Saturday, November 21, 2009

Assistive Technology, Module 2

This is a pic of my chosen hardware, the Sara Reader/Scanner...

I am always inspired by the accomplishments of people like Leigh-Ann Tompkins who has been able to run her own graphic design company, despite the fact that she is wheel chair bound and can only speak through the use of a computer due to cerebral palsy. People who have to overcome such obstacles in life are truly amazing, and it always makes me feel fortunate and like I should never let anything get me down.

I just reviewed the Tapped In session from this week, and one idea mentioned was the cost of assistive technology. After looking at the adaptive keyboards, mice, and touch screens featured in Module 2, the cost doesn't seem too outrageous. Some of the keyboards ranged from $160-175 with the Intelli-Keys being on the expensive side at $345. The HeadMouse is $995,and the Magic Touch Add-on Touch screen $170-$439.

I think there are many less expensive ways for teachers to aim for universal design in their lessons, and I really like Jurkowski's suggestions for instructional handouts and online materials as a supplement to classroom instruction. Pathfinders and webquests do a good job of appealing to students with different abilities as do Powerpoint presentations that include audio and graphics.

In the Tapped In session, some of mentioned other techniques including using larger fonts, different color backgrounds, Smartboards, and interactive handheld devices. I think those "clickers" that teachers are starting to use to get students to be able to respond, provide their input to questions simultaneously are really cool. This form of getting student input/feedback would be greatly appealing to shy students, students who have speech or oral communication difficulties and can input their answers to the teacher's questions without having to verbally respond.

I would be interested in hearing more ideas about inexpensive ways to help level the playing field for students who have disabilities from classmates!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Module 1 Universal Design

Image by Bill Browning

Recently, I realized that my training program for my student assistants here at the library was not catering to different learning styles and multiple intelligences. My wheels starting turning as to how I could reach students who are more visual learners, and thus, make their training experience here more positive and effective.

I have always believed in hands-on practice whenever possible and that is still my main way of teaching students to checkout (and in) books, DVDs, laptops among a zillion other things that they need to learn (assisting patrons with lamination, checking in/out books from other libraries, and navigating our library catalog). The list of duties is a long one and can be overwhelming for the poor, underpaid college students especially the incoming freshman. ;)

Of course, I immediately recognized that in my circumstance here that my training program needed a redesign so I am hoping that I am moving towards a universal one that any student can become a knowledgeable and helpful student assistant. Certainly, I haven't had a student with a serious disability, but I do see all people as being different with different preferences, learning styles, and problems. As an effective student manager, I am always trying to find what motivates my students and realize how different they all are (even though several have the same major!). Okay, so I am going off on a rant, but basically, I am in the process of creating video how-to tutorials and other tech tools with the help of one my student assistants to strengthen my training methods.

I did explore the website that listed famous people with their corresponding disability. In fact, all of the websites and thinking about the concept of universal design basically made think that we are all so much more alike than different. Most people learn best with hands-on activities that appeal to a variety of senses. I also looked at the Job Accomodation Network and The National Center for Learning Disabilities website, but thank goodness that teachers have special ed teachers who create IEPs because I sometimes realize that some students are having difficulties, but I haven't always been able to figure out how best to help or what the underlying issue is. The JAN site is great for employers whereas the NCLD site has great guidance for teachers.

As for how I would teach introduce Braille to a class...I would get 5 or 6 of those Braille label makers and have students work in groups to labels items around the classroom. It would probably only take a class period or two to make labels for the blind student. Besides random classroom items, some students could work on label a skeleton, a map, or other models. Students could also create models out of common objects that could be used by the blind student (and the ones who aren't blind!) to understand different learning objectives.

Here's the 7 Principles of Universal Design...
1. Equitable Use
2. Flexibility in Use
3. Simple and Intuitive Use
4. Perceptible Information
5. Tolerance for Error
6. Low Physical Effort
7. Size and Space for Approach and Use

This URL has some great tips...

Definitely something to think about!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Week 9, Thing 23 My Classroom Learning 2.0 Experience

I Blog, Therefore I Am

Overall, exploring the California School Library Association's 23 Things was a great experience. It forced me to explore some Web 2.0 tools that I hadn't yet explored. Most notably would be my experimentations with Wordle, Flickr, and mashups. Also, it was a great "thing" for me to establish a Google Reader so that I can't keep following all the latest technology. It's something that any great librarian should be doing.

I am considering trying to keep up with my blog here and to focus it on "Using Technology for Improving Student Management." Perhaps I will even have the guts to post my PowerPoint presentation for Access Services 2009. Watch out, Atlanta, here I come! If you're wondering what I'm talking about and are interested, here's a the URL for the conference. ;)

Week 9, Thing 22 E-Books

It's great that there are many books available free through the Gutenberg Project. From the Classroom Learning 2.0 site, the free e-books were a bit difficult to find. I was a little confused at first as the link goes to where it says that it is $8.95 to join. If you click on "Join the Gutengberg Project" on the left, it does ask that you give a donation.

Still, this is a small price to pay to have access to many books, but I imagine that many of the popular items that library patrons are looking for are not available because they are not yet in the public domain. In other words, I guess GP is best for those looking for older works. Unfortunately, I can't download on my computer or I would have liked to download a free e-book. However, I did search for "Dracula" and had 4 results.

Week 9, Thing 21 Podcasts

The three podcast websites that I looked at were,, and Educational Podcast Directory. Of these three, I would strongly recommend PodcastAlley because it has a user friendly search engine and lots of library-related podcasts.

If any of you are are or are going to be Teen Librarians, I would definitely be subscribing to the TeenLibrarian podcast. Also, if you search for "librarians," you get only 12 results, but the "ABC Book Review Podcast" features two public librarians that review books. Following a podcast like this one would be a great way to keep up with what's new. Each podcast features a theme such as Chick Lit, Mystery and Suspense, Movies based on a book, etc.

(Sorry, I can't get this link created. I will try again another day. Not sure why it's being difficult.)

Week 9, Thing 20 YouTube

YouTube is so awesome. Here is an old video of Penn & Teller visiting the Library of Congress to look at Houdini-related artefacts and books. It's especially funny because Penn and Teller look so young, maybe in their 20's? On a side note, I almost visited the Library Congress, but the bus I was supposed to be taking never came because it broke down! Wish I would have made that trip but maybe next time!

YouTube is something I use for all types of purposes especially as a "how to" resource because I often find tutorials on how to do things there. And, who doesn't use it for entertainment either to listen to music or watch funny videos?

Since I am a horse person, it is a good place to check out videos of horses that are for sale or just cool videos of horses jumping or competing. I know this isn't a blog about horses. I am currently working on putting a tutorial on YouTube to use when training my students to work at the Information Services desk here at Schmidt Library. I will post it here when it's finished, but I don't know if it will be done by this semester as it needs to be edited.