30 January 2015

Alternative Access Project update

Helping Students who are Non-Verbal Have a Voice

At the second session of our Alternative Access Project Special Education Teachers had the opportunity to explore a voice output device called the “Smooth Talker”.   A voice output device allows the teacher to record his or her voice into the device and then the student can press the switch to play the message(s).


During the session Teachers experienced how easy it is to record up to two minutes of a single message or sequential messages into the device. Teachers discussed ways they could use voice output devices to increase participation, engagement and independence for students in their classrooms. 


The following is a list of 10 ways to use voice output devices to support students: (But the possibilities are endless!)

1. Record repetitive parts or sound effects in a story.
2. Greet students as they arrive (eg.  “Good morning, how are you?”) or to say goodbye at the end of the day (e.g., Bye! Have a good night.”).
3. Answer questions during circle time (eg. “What day is it today?”)
4. Let the teacher know when he or she is finished or needs a break.
5. Record songs or poems.
6. Tell jokes.
7. Give steps in a recipe.
8. Recite lines in a school play or performance.
9. Send a message home to parents (e.g. “Today at school I…”)
10. Give directions to the class (e.g., “Line up” or “Time for snack”)

27 January 2015

Photo Essay: Interactive Whiteboard in-class sessions: Job Embbed Professional Learning

Our Assitive Technology team supports 15 Learning Communities of teachers in our Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) group claim project. Each one of our six itinerant teachers facilitates specific LCs where teachers are grouped according to the exceptionality of students they teach geographic location of the school.

Throughout the year there are four sessions at Terraview Learning Centre (East) and Burnhamthorpe Adult Learning Centre (West), where itinerant teachers model ways to embed and differentiate learning using the assistive technology tools and strategies found using the IWB and its peripherals.
In between the session, there is job-embedded professional learning opportunities in school. The group gets together to observe a lesson that is co-planned by a host LC member and AT itinerant teacher. Opportunities to reflect, connect and discuss the different ways to using the AT to provide "the right tool at the right time for their specific students" is explored.

Here are some photos outlining some of the aspects of in-class LC sessions held earlier this month.(Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Teachers in the HSP Pri/Junior LC prebrief the lesson to be observed at Heritage Park P.S.

(left) Host teacher Anne Marie Butters, Timberbank Public School shares how she has created digital portfolios of her HSP students' work using Promethean flipcharts. (right) Host teacher Gary Stewart, Highcastle P.S. demonstrates how he uses desktop tools to capture images from the internet.

During the observation lesson, teachers note of the routines in place for students to access and use the AT. 
One of Mr Stewart's students accesses the board by using the slate to write down his idea that each graph "needs to have a title" during the Behaviour ISP LC in-class session.

(left) During Ms. Butters' lesson, a student slowly reveals parts of an image using the Magic Ink tool. (right) Mr. Stewart's students co-create an appropriate, detailed line graph together using Dual user feature. One student is making a voice note using the sound recorder. The other is plotting data.
Tool choice and the design of the lesson is made according to the specific needs of the students in the class.

(left) Host teacher Ms. Peterkin at Heritage Park P.S., shares the different ways students will show their learning. A few of her students work on the IWB, others using pencil and paper. (see below) (right) A finishes line graph by Mr. Stewart's students. One student typed his inference while the other used the sound recorder to verbally record his observation of the graph.
(left) A student uses digital manipulatives to graph her data. (right) A student uses the grid organizer, printed from the flipchart, to graph his data on paper.


Behaviour ISP in-class LC group after the lesson
at Highcastle P.S.

Following the descriptive writing lesson at Timberbank P.S.,
the group debrief ways students responded to the embedded AT.
This week our third set of Learning Community sessions have started. One of the goals of these sessions is to engage our learners using images and multimedia by using the document camera with the IWB. Stay tuned for blog entries sharing other in-class lessons and activities in our TDSB special education LC teacher classrooms!

22 January 2015

IWB Learning Community – Job Embedded PD Spotlight: Nelson A. Boylen planning post-21 lesson


Using the IWB to Support Post-21 Planning for Students with Developmental Disabilities
For many teachers, one of the most impactful experiences of the IWB Learning Community journey is the opportunity to co-plan and co-teach with their Itinerant Resource Teacher. During these opportunities, HSP or ISP teachers are provided with a half-day of release time in order to meet with an Itinerant Resource Teacher to co-plan an authentic and relevant lesson using their classroom’s IWB. Collaboratively, special education classroom teachers and their Assistive Technology Itinerant Resource Teacher support differentiated learning by creating an interactive, multi-sensory lesson using the Promethean IWB.
Recently, Learning Community Member and teacher at Nelson A. Boylen, George Liolis hosted an IWB observation lesson. During his co-planning session with his Itinerant Resource Teacher, George chose to focus on his unit on ‘Employability Skills’ for his senior low-incidence class.

Through a variety of IWB activities; which included features such as containers, layering, and embedding video and sound students learned to identify the job titles, job duties and job tools associated with working at grocery store, as a custodial workers and at a restaurant. Through this lesson, students were supported as they sorted images of job duties associated with a specific job role and identified the job tools required to each tasks. Mr. Liolis’ students eagerly participated in the lesson and demonstrated sustained attention and excitement!


Throughout the lesson, students chose to access the board in a variety of ways. In this picture, one student uses the ActivWand to complete a container activity in which she sorts images of  job tools associated with a custodial worker. When she chooses a correct tool she hears a reward sound of cheering, if an incorrect image is chosen, it bounces out of the container. This activity provides immediate feedback and supports errorless instruction. This lesson truly met the needs of Mr. Liolis’ students and supported their skill development.


Our Learning Community members who attended this observation lesson, left feeling motivated and inspired to try new tools and features of the IWB to support student learning within their intermediate/senior low-incidence programs.

20 January 2015

AT tools to try in 2015 - Read and Write Gold

RWG tools to try

Tool: Calculator
Why: Students can do simple and more complex computations using the RWG calculator. The calculator has built in auditory support to reinforce number input and calculations. Students can also make calculation within a document like Microsoft Word. To support executive function and organization the audit trail feature allows students to track their work for multistep problems.
Favourite Use: When supporting problem solving solutions of multi-step math problems involving units of measure, the calculator has a built in conversion feature. When teachers are not assessing a students computation to convert various units, the RWG calculator allows students the ability to quickly convert units of length, mass, velocity, time, temperature and volume.

Tool: Picture Dictionary
Why: The Picture Dictionary is a web-based tool teachers can use to access picture symbols to support the use of visual supports for all students. These visual supports can benefit all learners, however they are often essential for students with Autism
Favourite Use: Picture symbols from the Read, Write Gold Picture Dictionary can be brought into ActivInspire to create interactive picture symbols with text and sound

Tool: Vocabulary List Builder
Why: Teachers and students can easily build a vocabulary list with the term, definition and related image.   Students can also add their own definition or notes to the document.  Since the vocabulary list builder opens in Microsoft Word, the list can be edited to meet the needs of all learners.
Favourite Use: Making vocabulary lists at the start of a new math unit to help students understand the new terminology

15 January 2015

Project launch: I have Assistive Technology in My Classroom...How Do I Use It In Math?

The SEA Team is very excited to announce the commencement of our “I Have Assistive Technology In My Classroom…How Do I Use It In Math?!” project for this year.

The goal of this project is to share strategies and features of the various software tools available to support special education students through a mathematics lens and to create networking opportunities among special education teachers.

Three sessions will be held throughout the term of the project along with an observation classroom opportunity. The first session, taking place on Friday January 16th, will provide an opportunity to meet the other learning community members and to examine the resources available in your classroom. In our second session, we will take a more in-depth look at some of the software applications. Teachers will also have an opportunity to share some experiences at that point. Our third session will be a sharing and celebration opportunity for learning community members. In between the sessions there will be co-planning and co-teaching opportunities (along with the opportunity to observe one another) in order to provide job-embedded professional learning.


We will support the use of various assistive technology software such as Microsoft Excel and OneNote, Read and Write Gold, ActivInspire, and SMART Notebook. New this year, we will also use Geometer Sketchpad.


At the end of the project, Learning Community members will be provided with a memory stick containing copies of all the lessons that were developed.


13 January 2015

AT Tools to try in 2015 - ActiveInspire part 2

Tools to try in 2015: ActiveInspire
Tool: Hidden Action
Why: Using the hidden action allows teachers to draw student’s attention to a particular area on a flipchart page. Students tend to be more engaged when anticipating if text or an image is going to appear or disappear on a page.
Favourite Use: Chunking information for students when assigning their learning task so as not to overwhelm the learners

Tool: Linking Videos - YouTube
Why: Linking videos into ActivInspire can provide an excellent “hook” to begin lessons, provide concrete examples and increase student engagement through multi-modal learning
Favourite Use: I love linking brief YouTube videos into ActivInspire as a reinforcer and/or to motivate students with special needs to complete an assigned task. These videos can reflect a student’s special interest area and promote their engagement in order to achieve task completion

Tool: Grid Designer
Why: Using the grid designer allows students to easily visualize grids and graphs to support Mathematical concepts. The grid designer also allows teachers to organize content on the page.
Favourite Use: Visualizing math measurement concepts such as perimeter and area using virtual manipulatives allows students to explore and build their understanding easily, independently and cooperatively on the board. Bar and other graphs are more meaningful as students create and can make modification and corrections easily.

9 January 2015

Infographic: OneNote pilot project student profile

Here's an infographic created based on what students have been telling us about their work habits and tools that they use.


8 January 2015

Understanding Body Language LC spotlight: Secord Public School

Understanding Body Language

Special Education teachers attending our Interactive Whiteboard Learning Communities have the opportunity to co-plan and co-teach with an Itinerant Resource Teacher (IRT).
Recently, Ms. Clark from Secord Elementary School, planned an engaging social skills lesson on the Promethean board with IRT Andrea Statton. 

Using Magic Ink in ActivInspire, students slowly revealed an image and then they were asked some critical thinking questions. For example, how is the girl feeling?  Where is the girl? What do you think happened right before this picture was taken? Each time the students responded, they had to justify their answer by annotating on the image or by further explaining their inference.



Once the entire image was revealed the students were asked to review their inferences to see if they made sense. In the picture below, the students had made some predictions that the picture was taken in a castle, school, house and hotel.  They crossed off the castle as an option after looking at the entire picture; they thought the school made the most sense. They used clues from the picture (e.g., the type of stairs and flooring) to help them decide.


With another picture, students used the camera tool to capture snapshots of the larger image to identify body language in the image to help them understand how the individuals were feeling.  They concluded that the two boys in the background were making faces and laughing at the boy in the foreground.  After analyzing the body language of the child in the foreground and using their own experiences, they predicted that he was crying.



Through the use of these images and the tools in ActivInspire, the students were able to begin to identify another person’s body language and feelings to support their own personal development. Ms. Clark plans on extending this social skills lesson by having her students role play how to resolve conflicts such as teasing.

6 January 2015

Tools to try for 2015: ActivInspire sound recorder



Tool: Sound recorder
Why: Useful tool to provide multimodal support for students. Student can both read and hear instructions. Teachers can record prompts. Students share knowledge and ideas when providing oral responses during shared lessons or independent work time.
Favourite use: in a co-teaching visual literacy lesson, students recorded the point of view of each subject in the image. The sound icon can be hidden (by using the translucency slider) so an image can be turned into interactive storyboards.

Some other video examples:

Video: Adding sound to flipcharts to support students with Developmental Disabilities https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKsAu48oWkg 

Video: Using personalized reward sounds to support students with Autism and other Developmental challenges
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kf4ZXR2A9xI&list=PLgJQCBtlfe8Lc7QTVGpV7x78YXs9COnL-&index=17