Forget Marble Notebooks: High Tech Is Coming To A K-12 Classroom Near You

Written by Dawn Papandrea , a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

All across the country, K-12 students are settling into the school year, which more than ever probably includes the sort of technology you’d expect to see in a corporate office or college classroom. From video and web conferencing to handheld devices for all students to online testing, the days of number two pencils and teachers writing notes on the blackboard could soon be a thing of the past.

Take a look at some technologies coming to (or already at!) a K-12 classroom near you…

Incorporating Technology Into Every Lesson

Remember when the big excitement at school was getting to watch a video, or if you’re really old, those slideshows that had accompanying records that beeped to prompt you to the next slide? We’ve come a long way when one considers that 52 percent of teachers say they use interactive whiteboards in their classes, and 40 percent have a class wiki or website, according to the Pew Report “The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools.”

Even when it comes to test preparation for the SAT, the days of flipping flashcards are over. One company, Benchprep, for example, uses an interactive gaming approach to appeal to high schoolers who are prepping for the college admissions exam.

Testing Online

Unless you’re living under a rock or in one of only 5 states that hasn’t adopted the Commor Core, you’re probably aware that by spring 2015, states must administer a mandatory online assessment to test student proficiency in math and English. Online testing means more students sitting at computers during the school day. As such, public schools are beefing up their IT offerings. In fact, says a CDW-G survey, 83 percent of public school district IT professionals surveyed cited Common Core as one of their top three IT priorities.

Paper and Pencil Is So Retro

Just as many have gotten used to using e-readers instead of hard copy books, the same may happen with school textbooks. In fact, 37 percent of teachers in a “Styles of Learning” survey by Enterasys Secure Networks said they planned to transition to digital textbooks within the next one to five years. At home, students are already getting used to making the switch to digital, as 31% of middle school students say they use tablets to complete homework assignments, according to a Verizon Foundation study.

The World Is Their Classroom

Thanks to video and web conferencing, some lucky students are able to watch presentations, experiments, and other learning events in real time from anywhere in the world. Think of it as the modern day field trip. For instance, some zoos, museums, ­libraries and other organizations have distance learning ­programs specifically designed for schools.

This technology is especially helpful for rural areas that are too far from cultural centers for students to frequent. One such school district in Oklahoma has been using mobile video conferencing with great success, according to an article in EdTech Magazine.

It’s just a matter of bringing video conferencing equipment into schools as companies like InterCall do to facilitate educator’s needs.

Online Courses

Beyond technology in the classroom, many K-12 students are taking courses right from their own homes via online learning. For example, Iowa Learning Online is currently serving 800 students, and has plans to expand and grow the program. Teachers broadcast to students via webcams or use technologies like Skype or Adobe Connect.

Technology in learning has come a long way in a short time, and will likely continue improving as it becomes more accessible and user friendly. Just imagine what the classroom will look like five years from now!

About the author: Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based writer specializing in education, careers, parenting, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Circle, Parents, WomansDay.com, CreditCards.com, and more. She has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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Special Ed Goes High Tech

This infographic was supplied by Wendy Turner, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Students with special needs face challenges that may not be apparent to the rest of the world. They work hard to improve certain skills so that they can act as members of society, and it is important to give them the tools that they need to succeed. Unfortunately, the federal government only provides a total of 15 percent of the cost associated with caring for a child with special needs. Parents are left trying to cover the expensive costs of tutoring services or technology programs that can assist in the educational development of a special needs child.  Students can have a wide range of special needs for which they require supportive educational services and technology programs. Some students suffer from speech impediments, while other students may suffer from emotional disorders. Some students may have hearing or visual impairment. A student may be mentally retarded or have learning disabilities that make it difficult for him or her to adapt to a school environment. Those who have had a traumatic brain injury may also be considered special needs children.  It is important for school communities to embrace those who have disabilities. Students should feel like they are members of the community and should feel accepted. They should feel a sense of joy in attending school and not view their specific classes as punishments for a disability. Students who have disabilities have certain rights that are codified into law, and it is vital that school systems recognize these rights. Even if a school budget must expand to meet the costs of schooling special needs children, this should not be a major concern of school boards. School boards should be ready and willing to meet the expenses that are associated with educating a child who has special needs.  Students who have special needs should also have access to the latest technology in the classroom. They should have access to laptops and net-books that can enhance their educational experience. Digital textbooks can also make learning more enjoyable and fun for those who have disabilities. School districts should seriously consider making these investments in technology to meet the needs of disabled children.  Source: http://www.special-education-degree.net/technology

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The Battle Between Book Binding and the eBook – Which is Most Suitable for the Classroom?

Written by Cheryl Luzet, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

The book is a familiar friend to many of us; a book can be a place where we can meet wonderful characters and immerse ourselves in their worlds, or it can be a teacher to educate us about our favourite subjects. The book has been around in one form or another for many centuries but the format we recognise today was probably born in India, where the craft of book binding was pioneered. The first books to benefit from the technological advances which enabled book binding were religious texts, and the binding process used to create them was subsequently taken into Persia, China and beyond by Buddhist monks around the first century BC. The techniques of book binding spread throughout the world thereafter, and though the processes have evolved over the centuries, the end result is similar and instantly recognisable to all of us.

But now the book which we know so well has a competitor: the eBook. This latest technological development certainly has convenience on its side; an eBook reader is light and portable and can hold several thousand books, something that could only be done with the help of a large truck in the case of traditional books! So is it likely to take over from its paper counterpart and, more particularly, how do the two match up in the classroom?

The eBook certainly has its advantages: it gives students the ability to search for particular words or sentences when they want to locate a particular quotation, and it allows them to view dictionary definitions of any words they need help with in an instant. On the downside, it is more difficult to read from the screen and limits the ability for children to share their books. And, given their natural curiosity, there’s a tendency for kids to get distracted by other apps and tools on the reading device, which could be a disruption to learning. Naturally, cost is another major consideration. A move towards eBooks would require significant investment in technology which may be prohibitive for schools; children could easily lose their reading devices, or the devices themselves may not prove robust enough to withstand the constant wear at the hands of pupils which use in the classroom would expose them to.

The bound book has been a mainstay of the classroom for generations. Its physical form makes it easy to flick through and read; its size and format make it convenient for students to share in the classroom if there aren’t enough copies to go round, and it certainly doesn’t cost anywhere near as much to replace if it is lost or damaged. When compared to the eBook, however, it does lose out from being self-contained and having no other inbuilt learning materials such as a dictionary. The result is that students are likely to have to carry several different text books, and could lose time and concentration when they have to switch between them to look up information.

We must conclude then that, as is usually the case when technology vies with traditional media, there is a place for both. We may one day see a move to 100% eBook usage in the classroom but we would need to get the devices in place first and thoroughly stress test them in that environment. For the present, the printed book is a convenient classroom companion which lets teachers supervise more easily, so it’s likely it will not lose its place just yet.

Guest blog by Binding Store www.bindingstore.co.uk/ who sell business solutions for a wide variety of binding and printing finishing needs.

Common Misconceptions About Autism

Written by Amy Elliott a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

In 2012, the CDC announced that one in eighty-eight children would be diagnosed with Autism. The actual number of diagnoses would appear to be higher – the CDC released new figures which showed the number is actually closer to one in fifty. Despite the increased prevalence, many people still harbor misconceptions about autism, a few of which are described in greater detail below.

  • Everyone on the spectrum is a genius. The truth is, less than 10% of people with ASD have savant characteristics (think of Dustin Hoffman’s character in the “Rain Man” movie). People with skills such as those are fascinating, and they gain huge publicity. However, the reality is that the majority of those with autism have normal intellect and ability.
  • Every person with autism also has a mental disability. Researchers have, for a long time, considered most people with ASD to have a below average mental capacity. Based on what we know now about autism, those numbers could stem from the fact that many autistic people don’t pay much attention to the tests used to measure intelligence.
  • Autism happens as a result of poor parenting. This is one of the more unfortunate misconceptions, and it caused a generation of women to be blamed for their children’s autism diagnoses. It’s not fully known what causes ASD, or if there is but one cause.
  • People with autism cannot talk. While some do not communicate orally, many do; even those who can’t talk can communicate in other ways—computers, pictures and even sign language. In some cases, people can imitate others’ speech, but can’t directly communicate when they need or want something.
  • Autism = eccentricity. Many on the spectrum are eccentric, original and creative, but so are many other people who don’t have autism! Autism is NOT a way of life. Some who claim to be on the spectrum believe that autism is merely possessing a “different” view of the world, and that parents who want to help their children learn daily skills such as dressing themselves are being restrictive. People are unique, and those with autism are no exception.
  • People with ASD don’t feel affection or empathy. Nothing could be further from the truth! Those with autism sometimes have difficulty expressing those emotions, but they feel the same emotions as every other human being.
  • There are autism-curing treatments available. As of now, there’s no cure for ASD, only ways to manage the symptoms. ABA (applied behavioral analysis) is touted as the gold standard in treatment, but it isn’t right for every case. The same holds true for other therapies, such as Floortime and even prescription medications.
  • Science knows the underlying cause of autism. Sure it does—and every week, it releases a new study saying that there’s yet another cause.

People with autism spectrum disorders are special and unique, with their own dreams, hopes and goals. The next time you encounter someone with ASD, remember the facts given here, and not the misconceptions—and take time to get to know the person, not their condition.
Bio: Amy Elliott is a writer with a passion for autism awareness. She occasionally writes for Voyage Care, specialists in supported living and autism care.

How a Child is Taught to Write in Special Education

Written by Adeline, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***)

Nearly all of us are given a chance to improve in handwriting. It works with the body and mind in harmony. The brain sends a chain of commands to the muscles of the eyes and hands that enable one to write. However, not everyone is able to write normally. There are those who had been born with disabilities that hinder them from writing properly. This, however, does not mean that they can’t learn.

Dysgraphia and other learning disabilities
What Is Dysgraphia? This is a learning disability (LD) found in persons with writing disabilities. How is this observed? When a child has difficulty learning correct spelling, exhibits poor handwriting skills, and experiences dilemmas in reflecting thoughts upon writing down words or paragraphs, he or she might suffer from dysgraphia. However, it takes more than this to diagnose the disability.

What is taught in the normal learning environment as well as getting involved in additional practice for improving the writing skills will still help them. In short, the issue here is starting a unique program under special education for children with dysgraphia with goals in improving their writing abilities.

Other cases of children with LD who, also, cannot write well are: dyslexia, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and the ones with muscle disorders.  Statistics have shown that around 15% to 20% of the U.S. population suffers from dyslexia or a reading disability. This was a top reason for getting low grades in reading at school, which affects the children, casting shadows of frustration and self-doubt. Sadly, most cases of learning disabilities go undiagnosed. If you notice your child to be having problems in writing, consult a specialist right away so you can help your child learn in spite of his or her disability.

What to Do
Writing equals mechanics and content. The basic writing mechanics are capitalization, punctuation, spelling, letter and sentence construction, while content should be the expression and organization of thoughts. These are the basic things one learns to .be able to write successfully. If the basic mechanics are done correctly, then coming up with very good content follows.

With the advancement of technology today in skills development, a child with LD can now easily complete a task that is related to writing, like composing a short essay or story. They find with it easier to do typing than writing by hand. Spellcheckers found online or those that come installed with word processing software can aid a student with dyslexia in his or her reading and writing skills.

Steve Graham, a professor and the current Currey Ingram chair in special education at Vanderbilt University in the United States, has developed a series of steps on how to teach a child under special education to write legibly. According to him, the “once and done” model is not enough in encouraging children with learning disabilities to write. A child with LD, really, asks for extra attention and care; this is called scaffolding. Going over and over again on the instructions and process of writing until he or she completes a task should be done by a teacher or parent so that goals are met.

Some of the said steps are:
a) Strictly teaching children the ways to plan, revise, and edit their own written work.

b) Selecting goals for them in relation to the assignment.

c) Teach the use of word processing as a tool for their assignments.

Another exercise is by instructing to copy a sentence letter by letter, with, of course, the ones that are already, recognized by a child with LD. Do it again, but quicker (10% faster), in as many times as possible, for about three minutes. This should improve speed while still writing legibly. A set of different steps are taught to early writers, young students, teenagers, and adults with writing disabilities.

You can use modern technology to teach children who struggle in school. Aside from websites, there are computer programs that focus on writing and reading for children with learning disabilities. Remember to be supportive in their writing and reading activities, especially if the child has special needs.

About the Author: Adeline is an expert writer on various topics under special education and gifted learning. She regularly writes for the website helpyourteennow.com.

References:
Kids Health from Nemours website; Understanding Dyslexia; KidsHealth.org and Laura L. Bailet, PhD; 2012;
[http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/learning/dyslexia.html]

LD Online website; How to Help Your Students Write Well: An Interview with Steve Graham; Dale S. Brown; 2007;
[http://www.ldonline.org/article/12991/]

LD Online website; Special Education; LD Online; 2010;
[http://www.ldonline.org/indepth/specialed]

LD Online website; What Is Dysgraphia?; National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD); 2006;
[http://www.ldonline.org/article/What_Is_Dysgraphia%3F]

Helpful Educational Strategies

Written by Jackie Ufer, advisor for the home based education program of Clonlara School.  While this article was written for the homeschooling parent, we believe it is also true of families who are seeking educational choices for their children is campus based programs as well.

Many parents are home educating children who have a disability. Children with learning disabilities and ADHD are the two largest subgroups who receive accommodations through disability legislation (Parker et al, 2011). At times these parents may feel their children’s needs are not being met in the public school system, but also feel anxious or unsure how to effectively address their children’s learning needs on their own at home. Parents often ask their Clonlara Advisor for a product or curriculum that is designed for a child with a special learning need. Although there are several wonderful products and curricula for sale, effective learning best occurs with the use of curriculum material combined with effective strategies. This article is meant to provide and describe research-based strategies that can be incorporated with any learning activity at any age level. The strategies described below have been proven to increase the transfer of information from short-term to long-term memory as well as increase retrieval of previously learned information from long term memory.

Build Self-Efficacy: Self- efficacy is the ability level or confidence a person feels they have in a particular skill area. When a student has a high level of self-efficacy in a particular area they tend to employ higher-order thinking and persevere longer in challenging activities. A sense of self-efficacy is very important for any student, but especially for students who have been told they have a “disability” and may feel inadequate because they cannot learn in the same ways as their peers. It is important to teach these students that they CAN learn and are just as smart and talented as their peers. They just learn in a different way. Help them discover what their talents are and the best ways for them to be successful learning new information.

Goal Setting: Make goals clear at the beginning of a learning activity. Let the student set personal and academic goals. Two useful activities for this are “3-2-1.” The student describes 3 things they already know or think they know- 2 things they would like to learn more about- and 1 thing they find interesting about the topic. And “K-W-L” – what do you Know – what do you Want to learn – and what did you Learn?

Plans for Achieving Goals: Depending on the age level, make a plan for how the goal will be accomplished. Brainstorm activities that sound interesting and productive with the student. With older students, this will give them a sense of control over their own education. Younger students often enjoy monitoring their progress towards a goal. Discuss progress toward the goal and make a visual.

Build background knowledge: Be aware of previous knowledge a student needs to know in order to learn a new skill. Also, be aware of whether the student possesses this knowledge and teach it if necessary.

Short instruction time: Keep instruction time short and engaging. The average attention span is about 7 minutes and the brain usually decides whether the information is pertinent within the first 1 – 3 seconds. If the brain decides the information being presented is important, it will continue to take in the rest of the information and hold in short-term memory for 20- 30 seconds. After that, it will transfer to long-term memory based on follow-up activities using new information. Give short breaks during longer activities and then review when the break is over to get the brain “back on track.”

Chunking: Breaking information into small, manageable parts. When covering a large amount of information, it is best to break it into chunks containing about 7 (+ or -) pieces. Also, try to group information with other related information. If the learner can make a connection to new information, he or she is more likely to retain it.

Scaffolding: When a new concept is introduced, it’s ok to guide learning and “jog” a student’s memory. Giving hints that assist in information processing or retrieval is part of a process called scaffolding. When we scaffold, we give hints and slowly take the hints away as a student becomes more confident with new information or skills.

Multiple modalities: Use multiple modalities for learning so different parts of the brain are activated. Different learners have different processing strengths neurologically. Modalities include visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic (movement).

Errorless Learning: Monitor the learning of new information closely. Once a pathway in the brain of a child with a learning disability has been formed, it is much harder to form a new correct pathway as compared to the brain of a student without a processing disorder.

Modeling: Have a peer or mentor the student respects model a new skill. Often when we see someone we view as similar to ourselves accomplish a task, we will then feel as if we can do it too. When people feel confidence entering into a challenge (self-efficacy as described above), they tend to have higher perseverance, use problem-solving skills, and employ more higher-order thinking to learning activities.

Real life application and Problem Solving: Present students with problems to solve independently that will require them to apply new and old knowledge. Allow students multiple ways to solve a problem.

Constant review: Students with processing disorders need more repetition and structure.

Jackie Ufer is an advisor for the home based education program at Clonlara School.  She wrote this article for The Learning Edge newsletter and kindly let us re-use it.  

How Accurate was Your Education?

This infographic was supplied by Gerri, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***)

Here at school we often hear, “why do we have to take this class?” or “I’m never going to use this,”  but Gerri shows us that may not be true.  A fun way to show your children/students that there may be a reason they haven’t thought of – you really do use this stuff.

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