Thursday, December 10, 2009

AT Module #5

I found the link to the list of books that feature characters with disabilities to be helpful, although I wish they listed more that focused on books for younger grades, since that is my area. It is important to realize that in addition to providing those with disabilities educational opportunities, those apparently without disabilities need to be educated about their classmates too.

I did not find this online learning program to be as helpful as the previous one. I thought it was too condensed. I got a little confused trying to digest all the information, although the interactivity provided in these modules is very helpful.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

AT Module #4

It is sometimes difficult to know how to commmunicate with people with disabilities without feeling awkward. For a period of time I drove a blind social worker around to her appointments and I learned a lot from that experience. People would sometimes try to address me instead of her, like if we were ordering at a fast food restaurant. She said, "I'm blind, not deaf!" She helped me understand that it was ok if I sometimes did not use the politically correct terminology (like saying "visually impaired" instead of "blind") She was not sensitive because she knew I was being respectful. I think that is the key--just acting natural and treating a disabled person like they were anyone else, and through your interactions you will gradually learn how to communicate better.

I think another key reaction mentioned in the module is to always ask them if they need help instead of assuming it. One of my coworkers with a walking impairment fell one day and another coworker tried to assist him. He protested against any kind of help very vehemently. It is a natural reaction for most of us to want to help, but many disabled people have worked hard to reach their level of independence and don't want to "regress".

Sunday, November 22, 2009

AT Module #2

For my needs assessment, I chose a group of 3 special education students, two with cerebral palsy and one with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I chose these students because they are nonverbal and it is difficult for them to participate in story time in the library. For my hardware I chose a device called a "Big Talk", into which the teacher or librarian can record a word or phrase. The student can then participate in story time by pressing the big button and having the voice speak back to them. It works best with repetitive stories.

If I faced a situation in the library with a student who was visually impaired, some modifications made to technology could include larger font size and a keyboard with bigger keys on the computer. The print materials could include larger print books and magazines. If the student was hearing impaired, perhaps I could learn sign language to complement the reading.

Friday, November 13, 2009

AT Module #1

It is difficult for me to even realize what it would mean to have a blind child in class. This is my first year teaching library K-6; I have students in wheelchairs and others diagnosed with autism or mental retardation, as well as others who have various learning disabilities. I would be lost without the teacher's assistants who work with these kids every day and can help me figure out the best practices.

I would emphasize Braille as a fundamental key to literacy for a visually impaired person, just as reading and writing manually is fundamental for a sighted person. I know there is some controversy in the blind community over the value of learning Braille; some think that assistive technology has become so sophisticated that Braille is unnecessary. However, my view is that knowing Braille is a necessary skill for the visually impaired.

I really liked the idea of a school-wide Braille skills competition. Everyone could get involved and learn the value of a new form of communication while working toward a prize. There are often units done on learning sign language, but I have never heard of a unit on Braille. Hopefully the school would be equipped with proper Braille signage.

Two websites I found useful were the What Works Clearinghouse, and Doing What Works, which helps implement the findings on the What Works site. They cover topic on common school challenges such as behavior problems, dropout prevention, and encouraging girls in math and science.

THING #23 (Week 9)

My apologies, I thought the last thing was Week 10, so I am posting late.

I think my very favorite discovery was LibraryThing. It is probably not the most useful Web tool, but it is a lot of fun. One thing I've taken away from this experience is the realization that learning will not stop once I've earned my degree, and that it cannot stop if I am to be successful in this profession. It is necessary to continue to absorb all you can about the ever-changing Web environment.

It was surprising to learn that sites you usually associate with personal enjoyment, like Facebook or Flickr, can actually be used to good purpose in an educational setting. I would absolutely participate in another online learning system because it was PRACTICAL. Practical is the one word I've used to sum up this experience because it seems so often in college you learn things that you can't really figure out how to apply in real-life situations--but this wasn't the case here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

THING #22 (Week 9)

I think the digitization of books is really amazing. It's something I wish was around when I was a kid. You can explore so many titles without having to go to different physical locations. I am not a big fan of reading books on the computer, but it's still a great way to check something out you might be interested in reading.

Audiobooks are great for many besides the visually impaired. They're ideal for road trips or someone who has a long way to drive or ride to work. It's also interesting to listen to the reader's interpretation. Sometimes you can grasp the meaning of something better when you hear how someone else is using their tone and inflection.

I found the Blackmask site, linked to from the World eBook Fair Collection, to be a very simple and comprehensive list of tons of world classics.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

THING #21 (Week 9)

I think out of all the "things" we have learned about, podcasts are the things I knew the least about. I always associated them with iPods and I didn't realize that a podcast could be supported without one. I realize now that the main differences from streaming video are the method of delivery (through RSS) and that podcasts are episodic in nature. I subscribed to CNN News Update through Bloglines.

I like the idea of using a podcast as a daily news show for the school. A great project for any class would be to have the students create their own.