Considerations for Accommodations (EDC 6989)

A regular topic of debate in the area of special education is whether or not special accommodations made for students with disabilities impedes their ability to grow in ability and independence.

Byrnes (2000) argues for making accommodations for students with disabilities because they remove the barriers that impede learning. A disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Key in choosing the correct accommodations is gaining an accurate understanding of the student’s disabilities. Once the disabilities are defined then work can be done in developing a plan on how to address those disabilities through accommodations. The purpose of selecting accommodations for students is to open up “access” to students Accommodations must be selected keeping in mind that the best type should be least cumbersome for everyone, while helping to move the student toward independent function.

Kauffman, McGee, & Brigham (2004) take side on the other side of this issue. They argue that the move toward making accommodations takes our inclusion programs for students with disabilities in the wrong direction. Their idea is that when students are prevented from being exposed to the true requirements of what it takes to succeed, they will be set up for failure later in life. They are taught to depend on accommodations being made for them, which leads them away from independence and also robs them of opportunities for accomplishment.

I think there is some common ground that links both of these issues. I agree with Kauffman et al in that there do exist situations where students with disabilities are given too many accommodations, often without clear reasoning. This comes across as overprotection and can damage a student if they are not given apt opportunities to rise to a variety of challenges on a regular basis.

The solution, I believe, lies somewhere between these two issues. I think that in our society it is healthy to recognize when another fellow human has a disability and to question whether there is any way to help them overcome it in order to reach their true potential. Think about all the great individuals in human history who excelled in one area or another despite their disabilities!

What is important is making sure we make accommodations for students but we do not make too many that are unreasonable or not well-suited for their specific needs. The importance of applying the concept of “zone of proximity” comes to mind. Zone of proximity is defined as the difference between what a student can do with and without help. As teachers we should provide accommodations for students with disabilities, but we need to carefully construct their learning programs so they can experience success and failure on their own volition. We want to increase their access to learning, but we don’t want to impede their learning by giving them too many accommodations they could have functioned well without. And if we can accomplish this we will be doing our part to ensure students with disabilities are truly given fair and equitable opportunities in our public school system.

 

 

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Considerations of National Standards in Education (EDU 6989)

Control and funding of our nation’s public schools has always been a topic shrouded in controversy and uncertainty. Ever since release of the Coleman Report back in the 1960’s our nation has been become more engrossed in determining a way to fund our schools in a way that is fair to all cultural groups and that, perhaps more importantly, leads to greater academic success of all K-12 students. Currently, the heart of this topic circulates around the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation and the shift in focus that it has caused toward national standards in education. Pundits exist on both sides of support for what this legislation has to offer in regards to a national system of standards for our public schools of today.

On one side of the issue is support for continued development of a system of national standards. Finn Jr., Julian, and Petrilli (2006) argue that a focus on developing national standards for our schools will serve to raise academic performance of our nation’s students. The reason for this is because too often there is inconsistency from state to state in the quality of content that is taught. Implications include the idea that students from more affluent communities will be held to higher standards than poorer kids at lower quality schools, which in effect will keep poorer kids coming up short academically as compared to richer kids, maintaining the cycle of poverty.

On the other side of the issue is an argument against the development of federally-mandated public school national standards. This argument includes the idea that teaching is a profession that is contingent on teachers being motivated and engaging effectively with their students. Uzzell (2005) argues that with a continued shift away from local entities such as teachers and principals having control over curriculum and learning standards there will be a growing number of teachers who begin to lose motivation to teach because they see the power they have in the lives of their students diminishing and instead shifting more toward the federal government as education continues to become more centralized.

I can see benefits in both approaches. On one hand I see the value in creating a single set of standards that all states can employ and therefore be able to collaborate together on. Having 50 states with schools that use the same standards might also stir up healthy competition among private education companies who want to compete for the business of the educational community through sale of their quality educational materials.

On the other hand, creating national standards with the aim of bringing all students up to the “proficient” level may not be realistic. In reality there are unmotivated students across our nation who exist in a place of hopelessness mostly because of the socio-economic background they came from. For them, education often is not a priority. This puts an even greater burden on our teachers who now must deal with motivating these under-inspired students.

In short, I believe there are greater social issues at play in our society that must be dealt with in order for our approach to education to be effective, regardless of whether national standards become more centralized or not. But this is another topic for another night…

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Digital Citizenship Poster – EDTC 6433

For the Digital Citizenship Poster project for the class Teaching with Technology (EDTC 6433) I chose to focus on the theme of the “digital footprint.” Consideration of one’s digital footprint is important in this age of the Internet as our online identities and personal information can have lasting and significant influence on our reputation and security. It is important we all learn to understand and manage our digital footprints.

To create my poster I utilized Piktochart.com. My submission can be viewed in Figure 1 below, or it can also be viewed online, here.

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Figure 1 – My Digital Citizenship Poster (created using Piktochart.com)

My poster dealt with addressing questions such as:

  • What is a digital footprint?
  • What information is currently available about you online?
  • What is a light vs. a heavy digital footprint?
  • Why is it important to strive to have a light digital footprint and what can you do to ensure you have one?

The theme of the digital footprint is important for both students and parents to understand because almost everyone is active online and needs to understand the associated risks with their online identities. Furthermore, students who are digital natives often don’t consider the repercussions of their online activities. I chose to write and illustrate on the concept of a digital footprint because it is easy to visualize and because I believe focusing on having a healthy footprint is one of the most effective ways to address a variety of important areas falling in the realm of what defines healthy digital citizenship.

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Reflection Post – EDSP 6644 Educating Exceptional Students

As I pursue my master of arts in teaching and certification credentials at Seattle Pacific University I work as an ELL paraeducator in the Kent School District at an elementary school. I’ve also had past experience at the same elementary school as a Special Education paraeducator. The artifact I’ve chosen to mark my completion of EDSP 6644 (Educating Exceptional Students) is my discussion forum post from Module 1 regarding schoolwide positive behavior support (SWPBS).

In my discussion post in Module 1 I focused on answering the question of whether SWPBS is a viable option for decreasing students’ problem behaviors. As I completed the readings in this module I began to realize that the school I’ve been working at implements SWPBS as part of its system. It was exciting to realize this and I took note of what I learned as compared to what I’d experienced in regards to SWPBS as I completed the module.

In my discussion forum post I reference Lewis and Doorlag (2011) who explain SWPBS as being a focus on behavioral support as opposed to behavioral management. In other words, it is a focus on positive reinforcement as opposed to more of a negative reinforcement approach. This really struck a cord within me as I realized how much I had been “managing” behaviors of the students I work with. I realized that the elementary school I work at, with its SWPBS framework, had a built-in positive reinforcement system I had not been fully tapping into. As a former Special Education paraeducator I’d felt isolated from the rest of the school thinking others did not have a mechanism for helping us “manage” and support our special education students. But with the completion of this module on SWPBS I realized this had not been the case, and truly there had been more support around me than I must have been aware of. And positive support at that!

Moving ahead I will take a much better theoretical understanding of SWPBS and continue to explore how it can be better implemented in the elementary school setting I work in. As a result of my learning about SWPBS as well as other topics in EDSP 6644 I will also be changing my approach toward “managing” students in a way that utilizes much more positive reinforcement. Without this class I don’t think I would have realized how much more of a positive and proactive approach I could be taking towards my students, regardless of whether they have special needs.

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Effective Networking with Digital Tools and Resources (Mod 5 – EDTC 6433)

ISTE NETS for Teachers – Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership

Personalized Triggering Event Question: How can I help continually enrich the learning environment of my elementary school setting through the use of digital tools and resources?

One of the most helpful supports a teacher can have around them is a strong professional community. This can help a teacher grow in their effectiveness through connectedness, collaboration, exchange of new ideas, and constructive feedback they can receive from their community. Now, with the advancement of online technology and digital tools such as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), teachers have access to even more resources to help extend their network and enhance their professional development (See Figure 1). This helps maintain a positive learning environment refreshed with updated teaching practices and ideas for progressive-minded teachers.

PLC Image Artifact

Figure 1: Networking through a Personal Learning Community (PLC). (image source: Edutopia)

What does it mean for a teacher to be more connected? In the article, The Connected Educator: It Begins with Collaboration by Tom Whitby (2014), we learn about the shift into the new era of online collaboration and what that means for us, as educators. Recent technological developments have allowed teachers to expand their learning into new online frontiers allowing for an inexpensive and effective source of new information and collaborative opportunities. The coined term for this is connectedness, which applies to teachers who are using technology to connect with other teachers for the purpose of collaboration. Ultimately, this allows teachers to use this collaboration to direct their own learning as well as the learning of their students.

The beauty of being able to connect with other educators lies in the idea that there may always be a more knowledgeable educator out there who either specializes or has more experience in a particular topic. Connectedness allows us to access those educators in the areas we desire or need more support in. This self-directed mindset also helps students because they are able to see how we use our digital and network resources to connect and collaborate with others. Collaboration is a key skill for students to learn as they continue their professional development in the 21st century.

In this week’s module a classmate posted about a helpful online information resource that speaks to the utility in each of us developing our own Personal Learning Community (PLC). A PLC is a community network we develop that allows us to access and communicate with diverse sets of learning communities (EdWeb LLC, 2016).

Of course, community networks are nothing new to teachers. Good teachers have always developed effective networks at least within the walls in which they’ve taught. But now, because of digital technology we are able to extend these types of learning networks, even to span the globe due to the reach of the Internet. This opens up a vast treasure trove of informative and collaborative tools and resources teachers can now use to seek advice, exchange new ideas, and build professional community. This advances the art and science of teaching and allows motivated teachers to take leadership in helping develop digital-savvy communities devoted to improving learning opportunities for students across the globe. This clearly supports the objectives of ISTE NETS for Teachers – Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership.

One of the most important strengths of an online community network is its function in enabling the formation of a communities devoted to the exchange of contemporary teaching practices and ideas. One great illustration of this can be seen at the website, www.edutopia.org/community. Here, we see a multitude of discussions and blogs that have been posted on a variety of education-focused topics. Each post allows for comments to be made, which allows others to reflect and share their thoughts in response to the post, as well (Edutopia, 2016).

Collaboration is key in the 21st century, not only for teachers, but for students as well. A learning environment that is founded in the positive spirit of connectedness can only serve to help teachers teach students the strength of having a digital community in helping them attain their educational objectives. And in a world with an educational and professional digital landscape that is continually changing, we need educators who are willing to step up and model what it looks like to be leaders in the ever growing world of technology.

 

References:

Edutopia. (2016). Community: Welcome. Connect, collaborate, and share resources with people who are passionate about improving education. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/community

EdWeb.net. (2016). Join a Professional Learning Community (PLC). Retrieved from: http://home.edweb.net/professional-learning-communities-with-free-webinars/

Whitby, T. (2014). The connected educator: It begins with collaboration. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/connected-educator-begins-with-collaboration-tom-whitby (Links to an external site.)

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Digital Storytelling Project: The Secrets of Trees (EDTC 6433)

One of the most time tested and enjoyable ways to learn is through stories. Sadik (2008) writes that storytelling constitutes the original form of teaching allowing students to bring into understanding the complex and often unordered world we all experience together. One of the most exciting new approaches to telling stories is through digital storytelling. Shelby-Caffey, Ubeda, & Jenkins (2014) describe digital storytelling as a practice that combines a specific narrative with digital content. This may include video or picture images as well as sound. Often there is a strong emotional component involved as well.

I recently created my own digital story using an application available online called Sway. The topic I chose for my digital story was trees. The title of my digital story is The Secrets of Trees and it can be viewed on Sway.com at this link. Please note that as you view this presentation you’ll want to spend about 5 seconds on each slide, optimally.

The reason I selected this topic was because I’ve always had a personal love of trees and I wanted to display the beauty I see in trees in hopes the thoughts and images I incorporated into my digital story might resonate with others. I think my digital story might appeal to older students who might have had some exposure to the outdoors as well as anyone else who has an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.

Digital storytelling is an exciting and engaging way to meet the criteria for ISTE NETS Standard 1 for teachers, which calls for use of digital media to achieve creativity and innovation. More specifically, digital storytelling allows a student to utilize their knowledge of contemporary digital tools to explore and communicate information and ideas to others within their own class or even to an audience on a global scale.

I thought this digital storytelling project was a great experience and I think it could be utilized well in either a formal or informal educational setting. After considering a variety of software applications I settled on using Microsoft’s Sway because it had a great set of helpful tutorials and an easy-to-use interface. Sway could be used for creating a presentation of facts and information such as what might be produced in a formal setting, and it could be also be easily applied to creating a more informal arts-based emotionally motivated production such as what formed the framework for my piece.

I had originally planned on using iMovie to produce my digital storytelling project, but after watching a two-minute tutorial about Sway on YouTube.com I changed my mind. One roadblock I ran into involved transfer of images into my Sway presentation. Before initializing my Sway presentation online, I’d already spent a considerable block of time researching and downloading images off Creative Commons on the Internet and also from within my own digital home library. Later, I found that uploading of these images to my Sway presentation took a lot of time and often the upload failed. However, once I initialized my presentation I found that Sway has its own image search engine that also accounts for Creative Commons licenses for which transfer of the images is almost instantaneous. I could have saved a lot of time if I’d simply initialized my presentation, at which point I would have discovered this excellent image searching feature on Sway, and I could have avoided all the time I spent searching for and downloading images from other places on the Internet.

There were three more challenges I found with using Sway. First, there is no audio option for Sway, which meant I could not add any music or even my own voice to the presentation (Thus I’ve removed the need for audio from the rubric for this assignment). Secondly, in order to view the presentation one must manually click an arrow to progress through each slide. I’d hoped there would be an option for an “auto-play” to avoid having to instruct your audience to click through each slide. Thirdly, I should mention it pays to have a good Internet connection because with a slower connection each slide takes a moment or two longer to load, which can affect the flow of the presentation.

The most significant thing I learned through this process of creating my first digital story is that I truly have a lot to say about the things that are important to me, such as trees. Now, with a digital tool such as Sway, I have a mechanism that will allow me to express myself informally or formally about a variety of topics. And as a teacher I plan on passing on the idea of digital storytelling to my students.

Stories were first delivered by oral tradition being passed down generationally, until the advent of writing. With writing, stories were able to be recorded and passed on in written language. Now, in the digital era, we have yet another more exciting way to deliver our stories: through the art and practice of digital storytelling.

References:

Sadik, A. (2008). Digital storytelling: a meaningful technology-integrated approach for engaged student learning. Educational Technology Research and Development.

Shelby-Caffey, C., Ubeda, E., & Jenkins, B. (2014). Digital storytelling revisited: An educator’s use of an innovative literacy practice. The Reading Teacher, 68, 191-199.

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Teaching Responsible Digital Learners (Mod 4 – EDTC 6433)

ISTE for Teachers Standard 4 – Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

Personalized Triggering Event Question: How can my classroom reflect a state of sound responsibility and ethical behavior in relation to our use of digital tools in the educational community?

Scarcely in the modern age of education has there been a time where a technology has presented teachers with quite so many wonderful new opportunities that are paired with an equal amount of challenges. With the advent of the widespread accessibility of the Internet and the development of unprecedented new digital tools and technologies, now is one of those times. As is reflected in ISTE Standard 4, schools and teachers have a responsibility to gain a sufficient understanding of the important issues in the progressing digital environment that will inevitably become enclosed within the future lives of our students. Young learners, in particular, will need to be taught the skills they need to maneuver the digital landscape in a way that allows them to be safe, responsible, and fluent digital citizens.

Hertz (2012) teaches us about new citizenship skills we can focus on and teach our students. These skills are important because it is inevitable that elementary aged children will continue to develop online habits with or without our guidance. Students as young as six are joining social networks and come into contact with other kids and adults through other digital mediums such as social networks and online gaming, so it is imperative we consider the concepts of online safety and digital citizenship with a new seriousness in our elementary classrooms.

A fellow student referenced a helpful resource that also addresses issues related to responsible digital citizenship (Figure 1) and allows teachers to take control of the most relevant information.

digital citizens

Figure 1. Common Sense Media (2015) offers an array of resources and tools related to digital learning.

Common Sense Media (2015) offers an impressive array of simple educational online resources and tools, which can educate teachers about the important issues they should be focusing on as they teach their students about elements associated with the digital world. This site contains helpful tips and information on:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Internet Safety
  • Digital Footprints

I appreciate this resource because it organizes its explanations of the most important digital topics in a way that is easy for teachers to understand and in turn convey to their students.

Lindsay & Davis (2011) also support the idea that the teacher needs to be responsible for equipping students with the knowledge and guidance they will need to navigate the new global digital frontier. They write how with guided exposure to online experiences teachers can help mold students who will approach online technology and communities with respect and care. Not only will this benefit these students by helping them develop a greater digital fluency, but this will also yield a more safely contained digital footprint for students, which will serve them well as they continue to progress academically through college, and into their professional careers.

Again, scarcely in the modern age of education have there been as many new risks as there are today associated with new technology in our world. New digital pitfalls can put young learners at risk in our classrooms and even at home if they are not adequately educated and prepared. However, with the right tools and resources, teachers can equip young learners to anticipate those risks, become digitally fluent, and turn risks into exciting opportunities as they continue to develop tools associated with digital learning and citizenship in today’s advancing world.

 

References:

Common Sense Media. (2016). Common Sense Education: Scope & Sequence: Common Sense K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/scope-and-sequence

Hertz, M. J. (2012). 5 tips for teaching digital citizenship in the elementary classroom. The Journal. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/Articles/2012/04/18/5-Tips-for-Teaching-Digital-Citizenship-in-the-Elementary-Classroom.aspx?Page=1

Lindsay, J. & Davis, V. (2010). Navigate the digital rapids. Learning & Leading with Technology, March/April(2010), 12-15.

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