Jul
02

If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.

Hi! In my first blog, I suggested that you commit to taking care of you. Staying healthy mentally, physically and emotionally are all important. Today’s message relates to a quote I saw in the background of silly video. “If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.” In the video, the man experiments and has several attempts. It seems like he finds his FLOW at 17 seconds in. How many times have your tried until you “got it?”

Of course, we need to improve in our professional areas, but we also need to challenge ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, AND we need to challenge ourselves to improve and CHANGE how we help/support our students (Ss). It can be easy to get swallowed up in the day to day needs and distractions from home and feel overwhelmed, but we have to work through it as best we can.

We need to challenge ourselves in most areas of our lives if we want to grow, learn, and remain effective. We need to challenge ourselves to do as much as we can to support Ss and families. As the chart below shows, we can fall into neutral (Apathy and Boredom) if we aren’t challenged or don’t work to improve our skills.

Graphic with 8 descriptive words in pie slices. The x-axis is labeled Challenge Level. The range is from Low to High. The y-axis is labeled Skill Level.  The range is from Low to High. Starting from the bottom left corner and following the graphic clockwise Apathy, Worry, Anxiety, Arousal, FLOW, Control, Relaxation, Boredom

I have challenged myself to keep reading (Since November, I’ve completed 44 books): professional books/journals (the Four Disciplines of Execution), informative books (Being Heumman), listen to podcasts (Talking with Tech AAC Podcast, Invisibilia, Radiolab), attend webinars (AAC in the Cloud), and catch a few documentaries (Crip Camp) on Netflix (okay…mostly binge watch lots of Sci-Fi shows). I have watched and attend SO MANY webinars and trainings in the last few months, my brain is overflowing with new and exciting ideas that I have acted on, shared and explored in more detail. The internet can be a deep rabbit hole when clicking on link after link but there is SO MUCH GREAT INFORMATION out there!

I continue to challenge myself physically through running. Running makes me a happier and healthier person. Long runs, hill work, track work…sometimes I push (challenge myself) to an anerobic threshold (e.g., nearly all out effort for 3 ½ minutes), then it’s over. Rest and repeat. Half a mile up a big hill definitely hurts but only for about 4 minutes…this makes me stronger. I am completing most of these workouts safely distanced with my running buddies. Together we get through it. I complete all runs, one step at a time. What’s your challenge that makes you stronger?  Remember, small steps (struggles) will get you through…a distance, a new skill, getting that dang technology to work…

iPhone Screenshot from Garmin.  Elevation chart on top shows 5 hill climbs of approximately 100' gain over 1/2 mile and Time in Heart Rate Zones.  Zone 5  for 8 mins 12 seconds, Zone 4 fir 8 minutes 48 seconds, Zone 3 for 15 minutes 2 seconds, Zone 2 for 14 minutes 57 seconds and Zone 1 for 7 minutes 55 seconds
Change in itself can be stressful. The entire world has been challenged with the changes caused but COVID-19. Students and Teachers went on spring break and then poof! 

Shelter in place

Work from home

Distance learning

Continuous learning 

No-one was truly prepared for this challenge and the change was HUGE. It has been tough for most of us. I am a people person. I like to talk rather than text. I prefer to meet face to face over video. While working from home has definitely reduced my windshield time (commuting), it has caused me to actually spend more time seated at my home workstation. I miss seeing students, teachers and my co-workers! I can only imagine the struggles for students of any age. The challenge for me has been to find the work/home balance AND to connect with people. Support you and keep healthy work boundaries, so you can support your students.

Students across the United States most likely identify all over the various descriptors shown in the graph. This has been a challenging 3+ months for them and according to most data and news accounts, students have not been engaged anywhere near what was expected. They have missed out educationally, socially, and emotionally. Educators and leaders must work together to support Ss. We have to challenge not only ourselves, but our leaders to plan for and support ALL learners but especially Ss in special education and Ss with high needs (medical, behavioral, complex communicators, etc.).

As Educators, we need to get in the FLOW so that we can use our highly developed skills in this highly challenging time. The PATINS Project is here to help you. Here are some things we can do:

  1. Be flexible and willing to try. A lot these changes are challenges for ALL of us!
  2. Continue to improve your video presentation/telepresence. The PATINS project offers trainings and support for Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Check our calendar for offerings or contact a PATINS Specialist.
  3. Check out materials (e.g., equipment, iPads, Apps, books, etc.) from the PATINS Project Lending Library.
  4. Check out GCF Global Learning (It’s FREE)
  5. Literacy ideas – Book Creator, TarHeel Reader, Unite for Literacy, there are MANY more!
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Jun
25

Indiana Educators Focused on Accessibility in 2019-2020

Indiana Educators Focused on Accessibility in 2019-2020. Blog title above a group of people waving.

We often tell our students “you're more than a number”, meaning they have incredible qualities that are difficult to measure in a standardized manner. Creativity and grit are a few of these tricky to quantify metrics. Now, it’s not only Indiana students who have amazing, unmeasurable talents, our educators do too. And one there is one that was particularly evident during the 2019-2020 school year - determination. Specifically, a determination to educate their students whether the learning environment was the classroom or home.

Check out the graphic below showing the support PATINS/ICAM staff have provided this school year. While you’re looking at it, please remember, behind each number is a determined Indiana educator:

A general educator from College Park Elementary in MSD of Pike Township who attended the “Accessibility in Canvas and Beyond” webinar by Jena Fahlbush benefited from having another perspective - “Seeing examples of a screen reader helped me so much. I realized I was unknowingly doing so many things that would make learning more difficult for a student with low vision. After the session, I was able to make fast, easy fixes that will make learning more accessible. I also learned many tips and tricks to help students with hearing impairments or language needs as well.”

A special educator from Binford Elementary School in Monroe County Community School Corporation who can spend her time more efficiently after learning about new, free tools at Jessica Conrad’s “I Love Data 2” training - “I am so excited about Google Data Studio!! I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent trying to pull multiple pieces together into easy-to-read graphs/charts. Game changer!”

A cost-conscious instructional coach at an elementary in Elwood Community School Corporation who attended “DIY Fidgets & Sensory Tools to Enhance Continuous Learning” with Bev Sharritt, Jena Fahlbush, Katie Taylor, Kelli Suding, and Lisa Benfield - “I love these easy, affordable ideas that teachers can easily create at home for student use.”

Note: Indiana public/charter school employees can request any of the above trainings at no-cost.

Graphic showing 2019-2020 PATINS Project services in Indiana. Specifics in text below image.
Graphic: Indiana Educator Reach by the PATINS Project 2019-2020

  • 1,000+ Tech Expo registrants: PATINS/ICAM staff, with the assistance of IN*SOURCE, swiftly pivoted to a new platform due to COVID-19 and successfully held the first ever, virtual Tech Expo 2020! Also, in November we hosted over 400 attendees at our 2-day Access to Education 2019 conference.
  • 6,044 Training participants: The passion Indiana educators have for providing all students access to the curriculum is unmatched as evidenced by the outstanding turnout at our no-cost trainings this school year.
  • 73% Indiana public and charter schools reached: The PATINS Project has served seventy-three percent of Indiana school corporations and forty-two percent of Indiana preschool through grade 12 schools this year. Our small, dedicated staff goes to great lengths to deliver high-quality technical assistance to meet the access needs of all students through Assistive Technology, Accessible Educational Materials, and Universal Design for Learning.
  • 10,600+ Material and assistance requests fulfilled: Need to trial an assistive technology device? Have a question about Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)? Looking for information on the Universal Design for Learning framework? PATINS/ICAM staff are Indiana educators' go-to resource for improving access to the curriculum which leads to increased literacy skills.

Are you an educator behind one of these numbers? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.

Want to be a part of the Indiana educators making education accessible in 2020-2021? Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Apply by July 31, 2020 to be one of the Indiana school corporations in our next AEMing for Achievement grant cohort.
  • Register for the first ever virtual Access to Education 2020! ($100 for 2 days, $50 for a single day)
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Jun
18

Temporarily Abled

Pause your day for a moment and deliberately gather a handful of some things you regularly do every day. Think of some things you do without thinking too much or without putting much effort forth. Making coffee, emptying the mailbox, carrying my own towel to the shower, walking through the front door of the grocery store or doctor's office, carrying an onion from the refrigerator to the cutting board with a knife, are a few such activities that come to my mind. I want you to keep the activities you thought of readily accessible, perhaps, even write, type, or dictate them into a quick note. I'm actually going to ask you to make two lists, so here's a template for you to use, with two columns and some ideas to get started, if helpful.  

visit link for access to 2 column chart for use with this blog
Now, I'm going to make an assumption that many of the readers of this PATINS Ponders blog are educators or other professionals working with learners who struggle with one or more aspects of their daily world. ...some of my most favorite people in the whole world, by the way. I'd like you to now think of why you do this work. Write, type, or dictate the top three reasons you do this work. You've probably stated this many times when people tell you, "I could never do what you do," or "You're a very special kind of person," and then ask you, "What makes you want to do this work?"

Place your second note next to your first note now. Compare them. Do any of the items (activities) from your first list appear, in any way, on your second list (why you do this work)? If they do, you probably already know what I'm going to tell you next! If they do not, stick with me here and let's think about why they should. 

Several years ago, a colleague for whom I have a lot of respect, whispered something to me. She looked around first to make sure no one else was within earshot and still whispered the term to me, "Temporarily Abled." It took me a moment to process her term and while I was processing, she indicated that she was whispering it as to not be offensive to anyone around. At the time I nodded my head as she explained that we're all "Temporarily Abled" in one or more ways, inevitably due to either an accident/injury, disease, or simply due to aging. I've spent significant time thinking about her words since that time and more importantly, why she felt it could be offensive to hear. I do want to say that I understand that disability, for people who have a disability now, is much deeper than using this term or this concept to promote understanding. However, the conclusion I've come to is that there is so much work still to be done for our world to truly be inclusive and there are so many people in our communities who have no idea what that even really means, largely in my opinion, because it hasn't had a personal effect on their life... yet. I do think this matters and I think it has potential for making a difference more quickly, fully and meaningfully including all people in all of our communities, all of the time. 

Moving Image of Daniel riding a dirtbike up steep hill and flipping it over at the top
Seven weeks ago, doing what I love on a steep hill in the woods on my old dirtbike, I completey dislocated my right knee, severing all four ligaments and causing cartilage and meniscus damage. Yes, that's right, the MCL, LCL, PCL, and ACL are all torn! I didn't even know there were so many CL's in my knee! Two required surgeries six weeks apart and 9-12 months of physical therapy certainly have put some things into perspective and strongly reinforced many things I already knew. Several of the people in my personal life whom I consider the smartest, strongest, kindest, and most creative I've ever known, have a disability. From this angle, accessibility and inclusion have been important to me since I was a young boy. However, the inability to walk, carry anything, perform manual labor, sleep normally, etc., these last 7 weeks have reinforced another dimension of my understanding of access and inclusion as well. These personal experiences, while never as meaningful to someone else, are still so important to share. While it may not be your experience (yet), my experiences just might add something to your second list that wasn't there before. 

collage of three images showing three sides of Daniels knee with large surgical incisions and stitches.

Some things I've learned recently and will never forget: 
  1. Automatic or button-operated doors that work are very important. Being non-weight-bearing and havinig to fully utilize crutches, I simply cannot open some doors by myself. While most people are very quick to help, if they are around, I just want to be able to open the door myself! Many places have not had working automatic doors, including the hospital where my surgeon works AND the building my physical therapy is in! 
  2. Knowing where my assistive technology is at all times, that it's close to me, and trusting that other people aren't going to move it, is essential and causes a good bit of anxiety. For me, it's mostly my crutches. I simply cannot move from one place to another without my crutches unless I sit down and scoot. For someone to see my crutches as a tripping hazzard, for example, and move them, is a lot like taking my legs away from me. I compare this to taking away a learners communication device or system for any reason... behavior, battery dead, damaged, etc.  My crutches have become a part of my identity and nearly a part of my body. Moving them or playing with them without talking to me first feels violating. I'm not sure we always keep this in mind when we work with students using assistive technologies. I think that sometimes we feel we're helping by making adjustments or moving things and it might NOT really be a help at all! It might actually change the task entirely. 
  3. High Expectations are essential! Be very critical about ever telling someone that they "can't" or "shouldn't" do something that they want to do! Further, expect that they will do things that they think they cannot! In my case, while I may not be able to carry the onion and knife to the cutting board, I can sure as heck prop myself up and chop it like a pro! ...right along with the peppers, carrots, tofu, and zuchini! I actually love when I'm asked to do things instead of asked what someone can do for me! "Can you come chop this onion." "Can you refill that soap dispenser in the kitchen." I already know that I need many things done for me, but I can totally still do other things and I need to feel needed as well. Let's try to remember this with ALL of our students! 
  4. My "mule pack" is essential to my level of independence. This is a simple and low-tech assistive technology that I greatly rely on. It's a small backpack that I can carry without my hands, that I cram full of as many things as possible allowing me to not have to ask someone else to get them for me. All the things I need daily or that are high on the list of importance, such as my wallet, tools, medical items, snacks, personal care, etc. This allows me to have many of the things I regularly need with me, minimizes repeat trips, and minimizes my reliance on others. 
  5. Steps! There are just some steps that are too high, too steep, or too slippery for me to even consider using.  This means that I have the choice of not accessing that place or sitting down and scooting up or down the stairs...neither allow me to feel dignified or included in that place.
  6. Trust! Whether I like it or not, I simply need help with some things. Our students do too. Having someone you trust immensely is very helpful. Someone you trust to encourage and push you to grow, to assist you minimally enough to preserve your independence and dignity, and to still expect great things from you. This is also exactly what our students need! Thinking about this from the perspective of what I need from my trusted help right now, most certainly provides some guiding mental framework for when I'm the one helping students in the future.  
These are just a small handful of some things that I've realized and/or had solidified for me recently. I'm sure I'll have many more to share. This has truly reinforced the fact that accessibility is so important for everyone, all the time, even if you aren’t one who needs it right NOW. Chances are definitely that you will need something different, something specialized, or just something more accessible at some point in your life, either due to an accident, an injury, a disease, or through aging. The notion that accessibility only matters for a small percentage of “the disabled” is so completely short-sighted and irresponsible to your future self! If, for no other selfless reason, try to keep in mind that the fight for inclusion of all people, high expectations of all people, accessibility to all places for all people is a critical one for more reasons than you might know right now. The loss of or lessing of inclusionary concepts in any amount is a very slippery slope. Work hard, daily, to build a culture of increased expectations and inclusion of all people, never letting that lever tip in the opposite direction. Imagine all the things that are simple for you now that could very quickly and easily be otherwise...what sorts of actions on your part TODAY might better prepare your world for that scenario...what sorts of people would you want surrounding you in that sort of scenario? Speak up when you notice inaccessible entries, public televisions without captions, etc. Learn and become better equipped through the many diverse PATINS Trainings on our Professional Development Guide and our Training Calendar. Trial the many assistive devices available to you, through the PATINS Lending Library!...all at no cost to you, of course! Consider networking and furthing your knowledge-base by attending the FIRST-EVER PATINS Access to Education VIRTUAL Conference this coming November!  



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Guest — Emilee
Thank you for sharing. Being "temporarily abled" is something I have taken for granted all my life. Understanding that I, too, mig... Read More
Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:28
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Jun
12

Don’t Quit: Commit (to taking care of YOU)

Scrabble letter tiles in spell the word commit


It can be difficult to commit to something knowing the hurdles, distractions, and disappointments to others that you may face. It can be especially difficult to choose to take care of yourself. If you are reading this, you are most likely a giver, not a taker and consistently put others’ needs ahead of yours. You are important too and need to nurture your physical, emotional, and mental health.

During a middle school field trip to Purdue University, I decided that I wanted to attend. I didn’t know what field. I was accepted into Freshman engineering. However, no-one in my family had gone to college; I didn’t know how to navigate the path. I had no mentor. I joined the Marine Corps to earn tuition money. I was determined to be a Boilermaker.

While stationed in California, I volunteered at a relay service center for people with hearing impairment. I connected the hearing impaired with the hearing. I answered the TTY and voice called to check on people’s photo orders, prescriptions, and to connect family and friends. I knew what I could do now! I reapplied to Purdue, was accepted into Speech and Hearing. I began in August of 1986.

Starting college at age 22, I was motivated to complete my studies and get on earning a living as quickly as I could. I took a full load most semesters, worked 20-30 hours weekly, and took summer classes. I finished my Bachelors in 3½ years. My M.S. followed 18 months later. Riley Children’s Hospital was in my sights for my Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY). I wanted to learn from a team of professionals. I completed my CFY in 1992 at Riley. I spent the majority of my career (21 years) at a special education cooperative that served three school districts.

From 1995 to 1996, I met daily with a friend for weightlifting, M-F at 5:30 am for a 2-hour workout. I used a simple spiral bound notebook to track every repetition, set and food intake (over 5000 calories daily). Having an accountability partner AND tracking my data kept me on course.

In 1996, I switched my focus to triathlons and running. These communities have been some of the most supportive groups I have been with. They nurtured my physical and mental health. The running club’s icing on the cake (at least for me) was the Sunday morning long run. Back then, it was 5:10am start year round regardless of the weather. I am still a member, 24 years and counting, still do speedwork on Tuesdays, tempo on Thursdays and long runs on Sundays (current Sunday streak is 27 weeks in a row.). We have chosen a more civil start time of 7:00 am. This commitment has kept me motivated during even some of the most difficult times. The Sunday long runs have been my physical and emotional support. You can talk and listen to a lot during 2 hours!

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve experienced numerous setbacks; plantar fasciitis (several times - kept me from marathoning for several years), torn meniscus – 3x in my knees (usually a month of no running after the surgery), a compressed nerve behind my knee that caused foot drop (had to cancel a 50 mile race), back strains, shoulder surgery. Each time, I was determined to come back and usually did AND ran faster. Commit to taking time to rest. We need to rest too.

The running club family helped many of us reach our goal of qualifying to run in the Boston Marathon. I tried for 3+ years to get qualified. I completed Boston in 2004. My biggest running goal was to complete a marathon (yes - 26.2 miles) in all 50 states by my 50th birthday.  Didn't happen...yet.  See above. I have completed 42 with the help and support of many friends. My most recent was the Mardi Gras Marathon in Februrary 2020 (As far as I know, I didn't catch COVID-19).  I'll get there. Preparing for a marathon takes several months to properly prepare for the physical and mental feat. I was supposed to run 3 marathons last weekend. Travel restrictions hit the brakes on that. I'll finish those 8 states and save Hawaii for my final marathon. What big goal do you have to keep you going?

I dropped out of a race ONCE… the dreaded “DNF” DID NOT FINISH in a 100 mile race at mile 95. Yeah, I know, “only” 5 more miles. I had been running in the Virginia mountains for 34 hours with 16,000 feet of elevation change; hallucinations, exhaustion, and a golf ball size knot in my quadriceps muscle all together screamed at me saying “that was enough.” Honestly, I had not prepared properly. I was determined to complete the distance; it took me 25 hours at the Kettle Moraine 100 miler in 2005. I committed right then to NEVER do that to my body again!

During this difficult and stressful time due to COVID-19 and Continuous Learning (Indiana’s name for “Virtual/Distance/e-Learning) it’s critical to commit to taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. You have to find your “club” or support.

Working from home makes it all too easy to work from sunup to sundown, to neglect your physical health, and become disconnected from others because of social distancing. I miss being around my co-workers, students, stakeholders, family and friends. I have committed to taking care of myself so that I can be a better husband, father, grandfather, and member of the PATINS team.

I work too much (ask my wife). I exercise and usually eat pretty well (I do have a sweet tooth). Since joining PATINS in November of 2019, I have worked on my leadership, mental, and emotional well-being by reading a wide range of books (40 books in addition to numerous professional journal articles), meditating off and on (mostly off though!), and talk to friends on the phone and FaceTime.

Stay healthy and commit to doing something every day to take care of YOU:
  1. Mental health - read (checkout library books for FREE using the app called Libby), meditate, do yoga, call a friend, write a letter, etc.
  2. Physical health on your own or with a partner - walk, ride a bike, run, lift weights, stretch, do yoga, etc.)
  3. Emotional health – talk to a friend or other supportive person, take breaks during the work day, dress for work, limit your hours and stick to it, work will always be there, do something with your partner, kid(s), family or friend(s).
  4. Check out the PATINS Training Calendar for opportunities to grow
  5. Look through the PATINS Lending Library to borrow something new to you (shipping is FREE both ways)
  6. Attend the Fall Access to Education Conference

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Jun
04

Road Trips & Fitted Sheets

Do you remember the days of paper road maps? We would drive with one hand on the steering wheel and hold our maps with the other. Sounds safe, right? I have no clue how I even got around in this world due to my lack of proficiency of map reading and directional self guidance. However, I always ended up exactly where I was supposed to be or at a place I didn’t realize I was supposed to be at the time. It was always an adventure to say the least and moments unveiled that mattered.

Lake with rock formationsI recently went on an epic road trip. One with no agenda but 7 days to spare and a direction chosen...
west! Eight states later and over 3800 miles traveled, my words to describe the moments, views, wildlife, adventures, laughs and fun would never give this road trip the justice it deserves. Now, knowing that my navigation skills could use some serious work, I heavily relied on my Google map for I had no idea where I was really going but prepared for the journey. Open road. Open mind.

This was all new and unfamiliar territory but I have a passion for adventure and traveling and was confident that I would figure it out...and I did. During my miles on the road, I realized that I cannot solely rely on technology for navigation and must have a basic understanding of direction. I discovered that challenging myself led me to spectacular views and experiences. And, it was an opportunity to strengthen my weaknesses where I struggled. I am a better traveler now and left a smile with all of those whom I met. I feel pretty darn good about it. 

When I returned home, I was unpacking and settling back in. I removed my bedsheets from the dryer and thinking about my unforgettable trip. I folded the top bed sheet and then out came that dreaded fitted sheet. Does anyone really know how to fold a fitted sheet?? WNYC Studios frustration adulting michelle buteau adulting podcast GIF

I have 2 ways: 1. The rapid roll up with both hands and smashing it down to make it as flat as possible. 2. Making it into the best square shape I can and again, smashing it down as flat as I can. After getting back from such a laid back trip, I laughed at myself and thought, “Does it really matter that I fold this sheet perfectly? I mean, afterall, the goal is to make the bed or make it fit in a drawer...and I can do that everytime!” I had developed a refocus.

In the new way of virtual education that we are now experiencing, there have been so many unknowns, fears and “I have no idea how to’s”...including what the upcoming school year will look like and how we prepare. Some of you have probably even second guessed your career. 

Let’s face it, it has been new and unfamiliar territory. Look at you now! You are doing it and still figuring it out as you go! You have most likely found the most professional development that you have been able to in a very long time…recognizing weaknesses and turning them into new strengths! 

New discoverings have been made and new skills that make us better educators due to the unexpected transition from brick and mortar to virtual classrooms. The strengthening and use for accessibility has been in the forefront for students which may have not been valued for student independence and access in the past. A refocus has been developed.

You have had to refocus from the idea of the perfect classroom set up to just “folding it” the best you can because the goal is educating...and you can do that everytime. I celebrate you! 🎉

From paper maps to Google maps...from fitted sheets to making a bed...from four walls of a classroom to virtual learning...we figure it out. You are an educator. You are here because you have a passion for teaching. The goal is to educate...and again, you can do that everytime. Be confident in your abilities, resilience and open your mind to current challenges and those that may lie ahead. You won’t know until you get there, but you can figure it out and the PATINS staff are on your team to help with the navigation. Open up to the journey. Breathe.

Pink lotus flower in water

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May
31

Take a Deep Breath and Start to Reflect

Female student participating in continuous learning from home at at desk. The computer monitor shows class material, teacher and classmates on virtual learning platform.

This school year has been different for so many reasons. The way it ended (or is about to end) is not how anyone expected.

It has been an unprecedented season for educators across the nation and world. I encourage you to take a moment now to take a deep breath, and start to reflect on the 2019-2020 school year.


How will you wrap up this year? What have you learned while serving students this year? What goals will you have for next school year? I have some thoughts to share and encourage you as you close this chapter and look forward to the 2020-2021 school year.


1. Reflect - List your successes this school year, both professionally and personally. Make a list of things you learned, connections you made with students and parents, and areas of growth. Next consider and list your challenges, but also how you overcame them. You have done a great job and made a difference in your students' education. Celebrate the successes! 


2. Rejuvenate & Relax - With summer arriving, make a list of ways you plan to rejuvenate yourself to prepare for a new school year. Make a list and start checking your list off. Even though many of us work through the summer to prepare for the following school year, intentionally take time for yourself. You cannot pour into the lives of students if your cup is not running over.


3. Reset - Once you have reflected and taken time for yourself, you may be ready to set goals for the next school year. How will your goals look different for next year? Will you have a component of social and emotional learning from day one? Will you try to connect with each student right away? How so? I would encourage you to set both personal and professional goals for growth over the school year. As educators, we set them for our students frequently. We are a work in progress too. As professionals, we will keep moving forward, growing along the way.

4. Access Resources - As you prepare for next year, use your available resources, one of which is the PATINS Project. We are here for you. I am beyond thankful for the thousands of educators, administrators and parents have taken advantage of our virtual office hours, technical support, COVID-19 resources, ICAM, webinars, and all of the many resources PATINS offers. I have never been so proud of Indiana educators as I have been the last two months. I have seen your efforts first hand (both as a public school employee and mother of 5 children) and I am proud of you. Take some time to Reflect, Rejuvenate & Relax, and Reset as you have done great things and have many more great things to do!

Please feel free to share your some of your successes in the comments below. Let us celebrate with you!!

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May
22

Be a sunshine

I was happy to pass on my blogging assignment to my beautiful daughter, Courtney Cantrell. Courtney is an SLP and works for Easter Seals. She knew I was struggling with a topic and offered this wonderful idea for a blog, I thought it was great so I asked her to go ahead and write it! I'm so glad she did, I think it is wonderful!

“We’re all in this together.”

This is a phrase I bet you have probably heard a thousand or more times over the last couple of months. As I was talking with clients and checking in with families this week, I was reminded that life is still going on beyond the crazy epidemic happening. Family members and loved ones are in the hospital or passing away unrelated to COVID-19 and family's problems are still occurring every day. So as I sat worried about providing the best possible teletherapy and phone consults and even safe in-person therapy as I can, I began to shift my focus from the little details surrounded by the way our lives and therapy has changed from the virus and shifted it to a simple question from one of my favorite tv show doctors,  “How can I help?” Not just with speech therapy and the issues surrounding the virus, but the simple things our complex communicators and clients cannot understand or express.

How can I help my clients understand why they are attending their grandpa's funeral virtually or eating pizza for the 100th time because their parents are going through so much they can’t find time to cook? I will bet that in the last 48 hours you have talked to a friend, colleague, or family member about all the changes happening daily around us or a simple thing that occurred in your life that you just needed to vent about. For our clients, this simple stress relief we take for granted is often one of their greatest challenges. Simply expressing their wants, needs, and feelings. So back to the question: “How can I help?”

For me, when I’m stressed I go to my mom for not only simple venting but to talk through how I can help my clients express themself and understand everything happening. I call her mom, but most of you know her as Sandy Stabenfeldt (ICAM Digital Specialist).

Let PATINS and ICAM help you help your students in the ways that are often overlooked. If you have a client and you are running out of ideas to help, talk it out with an ICAM or PATINS staff member.

Or:

Let my amazing momma, Sandy Stabenfeldt, or a member of the ICAM staff help make that pizza menu into accessible digital text that all of our students can access.

Or:

Borrow an app from the lending library that allows them to express their emotions or a silly app that allows them to forget their stresses for even just a moment.

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes: “You are the one who can fill the world with sunshine.” -Snow White. Find a way today to be a little sunshine for your clients who are struggling to understand or express themselves during their life that is moving on with or without COVID-19 and maybe ask your families “How can I help?”

Courtney Cantrell, M.S. CCC-SLP
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May
14

Self-Discovery in a Reading Journal

I was talking with my friend Susan last weekend, concerning the coronavirus, social distancing, isolation. It was a fairly somber catch-up between friends whose history began when we were in 1st grade. She and I wondered what we would have done, as children, had we been ordered to socially distance? What if I had been forced by a global pandemic to stay home daily with my parents and 4 older siblings? Or Susan, with her parents and “irritating” younger brother? How would we have survived a prolonged period of not going to school, back to back with an approaching summer without our friends?

A Little Backstory:

Several of my best friends, including Susan, lived in town, a very small town where there was an all-boys military school and a soda shop. I grew up on a farm, where we had horses to ride. On many a Saturday, 2 or 3 or 4 of us would head out on horseback, with our school lunch boxes stuffed with snacks. We would ride the hillsides well into the afternoon, crossing creeks and other farms. Our only responsibility: close any gates we opened.

So no matter who went to whose house, there was fun. Adventure. Freedom. From the watchful eyes of parents, from random shootings, freedom from cyber-bullying, and human trafficking. There are so many social ills that children learn to accept and navigate now, that we never knew. The world was not perfect, but we were fairly removed from social traumas, on the streets of our little town, or riding horses over the rolling hills of Bourbon County, Kentucky. 

As we grew into our early teens, Susan and I liked to go off by ourselves and read books, often poetry, then talk about how what we read fit our lives. We couldn’t tell other friends about this, because it seemed a little weird. Our favorite poet was Rod McKuen-our balm for so much adolescent angst. We listened to the Beatles and read Rod McKuen. Children of the ’60s. 

I wish that we would have had the forethought to write down all the books we read, from childhood ‘til now. I hadn’t thought about Rod McKuen for years; I googled some poems and was taken back to those melancholy years, long conversations with my friend, savoring how we turned to poetry and music during times of trouble. It wasn’t a bad coping method. I am not wrong. Let it be.

So here is a challenge (I know, you need another one, right?) for teachers and/or parents and/or anyone who would like to promote literacy, and to help students see the value in reading, and thinking about reading: encourage your students to keep a Reading Journal.

Framework for a simple Reading Journal

1. Help the student make a list of books they would like to read. Go on Amazon and search books by reading level and write down titles and authors of interest. Or go to the public library if it’s open, and browse. Many libraries now use a service such as Overdrive, if he or she prefers accessible formats.


2. Ask the student to write down their reading goals. For instance, maybe she would like to learn all she can about NASA and the history of the civilian space program. Or he’d like to read books written by Louis Sachar because he loved the Wayside School stories. Perhaps the goal is competitive: to read more books than brother or sister. They could note the begin and end dates, to add to their sense of accomplishment. There is no wrong or right here. They could even skip the goals and just keep a reading log Someone might need to help the little ones do the actual reading and writing, but what a great habit to start! 

3. After each book is completed, have the student write their impressions. This might be a paragraph or a page or several. If a little one tells you about a book that you’ve read to or with them, be sure to record it in their journal, verbatim. Did they like the book?  Why or why not? Which character was their favorite? Some might rather just rate the books with 1 to 5 stars. Then, try to help them articulate their reasoning for the number of stars.

4. The Reading journal belongs to the one reading the books, and they might personalize it with drawings or pictures or collages. I looked at some journals that had been indexed, and many are quite artistic and elaborate. Start simply and the creativity will make its way, the journal will evolve. One who struggles with reading and writing might flourish with audiobooks or text-to-speech, and a nice set of colored pencils.

Keeping a Reading Journal would provide a natural path to the practice of writing and reflecting, and building retention of what is read. It would be a wonderful personal history, a tremendous treasure. A perfect method for Continued Learning.

And now, a few words by a poet from my past to sum up the present:

“You have to make the good times yourself
take the little times and make them into big times

and save the times that are all right
for the ones that aren’t so good.”

-Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm

Thanks so much!

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Guest — Bev Sharritt
What lovely memories, and a delightful window into your past! Any kind of journaling right now, seems like a great prescription fo... Read More
Thursday, 14 May 2020 16:14
Martha Hammond
Thank you Bev. I agree, journaling is always good and especially now.... Read More
Friday, 15 May 2020 13:57
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May
07

SODA or CODA?

CODA-or-SODA_-1 SODA or CODA?

I have heard, informally, from a few teachers that there is anywhere from 40% to 100% student participation in classrooms in this time of continuous learning. There are so many variables that could play into whether or not your students are logging in or connecting with you or finishing their work accurately. When I hear these numbers I can’t help to think that some of the variables may be due to a language barrier. 

Indiana Department of Education, IDOE, reports that, “Indiana has a diverse student population with over 270 languages spoken in the homes of Indiana public school students and a growing number English Learners.” 

Your student(s) may not be identified as needing specific accommodations with their school work but their parent or caregiver that is helping with their continuous (distance/e-learning) work might need accommodations due to a disability or a language barrier.

So, what does this have to do with the title of this blog, SODA or CODA? 

Did you know you might have them in your class this year? OR you might have them in your class next year. 

Yes, I am throwing more acronyms your way. Have you heard of CODA or SODA? 

CODA stands for Child(ren) of Deaf Adult(s) and SODA stands for Sibling (or Spouse) of Deaf Adult(s). Your students may not require accommodations such as closed captioning or spoken English translated into another language but their parents do.

Depending on the delivery style of your continuous learning material there could be unintentional language barriers for our parents and caregivers that are helping our students navigate and complete their required work.

I have two suggestions that you can implement into your instruction to remove the language barrier for our parents and caregivers, who may be deaf/hard of hearing or native language is something other than English, helping with continuous learning. 

setting box on a youtube video to select closed captions or subtitles and different language
1. All Videos should have Closed Captioning enabled for subtitles in the parent’s native language and for those that are deaf/hard of hearing. You can easily upload any video that you make into Youtube and follow the steps on this document or video to turn on automatic captions/subtitles then go in and edit them to ensure accuracy. 

We can integrate captions/subtitles universally into our video content for the use of all students for whatever reason they may need to help eliminate the language barrier. 

Microsoft Translator app image
2. Apps like Microsoft Translator, no-cost application, can be used to translate to different languages, even words on pictures can be translated. This app is available on Windows, Apple, Google & Amazon devices.

My favorite part of the Microsoft Translator app is that someone can interact with someone else by using text and then another person can use speech-to-text within the app. This can allow those who are deaf/hard of hearing to use written English to converse with others who are using spoken English or another language. 

So, do you have a SODA or CODA in your class? Perhaps parents or caregivers that speak another language other than English? Let us know how you are helping bridge the language gap for your continuous learning.  

PS: I am a version of CODA, one might say a COHHA, Child of a Hard of Hearing Adult. 

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Apr
30

Parents as Partners: Maximizing Continuous Learning Success

Parents as Partners: Maximizing Continuous Learning Success

Change can be scary, and it’s not uncommon to be resistant to change. It seems that 2020 brought us a leap day that still doesn’t seem to have ended and that came full of change, whether it was welcomed or not. As a former 3rd grade teacher, I keep wondering how I would be handling my virtual classroom in light of schools being ordered closed for the remainder of the school year.

I believe that I’d be stressed, missing my students, and wondering whether or not I was doing all that I could to keep the learning, engagement, and feelings of value going. I believe that I’d be in need of more collaboration with colleagues and my professional network than I once thought possible. I believe that I’d need more support than ever from my student’s families and support systems to best set my students up for success. It’s the latter that really has got me thinking and deeply reflecting on the role that our student’s families and support play in their lives, especially when it comes to learning.

After some conversations with friends who are working from home and parenting, it solidified for me just how difficult this time is for everyone. Almost no one was prepared for a flipped script like this, and to make it through, we’ve got to rely on one another now more than ever- parents/families on educators and educators on parents/families. That said, the educator in me has begun wondering how well parents have been armed and trained to support their student(s) in a learning environment at home, and how we can boost supports for our students during continuous learning, over the summer, and in the future through a solid, cyclical partnership with parents. 
Cyclical graphic indicating parents/families and educators relying on another
If you find yourself reflecting and parsing through the same notion, consider reaching out to parents/families through a survey to find out how things are going, what they feel they need, how the teacher/school/district could better support them, etc. This information could facilitate a stronger parent/family and teacher relationship in these uncertain times and as we move into the future. Quick surveys can be created in Google Forms. 

You may also find it beneficial to reflect on what’s been shared with your student’s families to figure out where there’s room for improvement. Some questions you may ask yourself are (in no particular order):

  1. Do families know how to download apps on their devices?
  2. Do they know how to login to school-wide systems?
  3. Do they understand how to use the tools/apps/websites that their students are using for schoolwork, including how to submit work or join a virtual meeting?
    1. If not, would tutorials, virtual office hours, a school-wide Facebook page, or other means of information sharing be beneficial?
  4. Do they know how to reach you, when you’re available, and how quickly to expect a response? Over-communicating is better than under-communicating.
  5. Has creating a learning environment been discussed with families?

Upon this reflection, you may find some gaps between what you’d like for parents/families to understand and what they actually do. For example, I’ve been working with a gentleman who sells pavers for a patio we are considering installing, and without asking the obscene amount of questions that I must in order to clearly understand his explanations, I’d have no idea what he was talking about. This is because he knows his pavers inside and out, but I’m lacking his background knowledge; therefore, I’m thrown for a loop with each new brand or term he throws out. 

To avoid this type of confusion, let’s explicitly share information, provide clear instructions, and teach our students’ parents/families how they can support their student(s) at home now, over the summer, and every year, emphasizing that many of the following are ways to create stronger relationships, to instill values, and to spend quality time with their student(s). 

To begin, let’s consider the learning environment. 

  1. Share examples of working/learning environments, understanding that this must be flexible to fit the needs of individual families
  2. Share sample schedules that include building in learning and screen time breaks for students
    1. Include ideas for breaks:
      1. Physical play or activity
      2. Stretching
      3. Reading
      4. Listening to music
      5. Playing board or other non screen games
      6. Mindfulness activities like deep breathing, yoga, 
  3. Share and adhere to time limits for virtual learning 
    1. Times suggested by the Indiana Department of Education (link includes activities by subject and grade level, too!):
      1. Elementary Grades K-1: Minimum Daily Learning Time: 5-10 minute time spans, a total of 45 minutes 
      2. Grades 2-4: Minimum Daily Learning Time: 10-15 minute time spans, a total of 60 minutes 
      3. Grades 5-6: Minimum Daily Learning Time: 20-25 minute time spans, a total of 90 minutes 
      4. Grades 7-12: Minimum Daily Learning Time: 30 minute time span per class, a total of 3 hours
  4. Provide printable or print versions of visual cues to support directions

Consider how you’d like to see your student’s learning supported at home and maybe break it down, sharing specific ideas with students and families subject-by-subject.

Reading

  1. Turn on the captions for all screen time
    1. Turn on captions in YouTube by selecting the CC button in the lower right-hand corner of the video. Check to see if the captions are accurate.
  2. Model reading newspapers, magazines, books, recipes, cards
  3. Read together (use different voices for characters, stop reading at the climax to drive engagement, change where you read)
    1. Guide parents to support comprehension skills with digital or printable graphic organizers, to connect stories to students’ lives, and to show genuine interest in the story
  4. Act out a skit
  5. Turn on podcasts (age-appropriate podcast can be found in a quick Google search) or audio books in the car or on a home speaker (Try the Overdrive app, books on tape or CD)
  6. Read aloud to pets, siblings, or stuffed animals
  7. Identify words, letters, phrases when out for a walk, drive, or trip

Math

  1. Use dice or dominoes to play and learn with numbers (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing)
  2. Provide printable visuals like a 100s chart
  3. Practice counting any and all things. If basic counting is mastered practice skip counting items
  4. Cook and bake together (supports following directions, fine motor skills, measurement, fractions, and more)
  5. Sort indoor or outdoor items by color, shape, texture, weight, size, and talk about the sorting method
  6. Practice budgeting, set up an economy system for chores, or play store
  7. Play card games

Writing

  1. Write/make words or letters with magnetic letters, Wiki sticks, pipe cleaners, chalk, shaving cream, hair gel with food coloring in baggie
  2. Daily journal entries. Everyone is living in a time that will undoubtedly be added to the history books. Journaling will offer great daily reflection as well as future reflection on this life-changing time. 
  3. Play Mad Libs
  4. Guide parents to provide writing support by modeling real-world writing tasks- making lists, writing invitations, writing in cards, writing to-dos on a calendar, writing thank you notes to our first responders and hospital workers, filling out forms, etc.
  5. Ask students to create labels for household items, for organization purposes, etc.
  6. Guide parents to support writing through positive and specific feedback and not to concentrate on spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors, but to celebrate their students’ writing
  7. Publish students’ writing on the refrigerator, in a window, or digitally (Book Creator, Tarheel Reader)

Science & Social Studies

  1. Take a walk around your neighborhood, noting different types of architecture, structures, designs, plants, trees, flowers, etc.
  2. Conduct at home science experiments
  3. Share and discuss age-appropriate current events
  4. Research and make paper airplanes in different styles
  5. Explore any maps (theme parks, state parks, atlases, city, state, etc.) you may have laying around, noting the compass rose and key
  6. Go on a rock, flower, or plant scavenger hunt
  7. Make homemade dough for play

Art, Music & PE

  1. Add daily drawings and art projects to a dated sketch journal
  2. Make music out of different household items
  3. Explore different genres of music 
  4. Go for hikes, walks, or bike rides
  5. Make collages with newspapers, pictures, magazine cutouts to illustrate different feelings, ideas, concepts
  6. Start a fitness challenge between family members
  7. Make homemade puppets for a show

As summer nears, I encourage you to continue your reflection, thinking about all of the positives that have come from this change, this new teaching experience. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but we’ve learned so much. Though we may be anxious to get back to life as we once knew it, let’s, instead, grow from this experience, taking the amazing things that you’re doing (maybe once even thought impossible) and grow from this experience to better serve your students by considering:

  1. What tools will you take into next school year? 
  2. What strategies have you learned that you’ll forever hold dear? 
  3. What bonds have been created?
  4. In what ways have you increased the universal design and accessibility of your teaching to better meet the needs of your students and their support systems?

Please share your answers in the comments, reach out for more resources, and keep on, keeping on! 

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Apr
23

Big Dreams, Small Spaces

laughing child sitting in a garden with purple catmint blooming
I hope this blog finds you healthy and coping well with this not-in-Kansas-anymore life. I was looking at my work calendar from a couple of months ago, and looked at an entry where I traveled, and thought, “Logansport seems like a distant universe.” 

Many of us are escaping to places (other than our snack stations) by watching Netflix. We are all sharing the shows we’ve been bingeing on the streaming platforms. It is spring on our farm, and I am re-watching my favorite British gardening show. 

“Big Dreams, Small Spaces” follows the famous British gardener, Monty Don who guides 2 different garden makeovers per episode. (He’s also an excellent follow on Instagram if you like dreamy garden images.) On the show, the participants share their ideas for a dream garden in their tiny backyard, and Monty checks in over the course of a year to counsel them, and lend some hands-on help. It is the opposite of sensational--there are no bodies found buried in the gardens. There are no cash prizes, and the often very small budgets are footed by the gardeners. 

British gardening guru Monty Don holding a watering can in his garden with his 2 golden retrievers at his side

But many of their dreams are indeed big, including turning their back garden into an enchanted forest, or creating a community vegetable garden for their neighbors. One of my favorites is an episode where parents are designing a garden for their son who has a disability. 

It would be fair to say it is boring, but I also would describe it as compelling. Watching someone dig their own pond with a shovel, and hearing them describe how it has helped them battle depression is a medicine that is working for me as I look for hope wherever it can be found.

My PATINS stakeholders who are contacting me are living in their own “Small Spaces” right now. But like the gardeners, they are dreaming big of taking their limited resources and turning them into a thing of beauty. They are forging stronger relationships with their students’ parents, spending hours communicating how to take their child with blindness on a mobility scavenger hunt, or how to enter math homework using a screen reader. They, like Monty Don and his gardeners, are giving me hope that continuous learning will grow and evolve into something surprisingly lovely. 

At PATINS we’re here to support your big dreams in small spaces. Check out our special resource page or visit our daily office hours with your questions and impossible ideas. 

I'll make the tea. (I guess you'll have to make your own tea if we meet on Zoom. . . but you get the sentiment.)

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Apr
17

What it means to them…

In keeping with my trend, I wanted to get the perspective of my family and how “continuous learning” has impacted them.

I have three grandchildren in elementary school. Dean is in the 4th grade, Logan is in 2nd grade, and Kenzie is in 1st grade. I also have Hazel and Ethan in the same preschool class. My son-in-law, Nick, is a high school teacher, and my daughter is an elementary school media assistant working as the school librarian.

Simple answers for simple questions…

Oldest grandson, Dean, was very straight up honest, “I don’t like it.” I asked him why, and he said he “wasn’t challenged enough.” He misses his interaction with his teacher and his classmates, but an occasional Zoom meeting helps.

Logan enjoys when the small groups and class meet via Zoom. He challenges himself to get up early and get his daily assignments done. His rational is, “I can get it done early, and then I have time to play the rest of the day.”

Hazel misses her friends at preschool, including her cousin, Ethan. However, her teacher, Ms. Becky, sends her students two letters through the postal service every week just to say hello. That is a highlight that she looks forward to.

Kenzie likes that she has more time to work on her math answers and enjoys Like to Draw videos. Her class also uses Zoom with her 20 classmates and each gets to tell a joke to the class. She says, “It’s not the same as school. It’s hard to focus and pretty boring.”

Ethan reflects what his cousin Hazel says about preschool, missing friends and playtime. His highlight is also receiving Ms. Becky’s letters in the mail.

Sarah has been working with the Specials Team teachers, Art, Music, etc. Her challenge is the different ways teachers use different platforms for assignments and sorting through how grades can be quantified for each student. These teachers each connect with 700+ students.

Nick was recently interviewed by a local newspaper and was asked a few questions about continuous learning. I think he has summed up what my grandchildren are experiencing, like many others:

  • e-Learning, of course, is typically done a day here, a day there. Now it's for the next several weeks. What are going to be the biggest challenges with that and how will you overcome those challenges?
    •  "I have received several emails, especially at the beginning of our eLearning, from students. They were not about questions on quizzes or assignments, but rather about missing being at school. These emails are difficult to read, because it drives home the fact that school is much more than a place for knowledge. For many kids, it’s their social support. It is what keeps them involved and connected to the world. The biggest challenge for us, as role models in the school, is to prioritize student well-being over curriculum. Of course, we want them to learn content and increase their knowledge, but it does no good for a school or society if a student feels overwhelmed and becomes disconnected. Our school attempts to limit this by making our lessons simple and to-the-point. Also, by maintaining positive relationships with our students. A simple weekly video or meeting just touching base with kids can make a big difference in their lives. Also, people tend to want to do more when they feel connected and appreciated by their group." 

This is a challenging time that came upon all of us very suddenly. However, for many schools, the framework was in place. Educators are adapting the best ways they can.

Let’s not forget about parents who are experiencing the continuous learning as home-school support for their children. I asked my daughter, Emily, about her experience with her young two children. She had lots to say, so I will only share a few comments. She likes that it is helping keep some structure and guidance for the rest of this academic year. But she notes it is hard to keep a 1st grader’s attention on a computer for very long. She appreciates the extra time they now have for creativity and play together.

Adding to the continuous learning implemented by schools, we in the “stay at home” scenario, which further isolates us.

Most have adapted to utilize technology that has always been there, but it has become the norm in so many ways. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and even Facetime and Duo have allowed us to gather virtually. Does it take the place of face to face? Hardly, but it offers an opportunity to have a visual impact on each person on either end of the screen. A visual peace so to speak…

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Sandy Stabenfeldt
Fantastic blog! It was interesting to hear from all their perspectives.
Thursday, 23 April 2020 09:21
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Apr
02

The News I Did Not Get

The News I Did Not Get

I have something really important to share.

It affects your health. Your safety. Your ability to access education and justice. It might save your life.

Read it below:

grey square

What’s that? You can’t read it?

If you, your school, your municipality or other community servants are sharing pictures of text, it is not accessible to many of the people who may need it most. Pictures of text cannot be read by a screen reader and readers don’t have the ability to make it large print or high contrast. For people with dyslexia, blindness or low vision, or a poor internet connection that won’t load a picture, they don’t get the same information as everyone else. I lose out on the ability to auto-translate it to my language.

If that information was in a video and not captioned, it’s not accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing or cannot have the volume on right at that moment (shout out to all the parents juggling baby naptime and work simultaneously!) Interpreting and translating might be necessary.

If your job is to share information with your community, share it with the whole community.

Reach out to the creator if you see it. Point it out and offer suggestions for what to do differently. They will appreciate the information!

Lives may depend on it.

There are many other things we can all do to make our digital content accessible to everyone. If you need support and ideas for distance learning now, PATINS has curated many excellent resources for continuous learning due to COVID-19. Our specialists are here to support Indiana public PreK-12 schools providing equitable access to all.

We have been the best kind of busy helping Indiana educators find solutions to providing instruction for all students. To the teachers learning to be YouTubers and taking on video conferencing, the porch drop offs of AAC devices and assistive technology, the extra training, professional development, and so many creative solutions for kids: you make us very proud to be working with you. We hope to see you at one of our office hours or at the Tech Expo next week so we can (re)connect and share your struggles and successes!

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Guest — Cathy Eastes
Hi Jessica, I clicked on the Covid-19 resource link in the article and received an error message. Just wanted you to know. Cat... Read More
Thursday, 16 April 2020 16:16
Jennifer Conti
Hi Cathy, We apologize about the error message you received. The link has been updated recently to reflect wording used by the In... Read More
Thursday, 16 April 2020 16:30
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Mar
25

Look For The Helpers

Look for the Helpers Look for the Helpers

As a friend to many emergency personnel, I have learned over many years a little of what it looks like from a first responder’s point of view and the sacrifice that comes with the calling to serve the people. The emotional, psychological and physical toll that comes with always being on guard for split-second decision making in order to maintain safety and order for all present challenges for managing life when days are suddenly atypical. In many ways, we all are experiencing this sense of hypervigilance with the pandemic. We are all in the same boat in that our typical lives have changed in some way. It’s taking a toll on each of us in some shape or form. 

I always thought I wouldn’t be a good first responder because I tend to freeze in certain situations. What I have found throughout my career in education is that there are always helpers in every given situation. We all have something that we can offer in a situation when we need to step up. We have dedicated our life’s work to improving the outcomes for our students. Even in rapidly changing current events, we come to help those needing assistance. I have witnessed many helpers sharing amazing resources not only to provide access to education but also to make sure our families are fed, utilities are maintained, and social wellbeing is addressed. 

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,

Many of us had great tools and resources for self-management prior to our new pandemic lives. Now, I am finding I need new tools and strategies to help myself regulate emotions, stay on track with daily remote learning for my own children, and keeping up with work and my own learning.  

Here are a few tools and suggestions I am going to try: 

HeadSpace : Headspace is an app that teaches you how to meditate.

ArtfulAgenda: Try this app to help integrate all of your calendars and keep organized all in one place. Mobile app now in Apple and Google Play stores. Syncs with Google, Apple, and Outlook 

Peloton App: Free for 90 days, Try a Yoga class

PATINS Staff is also on standby for your educational access needs while you are navigating remote learning. We have open office hours in a virtual zoom meeting room twice a day at 10 am and 2 pm EST through the month of April. Please feel free to jump on and have a team member guide you through how to use Zoom and any other questions you may have. You can find the office hours and other training on our training calendar

Please share what you are doing to help self-managing during this new normal. 

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Guest — Bev Sharritt
Thanks Kayti. I'm going to try the Peleton app. I am ending each day with cleaning/sanitizing the sinks while I pray.
Thursday, 26 March 2020 09:10
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Mar
19

What Does Distance Learning Look Like Anyway?

What Does Distance Learning Look like Anyway? Mother and child holding tablet looking at woman on the screen.

What a year this week has been.

Just look at all the massive steps forward we’ve taken as a society in the name of accessibility for all students!

It’s no doubt that every foot has been on the ground making the transition to distance learning possible and to minimize the disruption of key educational services. This week has proved that nothing can stand in the way of educators getting support to their students. From district-wide initiatives, such as continuing to provide daily meals and mobilizing buses to grant Wi-Fi access throughout the community to the administrators broadcasting read alouds (yay for reading with our eyes and our ears!) and over 60 educators spending their Tuesday night with first ever hybrid #PatinsIcam Twitter Chat and Zoom meeting (captioned recorded video to come soon). We’ve all embraced accessibility in many aspects of our lives quicker than I think some of us realize. 

Educators (and that now includes parents/adults at home) - You may feel like your kids didn’t learn anything this week. You may feel out of sorts and wondering how this is going to be sustainable until May 1, as announced by Governor Holcomb a few hours ago. You may feel like you’re recovering from a bout of whiplash because what is distance learning supposed to look like anyway? 

The good news is I can tell you what distance learning looks like - it looks like Universal Design for Learning (UDL)! And you’re probably already doing it...

Multiple means of engagement - “Which book are you choosing today?”

Multiple means of representation - “You’d rather listen to that as an audiobook. Okay, I know that helps you recall the information better.”

Multiple means of action & expression - “I can see sitting and writing a paragraph on what happened in the book is difficult for your right now. How about you choose from drawing a picture, creating a video, or another way you had in mind to retell the story.”

Now, the flexibility UDL allows can help eliminate barriers for many of our students but our efforts still need to be flexible, specialized, and with a keen eye on accessibility. A paper packet of work sent home with a student with dyslexia is inaccessible. A student with limited communication still needs a way to express themselves at home (and they probably need some additional fringe words to describe what they’re feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic). A parent with hearing loss may not be able to hear the instructions for e-learning if their are no captions.

So what can you do?

Continue to think about potential barriers. Check-in with the students and their families to see how it’s going. The PATINS Project has compiled a webpage with resources for continuous learning which will help ensure the presentation of your content is accessible and allows all your families to feel successful.


Visit PATINS/ICAM specialists open office hours. These are now held twice a day at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM EST each weekday to address questions, concerns, brainstorm, anything you need to figure out. We believe all students can continue to make progress during distance learning.


Learn about educational technology and services at the first-ever virtual PATINS Tech Expo with IN*SOURCE 2020. Registration is open until April 6, 2020, and is no-cost for you.
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Mar
12

Sunrise or Sunset?

Is it a sunrise or a sunset, it is all in your perspective.

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to tell you all that I will be leaving the PATINS Project. I have accepted a position as a Various Exceptionalities/Exceptional Students Educator for Largo Middle School of Pinellas County Schools. 

beach clouds dawn dusk

It is my time with PATINS that has influenced my desire to return to the classroom. When I left Seymour in 2012, school corporations were on the brink of large changes. These changes would affect both the general and special needs classrooms. With PATINS I have seen 1 to 1 computers. The explosion of the iPad as an accessible, multifaceted AT device. I have seen renewed desire to provide all students with the least restrictive environment. Classrooms are more diverse. Options for graduation are diversifying and with that a renewed interest in how schools transition students into society. With technology, so many more students are able to receive accommodations where they once would only receive modifications. Differentiation is becoming Specially Designed Instruction and Universally Designed Instruction is on the cusp of becoming the norm.


With my PATINS experience I found myself wondering what kind of teacher I would be today. I am excited to find out by going back into public schools to teach, support and lead others in these practices.

Thank you for the insight and hope for greater things that you have given me. If it were not for the exposure and experience of working with Indiana’s exceptional educators, I would not be returning to public education. These experiences along with the fellowship and exceptional intellect of my peers has made me capable and hungry to share these skills with students.

Thank you all!
Sandi Smith










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Mar
06

Literacy, Performance, and Well-Being: Realizing Reading, Writing, and Accommodations!

Each year, about this time, educators all over Indiana are likely feeling drained, pressured, overwhelmed, and perhaps worried! I hear so much about state assessment and preparing for it, how it throws off schedules and routines, and how everyone in the building is a bit on-edge. I understand that feeling! I struggle a bit, however, with some of the reasons we allow it to occur. While we don't have a choice in many aspects of high-stakes assessment, we do have a lot of control over the other majority of the school year, which most certainly has an effect on the relatively short assessment portion! 

The things that come to mind are the concepts of literacy, of testing anxiety, and of the general well-being of people. The PATINS Project has a laser-like focus on improving literacy in Indiana PK-12 schools and in order to achieve that, we had to define literacy, which is where my struggles around high-stakes testing anxiety likely begins. The dedicated, passionate, and skilled PATINS team chooses to recognize and actively support the International Literacy Association's definition of literacy: 

"Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context. The ability to read, write, and communicate connects people to one another and empowers them to achieve things they never thought possible. Communication and connection are the basis of who we are and how we live together and interact with the world."

With this definition in mind, the PATINS staff meets every single week as a team to share, collaborate, and ensure that everything we're doing maintains a strong focus on improving literacy outcomes! While this intentional and deliberate focal point of our work is fairly recent, our services have always centered around literacy. I was reminded of this recently when I was asked about an old (2009) article that had been written about me as a classroom teacher, which you can find here, for some additional reading! 


Daniel as a first year teacher playing guitar for students.
Back in 2001, I decided it was time to leave the business I'd started. I had spent the previous 4 years establishing a system of working with very young students on the autism spectrum and had experienced some great success. While a very difficult decision, what I really wanted to experience was my very own classroom of students on a daily basis. So, I took a teaching position in a K-6 classroom with students identified as having "moderate - severe disabilities."  

When I arrived, eager and enthusiastic, I received a warm welcome, but I also received some advice about my students-to-be. I was told that they were non-readers and non-writers and that I would be using a lot of pictures and symbols. Not knowing my students, yet and also realizing that I hadn't ever had any real reading instruction in college, I took this advice. Not only did I take this advice, but I plastered by classroom with pictures I printed out and with symbols of all sorts! Schedules, social cues, tasks related to IEP goals... all pictures and symbols! I covered a 10' X 6' board with tempo-loop and laminated and velcro'd until my poor, raw, aching fingers nearly bled! We used these in my classroom day-in and day-out! 

a sample of Daniels classroom schedule in all text
While I realized that I was no expert in reading and really had no formal training in the science of teaching others to read, I also understood behavior and I understood fairly well, how learners often perceived things differently in their learning environment. I remember sitting back in my chair at the end of one school day, frustrated that my students were paying textbook rental for books that were inaccessible to them, that I wasn't able to work on writing (composing) with my students, and I looked across the room at my giant tempo-loop schedule. I looked at the symbols and it suddenly hit me that some of them, very much, resembled short words from that distance. It stood to reason then, that if that symbol resembled a word and my students were recognizing the meaning of it daily, perhaps they could just recognize words! ...And they DID! What I also very quickly realized and made all of my paraprofessionals and parents aware of, was that my students were not "reading" phonetically. They were recognizing symbols. However, these symbols they were recognizing were now far more functional in the real world than most abstract, stick-figure symbols, that I had to teach the meaning of anyway. Nevertheless, I knew that my students needed more, if they were to become readers (and writers). 

At this point, I implemented a systematic phonics program, but I also implemented word-prediction! Not really knowing how to teach phonemes, nor understanding reading science at the time, I did realize that by removing the barrier of spelling (with word-prediction software), that I could very quickly begin experiencing the ideas, reflections, and questions that were in my student's creative minds! ...thoughts that I often wondered if anyone else ever knew was even in there!  ...stuff we'd never heard come from these kids verbally, that was coming out in writing, because now they could compose without the impasse of spelling or physical handwriting!  Another amazing thing with word-prediction was that my students could hear the computer read their sentence back after they'd punctuated it, which effectively improved their self-editing and perhaps more importantly opened my mind to the powerful idea of them reading with their ears, and thus began text to speech in my classroom for all students, all of the time. They became VERY good and implementing it for themselves when they needed it and choosing to read with their eyes at times when they did not need it. They began leaving my classroom and joining their general education peers for more and more academics, for arts, and music, and on the weekends for birthday parties!  

As a result, I also worked out that text and language could be fun, engaging, and musical! We played with my guitar and made up words to made up songs and then wrote them down and discussed them, revised them, and laughed! Yes, we laughed! We had fun with language. We went from using stick-figure symbols to having fun with language.  

I look back and recognize this successful and fun 4-year experience in my classroom as a culmination of having high expectations, implementing assistive technology and accessible materials, and having FUN! ...also known as engagement!

Circling back, I wonder why more case conference committees aren't checking the boxes on the IEP that asks if Assistive Technology (AT) or Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) are needed when those two things can lead to such unthought-of outcomes, often at little or no cost. I wonder why, in many places, schedules change and test prep becomes such a focus that the stress and anxiety actually shows on the faces of educators. At the time, my students wouldn't have been permitted to use many of their accommodations on the state's high stakes test, BUT I can guarantee they still would have done better on those assessments with me providing them all year long until then!  

In summary, if you ever find yourself in an IEP meeting and those two questions about Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials aren't deeply discussed, I:  
  1. Encourage you to borrow items to trial (at no cost to you whatsoever) from the PATINS Lending Library.  
  2. Challenge you to initiate those discussions about AT and AEM in the IEP meeting. 
  3. Contact PATINS Staff, even during the meeting, for more information, consultation, and support on AT and AEM! 
  4. Implement something new with ALL of your students THIS NEXT week! It doesn't have to be in an IEP and you don't have to be an expert to try something new! 
  5. Reach out to the PATINS Specialists for specific training and support! 
  6. Come to the (no cost) PATINS Tech Expo on April 9th, to make yourself even more aware of some of the tools, resources, and strategies that are available!  
Photo of Daniel riding a stick unicorn in a literacy phoneme game       Word Play Root Matrix of word parts and phonemes


















Be brave this week... take a deep breath, think about literacy a little more broadly and try to have fun with your students doing something for at least a few minutes every day! It's OK to laugh with them! ...and, I'll leave you with this one fun literacy-based idea. I recently took part, as a volunteer, in a silly activity with respected educational colleagues from around the world called, "Unicorn Poop." Yes, you read that correctly. In this game, I was part of a team, "riding" on a stick-unicorn from one side of the room to the other in order to scoop a plastic spoonful of unicorn poop (skittles candy) and bring it back to my teammate who was making a new word and conveying it to our "teacher" allowing me to claim the unicorn poop on our side of the room! We ended up losing the game by only a half of a spoonful of poop, but I ended up learning so much about teaching reading instruction in the process. We didn't spend any time on letter recognition or even individual sounds. We put BIG words together by practicing understanding of smaller phonemes!
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Feb
26

#Dyslexia: Celebrating Those Beautiful Brains

IMG_1557-2 Beautiful Brain Sticker
I read an audiobook a few weeks ago by Jonathan Mooney titled Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive Outside the Lines. Jonathan was identified with dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) when he was a kid and did not learn to read until he was 12 years old. He writes with a hilarious twist of confessions and speaks about the uniqueness of learners. Jonathan leaves the message that instead of trying to fix these students...let’s empower them to be successful in their own way.

He shares after being sent to the office due to some choices he made and his mom was called to come to his school, “I had crossed that invisible line between the normal and the not normal, which we all know is there. Though we aren’t quite sure where it is all of the time, or who drew it, or how, or why. At that moment, I knew for sure that whatever normal was, I wasn’t it.”

I am constantly meeting and working with new students who have been identified with dyslexia. I am tasked with the privilege to explore with them ways that they may learn and ways they can feel empowered in their own learning. I often get to see their new learning journey with assistive technology accommodations such as text-to-speech, word prediction, speech-to-text, etc. to keep them from getting further behind in school. Each time I am with a student, they teach me something new which makes me a better educator. I am so thankful.

When meeting new students, I have to create relationships very quickly. This often begins with talking about anything but dyslexia. I have laughed so hard with students at the amazing conversations we have had and the stories they share about life in general. I have also left schools with my chest so heavy due to students feeling so stomped down from the weight they feel from struggling to read. They do not feel smart and feel shame, which leads to low self esteem and often matched with bullying. 

Instead of writing a blog about dyslexia, I wanted to put some faces to dyslexia. Each time we talk about dyslexia in schools, there is a face to every single number. Each time accommodations are denied, there is a face to that denial. We have to remain connected in order to prevent the disconnection of accessibility. 

So! I rounded up just a few kiddos who have impacted my own life in some way this past school year, brought together by dyslexia...but relationships built due to all of the other amazing conversations those beautiful brains have shared with me. I asked them a few questions and I have no doubt you will lift them up with me. 

First, Samantha was a feature on PATINS TV! After meeting her one time and working with her for accommodations on the iPad, the next time I came back, she showed me some ways she was using her iPad that I was able to share with other kids. She is brilliant!

Meet Sam
Sam
  Age: 11 years old

  Favorite book or type of book: Dog Man

  What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at doing?  Driving the ATV and maneuvering it with a trailer anywhere!

  Anything else you would like the world to know about you? Sam is in 4-H and shows ducks, chickens, and pygmy goats. This year he is going to try his hand at the lawn mower driving project and LEGO building project. When he grows up Sam wants to be a farmer because farming is cool. 

The first time I met Sam, we had a race. He was in his running shoes and well, me in my high heels. He won but I’m ready for a rematch. Sam is an impeccable problem solver. His thoughts take him into creative action on a route we may not think of at the time. I was fortunate to see Sam show one of his goats at his county fair. It felt like 110 degrees in the summer inside a metal barn; but Sam took it like a champ (unlike me sweating profusely). He had an adorable and rambunctious goat that he gave 100% attention to in the heat and he placed! Also, this kid can do the Floss dance better than I have ever seen and brings it alive on the drop of a hat! I can’t wait to see him one day on his own farm...living his dream and being a mentor for those who want to learn his craft of farming. He is unstoppable.


Meet
Precious
Precious
  Age: I am 16 years old. I’m going to be 17 years old in March. 

  Favorite book or types of books you like to read: My favorite   book is Dork Diaries

 What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at doing?
My favorite hobby is art. 

Anything else you would like the world to know about you? I am a homeschooled student. I want to show my artwork to encourage everyone. I am building my own art studio called Shout Loud. I want people to know, "You can do it!"
Precious's artwork of colorful tree

As you can imagine by her answers above, Precious is extremely kind and talented. I was honored to see her art spotlighted at an event in Indianapolis, Indiana. I noticed on her art displays, the first line was “I have dyslexia.” The way that she sees colors and puts them together truly amazes me.


Meet
Piper
Piper
  Age: 9 years old, March 1st!

  Favorite book or types of books you like to read: Adventure, crime solving
  and mystery genre


  What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at
  doing?
Art, ice skating, skiing, and acting.

  Anything else you would like the world to know about you? I would like
  the world to know that I love having dyslexia, because it helps me be even more creative than I thought.


Piper helped me out when I presented on assistive technology accommodations. After learning that she loves to act, I can see now how she stood in the front of the crowded room with me with ease. When I showed Piper the C-Pen Reader, she practiced and figured it out quickly. Then, she proceeded to try it out backwards, upside down and up and down. She then explained to me all the ways one should not use the C-Pen. Ya know, she is right...we need to know that part. Thank you, Piper! 


Meet
Reed
Reed
  Age: 9 years old

  Favorite book or type of book: Dog Man

  What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at doing?
  Shooting 

  Anything else you would like the world to know about you? If the world wants to
  know anything else, they need to meet me!!


Reed wasn’t so sure about me at first. He was the observer and then came over to me when he was ready, which works just fine for me. Once he did, he told me about Dog Man and was extremely well spoken about not only the book; but about anything we talked about. Reed heard me say that I had a fear of grasshoppers. At the end of my talk, he walked up to me with his hands closed and said, “Hey, I caught a grasshopper for you!” I thought he was serious for about .2 seconds, which felt like an eternity. He asked me to come back, but Reed, you better watch out! I like to play tricks as well! Reed is right, the world needs to meet him one day. I have a feeling they will as he will positively change the world in his own unique way.

Note: Sometimes kids are labeled as shy, when in reality they just need time or need a purpose to engage. As an educator, practicing wait time and as well as creating purpose can make all of the difference. 


Meet
Jackson
Jackson
  Age: 7 years old

  Favorite book or type of book: Dyslexic Legends Alphabet. This
  is my favorite book because it has the people that are famous
  because they have dyslexia. Even though you have dyslexia, you
  can still read using audiobooks! 


What is something you really enjoy doing and know you are good at doing? Playing baseball and hockey! I really enjoy reading audiobooks. 

(Hey Brent Sopel...I think you've got a huge fan in the making for more than one reason!)

Anything else you would like the world to know about you? That you can do any job that you want, even though you have dyslexia! Even though dyslexia is hard, you can still do whatever you want! 

Clearly, Jack is a true champion for himself in the way he learns best. When he says “...enjoy READING audiobooks,” that kiddo is ahead of the game! Of course he is reading! He is reading with his ears! Jack is an inquisitive thinker and I feel pretty confident when he is not playing hockey or baseball, he is tackling his younger brother. I am hoping to recruit Jack in a future training video on how we all read differently. We can all learn something from Jackson for sure. Besides, he and I have matching shirts... T shirt: Dyslexia is not a disability, it's a different ability.

Jonathan Mooney continues to say and I would like to echo this to all students…

“...I want you to know that normality is a problem to be struggled with, to be resisted, and ultimately, an idea to be rejected and replaced. ...When normal comes for you, I want you to be able to say what I couldn’t when it came for me. Normal sucks.”

What is normal anyway? It’s a measurement we can forever chase and never find. If we always consider the variability of all learners, presume competence, appreciate the diversity and be facilitators toward independence with accessibility in our instruction...our impact will be larger than imaginable. It can literally change life paths in a positive direction for all those faces for not only dyslexia but for all students.

#Presuming Competence is the easiest or the hardest barrier to #inclusion. The hardest because you can't force someone to believe in ability. The easiest because believing in ability costs nothing. It requires zero resources. The ? is, what side of history do you want to be on?
What side do you want to be on? Let's celebrate those beautiful brains...together! 


Note: Make sure you click on each picture to enlarge!  Also, If you have a student or child you would like to celebrate in ANY way, please email me at 
ksuding@patinsproject.org, tweet me @ksuding, or share in the comments below and I will lift them up with you and share!

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Guest — Glenda Thompson
What an interesting and fun group of friends you introduced us to, Kelli. Here's my takeaway: Samantha - look at the look of dete... Read More
Friday, 28 February 2020 14:47
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Feb
20

The Power of Connection

As the newest member of the PATINS Specialists Team, I have had the pleasure to meet many educators across the state in my first 3 months. I have seen the amazing work of educators across the state firsthand. I am asked to problem solve, find resources for, and train educators in my specialty areas. It has been an incredible experience thus far!  

One thing that has rung true the past few months is that we all are connected. So often I walk into a new school and I can find a connection to the staff member or the administrator I meet with. Feeling connected, or having meaningful relationships with others, is a basic need. Humans need to feel connected to thrive.  

Have you ever noticed the power of an unexpected kind word or gesture? Many students do not even know the need for connection exists until they are taught how to create it. They are struggling to navigate the pathways of life. School is one of the many areas they are struggling in. Learning to build positive relationships with others will help students in school and other environments throughout life.  

Educators care about students and their learning experience. The connection or relationship between an educator and student ensures they are ready to learn. Making a good and positive connection with your student will allow an educator to speak into their life. An educator’s role is mighty and multifaceted. One thing is certain though - connecting with all the students you teach will impact them profoundly.  

The educator-student connection may allow an educator to influence actions in the classroom such as work completion, attention, behavior, and success. At first, it may mean the educator offers lots of positive rewards, intentional conversations, and motivational moments. Your efforts will pay off when the student knows you care.  

In the relationship-building process, you will learn to appreciate each student for their strengths as well! I love learning about the educators and students I work with, as I am sure that you appreciate that connection too. Some students need help building positive relationships.  

Relationship Skills is one of the five Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Competencies. Some schools offer SEL programming. There are many resources available to help build the SEL skills needed to be ready to learn. This is one area I have connected with educators within my time as a PATINS Specialist. As social and emotional skills improve, students will become ready to learn. 

As I close my first blog, I want to offer a few ways educators can connect with students. We can empower students to learn through modeling positive relationships and connection. Here are a few ways you can build connection:  
  • Greet them with their name and a high five or fist bump in the morning. 
  • Write your student a positive note.  
  • Catch them being good and praise them for it.  
  • Share a favorite activity, game, food, etc.  
  • Find something you have in common to talk about.  
  • Attend a sporting event or extra-curricular activity or ask about it if you cannot attend.  
  • Call their parents with them to offer a positive report.  
  • Engage in play or a game that they like at recess.  
I encourage you to try one of these out today. Add a new one each week. Let me know what changes you see by Spring Break in the comments below!

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Guest — Jen
Way to jump right into the resources with your first blog, Lisa! Don't we all love those cute videos of the teacher with the perso... Read More
Thursday, 20 February 2020 13:31
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Feb
14

Is it Cheating...

One of my favorite sports is baseball. I have been a Yankees fan for as long as I can remember. Don Mattingly, the first baseman for the Yankees is from my hometown. The following is from Wikipedia if you are not familiar with him:

“Mattingly graduated from Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, Indiana, and was selected by the Yankees in the amateur draft. Debuting with the Yankees in 1982 after three seasons in minor league baseball, Mattingly emerged as the Yankees' starting first baseman after a successful rookie season in 1983. Mattingly was named to the American League (AL) All-Star team six times. He won nine Gold Glove Awards (an American League record for a first baseman), three Silver Slugger Awards, the 1984 AL batting title, and was the 1985 AL Most Valuable Player. Mattingly served as captain of the Yankees from 1991 through 1995, when he retired as a player. The Yankees later retired Mattingly's uniform number, 23.”

So I have been following the news on the Astros sign-stealing scheme with much interest. It seems the Astros were using a system called Codebreaker that operated by having someone watch a live feed of games and log catchers' signs into a spreadsheet with the pitch that was thrown. The algorithm would break down the correlation between signs and pitches. That later evolved into employees banging on trash cans just behind the dugout to notify batters which pitch was coming.

Now we are at the beginning of Spring Break and the Astros players are talking to the media about their roles in the scandal.  None of the players received any type of fine or discipline, nor do they seem to be very apologetic for their actions. I think about the many kids who look up to these players and see that they are only sorry that they got caught. None of them stepped up to do the right thing to stop the cheating when it was happening.

On ESPN, Mike Golic, who used to be one of my favorite sports guys to listen to, said, “You can be sorry you got caught, not really sorry that you did it. But you have to show that we got nailed here, our bad, this wasn’t a good thing.” I just think these explanations set a horrible example for kids.

This relates to my job as I am often asked if using technology is cheating. Students using tools to help them succeed should not be seen as cheating in my opinion. I’m sure if I asked a room full of adults what the capital of Bangladesh is, most of them would pull out their phones or laptops to “cheat” or to look up the answer.  

The New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities website answers the question, “Isn’t assistive technology cheating?” better than I could:

“Assistive technology is not cheating and should be acknowledged just like support for any other person with a disability. Wearing glasses when you have a visual impairment is not cheating and neither is listening to a text when you have a print-based disability. It is important to understand that not all people read with their eyes. Others access the information with their ears. Consider the learning objective when determining if the access is appropriate. Generally, students with reading difficulties are evaluated no sooner than fourth grade. Many curriculums shift the focus from learning to read, to reading to learn. A student that cannot read will struggle to learn without support.” 

I hope that the “cheating” that these students are doing when using technology supports to increase their learning and understanding is never compared to the cheating that grown men do in order to earn more money and prestige.




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