Thursday, December 17, 2009

Week 15 - my favorites

I found everything we read and viewed about assitive technology very enlightening. It made me so much more aware of issues and needs of people with disabilities and that there are many ways to overcome what might seem like impossible situations. In line with this, I feel like I learned much from Jurkowski's chapter (12) on tech plans. (I found the entire text to be very easy to read, understand, and apply which is a huge plus!) Pretty much being clueless regarding tech plans, it was a blessing how clearly the chapter was organized and how easy it was to follow. Sometimes in the past I lhave tended to look at documents like tech plans or policy manuals as more trouble than they're worth, but they really make you stop and take stock of the current status of things and put clear goals in place before trying to gallop down a path that could get rocky if not pre-planned well.

The Shelly text was also very good in general because of the great visuals and practical materials. I think I enjoyed chapter 8 the most. Maybe it's just my personality, but I really like reading and learning about ethical issues. It was a good chapter that covered so many things from security and safety to objectionable materials and copyright. The questionnaire on pg. 496 had some really thought-provoking statements. In addition, it was very applicable because I had an issue with a patron accessing pornographic materials in the library where I work - talk about awkward!! I still am not sure with the filters, etc. we have how he was able to access the sites, but he managed. (Just in case anyone is wondering what I did, to make a long story short, I contacted the local authorities because the community has had other issues with this patron and I've been told not to confront him on my own. I work by myself the majority of the time and my board is always concerned for my safety.)

Jurkowski, O. L. (2006). Technology and the school library. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press

Shelly, G.B., et. al. (2008). Integrating technology and digital media in the classroom, (5th
ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Module 5

Having benefited so greatly from this tutorial, how could I resist the plea to link CSLA2's Library Thing? These books are great!

I've personally read some of them and am pleased to say that our library has most of them. Literature goes a long way in helping others understand issues and circumstances surrounding disabilities.

The lesson plans in Module 5 were great too. I liked how activity-oriented they are and that the focus is on making kids aware of what it's like to function with disabilities.

I guess as far as what I learned: my eyes have really been opened as to the variety and quality of technology that is available to help people with disabilities. I think if I eventually find myself employed in a media center, I will be more equipped to promote assistive technology and advocate for students with disabilities. Where I currently work, there is not much need for AT. I suppose the closest we come to AT is our audio books and large print books. For many patrons, using these materials is a choice of preference rather than need, though.

I could easily recommend this course to others. If I hear of someone or a group wanting to learn more about AT, this is the first place I'd send them!

As the focus of this week has been on evaluation, I found it interesting to look at the various places the Shelly text mentions as sources of information for evaluation. Listed is everything from professional organizations to publications to conferences. Two of my personal favorite sources are: colleague recommendations and the web. If something has been tried by several colleagues, you can usually get some honest and fairly accurate feedback about products and services. I have recently used word of mouth (along with some of my own investigation) to see what vendors provide the best periodical services for small libraries. I found the one my colleagues recommended the most to be the company I chose and saved money as well! I also often look at reviews for products and materials - everything from software to books for the library. With the widespread ability for tagging and user-centered websites, reviews are easy to find and generally very helpful.

I really like the rubrics and checklists provided throughout the chapter. I could have used the website evaluation a couple classes ago...! I found the student rubrics helpful too. We frequently mention when it comes to learning, the students are important stakeholders and if we give them the opportunity to evaluate projects, learning processes, materials, etc. it will help us provide more effective learning opportunities and apply different strategies to meet various learning needs.

I'm glad the chapter addressed not just the multi-computer classroom, but also included the one-computer classroom. As technologically advanced as many areas and districts are these days, there are still plenty of limited technology schools. The range of ideas on how to use one computer with an entire class was inspiring.

Shelly, G. B., Cashman, T. J, Gunter, R. E., & Gunter, G. A. (2008). Integrating technology and

digital media in the classroom
, (5th ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Module 4 - Part 2

I can't say I got 100% on the quiz, but I did quite well, especially after reading the introductory information in Module 4. The social interaction tips were helpful - it boils down to all anyone wants is to be treated with respect. There are certain things all of us can and can't do; we just need to capitalize on those that we can. For those with disabilities, that's where AT comes in. I think it's appropriate that at the end of Chapter 8 in the Shelly text, Assistive Technologies are addressed under Emerging Technologies. As we've all proven with our AT plans, there are tons of options (hardware and software) that will help those with disabilities, but there are plenty of avenues where technology can continue to improve. In addition, there is plenty of room for all of us as educators and information professionals to learn more about these technologies and how to effectively apply them to help as many students and patrons as we can.

Here are several sites that I've enjoyed looking over regarding AT:
This site provides all types of information on disabilities and AT with its main focus on connecting people with the technology that will help them the most. Includes information, stories, links, education, resources, etc.
This site is the home of a non-profit organization whose mission is to help provide kids with needed AT.
As questionable as wikipedia can be, I found this site to be quite informative with the definition of AT as well as a lot of the available technology.
Although not as attractive as some of the other sites, this one has tons of useful information for families. It discusses issues, funding, advocating, evaluation of products, solutions, making IEPs and much more.
Blog on the topic of assistive technology, eLearning, mind mapping, project management, visual learning, collaborative tools, and educational technology (as per the heading of the blog.) This blog is a very professional one with lots of interesting archived materials including information on government provisions and plans for AT.

Week 13 - Module 4

First I think I'd like to take a minute and discuss the "netiquette" web pages. Most of the suggestions are so common sense, but as Dr. Farmer mentioned in the week's assignment section and as is mentioned frequently through these pages, many web participants find it too easy to use the computer screen as a mask and blurt out anything, which can be harmful to themselves as well as others. I find it very alarming how people - especially teens - forget that once something is posted on the Web there's no stopping who might see it. The one video of "Sarah" which was linked on the netiquette page may have been a bit cliched, but also very true how far images and text can travel. It's a good lesson in "think before you post!" because that few minutes of fame just may last longer than a person intends and be more embarrassing than ever imagined. We've likely all had a word or two with the teens we interact with about issues like this!

I liked the separate page for kids' etiquette - direct and simple, but again, very necessary. One point encourages kids to share their knowledge. If we can get kids to share their tech knowledge - which they love to do - we could really enhance the learning capacity in the classroom and the library.

As I looked at some of the websites from infospec46, I wondered why they looked familiar, then it dawned on me that I used a couple of the Cyberbullying sites in a pathfinder I did for class last spring on bulllying, which included cyberbullying. (I love how so much of what we learn from class to class overlaps, meshes and enhances the others.) I also enjoyed the tip on taking screen shots to capture evidence of wrong-doing. Sometimes you try to print a page as is and it just doesn't print everything on the page that you need or want. Screen shots are a great option.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Week 12 - AT Module 3

Software is something I've not really thought much about until recently. As Jurkowski notes in the text, "The assumption is that any new computer will come with Microsoft Windows" (p. 19). Having this presumption myself, I don't really think about what will be in front of me when I sit down at a computer, and since most operating systems and basic productivity software comes fairly standard with a computer purchase, I haven't given much thought to what else is available.

I did have to recently give thought to some children's gaming software for the library where I work. An issue with the inability to monitor one computer's usage due to its location has led to the board's decision to have internet access removed, thus the need for some entertaining gaming sources aside from the net. I found myself relying heavily on reviews, both professional as well as user-generated. The two biggest considerations I dealt with were system requirements and entertainment value - not extremely technical, but necessary to give thought to. Thankfully the system requirements were fairly easy to figure out and match with what we have here at the library and from there it was a matter of "collection development" mentality to be sure to select software of interest and use to the kids. That's the extent of my personal experience thus far.

I found it very helpful to consider rubrics/comparison charts. I guess I had a mental one, but to actually physically create one is of greater assistance. It allows you to consistently compare the software so you don't miss looking at certain criteria for one and not another. It also aids the justification process!

I enjoyed reading Chapter 9 in Jurkowski, mostly because it's highly relevant to my work situation right now. There isn't much discussed in regard to AT, but the consideration of evaluating software, especially library automation software, is something that will be of great import in the near future. I think I'd mentioned at some point during a post for our cataloging class that Pennsylvania's subsidized ASP/ILS (Millennium) will no longer be subsidized or supported by mid-2010. That leaves those libraries - including mine - that have used Millennium for the last several years scrambling for new options. Our hope is that the state will present us with another system which they will be willing to subsidize, likely an Open Source system. Otherwise, many libraries will be sorely struggling with decisions that don't leave too many feasible options. Regardless, in the near future we will likely be dealing with everything a transition and conversion entails. If anyone has any info, comments, etc. regarding Open Source automation systems, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, November 23, 2009

AT- Module 2

As others have mentioned in their blogs, I nearly forgot to do this post! I had checked out the links and videos as a precursor to the hardware assignment, then forgot I needed to come back and comment on them! There is a lot going on out there for assistive tech, and it's really great to see what can be done to make lives easier and more productive for people with all sorts of disabilities. I was so awed by the videos of what people are able to do and overcome with AT - going to college and owning and maintaining a business are so much more in the reach of those with disabilities. I think of my own frustrations, issues, and problems trying to accomplish everything in my daily life at work, home and distance ed., and I have no disabilities!

Not having much experience with various disabilities, I have really enjoyed learning about them and what is available to assist each issue. Some AT is quite simple, i.e. a head stylus, but its effects are very dramatic in how they help a person function. It was really touching to see how the computer generated voice capability helped give a person and those around them such a broader ability to communicate and emote. That type of assistance would open up a world of possibilities in teacher-student relationships and abilities!

EnableMart is a great site for seeing all the availability of AT and even assessing what would be helpful to those with disabilities. It seems to me that the hardest area to serve with technology
is hearing impairment. I likely made things difficult for myself when I chose that topic to address in the tech plan, but I found it interesting to scour the websites for what is available. Most of the AT addresses amplification and/or clarity of sound or voice and TTY and home assistance for phones, etc., but I looked for what would be helpful in the classroom setting. This proved to be a difficult task, especially for a severely hearing impaired or completely deaf student. The tablet pc that offers voice to text options for note taking seem to be the best option. The student can observe (sight being the sense a hearing impaired person relies upon the most) everything during class, then have the notes to review and refer to later.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Week 10, cont'd. - Intro and Module 1

In the intro for the Discovering AT blog, it reviews the lifelong learning habits and under exercise #3 it asks what we hope to learn from this tutorial. I have to say I'm hoping to become more aware and rounded in my knowledge of disabilities and how they affect the information seeking process. I'd also like to learn more about assistive technology options to help overcome disabilities and also to have personal knowledge of how to use and apply assistive tech.

I wonder if anyone else looked at the "scorecard" for their state on the site? I really hate to think how deficient so many states are when it comes to providing for the learning disabled. My state of Pennsylvania is deemed "needs assistance" and the money that comes from the federal government as opposed to what is actually allocated is shameful! This which comes from supposed government regulated standards lacks so much implementation! (Looks like those assistive technology tech plans need to be evaluated and properly applied! :-])

JAN, the Job Accommodation Network has a lot of information for employers, employees and others interested in all kinds of disabilities. I was impressed by the wealth of information on it and SOAR, the Searchable Online Accommodation Resource. It not only provides tons of information about disabilities, it helps assess how much assistance a person might need and what to do to accommodate him. For further assistance, it even links to sources to research and/or purchase the needed equipment.

Now, if I can just put all this together to generate a tech plan suitable for doing what Jurkowski quotes (from Information Power) on page 167 of the text, I'll be doing great! It states, "Acting as a technologist (rather than a technician) and a collaborator with teachers, the library media specialist lays a critical role in designing student experiences that focus on authentic learning, in formation literacy and the curricular mastery - not simply on manipulating machinery."

Jurkowski, O. L. (2006). Technology and the school library: A comprehensive guide for media specialists and other educators. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.