Friday, July 29, 2011

Reflection on Learning

I am officially going into my last week of class, and my last class for my masters program. I have learned a lot throughout all my courses, including EPSY 590 Mobile Technology. The following link is my personal reflection on what I have learned throughout this course.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mobile Tool of the Week: Augmented Reality

When I think of augmented reality, what comes to mind are the virtual worlds of individual created avatars; avatars that are very seldom actual representations of the people who created them. I was never personally interested to be a part of those worlds, but can understand the intrigue.

So, researching about augmented reality apps, I was surprised to come across several mobile apps that defied my initial naive assumption. I found an informative blog, describing several of the augmented reality apps for the iPhone. One of the apps that looked really interesting was the Travel Guide with AR: Augmented Geotravel.

It seems long gone are the days of paper atlases and thick Frommer's guides (they have an app too!). I believe my father will have a hard time accepting this reality, and with a family trip in the works for 2013, maybe I will be able to demonstrate the unique advantages of mobile technology.

Within education, this app (along with augmented reality in general) could find many uses. Study abroad students could use the app to plan independent excursions with the ability to learn as they go. Even individual classes/schools could use such apps to explore their own city and produce their own virtual connections. Through educational experiences like the MLC School City Experience project, students could add their own discoveries and reviews to the augmented travel community; providing students an opportunity to learn 21st century skills and connect learning to their real life.

I will have to personally try one of these apps out, but must remember to not get lost within the technology. While walking through a new place, the balance between using technology to gain more/better information about my surroundings and actually stopping to take in and enjoy my surroundings will have to be reached. And just in case my handy new technology fails, I'm sure my dad will have a back up version.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mobile Advocacy Project

(Scan the above QR code to access a Prezi, or go here for online version, corresponding to information below)

Mobile Technology, Mobile Classroom:
Creating a Technology Driven Hearing Itinerant Program

Advocacy Context: I am a hearing itinerant teacher, working for a special education coop. I work with a variety of age/levels of students, who have hearing loss, on a one-to-one/small group basis within various districts and various schools. I travel to multiple schools per day, carrying all of my materials with me. Currently, the available technologies are limited to older laptops, which are bulky, heavy, and limited in interactive educational programs available. Since I travel to multiple schools, I do not have consistent space available to work with students in each school, and do not have consistent access to technology.

What is the mobile hearing classroom?

Advancements in mobile technology have created opportunities to integrate technology easily in the classroom; providing a motivational avenue for students to learn 21st century skills. The Mobile Hearing Classroom (MHC) will be used within the hearing itinerant teaching position to provide individualized learning programs for students with hearing loss within the school district. Mobile technology will greatly enhance the hearing itinerant program by allowing materials and technology to be easily transported from school to school. Utilizing an iPad2, the MHC will integrate technology and 21st century skills within the educational goals of each student; focusing on auditory development, reading and language development, and advocacy skills alongside 21st century skills of critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration (Partnership for 21st Century Skills).

Why include mobile technology?

A decade into the new millennium, life, work, and play has rapidly transformed. The industrial age has morphed into the digital age. Life, in all its aspects, is more fluid, more diverse, and more multidimensional. Mobility of peoples, physically and through communication technologies, has created an atmosphere of instant contact, instant connection. This mobility of people, information, and ideas creates a new system of knowledge; thus impacting the way we learn, what we learn, and where we learn (Lambert, M., 2001). Technology has created an avenue for ubiquitous learning. All students must be prepared to utilize technology to expand and build upon their knowledge, developing skills to live and work in the 21st century. Technology in education becomes a motivational force among students in the 21st century. As mobile device ownership and use increase, the connection between the classroom and real life becomes even more important.

Educational Outcomes Using Mobile Technology in Hearing Itinerant Program:

-teaching and learning of and through multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996; Angelo, J., Conners, K., & Helkowski, T., 2009)

-individualized instruction specific to student’s educational goals (Christensen, 2008)

-provide access to technology to bridge the digital divide (Warschauer, M., 2002)

-digital citizenship development (

-create a knowledge network through collaboration of hearing students across various schools/districts

-provide avenue to demonstrate competence of personal advocacy skills

-mobile learning=learning anytime, anywhere

What will it look like?

“Immensely portable, tablets serve as e-readers, video repositories, and web-browsing devices with instant access to thousands of apps—all in one package that easily fits in a book bag, and even replaces the need for the physical books therein (NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition, 2011, p. 14).”

As an itinerant teacher, mobility is important. Advantages of an iPad are beyond simply educational, they are professional too. The variety and number of apps available allow greater amount of opportunities for students to access and create knowledge and knowledge networks. Multiple books and apps, along with internet access (pictures, educational sites, access to collaboration programs) all within one single device expands my repertoire of materials that I can carry for multiple students of multiple levels, as I go from school to school. Along with capacity, the iPad provides students with activities that are interactive and motivational. Since my position is mobile, I have limited access to space within each school building, limiting my access to technology. Students and I, will be able to access learning materials, as well as create a learning environment in an instant wherever we may be. Not only will students be able to use the technology to enhance learning, I will also be able to use the mobile device to collect data, access work email (one of the best ways for me to communicate with all the staff I work with), and plan lessons and create materials on the go. By integrating mobile technology within the goals of hearing services, I will be able to meet my students’ individual goals along with providing them opportunities to develop and strengthen 21st century skills.

Educational Apps & Learning Objectives:

The following are a few examples of apps that would be beneficial for hearing impaired students and the hearing itinerant position. These apps, along with direct instruction on specific skills will create a learning environment that reflects individual needs and the skills needed to live and work in today’s global economy.

EverNote (

-App used to capture moments of learning. Jot down notes, take pictures, collect resources, create folders, and access anywhere. Students will collect information on advocacy skills that can be easily accessed to prepare presentations for their teachers, peers, and families. EverNote Peek ( is also available to use as a studying device for class subjects.

Language Builder

- Improves sentence ideation, formation, and receptive and expressive language. Extensive use of audio clips promotes improved auditory processing for special needs. This app is related to materials that are of physical nature available within the hearing itinerant program, replacing the need to carry multiple supplies.

International Children’s Digital Library (

-A collection of free children's books from around the world, spanning different countries and different cultures. This app can ease transportation issues, as well as allowing for students to highlight/make observational notes within the story as they go along, without “marking up” an actual text.

Collaboration programs (Google docs, diigo, blogs, wikis, podcasts, vodcasts)

-These can be created and accessed via Wifi. These programs are valuable within the creation of knowledge networks that can span classrooms, schools, and districts. For students with hearing loss that are in the mainstream setting, isolation is a challenge. They often do not realize that there are other students with hearing loss; often experiencing a delay in self-identification and social skills. Students will use these programs to develop relationships with other students with hearing loss, sharing experiences, knowledge, and advice. This will strengthen their identity as a person with hearing loss, as well as provide them access to a community of peers.

What supports are needed?

In order to create a hearing itinerant program that is technology driven, certain materials and supports are needed.

-Materials- iPad, appropriate apps, wifi available within all districts: Considering the cost of individual materials, and the time/energy spent in moving materials between schools, the cost of an iPad (used with multiple students) is low

-Professional Development: Training may be needed for classroom teachers to enable students to present advocacy information to class.

-Acceptable use/security policies: Policies will need to be developed that are able to span multiple districts, or each district must create acceptable use/security policy to reflect use of mobile technology in school-allowing access to wifi and appropriate programs.


Angelo, J., Conners, K., & Helkowski, T. (2009). Anywhere learning. Educational Leadership, 66, 6.Retrieved from

iPad Apps:

1. EverNote=

2. EverNote Peek-

3. Language Builder-

4. International Children’s Digital Library-

Christensen, C.M., Horn M.B., & Johnson C.W. (2008). Distrupting Class: How Distruptive Innovation will Change the Way the World Learns, McGraw Hill: New York.


International Children’s Digital Library-

Lambert, M. (2001). 21st century learners and their approaches to learning. Paper presented at the Eighth International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning, Spetses, Greece. Retrieved from

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66, 1.


Vision of K-12 students-

21st Century Pedagogy-

Warschauer, M. (2002). Reconceptualizing the digital divide. First Monday, Volume 7, Number 7. Retrieved from

QR Codes, Museums, and Equality

Reading chapter 12 of Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training (2009) for class, my thoughts kept coming back to QR codes. If anything, you can call me smitten with the little block of black and white. The chapter, called Using Mobile Technologies for Multimedia Tours in a Traditional Museum Setting (Laura Naismith & M. Paul Smith, 2009), explores the possibility of using mobile devices to enhance the learning experience within a museum. Museum goers were given the option between "two Flash-based multimedia tours," (p. 247) which included the use of handheld devices, promoting a "nonlinear exploration of the museum" with objects built into an overarching narrative (Naismith, L. & Smith, M.P., 2009, p. 253).

Since older museums are limited in their ability to alter the layout or structure of the displays, these multimedia tours were to supplement the already existing structure of the museum, easily transforming a static display into an interactive one. The authors describe how museums are meant to create "free-choice learning," (p. 249), allowing participants to investigate, explore, and develop new knowledge at their own pace, in their own style. "A common problem faced by museums is that visitors often do not make good use of the range of learning opportunities that they offer...Mobile technology can support visitors by providing both location-based information and guidance through this information based on the learner's interests and needs," (Naismith, L. & Smith, M.P., 2009, p.250 ).

Through low/no power positioning technologies within the handheld device (barcodes, RFID, infrared), the study was able to assess the benefit of such tours and the negative/positive aspects of each technology. Barcodes and RFID were deemed unacceptable due to cost of software programs to use them, as well as the display of the codes were deemed aesthetically displeasing and harder to use. The infrared technologies were deemed the most appropriate.

Most recently, QR codes have begun to spring up within museums, allowing persons with smartphones to access further information on a specific museum piece or display, and possibly creating a learning community where participants can add their own thoughts and memories (see QR Codes in National Museum of Scotland).

QR codes are cheap, easy to create and display, and are a great way to access information and communities in an instant. But if they are going be used more and more within education and public life, including within a museum setting, equality of access must be continually considered.

1. Ownership of smartphone-Not everyone owns a cell phone, let alone a smartphone. Though QR readers are free, the phone is not. If a museum includes QR codes, they should consider providing loan devices to be able for everyone to access the same information.

2. Ability to scan-Even if one has a smartphone, the ability to hold a phone steady enough to scan a QR code may vary from person to person. The museum staff (or educational staff) must be willing accommodate those students who may not be able to successfully scan the QR codes themselves.

3. Access to linked information-It is often custom for museums to provide audio to supplement the displays (including the study), and QR codes can be linked to videos as well. This information would not be accessible for the Deaf community. QR codes then could be made that are linked to a visual representation of information, American Sign Language, that would be beneficial for people who are Deaf. Also, for print information that is linked to the QR codes, audio versions would be beneficial for the blind.

It is exciting to think about the possibilities of these technologies and the opportunities to connect "just in time" learning in the real world, to learning within the classroom. Even with my excitement, I must always consider the implications of the technology and equal access.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dewey & the Mobile Classroom

Currently, I am taking two courses through the University of Illinois Educational Policy program, both (Mobile Learning EPSY 590, Technology & Ethics EPS 415) focused on technology in education. I found that ideas, reflections, and questions span both classes. Throughout these courses, I have begun to really delve into the implications of integrating technology within my teaching, not only philosophically but also practically. Though this blog is intended to reflect thoughts on the Mobile Learning course, I am also creating a group blog for a specific project in Technology & Ethics. In doing so, my thoughts often overlap, and I thought that instead of writing a completely new blog post, I will share one I posted for my group blog; ultimately linking one knowledge network or community with another one.

Please note that the entire blog is still under construction, still awaiting final posts and polishing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Technology for All

In reading Professor Pianfetti's recent blog post, I thought about the value of technology for groups with special needs, especially for students who are Deaf or hearing impaired. Before smartphones became popular, T-mobile had the sidekick. With the ability to text, instant message, and email, the Sidekick revolutionized the way the Deaf community communicated.

Historically, the Deaf community has had to deal with limited avenues for communication across time and distances. Before the teletype machine became popular, Deaf people would need to have a hearing person relay a message for them or travel to the person's house they wanted to talk to, with the possibility that their friend would not be home or would be busy. Routine social gatherings became popular, allowing Deaf individuals to be surrounded by friends who spoke the same language, sharing experiences, stories, and jokes. The Deaf community was limited to the area of which the group members could travel.

As the teletype, or the telecommunication device became more readily available, Deaf
persons were able to communicate more easily; being able to call their doctor, or a
business, or a friend when they needed to, as long as the person they were calling had a TTY as well. Soon though, the telecommunication relay service was developed to provide people who are Deaf the ability to call people who are hearing directly, even if they did not have a TTY. As technology advanced, the TRS became the VRS or video relay service. Using a webcam and the internet, Deaf people could use a live interpreter to transmit their message through their first language. With the introduction of the Sorenson Videophone, Deaf people could easily connect and communicate to other Deaf/hearing impaired persons comfortably in their own home.

Currently, the possibilities for Deaf people to communicate freely is expanding rapidly. The Sprint Video Relay Service App and now the iPhone 4 Face Time option allow quicker communication anytime, anywhere.

Telecommunication systems have improved, creating better access and greater capabilities for communicating across time and space. Along with the introduction of vlogs, Web 2.0 and mobile technology have allowed the Deaf community to expand outside the smaller neighborhood communities, as well as given exposure to a unique language and culture. Even with such improvements, what more can be done? Netflix recently has increased their list of streaming movies available with subtitles, but not all have them ( And with the thousands of educational videos on Youtube or TeacherTube that would be beneficial for the classroom, very few have subtitles. With the burgeoning repertoire of videos, clips, and presentations available for educational use, the issue of access must be thrown to the forefront of technology and education discussions. We have come a long way, but not far enough.

Monday, July 11, 2011

QR Codes in the Real World

It always seems that once you learn about something, it ends up popping up everywhere. This has become true for me with QR codes. Before this summer, I really had no idea what they were and I had maybe seen them once or twice but did not know the specifics. With my research and posting last week, I became much more interested and intrigued at the capabilities of these QR codes and the possibilities for use in the classroom. Since my last post, I have encountered QR codes several times (more times than I have in the past year) in the past few days.

1. Traveling to a family reunion in Wisconsin, I rode along with my sister. Talking with her about the current classes I was taking, our talk eventually turned to QR codes (I had sent my sister a link about them, saying we should use them for our next family scavenger hunt). As we were talking, my sister was flipping through a magazine. Lo and behold, a QR code popped up on one of the pages. Having not downloaded a QR code on my iPhone yet, we quickly downloaded one, filled with excitement to see what happened when we scanned the little box of black lines. Attached to a story about a band, the QR code once scanned, led us to a video of a live performance by the band, streaming from youtube. As we listened and watched the song, we were amazed at how easily physical text could be integrated with mobile phone technology. The QR code gave us something that was not possible with text alone: it gave us an opportunity to bring to life the description of the band, listening to a
song in an instant. Our reading experience became multidimensional. (See example page below from Relevant magazine.)

2. The other instance I encountered QR codes this past weekend was later that night at a local musical festival. When entering the festival, there was a sign promoting the event with a large QR code in the center. It promoted a prize drawing for those who scanned the QR code with multiple opportunities to scan multiple codes. Once I scanned the sign, I was directed to a site where I could enter my name and phone number in order to enter the drawing. I was given another QR code card when I bought food, and found a complete list of where I could scan various QR codes; festival workers tshirts, at different stores around town, and at different community sites throughout town. It ultimately was a large advertising campaign for the town.

Example of QR codes in advertising

As I have thought more about QR codes, I began to think about the possibilities for students whose first language is not English, most relevant for me, students whose first language is American Sign Language (ASL). One of the greatest challenges for students who are Deaf is developing English language skills. High school students who are deaf typically graduate with a 4th grade reading level. The nuances of English, especially within textbooks, are difficult to understand when reading is one dimensional. Often times, teachers of Deaf students will have students read a text, then have it signed in their own language, either by the teacher or by the students. This allows greater comprehension of a written language through a visual language. QR codes could create an avenue to bring difficult texts to the level of the reader. It seems possible, that a QR code connected to a specific text could be a link to a visual representation of the reading, presenting the text visually through sign language. This allows the student to read independently, with a greater possibility of genuine comprehension. The students could ultimately be asked to create their own videos corresponding to readings, allowing the student to show competence in reading English and translating it to ASL.

Though I must move on from my QR inquiry to explore other tech devices, apps, and programs, I will still be brainstorming ideas on how to incorporate QR codes into special education. And I hope to create my own QR code soon.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Future of Educational Research

It seems that every couple of years there comes a new research study completed, declaring a correlation between factor 'A' and the learning outcomes of students. This correlation is thus focused on by the media, by parents, by policymakers, by educational leaders, and by teachers to give a reason why students are failing; why students are not making the mark on standardized tests.

When the new world rankings of education, according to PISA results, came out in 2010, various reasons were given to why the U.S. was failing and what needed to be done to gain back our educational prestige.
1. Teacher ability and recruiting
2. Teacher training
3. Socioeconomic background
4. Not enough money in education
5. Family support
6. Time spent in school
8. Lack of the arts within education
9. Too much focus on sports
10. Lack of technology within the classroom
(To mention a few...)

As Christensen et. al (2011) has detailed in chapter 8: Improving Education Research, education will only be improved if the research that strives to improve it, will be radically changed. They state, "No longer will research on best practices or what works best on average across education suffice (p. 186)." Christensen et. al (2011) describe in detail how "most educational research is trapped" within correlative studies (or descriptive research), unable to progress to the "prescriptive stage" which they see as most beneficial. Correlative studies mostly produce outcomes that is beneficial to a certain group of students; the conclusion of the study may benefit some students, it does not benefit all.

Whereas descriptive research might conclude, "On average, teaching reading using phonics produces better results," prescriptive research would say something like, "If the student is strong in this intelligence, then teaching reading with Phonics produces better results; but if the student is strong in this other intelligence, then teaching reading with a Whole Language approach produces superior outcomes." (Christensen et. al, 2011, p. 194)

As I review academic and news articles about the benefits of technology in the classroom, I must continually consider the implications of the actual research. I must ask myself if this would be beneficial for my students. Where would it be beneficial? When would it be beneficial? and Why would it be beneficial? I must look for the complete picture and consider the anomalies within the research. As I have learned throughout my courses, there is not one single reason for the 'failings' of American schools. There is not a single solution that is beneficial for all. Schools must not prescribe blanket solutions in hopes that all students will benefit. To truly move to a "student-centric" classroom, the research that supports teacher training, pedagogy, and educational policies must be transformed.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mobile Tool of the Week: QR Codes

When I saw the topic QR codes on the syllabus for my Mobile Learning class, I had no idea what the topic was about. My first reaction was that the term seemed to be some high-tech jargon that probably required more expertise than I was willing to learn. While I don't tend to back away from technology, I thought if it was anything like HTML code, then I'll stop right there. The thought of having to learn how to write specific codes to create web content scared me a little. Fortunately, I was wrong.

It turns out that QR codes are similar to barcodes, in that they are created to be scanned for information, but much more information can be stored within QR codes than in barcodes. They have already sprung up in advertising, and are beginning to find a niche in education. During my research to find out what this new tech gadget was, I found a wonderful resource that chronicles everything you need to know about QR codes and the possibilities of using them in the classroom.

  • QR Codes in Education binder- Simply, put it is a 3D barcode. It's a much more sophisticated version of the barcode on your bag of Lays Potato Chips. QR Codes are popping up everywhere and are gaining in popularity in education. So, I have been taking some time and doing a little digging about QR codes and trying to find some resources so you can get started using them...

While I still have yet to explore all the wonderful information within the above electronic resource, QR codes have made me think again about education in the 21st century. Knowledge is being created, formed, accessed, and shared in new ways. This predicates new ways of learning, as well as new ways of working. The way that I learned about QR codes is a good example. I had to know how to find information using the technology that I am afforded, and critique that information-checking for consistency and reliability. John Traxler (2007) explores this new way of learning, stating that, "learning that used to be delivered 'just-in-case,' can now be delivered 'just-in-time, just enough and just-for-me.' Finding information rather than possessing it or knowing it becomes the defining characteristic of learning generally and of mobile learning especially, and this may take learning back into the community." (

This new "mobile conception of society" confronts the old conception of teaching and learning, pedagogy and knowledge construction. As teachers, we must acknowledge this transformation of society and the fact that the way we teach may need to be transformed as well.

I still need to explore how I can use QR codes within my own teaching, deciding if they will bring value to the education of my students. But personally, I am excited about my next family reunion. I think our yearly scavenger hunt is about to be transformed.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mobile App Case Study: Percentally

As a new owner of a smartphone, and a novice one at that, I was excited to be presented with an opportunity to explore and analyze an app that would be relevant to me as an educator. With that in mind, I searched the iTunes mobile app store with the following criteria:

1. Must be usable on a smartphone-As stated before, I am a hearing itinerant teacher. I travel to different schools to work with students with hearing loss. I almost always have my phone handy as a clock, timer, and "office" phone. Since getting my new phone, I was eager to find ways I could incorporate it more into work as a teacher.

2. Must be inexpensive-Though I read reviews of apps, I did not want to spend a lot of money on something that may not be useful. I tried to find an app that was either free or of minimal cost.

3. Must be relevant to my specific position-I found several educational apps that peaked my interest to use with specific students, and I plan on looking into those in the future. But I decided to be selfish and look for one that would make my job easier. As a special education teacher, I am always looking for the most efficient way to collect, calculate, record, and organize learning data on my students. When I am working with a student, I record the data manually with pen and paper, manually count up the correct tallies and the total number of trials, and manually calculate the percentage. Usually, I have to get out my phone to use as a calculator and write down the percentage. Since I am mobile, and my work computer is not, I wait till the end of the week to manually put the data into a spreadsheet-where I can then easily compare and present the progress of the student in a visual manner. I was determined to find an app that would make that whole process more efficient.

In my search, I found Percentally by RinnApps.

Description: Percentally allows the user to record tallies to collect data for various activities. Correct/positive or incorrect/negative tallies are simply tapped in, using different colors to distinguish between right and wrong. The option for sounds to go along with tapping in tallies is available, with the option of a different sound for right and wrong; allowing the user to tap in each correct/incorrect answer without looking at the screen. Percentage is automatically calculated. Finally, the data can then be copied to a clipboard, google spreadsheet, or email.

Cost: $2.99

Reviews: Co-created by Eric Sailers, a speech-language pathologist, Percentally was intended to be used to collect data and track progress of individualized educational goals. Reviews on iTunes and other sites are very positive with majority of reviews being 5 stars. Several blogs, including special education blogs, mention the ease and simplicity of Percentally.

Classroom Applicability: As developed by a special education therapist, Percentally lends itself well to the needs of therapists and educators within the special education world. Percentally allows the educator to quickly and easily collect and convert data into percentages, allowing for more time focused on the student. For myself, I will be able to easily integrate the app into my daily professional life. The following are the top 3 advantages of using Percentally:

1. Separate folders-Percentally allows me to create folders for each of my students, as well as folders within my student folders for separate goals. This allows me to keep all my data in one place for all of my students. When working with an individual student, I am able to open the corresponding folder and collect data as needed. If I am working with multiple students at one time, I am able to create a folder with a corresponding goal for each student. This gives me the ability to collect data for each student simultaneously.

2. Single tally vs. Percentally- There is an option to collect single tallies or to collect tallies correct out of the total number of tallies. This option can be utilized depending on individual needs. For example, if I was collecting data on the total times a student asked a 'WH' question while reading a book, I would use the single tally option. If I needed to distinguish between grammatically correct questions and grammatically incorrect questions, I would use the Percentally option. This gives me versatility in my data collecting.

3. Integration with Google Docs-After collecting data, I have the option to send to clipboard, email, or Google docs. As I already enter students data into a spreadsheet manually and create graphs, the option to automatically have data entered into a spreadsheet is exciting. I then am able to edit the information on my computer as needed, and access it anywhere. I also found through my research, the option of editing Google docs on my phone.

This feature further gives me the ability to collect and edit on the go, allowing me to complete work during the few minutes between time with students, instead of waiting till the end of the day or the end of the week when I am able to be at my office.

Possible Shortcomings: Possible shortcomings include the chance of losing information-through loss/theft of phone, or malfunction of phone/app. Though this would be frustrating and feel devastating, it is important to realize that there is the same possibility with using pen and paper. I could, and have, lost the papers I have collected data on, and have also miscalculated percentages and numbers. Another shortcoming of the app is that there is no option to enter the date data was collected. I found though two ways I could remedy that problem: by entering the date in the notes section of each tally activity or by entering the date into the title for each data set.

Though Percentally is a simple and straighforward app, it has the possibility to revolutionize my data collection. It is easy to navigate, and the integration with Google docs creates an excellent avenue to collect data on special education goals on the go.

**Additional Resource: Through my research, I found an excellent resource for apps that would be beneficial for special education, also created by Eric Sailers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ubiquitous Technology, Ubiquitous Learning

As smartphones (aka mobile learning devices) become more prevalent and more accessible by more people, it raises concerns of security, privacy, and the policy that governs what is acceptable use in and out of the classroom.

Though schools are beginning to re-evaluate their cell phone policies (see article Schools Open Doors to Students' Mobile Devices), there is still debate around whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs of allowing mobile devices to be a part of the learning environment. What school officials, teachers, and policymakers cannot do is ignore the fact that students have access to, and are using mobile devices in an alarmingly increasing rate, let alone the internet and social media sites.

Through mobile devices, students are able to use the medium of which they are accustomed and motivated by, to learn new information, as well as demonstrate understanding. Technology can be integrated throughout various curriculum.

When thinking about the pros and cons of mobile learning and allowing mobile devices within schools, we must think about what we are sacrificing. What are we sacrificing if we continue to view mobile technology as something foreign, untrustworthy, and unacceptable? Through strict mobile device policies, are we creating what Foucault termed as docile bodies? Students that are a part of a learning system that is disconnected from their own lives? What would be possible if we embraced the ubiquitous technology and created spaces for ubiquitous learning?

Friday, June 24, 2011

We All are Cyborgs

Professor Pianfetti's recent blog post on technology, privacy, and security-especially concerning medical advances- made me contemplate the way I have started to view technology in light of health issues. I have grown up with technology. I have come to rely on the technology of computers and smartphones to provide access to information, as well as leisure and educational activities. Though I am almost never without my cell phone, I have the option of leaving it. If choosing to do so, I can be "disconnected" from the technology that has become almost a second limb.

That was before I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes this past January. Now my life is
continuously connected to technology; insulin and pen needles, glucose meters and strips, and my phone. There are multiple apps that are targeted for people with diabetes-the one I liked the best is called Diabetes Buddy. I am able to record what I eat from a large database of items, calculate the number of carbs, record my blood sugar readings, and how much insulin I take everyday. I also can log activities or exercise that I do-the type, length, and how I feel. I can then easily email my blood sugars to my endocrinologist, or my food intake to my dietitian. Or if I have a question, I can quickly email my diabetes educator along with any information about my day to day life that would be helpful in answering. As much as I would do anything to not have diabetes, I am thankful to be diagnosed in a time where technology is expanding the quality, and extending the years, of life for diabetics. And the technology continues to progress.

As a new diabetic, I have only just begun to
master multiple manual insulin injections per day, but I have slowly started to see an insulin pump in my future. From the discovery of insulin to current research on the artificial pancreas, medical technology has improved the lives of diabetics around the world. The artificial pancreas seeks to mimic the human pancreas by creating a loop system between an implanted continuous glucose monitor and an insulin pump. The monitor tells the pump how much insulin to give, depending on blood glucose levels. The system is automatic, allowing the person to decrease manual glucose readings and eliminate manual insulin injections. (Please see the JDRF Arificial Pancreas Project for more information.)

As I begin to seriously think about the next step in managing my diabetes, I contemplate the positives and negatives of being literally connected to the technology that helps me live. When I was diagnosed, the one thought I came back to was that after spending my life relying on only myself, I now must rely on something outside of myself to survive. There will always be something external that I must have in order to live a full life. I was determined to not let a disease define me, but it is not something I can ignore. It is a part of me; something I constantly think about. And the technology that helps me live, is a part of me too-whether it is attached or not.

I am reminded of a book I had to read for undergrad called Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human by Michael Chorost. Michael was hard of hearing growing up, but as an adult, became completely deaf, forcing him to make a choice: stay deaf with no previous contact with sign language or the Deaf community, or receive a cochlear implant. His book details his decision and the process of re-learning how to hear, as well as his internal struggle to define himself with the newly implanted technology.

As technology advances, the line between the technological device and the human on which it is being used can become blurred. While he struggled with the idea of being part human/part computer, I struggle with the decision of having a device constantly attached to me that is artificial. Currently, I am still somewhat in control of my disease-I am able to manually test, manually figure out how much insulin I should take, and administer the insulin myself. An artificial pancreas would push me to rely on the working function of the technology. I am subject to the in and outs of using technology-malfunctions and breakdowns. Part of me would not be human. We often think of technology as hard, cold, and lifeless. But I am slowly seeing technology come to life; bringing security and ease of mind.

Technology raises questions of privacy, security, reliability, and identity. Who are we with and without this technology? If a part of our body is replaced with technology, does that make us less human? Where do I end and the technology begin? Is this an issue that all of us face? Even those without health issues?

As technology improves, the line between human and technology will become even more blurry. Personally, I am excited about the possibilities; excited about the technology that gets out of the way to allow me to live my life. Cold, hard technology brings me life. I already can't wait until the day I don't have to stick my finger multiple times per day.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ebooks in Developing Countries

As technology has advanced, new ways of viewing literacy has increased. With the increase in use of e-readers and e-books, adults and children around the world have found an easier way to access, transport, and interact with literature; especially within the classroom.

Used as textbooks for classes, children's literature for individual reading, or group reading through digital readers (Kindle, Nook color) or tablets (iPad), or whole classroom instruction through the whiteboard, text on a screen can become motivating and interactive. E-books have the ability to save space and money, as well as allow students to interact with text--highlighting the text, look up unknown words in digital dictionary, listen to text, or write a note connected to the text.

For myself, the most valued characteristics of e-books are the portability and the accessibility. As a hearing itinerant teacher, I am a mobile teacher. I must transport my materials for each of my students from school to school. The ability to have multiple books on hand saves me time and energy. While the cost upfront for an e-reader may be high, as more books (including textbooks) are available and as libraries (and Amazon) begin e-lending, the overall savings between print and digital may be very significant. The potential for e-books to become a staple in the classroom is increasing, including in the developing world.

Worldreader has begun a campaign to provide "books for all." The simple solution of access is transforming the education of students in Ghana. Where there was little access to books, especially textbooks, Worldreader is providing an avenue easily attain not only texts from around the world, but working with local organizations to provide digital copies of culturally relevant material.

Just as cell phones have transformed the landscape of accessibility in Africa, so too can e-books and e-readers. What will remain to be seen are the results of such accessibility. Will the e-readers take root in the educational systems in developing countries? How will these e-readers transform pedagogy in developing countries? Will educational outcomes improve because of e-readers? And will the digital divide be lessened if organizations like Worldreader have the ability to extend their reach?

Related Articles/Links:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Death of Monolithic Teaching

Differentiated instruction was a key word throughout my teacher education. As a special educator, it became a natural motto. As a hearing itinerant teacher, I am able to collaborate with classroom teachers to provide the best learning environment for my students, as well as work individually with my students to develop appropriate advocacy and compensatory skills. With all the support that is provided my students, they still at times get lost among the fast paced lessons that drive monolithic teaching practices. If my students, with individualized supports, get lost in the drive to teach to the test, and meet the minimum requirement, what about those students who are not within special education? The students who are lost because their brains are not wired for the same teaching style that I was taught.

Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, and Curtis W. Johnson (2008) thoroughly dissect the transformation of education through "disrupting technologies." They claim that through innovations in technology, the educational system has the possibility to be transformed to reflect student-centric learning. Though "new disruptive technologies never perform as well as does the established approach in its own market (Christensen, C.M. et al, 2008)," (at least in the beginning),education will slowly be transformed by the adoption of differentiated instruction through technology. By creating an environment that allows teaching/learning to be tailored to each student, education is transformed from a monolithic approach to a student centered approach.

Christensen et. al (2008) describe the transition from simple computer based learning to actual student-centric learning through technology. I have seen this true in my own life. During undergrad, I took a few online courses. These courses simply reflected the same monolithic structure of a physical classroom. I was given text to read, assignments to complete, and occasional postings on a class forum. There was very little dialogue or interaction. Compared to the master's classes I am a part of currently, there is a community that is built around inquiry, discussion, critical thinking, and collaboration. Technology, along with innovative teaching practices, creates a virtual community of learning, instead of simply a class on the internet.

The monolithic classroom is dying...slowly. Teachers are finding ways to create a classroom that reflects 21st century learning and skills. Allowing students to complete assignments in different ways according to their preferred intelligence. Allowing students to be the teachers in the classroom. Allowing students to be creators within the classroom, as they are in their social world. Connecting life to the classroom.

Christensen, C.M., Horn M.B., & Johnson C.W. (2008). Distrupting Class: How Distruptive Innovation will Change the Way the World Learns, McGraw Hill: New York.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mobile Photos/Video in Mobile Learning

As Disrupting Class elaborates, students and adults learn in different ways. As individuals, our brains are wired in various ways that enable us to learn new information, analyze situations, and create new meaning. The way a person learns is as variable as the individuals themselves.

As an educator, I am in constant search of strategies that will support the way that my students learn. As a special educator working with students with hearing loss, I am also in constant search of various ways to present language rich lessons in new and refreshing ways.

Fast becoming one of the most basic tools of mobile devices, the camera and video provide an easy way to incorporate technology into lessons and provide a visual connection between the student and learning topic.

Let me briefly explain my teaching position first, before describing the way I use mobile photos/videos within my teaching. I work for a special education cooperative as a hearing itinerant teacher. I am a mobile teacher. I work directly with 14 students from K-12 in 3 different towns in 6 different schools. I do not have an office in the schools of which I work; having to be creative and fight for even a small corner in the cafeteria, library, or hallway. My “office” is basically my car; carrying my materials to each school. The less I have to carry, the lighter my bag is, the easier my job.

My smart phone has become an ideal device to capture teaching moments--becoming language books, vocabulary books, visual reminders, and a motivator for my students. Below are some pictures taken of a student who is learning the parts and care of his hearing aids. We were able to go through the steps of cleaning his hearing aids, taking pictures of each step. He was eager to get his picture taken, and even more excited to see himself in print when making the final product.

Having my phone on hand already (the best way to contact me, since I am rarely in my office) allows me to quickly and efficiently take pictures during lessons, then emailing or sending to print at Walgreens. Language lessons are enriched by giving students the opportunity to be the center of attention in front of the camera, practicing the concepts while taking pictures, then again when making the final product, and again (and again) when the student goes back to read through and revisit the past lesson. These activities allow my students to develop language-expressive/receptive, written/oral in a creative way.

In the future, I would like to move away from physical final products, like books, and create more digital projects. Creating even more opportunities for my students to learn 21st century skills.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Summer, New Learning

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project describes the usage of technology amongst people in different generations. According to the report, I am amongst the generation of Millennials. Millennials are known for owning the most technological devices and for using them to their capacity; using them to enhance (and possibly interfere) almost every aspect of their lives.

I may own 5 out of the 7 featured tech devices (excluding the desktop computer and e-Book reader), but I cannot truthfully say that I am a full-fledged tech savvy Millennial. Though I am Millennial in age, I only come to truly represent the "typical" Millennial in the study through marriage. If it were not for my husband, I would probably not have a smart phone, a game console, or an iPad. It is through my husband that I learn about the latest gadget, the latest app, and the ways that technology can bring ease and fluidity to my life.

Even though I benefit from being married to a tech junky, technology and I have grown up together. From the laboriously slow dial up internet, to the lightening speed at which my cell phone (my cell phone! that device that used to be like a shoebox in my parents car, just in case of emergencies) can load my Facebook page. As the speed at which I can connect has become faster, the more impatient I have become. Though I would not have gotten a smartphone on my own (at least till they became outdated), I have come to expect nothing less. I cannot go back. I use it to not only talk, text message, and email, but also to get directions, recipes, check movie times, find used furniture, fill prescriptions, manage my diabetes, play games, and of course find the answer to every single minute question that comes up in life.

I have found it easy to incorporate some features of my mobile device within my teaching, using it as a visual timer, camera, and video recorder. But it stops there. As much as I would like to consider myself a tech-savvy teacher, using technology to enhance and support my students' learning (as well as my communication with staff/parents and organization), I have not made the complete leap. Since the recent addition of an iPad to the family, I have begun to find reasons to add it to my professional life as well. I am looking forward to learning more about the devices that have become customary within my life, and the ways in which I can use them to provide 21st century learning.

My explorations of the use of technology will be encapsulated here, hoping to gain at least one goal: Rethinking teaching & learning.