Thinking Math Supports?

In partnership with Ron Coleborn (Math consultant), we are pleased to announce two Math softwares available for teachers:

  • Dreambox Learning (Math)
  • Skoolbo (Math and Literacy basic skills) (Canadian version)

dreamboxDreamBox is an online Math resource (K-8) intended to support personalized instruction for students from intervention to enrichment. The ongoing formative assessments within the program can align classroom practices and lessons creating a blended model of instruction. Some of our schools have been using the program in pilot and can share their stories. A small number of purchased student licenses are available. More information can be found on our Learning Technologies site (WEB RESOURCES > DREAMBOX LEARNING).   Teachers who are interested may apply on our FORMS page.

skoolbologoSkoolbo (Canadian version)(K-5) is now available for those who are seeking practice in basic skills in Math or Literacy (building blocks). This is an online resource that provides a “game type” environment to hone basic skills. Create your avatar and the program can take you through the skillsets (based on a set of pre-tests). Or a teacher can assign specific content where practice is needed. This may enhance (RTI) Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports. We’ve registered all schools (elementary and secondary). More information can be found on our Learning Technologies site (WEB RESOURCES > SKOOLBO).   Teachers who are interested may apply on our FORMS page for a class account.

Watch for a full launch in September. Perhaps I see a coordinated song and dance in the future?

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Assistive Software – Inclusion in the Classroom

There are a number of assistive-type softwares that may help students with access to learning in the classroom. The following focuses on writing, reading, and vision supports. Most are free and can be easily downloaded by the student.

  • EASE of ACCESS: This group of tools offers simple word prediction through the on-screen keyboard, magnifier (for vision support)… Click here for instructions. Note the different ways to gain access whether you are a teacher or student.
  • SpeakIt:  Google Chrome extension that provides text-to-speech for most web content. Has a range of voices and languages to choose. Options are available to adjust the speaking rate and pitch of voice. This is a good one!
  • ClaroSpeak_chromeiconClaroSpeak: Google Chrome extension is a simple text-to-speech reader with word prediction, editing, proofing and speaking dictionary. There is also a more powerful paid app for ipads that includes access to pdf.
  • Rewordify: This is a site that I’ve written about before and is well worth repeating. (Click here for previous post) Any text can be pasted into the box and it will return a simplified version – very quickly I might add. One of the options deserves highlighting. Retaining the original word within the text, while offering a simpler form provides two things: increase of comprehension and increase of vocabulary. Sitting side by side, relationships between the difficult term and easier one is visually connected. As well, the integrated dictionary allows access to almost all of the words in the selection. Finally, the content can be printed and stored.
  • Word Talk on MSWord:  Text-to-Speech toolbar is part of computer images (click on the tab, ADD-INS). This toolbar provides reading support as well as a simple word prediction dictionary.

wordtalk

  • Kidspiration and Inspiration (graphic organizer to writing):  While this is not technically assistive software, it does have a sound recorder that can support memory or as an audio file embedded within the graphic organizer. The recorder will also show up in Outline Writing view. This provides a seamless process from ideas generation to written output.  All sd41 teachers can have a personal full copy of the software for home use. (See our FORMS page for information on TAKE-HOME software.)
  • Kurzweil 3000: This software is the cadillac of assistive softwares. It will read almost any digital information (print, electronic, pdf or the Web) in clear, synthetic speech, while a dual highlighting feature adds visual reinforcement.  This provides a digital means of engaging with text and supports those students who require alternative methods for accessing, writing and recording information. Click here for more information.
  • iWordQ-CA ($29): This is an ipad app that mimics a simple version of what you would expect from the more robust Kurzweil 3000. In writing mode, text editor includes word prediction, spell checker, dictionary and speech recognition. In reading mode, text-to-speech offers proofing and reading options.
  • Add language keyboards to Win7 devices – access other languages through added keyboards. Click here for instructions.

Do you have any favourites that integrate with reading or writing? Drop a comment in the box below. I’d love to add to the list.

When Opportunity and Resources Meet = Success Happens

newyear2015Connecting a ‘just right’ opportunity to engage in independent deeper thinking and a resource that allows that to happen is a challenge. When the two meet, it’s almost magical, especially when it can include students who struggle with reading and writing. For these, time is spent mostly on the mechanics of reading/writing, leaving little cognitive energy for deep thinking. While some resources require a strong commitment to mastering the tool (I’m thinking Kurzweil 3000 – still the master of all reading/writing supports – click here for information), others may offer similar experiences with less need for front-end learning.

I wrote about Rewordify before in a previous post so I won’t go into the ‘how to’s here.  Upon first blush, the online site may look rather simple. Dig a little deeper and you will find other layers worth exploring. Its basic premise is that any text can be pasted into the box and it will return a simplified version – very quickly I might add. One of the options deserves highlighting. Retaining the original word within the text, while offering a simpler form provides two things: increase of comprehension and increase of vocabulary. Sitting side by side, relationships between the difficult term and easier one is visually connected. As well, the integrated dictionary allows access to almost all of the words in the selection. And finally, the content can be printed and stored.

rewordify_result

If you have not had a chance to explore this application, you may be surprised at how useful it can be for many students. It is free, though it requires access to the internet. (*Note: You do not need to register to use the site.)

Writing is another challenge that some of our students struggle to get their thoughts down on paper. While I believe that access to computers provides a wider range of choices, there is an application using ipads that offer a basic level of support with regards to word prediction and integrated reading (*this is not speech-to-text).  For those of you already using the computer version (you’ll see this as similar), GoQ Software has developed an ipad version. Named iWordQ Ca (I’ve been waiting for the Canadian spelling and French is included!), the cost of $25 may be worth it. iwordq_writeIt offers a very simple text editor (no images) for writing connected with anticipatory word prediction software. Definitions with examples, pop up with a tap of the finger. You can even add your own words into the lexicon thus including any specialized content vocabulary (think science, social studies). Typed words and sentences can be read back giving you a bit of quality control on the actual writing.   Reading mode gives the writer a chance to do some more proofreading as well as revision.  You might also use it for oral practice by speaking alongside the reading mode, if the end goal is a presentation. (*Note: Speech recognition is only found on the newer ipads. Need wifi access for this app to work.)
For those of you who know me really well, you’re waiting for why I like this app over the many that are out there. That can be seen in the Export feature – multiple ways. Writing is a complex form of communication needing opportunities to engage in a variety of other formats. iWordQ Ca can save files in the app, send to a Dropbox account as well as open in many other apps such as Google Drive! Our Google Apps for Education accounts marry nicely with this process, thus allowing for the inclusion of collaboration and dialogue, images, hyperlinks, charts or slides. Oh, did I forget printing too?

question mark personOur goals drive the use of any application. These apps add to the communication realm. However, I wonder if we should be asking wider questions such as… how will these serve to enhance deeper thinking processes, how will they create independence for the student, how will they bring connectedness and collaboration with classmates, how will they support self regulation?
Hope you get a chance to explore these or cause you to ask more questions. I’d love to hear how you’re using these applications or other apps in your classroom.

Summer Thoughts

summerreadAs we go into the summer, a huge ‘thank you’ goes to teachers, students and parents.  To the students, you’ve practiced focus and attention and this is no easy feat. It takes hard work to build and exercise an efficient brain.  To our parents, you ensured your children had a good night’s sleep and a great breakfast.  These are all incredibly important for the exercise process to be successful.  To our teachers, you continually refined your practices to bring the best environments together to achieve optimum learning.  And all of this is built on the foundation of “connectedness”.  It is a partnership that makes this work,  and YOU MATTER in this journey together.

Some things to consider as we head into the warm summer months:

  1.  Relaxation is important to brain development and solidification of neuronal pathways as much as focused exercise. Do something different – it makes the brain happy.
  2. Go to the library and grab books just for pleasure (short ones, tall ones, ones with lots of pictures, ones that teach something new or weird)
  3. Some sites that offer ebook reading:
    Unite for Library (early literacy)  http://www.uniteforliteracy.com/
    We Give Books  http://www.wegivebooks.org/books
  4. Create something – this uses different parts of the brain (they like working together).

Recently published from MIT neuroscience lab, is research on how the brain uses synchronization to form new communication circuits. (Synchronized Brain Waves Enable Rapid Learning) What I find interesting is what happens when the brain runs out of memory space when using rote memorization. Many students that struggle with reading use sheer power of memorization as their only strategy. This is only effective until they reach their limit. The research suggests that category formation between regions offers a way beyond rote memorization. I’m seeing a connection to why we practice forming categories while learning. Something to ponder… What do you think?

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New Beginnings

A huge welcome to our new sites – South Slope, Marlborough, Buckingham, Burnaby South Access Program and Moscrop Access Program.  A great time of learning with all teams and we continue to have more gatherings in the near future to continue the conversation of supporting our students.

The days of January have been whizzing by, partly due to the start of another term and partly due to our wonderful west coast weather.  Having some sun certainly invites a bit more energy in the steps as well as some hopeful signs of spring just around the corner.

Did you know that February 5th is  “Digital Learning Day“?  Although we know that many of you already use technologies in seamless ways, this is a day designed to invite you to further participate in a little something special. Maybe it’s a connection with a tool that allows for adaptation to happen on the spot allowing a full experience for students in class. Perhaps you may incorporate “text-to-speech” tools for those needing support in reading challenging texts or access ARC-BC for texts for Kurzweil. The flip to that would be “speech-to-text” tools for those writers struggling in written work. How about the use of QR codes (audio form) to showcase/share your work with books.  What about questions you post out using Soundcloud. This month’s Learning Technologies newsletter is full of ideas for you to ponder and put into action.  Consider celebrating the day with a little something special.  Drop me a line and share your story.

Since I’m a huge fan of Peter Reynold‘s work, I love how he captured the ideas for digital learning. It just looks so inclusive!

Peter Reynolds
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