An Adaptive Tech PD “Miracle”

It warms my heart and brings me joy to see that glowing joy on a Special Education teachers’ face exclaiming, “We can DO that?”, “I didn’t know that was even A THING”,  “I never even THOUGHT of it”, “NO WAY!!!”… and the unforgettable, “This is like a miracle!”

This new phenomena is spurred by some mandatory PD that all of our teachers in grades 3-5 needed to attend this month.  I was teaching them the wonders of Microsoft’s OneNote Class Notebook.  That in itself was an extraordinary mind-blowing tool for teachers who JUST entered the world of teaching in a 1:1 environment.  For now, I’m thrilled to report on an unexpected byproduct of those PD sessions.

The Special Education teachers (and many Basic Skills and even general education teachers) were blown away by the Learning Tools that are embedded in Microsoft’s OneNote and Class Notebook.  In the Learning Tools, there is a remarkable ribbon tool called “Immersive Reader”.  I am both a former Special Ed teacher and a crazy-avid EdTech junkie, so I thought it was maybe just me who was awestruck by the way these tools make text accessible to all students.  The text-to-speech alone can bring tears to my eyes when I see it being used independently by a struggling reader.  The other options – font size, spacing, and color readability options can also be set by the learner to meet his/her own learning needs.  I ADORE that students may choose to speed up the reading voice or slow it down if processing is difficult!  I marvel when a student who has difficulty decoding can turn on the syllabication option and just read syllable-by-syllable.  Most of all – and I exclaim this with joyous fervor in my PD sessions – this is not something that a teacher has to “push out” to students or that draws any attention to that student!  The students who need it can just “turn it on” themselves – determining for themselves when they need those accommodations – and they don’t look any different than anyone else in the class!  Students can go to the same OneNote page as everyone else, and then discreetly slip in a pair of earbuds, click on the Learning Tools tab, and make the learning accessible without ever leaving the page (or the group, or the classroom!)

I also showed our teachers that their students will also soon have the Dictation feature available (speech to text) as soon as our district upgrades us to Windows 10.  I think a few of the teachers may or may not have fallen out of their chairs.  I know that I heard audible gasps.  One teacher threw her hand over her mouth and mumbled, “Oh, all those years we wasted money and time on that OTHER speech to text program, and now all of our kids will have it RIGHT HERE, RIGHT in their own OneNote notebooks and not having to go out to another program.”  Another teacher exclaimed, “This is like a miracle!”  I LOVE that these teachers get as emotional about this as I do.  That’s exactly how I feel!

Speaking of miracle, this is where something pretty magical began to happen!  Special Ed teachers – and some other speciality teachers, and Child Study Team members – started asking for more sessions just for them that dealt specifically with Adaptive Technology!   They wanted more time with the Learning Tools and to explore samples and brainstorm ways that these could be used.  Nothing – NOTHING – warms the cockles of my heart like teachers who are craving personalized PD that will help them help their students…so I created this to start:

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This graphic was made with Buncee – which is an AWESOME presentation site/app that also has many features that are exceptional for exceptional learners!  

These teachers are especially fascinated with Microsoft’s Audio Recorder, which is a standard part of ALL OneNote notebooks and Class Notebooks…sitting right there in the middle of the Insert Ribbon!  I showed them about 10 ways just that one little microphone tool could be used by both teachers AND students to make learning accessible, productive, and fun!  They played and came up with much better ideas than I had.  We researched and Googled and Pinterest-ed even more practical ideas…and the time flew!

We started with 1/2 day PD, and I’m thrilled to say that it wasn’t enough.  I never even got to demo all the the items on my very short list above – and I had about a dozen others on backup reserve in case we had more time!  As the teachers learned and shared and brainstormed, it gave ME even more ideas about things I want to show them…to teach them…to learn with them!   Going forward, those teachers have inspired a much longer list – I’ve begun compiling a list of apps, websites (like Buncee…see photo caption above), and simple general computer user features that I’ll be offering and sharing at all my schools…and beyond.  I have a bunch of creative “PD Delivery Options” – newsletters, online resources, screencasts, virtual meetings with screensharing, Tech Playdates, Morning Munchies & Lunch Bunch mini-sessions, etc. – so that all of my in-district teachers have diverse options for accessibility, too!

We are all SO very lucky to be at such a great and powerful time in regard to educational technology.  Technology isn’t an answer or a cure-all, and it needs to be planned well and done right, but OH, the possibilities!  Our teachers are lucky – there is so much that is FREE to us these days, and there are so many helpful tools embedded right in the sites and apps we use every day.  Our students are lucky – to be learning how to learn with technology that assists them when they need it.  As for me, I’m quite sure that I am the luckiest of all – to have Special Education teachers with real heart and sincere ambition, who crave and ask for professional development for adaptive technologies to make life the best it can be for their exceptional learners!


As always, I really love to hear your thoughts.  I need YOUR help to grow my list with great ideas to share with teachers!  What simple adaptive technology tools to you use and love?  What are some of your favorite general computer use tricks (my teachers even loved just learning to zoom in on the screen and how to increase/decrease brightness…those little things matter)?  What do you wish you knew about Adaptive Technology?  How do you get/find PD that works for you?  And my favorite question of all is…what’s your coolest AT tip or trick?

Reach out to me at @kerszi on Twitter, drop a note right here in my blog comments, or follow my Facebook page “Integration Innovation” and share your thoughts & ideas there!  I’m also kerszi on Voxer if you’d rather strike up a more private or conversational chat.  Thanks so much!

 

 

 

 

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ClassroomScreen – EVERY Teacher’s Whiteboard Friend

I just know you’re going to love this – whether you teach Kindergarten or college, Spelling or Trigonometry…this site is really something that all educators can use daily!  It’s called ClassroomScreen, and it is precisely that.  It is a background screen that you can project and just sort of leave up all day.  It has a handy tool bank across the bottom of the screen full of things we all need, love, and use in our classrooms all the time.  ClassroomScreen just puts it all in one place – with one brilliantly simple interface – so that all the tools are accessible to you all day long!

After you open the ClassroomScreen website, begin customizing your screen.  You choose the background image from a very nice selection of photos:

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Just look at all of those tools across the bottom!  They’re very self-explanatory, so I’m just going to give you a quick little photo tour of what they’ll look like on your screen:

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Random name generator…click choose and it selects one name from your personalized class list!

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Calculator

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Simple drawing tool – you can choose small screen (like I did) or full-screen.

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Text box – you can copy/paste from another source, and use formatting tools including emojis

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Work Symbols lets you display your expectation for the sound levels in your classroom

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Traffic Light is another classroom management tool that you can display

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Timer

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Clock – displayed both ways, with date (click on date to reveal monthly calendar)  –  As you can see, I do random blog posting in the middle of the night!

There’s not much else to say except that I think a tool like this is remarkably handy.  There is a brief little YouTube video about ClassroomScreen that shows you how this works, but I’m pretty sure you already have it figured out.  Have fun!

 

I’ll be really curious to know if any of you end up using this during the school year, so drop me a comment to let me know what you think of it.  If you’re reading this on my blog, just enter comments here, or you can find this posted on my Facebook page (Integration Innovation) and I’m also on Twitter as @kerszi   – Thanks!

Google’s Reverse Image Search

I learned about this in the strangest way.  Last summer, I was traveling through New England with my family.  It was nighttime, and we were driving over a bridge that was lit up and interesting – and I thought was pretty.  I snapped an iPhone photo from the passenger seat, and quickly posted it to Facebook with the caption, “Who knows where I am?”

My buddy Kevin came back almost instantly with the name and location of the bridge, and I was shocked!   I assumed he was familiar with the area.  He admitted that he just used Google Reverse Image Search.

TBH, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I made it a point to – well – Google it!  It’s another super-cool, super-easy way to WOW your friends and perhaps look like a genius from time to time.  I’ll bet you can come up with great ways to use it with students.  Tonight, I used it to satisfy my curiosity.  A few weeks ago, I had gone for a walk and noticed these beautiful little purple flowers.  I had taken a picture, and tonight I used Google Reverse Image Search to figure out what they were!

I started at the URL shown below, which is the site for Google Images.  Notice the little black camera in the search bar, and when I hovered over it, it says “Search By Image”.

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Next, I chose “Upload an image”.  (I had saved the photo to my laptop, so it was easy to upload.)Google Reverse 2

After I uploaded the file and clicked the little “search” magnifying glass, this is what I got:

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“Oh, joy”, I thought – Google just let me know that this thing was – a flower?  Hmmmmphh….I almost thought I had wasted my time, until I scrolled down JUST a few inches and found this:

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Aaaah….thanks Google!  Now we’re talking.  Google found “visually similar images” for me, and that 4th one on the top is pretty much an exact match, so I clicked on it.

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How cool is that?  I narrowed it down until I surmised that my little flower was – a periwinkle!

There are lots of times my students and I wonder, “What IS that?” (and…umm…sometimes it might be better if we don’t know…you know how THAT is, right?)  Google Reverse Image Search gives us a fun and cool way to do a little investigating, a little research, a little debating, and a little deducing to find answers to some of our most burning questions!

In doing a little research for this post, I found these other helpful & related resources that you might enjoy:

  • CTRLQ.org – same as Google Reverse Image Search, seems to be a more direct link & possibly even easier.  You can use this right from your cell phone, too!
  • Reverse image search using your phone or tablet
    1. Use the Chrome app to do a search.
    2. Touch the image you want to search with to open a larger version of the image.
    3. Press and hold the image. In the box that appears, touch Search Google for this image.

     

     

I’m sure you can find even more ways to use this and great things to explore with it.  Please share.  I really love to learn from folks who stop by to read my posts, so let me know what you’re thinking!  I’d especially love to hear ways that you’ve used this in school.  Feel free to reply here on my blog, on Twitter @kerszi, or on my Facebook page – Integration Innovation!

 

 

Technology Integration Specialist: Revelations About My Vocation

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I had a unique and unexpected learning experience yesterday.  I attended Edcamp Exit 8a, the first edcamp ever hosted by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA).  It was their first edcamp, and it also happened to be the first NJPSA event that I had ever attended.  As an aspiring administrator, I had just joined the organization and literally received my welcome letter the day before this edcamp.

So there I was, in a room that was predominantly occupied by all kinds of administrators, from supervisors to principals to district-level admins.  There was also a smattering of technology experts, coaches, and teachers with various experience.  As a new member, I was ready to learn from all of these people.

Something unexpected happened.  The edcamp session board, which is always populated on the spot by volunteers from the audience, just wasn’t filling up.  As the minutes ticked on and I saw so many vacancies on the grid, I decided to put myself out there and volunteer to present.  As even more time passed and the need remained evident, I signed up for two more session presentations (there were only 3 sessions that day) and hoped for the best.  I’ve been to well over a dozen edcamps and figured I could facilitate a discussion – or three.  To be honest, at that point, I was a little disappointed because my goal had been to come as a learner and to tap into the experience and expertise of others.

It’s my first session that had enough of an impact on me to have me thinking and blogging about it today.  My session was titled, “What Is A Technology Integration Specialist?”  I am brand new to this role (officially), and I shared that with the group right off the bat.  I used an infographic that I had recently created as the basis for the session.  (Click HERE for the full infographic, but here’s a small snapshot:

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As you can see, the focus was on what tech integration specialists can DO.  I explained to the session participants that this was a newly-created position, and that my goal was to present this infographic to the staff members I would be serving in order to show all the ways I can provide services.  The response to the ideas was very much favorable, which was validating, to say the least.  I was honored that administrators found my delivery models and strategies worthy of replication in their own districts.

The best part came next, though.  They started to give me advice.  In true edcamp style, the session became a discussion, and the experts in the room began sharing experiences from their own districts.  They wanted to help me avoid pitfalls and be successful in my new vocation.  The learning I had come for – had craved – was happening as a result of my topic and the collegiality of educational professionals who care!

Here are a few of the extremely valuable revelations they shared:

  • Have critical discussions with different administrators first.  Often a tech integration specialist works under several different principals and supervisors.  My friend Rich Czyz (@RACzyz), a NJ principal and former instructional coach, said that it’s really important to see what each building leader expects and to get a feel for the culture of each school.  It’s also important to work with the principal/supervisor to establish how things will be presented to staff, what expectations will be for all involved, and how we can support each other to improve technology integration in the school.
    • One great example involves how to approach teachers who are reluctant to welcome any ‘coach’ into their room…will the principal have that discussion with those teachers and pave the way?  Does the supervisor prefer that no “push-in” coaching is done without an invitation by the teacher?
  • Be clear with staff about what Technology Integration Specialists DON’T do, too.  I loved this advice because I hadn’t considered it – and it’s important.  One supervisor in the room said that teachers in his school had taken advantage of the fact that another adult was entering the room.  Some teachers sat at their desks to grade papers; others actually left the room!  In his district, the administrators intervened and explained to the staff that when any ‘coach’ enters the room, it is to help that teacher via new learning, practice, or support.  He explained that it is critical to establish this expectation (with administrative support) to every teacher.  He also advised that I stay firm if/when teachers may try to take advantage, and to not make exceptions.  “Be rigidly consistent” was the exact advice.
  • Let teachers know that a Tech Integration Specialist is NOT any type of administrator.  This was great advice, too!  Many teachers get nervous or even resentful another adult coming into their classrooms.  One principal told me that it’s really important to get the word out from the get-go that I will never conduct an observation or be judgmental in any way.  Classroom teachers and tech integration specialists are compatible (lateral) positions.  She advised that I repeat that fact early and often.

As you can see, I left with new insights, new knowledge, and new ideas.  Perhaps I started as a presenter, but I finished as a learner.   I also ended up with some new contacts and remarkable connections.  I’d say that’s growth, and I know that’s exactly the kind of gift that edcamps make possible.

 

If you have any other advice for me –  or thoughts, comments, or opinions, I hope you’ll take the time to comment.  You can reach me here at my blog (kerszi.wordpress.com), on Twitter at @kerszi, or follow my Facebook page, which is called Integration Innovation.