Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Creating Your Own Personal Learning Network 2nd Ed.

Since my last post about PLNs in October, I've thought a lot about the metaphor that David Warlick used at the SAGE conference I attended.  He compared the development of one's own personal learning network (PLN) to tending a garden.  You need to try new 'crops' out and 'weed' out sources of information as you go.  I've worked hard this year to develop my own personal learning network and I'd like to share some tips for you to create your own learning 'garden'.

Because I've dealt so much this year with iPad deployment in our division, much of the searching for resources I've done has been surrounding applications that can be downloaded onto the iPad.  There are a couple of different methods of searching for apps that I've used.  I've downloaded apps like Apps Gone Free, App Start, App Shopper, and Autism Apps, all free apps that help you search for applications to use on your iPad.  This hasn't been my sole source of information about apps, but it has been very useful.  I've subscribed to blogs and bookmarked websites, after Google searching 'technology blogs'. I've also viewed webinars through the Closing the Gap archives.  A combined print and online subscription is just over a $100 and gives you access to some leading assistive technology experts.  These are just some of ways that I've gathered information about the world of apps.

Another great resource I've used this year has been Pinterest.  It is an online pinning board that allows you to browse 'pins' that others have flagged while perusing the internet.  You create boards to organize your pins and a quick search of 'technology' or 'applications' brings up a vast selection of pins for you to 'repin' to your boards.  I've pinned so many websites and blogs, I haven't actually had enough time to read through them all.  It is a quick way to search for information if you've got a mere few minutes in your hectic day.  All from your iPad or iPhone as there is an app available in the app store for free.

Another effective way of gathering information about technology I've used this year as TILT is Twitter.  Recognized as a social networking tool, it is a widely used resource for educators and frequented by those who are technologically inclined. Now, that being said, I've never tweeted and probably won't, it's just not something I'm interested in at this point. I simply browse the tweets of people I am following to learn about new tech resources.  Most posts of the people I follow tweet about great sites that contain information about online or web 2.0 resources.

I've offered just a few ways to get started on creating your own PLN.  Because my job deals with technology, that is what I tend in my garden.  You can tailor your PLN to meet your own professional learning needs.  Simply follow people that are like-minded and specialize in your same educational specialty. Subscribing to blogs and creating accounts with Twitter and Pinterest are easy ways for you to link yourself to great human resources.  The information is available instantly and how much you contribute to the online community is completely up to you.

Here is another option to tweak your own school PD days or staff meetings.  I just read through an interesting article written by Sylvia Rosenthal-Tolisano, who has a great educational blog with some incredible insights.  You can read about her perspective on 21st century professional development here.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Graphic Organizers

I just discovered a few different websites that offer different types of graphic organizers in a printable PDF format.  See the education oasis and teacher vision websites to choose from a variety of templates.  If you are looking at an applicable iPad app, check out Tools 4 Students.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Storytelling with Maps

Storytelling with Maps is a great online, interactive resource on a variety of topics.  This resource came to me through an email from TCEA a Texas-based technology organization.  I've become aware of some great tech resources by adding myself to their email list.
Storytelling with maps allows you to browse through story maps that have been created by other individuals as well as choose from a selection of templates to create your own story map.
If you are interested in teaching students how to make statistics come alive and relevant using storytelling with maps, here is a 'white paper' that explains what the website is all about:

To peruse the collection of story maps that have already been created, visit: http://storymaps.esri.com/home/

Universal Design for Learning

Unless you are planning to get this resource as an e-book, today's post doesn't really have to do with technology.  It does, however, have everything to do with inclusion. I am working on one of my last courses to get my special education post-baccalaureate and the course that I am taking currently is one of the most practical.  As a part of the course work, I've just started reading Jennifer Katz's Teaching to Diversity: The Three Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. The author, a familiar name in the ISD, goes into great length to provide some practical strategies for creating an academically and socially inclusive classroom.  Katz discusses everything from literacy and numeracy instruction, thematic teaching blocks that weave social studies and science outcomes, as well as her well-known Respecting Diversity program that taps on the Multiple Intelligences theory.  Rich with anecdotal snapshots of students Katz has worked with, it is a thought and emotion-provoking read.  At a reasonable $30 price tag, you will see how the best of the last 20 years of pedagogical practice can all be woven together to create a supportive and inclusive teaching environment.
Note: the image below is an interactive ThingLink. Please click on the silhouette centered in the book image for a direct link to a University of Manitoba blog post about Jennifer Katz. You can check out her blog here.

Katz, Jennifer. Teaching to Diversity: The Three-block Model of Universal Design for Learning. Winnipeg: Portage & Main, 2012.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Apps Gone Free

If you check Apps Gone Free by the end of the school day, you'll see three free math apps and an interactive space app up for grabs that look pretty worthwhile.  Please have a look!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Accessibility on the iPad with iOS 6 software

Accessibility Features in the new iOS 6 Software

The accessibility features contained in the new iOS 6 software are located in:


Voice Over
Voice over is a handy narrator, reading everything that is selected on the screens and within an app.  When voice over is turned on, the gestures used to navigate through screens and open apps change. Single tapping any app on your screen will bring up a box around the selected app. To enter the application, double-click the desired app. Swipe three fingers across the screen to move between your app screens. With voice over, you have the option of connecting a Braille device, having your notifications spoken, as well as customizing how the device reads aloud to you.

Speak Selection
Turning on speak selection will enable individuals with reading difficulties to have text read to them.  When speak selection is turned on, an individual can highlight text to be read and select ‘speak’ to hear the text read.

Mono Audio
Allows the user to adjust right and left audio channels to meet the individual’s specific hearing needs.  A must for individuals with hearing impairments when listening to music, videos, or podcasts.

Zoom, Large Text, Invert Colours
Designed for individuals with vision impairments, the zoom, enlarged text, and inverted colour options provide options for individuals with seeing difficulties.  The user has the option of zooming in on what’s captured on the screen, enlarging the print, as well as inverting the colours to maximize the viewing of the screen.

Assistive Touch
The iOS 6 software offers the option of customizing the gestures employed by the user to navigate through screens and apps. If swiping through screens is not manageable, the user can program the device to respond to their own particular gestures.

Guided Access
Allows the user to set restrictions within apps. Turning on guided access will prompt the user to set a restrictions passcode and then create the parameters in which another user can operate. For example, when guided access is turned on, another user cannot exit the current application and that same user may not have access to particular parts of the application.  A triple-click by the initial user will bring up the passcode screen in which a four-digit code can be entered, allowing the user to end guided access.

Note: The iPad 3’s are capable of just a little more, having SIRI, the automated voice control option available with the current iPhone 4S devices.

Here are some links to check out:

Accessibility in iOS 6: https://nfb.org/blog/atblog/whats-new-accessibility-ios-6

Mono- Audio explained: http://youtu.be/X1wCPiS45sU

Guided Access explained: http://youtu.be/N_cPotZ_q4c

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Backchanneling. A word that I hadn't heard of until this past fall at the 2012 MANACE SAGE conference, a great place to brush up on the latest tech use in classrooms. Backchanneling is the student chatter in class when a teacher is instructing. It can range from comments about how boring or pointless the lesson being delivered is to questions relating to the material being presented.  Two web applications have grown out of this concept- Poll Everywhere and TodaysMeet.  In one-to-one classrooms or those in which teachers are already competing with student devices for attention, this may be a viable option to enhance classroom discussion.  The premise is simple: set up a backchannel 'room' with an identifiable name, deliver a lesson or lecture, and have the students provide you with immediate feedback.  It is a way of assessing for student understanding on the fly.  If something doesn't make sense, students can post a question or comment without the anxiety of verbalizing their confusion. It adds to debate in the classroom, allows teachers to respond to questions that may not have surfaced during a lecture or lesson, and could be a great way of monitoring classroom contributions if you have set that requirement up in your course description.  If you're concerned about inappropriate content appearing on your projector screen, save the data that is collected in your www.todaysmeet.com room, print your page and deal with it after class or deliver the content to the appropriate disciplinarian.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Your Starting Point for iPad Apps

Since starting in September as TILT, I have had several requests for iPad 2 app lists from both classroom and resource teachers. Unfortunately, I've had little time over the past few months to create a comprehensive list.  I'm now at the point where I have created an effective information collection system through which reviews and info about a variety of apps is continuously fed to me in an efficient manner.  That is a whole post in itself, but I digress. Since returning from the break, I've started compiling a list of apps to suit a variety of student needs. The lists can be found in the link to my Google doc. It is a working document, so please frequently peruse them.  I'll be updating the lists as I make my way through the 2013 school year.  I hope there are at least a few apps on these lists that meet both your needs and the students with whom you are working.