The biggest thing that I took away from all three of the videos on assistive technology was that all of the tools were designed with inclusion in mind. One of the biggest principles in special education is when inclusion is possible it should be utilized, and assistive technology allows for more inclusion. The three devices that stood out to me were Dragon Naturally Speaking, Cowriter 4000, and Alphasmart. Starting with Dragon Naturally Speaking: It is a device that allows for a student to dictate and have their words transferred to text on a computer. This technology is useful for students who have a hard time writing, have unclear handwriting, or have a physical disability that prevents them from efficiently typing or writing. Cowriter 4000 is a text prediction tool. When a student who has a difficult time articulating there thoughts uses this tool it prompts some words for students and allows for students to have more words at their disposal and also to prompt students. This tool benefits students who have a difficult time coming up with he words they need, it provides an extra little boost to increase the student’s writing ability. One drawback or complaint that student’s have is that the suggestions are sometimes slow, making the writing and thinking process slower than the student’s writing ability. Alpha smart is an assitive technology tool that is not just limited to students with disabilities. Alphasmart is a keyboard and small text display that allows for portable word processing. The device also includes Cowriter 4000 for increased use. The device is useful for students who need the Cowriter tool for increased writing ability. In the video students said they prefer the Alphasmart because it allows for them to remain in the classroom to write, instead of begin taken to another room for help.
To me, Dragon Naturally Speaking is one of the most interesting tools. After doing some research into more of the capabilities of Dragon Naturally Speaking I discovered that it’s capabilities go beyond simply translating spoken word to text. By simply scanning a document one is able to create an audio stream of a text, allowing for mass input and transcription. Dragon also allows for users to issue commands recognized by the program for simpler use and more hands free use, making Dragon more accessible by all.
Data Driven Teachers offered a formulaic approach to using date in the classroom, and focuses on both student learning and teacher practices and improvement. The process focuses on 5 key factors: Good Baseline Date, Measurable Instructional goals, frequent formative assessment, professional learning communities, and focused instructional interventions. These 5 factors work together to allow students to achieve attainable and measurable goals while completing formative assessments and making instructional changes as needed.
It is important for teachers to use yearly summarative data to help make changes and improve instructional practice. Good baseline information creates a great starting point for teachers, from there teachers can mold their lessons and instruction to help in areas which students need and also encourage students through their known strengths. It is important to set measurable goals, not only measurable goals but specific goals, improving math scores come from understanding which specific concepts need to be improved, so while improving math scores is the long term goal it can only be achieved through focusing on specific skills that then in turn create measurable improvements in the category of Math.
This data reliant approach is formulaic and there can be many measurable statistics and improvements that can stem from this data driven approach. Opponent to this idea might say that students are more than data. When data represents a large portion of the students abilities, it seems to be a reliable and effective method.
Marc Prensky’s 3 classifications of students boil down an incredibly diverse group of students into 3 groups, i believe these are broad classifications that do not account for a lot of factors in student’s lives, but they are fairly accurate and serve as a solid benchmark.
The group that Prensky focuses on is the group that “tunes out” teachers. His argument is that in the past there was less in the world for students to be engaged in, but as technology has advanced and more has been available to students through the internet and portable technologies. Students are increasingly having more and more choices for things to be engaged in, except when it comes to the classroom.
A phrase that stood out to me was “yesterday’s education for tomorrows kids”. Meaning that we are using outdated ideas for a completely different generation of students, students who have the option to be engaged by much more than a pad and paper. Computers, phones, music, and tablets all have changed the way students expect to receive information, which in turn effects there behavior and subsequent distaste for school.
Prensky then argues “game play vs. eye candy” pointing out that educational games can be as pretty as ever with he most up to date graphics but without any meat, the lesson or message is lost. The same can be said for more traditional styles of teaching. A PowerPoint with flashy transitions and animations is pointless without the base of the lesson being engaging.
The lesson on risky online relationships and how to navigate the web safely I think offered a realistic and practical approach to online safety as it concerns communicating with others. The lesson opens by preaching that the internet thrives and succeeds because of how it connects people. It does not preach a complete avoidance of other people on the web, instead it teaches you how to safely guide your way through the world wide web through an analysis of the web and how we use it. For example debunking the myths and stereotypes about predators and meeting people online. Establishing that not all predators online are strangers, and not all predators online are “creepy old men”.
Internet safety on forums such as craigslist or amazon or ebay, offer a safe community to complete internet transactions, but you still need to proceed with safe internet practices. Keeping the correct information private is imperative and sites such as ebay and amazon and over time these sites have become more secure and private. Using an open local forum like Craigslist is riskier due to the common need to meet with those who you are transacting but sticking to a few guiding principles such as, never meeting someone alone, meeting in a public place, and informing others of the who, what, where, and when are all safe and easy measures to take when using sites such as that.
While reading Understanding the Digital Generation I could not help but realize how applicable it was to my life and the lives of my peers. It’s section on neuroplasticity struck me as particularly interesting. The article highlights video games and the effects that that they can have on neuroplasticity over extended periods of time, but I believe that increased screen time in general has a more detrimental effect on neuroplasticity. With a phone in everyone’s pocket, a laptop on everyone’s desk, and a television in every living room, it is nearly impossible to get away from screens in our day to day lives. And with more and more work requiring computers in school, it forces you to wonder the effect that all this screen time has on our minds. We are using screens, at home, on the go, and now more and more in schools; they may be helpful but when is too much of a good thing a bad thing?
With that being said, the article did point out that as humans we are inherently more visual learners and are able to process images much more quickly than text, which draws into question our testing methods. WIth there being a clear shift in society away from text to more of a multimedia driven society why in schools are we still forcing simply text as the dominant form of testing knowledge. Their is an increasing divide between these two realms and at some point one side will have to give way, and if history has shown us anything the older technology is likely the one to go.