Archive for 1.2 Message Design

EDTECH 501: New Beginnings

With a master’s degree in human resource training and development and undergrad degrees in both business management and education, I contemplate what the heck I am doing adding the voluminous work of another graduate program to my already busy schedule.  The answer lies in the changing landscape of technology. It seems no matter how much I learn, there is always more to know in my role as IT coordinator for a small district with a demand for up to date technology to provide its students a quality and competitive education, and a budget that is unable to support more than one staff member to cover all aspects of instructional, network, and management technologies.

I am working towards a higher goal, but have decided to pursue the M.E.T. before continuing on for the Ed.D.  I am approaching my 50th birthday, and I feel somewhat of an anomaly in the tech world – but here I am, and looking forward to learning with my younger colleagues.

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EDTECH 541 2011 Summer-y

I used to be an IT  know-it-all…one of those people whom others would seek out for technological advice and help, and for whom nothing could not be conquered with a work-around. But my days were numbered and  I knew with every passing week that my superior skills were evaporating into  the chasm of once-was.  So I decided to pursue another graduate degree and give my rusty mental circuits new pathways on which to travel.

EdTech541 looked interesting and right up my alley. With its promise of web design and technology integration, I greedily reached for the new information. Then my life hit a road bump and sent me in a new direction. Despite all the uncertainty, I was still able to produce a product that I will use in teacher professional development and other adult learning environments.

By week four, I had just found out that my daughter needed serious medical attention for what was initially presumed to be a common urinary tract infection. I toyed with dropping the courses, knowing that I was going to be driving a lot given the distance between specialists. I e-mailed my instructors asking if I should drop the courses, but heard no indication that I should do so, and after the weekend determined to go for it.  I had never struggled so hard in my life to understand concepts as I have this summer. I have been consistently late in my coursework in every class – watching my elitist ego plummet along with my perfect GPA. 

One can’t get too far in education without learning about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and this summer my educational goals were trumped by my family’s need. The constant stress and worry has put theory into practice.  My ability to learn was physically diminished as my clarity of thinking was constantly interrupted by professional, service, educational, and personal demands.  Lack of sleep robbed me of optimism. Every assignment took twice as long as it probably should have to complete , and I spent hours revising mistakes I had made. What I did learn was that I have become inflexible and (probably) unapproachable with my own face to face students. I want to remember my summer’s experience in order to give students the benefit of the doubt while at the same time, holding them accountable for the tasks that have been assigned.

One benefit was the hours spent in waiting rooms gave me time to read the course text. I am an ISTE member, and use the NETS standards (2010) in course development and teacher professional development, so I was excited to see the course text use these professional standards as a foundation for the tasks at hand.

I am trying to convince my technology committee, administration, and school board to allow personal mobile devices within the school building. I believe the future is now, and when we insist that our students disconnect from their devices, we are fostering a disconnect from their education.  This course has given me tools to use to present research-based evidence that technology integration improves learning. The key is planning. Teachers must plan for activities that are rich with technology rather than letting technology activities take the place of teaching.

I have always been partial to inquiry-based theories, although I am open to discussion about other schools of thought, as well. This might be evident in a review of my database lesson plan. Although not an original plan, developing the database lesson to fit students in our geographic area took time because I had to develop questions that could be researched and answered, and determine the modifications necessary to make it a local fit.  My most beneficial assignment was that in which we identified strategies across the curriculum. My resources page keeps growing – not to impress anyone, but so that I won’t forget what I want to take back to my colleagues in the fall. This course will be beneficial for years to come as I use the products that I developed in my job as IT coordinator.

I performed an assistive technologies review three years ago when a student of mine  was involved in a water rescue. He experienced severe back injuries from a diving accident and is quadriplegic a resulting tracheotomy left him speechless. At the time tablets were not yet on the market, but he did have a school-issued laptop for at-home and school use. To repeat the research such a short time later has fostered astonishing results. Technologies such as voice to text (or vice versa) that were unavailable or were cost prohibitive at that time  now have presence in the $.99 iApps-Market.  I found the authors of our text making an interesting observation about beginning with low-tech solutions before moving into high tech as the needs dictate (p. 412)

I found blogging to be a perfect fit for reflection, but having to blog for a number of courses along with discussion forums left little allowance for reflective practice in such a compressed course. Even without other events in my life, writing takes time and revision and I always feel my blogs are somehow lacking consistent depth and detail. I do however, prefer the conversational style of a blog over the formality of an essay, as Richard Mayer (2004) is quoted in our text.

As I pointed out earlier, timeliness was lacking in all that I did this summer. My responses are lacking as well. Of the 235 points on blogging, I would be surprised to receive 180 points.

All in all, it has been a great course. The instructor modeled the concepts taught and I would highly recommend it to colleagues whether or not they plan to teach or develop online courses.

References:

International Society for Technology in Education. (2010). Standards. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from ISTE: http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students.aspx

Mayer, R., Fennell, S., and Farmer, L. (2004). A personalization effect in multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology. 96(2), 389-395.

Robleyer, M., & Doering, A. (2010). Educational Technology Into Teaching (Fifth ed.). Allyn and Bacon, Pearson.

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EDTECH 541: Microsoft Windows Vista Adaptive Devices

I hear my keys chatter as I type endless characters on the white field of the screen. “Tap, tap, clickity, snap.”  As I mentally prepare for the activity I am about to embark on, I am suddenly aware of the ease at which the words flow beneath my competent fingers, my mind, miles ahead, pausing as though to allow those fingers time to catch up. I read with perfect clarity a screen with small print due to its high resolution. I am blessed.

What would I do if my fingers were stilled in some tragic accident?  How would I form words if the river of thought was dammed by a stroke?  Would my thoughts come with such clarity if I could no longer read what I was writing, reviewing, editing?

I begin looking into alternatives that Microsoft provides on Windows Vista machines. The Portal is the Ease of Access Center located on the Control Panel.  When selected, a mechanical female voice greets me, somewhat reminding me of an android from Star Wars. She begins reading the options  “Start mag-ni-fy-er. Start nar-ra-tion….The sound drones on, ending abruptly with the de-selection of a checkbox.  I feel slightly guilty in the ensuing silence, knowing that my blind grandfather would have appreciated the independence such a voice allowed.

If one of my students were blind,  a station could be set up to operate without the monitor, saving scarce dollars.  Another tool for those students with vision loss is the magnifier which enlarges the output  on the screen by 2-16 times. The magnifier tracks either by the cursor or with key strokes. Browsing the Internet is made more appealing with the narration function paired with caption reading.  Students can perform individual research online without the dependency on an aide or their peers.

For those students whose vision is clear, but experience diminished fine motor skills an on-screen keyboard replaces the physical keyboard, allowing keystrokes via an alternative input device such as voice control, mouth wand, or some other specialized hardware. A student of mine who suffered a diving accident between school years came back in the fall suffering from quadriplegia. I researched the assistive technology and found many of the standard technologies that come with today’s Windows Vista to be unavailable or very expensive at the time. We saved many dollars borrowing physical devices from a state university lending program.  I would have liked very much for the on-screen keyboard to be available as he had a tracheotomy and was unable to speak, but he could use the keyboard well with a specialized touch device. 

Another standard feature in Windows Vista (and other previous versions) are sticky keys and filter keys. These settings have helped our students with limited motor skills since I began teaching 10 years ago. The sticky keys enable a student to enter shortcut key strokes one at a time rather than the controlling command key(s) (usually control, windows, alt, shift, or some combination of those keys) having to be held down while a hot function key is pressed.  The filter keys ignore repeated keystrokes such as one might get by holding down a particular keyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

For those who are able to speak but are limited in their typing, speech recognition technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past decade. Microsoft has been very proactive in serving consumers who need alternate methods of using the computer.

Apart from optional closed captioning, my students who experience hearing loss can depend on visual clues that replace system sounds and alerts.

Microsoft continues to develop new technologies, but in my opinion they lag behind Apple’s aggressive pursuit of assistive technology.  In a perfect world we would have no need for these technologies, but my world isn’t perfect, and our district’s network is PC.  So we move forward as best we can.

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