Monday, November 18, 2013

How to make different better for our students!

As a resource room teacher in a small high school in Wells, Maine, I have the benefit of knowing many students in the building. I am in two freshmen classes, World Studies and Physical Science, where I work with the content area teachers to help make the content accessible to our students with IEPs. This is my third year back in a classroom working with students. My colleagues and I  have tried many ways of differentiating instruction and assessments in order to offer our students ways to succeed.

During the summer the social studies team of grade 9 and 10  teachers and I worked on differentiating instruction and assessments. We were committed to making the content accessible to all students at different levels we referred to as Tiers. In the end we designed Tier 1 the regular content and assessments with the standard that students would complete annotations and sentences at the highest level. Next our Tier 2 students accessed the same classroom content, however, when they were writing, they would use 3 annotations, 2-3 full sentences describing their work and research. During the assessments they would have 2 multiple choice answers to read instead of 4 or 5 choices. Since our students read and process at a slower rate, this modification has been very successful. Finally, for very small number of students we offer a Tier 3. The same classroom content is offered. The annotations and sentences are 3 per page, with 2 sentences describing their research answers. This group of students takes the Picture ID part of the tests and quizzes using their notes. Instead of the multiple choice tests these students take a test using the Quizlet vocabulary words they have used since the beginning of the chapter.

Our results. The students in Tier 1, 2 and 3, barely notice the accommodations that the other groups use. They are all too busy doing their own work.  The teachers have been able to see the different Tiers working. The teachers are using the different Tiers with students who may not have an IEP. Why not? If the accommodation is working, if the accommodation allows the student to experience success, why not offer it to more students. The Tiers are flexible, students can move up and down the Tiers depending on their previous success or challenges.This work around the Tiers has been ongoing and constantly changing with the social studies content.

In the Physical Science class the teacher and I have a different approach for our students. All students have the same instruction except where math problems are concerned. The content and note taking are the same for all students. The number of annotations are flexible depending on student processing speed and understanding. The most accommodations occur during quizzes and tests. It is not unusual to have 4 or 5 different levels of quizzes and tests in this class. It works, the students with IEPs have access to their notes and may have different math questions most often with the formulas written into the test,  word banks are built into the tests, and for some IEP students the CLOZE system is used with a hint when they are answering questions.

We are making different better for our students!

Oh Ruby, what now?

After having my car for 8 months I was prepared that I needed to do the regular things like an oil change, windshield wiper change, but  a SYNC update. SYNC is the hands free phone, the navigation system, climate control and the inter-operability of them all.   Now I'm a tech girl.  I wasn't scared. Well, maybe a little nervous, but not scared! I could handle a SYNC update!

I logged into, then the fun begun. I chose my vehicle read the directions, downloaded a file to my USB.  Then I needed to load a smart card, the kind you use in some digital cameras.I am still feeling pretty good. I reread the directions on the website.
In order for this SYNC to be successful you need to start the process and then, without interruption,  keep the car running for 1 hour. (Now I only have a 10 min drive to work, so this will not work without further planning.)  I am way too frugal to sit in the driveway and run the car without traveling! So this SYNC will need to revolve around a trip.

Before I begin my trip,  I set up my car with the USB and smart card. As  I am on my trip I watch the navigation screen flash from installing data, transferring information, to a reboot.  I begin to wonder if I should be traveling down the road while this onboard computer system is being updated. Then I get an error message!!!! NOOOOO!
I am nearly at my destination . The only thing to do is begin again! So I begin the SYNC process all over.  This time 60 min. Later I see the success message, your car has successfully updated! 

4 weeks later..... Another update!!

Here I go again!  You might ask , why update?  Well things had begun to be glitchy!  The navigation system rebooting while I am driving. When I ask Ruby to call my son, "Jotham", the car, thinks I said,   "Jonathan", my husband. It is not okay to call your husband and say "Whoops, wrong number!" It doesn't sound right to say   "Ruby, dialed your number, I told her to call Jotham." So, here I go getting ready to SYNC to get rid of glitches.
The first time I tried this update Ruby just sat and did not respond.  I put things away, re-read the directions on the website, and planned to restart the process again.  After I pressed Master restart the process begins to load  1 out of 8 items,  1-2-3-4-  error bad port.  So  I try the other USB PORT. I have 4 to choose from.  The next time I get through to the 7th item and I get the error message bad or invalid file.  I try to download the file again, I even reformat the USB for a fresh start. Finally, my car needs service and I give up and turn it over to the dealer.

Yes, I gave up! But the dealer was able to update the SYNC and I am back in business.

  • With this many steps and the car needing to be running in order to update,  how many others are not bothering with updates?
  • Shouldn't FORD have a foolproof way to update?
  • Does this process of updating actually work with any reliability and consistency?

So FORD and SYNC, please get your programs working and talking to each other.
It shouldn't be this hard to keep my Ruby performing at optimum levels.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Beginning the year differently! 2013-14

It used to be that at the beginning of the school year I would spend time with my class getting to know them, and getting them to know me. Now that I am in the high school the time I spend with my students is precious and definate.
This year is the first year I am spending less time 'teaching them google mail, docs, calendar' and more time showing them extensions and apps from the google store. Our school is a GAFE, Google Apps For Education. Now that we have our school domain in full swing, I am able to give my technology guru a list of my favorite apps and extensions and he puts them into our own category in the web store. Because our students log into our domain, the domain category shows up in the web store. Once in the web store our students go through the list and select the apps and extensions we have pre-selected for them to use.
All of this is to say that we work at getting our students the tools to access their work. We spend much less time teaching them about the tools. Instead we get right to their homework and using the tools to solve problems, search google images, research in a google doc.
Here are a few of our favorite tools, using Chrome Browser, found in the Google Chrome Web Store
Webpage Screenshot Capture
Chrome Speak
Pic Monkey Extension
Read&Write for Google
Select and Speak

More apps at a later date, but this list will get your students started.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reflection about technology and my new car Ruby

coakes Ruby

I was reading Langwitches blog about how to successfully implement iPads into the classroom. Here I digress-- Her post Get Over It! really resonated with me and here is why! (First a thank you to Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano for her thoughtful and informative posts!)

Silvia tells us how her thinking has changed over the past 5 years about teaching and learning. Originally, she soft pedaled, as we all have, about good teachers make good learning, NOT the technology. Now Silvia says, " educators MUST experience the world of technology and modern learning (aka 21st century learning) for themselves in order to understand the transformative learning." 

Here is why! My new, 9 month new car, Ruby! I purchased the car hoping for a sun roof, hands free phone, possibly a GPS unit and space to travel with a crowd. What I got was keyless entry, keyless start, a talking SyncUnit including GPS, hands free phone, weather, traffic alerts, CD player, Sirius Radio, many USB ports, get the picture. I had the customary get to know your vehicle at the dealer and a huge thick book. Books, I know books! I began to read about my Ruby.

However, books are going through a revolution, as far as informational text. The car company does not present the information I need in a fluid manner. I had to use the index and found many references to the items of interest. Once I secured the page, the information was NOT even close to answering my question. My son, Dr. Nathan-dentist, ( you see it has been a long time that some of you readers have been following me) said, "Mom, go to YouTube to get that answer!"  (I knew that! see my post about how I fixed my dishwasher.)

I learned how to customize my screen. I downloaded software, inserted in one USB port and updated my car system, and then read my email from Ford that I need to download and update my system further to "fix the bugs".  MY point, SILVIA's point-we must experience the world of technology!! We must learn for ourselves in order to understand the transformative-(my words here-ANYTIME-ANYWHERE LEARNING-AS LONG AS I HAVE YOUTUBE) learning"

How is your classroom changing as you go back to school? Mine is changing with iPads. That post is for another day.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

School Year 2013-2014

It has been nearly a year since I have regularly posted. I took last year off from my picture post a day, my blogging, tweeting and commenting. It was the first time since 2005! I took time to focus on my students, my family and myself. Not a bad thing! Now I am ready to begin again. I am baaaaccccckkkk! I will be blogging with purpose about my students and how technology continues to level the playing field for challenged learner. I may have shorter blogs about my school days, shorter blogs about new tools and new ways students are making progress. I look forward to the virtual conversations, ideas and dialogues. See you on the flip side! Join in these conversations.