting up more current information and making additional enhancements throughout the next year.

I have also offered to take over my school’s website as part of my technology liaison (technology coordinator) duties, but I have not heard back from the school’s principal.  Our current web developer is extremely capable but very busy so I have offered to help. Quite frankly, I sincerely hope that I am able to take on this task. I have used Microsoft’s now retired FrontPage,  the obsolete Netscape Navigator, an earlier version of Adobe’s Dreamweaver, and what used to be Verizon’s web-building interface. WordPress is my only current web development tool. It is past time that I learn more about additional web design software and online site that are in use in 2018 and beyond. This will add to my abilities to serve my school in my technology liaison position and improve my knowledge for the future.

Blue Marble University Highlights My Video

I am pleased to announce that Blue Marble University included my video review of some virtual reality goggles in their Educational Technology degree webpage. Click on Educational Technology then scroll down to the bottom of the page. A special thank you goes out to my professors who think so highly of my work! The video may be replaced in the future, as the instructional technology field changes and expands very rapidly, but it is nice to know that my video is currently being featured.

The entire virtual reality project, including the video review, is on my Virtual Reality Exploration page.

Virtual Worlds One

I have recently studied several tools that can be used to include virtual worlds in instruction. Google VR, Alice, and the former Heritage Key’s King Tut’s Tomb are all included in this paper.

Crystal Fjord University: Demonstration Website

I developed a demonstration website for a demonstration university of my own creation. It shows how WordPress can be effectively used by colleges for everything from admitting students to providing instruction. I also have a Discussion menu item for anyone who wants to learn more about the process that I used in making this site. Click on the picture below to look at my Crystal Fjord University demonstration website.click on this picture to go to the Crystal Fjord University website. The picture shows a portion of the landing page, including a river cutting through mountains fjord style.
If you need it, the direct link is https://crystalfjord.university.

Blog Platforms for College Distance Learning

Blogging in college courses is one method of involving students in their education. This report includes information about educational blogging and includes information that I gathered on the WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Edublogs, and CampusPress blogging platforms. Specific details include some of the methods for incorporating quizzes and discussions into blog posts and sites within these platforms.

My Personal News: MAC, PC, … or BOTH?

I have been thinking about purchasing a Windows-based computer for over a year, ever since one of my professors could not open my mp4 videos embedded in a course creation project. I run a Macintosh lab but many of the teachers in my school have both MACs and PCs. The problem is that between teaching computer classes, data collecting, report writing, technical responsibilities, (well, you get the picture); I do not have the time to work on any additional projects at work — including making sure that content I create on my MacBook Pro runs just as well in a Windows environment.

I finally bought a laptop that runs Windows because I want to make sure that anything that I post can be opened on both Windows and Macintosh computers. I did not buy the current 2018 Intel i7 processor, nor did I purchase the maximum available RAM or fastest processor, but I did follow the sales for a few weeks and grabbed one that was $400 off. We have a holiday in a few weeks so prices may drop even more, but some of last year’s models are already selling out, and I did not want to risk missing out on a good deal. Now, I have to teach myself Windows 10 because the PCs at work are still running Windows 7 or 8. There are definitely cheaper ways to test content on Windows, including creating a Windows partition on my 4 1/2-year-old MAC, that already has an almost full hard drive, but these solutions would not work for me.

As a bonus, when teachers do upgrade to Windows 10, I’ll be ready to help them.

This weekend’s task, set up the new laptop and make sure that everything is running well before the return/exchange period ends.

A Year Later: As it turns out, my Mac had nothing to do with the site improperly posting my videos … that site finally admitted to problems and was taken down. For most people, PC or Mac is a matter of personal preference. For me, knowing both types of computers helps me with my work.

Screen Readers and Capital Letter Abbreviations

One type of abbreviation that screenreaders struggle with is initialisms such as USA or CEO. My work requires that all websites be accessible to people who speak one of ten languages common in my city and to people with disabilities who use screenreaders and other assistive technology devices. One difficulty that can occur is how to handle abbreviations. It is often inconvenient to write out everything, but web developers do not want people to hear USA as the word “usa.” This would cause the reader to have to momentarily stop and think about the words (or even to adjust the screen reader’s settings) instead of focusing solely on the content or message of the passage. Using dots or spaces may help … sometimes, but that can interfere with other assistive technologies. I have neither read of nor heard about a perfect solution; I just wanted to point out one issue that has been discussed recently in the assistive technology and website design fields.

Practice Building Quiz Questions: Contact Forms, Shortcodes, and Polls

Five Qustion Quiz Built Using WordPress.com’s Contact Form Creator:

 

One Quick Question Built Using the Quiz Shortcode:

(shortcode found online at: https://en.support.wordpress.com/quiz-shortcode/)

Who would need to know about light’s color wheel?
Oil painting artists
Painters do not generally create using colors of light.
Children learning about primary and secondary colors for the first time
Children typically first learn the traditional common color wheel’s primary and secondary colors.
Stage electrics specialists who want to increase the visual tone of the production

 

Two Quick Questions with the Included Polldaddy Poll Function:


	

K-12 Online Learning Platforms

I looked at five of the online learning platforms that are currently being used by schools. What I discovered is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The platform that a school or school district chooses to use will be determined by a number of factors such as course accreditation, teacher individualization, teacher-created content, target students, home versus school use, and the ever-elusive price. Before recommending any online learning platform, I would need to have additional details about how the service would be used and I would need a more thorough hands-on evaluation of each company’s product(s).

Click anywhere on this sentence to open my report in a new tab.

Virtual Reality Exploration

I conducted a lesson using virtual reality (VR) with my students the week of Halloween. Everyone had a wonderful time! Many of my students learned to use the goggles independently while working on their communication skills in a novel activity. Although this lesson was a success, I will not be using VR on a regular basis because I generally work on more targeted individualized English Language Arts, fine motor, and technology skills. Click here for Jeanne Stork’s paper about using virtual reality with my students with significant disabilities, “Gaming 2 Interactivity and Engagement Lab.” I am very excited to be adding virtual reality content to my teaching toolbag.

Jeanne Stork’s Virtuality Exploration on YouTube:

Struggles with “Not”

Many of my students have difficulty learning the concept of “not.” If you show them four spoons and a plate, they can find the plate. If they have four spoons and a plate, they might not be able to show you which one is “not” a spoon. I have seen this problem in students who are on the object level of communications, use pictures or picture symbols, and who know how to read written words. True, some students have learned to follow “not” directions, but it is a struggle with many of the children I see each week.

This particularly interferes with some literacy activities that track progress. Some of my students will have success when the computer asks them which words are action words (verbs) but will be incorrect if it is turned around so that the question resembles “Which word is not an action word?” The last thing they heard was “action words,” so that is what many students will click on. The computer program interprets this as meaning that the student needs more assistance and practice with learning action words. Every program I’ve seen so far assumes that the problem is with the vocabulary they are assessing and not with the way the question is worded.

I am just mentioning this as a caution against using computer-generated results as a teacher’s only means of determining student strengths and academic needs. Academic software and Web sites are wonderful teaching tools, but they will never replace my observational skills. Language learning is a complicated process that must be generalized to a wide range of environments. Students who are learning a new concept, such as “not,” need to use it in different locations and activities (i.e. classroom, computer lab, cafeteria, gymnasium, home, etc.). Working together, teachers and speech therapists can help students to fill in the gaps in their understanding and use of language, including the pesky word, “not.”

Dragging Objects on Interactive Whiteboards

I had a student last week who had difficulty learning to drag a picture from one place to another on his classroom’s interactive whiteboard. His finger kept popping off of the board and he didn’t understand any of the vocabulary terms that I was using. I tried phrases such as, “keep your finger on the board,” “press harder, and “don’t take your finger off of the board.” I should have known that the last one did not work because many of my students have difficulty with terms such as not and don’t. Even though this student was verbal, I resulted to taking his hand and guiding him a few times (often called hand-over-hand assistance or full physical prompting). After a few guided trials, the student was able to move the picture a few inches. I’m sure that with even more practice he will learn the helpful skill of dragging items to desired locations on the interactive white board.

Creating A Screencast: Setting Preferences for Students with Disabilities

The description that I included on YouTube is not visible when the videos are embedded into WordPress (click here for the page with another embedded videos). I have included that information here and added more information about the video’s content.

The screencast portion of this video was recorded in Camtasia’s trial version, and I edited the entire video in the trial version of Camtasia, so the watermark is highly visible. I am evaluating this software to determine if it is something that I would like to purchase. So far, I’ve found the zooms easier to manage than in iMovie, but iMovie fully integrates the videos and photographs in my MAC’s Photos application. I may decide to purchase Camtasia for projects that require many post production zooms, although up until now all of my zooms have been done with my camera’s optical zoom.

These directions are for Apple’s Macintosh computers running MAC OS 10.11.6 (El Capitan). Other Apple operating systems have these functions, but they may look a little different. Below are the basic steps that I demonstrated in the video.

Screencast Introduction Transcript:

Hello! I’m Jeanne Stork. I teach in a computer lab for students with significant developmental delays due to severe autism or intellectual disabilities. My students use Macintosh computers, either iMac desktops or MacBook Air laptops. This is how I make some adjustments to make the computers easier for them to use.

            System Preferences: The system preferences are located under the apple in the upper left corner of the screen.

            Accessibility Preference:

Display: Shake Mouse (Some students play with shaking the mouse, but it helps students with attention and visual perception difficulties who often lose track of where the cursor is located on the screen.)

Audio: Play Stereo As Mono (for students who hear better with one ear than the other and would miss a stereo channel)

Increase Double Click speed (to reduce accidental double-clicking from my repetitive clickers)

Mouse:

I do not use wireless mice because many if my students pound the mouse. Wireless mice break easily.

I increase tracking speed to reduce the need to pick up and reposition the mouse.

I make the two major buttons the primary click (left-click) and turn off all other buttons because the vast majority of my students do not know how to click one button at a time or how to differentiate when to only left-click.

I turn off scrolling to further simplify the mouse for my students. The scroll function can also interfere with the educational software that I use.

My students enjoy playing with the mouse, so the more options that I can turn off the easier it is for them to complete their work.

Trackpad Preference:

Point and Click:

Turn off all options

Increase tracking speed

Scroll and Zoom:

Turn off all options

More Gestures:

Turn off all options

Screencast Conclusion Transcript:

As you saw, I spec up the mouse and trackpad so that the cursor moves fairly quickly and the mouse and trackpad don’t have to move all that much. This prevents students from hitting each other with the mouse as they are moving too far to the side, moving the mouse off the table as they are dragging the mouse toward them, or even dislocating the mouse from the wire if they get frustrated because they need that extra inch and the mouse just won’t move. With the trackpad, sometimes my students will actually move their finger off the pad onto the frame of the computer itself and wonder why nothing’s working. Well, of course nothing’s working, they’re not on the trackpad, but the students don’t understand that, especially in the beginning. As students progress, I can give them fewer adjustments, but I tend to keep the adjustments on just because it makes my life easier. I don’t have time between classes to readjust computers. But if necessary, I can always make individual adjustments. Feel free to explore and see what works best for you. Thank you.

Video Editing: Creating the Flying Fish Video

The description that I included with the video on YouTube is not visible when the video is embedded into my Web site, at https://jeannestorkspecialeducationinstructionaltechnology.wordpress.com/projects-digital-and-other/the-importance-o…deo-in-education/, but you can read it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_3bLtyarQ8. Some of that information is below, with additional information about the video’s content and how I made the video that would not fit in the YouTube description field.

I used the Flying Fish Market video as part of a series of videos during a mini-unit on fact versus fantasy. The volume had to be turned way down because of inappropriate lyrics. We discussed what is real and what is fake or pretend using a variety of vocabulary words. Some students needed more concrete questions (“Do fish fly or swim?”). The difficulty level and wording of the questions varied with the students’ abilities to answer them. Whenever possible, I included the whole range of Norman L. Webb’s (et al) “Depth of Knowledge Levels,” as used by my school district. Most of the students in three of my classes were even able to ask each other questions with prompting. A few of my classes have some students who neither talk nor have effective use of picture symbol communication boards or devices; those students work on attending/focusing skills and using non-verbal communication skills such as eyegaze, pointing, and gesturing as they learn to use picture symbols. One of my verbal students declared my videos “boring.” Another student screamed that the movie was broken every time I stopped it to ask the class questions; he had to be repeatedly calmed down to prevent him from hitting his head. If I had waited until the end of this video, the students would not have remembered the sections about which I was asking. The rest of my students enjoyed the videos and the way I presented them. Having only two upset students during a week of class lessons is excellent progress in my school. The other videos may make it to YouTube someday, when and if I find the time.

I could have used my camera’s backlighting setting when recording the centered shots. I did not realize how much the white clouds in the background were affecting the video. This was very noticeable when I showed the video to one of my classes as part of a fiction versus non-fiction lesson, so I made some corrections in iMovie.

I wanted to highlight as much of the action as possible, so my cuts often do not make sense if you are following the music. I used transitions (spin in, spin out) between some camera takes, but the music is still rough. I found that if I included too many transitions it created a visually choppy video, so I used my judgment for which transitions to retain and where I can eliminate excessive transitions.

I use a Panasonic HC-X920 camcorder for my introduction and conclusion. I like this camera because its three MOS sensors seem to pick up great detail. Unfortunately, I might need a replacement. As of this recording, I have not decided whether to get another X920 or to go for a more modern one that adjusts better when light and dark are in the same shot but has only one sensor. I want it all for as little money as possible!

I did not use an external microphone when I recorded the Universal Orlando show, but I think that the loud music would have still made the some of the performers’ words difficult to hear even with an external microphone. I do not have a license for professional taping and felt that it would be a waste of my money to purchase a microphone that Universal might not even let me use.

The background noises during my introduction and conclusion could not be avoided. I live in a large busy city; noises, as I discovered when I moved here, are a fact of life. I tried taping in my apartment and at work, in the evening and in the morning, and quiet never happened. I’m not sure how much you will hear on your end, but I had forgotten just how much of a luxury silence really is. I also tried to get rid of the reverberation in my comments by using an external microphone, but it was not compatible with my camera so the audio and video did not quite line up and could not be fixed by separating and adjusting the tracks in post-production. I am not real happy with the way I sound, but after over two hours of trying, I gave up and just chose the best clip.

If you want to get the full experience of the show, you will have to visit Universal Orlando yourself. It is a trip that I highly recommend. I am not an employee, nor do I have any personal or business connection to the park, but I can say that shows, such as the one you just watched, are best seen live. Besides, you can’t ride the rides from your computer.

Video Introduction Transcript:

            Hi! My name is Jeanne Stork. I teach in an adapted computer lab for students with significant disabilities.

This video demonstrates how angles and zoom can be used to avoid obstacles and to highlight action. I recorded the show at Universal Orlando from the center, left, and right, and I zoomed in on the action to highlight particular performances. I’ll be back after the show to discuss more of my process.

            Video Conclusion Transcript.

            Hi! Jeanne Stork, here again. I had to remain stationary, so I panned a bit horizontally and vertically, being careful not to disturb any other audience members. The shot taken from the audience’s right side is at a closer angle to the stage than from the left side, so I played with shooting angles that way. I selected the angles for this video that worked around obstacles, mmm such as performers standing in front of the camera waiting for their turns, and that highlighted action that I found to be particularly entertaining. The camera’s optical zoom let me capture a few of the stunts up close then return to a wider shot to record more of the action. I also added a post-production digital zoom to close the video. I wanted to focus in on the upper left corner of the screen and avoid the audience crowding the rest of the shot as people got up to leave. I used the camera’s optical zoom many times while taping, but it is nice that iMovie has this cool zooming function. Please, read my notes if you want some additional information. Thank you.

Mobile Operating Systems: iOS and Android

I decided to blog about mobile operating systems because I feel that instructional technology is gradually including more mobile devices. Here in the United States, iPads and Android tablets are competing for expanding educational markets. I have iPads that I bring to the classes on the first floor with students who cannot go up the stairs to my second-floor computer lab. Many of the students in these classes have difficulty using computers due to severe intellectual disabilities, and the iPads are often easier for them. I do have students who think the iPads are great chewy toys and make fun sounds when pounded against tables or thrown on the floor, but I also have students in those classes who really enjoy using the iPads as instructional devices. I know less about Android tablets but will do a bit of computer research.

Apple iOS

iPads use the iOS operating system. It is created by Apple and only runs on Apple devices. The current version of iOS is 10.2.1, but iOS 10.3 is expected soon. iOS 10 can run on iPhone 5 and above, iPad 4 and above (including mini 2 and 3), and iPod Touch 6th generation (Apple, 2017 a). I run iOS 5.1.1 on original iPads (also known as iPad 1), iOS 9.3.5 on my iPads 2-4, and iOS 10.2.1 on the iPad Airs. I’ve kept the iPad 4 at a lower operating system because even though iOS 10 can run on iPad 4 doesn’t mean it should; iOS 10 will probably slow things down, but I might change my mind in the future.

The key selling points for iOS 10 include redesigns to Photos, Maps, Messages, and Siri. Apple claims that iOS 10 is “More Personal. More Powerful. More Playful.” (Apple, 2017 A). Other improvements in iOS 10 that I have noticed are simplified multitasking between apps by swiping between open apps or seeing two apps at a time in a split view, the ability to see notifications when the device is in lock-screen mode, and the ability to delete some of the built-in apps to free up storage space. As mentioned earlier in this report, I never perform upgrades when they first come out (at least not on purpose), but I have found iOS 10 to be helpful.

One key point for me as a special education technology teacher is that Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled assistant, now works in more apps. I have a student who is verbal but quadriplegic. Since he cannot use his hands, I would love to set up an iPad that he can control with his voice. It will be interesting to discover if Siri is simple enough for a young child with a mild developmental delay to use, if his voice is loud enough, and if the classroom noises interfere too much for Siri to be effective. I am going to wait until the fall for this project because the boy is just beginning to speak loud enough to be heard in a silent room. It will make a good blog topic.

Google Android

Google is currently advertising that “Google Assistant” and “Android Auto” will be available for many additional Android devices (Google, 2017 a). Assistant allows users to speak into Android devices, similar to the way Siri works on iOS devices. Auto is a mapping/driving direction app. Google is currently rolling out Android 7.0 “Nougat”. Along with improvements to Assistant and Auto, Nougat has improved the speed with which photos can be found in the Google Photos App and increased the ability of users to personalize their devices. Google also states on the Android Web page that they have “more apps than iOS.”

My Preference

Except for a few short months with a cheap Android phone that would not connect to my school’s Wi-Fi (a problem with proxies that Android has since corrected) and was already out-of-date when I purchased it at a large discount chain store, I have been an iOS user, beginning with the original iPad. I have used iPads with my students almost since they first came out. My school received the original iPads from a grant for classrooms, but I purchased the ones that I still use today. Some of the specialized apps that my students use are still only available for Apple’s iOS devices. Eleven out of my twelve iPads are still working (an iPad 2 died last year) and I have a collection of educational and assistive iOS apps that I paid for (or obtained for free during promotions). All of these factors lead to one basic fact: it would not be cost-effective for me to use anything other than Apple’s iOS devices. It makes no difference how great Android devices claim to be, I am not spending my money to replace what I have.

Daylight Savings Time Rumination

Does anybody really know what time it is? The farmers near where I grew up hated the time leaps. They kept their milking cows on the same schedule, but the relative time changed. If the morning milking was at 7 am the summer “half” of the year, it became 6 am in the “winter” time. What really confuses me is how the U.S. Congress came up with the dates. The dates are not equal distance from the solstices. The 2016 winter solstice was Dec 21; Daylight Savings Time (DST) ended Nov 6, 2016, and began again March 12, 2016. There were 45 days between the ending of DST and the winter solstice. There were 81 days between the winter solstice and today’s beginning of DST. To confuse matters even more, the sun set at 5:47 pm in NYC on the last evening of DST in 2016 then jumped to 4:46 pm the first day of standard time. The sun will set at 6:59 pm tonight (first evening of DST) and last night was 5:58 pm. Where is the science that shows that shows that these times make sense? How was it determined that the days and sunset times needed to be different for the beginning and ending of DST? Show me the science!

Voice-to-Text Struggles

I often attend workshops that include learning about adaptive technologies as part of my job. My school district generally has about six workshops a year for what we call “technology liaisons,” the person who volunteers his or her time to help the school with instructional and adaptive technologies. Adaptive technologies include just about any technology that can help a person with a disability in school, at work, at home, etc.

This brings me to my struggles with voice-to-text applications. My shoulders have both been injured at work and neither one likes repetitive motions, such as typing. I can lift a ten-pound box chest high, but I cannot spend two hours at the computer. So, I decided to experiment with voice-to-text software that lets me speak into my computer. I tried two different brands, both of which promised to improve as I type. The more I use the software, the more accurate they should become. Unfortunately, I have discovered that even speaking these two simple paragraphs requires me to do a lot of editing on the keyboard. For me at least, typing and taking frequent breaks is more effective than using voice to text software. This field of assistive technology has improved a lot in 10 years, but it does leave me concerned for people who have no ability to use the keyboard.

For now, I will only resort to voice-to-text when absolutely needed. My shoulders are healing, but slowly. Many of my students will never be able to type.

Wired Versus Wireless Headphones

Many of my students put the headphone wire in their mouths. Some are on the developmental level where they are mouthing many things in their environment. Other students just have a long-standing habit of mouthing objects. Either way, it becomes a sanitary issue, and bite marks can ruin headphone cords. There is very little electricity running through my cheap headphones, so I am not concerned about the children getting hurt.

Some people have asked me to switch to wireless headphones. These cost more upfront but ideally last longer. The problem is that if they are dropped (or thrown), they also break easier. Sometimes, headphones accidentally fall off a young child’s head because even most child-sized headphones are too large for some of my students. Sometimes, the headphones receive quite forceful assistance to reach the floor either because the student has sensory issues and does not want to wear headphones or because the student is angry with the computer or a staff member. I even have a few students who would rather tap the headphones like a drumstick than do their work. All of these forces would break a wireless transmitter.

For now, I’ll stick with wired headphones. Biting or pulling headphone wires does happen more often than dropping, throwing, or tapping headphones, but I am concerned that these incidents would increase the overall cost per computer. If the school ever has extra money and wants to purchase wireless headphones, I will not turn them down. It would be interesting to see if they really do last long enough to justify the extra expense.

Easy Way to Disable a Mouse Button

two-button mouse with folder paper towel under one button to disable it

Okay, so I have a collection of mice that are new but the model is old. I also have students who are not able to differentiate between left-clicking and right-clicking. These mice cannot be programmed in the computer’s system preferences, and the companies no longer have the drivers on their Web sites. My solution? I folded up a small piece of paper towel and very carefully inserted it in the edge to prevent the right button from clicking. I had to try a few different placements to make sure that the button was disabled without the paper towel activating the click internally (so that the  right button acts as if it is always down). I needed two small paper towel pieces for another mouse, one on the right edge and one on the back edge (near the user’s wrist). Ideally, I could just program both buttons to left-click, but this is a cheap alternative when programming is not available.

Some people remove the paper, but so far I have remained calm. Some of my students pull out the paper, but it is easy to replace, so I don’t worry. If I make a big deal out of telling the students to leave the paper alone, I can guarantee that it will be removed more often. Some staff members have pulled out the paper, possible so that they can right-click themselves or because they think a student put it there. Again, I just replace the paper. I think that most of the teaching assistants and therapists who use the computers have finally gotten used to my low-tech adaptation. Many students love playing with paper and string, so I expect that the paper will always be occasionally removed. I would rather have the students play with the paper than with the mouse or headphone wires.

This method does not teach students to avoid the right mouse button, but it does prevent students from accidentally right-clicking on everything. Many of my students are not adept at using the mouse in general, so I want to make it as easy on them as possible.

Halloween Costume?

Would any of my coworkers know what this costume represents?

computer programming punch card costume

Benefits of Cloud Storage

A popular method of storing documents is cloud storage. True, our documents are not stored on an actual cloud in the sky, but they can be accessed from any Internet enabled computer or mobile computing device (i.e. smartphone). I learned a big lesson on the benefits of cloud storage this weekend. I created a nice folder of blogging materials then left that folder on a computer at work. It contains material for staff development workshops that I facilitated over the past two to three years, that I either developed or found on the Web. I have about five blogs worth of documents that were going to be turned unto blogs here this weekend. Now they will have to wait. Sure, I carry thumb drives with me, and transferring the documents to a thumb drive would have also worked. It was late, I’d been at work about ten hours, and I was tired. I’ll work on those blogs soon, but don’t ask me when soon is.

Previewing an “Hour of Code” with Jeanne Stork

I previewed the “Hour of Code” project today with one of my classes. I do an “Hour of Code” every December, and many of my students really like it. I use one of the coding introductions from https://code.org/learn. Some of my students can work independently and others need a lot of help. Almost everyone enjoys going to the front of the room to work on the interactive white board. One year, several students learned their left and right hands after repeated lessons with using “Blockly” to move characters. That same year, one very academic student with autism taught himself to move beyond the Hour of Code while I was helping his classmates with the basics. My goal for some students is simply to touch or to move a block while other students are working on using the blocks to make characters move and turn. Occasionally, I get a few students who can problem solve how the blocks fit together to complete an activity. I work to make the lesson fun for whatever level each student is working on. Check out https://code.org/learn for more information about the “Hour of Code.”

Color Coded Picture Communication Symbols

The phrase "I wrote colored symbols on this paper" using color-coded picture communication symbols
Click above picture to read the PDF on my bulletin board.

Background
My Experience
Background Colors
Research

Background

Some of my students are nonverbal (do not speak) so they are learning to point to picture communication symbols like the ones above to communicate. I chose black pictures on colored backgrounds for my website’s banner, following the method that I learned in a workshop at my school district’s instructional technology office. This symbol coloring style is based on the work of Carol Goossens, Ph.D., CCC-SLP (Certificate of Clinical Competence for Speech-Language Pathologists).

Almost twenty years ago, I attended a series of workshops hosted by my school district on “Engineering the Classroom.” This work built upon Carol Goosen’s Aided Language Stimulation approach to teaching students to effectively use picture communication symbols. Typically developing children easily progress from single word utterances to conversing in full sentences as they mature. Students who cannot speak often need much more instruction to improve their communication skills. While it is true that not everyone colors their communication symbols, I began using this technique as soon as I learned about it.

return to top

My Experience

My personal experience aligns with what I learned in the workshop. Students have to see their communication system in use throughout the day (and preferably at home also). Just as children who talk or sign progress from single words to complete sentences, picture communication symbols users need that same opportunity. I have seen color coded symbols assist students to communicate. They also assist me to make sure that I provide a full range of symbols that allow for varied communication opportunities and experiences. Some students eventually outgrow the need for color coding, and other students may never need it, but I find it is a nice thing to have in my bag of tricks. I try to remember to point to symbols myself as I speak with nonverbal students; this models and validates their method of communication.

return to top

Background Colors

Here is the list of background colors that I learned in the workshops.
Pink: Verbs (i.e. walk, eat)
Blue: Descriptors — adjectives, adverbs, etc (i.e. warm, slowly)
Green: Prepositions (i.e. on, before)
Yellow: Nouns (i.e. chair, paper)
Orange: Miscellaneous category of interaction words
Question-words (i.e. Who, How)
Exclamations (i.e. uh oh, wow)
Negative Words (i.e. no, don’t)
Pronouns (i.e. I, them)

return to top

Research

Although the workshop I attended was over twenty years ago, many people continue to use Carol Goosen’s Aided Language Stimulation with children and adults who rely on picture communication symbols to communicate. A brief survey on the Internet brought up two articles of interest. The first abstract I read was about working with adults (Beck, Ann R.; Stoner, Julia B.; and Dennis, Marcia L.). An investigation of aided language stimulation: Does it increase AAC use with adults with developmental disabilities and complex communication needs? Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 25-1, pp 42-54, 2009. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07434610802131059). The second abstract dealt with children (Bruno, Joan and Trembath, David). Use of aided language stimulation to improve syntactic performance during a weeklong intervention program. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 22-4, pp 300-313, 2006. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.1080/07434610600768318). Both of these articles confirmed what I learned in the workshop many years ago and through my own experience as a teacher.

return to top

Helping Others Now Streamlined

During the summer, my school implemented a new procedure for me to help other staff members. Everyone is supposed to FIRST ask the administration if I can help, and then an administrator will email me. I hope that this will drastically cut back on people interrupting my classes asking for assistance. While I am very willing to do what I can for my colleagues, I cannot expect the paraprofessionals (teaching assistants) to be quiet and focus on the students if I am not.

The school’s principal devised this system. I used to have a sign-up sheet outside my computer lab’s door. He wants to be the one to decide what I work on so that he will know what is happening in the school. It is taking staff members a while to adjust, but I think that if I am strict about enforcing the principal’s directive, it will become easier for them to follow. People got used to my old system, where they could see how many people were above them, but I think they can adjust to something new. After all, it is the new procedure and we will use it.

Great First Week Back!

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was eager to attend a workshop on Unique Learning System’s (https://www.n2y.com/products/unique/) new student activities and individual data collection. The expert canceled at the last-minute, so I volunteered to show what I know. I had gotten to work over an hour early, fortunately, so I was able to update a workshop I gave in June and present that. My knowledge of Unique is limited, but I filled in the time with additional Web sites to fill up the two-hour session, after I showed a brief demonstration of Unique Learning System’s new student interface and data collection. The morning was fine; people who were not interested kept their voices low and were not too disruptive. I still need to find out what I missed from the workshop that I was supposed to attend for cluster teachers (teachers who teach a specific subject instead of having a class of students).

The second day of preparation was split between meetings and setting up our rooms. It is impossible to be completely ready for students in the time allotted, but my room at least looked neater than it was when I first walked in the building. I made sure that there were chairs for all of the students in my larger classes and a few extras for the paraprofessionals (teaching assistants) who come in with the students. I am glad that we had two days to prepare for the students, occasionally we only have one day.

The students arrived on my third day of work. I am a bit upset to see that I teach one less class and have a cafeteria duty instead, but I understand that the school had to but more teachers in the cafeteria. The students I teach often are runners. Our cafeteria has five doors, so we need enough staff there to prevent students from leaving on their own. I feel that cafeteria duty is not why I have two master’s degrees, but the safety of our students has to come first! I don’t like but, but I do see that it is necessary. Besides, maybe another teacher will volunteer for cafeteria duty and the schedule might change. It’s unlikely but possible.

As always, there is a wide variety in my students. I have classes where most of the students do not talk and I have classes where almost everyone is verbal and the few nonverbal students use communication devices. I have students who know how to read and other students who are still in the everything-in-the-mouth stage of development. I think we have five different types of classes in my school. Yes, there are many students with challenging behaviors, but we are the right school for that. In general, I think that this is going to be a great year!

Jeanne Stork

New School Year Preparation

My new school year begins tomorrow, and the students arrive on Thursday. Right now, I’m thinking of everything that I want to get done before the students arrive. Unlike most years, I will not be conducting a professional development workshop. Instead, I will be attending two workshops, one if which I actually got to choose! Many of my students are non-readers, and about half of those are nonverbal. I will be learning about improvements (I hope!) to News2You’s Unique Learning System that helps teach students to click on or tap picture symbols instead of words. I used to use this when they had activities that I could download onto my computers, but I stopped about two years ago when they stopped supporting the program I use (IntelliTools’ Classroom Suite (now by AbleNet). Now, News2You has improved its online access and individual data tracking, so I hope I can return to using it. I hope to spend most of Wednesday setting up student accounts and developing lesson plans for this new and exciting Web-based program.

Of course, the more mundane aspects of running a computer lab also have to be addressed. I need to make sure that all of the computers are running properly and request toner for the printer. I updated and re-imaged everything the last week of summer school, so the computers themselves should be fine. But what about the mice, the keyboards, and the headphones? Just because everything worked on August 15th does not mean it will work on September 6th. Hopefully, all will be well! My next project will be to set up four stations with adaptive devices for students who cannot use a mouse, but that may have to wait until later in the month. The biggest problem will be finding the time to do all of this in one day while fielding problems from all of my colleagues. Hopefully, I’ll be able to leave on time Tuesday and Wednesdays. The day is officially over at 3:00 pm, but (as many teachers will tell you) it rarely actually is.

I am truly looking forward to seeing my old students and getting to know the new ones, in spite of all of the work that the beginning of the year entails. It will be a great new school year! I will add pictures of the lab (without any students for legal reasons) when it is ready.

Jeanne Stork