Sunday, 11 December 2011

Reflection 6 - Last Day Case Studies!

Wow, what an amazing experience EDUC 5163 was!  Thank you to Barbara Welsford for the wonderful learning experience.  Today was my favorite day so far, as I enjoyed and learned a lot from the case studies.  It was great to see the wide range of assistive technology each student used and the results each case study had. 

I was definitely able to recognize the importance of using technology at a young age, and how the apps help engage the learner.  Listening to the passion in some students’ stories was very powerful.  It was interesting to hear how teachers tried to match the technology to their students' needs and the results they experienced.   The wiggly cushion worked for some students, but not all, as well as earobics.  Starfall seems like a program I would recommend for younger students who need to develop their language skills.  Co-Writer is an amazing tool for any student who is faced with a writing disability.  I was also intrigued by the use of Raz Kids with a whole class and the benefits it brings to any stage reader.  As well, I was interested to see that the voice recorder was not successful with a student because I had found it very frustrating to use myself.

I am happy about the technology I have tried with my students and I am excited to continue to try more of it in the classroom!  This class has motivated me to continue to learn about the emerging assistive technology in our educational world.  I would like to leave you with a cute little story that explains the technology in our life...

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Reflection Day 5

Today's class was quite powerful, as we looked at stories of students with learning disabilities.  This is definitely a great experience because I've learned so much about the challenges students go through when faced with LD.  I especially enjoyed the case studies of individuals with learning disabilities, because I was able to make connections to my students and reflect on their individual challenges.

To start the class, we watched videos on students with learning disabilities from the website  I highly recommend these videos for all teachers because they teach you about how to cope with LD in the classroom and it would allow you to help understand your students better.  It discusses the struggles families have gone through and the sacrifices they've had to make.  It allowed me to reflect on a few of my students, and what they must be going through when asked to complete a writing task.  I can make one specific connection with a student who acts out in class because of his disability.  He is using this behavior to avoid having to complete the tasks which are extremely frustrating for him. 

We viewed two specific stories, the first about a young boy named Nathan, who was visibly frustrated and hated school because he was struggling with writing.  Prior to school he was a high achiever and his parents could not figure out how to help him succeed.  We also viewed a story about a teenage girl, named Lauren, whose disabilities also affected her socially. 

Using these stories, we were asked to complete a writing task analysis to describe the process we go through to hand write or type content.  It is interesting to look at all the processes we use such as: motor skills, sensory processing, executive functions, recall, organization and sequencing.  We don't often think about this, however, the way we sit and pick up the pencil all contribute to how we succeed at writing.  We discussed different types of AT which are helpful to students, including objects which help students hold their pencils (I thought it was quite interesting when Barb explained some simple objects from the dollar store which assist with pencil gripping). 

We were presented with different LD from Barbara and discussed the types of AT which could be used as compensatory tools.  We were also introduced to some excellent word prediction programs described below.


We looked at WordQ, an integrated word prediction and speech recognition tool which offers writing support.  It provides a floating word prediction box and it reads as you write.  You can create a vocabulary for your student to help them formulate ideas.  This program can be used on any type of word program and computer.

Tiki notes App

Personally, I thought this word prediction program was quite frustrating because it took a long time to use.  You selected the first letter, than the second and continued until you could find the word you were looking for.  It had an option for you to see where you were walking on the screen so you could type and walk at the same time.  I also thought this could be troublesome.

Typ-O App

This app was much easier to use and less time consuming.  As you typed, numerous words came up to select.  It also recognized the most commonly misspelled words and it had a text to speech feature which allowed you to hear the word, to confirm it was correct.  It cost $14.99, which seems expensive, however, it is simple to access.


This is an excellent word prediction program for your computer and is not time consuming.  It is easy for students to use and they can access a list of words using very few strokes.  The bottom of the screen shows a list of words which relate to your topic.  There is also topic dictionaries where students can select the topic they are writing about (ex. dinosaurs) and the word prediction program is more likely to predict the word they are trying to spell.  The text to speech feature of the program also allows the students to hear the word they are trying to spell to ensure it is correct.  This program is very expensive, but you get what you pay for!  The Halifax Regional School Board provides this program for students who need it.  I had the Assistive Technologist for my school do a consult with a student and she suggested this program for him.  They send a computer technologist to the school to set up the program on two computers.  Below is a link to the South Shore Regional School Board with excellent tutorials explaining CoWriter.

Speech to Text Software

The last part of the class was focused on speech to text (voice recognition) software.  Barb actually showed me a program which came with my computer and is easy to use.  Most of the newer computers have them, you just need to plug in a microphone to speak into.

Dragon Dictation App  - is a free easy to use voice recognition app, which is part of Dragon Naturally Speaking Software.

Both programs allow you to quickly see your text and is actually a time saving device which can be used with anyone if it works.  I become very frustrated with the programs and would never try them again!  Probably a combination of my Cape Breton accent and my mumbling, the programs picked up very few of my spoken words.  Barb said they adjust to your voice with use, however, this was not a good experience for me, and students would need excellent word pronunciation to use it.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Itunes - Educational Apps

Word Wizard

What is it?

It is a talking movable alphabet with spell check and fun spelling tests, using over 1400 words.  It allows kids to hear the sounds of letters and words, providing phonological and spelling awareness.

Who would it benefit?

It would be beneficial for all students to practice their spelling; however, it is an excellent tool for reluctant readers and writers.

How would you use it?

I would use this with all students to practice their spelling before a spelling test.  Also, students who struggle and become frustrated with writing could use it as a practice tool or as a text to speech tool to check their understanding by hearing the word aloud.   

$ 3.99


What is it?
This app provides fun and engaging mental math tricks, presenting various strategies to solve mathematical problems.  It then provides practice questions to check your understanding of the concepts, while working through various levels of proficiency.

Who would benefit from it?

This app is beneficial for students who need extra practice with basic operations. 

How would you use it?
This is an app I would use with all students for mental math practice.  It is a fun way to learn for students who become frustrated easily when struggling with math.  It allows them to practice their skills and they can progress at their own speed.

$ 0.99

Math Academy - TAG

What is it?
This app is an engaging tool that uses music and sound to provide practice for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Students can choose their difficulty level and test themselves with time and endurance.  Students are rewarded with coins, which unlock stickers to collect.    

Who would benefit from it?
This app is beneficial for all students to practice their operation sense, but specifically students who need extra practice.

How would you use it?
This is an app I would use with all students for practice with number and operation sense.  It would be especially useful for junior high students on a Math Individual Program Plan focussing on operation sense with a specific number of digits because it allows you to select an appropriate level.


Group partners blogs to view additional apps:

Thursday, 17 November 2011


On the 4th class, in groups, we created an assistive technology commercial using ReelDirector.  I had never heard of this app and it definitely took a while to figure out how to use it!  Once we became familiar with the app and were able to upload a video, place captions and an introduction to it, we realized it wasn’t difficult to learn.  Even though it was time consuming, ReelDirector is a great app that allows students to document their day, demonstrate content knowledge, or express their feelings in various ways.  A teacher could assign a project using ReelDirector and evaluate students according to the following categories:

-Literacy skills (reading and writing)
-Research skills (applying learned information)
-Technology skills (media)
-Communication skills (speaking and listening)      
-Group work (planning and collaboration)
-Problem solving
-Content (the assigned topic)
-Comprehension (demonstrates knowledge)
-Audience (consideration)

Students could be evaluated by the teacher, as well as peer and self evaluation on selected topics from above.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Writing Toolkit
This is a great app because it guides you through the writing process.  It describes an explanation of various writing activities, such as describing what the plot and setting mean.  It also explains the parts of speech to students and provides examples of each.  Students who need extra support and direction will benefit from this application because they have the option to review the information again on their own and using a different method.  It breaks down the information into smaller chunks for students who need to go step by step to create a writing piece.  It also encourages the student to be more independent.  This app could be used for students between grades 4-12 who struggle with understanding the writing process.

Fraction Calculator
As a math teacher, I really like this app.  You can choose a fraction and it describes each part (numerator and denominator) and number of the fraction.  It shows the number as a mixed number, and reduces it to lowest form.  It also shows the fraction in its decimal form and with a pictorial.  This application would be beneficial for students who need extra support and reminders about the parts of fractions.  It would be a quick app to use at home for reviewing homework.  Students who have difficulty with changing fractions to decimals could use this application to check their work.  Excellent for junior high students being introduced to fractions.

Tic Tac Math
This application is an excellent tool to engage students in practicing operations.  With a partner they play tic tac toe with math operations - addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  A great activity for differentiated learning styles or students who finish their work early.  Students can use this application at almost any age because it allows you to pick your difficulty level.

Other applications of interest which are great for reinforcing reading, writing and mathematical skills:

Shakespeare Made Easy
Spelling Magic
Word Photo
Autism Express
Grammar Match
Speak it
Voice Reader

Pictello is an easy to use app to create storybooks or photo albums.  You can load pictures from your device into the storybook, along with text, which the device reads back to you.  You can share these storybooks through Pictello's server or through iTunes.

Some ways students can use Pictello include:
  • taking photos on a field trip and creating a story of each event
  • creating a storybook of a class event to show a student who is absent
  • a student who is going on a family trip could create a story of their adventure in replacement of an assignment missed
  • a student in my class with Autism uses this app to create a story of his day at school to present to his mother after school
  • a student with anxiety or another disorder could use this by reviewing their schedule or class routines prior to attending school

Reflection Day 3

This was a great class!  I learned so much about literacy programs used to assist students with reading and writing.  Learning Kurzweil for my class presentation was a great experience because I will be able to use it to help out some of resource students and I am very excited about this!  In particular I work with a student who is dyslexic and struggles with sounding out the parts of words.  Kurzweil offers the student access to pronunciation of words and syllables, along with text to speech reading of any scanned or computerized materials.  It is also helpful for students with writing challenges because it offers graphic organizers and examples of writing pieces for students to work from.  I've also shared some of the features with colleagues who are not familiar with the program because it has so many options to accommodate students, such as study skills or test taking features.

I also enjoyed using the Ipod Touch and discovering apps students and children can use to assist in learning.  I see this technology as the future of education because it has so many uses for all types of diverse learning styles.  As a current teacher I see some challenges with this technology in the classroom, such as students using the device for inappropriate activities.  As well, with some students I would be reluctant to have them handle the device with care.  However, I do feel like the benefits of this technology outweigh the negatives for struggling readers and writers.   

In my next post I am selecting my favorite Ipod apps and you should definitely check these out!  After using the device, it is now on my Christmas wishlist! 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Kurzweil 3000 Blog

Below is the link for our blog on Kurzweil.  There are some great screen shots, tutorials and videos.  We also included steps on how to use the most popular features.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Literacy Development Websites!

I really enjoyed the activity we did in class today.  I discovered many new websites which are helpful for developing student literacy skills.  There are so many great websites which are free for students to use.  Often we don't spend time looking for these sites because we don't have time.  I think this is a great activity which will be very useful to my class.  I have posted some of my favorite websites below and encourage any feedback you have!

Into the Book -

A great website to help elementary and junior high students develop their reading and writing skills.  It provides interactive tools which allow you to understand how to complete different parts of the reading/writing process.  Some examples include: writing summaries, making connections from readings, inferring, synthesizing and questioning strategies.  This website is great for students who need to see visual examples and lots of practice.  It allows the student to watch videos and then try to complete the activities themselves.  Some students may feel like this website is too childish for them, depending on their grade and the classroom environment.  The website also includes activities for teachers to use in their classroom.


This website is a great tool to locate literacy, writing, math and study skills tools.  It provides categories which lead into a variety of educational links.  Many of the links are free or provide a free trial.  You can locate just about any activity you need for a student.  Some of my favorites I found on the website are below.
Storyline -
This is a great website that allows elementary students to choose a story (from the collection) and have a famous person read it to them.  It also gives the option of having captions or not so the student can follow along with the reading.  At the end it provides activities for the student to complete, such as questions.  A student who is a struggling reader would benefit from this site, and because it is famous people reading the stories they might be more engaged and willing to use this site.  One problem is the students can't choose the book they would like to read and it doesn't highlight the words as it reads.  It is also fast, so depending upon the student, they may have difficulty following along.

Kerpoof -
This website contains activities for grades 1-8.  It provides templates for students to create stories, movies, cards, etc.  For those students who need guidance, it gives them the opportunity to select visuals and additional tools from a tool bank.  It also provides rewards to students for creating different activites.  It allows the student to save their work as a jpeg as well.  Some of the activities are quite in-depth and may have too many details for students to follow or understand.

Rocket Reader Kids - This is a very elementary website.  It allows the student to develop their orthographic and phonological skills.  The teacher can choose the level of difficulty they want the student to practice.  The student sees and hears the word and then must identify it for themselves.  The student receives a reward if they get it correct.  If they are having problems, it also helps them identify the correct word.  There is a free trial, however, the teacher must buy the program to be able to fully use it.  The teacher has access to control the students' accounts and review their work before they are able to exit the program.

Friday, 30 September 2011

AT – What it is?

With the growing number of students being identified as LD, we see a greater need for AT.  Because there are a number of reasons leading to reading difficulties, it can make it tricky to pinpoint the exact cause and remediation strategy.  As David Sousa states, "Put very simply, successful reading involves two basic operations: decoding and comprehension.  Learning to read starts with the awareness that speech is composed of individual sounds (phonemes) and a recognition that written spellings represent those sounds (called the alphabetic principle).  Of course, to be successful in acquiring the alphabetic principle, the child has to be aware of how the phonemes of spoken language can be manipulated to form new words and rhymes.  The neural systems that perceive the phonemes in our language are more efficient in some children than in others."  Through his reading, Sousa discusses the complexity of the reading process and how individuals are affected differently.  The readings for last week’s class allowed me to reflect on the need and use of AT in the classroom.  Compensatory vs remediation strategies cause a huge debate.  Effective remediation can be beneficial for LD students, however, dyslexic readers will often still remain slow readers and will need extra time to demonstrate their knowledge.  I believe this is where I opened up my eyes to the need for assistive technology!

AT = ACCESS to a task and improving performance of a student!  Viewing the class powerpoints allowed me to reflect on the number of AT available for students.  I hadn't realized how many different types of AT there are and how this can be the decision on whether a student is able to successfully complete a task or not.  I am excited to learn about the different types of AT and incorporate them into my classroom!