Monday, April 27, 2009

I visited Brian Benzinger's article on line, which was suggested by Dr. Burgos. This article contained some great ideas for how to incorporate technology into classrooms of all types, ranging from young students to graduates in higher education. What was so interesting about this article was that it contained many testimonials from veteran teachers, novice teachers and students, discussing what specific aspects of the technology were helpfu. I loved the idea of having a student observe the dissecting of a frog, for example, or visiting a location thousands of miles away.

Benzinger also discusses the value of sites such as Wikipedia and Youtube, which are often filtered out by school districts, teachers and administrators. I admit that I am guilty of this offense, as well, following the common misconception that these sites are harmful than helpful. However, Benzinger discusses the importance of teaching our students how to be discriminating consumers of these sites, assessing appropropriate and inappropriate material with intelligence and caution. The far easier tactic is to merely make many websites off limits, but we are also limiting our students' access to potentially valuable information. This train of thought has made me realize that it's more important to teach a student how to navigate the web with caution and knowledge than to simply say "don't go there" and I'll make sure that you don't by limiting your access. We are not raising a generation of critical thinkers, but rather, of passive participants.

This article was informative and interesting to read. For example, I'm viewing Wikipedia in a different light. Although I've used it in the past as a resource, I would certainly NEVER admit to it (ha ha). My dirty little secret is now out in the open!

Monday, April 13, 2009

global cooperation project

As an instructor in higher ed teacher prep programs, I am always looking for innovative but authentic ways to infuse curriculum with cultural diversity. With the explosion of the web 2.0, there are so many more opportunities for exposure to different cultures and traditions, all at our fingertips. So, a project could easily use epals or something similar to encourage students to strike up conversations and communications with people who are exceptionally different from our comfort zones at home.

I examined for our last project, which was a really interesting website and a nice switch from Youtube. There are certainly mainly similarities between youtube and odeo, but for me, odeo was a nice change of pace. I would use odeo as a vehicle of communication for students to communicate with others by uploading audio or video clips on a variety of topics involving cultural diversity.

Specifically, I was thinking how interesting it would be to have my college students prepare videos of concepts that we discuss on our teacher prep classes. I teach a behavior management class where we discuss various different theories and principles of classroom management and control. However, we also discuss, at length, how the culture of a student can dictate what is appropriate and allowable classroom behavior. For example, some cultures believe that direct eye contact is disrespectful and almost rude, while in other cultures, eye contact is a sign of respect and reverence. Similarly, in some cultures using a loud voice volume is acceptable and part of everyday communication, while in others, it is too casual and familiar.

I would love to see my students prepare videos discussing principles of behavior management and researching how culture impacts what we, as educators, view as appropriate. Most teachers operate from a middle class SES point of view, and more often than note, teachers are white females whose first language is English (and who do not have a second language). However, our students come from diverse backgrounds and cultures and we are not prepared to manage behavior in a manner which honors each student's individual traditions and customs. What better way to share this information than through videos on the web?We could video tape ourselves teaching culturally diverse groups and dissect/critique what was successful (or not) to serve as a learning experience for ourself and others. If we could obtain video consent from out students, I would love to see a series of student testimonials where we ask students probing questions, asking them to reflect on their classroom behavior and discuss what is allowable within their culture (and most importantly, why?)

With the internet providing us access to so many resources, Odeo would provide educators with a vehicle to share information.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Taking it global and kidlink

These two websites both contain great resources for celebrating cultural diversity in students. The Taking it Global website (TIG) has an entire section on culture and identity, with various classifications such as blogs, projects, toolkits, activities and books. The Kidlink website also has a section devoted to cultural and ethnic awareness, with areas where students can explore and discuss their individuality and uniqueness. These websites are so important for children today because our schools and classrooms are becoming more diverse and rich in cultural awareness. Education has embraced the concept of celebrating the differences between our students and young children have opportunities to explore cultures, traditions and backgrounds which are very different from their own. Once upon a time, classrooms were homogeneous environments, and students who had any sort of cultural uniqueness were made to feel as outsiders or inferior beings.

Taking it Global also has internet links and resources on a variety of topics. Among these options, I really liked the white paper on intercultural dialogue. This white paper focuses on the importance of using dialogue and conversation to combat violence, aggression and disharmony in our communities, great and small. Although kidlink discusses the importance of celebrating our diversity, the Taking it Global website looks at this issue in a presumably more global fashion.

Although I found both websites to be informative and useful for classroom teachers and higher ed professionals, they each took a bit of a different spin and perspective on the issue of cultural diversity and made it work for their respective identities. Both websites offer valuable information, in different venues, and in differing formats.

global education

There were so many great sites listed on our suggested list to explore for this module. It was a difficult decision to select a few to examine in closer detail. I first visited the kidlink site because it appeared to be geared towards early childhood, which is my area of concentration. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this site has information for students of all ages. There are a few basic domains to this site: teachers, students, parents and student teachers. As an instructor in a teacher certification program, I was happy to see resources geared specifically toward student teachers.

Although our assignment was to discuss how we would use these sites for our students in our classrooms, I was struck by how valuable this site would be for my student teacher candidates. Our student teachers get plenty of instruction on theory and educational foundations which is certainly valuable. However, this site provides resources for student teachers which are more authentic and relevant for actual application within a classroom with real students. There are various activities, all categorized by age, which make it very easy for a student teacher to gear a lesson plan towards a specific grade level.

Additionally, the activities are categorized by interests, such as "who am I?" "where do I live?", "what are my roots?", etc. which prompt a student to reflect upon themselves and their family lives, communities and backgrounds. I was impressed to see bilingual and multilingual options appearing on this website as well.

I remember really struggling through my student teaching requirements, as my placement pre-dated the internet by quite a few years (!) and these resources didn't exist at the time. I would have benefited from these ideas and activities, which are nicely organized and structured. I am impressed to see how diversity is celebrated and highlighted, so that each student has the opportunity value their unique background and compositions.

So, I would use this website for my student teacher candidates because it could easily be used for early education, elementary school and secondary placements. The activities contain objectives, outcomes, activities, rationales and even scoring rubrics for summative assessments. These are tools which are valuable for a student teacher starting out, particularly since the activities are so well structured. The objectives are measurable and observable, so the provide a sound and accurate model for our student teachers to follow. The ready made rubrics can be modified and adapted to meet individual needs, so the student teachers could gain experience in using a rubric and designing one for use with their students going forward.

The depth of this website also surprised me, as there were links upon links to explore. I wholeheartedly support use of this website because of it's capacity to provide information on a variety of relevant educational topics and for a variety of age groups.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

IEP development

Although this is an audio clip and not a video clip (it's origin is a radio broadcast), I think this information would be helpful in any of my higher education classes. By the time my graduate students reach my upper level classes, I've assumed that they have retained some of the basic information in IEP development and have written PLEP statements, goals and objectives, etc. However, I have found (the hard way) that this is not always the case and have found myself hastily reviewing IEP writing for one or two students, while the rest of the class looks on half-heartedly. I would love to use some different types of medium, even if it is just a video clip, to review some of this information, which is critically important, but not always super-exciting to students.

Introducing an audio clip would hopefully break up the monotony of the tedious topic and grab some students' attention. Additionally, this particular audio clip is from a radio show that is broadcast here locally, by a woman named Monica Moshenko. Monica is the mother to a young boy named Alex, who has autism. Monica has advocated very strongly for her son; this radio show is just one of the many ways she has decided to share her knowledge and resources with others.

I really like the idea of using video and audio for classroom use. I find myself in some of the same old ruts as others, my old standbyes are Youtube and Google Videos. Although I find some really good stuff on those sites, I was excited to see Odeo, as I've never heard about it before and love trying new things. I did see many links that went right back to Youtube but also saw many, many clips and segments of shows that are not available on Youtube, so I feel as if I have expanded my arsenal of resources a bit. I loved the list that Dr. Burgos provided on our syllabus, because although I only needed to look at one or two sites, I found myself clicking on all of them to see what they could offer.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Twitter: following others to great research

I am following a fellow Twitter member who has created a pathway to disseminate information regarding autism through tweeting. I'm really interested in the neurology of autism, particularly in an area which examines a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum (where the connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain is not functioning properly) . Individuals who have savant like abilities are frequently associated with this condition, but researchers have long suspected that all children with autism have dysfunctional corpus callosum. This tweet led me to a great abstract (which led me to a great article) examining the relationship between autism and this condition. It is still difficult to determine if this relationship is causal or correlational but it is fascinating, nonetheless.This tweet, called Translating Autism, has quickly become one of my favorite tweets to follow. I'm waiting anxiously for the tweet promised for tomorrow, which will discuss the Amygdala: the portion of our brains that govern our social abilities, among other attributes. I'm excited because in education, I don't often meet other researchers who share the same clinical interests in neurology that I have, so this has opened up a whole new world for me!

My thoughts on Twitter

I really like the idea of using Twitter to keep in touch with my higher education students immediately after a class meeting to make connections, elaborate on information shared, and relay after-thoughts. Many times, I will think of information that I would have liked to add during a class discussion but may not have had an opportunity or time constraints may have made me hesitant to do so. Presently, I put my thoughts into an e-mail or post on our discussion board.

However, I was fascinated to read in the box of tricks website,, that secondary students (ages 15-18) immediately check into social networking sites as soon as they can get to their computers. It was would be unreasonable to think that college students, particularly undergraduates, would act any differently. How much more efficient it would be to have the immediate connection of a Twitter posting, directly following a class discussion, while the information is still fresh in the minds of the students? The information relayed might be the same time of information that I would normally send out in an e-mail or discussion post, but using the vehicle of a Twitter or something similar would have a more profound impact on the student, as Twitter would have more immediate relevance and incentive for them than checking into their Buff State e-mail account.

Jeffrey Young raises valid points in his article discussing Twitter and college students. Although, as he mentions, iPhones and similar devices are becoming more and more common on college campuses, there is still the issue of cost to the student for a texting program, or for some, even the expense of the cell phone device itself. However, as Young mentions, Twitter messages can easily be sent to a web-based computer as opposed to a cell phone and it is true that many college students have package plans with mobile phone providers which allow for unlimited number of texts per month.

Young further discusses how some experts in the field of information technology feel that Twittering will never reach the heights of popularity that Facebook or e-mailing enjoy among young adults. That remains to be seen as Twitter is still in its infancy stages of development and exposure. Young raises several interesting points on is blog, located at

My thoughts about Twitter for personal use are a bit conflicted. I don’t really need another reason to be held captive in front of my computer, so I’m not sure how much I would use Twitter from a social point of view. That being said, I am excited to use Twitter for my college-aged students in a variety of ways. I do like how instant Twitter is and contrary to my initial thoughts, it doesn’t appear as if students use it exclusively in self-obsessive or narcissistic ways. Hopefully, it can be used as a way to disseminate information on a frequent, daily basis. I like the idea of sending students a message, probing question, writing prompt or thought for the day which would be relevant for their lifestyle, but still get them thinking about subject matter which we are currently discussing in our coursework. Students very often comment on the value (or lack thereof) that they find from their college classes, as they have a difficult time relaying what they are hearing, seeing and/or reading in practical, meaningful ways into their life. I think Twitter can bridge that gap and disseminate information in a manner which is current and relevant for a student.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Right brain vs. left brain thinkers (and speakers)

I just read a very interesting article discussing how to have new ideas heard at the workplace. The article quotes a diversity specialist named Dr. Sonia Herasymowich, who discusses the differences between right/left brain thinkers. Right brain thinkers, who tend to be female, rely on intuition and may impulsively blurt out thoughts that appear to go unheard. Some of these thoughts may actually be very astute and provocative. However, a left brain thinker is a reasoner, and sets the stage to present an idea. When a left brain thinker presents an idea, according to Dr. Herasymowich, he/she has set the stage for acceptance of this idea and it may be heralded as a breakthrough concept, even if a right brain thinker has just said the same thing. The article goes on to give some helpful hints regarding brainstorming sessions and how to have your voice heard when presenting a new idea. It was an interesting article, particulary the neurological aspect of right/left brain thinkers and speakers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

found the coolest ning

One of my favorite websites, Autism Speaks, has a ning:

I also found that out that it's very active, as is the blog on this site.

For anyone who hasn't ever been to this website, if you are interested in autism, there is a ton of great information here. And, the organization has a really heartwarming story of its beginning and founders. I won't bore anyone with it here, but if you are interested, let me know and I'll make another post.

This ning is a great way to stay current with some of the latest research and issues surrounding autism. Autism is a unique disorder in that it has educational, medical, psychological and social ramifications. So, it's great to have a central location where all of these issues can be discussed and new information can be shared and disseminated in an organized, streamlined way.

I don't think I would have found this if it hadn't been for this assignment, so thanks, Dr. Burgos! Kathy

George Siemens and food (weak and strong links)

This man is amazing! I'm curious about his name and wonder if he is related at all to THE SIEMENS corporation? Wouldn't that be cool?

Anyway, I took a class this summer about valuing diversity and it had a very different spin on it. We devoted a good portion of the class to valuing diversity in technology among our peers, students, colleagues, etc. It was a very interesting and refreshing spin on a familiar topic. We read "The World if Flat" which reminds me very much of the George Siemens' article.

I've never thought too much about social networking. Initially, it appeared (to me, at least) to be a vehicle for high school and college students to have fun. Then I read about social networking for "my" generation and I was still only mildly interested. To some degree, I find it self-indulgent, narcissistic and vain to post every little detail about my life (where I'm going, what I've done that day, what I'm thinking about) in such a public forum. I do admit to changing my thinking, especially in light of Siemens' comments about how important it is, for social beings, to externalize thoughts in a public way. He says (in the Conflict of Learning Theory within Human Nature: that: "We desire, we crave, the ability to externalize what is in our heads" which really changed my thinking. Yes, it may appear self-centered to disclose to humanity at large what we are thinking in our most private thoughts, but it appears to be an innate need of humans, dating back to our first recordings of primitive thoughts.

I was also fascinated by Siemens' discussions of "weak" links, which I had never heard of. But, he makes some really interesting points about the magnitude and depth of the links which bind us together in a social society. In his article, he says:

Weak ties are links or bridges that allow short connections between information. Our small world networks are generally populated with people whose interests and knowledge are similar to ours. Finding a new job, as an example, often occurs through weak ties. This principle has great merit in the notion of serendipity, innovation, and creativity. Connections between disparate ideas and fields can create new innovations. Siemens, G. (2005, January). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning

(sorry - can't figure out how to indent to indicate a long quote)

Yes, our world is very small (which is the point of the book "The World is Flat") and it is full of links (hence that game of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon). I liked the illustration of finding a job, as that put the concept of "links" in perspective for me.

I had a difficult time thinking of an analogy to describe learners and how I view them. I tend to think of life in terms of parties and feeding people, so here goes: A learner is like a buffet table loaded with traditional, exotic and novel foods; there is so much to sample and taste, some speak to our upbringing and values, others make us adventurous and daring. We should savor what we know and love, but also be courageous enough to dare to try the roasted alligator or curried pears, because we'll never know our true tastes if we only live inside our comfort zones. What a shame it would be to bypass all of these available delicacies to stay with the tried and true. We have limitless possibilities of learning and will only reach our potential as life-long learners if we continue to sample the unknown and nibble on balsamic glazed escargot every now and then.

Siemens talks about social networking and our need to externalize our thoughts. Eating great food can be a social event (why Weight Watchers says we celebrate in groups but diet alone) a great connector of lives (families, friends, co-workers, strangers, acquaintances). In terms of Siemens' discussion of links, food would be a strong link, in my opinion, and learning would be just as strong. Through learning, we come together with others of similar interests (a college course, a poetry reading, a cooking class, a horse show) and create new links, strong and weak.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My cohorts!!

Just needed to add a post about my wonderful co-horts and their unwavering support (pat, pat). We definitely keep each other sane during these crazy times of juggling children, spouses, research component defenses, baby showers for our sisters, frozen water pipes, fried laptop hard drives containing years of family photos, returns to India (sob), KNITTED HATS!!, and middle of the night e-mail-athons.

You guys are SUPER-HEROES, one and all!!

BTW, guess I should have asked your permission first for display of this pic, but I love it so much, I would post whether I had permission or not! (Don't think I'm violating any FERPA laws, but you just never know!)
One more BTW: I think this was the last time we were all together???

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Educational uses for blogging

Well, I have to admit initially being stumped by this assignment. I think I wasn't thinking creatively enough. I found a really interesting, informative website that is designed for educators to integrate technology into higher ed classrooms. The information was great because it gave the advantages and caveats to certain types of technology in various situations. For example, it discusses when to use a blog and when to use a wiki, which was helpful to me. I'm still waiting for my textbook for this class, although I ordered it the same day the syllabus went on line. I've always had good luck with Amazon, but am feeling like they really disappointed me this time around (just like your experience last semester, Sandy). Anyway, here is the link:

And here are my three ideas for using a blog in my classroom (the information from above helped me to think out of the box, a bit)

1. For student teachers, or novice teachers, I will ask them to keep a journal of daily experiences in the classroom, for self reflection, What really worked today, or what would I do differently next time around, that kind of stuff. Ultimately, it will be a nice documentation and history of a valuable learning experience;

2. I will ask my teacher candidates to set up a blog, discussing their individual area of interest in education (literacy, transition, ESL, deaf education, etc.) and network with colleagues and fellow professionals to have support, comraderie and a means of communicating with other professionals with similar interests; and

3. There is so much information to share that at times, it can seem overwhelming. I've put many links to articles of interest on my blog and I will ask my graduate students to do the same. I will ask them to add an article or two, or link to an article, on a weekly basis. Each student would then have to visit two blogs each week, to "sample" the articles and write a brief critique of the information found via the link (helpful, redundant, something I already knew, surprising, etc). I would then have a discussion board forum for students to discuss areas of interest and links which were helpful to them.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

About this blog (and me)

I have so many passions within special education and hope to have them reflected within this blog. Starting out my career as a gen ed teacher (lifetimes ago), my initial exposure to education was in a completely different era and place. I had eschewed special education as a certification area because I was so convinced that I didn't have the "heart" for special education, because my exposure to the field was so limited and so, so wrong on many levels.

Children with special needs were not part of our every day life at school; they were stashed away in the basements of schools, a la the "boiler room" locations. I saw special education as a futile practice, working with students who did not possess the ability to do much. I had nothing but pity for kids with special needs and their families.

Boy, does life have a way of coming back at you, with a bite!

Special education is my passion. I know a lot about a few, narrow aspects in special education, one of them being the law. I don't have depths of knowledge about reading disabilities or children with emotional disturbance, but I thoroughly understand the laws and regulations which govern their services. I do contractual work for VESID and am privy to field memoranda and training sessions through State Ed. So, I have a good understanding of how to navigate through these crazy systems, both at the federal and state levels.

My other narrow focus of interest is autism. I have an expertise and depth of knowledge within the field, both as a professional and parent. My son is now 12 so we've lived in this world of ASD for a while. I've been a special education teacher for children with autism for ten years and have experienced some of the greatest rewards and celebrations in life.

I use a tried and true method of instruction called applied behavioral analysis, while infusing a bit of sensory integration, as needed. People think that I have an 'eerie' capability to read the minds of kids with autism. While this is flattering in a weird sort of way, it's not really true. I observe my students' behavior, so closely, and make note of everything they do. It helps me to predict what they will do in the future, to understand their triggers, to know what they love and what makes them unhappy, to read the subtle changes of expression demonstrated on their faces, and to read their body language to understand what they are communicating. It has it's advantages and disadvantages, as I find myself closely observing EVERYONE (the cashier at Wegmans, the strange guy on the elevator, etc.) whether I want to or not. It's hard to turn off.

Anyway, this blog will contain information, links, articles, etc. that I find interesting and helpful, primarily centered around autism, behavior, special education law, and the advocacy for people with special needs. I hope that it's helpful.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

kathy rd's blog

This is my first attempt at blogging, so I'll just call this my test run.