Jan
14

Books, yes, real books!

Books, yes, real books!

If anyone has viewed my blogs, you know that my subject matter is family, primarily my grandchildren. Oh, sure I mix relevant content to school and the like, but I have shared a lot on the subject of reading.

My very first blog was “Mimi, would you read me this book?”. That was in April 2018 and it has been almost three years ago since my grandchildren sat on Mimi’s lap as she read to them.

Fast forward and over the past three years my school-age grandchildren have been reading to Mimi. The three oldest grandchildren, Dean, Logan, and Kenzie have found reading to be a window of information, anticipation, and excitement.

Interestingly, all three have access to technology provided by their school and what is available at home. All three however have found that their mode of choice is books, yes, real books! The ones that you hold in your hands.

Technology is amazing when you think that you can have hundreds, if not thousands of books available almost instantaneously. eBooks are readily available at your fingertips, just waiting to be pulled up.

We can change an eBook font, text size, background. We can highlight, bookmark, take notes, and even have it read aloud to us. Can a real book do all that? Or do we want it to?

This blog was inspired by a Facebook post I saw recently. It was an image. The more I looked at it, the more I thought about my grandkids and their choice for a book, yes, a real book!

The book has descriptions of no glare, no batteries, no pop up adds, no dog ear, smells good and probably won't get stolen at the beach.

 There are arguments for and against either mode, but in the end, it is a personal choice or preference, call it what you like.

It fills Mimi and me with delight and satisfaction (particularly Mimi) that the simple “Mimi, would you read me this book?” would open a world of information, anticipation, and excitement for three inspired grandchildren.

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Jan
07

Insult and Injury: Toxic Positivity in Schools

Insult and Injury: Toxic Positivity in Schools blue background of smiley emojis with an occasional sad or mad emoji face, black text highlighted in yellow "Insult and Injury: Toxic Positivity in Schools"

Many years ago I sat in a terrible staff meeting. Positions in our school were being removed, a colleague’s illness had taken a turn for the worse, and one of our dear students had lost her father. Everyone was feeling heartbroken and frustrated.

“We just need to put a happy face on it!” the administrator chirped and moved on to bus duty schedule announcements. There was a clear expectation that we weren’t supposed to discuss what was going on and we all needed to “leave the negative at the door for the children.” That was not good advice or developmentally appropriate.

Toxic positivity, that message to “bring good vibes only” has serious negative consequences, both psychologically and on the outcomes in the workplace and classrooms:

  1. Denying or minimizing experiences and feelings leads to mistrust and shame, see Brene Brown’s “Listening to Shame” TED Talk and the lethal effects of shame that are very applicable to a classroom
  2. Suppressing emotions has negative consequences for mental health
  3. Not acknowledging negative emotions prevents you and others from learning from these painful feelings and experiences
  4. It undermines the UDL framework we need to ensure learners (and expert learners) voices are heard

The message to “focus on the positive” and “it could be worse” was silencing our ability to grieve, process, and be empathetic towards each other.

So what do we do instead? Some points that have carried me through tough feelings and interactions:

  1. It’s okay to not feel okay. These “bad feelings” are not inherently “bad,” they are morally neutral and part of the human experience. Feeling this way doesn’t make you a bad educator, family member, or leader.
  2. Listen to other’s emotions and experiences. It’s okay for others to feel sad, angry, or upset when you are not. Unless asked for, it’s probably not a time to offer unsolicited advice and don’t attempt to police their tone.
  3. Set your boundaries and respect the boundaries of others. “I want to vent. Are you in a place to hear me right now?” with your trusted go-to person might be a good way to start. Recognize when others are producing toxic positivity and set boundaries with them.
  4. Seek support. All these hard and big feelings (whether you are feeling them or others are feeling them) can be difficult to manage. Mental health services like Be Well Indiana or your employer’s Employee Assistance Program often have free or reduced-fee services. They can support you and help you find ways to listen and empathize more effectively, find motivation, set boundaries, and return to a happier and healthier state.

As we start a new year, which may be the hardest year some of us have ever lived: all vibes are welcome. PATINS’s support and kindness are here when you need it when providing healthy, sustainable, and respectful access and engagement for all students.

More resources:

Article: Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes (and their handy Examples of Non-Toxic and Accepting Statements)

PATINS Blog: Feeling the Burnout

Article: Should You Hide Your Negative Emotions From Children? 

Indiana Resource: Be Well Indiana for mental health resources, crisis hotlines (both for voice and via text), and assistance

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Recent Comments
Guest — Bev Sharritt
"vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change." Brene Brown. Thanks Jessica for this timely blog. Sitting ... Read More
Thursday, 07 January 2021 12:05
Guest — Glenda Thompson
Kindness is the first step to healing and moving forward with 2021. Thank you, Jessica, for this blog as a friendly reminder. So... Read More
Tuesday, 12 January 2021 11:53
  2 Comments
Dec
31

Bump in the Road

20212021

Hello! It's here again, then end of another year. New Year's Eve. But not just any year. This was the year of 'rona (a.k.a. COVID-19). Good-bye 2020. You were a HUGE bump in the road and we are still feeling the jolt. Many changes and so much loss (loved ones, instructional time, face to face time, family time…normalcy). The year has been difficult in many ways for students, parents, families, teachers, frontline healthcare workers and more. Everyone has been affected in one way or another but we continue on. Two days ago marked the three year anniversary of my son's death. This remembrance hit me harder than past years. However, we must focus on what we can control and how we can support our students. They are counting on us to lead, teach and support them.

Talking with my family has helped. Who can you talk to?


We have all experienced "bumps in the road" this year. What follows certainly caps off my 2020 year. Yesterday, as I was delivering a cup of perfectly brewed and sweetened coffee to my wife, I misjudged (subconsciously) with my eyes the proximity of my dog's bedside steps. Thankfully (NOT), my second toe located it for me. OUCH! CRACK! It was one of those "It hurts so bad, you have to laugh to keep from crying." No curse words. I tried to walk it off.  The pain finally subsided but later the reality set in. Oh no, I didn't run yesterday and now I won't be able to run tonight. What about my over year long streak of Sunday long runs? Runners don't often listen to their own bodies, the advice of doctors or even Dr. Google. 

This "bump" will alter my next few weeks (Rose colored glasses view. Reality might be, ugh, "several" weeks. Sad face). The bumps and losses from the virus have been worse for some but have affected us all. These have been months long changes that will now carry over into a year of changes. Masks, virtual learning, no handshakes, no fist bumps, no hugs. I only provided TWO onsite school visits since March. I am a people person. I miss working directly with people. We have adapted and I believe it will get better. Here's a related blogpost from Jeff Bond, PATINS ICAM,  "I just don’t like this isolation stuff."


I have some close colleagues with whom I connect
. Can you be that someone for a colleague?


Our routines were dramatically altered this year and we adopted the "new normal." We had to adapt in order to continue serving our students, families and stakeholders. Virtual learning. Drive through pick ups at school. Equipment porch drop-offs. No more face to face meetings. Virtual continuing education conferences. Increased phone calls, emails and tons of VIDEO CONFERENCING! I worked to improve my webinars, presentations and materials to better support educators' service delivery methods. I attended numerous professional development opportunities, watched lots of videos, read and listened. Are you teaching the same way you also have and using the same materials you always have? We are all busy but we all must adapt and improve. Amanda Crecelius, PATINS Specialist says it well here:  "Our DIY School Year."


I continue to run (for me), read (for pleasure and learning), listen to new podcasts (for pleasure and learning), try new AAC solutions and just began learning how to 3D print (That has been a learning curve like no other). 
What things are you doing to nourish your mind and body and to make you a better teacher?

Most recent books (usually Libby App (FREE Library books) OR paper copies from Barnes and Noble - I support Brick and Mortar as much as possible): All We Ever WantedThe Nightengale, and Atomic Habits

Most recent podcasts: Ten Junk Miles (running - edgy), Talking with Tech, and Hidden Brain

New and/or FREE AAC/AT Solutions: Flexible Mounts (video), Accessible Switch Activities, Tar Heel Reader, Shared Reader, Gameplay


We have made it this far, let's see it through! Come on 2021!!! I have mentioned before that I run marathons. I'm still stuck at 42 states completed. The New Orleans marathon in February was my only 2020 marathon, all others were cancelled. Ugh. I'll get there. We will get there. It will get better. The PATINS Project and ICAM are here to help. We can provide FREE trainings tailored to the needs of your team, school or district. All you have to do is ask!


Check out our Training Calendar for upcoming FREE trainings!


Borrow something from our Lending Library for 6 weeks with FREE shipping both ways!


Register
for the PATINS Winter Edcamp 2021 on February 9!

EdCamp Winter 2021EdCamp Winter 2021 PATINS Staff Bitmojis participating in various winter activities on Ski Slope

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Dec
23

The One Gift All Educators Need This Year

The one gift all educators need this year. The one gift all educators need this year.

At the end of October, I start to see gift guides for anyone and everyone in our lives such as “The Ultimutt Holiday Gift Guide” or “Your Dad Doesn’t Need Another Tie - 20 Unique Ideas.” While I love exchanging thoughtful gifts with family and friends, there is one gift I am valuing more each year - time. Specifically, time to engage in hobbies, time to learn a new skill, time to learn a language, and even time to be bored once in a while. 

As educators, we know time is a critical resource. It is always at the top of my speech-language pathologist (SLP) wish list. Alas, we cannot wrap up time and top it with a bow to give to colleagues, but we can gain more of it. This year, more than others, time has been at a premium encouraging me to find creative ways to get everything done. I’ve compiled five reflection questions which have proven helpful to me in gathering up more time. I hope you find these helpful too. 

  • Am I inventing things to do? I heard this on a podcast and it stopped me in my tracks. (I wish I could remember which one to give credit!) As educators, we may think “Of course, everything I am doing directly benefits my students.” While I have no doubt we all have the best intention of doing right by our students, there may be a more efficient way to approach certain tasks. For example, as a SLP, did I really need to laminate every speech therapy material? Absolutely not! I could create or find digital materials, print one time use visuals, or use a page protector. I saved hours each week by freeing myself from the unreliable laminating machine and directed this new found time into analyzing data for better educational reports as well as leading to a better work life balance. A major win for me and for my students!
  • Can I “outsource” part of my work? The students on my caseload very much preferred receiving a pass from the office rather than having me picking them up from their classroom. Nothing hurts your “cool” factor more than a random lady breaking up gym time with your buddies. This left me creating hundreds of paper passes each year until I outsourced this work. In lieu of a study hall, some students were “pass runners” for the office staff during a class period. These helpful students were more than happy to cut the passes for me and one of them even offered to laminate a bunch for me so I could reuse them, saving me even more time!
  • What can I automate? Automation is huge in the business world right now. It is one of the main reasons Amazon can get items to your doorstep in two days. Educators can reap the benefits of automation right now with technology readily available on your devices. Do you need to send reminder emails for IEP meetings? Do you need to collect data and send daily/weekly communications to parents? Do you need to speed up the calculation process for progress reports? Automate it all! If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to PATINS Specialists for ideas on how to optimize your work day.
  • How often do I need to check my email/phone? Did you know it is estimated that every time we stop a task to check our email or phone, it can take us roughly 25 minutes to refocus on the task? (View the study “No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work.”) That’s why a seemingly simple task can end up taking us three times longer than originally planned. Also consider this scenario, if you check your work email from bed, on your way out the door, or in the car and then decide you need to be at work to focus on answering it, you are devoting twice as much time to the email reply. To combat these pernicious time wasting habits, dedicate a few times a day when you check your email and voicemail. It’s important this is not the first thing you check though. You want to get your most important tasks on your to do list completed at the beginning of the work day. This new habit has been a game changer for me!
  • How many things can I actually get done in a day? Two. I have averaged it out, and I can get two major tasks done in one day. If I try to do 3 or more tasks, usually I am working overtime or it’s not done well. This realization has been both shocking and empowering. Shocking since I originally estimated I could get five to ten tasks done each day. Two sounds like a low number yet, think about if you completed an entire language evaluation, reported all grades, or developed lessons for the entire week or month in one sitting. Those all require major time commitments and are often completed in smaller chunks throughout time. This information was also empowering because the knowledge of this causes me to be “choosier” about the tasks I agree to and reminds me to reflect again on question one above. Plus, when I happen to get more than two things done, I feel super accomplished!

I believe it goes without saying that the demands placed on educators this year has stretched our time thin. However, we are the only ones who can give ourselves more time. I hope the reflection questions posed help you gather up chunks of time by eliminating, “outsourcing”, and automating tasks to do what you do best - teach Indiana students!

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you might approach your work after reflecting on the five questions above. Is there anything you plan to do differently? Are there any other ways you give yourself the gift of time that I did not mention?

Suggested time management focused reading:

40 Hour Teacher Workweek by Angela Watson

Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam


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Recent Comments
Guest — Laurel Blough
Jennifer, you said it! Thank you for this en-pointe post about the greatest professional gift we can give ourselves.
Wednesday, 23 December 2020 20:19
Guest — Jen Conti
Thank you Laurel! I hope you're able to "gift" yourself some time for the second half of this school year. ... Read More
Monday, 28 December 2020 15:02
  2 Comments
Dec
17

Our DIY School Year

After much of my adult life as a happy nomadic creature, my husband and I decided to put down roots and purchase our first home. We found our nest tucked in our favorite neighborhood and near some of our favorite people. It had just a few “fun” DIY projects. Once we started the DIY process I discovered that it really stands for Discovering an Infinity of Yikes, rather than Do It Yourself. We dove into project after project with high hopes that our inspiration could overpower our inexperience. We wanted to do each project correctly from the start, knowing that a good investment now would help create a home we could truly love. Despite the ups and downs, we came through with a beautiful home filled with love AND with sore muscles, paint splotches, tears of frustration, and lots of other things that we shoved into closets.

Our home, a view from the front yard of a red brick house.

I see a lot of parallels between my family’s DIY home projects and the “Discovering an Infinity of Yikes” school year. Just as a strip of duct tape here and glue there can be quick patches, this school year has seen a number of temporary fixes. But, I believe that if we take the time to make repairs correctly from the start, we can reshape our educational system into one that we all love.

The Right Tools

This school year, we awkwardly slipped back into remote learning with packets and phone calls. The struggle was similar to turning a rusty screw with a butter knife. Yes it might eventually work; but, the extra time and effort, combined with the possibility it might not work should be enough to start the search for a better tool. In my family’s case, an electric screwdriver made seemingly impossible tasks more manageable. It was just one example of our learning process, as we moved through various never-before-needed gadgets and equipped a toolbox with enough to be the envy of any contractor. 

Just as my family struggled, through tears of frustration and sore mental muscles many teachers and schools have started utilizing support tools (like Schoology, Google Classroom, Canvas, and Seesaw) to enable centralized communication for students and parents. The hard work early on of teaching students (including Kindergarteners) to login and find assignments built independence and a foundation for success when students later moved to remote learning. Through evaluation and reflection, schools using synchronous learning moved from full-class zoom calls to focused, short, small-group sessions with specific goals like collaboration and interaction. Schools also created a balance between asynchronous and synchronous learning, adding even more tools (like Epic, Starfall, Khan Academy, ABC Mouse, BrainPop, Kids Academy, TED, Mendeley) to help balance teacher workload and student engagement in other ways. Another example of added tools were: a variety of Chrome extensions and apps for students are used to practice, learn, and respond in a variety of ways supporting a more universally designed classroom. This has included the increased acceptance of accessible materials and assistive technology, breaking emotional and educational barriers for many students. 

Tips, Tricks, and Expert Advice

When we first opened the door to our adventure in home remodeling, we had many inspiring dreams of what could be; but, the reality of our inexperience prevented us from taking the first steps. So, we called in the experts. We had many professionals give us recommendations on types of paint, low-cost options for tile, and how best to arrange our kitchen. Without this advice, we would have spent countless hours struggling to do these projects. With this support to boost our confidence, we googled how-tos for smaller issues and watched YouTube for our mini projects. 

For teachers, this year has been Professional Development after Professional Development (PD). Consults, webinars, and YouTube tutorials have been equally accessed. Teachers have been in a state of emergency, training and (in some instances) being forced toward technology integration. 

Some popular tips from PDs that I have noticed include: creating a Bitmoji classroom to build a fun space to communicate with students, using Flipgrid to create videos for and by students, and using interactive slide tools like Pear Deck

Inexperience with technology is a barrier that continues to be a stopping point for some teachers trying to reach their students. At PATINS, we have seen an increase of teachers and administrators requesting personalized/individualized training or one-on-one sessions (provided by the PATINS/ICAM team) to create universally designed online classrooms for ALL students. 

The Risk

For many of my family’s projects, one of the biggest barriers was fear. Fear of the first step, fear of messing it up, fear of the cost, and fear it would take too much time or turn into something we hated. One of my biggest fears was to use power tools, especially the table saw. It is big, scary, dangerous, and once you have cut something, it is final. However, at one point in a project, we needed a small piece of wood to be cut before we could move forward. Waiting for a contractor would have increased our wait from one week to up to three months! I stayed up all night convincing myself that I could use this saw. I finally got up, put my safety goggles on, and picked up the table saw. I practiced on a couple of scrap pieces, took measurements, and marked where to cut. I blasted through it with no fear. Did I do it perfectly? No. But, we were able to move forward quickly after that point, and I now can start building my table saw skills. Before this school year, many teachers dabbled in technology integration in the classroom, but some avoided it at all costs. 

Today, many still struggle with the same barrier: fear. One of my AEMing for Achievement Grant  team members, Melissa Harrison, has an inspirational quote in her office: “You never learn anything by doing it right.” In many of life’s fearful experiences this rings true, such as bike riding, public speaking, going on a date, or starting a new career. The level of risk is high, but necessary for success. 

As for our DIY school year, we have all been risk takers and continue to learn new methods and use new tools. The results are not perfect, but the more steps educators have taken toward a seemingly scary new form of teaching and learning, the more enriching experiences have resulted for both students, parents, and teachers.  We are forming bridges and exploring methods that have not been utilized before, and as a result, we are seeing a bright path toward an educational system that we can all love.

Melissa Harrison, smiling and holding a sign that says, “You never learn anything by doing it right.”

Like any new homeowners, our new place will probably be under construction for the rest of our lives, but the process of creating and recreating a space that we enjoy and cherish is invaluable. Similarly, teachers, parents, and students continue to grow as our schools are reimagining what education could be. We still have a long journey ahead, but a universally designed educational system is in our sights. Just like any home remodel, it was not easy and there are still are many unfinished jobs, surprise repairs, and exhausted workers. But we can continue to build our toolbox, seek expert advice, and be brave enough to take risks with that we can continue to build a place we truly love. 

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Dec
10

The State of PATINS 2020

Staff Portrait Collage of the PATINS Project Staff

It's been quite a year for me, and very likely for all of us, for a variety of reasons. A common theme however, for all of us Indiana educators, is almost certainly the transition to, from, and back to again, remote instruction and learning due to the COVID19 pandemic! 

As 2021 draws near, with a mere 21 days left in 2020, I recently carved out a some time to reflect on a few major aspects of my life. One of which, is my 2020 knee injury and a second is the PATINS Project itself, which has been the greatest consumer of my time and my passion for the last fourteen and half years! It's become apparent to me, during my reflecting, that Indiana is quite fortunate to have PATINS and during this unprecented time for us, the PATINS team has shown it's colors in ways that shouldn't go without notice. 

142 days into 2020, I fully dislocated my right knee, tearing all four of the ligaments and meniscus.That means, for the last 233 days, I've had to figure out new ways of doing things that used to be simple. I’ve had to work hard on getting repaired, facilitating healing, re-building strength, seeking flexibility, and re-gaining my balance. ...a strong analogy for public eduction during the pandemic, as well! 

3 Image collage of Daniel riding dirtbike
I'm proud to say that last weekend, I finally threw a leg over a dirtbike again for the first time in 233 days. During those first few minutes, riding through my first easy trail, I realized that it's been the support from my "team" that was integral to that moment of accomplishment. My wife for the daily balance between push, protect, and comfort. My kids for helping with things I just couldn't do. My family and my riding buddies for the constant check-ins, pushing me to work out and go to Physical Therapy PT (pain and torture), including me in their riding videos even when I couldn't be there. The list goes on and on... the common theme is, TEAM...Support...Perseverance. The result is success. The feeling is hope and energy


I'm even more proud to say that during the past 274 days of the COVID19 pandemic, the PATINS team has rallied in ways that have not only provided continuous support to Indiana's public schools educators, but also serves as a model for what a team can look like and confirmation that this particular team can and will re-tool, adjust, accommodate, and leave no stone unturned when it comes to supporting our Indiana educators! 

New Ways of Doing Things:
Two PATINS staff, Specialist Lisa Benfield and Assistant Director/Specialist David Jackson celebrated their first anniversary with us during the pandemic! Specialist Amanda Crecelius also celebrates her first six months with us! These new PATINS additions have not only spent their first year learning a new job, but helping to figure out ways to do their new job in entirely new ways! My hat is off to you three! Visit their pages on the PATINS website, reach out to them, and embrace the knowledge and skill they bring to their new-ish positions on this team! 


For over 20 years, PATINS has held two annual statewide events; our November Access To Education conference and our April Tech Expo. In 2020, both events were forced to either be cancelled or held virtually for the first time ever. We chose the latter. I'm proud to say that this team, lead by our Event Manager Jennifer Conti, (2 yrs w/PATINS) didn't hesitate to jump into planning and implementation to effectively host two of our most successful events ever! Tech Expo 2020 doubled our usual in-person registration numbers and Access To Education 2020 had participants telling us it was the best one they'd ever attended! A handful of attendee comments from those two events: 

"All presenters were great.  Virtual learning recharged my momentum for teaching". - Lena Cummins, Special Education Administrator, Charter School of the Dunes

"I am extremely impressed as to how you pull this event off virtually, I got a lot of information from the presentations as well as the virtual exposition hall, I visited quite a few of the websites that were presented there and I got valuable information!"  - Sandra Durham, Occupational Therapist, Indiana State University

"I really felt that the quality of presenters and topics this year was great! I came away from this renewed and ready to continue serving my students no matter what environment they may be in." - Kelsey Norris, Special Educator, Perry Township Schools

"Lance McLemore provided inspiration and a reminder of why I got into the special education field. He was amazing!  I found that Apps & Extensions and Alternative Pencils gave lots of great ideas, many of which I could use right away. I appreciate that many of the ideas were free!" - Mandy Narcaroti, BLV Teacher, Cooperative School Services

"I truly gained from all of the session, they all offered things I can use today. Thanks so much." - Kimberly Gauck, Special Educator Greensburg Community Schools

"Supporting Families through Integrated Supports, Low Vision and Blindness Supports for the Classroom, and What's New and What to do with Saltillo. I believe all three of these to be equally valuable to me in my educational setting". - Melissa VanLue, Special Educator, Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

"The information presented by Dr. Grillo on assistive technology and incorporating AT in the IEP was very beneficial to me.  This is information I did not previously know, and I'm looking forward to having access to the booklet with all the AT that can be used with state testing."  -  Kristin Girton, Cooperative School Services

"Technology was so smooth today!! THANK you for the captioning! I am totally impressed with how you all were able to transform this conference to 100% virtual!"  - Laura Knoke, NEISEC, Teacher of Students who are Blind/Low Vision

Repair & Heal:
As with my old knee, sometimes things within PATINS break and we have to find ways to fix or make them whole again. During the period right before the pandemic, we lost two valuable staff members and were forced to work with a new fiscal agency. While the timing of these things made for some difficult months, current staff Jennifer Conti and Felisia O'Bold (2 yrs w/PATINS) stepped up to take on additional roles boldly, and new staff Amanda Crecelius worked creatively and tireless to quickly repair any start of hole in the bottom of the boat! We also realized quickly that all of our friends out there in the schools were also scrambling to repair their ships! This PATINS team immediately pulled together to produce a listing of resources specific to Continuous Learning to do COVID19 here, regular Open Virtual Office Hours, and the PATINS team Commitment to Anti-Racism here.

Building Strength and Being Flexible:
One might consider it enough to be able to say that your team has worked hard to maintain the levels of pre-pandemic, but it's actually really easy for me to say that this PATINS team has built even more strength through offerings and services than ever before the pandemic! Consider our YouTube playlist of NINE Access to Education 2020 training videos by PATINS Specialists, Kelli Suding (8 yrs w/PATINS), Lisa Benfield, Jena Fahlbush (5 yrs w/PATINS), Bev Sharritt (4 yrs w/PATINS), David Jackson, Katie Taylor (2 yrs w/PATINS), Amanda Crecelius, Jessica Conrad (4 yrs w/PATINS), and the ICAM Team of Sandy Stabenfeldt (19 yrs w/PATINS), Jeff Bond (22 yrs w/PATINS), and Martha Hammond (10 yrs w/PATINS)! ...check out all NINE great training video titles PLUS the first-ever virtual Assistive Technology Exporatorium recording


...and by the numbers, this school year so far, PATINS has:

-responded to 1,145 requests for technical assistance from Indiana educators. 

-supplied nearly 1000 braille, large print and tactile graphics to over 100 school corporations, thanks to our amazing IERC staff!

-
supplied 1,507 accessible versions of textbooks, thanks to the ICAM Staff!

-attended nearly 500 meetings and conducted over 150 meetings.


-provided services to 98% of the Special Education Cooperatives in the state.


-provided services to 68% of the School Corporations in the state.


-worked with 485 unique School Buildings in the state. 

-provided a Virtual EdCamp and Make It At Home Training for 120 educators.

-fulfilled 38 unique requests for 80 individual devices for PATINS Refurbished Technology

-loaned out 504 pieces of assistive technology from our Lending Library! Yes, you read that right! Even with school buildings being closed down intermittently, our Lending Library Managers, Sheri Schoenbeck (19 yrs w/PATINS) and Carrie Owens (14 yrs w/PATINS) have been ultra-creative and diligent and we are still shipping items to schools AND paying for them to be shipped back to us at the end of your 6-week trial! Here are a few comments from recent PATINS Lending Library borrowers: 


"I have no idea what I would have done if not for all the guidance PATINS has provided. Everyone has gone above and beyond to make sure my student has what he needs and is succeeding."

"Thank you for offering your services.  It helps so many of our students in deciding what device works best for them."

"Thank you so much for always having what I think I need for my students. You are much appreciated."

"Thankful for the time and thorough training given for everyone involved with the use of the AAC device"

"Thanks for allowing us to extend the loan of this device!  That was a super easy process!"

"PATINS is a blessing to our students and staff."

"The district is buying LAMP WFL and getting him a separate iPad for it so he will have access 100% of the time."

"We will likely be purchasing a different device but this was an excellent shoe in the door for us.  It let us compare/contrast with some other AAC options." 

"I appreciate your availability and ease of use"

-and... drumroll please... provided 401 individual trainings/professional development (all virtually) for 2,542 educators in Indiana! If you haven't checked out the powerful training offerings by the PATINS Specialists lately, you should! Find them all here on our training calendar and here on our condensed Professional Development Guide!

Seeking Greater Flexibility & Gaining Balance:
Sometimes, even though things are highly positive within our team, these unique circumstances demand that we have grace and patience with each other and respect for everyone's strengths and responsibilities. The members of this team fill-in for each other when unexpected things come up. We virtually high-five one another through our "It Matters to This One" internal recognition system, personal emails, Skype messages and informal Zooms! We have staff like Kelli Suding who sets up a virtual holiday exchange and gathering for us on a Friday over lunch! We aren't afraid to reach out when we are overwhelmed and need flexibility, understanding, or help! We realize that a balance must be maintained between work and re-energization and we respect guidelines for time as much as possible. 


In all things, PATINS is more than work, we are a family and a team. We're a team that looks at anything that arrises, evolves, or that is thrown suddenly in our faces, and we say, "YES, we can do this IF...," rather than, "No, we can't because..."

I'm deeply proud of this team and the service and product we are able to provide. I encourage you to remember that our services are all at no cost to Indiana public schools and that we can and we will, work together with you to find a solution to your unique needs! ...every...single...time. Reach out to us!



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Dec
03

Executive Function and Online Learning

I cannot express how grateful I am that Dr. Lisa Beth Carey is my guest blogger this week. Dr. Carey is the Asst. Director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education (CILSE) at the Kennedy Krieger Institiute. Her knowledge and brilliant approach with the principles of Universal Design for Learning always in the forefront, creates a welcoming and accessible space for fellow educators to be positively impacted in a way that allows them to immediately want to implement resources/strategies that she develops. Dr. Carey is an out of the box thinker with a great twist of humor as well, to which I have the upmost respect. I have learned so much from her and I have no doubt that you will too.

graphic of student sitting by computer

Imagine: It’s early in the morning. You go to your kitchen and go through all of the motions of brewing yourself a cup of coffee. You can do this half-asleep because you’ve done it so many times before.

Now imagine: You wake up and realize the power went out overnight. You’re running late, the coffee maker’s not turning on, and you realize that you need to go find the circuit breaker to restore power to the outlet. This new set of circumstances is out of the ordinary. Nothing about the power being out is rehearsed. This morning, you cannot brew your cup of coffee while half-asleep. In order to complete the task of making your morning coffee, you will need to use a set of cognitive skills called executive function.

Executive function is an umbrella term for the cognitive skills that work together to help us complete a task or goal (Diamond, 2013). The core executive function skills are inhibitory control, working memory and flexible thinking (Baggata & Alexander, 2016; Nigg, 2016).

  • Inhibitory control: Purposefully stopping/pausing when your immediate reaction will not help you accomplish your task.
  • Working memory: Holding information in mind temporarily in order to manipulate it.
  • Flexible thinking: Switching between different concepts and considering multiple perspectives and scenarios.
Executive function skills work interactively to support our ability to perform tasks that are novel or under-practiced. This important set of skills develops from birth through young adulthood, providing ample time to be shaped by the environment (Diamond, 2013). How we design our learning environments to support the development and use of executive function, or over-burden these still-developing skills, has a major impact on student academic achievement.

How Does Student Executive Function Interact With the Learning Environment?

How well we perform any skill is based on how well-matched our skill is to the demands of the context. For example, I’m a very strong swimmer, but put me in a riptide after a long day of swimming, and I’ll struggle, possibly even drown. Executive function is similar to swimming in various conditions. A calm, shallow pool is very different from rough, deep open water.

Likewise, students will do much better in a well-supported learning environment that matches their executive function skill levels, as opposed to in an unsupported learning environment with multiple executive function demands that are mismatched to their skill development. When there is a mismatch between the executive function demands and the skills of the individual, the result is an expression of executive dysfunction (Jacobson & Mahone, 2012).

Behavioral indicators of executive dysfunction (Gioia, Isquith, Guy, & Kenworthy, 2015) include:

  • Impulsivity
  • Distractibility
  • Difficulty with complex task completion
  • Difficulty with transitioning between activities
  • Difficulty shifting patterns of thought


How Does Online Learning Impact Student Executive Function?

An online learning environment is often highly demanding of student executive functions. This is even more true if the device, software, application or website being used is new, or if the student has limited experience using it for learning activities. Many times, we ask students to use an unfamiliar device, software, application or website on top of learning new academic content or skills. This causes many students to struggle to use their executive function skills to engage in tasks meaningfully. They start to exhibit the behavioral indicators of executive dysfunction listed above.

For example, students who are asked to use new software to record a response to a reading comprehension prompt will need to use their executive function skills to navigate the software, while also engaging their executive functions to organize their thinking and respond to the prompt. This combination of executive function demands is very likely to overwhelm a student and lead to difficulty completing the task.

In studies of students using personal devices (tablets, laptops, phones, etc.) for learning activities, teachers and students reported increases in student behaviors that aligned with the behavioral indicators of executive dysfunction (Islam & Gronlund, 2016; Kay, Benzimra & Li, 2017; Lei & Zhao, 2008; Sarıtepeci & Durak, 2017; Tallvid, 2016; Tallvid et al., 2015). Students using personal digital devices were more likely to become easily distracted, had trouble initiating and completing tasks, were engaged with off-task media or were attempting (unsuccessfully) to multitask, and had difficulty problem-solving when technology didn’t work as expected.

If we consider the role environmental demands play in students’ ability to use their executive function skills during learning activities, it’s unsurprising that online learning environments would place greater demand on student executive function skills. There are more chances for distraction, and thus more need to inhibit responses to all types of exciting stimuli (e.g., a chat from a friend or a link to a YouTube video). There are increases in information, and thus a greater demand on working memory. There are more ways in which to navigate a digital device than a notebook, and thus a greater demand on flexible thinking.

This is not to say that we should ditch our tech! Technology offers greater amounts of accessibility, connectiveness and collaboration. And in the age of COVID-19, we really need technology to safely connect at a distance. We just need to make sure that we are mindful of creating online learning environments that are responsive to student neurodevelopment (meaning that we don’t overtax student executive function with too many novel tasks and digital tools) and that provide executive function support as needed.


Tips for Supporting Executive Function During Online Learning

In any learning environment, we should take a two-fold approach to avoiding contributing to student executive dysfunction. We should reduce executive function demands that are extraneous to the content being taught, and we should provide supports, as needed.

As you design your online learning environment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my instructional design/tool/learning management system (LMS) overly demanding on my students’ inhibitory control? (i.e., do they have to focus on stopping/pausing impulses to engage in the task?)
    • What can I do to reduce the demand?
    • What support options can I add?
  • Is my instructional design/tool/LMS overly demanding on my students’ working memory? (i.e., do they have to keep multiple pieces of information in mind as they manipulate the information to complete the task?)
    • What can I do to reduce the demand?
    • What support options can I add?
  • Is my instructional design/tool/LMS overly demanding on my students’ flexible thinking? (i.e., do they have to focus on coming up with multiple ways to approach a task or problem, and do they need to independently troubleshoot their technology?)
    • What can I do to reduce the demand?
    • What support options can I add?
Striking the balance between executive function demands and supports is critical for students to get the most out of their online learning experience. Keep in mind that students are highly variable, and that supports will need to be flexible to meet the needs of your various students. Stay tuned for future posts that include teacher experiences teaching online while considering student executive function!


References:

Baggetta, P., & Alexander, P.A. (2016). Conceptualization and operationalization of executive function. Mind, Brain, and Education, 10(1), 10–33.

Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135–168.

Gioia, G.A., Isquith, P.K., Guy, S.C., & Kenworthy, L. (2015). BRIEF2: Behavior Rating  Inventory of Executive Function (2nd ed.). Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.

Islam, M.S., & Gronlund, A. (2016). An international literature review of 1:1 computing in schools. Journal of Educational Change, 17, 191–222.

Jacobson, L.A., & Mahone, E.M. (2012). Educational implications of executive dysfunction. In S.J. Hunter & E P. Sparrow (Eds.). Executive Function and Dysfunction: Indentification, Assessment and Treatment (ed., pp. 231–246). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Kay, R., Benzimra, D., & Li, J. (2017). Exploring factors that influence technology-based distractions in bring your own device classrooms. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 55(7), 974–995.

Lei, J., & Zhao, Y. (2008). One-to-one computing: What does it bring to schools? Journal of Educational Computer Research, 39(2), 97–122.

Nigg, J.T. (2016). Annual Research Review: On the relations among self‐regulation, self‐control, executive functioning, effortful control, cognitive control, impulsivity, risk‐taking, and inhibition for developmental psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(4), 361–383.

Sarıtepeci, M., & Durak, H. (2016). Examining student perceptions regarding to usage purposes of tablet computers distributed under the scope of in FATIH project in the course processes and by students. Participatory Educational Research, IV, 171–181.

Tallvid, M., Lundin, J.L., Svensson, L., & Lindstrom, B. (2013). Relationship between sanctioned and unsanctioned laptop use in 1:1 classroom. Educational Technology & Society, 18(1), 237–249.

Tallvid, M. (2016). Understanding teachers’ reluctance to the pedagogical use of ICT in the 1:1 classroom. Education and Information Technologies, 21(3), 503–519.

Dr. Carey sitting beside student

Original Blog on Kennedy Krieger Institute

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Guest — Glenda Thompson
Thank you Kelli and Dr. Carey for taking your time to share this information with families navigating remote learning. I am part o... Read More
Saturday, 05 December 2020 08:28
  1 Comment
Nov
30

Thanksgiving

Cream and Brown Autumn leaves Background with the word Thanksgiving in uppercase letters Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving comes every year, I love to hear people reflect about what they are thankful for! Traditionally, as a family we go around the table at Thanksgiving and say something we are thankful for, so I thought perhaps I should mirror this professionally as well. 2020 has been a challenge for so many, but I’ve been reflecting on what good things have happened this past year. Professionally, I have so much to be thankful for. This month marked one year of my time being a PATINS Staff member, I want to share a few things that I am so thankful for!


Resources - Immeasurable resources are being shared daily. I have never seen such an outpouring of resources available online, as I have during the pandemic. I am thrilled to see multiple offerings. Check out the PATINS Training Calendar for more upcoming opportunities or make a request from the Lending Library for additional requests. 


Teamwork - I have been given the opportunity to work with the best team of coworkers! If anyone needs support, there is an entire staff to help stakeholders throughout the state. Check out our PATINS Staff, their specialities, and contact them! Just last week, another specialist and I collaborated to meet the needs of the educator supporting a student with communication, motor, and low vision challenges. It is great to gain the insight of my colleagues when we work together. Being an Occupational Therapist, I am able to bring a unique perspective to the table, but the richness of having another specialist with a background in speech and language pathology, blind/low vision education, deaf and hard of hearing education, or general or special education adds to the depth of the consultation and benefits all those involved.


Relationships - Through webinars, consultations, Twitter Chats, phone calls, and more I have been able to develop relationships with stakeholders across the state. Join us on Twitter every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm EST. My PLN, or Professional Learning Network, grows weekly on Twitter! This year in particular, I have met numerous educators in Zoom meetings. It is wonderful to put a face with the name!


Increased Accessibility - Our students in Indiana have had increased access to the curriculum this year, due in part to the quick action of educators to soak up all available resources, virtual training, and support available during the pandemic. Teachers and Administrators have embraced accessibility needs this year. We have an updated document of Continuous Learning support and YouTube videos available offering guidance on providing specific supports for all learners. 



As I wrap up my first full year at the PATINS Project, I am thankful for the new relationships and strong teamwork which have helped me to both learn and share new resources and increase access to the curriculum for Indiana students. I hope to assist many more educators this year in finding the best iPad accessibility features and ways to integrate them into daily plans, consulting and providing support with behavioral challenges, and increasing the use of Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Material for students in the primary grades. Feel free to contact me at any time! I will look forward to it!


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Guest — David Jackson
Great post!
Tuesday, 01 December 2020 19:26
Guest — Martha
Has it been a year? It's great having you with us, Lisa. We all have much to be thankful for.
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 13:19
  2 Comments
Nov
19

What is YOUR passion?

Sandy as a young girl in her baseball uniform.

Sports have always been a big part of my life. I played girls little league when I was 9 until I turned 13. Back then girls played hardball, just like the boys and we had a great league with many teams in the city. My cousin played with me and one year we even won the city championship. Then I was able to coach and be a manager for a few more years. Another cousin was on the team and we were able to spend lots of time together. 

As an adult, I started playing tennis and it has been such a great blessing. I have met so many wonderful women and made friends that have been there for me through bad days, bad tennis playing, and a health scare. I even ended up on a team with 2 ladies that I had played little league with. 

I have also shared my love of tennis with several family members and my daughter. It is fantastic to be able to play tennis with family, especially in today’s environment. 

Recently, I have taken up Pickleball and I absolutely love it! I have again made many new friends and my family members are playing with me as well. A great part of playing Pickleball is that my husband is able to play, his bad knee wouldn’t allow him to play tennis anymore. I also have an older uncle who shares my love of Pickleball and it is so much fun to play with him. My daughter’s boyfriend has also taken it up and it gives them a sport to play together.

Sports also take up a significant amount of television time. Golf, Tennis, Football, Basketball, and Baseball are usually on at my house. I love the social aspect of rooting for a favorite team. If you carry around a Steelers cup or wear a Yankees shirt you are sure to strike up a conversation. I also enjoy the texting and calling with friends and family when a game is on.

I have so many great memories that include sports. There was the time the Indianapolis Colts fans let me dance with them, but forced me to zip up my jacket to hide my Steelers shirt!

Sandy dancing with Colts fans.

Sandy with Indianapolis Colts fans.

I attended a football game in Dallas where there were just as many Steelers fans as Dallas fans and we won!

Sandy with Dallas Cowboy fans.

I have attended many professional tennis tournaments as well as baseball, football, and basketball games. I have attended my daughter’s sporting events: softball, swimming, and tennis. I have always had sports in my life.

Sandy and her daughter, Courtney.

What is YOUR passion?

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Guest — Rita
Great memories to share! Photos help capture a moment to let us relive again and again.
Thursday, 19 November 2020 11:56
Guest — Glenda Thompson
That competitive drive radiates from you. Ever present in your PATINS/ICAM work as well. That benefits Indiana staff and students... Read More
Thursday, 19 November 2020 12:30
  2 Comments
Nov
13

MackinVia*: Another Path to Literacy

Mackin Logo

*Via: by way of (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

After the long ICAM/Learning Ally partnership was dissolved, many DRMs and educators expressed the same disappointment that PATINS/ICAM felt, and we began the quest for a new solution. By now many Indiana educators know that the ICAM has chosen Mackin, as a source of audiobooks and eBooks for students with documented print disabilities.

Patrons will place a Special Order through the ICAM Web Ordering System for fiction and non-fiction titles, textbooks are not available through Mackin. While Mackin does not provide actual textbooks, it does feature a broad range of content-related titles. The ICAM team has created a training video, Getting Started with Mackin that describes the ICAM ordering process for Mackin titles. Patrons will place a Special Order and the ICAM staff will search for the title.  Patrons can create a free Mackin account so they can log in and search for titles that are available in these formats before they place an order. You can browse by different categories including grade level, interest level, and subject. 

Related content titles can notably enhance a struggling reader’s learning experience. For example, say you are starting a 4th grade Science Unit on our solar system, and you are working from the class textbook. You have a student who is Chafee-qualified to use audiobooks and text to speech. From his IEP we know that this student has an SLD in the area of reading, and as his teacher, you know that he struggles to decode from print. However, this book is not available from the ICAM. If only you could get an accessible textbook! Yesterday! He needs a solution, fast.

You can choose a Mackin title on the Solar System, in an eBook or audiobook platform, at the 4th-grade level, to supplement the textbook. You search available selections and find SOLAR SYSTEM: BY THE NUMBERS by Steve Jenkins. By reading the summary and reviews you determine this to be a near-perfect match for the textbook’s approach. And, it is available as a MackinVIA eBook. Your student can have access for a checkout period or throughout the school year, depending on publisher permissions.

This will help the student in several crucial ways. By 4th grade, sentences are longer and more complex, and multi-syllable words are frequent. Often, students who struggle to decode also experience a working memory deficit; by the time this student has worked through the sound and symbol of each word, recalling the content seems hopeless.

With this Mackin eBook, he will learn the same important vocabulary as his classmates. When he returns to the textbook in class and encounters words like “meteorite” and “asteroid” he will have seen and heard the words before. This will help alleviate his anxiety associated with printed words: They are just words, and he knows them! With the Mackin audio support, highlighting, and note-taking features he will begin to build background knowledge. Then, with teacher support such as guided context cues, repeated reading, and class discussion, his fluency and comprehension will show improvement. Imagine how he will feel, keeping up with the class. This is a powerful confidence builder! 

Next week, November 18-19, is the PATINS/ICAM Access to Education 2020, our annual fall conference. If you are registered, Great! Please stop by the ICAM/IERC Room to learn more about Mackin, and register for an Echo Dot! Registration has formally ended, but if you are just now deciding to attend, please contact Jen Conti at jconti@patinsproject.org. She will set you up, and we hope to “see” you there!

Thanks so much!

 

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Guest — Rita
Thanks for sharing this valuable information!
Thursday, 19 November 2020 20:48
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