Thursday, April 23, 2015

Building Bridges for Students

This week, Ashley Rila, high school special education teacher, Nathan Wear, high school principal and Maggie Pickett, Grant Wood AEA speech-pathologist, presented at the Building Bridge’s Eastern Iowa Assistive Technology Conference held at the Iowa Memorial Union.  

Their presentation was on Solon’s AIM Pilot program, which focuses on using a technology program to help identify the best instructional supports for students in special education to succeed in reading.  Mrs. Rila strongly believes in the outcome of this project, helping to create individualized accommodations for students.  Traditionally, this outcome can often follow a difficult route trying to figure out the best assistance for students who are struggling readers.  However, this pilot used an online program called Universal Protocol for Accommodations in Reading, or uPAR.  uPAR compares a student’s reading level when they are reading on their own against reading with accommodations, like having an adult reader or a computerized text reader read to the student.  The program collects real-time data and the teacher can see what the best accommodation is based on student performance.  These results are shared with general education teachers and utilized in classes to help students put into practice the accommodation that is right for them.  

For some students who have learned that using a text reader is the best accommodation for them, they have been learning about how to use a new piece of technology built right into their Chrome Browser called Read&Write for Google.  This program allows students to select passages or words they would like to hear read aloud.  It offers a lot of independence for students, which is good as high school students need to continue to practice skills that will help them succeed at the next level after high school.

Through this pilot, Mrs. Rila has been able to see some amazing “wow” moments of growth for her students on standardized tests and class work because the accommodations were personalized for them.  It has been very rewarding for students as they have taken ownership of their learning process and they have been able to see the results of their efforts.

- Contribution from Amber Bridge, Grant Wood AEA Technology Consultant. Want to share what is going on in your class or collaborate on a technology project?  Feel to to contact me

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Be the Change

When it comes to social media, there are so many different ways that you can use these powerful online communication tools.  Many people believe that the only thing on Twitter is people posting what they ate for breakfast.  But there is so much more!   There is actually a very large presence of educational leaders on Twitter sharing out the great things happening in their schools who connect and comment on educational topics.  Did you know that Nathan Wear, the High School principal is one of those leaders?

Mr. Wear uses Facebook and Twitter as a communication tool for the High School sharing information with the hashtag, #solonstrong.  Great hashtag.  Do you know the story behind it?  Wait, let me back up, do you know what a hashtag is?  A hashtag is a word or a phrase that is preceded by a pound sign to act as a connecting thread on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.  You can follow the hashtag #solonstrong to see the story of Solon Schools online.  I was impressed to learn that #Solonstrong was created by High School students about two years ago and has shown to be a great way to help share what is going on in Solon Schools.  It has become so popular that the Press Citizen will include it when they write stories on the school district!

The biggest part of social media for Mr. Wear has been to model appropriate digital citizenship and lead by example for his staff and students.  When you use social media, you’ll be surprised at the connections you’ll make.  Most of these connections are positive, however, there can be a darker side.  A recent bubble of the social media’s negativity showed the importance of modeling appropriate use for students.  One tweet in response to the negativity from Mr. Wear started a ripple effect with students who retweeted and favorited his tweet, spreading the message.  Students took a stand following his example, sending out their own tweets against the negativity saying that they didn’t want this at their school.  The students took control and proved that Gandhi's quote to be true, “Be the change you want to see in the world” and the negativity quickly disappeared.   

Twitter is a great place for educators to connect and spark new ideas. If you are just getting started on twitter and are not quite sure who to follow, check out Mr. Wear’s list of top educators to follow.

Kathy Kaldenberg- @scsdmedia
Matt Townsley- @mctownsley
Scott McLeod- @mcleod
Jimmy Casas- @casas_jimmy
George Couros- @gcouros
Patrick Larkin- @patrickmlarkin
Eric Sheninger- @E_Sheninger

- Contribution from Amber Bridge, Grant Wood AEA Technology Consultant. Want to share what is going on in your class or collaborate on a technology project?  Feel to to contact me