Last month (July 11, 2016) was International Edcamp Leader day. Not only was I super excited to be part of this day, learn from and be inspired by local Illinois leaders but the organizers of the Edcamp thought it would be fun to have ignite speeches after our lunch. I jumped at the chance to give an Ignite Speech (actually I squealed in happiness and then thought what the heck have I gotten myself into…eeekkk). After a day or two of brainstorming I had my theme. As I wrote the speech, I knew I wanted to use this opportunity to really push myself as a creator and as a presenter… not only would I share a belief I am deeply passionate about, I would draw the entire ignite speech.
I have shared with you about this school year. I have shared that when this school year started I quickly realized it was collectively a classroom of the most challenging students I have ever taught, but I haven’t shared with you this part of that journey yet…this lesson learned.
Skill building, structured, routine and direct instruction are the foundation of the instruction I provide. My students flourish in structure, in the routine and the predictable. They excel because of the strong focus on student skills and consistent presence of tools to enable them to compensate for their weaknesses. I spend everyday establishing routines, making my class predictable, working on student skills, building academic skills and teaching/training them to use technology to enhance their learning, help them compensate for their weaknesses and access to information. I am excited for the moment when my students are ready to put down the books and start applying all of these skills to a project.
I came up with a project I knew they would love. I gave a detailed expectation, the project requirements, shared the grading rubric and I taught them how to use app I wanted them to use to produce the final product with (we even practiced using it). I was certain that they would be able to independently make a great final product and finish feeling very successful about what they had created!
I handed out the iPads and sat in the front of the room ready to watch and relish in my teacher glory the awesomeness that I had set up for them to experience and feel about themselves.
One hand went up. Then another. The questions started. One after another, after another. How could this be? I gave them all the tools. I had prepared them. By the time the bell rang I slumped into my chair exhausted, defeated and wondering what the heck just happened!
As I drove home that day I couldn’t help but think about that lesson what had gone so not the way I had expected. How, what I thought was perfectly prepared lesson, a lesson I thought would empower them, enable them to be independent …how could it not have gone perfectly? Then it hit me. The one thing….the one part I had failed to remember. The part I had forgotten was that no matter how much I planned. No matter how much I structured, organized, added visuals to things…it is still new. This project had nothing to do with the project and everything to do with problem-solving. This project wasn’t about creating a product but instead was about practicing and applying problem solving skills…this project was about them taking their problem solving skills to a whole new level!
So I decided it was time to take a new approach.
A few month back Chris Bugaj shared his TED Talk . In it he said he had figured out how to predict the future. He spoke about the tools in the future. He spoke about tools called a touch screens and word prediction software. BUT this future that he spoke about was NOW! The technology that was so innovative for students with special education needs in 1986 and 1987 was now technology that WE all use today. It is technology that is now enhancing all of our lives.
“What do I think the future of technology in Special Education is going to be?”
“What is my vision for its future of technology in Special Education?”
The thought mulled around and marinated for days and days.
Then it hit me.
The future of technology for students (…kids, people, adults) with Special Education needs is virtual! And it is a future that I think if we work hard enough at doesn’t have to be too far off!!!
The power of technology for students with Special Education needs is amazing. It has the power to enable them to compensate for their weaknesses and even completely overcome them. It has the power to empower them to be and live in ways that were not possible years ago. It has the power to enable them to live a life with independence like never before!
Imagine walking into any room and having at your fingertips how to lists, how to videos, social stories, checklists or a voice providing you with information. Imagine having these tools accessible to a person at anytime. Imagine a room being interactive, providing resources, information and tools for students.
Like years past attending the Illinois Computing Educators Conference (ICE) has inspired me in many ways. The last day of this year’s ICE conference brought George Couros. His words like other great keynotes did just what they were meant to do, they made me want to change and they pushed the limits of my thinking. By the time that George was done speaking I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
It was finally time to do what I had toyed with doing for several years…it was time to start a classroom blog and not one written by me, one written by my students.
Ideas filled my head. I talked the ear off of my friend Jen (note to anyone attending a conference with me or who sits next to me during a conference…I try really hard to be quiet and not talk but I can’t help it. When someone/something inspires me… oh lawrdy watch out! The ideas come flowing out of like the waters of niagara falls). I was excited to revamp the class landing page and turn it into an active blog. I was excited to write a list of ideas my students could write about. I was excited to pool the resources and tools that my students could use to create and write blog posts with. I was excited to create the templates and forms that would guide blog post writing… and Jen got to hear all about it (WHAT?! I told you I got excited).
“No”, Jen said, “Let them write about, create, share about whatever they want!”
“Whatever they want? No list of topics?” I looked at her with an are you kidding me look (you know the one…the and your the expert, really, are you sure you know what you are talking about look)
“Yes, whatever they want,” she smiled with a trust me I know what I’m talking about look, “Let it be their idea! Whatever moves them!” she added with certainty.
“Really?” I asked again
“Yes, REALLY!” she smiled again with an I know about this stuff look.
After an hour of changing the landing page into a blog…we had an active blog.
With George’s inspiration and Jen’s guidance, I was able to structure our blog post writing process so that my students had enough structure to complete posts and publish them consistently and enough freedom to feel inspired and hungry to create…
1) BLOG POST Wall Banner
2) TO DO List / Steps and Timeline for Publishing a Blog Post
3) Our Blog Post Wall where Blog Post Proposals are held and neon cards are used to indicate by students if Blog Posts are in progress or published
4) Blog Post Proposal Worksheet (Link to Download)
So this week when my students told me…
“I want to write a movie review post! I think others would like reading it!!”
“I want to write about the Blood Moon. There is one coming this month!”
My morning greetings went from simply hello or good morning to a spew of ideas and I want to write abouts. I can’t help but smile (ok so I waited until they left the classroom and squealed and danced a little). I have a classroom full of bloggers, with their own hashtags and all!
Months ago my students and I threw away our paper calendars, stopped I stopped printing agendas and students tossed their more assignment notebooks. I had found a new way to organize my self, my students and my classroom. It was, to say the least, a new found
love, an infatuation…a full on love affair with google calendar + google drive. There was one problem with this perfect duo (I know! Say it ain’t so)…you couldn’t upload PDF materials and type or write on them. It wasn’t a deal breaker for this love affair but it certainly left me in search of a way for worksheets and PDF documents to be editable in Google Drive. Once one of my students was completely converted to google drive, using only her google calendar as the this students assignment notebook and linking all documents for those assignments directly to her google calendar it quickly became apparent for her that I needed to find this solution for this student. Having assignments in google drive and also having papers was just becoming too much for this student to manage. It had to be all google calendar + google drive or come up with a new system. Did I say I mention I was just a smidge in love with the google calendar+google drive duo…
“What’s this Mrs. B,” my student asked in a begging to try it please kind of way with an added giggle of untypical teenage egerness and curiosity.
“I don’t know? Click on it,” I smiled encouraging her curiosity. “Lets try it!” I smiled, wondering what it was and what it could do.
It was math class.
For the last two years we had struggled to find away for a student with severe dysgraphia to do math. There’s a lot of writing in math yo!
The student clicked on the red icon and began using it to draw numbers and write problems on it. The student was surprisingly able to write better on the mouse pad of an air mac then with a pencil. The student experimented with adding shapes, then text. Google drawing became a permanent tool in every Math class.
I am giddy with excitement and filled to my finger tips with energy. I just had the best time talking technology, special education and learning with two fantastically passionate, enthusiastic and advocates of special education and the tools, skills and strategies that make us and our students exceptional.
Tonight I was lucky enough to join Patrick Black and Tricia Lazzaro of the Edreach EdCeptional Channel. I got to hang out with them for a
half hour 45 mins (minus having to put my girls to bed…mom stuff never ends) talking ideas, technology, and learning. This time with them invigorated me and refreshed the passion I feel everyday for my job and the learning I get to facilitate.
Here is the segment we taped for Edreach’s EdCeptional #51…
Three weeks ago EVERYTHING changed.
EVERYTHING changed and it is all your fault!
You see when I first started blogging I was terrified. I knew I wanted to be part of this space, but I was terrified. I was terrified to share to much about myself. Terrified of what others would think. Terrified I might mess up and post something really stupid. I was terrified, but I did it anyway… I wrote.
Then you came along.
and suddenly this world that was terrifying and unknown became fantastically beautiful. The fear I’d had about sharing too much and revealing my identity was replaced by confidence. Now this world is full of amazing new friends, a fantastic community of woman I have come to adore and only wonderfully fantastic experiences. Slowly everything I feared disappeared and this space has become a heck awesome place share, create, write and have fun!
So three weeks ago I did it…
After months of creating and designing it was ready.
The words flowed from my hands, easier and freer then I have ever experienced. The passion and expertise I had for my craft did not let me down. Before I knew it words filled my page.
I hit publish.
For the first time Carrie, Special Education teacher shared her voice as the deeply passionate Special Education teacher.
and I just want to say THANK YOU!
I am very excited to share this new adventure with all of you. It is because of what you all have done for me that I even felt brave enough to share my voice on this new space. While I know most of you do not come here to read about special education, education or teaching tools, from time to time I will share with you here my affair with my other blog. Quite frankly, it is a part of me I am deeply passionate about, I am giddy to be writing there and it is something I am very proud of!