Shmoop: Explore It


After a long week, I opted to spend the evening catching up on my technology fun and exploration. First activity, catch up on blog reading. It was in Larry



Great news! Through The Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Connecticut State Library, New Canaan Library acquired some AT for public use.

In the Children’s Room, they’ve added touch screen monitors, big key keyboards, adaptive mice and an adjustable height table. I’m excited by the software features they’ve acquired as well, Word Q word prediction and BrainPop, a website. These are two of my favorite tools.

Word Q assists students with slow keyboarding or dyslexia. Word Q is word prediction software and adjusts to the individual user’s language. Word Q predicts the next word in sentence. The more often a word is used the higher it moves on the prediction list. As a student types a letter, a list of frequently used words appears. The student may continue typing to change the list until finding the needed word. Either using the mouse, number line or number pad, and the student will insert the word into the sentence.

Another plus with Word Q is the speech feedback component. User can elect to have individual words spoken to them, or sentences or entire paragraphs. This is a wonderful way for users to keep their thoughts on target, especially if they are very slow in formulating sentences or keyboarding.

Homophones, similarly sounding words that are spelled differently and having different meaning, are very confusing. For example, witch and which. Word Q helps users select the correct word through sample sentences. Each homophone has a little arrow next to it in the prediction list. By hovering the cursor over the word, the sentence will be revealed and read to the user. An example sentence for witch: The witch rode a broomstick. That sentence paints a clear image for the user reinforcing the classroom lessons.

Brainpop provides short movies introducing a specific topic. They cover all educational areas including social studies and science, as well as health, technology, arts and music. Toby and Moby explore a question and provide the answers in a simple approach. They do not share extra information, just the bare bones. Important vocabulary or information is provided in writing as it is discussed. The written word along with the explanation reinforces note taking strategies for young students.

Besides the large library, Brainpop checks on viewer comprehension with a 10 question quiz. The quiz may be taken on paper (and turned in to a teacher), graded immediately on the internet, or reviewed (leading viewers to the correct answer before moving on). Brainpop experienced wonderful feedback that it began a kindergarten to third grade counterpart and a Spanish counterpart. What a wonderful extension for students struggling with the language and curriculum.

I feel that Brainpop is a wonderful pre-teaching and review tool for all students. I’m thrilled that New Canaan Library has added it to their expanding list of resources.

Stop by New Canaan Library and check out the new technology resources. Kudos!

All students learn new vocabulary in almost every class. The traditional method for learning and practicing new vocabulary is flash cards. I recall learning my addition and subtraction facts with flash cards. Sitting around the dining room table, my parents would quiz me with flash cards. The facts I knew were retired to one pile, while we actively practiced the facts. Those are fond memories now, but I also recall being frustrated with the tedious repetition.

As a young adult working as a nanny, I used flash cards similarly. The young children I worked with needed practice reviewing their math facts, so we purchased a set of already made flash cards. Recommendations and games were included in this set. These games provided alternative application of the knowledge and fun. We had fun while learning our facts. It was not quite a chore.  Flashcards remain a wonderful learning tool.

Since my return to college, I also returned to flash cards. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to stop by Staples and buy packs of index cards, nor do I have the time to handwrite the terms and definitions. One night I was reading a blog by Larry Ferlazzo. (Larry teaches ESL in California and incorporates technology into his classroom whenever he can)  He mentioned Quizlet for students learning vocabulary. Immediately I jumped to quizlet and explored the site. I found it easy to use and fun. I began creating my own sets.

I created the chart below with the pros and cons of traditional flashcards and quizlet.

Traditional Flashcards

Online Quizlet

·        Purchase index cards

·        Cost money

·        Handwrite terms and definitions

·        Use rubber band to keep them together

·        Keep in backpack (risk losing, forgetting, or ruining individual cards or whole pack)

·        Mobile

·        Personalize with pictures

·        Premade flash cards cost ~$6.00

·        Create user

·        Free

·        Practice keyboarding (which is often faster than handwriting)

·        Always legible

·        Always available on the web

·        Never have to look for your old flashcards

·        Create groups of peers

·        Share with friends (split the list and save time)

·        Can locate similar list and modify as needed (useful for SAT vocabulary or foreign language)

·        Has review games

·        Test your knowledge

·        Immediate feedback

·        Data collected (which words do you need to study)

·        Print or export list

·        Requires computer and internet



My favorite feature as a teacher and student is the data collection. In one quick click, I see my most challenging words. I extract those words and create another set, giving me opportunities to focus on those words. It allows me to monitor my knowledge.

Another feature I appreciate is the test. Test formats include written, multiple choice, matching and true or false. I can specify the test to include both terms and definitions or just one. Immediately after I finish the test, I know my results and the correct answers.  Beware: quizlet will mark answers incorrect if the spelling is wrong.

I shared this site with some students I work with as well as a few teachers. Both groups appreciated the ease and availability of this site. Take a moment and explore the site for yourself. If you have any questions regarding the site, please post them in my Q & A section.

AT and the SETT Framework

In my last post, I explained AT and how it applies to many in different settings. This past week a colleague inquired about an AT video in an AT list serve I participate in. I have not seen this video before, but I think it fits well with my previous post. So, I am adding it here.

If you read my “about me” you know that I handle AT for a school district in Connecticut. Some of my responsibilities include training on AT software and devices, assisting the team in the selection process, and implementing AT in the school setting. I work with special educators, general educators, related service personnel, the district ICT staff and families. Through cooperation and collaboration, we help students with disabilities achieve academic success. This post will focus on how it applies to education.

In my earlier post the AT examples I shared involved mobility, communication, visual and hearing impairments. In the school setting, I spend most of my day assisting students with learning disabilities. These students struggle with handwriting, processing, and organization. Tasks like note taking, comprehension, written expression, and locating papers are a few of their daily challenges. To help them, I explore note taking templates, screen readers, digital planners and graphic organizers to name a few strategies. I am faced daily with the expectation that AT will solve all problems. It is difficult to explain that AT is a process. What may be a solution on paper may not be a solution in the classroom, or home environment.  

Joy Zabala , a leader in AT, presented the SETT Framework in 1995 during an AT conference. I have found the SETT Framework to be useful in selecting AT and planning implementation.

= the student. What are their challenges? What are their strengths? In which areas do they feel they struggle? 

E = all environments. This includes the home, school and community. Is there easy access to computers and software? What technology is currently available at home? Are their mobility concerns? What is the teaching style?

T = the tasks. How frequently does the student need to write essays? Does the teacher handout single sheets of homework or packets of pages? How long do teachers anticipate students spend on nightly homework? How long does the particular student spend?

T = the technology tools or strategies. Aligning the tool with the task in the right environment for the student leads to greater success.

As I meet with students, parents, and educators, I stress the importance of the SETT Framework. Most people want to ‘toss’ every technology at the student and sit back waiting for results. Unfortunately, when technology is ‘tossed’ at the student without careful planning with the framework, technology and ultimately the student has very little chance of success. This only leads to more frustration by all. Successful implementation of technology happens with careful evaluating and planning.

 Assistive Technology Boogie. (n.d.). Retrieved from Inclusive Technologies: http://www.inclusive.com/AT_boogie/at30.swf

AT…What is it?

Many people are confused by the term Assistive Technology (AT). What is it? Who uses it? How is it different from technology? The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 defines Assistive Technology as: “(‘Assistive Technology’ device) means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability. “  This definition provides some guidance as to what AT is. But is still a bit foggy for the nondisabled.

Let me bring AT into your world. It is available in many different settings; the classroom, home, community, and restaurant to name a few. Take a moment and think of a relative who wears glasses or contacts. Those corrective lenses are a form of AT. It is very common and most of us don’t think of glasses as technology, but created many centuries ago to help people who had difficulty seeing. Now think briefly about the local sidewalks. At most corners, curb cutouts are available. These curb cutouts are a form of AT designed to help people with mobility problems. As individuals in wheelchairs gained access to city center streets, city planners recognized how curb cutouts could assist everyone. Parents love the curb cuts when pushing their youngsters in strollers and children love peddling their bike or riding their scooters with the curb cutouts. Individuals in wheelchairs love the freedom and independence they experience strolling neighborhood streets.  Thanks to international flights many people travel and experience different cultures. Because most travelers speak their native language or a few phrases in another language, restaurant owners adapted their menu with pictures to lure tourists inside their restaurant. Even in Chinatown, NYC, Chinese restaurants provide picture menus to help non-Chinese speakers select a meal. These picture menus are another form of AT designed to increase communication abilities. Because of individuals with hearing impairments, we follow newscasters or television programs in crowded noisy sport bars and fitness centers. Closed captioning benefits other settings than just the hearing-impaired community. AT touches all of us.

Most of us utilize and accept AT without another thought. It is there. Someone was thoughtful or kind and developed it. It makes that task easier, whether it is catching up on the latest “House” episode while we exercise or push a stroller around town. For the individual with a disability, AT does more than make a task easier. It permits them to participate in settings than were once unable to participate. It helps them attain personal goals that once seemed unattainable. It gives them a voice to communicate with family and friends. It levels the ‘playing field’ in classrooms giving them an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge. It provides them with independence.

As I continue with my blog entries, I will share some AT tools and strategies. Just as the examples above support both people with abilities and disabilities, I will provide some general technology strategies as well.

IDEA Title 1/A/602: http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cstatute%2CI%2CA%2C602%2C1%2C 

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog. I’m excited you stopped by. Although this first blog is limited, please stop back again. I have many wonderful technology tools and tips to share with you. Stop back soon.