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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTgWt4Uzr54&feature=PlayList&p=3E43054A8703F57A&index=2) 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.