28 November 2014

The EQAO and Assistive Technology Pilot Project 2014-2015

In-Class Session #1

Our EQAO and Assistive Technology Pilot 2014-2015 is under way! Our Itinerant Resource Teachers have started collaborating with special education classroom teachers participating in the project. Our first in-class sessions have begun…and the excitement has been wonderful!

During our first in-class session, teachers and students are supported as we practice;
·         Opening Read and Write Gold (version 10 or 11)
·         Docking the toolbar
·         Customizing the toolbar
·         Setting the voice and speed
·         Using the “speak current” tool to enable text-to-speech
·         Creating dual-screens in Microsoft Word
·         Using the “study skills highlighters” in Read and Write Gold to facilitate answering multiple choice questions using the strategy of “process of elimination

Recently, the grade 6 students of Ms. Ivany, Ms. Hutcheson and Ms. Lenarcic’s classes at C.R. Marchant had an exciting afternoon learning how to use the tools of the Read and Write Gold to support their reading comprehension.

Here are some of the ideas/skills the students at C.R. Marchant were proud to have learned:

25 November 2014

Working sessions for phase one completed

SEA Curriculum and Resource Technology (C.A.R.T.) claim

Approximately 160 schools that indicated interest in learning more about the SEA C.A.R.T. claim have attended our working sessions.  Each school sent a lead to one of eleven working sessions that focused on the requirements for the claim, writing the IEP to support the claim and the assistive software supported.

More working sessions will be provided in the new year for phase two schools.  Schools can indicate interest in attending a working session to learn more about the claim by completing the C.A.R.T. Claim survey.  Information for phase two schools will be available in Direct Line in December.

19 November 2014

OneNote marker students update

Many of our students who were in grade eight last year and who are now in grade nine this year have continued to use their tablets and OneNote software to support their personal organization and academic lives in high school.  Students have recognized and embraced the useful features of OneNote to help them create Notebooks to organize themselves for all the subjects they are taking. Students are also continuing to colour code subject tabs to help them organize themselves. Below is an example of one grade nine student who has developed enough independence with using the tablet and software in order to organize himself for success in grade nine:

Students report they are enjoying having the ability to access the internet to do research in order to deepen their understanding of concepts being taught in their classes. Students also report they appreciate having the option to type notes, use the sound recorder to record parts of lessons, or using HP LiftApp to import pictures into OneNote taken with their tablet. Below is an example of how a student has used OneNote to take notes in Science:

In another school, one student created his own self-regulation strategy to help the student refocus energy during times of the day. The student created a section of pages to draw on when the student is feeling angry or anxious.

Overall, many of our former grade eight students are enjoying having a tablet to support their learning and their organization in high school. And, thanks to the feedback and advice they continue to provide us with, we continue to use this information to further improve our project!

13 November 2014

OneNote pilot project reflection

Reflecting on our 2013-2014 OneNote Pilot Project

Our OneNote Pilot Project was born from our team’s desire to support the transition of our at-risk students with special educational needs move from intermediate to secondary school.  Many of our students struggle with executive functioning, particularly when it comes to organization and planning which is why we chose OneNote. 

Microsoft OneNote is a digital notebook in which the student can directly make notes and gather material. The student can collect, organize, and share their notes in this electronic format that is a substitute for the traditional binder – no more lost handouts or schoolwork!

During our Pilot we supported 216 students at 26 schools across the Toronto District School Board.  Of those students:
  •       73% say that they finish and hand in their class work, homework and assignment on time always or most of the time
  •       75% say  that since using OneNote, they use their class time appropriately to complete their work always or most of the time

Check out our latest YouTube video which summarizes our OneNote Pilot: http://youtu.be/jimH3_5PxU4

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AssistTech

12 November 2014

The Math Mission - getting our students communicating about Math using AT

The AT team's Math Mission launched this week with the first Learning Community session at Terraview Learning Centre. Among the learning at the session, the Math Mission special education teachers participated in a carousel of activities which incorporate assistive technology to facilitate math communication. They also learned about the Virtual Learning Environment (vLE) through Desire2Learn (D2L) on-line digital learning management system platform, where teachers and their students will post, share and discuss their math problem solving throughout the year.

A screenshot of part of the Math Mission D2L site.
The Learning Community meets several times throughout the year. To start, teachers picked at least one marker student to track on a "communication rubric".

During the carousel, teachers explored strategies and tools on the Promethean Interactive Whiteboard and the use of Ministry-licensed software program SMART Ideas.

SEA consultant Christine Harvey-Kerr modelling the use of the IWB to get students
 talking during an activity "Tug for the Truth".

Teachers had hands-on opportunities to work with various assistive technology tools to see how they would connect with the learning needs of their students to support communication.

Using the interactive whiteboard as a student activity centre.

Developing a SMART Ideas template - a scaffold to help students organize their ideas when answering problem solving questions in Math.

Creating a Math vocabulary word list for students using Read and Write Gold.

Being part of the project is that teachers are committing to trying open problems with their students while concentrating on using AT to develop their students' math communication skills. 

10 November 2014

Read & Write Gold lessons - embedding AT tools in a curriculum context

Do you and your students know how to use Read and Write Gold, and now you are looking for an activity or lesson to use what you know in context? Are you just starting to use Read and Write Gold and want to see how the tools in the software can support student learning? The AT team has a set of lessons from Primary to Grade 10 that you may like to try. Click RWG lesson ideas.

Here is an example:

Grade 7 - Language Arts - In Flanders Field Poetry
Conveying a Poem's tone and message using Visuals

Overview: In this learning activity, students will gather images, categorise and interpret meaning from a selected poem. The example is the World War 1 memorial poem, "In Flanders Field" by Dr. John McCrae. Students will have the opportunity to identify and connect relevant images that relates to the poem's meaning and mood. Once this information has been collected, individually or in pairs, students will create a visual story / reflection of images they have identified to reflect their connect to ideas found in the poem.

Read and Write Gold tools: Vocabulary List, Fact Mapper, Fact Folder and Speech Maker
Screen shot from the lesson illustrating the use of the Vocabulary List tool from Read and Write Gold.

Even if a lesson is not in your current grade content level, the strategies are transferable so take the lesson and change it to meet your classroom needs. For example in the activity above a poem or entirely different piece of writing can be accessed using the same tools and strategies.

7 November 2014

Read and Write Gold pilot launch for Junior students launches

Another of the A.T. team's projects has had its fall launch. Special education teachers who are part of the EQAO and Assistive Technology pilot project, got together in both the East and West learning centres for an initial Meet and Greet session. During the Meet and Greet, the A.T. itinerant teacher team also reviewed the goals and structure of the project. Participating teachers also had the opportunity to participate in a modeled lesson using the software Read and Write Gold to answer EQAO-type questions.

Customizing the Read and Write Gold toolbar.

Using dual screen to organize access to a reading and view questions being asked.

Ms. Reiken, from Northlea Elementary & Middle School enjoys the hands-on time of the Meet & Greet Session.
After having hands-on experience using Read and Write Gold tools which support decoding, written expression and organization of ideas, teachers also had a chance to meet their fellow pilot project participants. They shared some thought of what their own goals of what they hoped to get out of participating in the project:

"... looking forward to get the support so that we can narrow down the focus of what they can be using and giving students more independence."

"..(many) advantages of getting on board. I want the kids to be successful. I hope the program opens a lot of possibilities for them."

"...(I want to) make sure students are comfortable and confident..independent once it's EQAO time."

For the past two years, special education has run the pilot project to provide ongoing support for special education teachers and students to use assistive technology software to prepare for the EQAO process. The project is open to all HSP and ISP classrooms who have at least three grade 6 students who are writing EQAO.