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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.”

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