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Lorikay Sartin

Page history last edited by Dave M 15 years, 6 months ago

Woodland School District #50, Grayslake, Illinois

 

The goal of District 50 is…“To develop a three to five year technology plan for Woodland School District #50 that will guide the preparation of our students for the world in which they will live and work, empower staff to optimize student learning and position the district as a leader in the effective use of technology.”

 

Over 50 years ago, several small independent school districts in northern Lake County joined together to form a new school district—Woodland Community Consolidated District 50. At that time, there were just over 300 students attending classes, today there are over 7,000 students (of which 2,300 are Elementary grade level). The district is the seventh largest elementary school district in the State of Illinois. Composed of Early Childhood through Grade 8, and encompassing 33 square miles of land. The district serves all or part of Gages Lake, Gurnee, Grayslake, Lake Villa, Lindenhurst, Old Mill Creek, Park City, Third Lake, Wadsworth, Waukegan, Libertyville, and Wildwood. The elementary building hosts two mirror image schools are housed under one roof, divided into an East and a West, while the Primary, Intermediate and Middle Schools operate as one school in each building. To meet the needs of the students, the staff is currently made up of 540 Certified Teachers, 280 Support Service individuals, and 47 Administrative positions. These numbers continue to grow at a substantial yearly rate.

 

With its consistent structural and student body growth within the past years,Woodland has also grown in its scope of academics and use of technology. The students have at least one to two computers in each classroom. Their computers are Apple iMacs and are equipped with educational and student-specific software throughout the district. In addition to the Learning Resource Centers (LRC) that are equipped with at least 12 – 15 desktop Apple computers, the district maintains computer labs in each of its four buildings. The main emphasis is putting technology in the hands of its students! (To view the current line of Apple computers used by the district, click on the graph below)

 

 

 

  

 

The instructional time in the labs at each individual school are based on the developmental/academic level of the students. Many students today, even in the younger grades are in one way or another familiar with computer technology. Therefore, for example, in the Elementary School the main focus is introducing, acclimating, and/or reinforcing skills with the students on the computer. They are instructed in basic computer skills (i.e. word processing, creative projects, etc.) on a weekly schedule. In these sessions they are taught simple lessons and perform creative activities with programs such as KidPix, Kidspiration, basic Powerpoint, and “Type to Learn”.

 

In Woodland District, the framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is exercised. UDL is a research-based framework for designing curricula—that is, educational goals, methods, materials, and assessments—that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. This is accomplished by simultaneously providing rich supports for learning and reducing barriers to the curriculum, while maintaining high achievement standards for all students. (http://www.cast.org/research/udl/index.html). UDL calls for a multiplicity of elements to truly be advantageous to the student. “…Multiple means of representation, to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge. Multiple means of action and expression, to provide learners with alternatives for demonstrating what they know. Multiple means of engagement, to tap into learners' interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase motivation.” (http://www.cast.org/research/udl/index.html)

 

The latest amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA)  (http://www.wrightslaw.comLorikay Sartin/idea/idea.2004.all.pdf), call for and encourage implementation and development of technology in the classroom. Congress suggests that the use of technology (including Assistive Technology Devices) within the classroom would improve access to the general curriculum for students with special needs. This move was intended to remove barriers for these students and improve the ability of teachers and administrators to better address the diversity of their needs.

 

With the classifications of functionality in mind, the options available for support in the classroom range from High-Tech to Low-Tech with levels in between. High-Tech devices may be as complex as computers, electronic equipment, or software whereas Low-Tech devices are manually, not electronically, operated and fairly simple. The Low-Tech group includes devices such as pencil grips, highlighting tape, document holders and mouth sticks. The apparent contrast in complexity of the means by which the technology is employed relates directly to the diversity of the students' needs. For the sake of argument, this document will deal exclusively with the High-Tech options available to students with special needs. Utilizing these alternative solutions in technology are accommodating those students within the district with physical, sensory and cognitive impairments.

 

Although there are many barriers that exist for special needs students, technology shows itself to be the tool to reduce and/or eliminate those walls. It is when these barriers are removed that students are made “available” for what the world has to offer them on many diverse levels. Technology on this level underscores the need for multiple approaches to meet the needs of diverse learners. Let us consider Josh’s Story…

 

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As it is discussed in the video, Josh was primarily an autistic, non-verbal student. He exhibited many of the "typical" behaviors (http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/autism-symptoms) presented by individuals with autism. Through the intuitiveness and creativity of his teacher, his life was transformed! Initially, Josh was lacking the interaction and communication skills required to appropriately interface with his peers, family, and environment. His teacher noticed that he exhibited interest in a specific electronic device called SuperTalker  (http://www.tecsol.com.au/SuperTalker.htm) by Ablenet. With this progressive communicating device, she adapted books and lessons to meet the needs of Josh. He was able to articulate sounds and words to communicate simple thoughts. He soon progressed to the Bookworm (http://www.enablemart.com/Catalog/Training-Devices/BookWorm) which allowed him the ability to read more independently and fluently.

 

Woodland has several autistic classrooms with students that present themselves as very similar to Josh. The tech that is available for them is similar to Josh’s devices. It is imperative to understand that technology is not a matter of merely picking up a computerized device and knowing that it will be beneficial to the individual. It is a matter of attempting to take all considerations into account as they relate to that person. Josh’s story embodies the propensity of the staff at Woodland. They are willing and determined to find and use whatever is required to make the learning experience of their students both fulfilling and gratifying. To make this happen and start the student on the road to success, they have the assistance of the District Technology Coordinator and the IEP team. It is their function within the system to assess, determine needs, give recommendations, and consider options for that particular student in the area of Instructional Technology.

 

There are a vast variety of tools, devices, and other products that available for enhancing the lives and learning experiences of students – please view this list of technology items - (http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te7assist.htm). I will elaborate on a few of the devices that are available in the district, and how they correlate and are used frequently by students and staff. Nevertheless, before we are able to discuss what a student requires (Maslow’s Hierarchy) to be “available” for learning, we must discuss which categories are pivotal for success in the classroom. The functionality of students within the classroom is directly correlated to Communication, Manipulation, Mobility/Positioning, and Learning. I will address the areas of Communication, Manipulation, and Learning as they relate to Technology & Learning:

 

Communication:

In this area of Assistive Technology, devices are used to "Augment and provide Alternate Communication" (AAC) to compensate for the student's full communication capabilities, including any vocalizations, gestures, signs and aided communication (ASHA [1] (http://www.asha.org/topicindex.htm), 1991). This area connects to the Physiological - most basic tier - of the hierarchy and Belonging. The necessity for an individual to have self-expression of needs also involves the safety of the student across different environments. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is imperative for functionality in society. AAC is specifically defined as any system that allows information to be transmitted from one person to another without verbal communication. In the educational setting, the need to interact with peers, share in ideas, concepts and content of information is part of the developmental process. To assist in this undertaking there are tools and methods that can be put to use: 

  • By utilizing Electronic Communication Boards, the teacher could develop the picture boards to incorporate symbols and words required for group communication during the project. With this program you have the ability to create, modify and develop communication boards that are more detailed and tailored to the individual. By doing this, the teacher has then made the activity interactive, comprehensive, and manageable for the student and his group members. One of the most comprehensive communication board systems available is Boardmaker (http://www.dynavoxtech.com).
  • Something as basic as a keyboard. There are students that possess difficulties (i.e. possible orthopedic impairment) that require specific positioning to utilize a keyboard. In those cases, they might use ergonomically correct keyboards to communicate through word processing. These are positioned at different angles to provide for more user-friendly positioning of such individuals. (http://www.ergonomic.com/)

Incorporating technology into the following type of activity makes it a viable project for including students with special needs. Note that it is possible that very little to no spoken language would be necessary to work on this task. This Moodle is very visual and could be utilized with deaf or hard of hearing students as well. Utilizing the communication devices above, the student would be able to actively engage in a full cooperative learning experience with his/her classmates.

 

 

Click on the computer and enter
 “Mrs. Sartin’s Black History Moodle”

 

Manipulation:

In order for students to interact and function within their environment, they must be able to safely interact with the people and the objects around them. This area of assistive technology addresses those needs. This area connects to the Physiological - most basic tier - of the hierarchy. The areas of independence in ADL (Activities of Daily Living) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activities_of_daily_living) - which include school - are of the utmost importance when addressing eating and also safely maneuvering through ones environment (amongst other concerns).

 

  • Switch Systems: Electric or Electronic systems used by multiple-handicapped students to move objects (i.e. robotic arms, wheelchairs, etc.). They are activated by alternative extremities such as toes, heads, sip and puff controls. For students that are more physically involved (Orthopedically Impaired), the systems mentioned above are more appropriate. There are more lo-tech options to address manipulation but they are not digitally/electronically based. The students that I interact with daily, all require hi-tech options and require 1:1 assistance due to their impairment. With switch systems, the ability to perform activities and participate in classroom educational projects becomes more commonplace.

 

Learning and Technology

Learning is defined as, “The acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice, or study, or by being taught”. The experiences that students receive, practice, and are taught are more clearly processed, interpreted, and applied with the introduction of technology. The central practical premise of UDL is that a curriculum should include alternatives to make it accessible and appropriate for individuals with different backgrounds, learning styles, abilities, and disabilities in widely varied learning contexts (http://teachingeverystudent.blogspot.com/2007/06/free-technology-toolkit-for-udl-in-all.html). Let us consider…

 

  • Reading:

Mid Tech devices that are utilized with a few of the students are Talking Electronic Device, which is often used to speak the more challenging words to the student. After the student was seen by his doctor, observed and had a case study or assessment by the speech pathologist, the recommendations were made. A meeting of the IEP team was held with the Technology Coordinator present and recommendations were made for what would be appropriate for the student to use to facilitate and enhance his learning experiences. The TED was suggested as an option. With that particular device, articulation was not as difficult for the student and communication with staff and peers was increased. (http://www.talksight.com/home.html)

High Tech:

Electronic Books (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-book) are digital versions of printed books that can be viewed online via any PC connected to the Internet. These "books" consist of various reading levels and genre of materials (including textbooks). They are very effective when used with visually impaired as well as lower reading level readers. Digital Books (eBooks) have many advantages to them. Although some critics do not think favorably about eBooks, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages from my observation. My less fluent readers who have difficulty reading can benefit from the adjustment of text size, font face, and speed of text*. If they are given a reading assignment, they can utilize the e-book to read with them. Listening to the text (free of errors, mispronunciation, etc.) allows the students to focus on the comprehension of the reading versus the decoding aspect of it. To elaborate further, the students that have difficulty processing information are able to “rewind” the text, to hear it again and have the opportunity to reprocess it for clearer understanding. This experience allows for more independence, responsibility, and increasing of self-esteem.

*Reading and enlarging of text can also be obtained on basic computers but E-books expand on this.

 

  • Writing:

In today’s society, written expression is invaluable as a means of communication of ideas and concepts. By incorporating computer programs such as Kidspiration and Inspiration (http://www.inspiration.com/) which are very similar multimedia applications, one being of a higher level (Inspiration) than the other (Kidspiration), students have more accessibility to clearer expression. They can be used to assist students with organizing, categorizing, and grouping information for written expression assignments. Preparation for writing, organizing of thoughts and its process can be addressed by teaching the students simple steps to follow. These programs are among the few that are taught at this district. All students (Regular and Special Education) can benefit from utilizing these scaffolding tools for communicating ideas.

 

  • Math:

Mid Tech

Talking Calculators with/without printout: Vocalize data and resulting calculations through speech and special-feature calculators that enable the student to select options to speak and simultaneously display and/or printout numbers, functions, entire equations and results. These devices, although they may appear common place, are pivotal for expression in math class. Students with articulation issues or other speech-related difficulties, find this advantageous in the classroom environment. They are able to contribute in a class where the language is “numbers” and “symbols”. They actively engage in dialogue that requires receptive language, processing the instructions or dialogue, making decisions on the answers, and then expressing the conclusions of the the initial dialogue. With these devices, the expression of conclusions is literally “taken out of the equation”. The energy to spent on getting the answer correct versus expressing it.

 

 High Tech

Math Software and Resources are used within the classroom at Woodland. They are utilized as teaching and supplemental tools for practice and review. When a concept is taught and there and practice is required, computers are invaluable for the task. As stated previously, there are at least 1 – 2 computers available in each classroom. Therefore, software is loaded onto computers prior to the beginning of the school year (sometime during the summer). Some of the more commonly used software for the Elementary level consists of Math Blasters (http://www.knowledgeadventure.com), Math Technology at Work (http://www.enablemart.com/Catalog/Math), and Millie’s Math House. The computer technology is used as a tool for practice of skills that are learned. Some of the identical software may be purchased outside the realm of the school. This is very beneficial for students and parents alike because they have consistency in the skills and their presentation.

 

Internet Sites to reinforce skills specific to curriculum: Currently our school district is utilizing the “Math Trailblazers” curriculum in grades 1 – 3. There are site available for student and/or parent practice of the skills learned in the classroom. I was finding that some parents were having difficulty grasping the concepts as they were presented to the students. I did some research and found two very good sites that offered practice and interactive challenges for both the students and the parents, they are the following: (http://www.stanleyschool.org/trailblazers/grade3.html) & (http://nlvm.usu.edu./en/nav/category_g_2_t_1.html). Both sites were excellent resources but the latter site also utilized the virtual manipulatives that the students were accustomed to having in the classroom. The devices/tools/software noted in this passage are only examples for use both in the classroom and at home. This link (http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te7assist.htm) offers a more extensive list of "devices" utilized within the areas mentioned. The list is neither prescriptive or inclusive, it merely offers an example of the diversity of technology used in Woodland District 50. As for the district's future, it's growing and developing. With growth sometimes comes "Growing Pains". There are issues and considerations that will have to be addressed with the continued development of their evolving curriculum, but that is true of all districts coming into their own with technology. They've made progress and they've had some mishaps but through it all, lessons were learned. The future for this district...looks good!

 

 

 

References

 

 

 

  • Information for Parents and Teachers - Center for Implementing Technology in Education (CITEd) -

http://www.cited.org/index.aspx?page_id=5 

 

 

 

 

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