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.
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.
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.
Click on the image below to view my dissertation: 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.
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.
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.”