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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App #10 of “10 Apps to Countdown Season”

App #10: Partner a beautiful image that you’ve drawn or photographed with interactivity and you’ve got Thinglink. These rich interactives provide another way to curate and organize information. I’ve written about this before using the SAMR Model as an example (developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D) and also here where I was participating in CLMOOC.

Thinglink offers interaction tools that tag photos or images with a a whole group of content, adding a layering effect. The system is built on the use of tags to add more information like audio, other images, web links, video, text information and anything else you might think you wish. Images can be from multiple sources and even a collage of images built through a program like Picmonkey (see App #8) or Pic Collage (app on ipad).  That leads me to think, why not use this as an infographic to visually showcase statistics. Swap PowerPoint with Thinglink and see where it takes you. Use Thinglink to connect all your flipped videos on your blog.  Or have students explain their science experience  or self assessment through sequenced captions. Teacher-Librarians – have you considered this as a tool to teach research skills or how to vet the mountains of information found?

Simple tips: Sign up for a teacher account. Search inside the site and you’ll find other interactives giving you more ideas.

Hover over the image and click on the icons to see messages for the holiday season.

App #9 of “10 Apps to Countdown Season”

App #9: In our effort to highlight the SAMR Model of integration of technology, we’ve been considering what activities might fit into Redefinition (technology that allows creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable).

app_tellagami

What activities might have significant impact to student outcomes? The “tell your story” concept remains one of the powerful ways we have to teach others, to increase audience, to learn new processes, to share expert knowledge in safe ways (consider also that shy student in your class).

Animations are live and well. While many are found in game environments, why not connect our learning outcomes above to the creation of animations – and no, you won’t spend a ton of time learning software!  Tellagami is an app for ipad or android (love that) and produces animated characters (much like Voki or other avatar programs) that can be saved to the camera library, imported into other apps or uploaded to a blog or other website.
tellagami_screen

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