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A Very Special Education

Hello and Happy New Year to all of my readers! Welcome to 2012. I have taken the week off and I feel refreshed, rejuvenated and inspired – and I hope you do too. In 2012, I aim to bring you fresh ideas and thoughts on education today. Let me start with this…

Recently, I found this photo hanging on my friend’s refrigerator. It was so perfect, I had to share. When we say “visuals are a great tool for learning,” this is exactly what we are mean.

Really?

Sometimes listening and talking just isn’t enough –  so let’s take a close look at this cartoon and think for a minute…what can we learn from this?

A Very Special Education

For the purpose of this piece, I will refer to special education teachers as magicians.

I must admit I never excelled in mathematical logic. I remember getting very confused by the “If-then” concept. One thing I do remember is that my teacher told me that when Fact 1 is true and Fact 2 is true, then the entire statement is true.  If that is true, then I wonder…

If: We know that every child is different and…

If: We know that all children have unique life experiences, which shape their learning and…

If: We understand that all children learn differently…

Then: Why isn’t all education special?

Every time I attempt to use logical means to solve this puzzle, I end up with the same outcome. If we know all of these things to be true about children, then all teachers should be special educators. There is no such thing as “general” in regards to education.

A magician teaches ALL children. Magicians must be creative and find ways to meet the needs of every student who steps foot inside the classroom. A magician does not specialize in only one area because all magicians realize that there is no such thing as a homogenous class. If all students learn differently, then a variety of teaching strategies and methods must take place in the classroom.

Now I want you to close your eyes and imagine a world where every child receives a special education. In this world, all teachers are magicians with never-ending bags of tricks. All children receive what they need in order to grow to their potential. In the words of the great Louis Armstrong, “and then I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

That is what I’ve learned…what have you learned?

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Guest Blog at Edutopia: Breaking Down Differentiated Instruction

This is an exciting day for EdGeeks because this post was written as a guest blog for Edutopia.org, which is one of my favorite educational websites! The article discusses differentiated instruction and breaks the concept down into more manageable pieces. Thank you Edutopia for all you do in education and for giving EdGeeks a platform to share ideas.

What does the “Special” in “Special” Education mean?

Quiz of the Day: What does the “Special” in “Special” Education mean?

A. That every child learns in a special way?

B. That every teacher teaches in a special way?

C. That a teacher specializes in educating all kinds of learners?

Actually it’s

D. All of the above

What kind of chef are you? How are you in the kitchen?

If I posed this question to all of my friends, I would receive a wide range of responses. Perhaps I would have one group of people who could barely follow the instructions to make a box of macaroni and cheese. Others could probably make eggs and spaghetti but that is the extent of their culinary expertise. Then I would have this top tier of friends who are so amazing in the kitchen that they make their own sauce from scratch! That’s how I judge top notch…sauce from scratch.

What does this have to do with learning?

Well, I would never ask my “macaroni friends” to make their own sauce, nor would I toss a box of macaroni to my top tier friends, when I know they could be creating a divine meal from scratch! Let’s apply this idea to the classroom.

Content / Delivery of Instruction / Resources /Product and Assessment

These 4 ideas are interconnected but to truly understand how to differentiate instruction, it is more manageable to look at them separately. 

CONTENT

Content is what we teach.  It is what we want students to learn, understand and be able to apply as a result of instruction. 

DELIVERY OF INSTRUCTION

Delivery of Instruction is the how of teaching.  This can mean how activities are designed to help students make sense of content.  Delivery of Instruction also includes the process of teaching and even integrating different co-teaching models if you have multiple adults in the classroom. 

RESOURCES AND MATERIALS

Resources act as the medium through which you teach students. Resources can include texts, supplies, videos, materials, field trips, etc.

PRODUCT/ASSESSMENT

A product is the evidence of learning. It is how the student demonstrates his/her understanding of an idea.  A product is a method of assessment and in a differentiated classroom there are multiple product/assessment styles offered to students.

Here is an example of how one lesson might be differentiated in all 4 ways.

Example: In a differentiated classroom, students are learning about communities.

Differentiated Content: Some students may be working on developing an understanding of the term “community” by exploring different books, photos and videos about communities. Others might be working on understanding the difference between rural, urban and suburban communities. Here, the content for each group of students is different.

Differentiated Delivery of Instruction: A teacher might teach a lesson about the different types of communities by watching a video and taking shared notes. A teacher might then pull a group of students and do a read aloud activity using a book with vivid photographs that show the different types of communities. Here, the students are learning the same content through different learning activities. The instruction is being delivered differently. 

Differentiated Resources: A teacher might have 3 groups of students researching communities. One group might be using a series of easy readers and picture books to compile their information, while another group uses higher-level non-fiction text with chapters and text features such as glossary and index. Perhaps there is a third group doing independent Internet research. In this case, three groups of students are using appropriate texts in the classroom. 

Differentiated Products: To assess learning, perhaps some students do an oral presentation of their findings, while others create a poster full of research. Others design a test and answer key on the subject! In this case, student learning is being demonstrated in different ways.

Let’s remember these 3 things:

  1. In education, one size does not fit all
  2. All students deserve and are entitled to appropriate instruction
  3. We can accommodate in small, simple ways that will support growth in all of our students

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Khan Academy: Helping individuals learn at their own pace

Khan Academy is a non-profit organization with the mission of “providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.” How do they do this? By providing an extensive library of videos which teach lessons in a variety of topics that apply to mathematics and science. Sal Khan, the founder of Khan academy has three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.

I must say, Sal Khan has the rare ability to teach challenging topics by breaking them down into manageable pieces and using extensive modeling. His videos are short and simple to understand. The videos include both visual and audio representations of the material to build conceptual understanding. All of the videos at Khan Academy are free and once you have a login you can even track your progress. If you are a coach, parent or teacher, you have a login and can obtain information on the progress of your student(s). This can help you make informed decisions about next steps for learning.

Many of the topics that are focused on are appropriate for high school or college students, but there are also videos devoted to lower-level math such as basic operations or percentages. These videos can be used in a variety of ways to support education:

  • Administrators can encourage teachers to use Khan Academy in the classroom as a means of incorporating differentiation.
  • Teachers can use Khan Academy to differentiate learning in the classroom.
  • Teachers can assign Khan Academy videos for homework to reinforce or preview what is being taught in school.
  • Families can use these videos to reinforce lessons for struggling learners or to increase the level of learning for students who are not being challenged.
  • Students can use Khan Academy as a study guide or as a way to get extra practice in a skill or concept.
The library has pretty much every topic you could possibly think of related to math, science and finance. They are expanding to Art History and have the over-arching goal of covering as many topics as possible! My hope is that they expand to include a wider range of lessons for younger students, and possibly even branch out to literacy. Here is a screen shot from the library archives…and believe it or not, this is only one topic (algebra)!

Screenshot of Khan Academy Library

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The Importance of Sharing: Feature pieces, gallery walks, spotlights and more…

I’ll begin today by opening myself up and sharing an embarrassing memory from my first year of teaching. I’m warning you, this one is pretty bad, but here is my personal opinion… We all have embarrassing moments and if we can’t reflect on how we used to be and how it impacts who we are now, we have no business being in the field of educating others.

It was around the holidays and everything seemed to be getting out of hand. Piles of paperwork flooded my desk, my curriculum binders were a mess, I could not keep up with grading homework, and I was constantly being scheduled for meetings on my preps. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but this overwhelming feeling made me begin assigning work that was not necessarily the most important. This was not like me. I cared so much about teaching meaningful lessons, but I guess somehow my values got lost in the chaos for a moment. I will never forget when one of my most beloved students, we’ll call him “Captain” to maintain anonymity, came up to me with a worksheet in his hand. I looked at him and said “Thanks, Captain, you can leave that on my desk.” He said to me, “I already handed it in. I just found it in the trash.” I was mortified. In that moment I flashed back to the previous afternoon when I went on a cleaning spree and tried to clear off my desk…obviously his work was on it. There was nothing I could say to Captain in that moment to make up for what I had done. The only thing I can do now, years later, is to say thank you. Captain changed the way I teach and think, and that one moment has impacted the countless students I worked with after him.

Today in education, teachers are responsible for plowing through a ton of material. I always fear that this idea of “fitting everything in” can blur the lines of what is most important. The worst thing we can do is give work that comes across to our students as “busy work.” We need to be careful. While there is a lot that must get done, our work must be meaningful. We need to make time to stop and celebrate the work that is being done or else our children will not realize the importance of their work nor will they have a visual representation of the progress they have achieved. This concept is small but it has a great impact on work ethic. This idea is important both in school and at home. Classrooms and home work-spaces should have student work on display.

Why Share Student Work?

  • To instill that the work being done is valuable
  • To instill pride for the work that is being accomplished
  • To allow students to get feedback including both compliments and constructive ideas for ways to make their work stronger next time
  • To allow students to review work from different points in the year, so they may have a visual marker for progress

How to Share Student Work?

We can share work in a variety of ways including:

  • Publishing party: Have student families come into the classroom so children can share their writing
  • Bulletin Boards: Display student work and art (see below)
  • Library: Put student writing in your library so other students may read their work (see below)
  • Gallery Walk: Tape student work all around the room and have the class walk around to admire the work. Take it one step further and give students post-its to write compliments for the pieces they like.
  • Theme Day Celebration: Invite families or other classes to come in and see your students’ work. Last year, I worked with a fabulous teacher who held a math carnival to share math games built by students. (See below)
  • Principal Boards: Ask the principal of your school to make a bulletin board in his/her office that has displays exemplar student work each month.

Bulletin Board: Community Heroes

Student's stories are bound and headed for the library to be shared.

Theme Day Celebration: Arctic Study Share


Spotlights: Here is my favorite way to share work. This strategy can easily be modified to fit your needs. I will give an example to help you understand how this works.
Download Spotlight Sheet
Monday: We do a writing lesson on how to include more details in our writing.
Monday night: I take home student work, read through each piece and write feedback. I choose a few lines from student work that I deem to be exemplar. I fill out my spotlights sheet including  a short excerpt that demonstrates the skill (or for younger students, i’ve used a spotlights chart on large chart paper.)
Tuesday: I begin our writing lesson by reviewing the spotlights with the class. We discuss the student writing and why these particular lines were chosen.
With this strategy, students become motivated through examining the strong work that is being done by their peers. They are more likely to work hard when they know that their teacher is looking through there work with care. I always make sure to include a variety of writing levels. It is easy to choose a struggling writer if you are just focused on the one line! This can boost confidence, especially for writers that do not receive compliments frequently. Download “Spotlights” sheet by clicking on the blue link above.

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If At First You Don’t Succeed…Try, Try Again. And Then Again!

The Power of Repeated Practice in Math 

Today I want to discuss the power of repeated practice for young mathematicians. We always say that to become a stronger reader, we need to practice reading. Somehow we often forget to apply this principle to math.

Many math curricula today have taken on the idea of the “spiral.” I actually love the idea of a spiraling curriculum in theory.  In essence it means that material is presented more than once and that mastery should not necessarily be expected the first time it is taught. If your child does not catch subtraction with regrouping the first time around, don’t worry…it will be back again at another point either this year or next. As in all curricula, there is a downside to the spiral. The material moves quickly and is not practiced again for a long period of time. For students who haven’t mastered the topic, it can feel new again by the next time it is re-approached. What can we do to solve this problem?

Firstly, it is important to know the strengths and areas for growth in your students or children. If you suspect that your child is struggling with retention in math it may be related to the topics moving too quickly. To solve this problem, I propose the idea of repeated practice! Support your children by giving them extended repeated practice in one area of mathematics before moving to the next.

Classroom Teachers (At School)

If you are a classroom teacher reading this, you might be thinking: “The material does move too fast but I don’t know how or when to fit repeated practice into my classroom!” I highly recommend using centers to differentiate instruction. Don’t reinvent the wheel, there aren’t enough hours in your day for that. Find an online resource with worksheets that you like and print some out at different levels. Split your class into groupings that make sense and set your students up to work independently. Perhaps you have 8 students working on multiplication facts, 8 students working on multiplication word problems and you are working with 8 students to re-teach them how to use manipulatives to create accurate representations of multiplication. Yes, this can be taxing and it takes time…but don’t our kids deserve it? And don’t you deserve to feel like you are making progress and that your students are walking away truly understanding a lesson? See if you can find time to try out centers in your classroom, even if it’s just once for 20 minutes.

Families (At Home) 

Classroom teachers have the unbelievably stressful task of fitting everything into one year, so if extensive repetition cannot happen in the classroom, make sure to offer it at home. Just as I advised the classroom teachers, I will advise families at home: Don’t reinvent the wheel! People have been doing this for years and there are a ton of resources out there that allow you to print out worksheets that will reinforce math topics.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a couple resources I find helpful. If you have further questions, feel free to post them and receive a prompt response!

  • SuperTeacher Worksheets a great resource for free printables with answer keys
  • SoftSchools has an option to generate your own worksheets and download the PDF
  • TLS Books is particularly useful for charts and graphs
  • EdHelper is a great resource (not only for math), but you need to pay to be a member

*Special Note

I am not an avid fan of worksheets because they often result in “busy work” in the classroom. In this case, I am recommending them as a supplemental resource rather than a replacement for curricular materials, manipulatives, etc. I am recommending them as a simple tool to reinforce what is already being taught by offering extensive repeated practice.

See samples from SuperTeacherWorksheets and TLS Books below

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Gadgets for EdGeeks: Microsoft Word Speech Function

Last week EdGeeks reviewed Dragon Speaking Naturally, a speech-recognition software program, and discussed how it could be used to support writing. Today, I am featuring another possible option for supporting students at home (or in a classroom with computers/laptops). What is so great about today’s post? If you have a computer at home, chances are you probably have Microsoft Word and this post will teach you how to tap into a special function that can revolutionize working with your child!

[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B004E9SKEQ&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B004E9SKEQ[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B003YCOJA8&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B003YCOJA8[/amazon-product]

Tech Tool: Microsoft Word Speech Function (This function includes both speech-recognition and text-to-speech. This particular review focuses on text-to-speech capabilities since last week’s post was in regards to speech-recognition.)

Description: For those of you who are already proud owners of Microsoft Office…here is a nice tool for you! Microsoft Word has a speech function that allows any Word Document to be read aloud. This is referred to as “text-to-speech” and can be a very helpful tool for readers at any level.

Application in the Classroom: This tool can support readers at all levels by taking a challenging text and reading it aloud. If you have a splitter and headphones, you can potentially have multiple students listening to a text at once.

Concrete Examples of In-Classroom Use: This function can support students in the classroom in many ways. It can:

  • Take a challenging text that you have found online and read it aloud
  • Read aloud the news
  • Read aloud a piece of writing that a student has written
  • Support students with editing and revision by playing back the audio version so they can hear what their writing sounds like

Concrete Examples of At-Home Use: 

  • Help your child with a challenging reading assignment
  • Help improve your child’s writing by having him/her listen to the audio version while editing
  • Help your child research a topic by copying and pasting the content into a Word Document and using the speech function to read it aloud
  • Many teachers now post homework online – download a worksheet and have the instructions to an assignment read aloud
Appropriate Grade Levels: K – Forever
How it Works: Instructions below are based on Microsoft Office 2008)
Step 1: Open a Microsoft Word Document
Step 2: Type an original text or copy and paste a text from an online resource
Step 3: Click View, Toolbars, Speech (See photo below)
Step 4: Highlight the text that you would like to be read aloud
 Step 5: Go to the speech box and click on the microphone icon
Special Note: If you go into system preferences you have a lot of options for the speech function including both text-to-speech and speech-recognition functions. (See photo below)

Step 3

Special Note

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Gadgets for EdGeeks: Speech-Recognition Software

Dragon Diction

Sometimes I find it breathtaking how technologically advanced the world has become. Today there are a variety of speech-recognition and text-to-speech software programs that are being used in many capacities including business, healthcare and thank goodness for us…education. This will be the first of multiple posts featuring software programs that assist with speech, language and writing. Today I want to highlight one program that is changing the way we teach and learn.

Tech Tool: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Home

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Home

Description: Dragon is a speech-recognition software program that allows you to speak words that are translated into text at a much faster rate than most people can type. It is available for Mac, PC, Iphone, Blackberry and Android.

Application in the Classroom: This tool can be used in any classroom with student desktops, laptops, or Ipads. You can teach students to use Dragon to dictate stories, essays, notes, etc. Dragon can help students get their ideas down on paper before they are forgotten. The text can then be used to support the student in writing his/her complete piece.

Concrete Examples of In-Classroom Use: One might say that using Dragon is like having a personal scribe — one who is extremely speedy and accurate! This technology has many implications in the classroom. This type of program can be used during writing activities to assist: hesitant writers who struggle with the mechanics of writing, English Language Learners, students with learning disabilities and students with motor limitations. Use Dragon to:

  • Support a student make an outline during a writing activity
  • Support a student use greater detail during a writing activity
  • Support a student who struggles with spelling
  • Make writing accessible to all students in your classroom!
Concrete Examples of At-Home Use: You may consider using Dragon at home for a variety of reasons including:
  • If your child writes very slowly and homework takes FOREVER
  • If your child is a hesitant writer
  • If your child struggles with the mechanics of writing
  • If your child has motor limitations
  • If your child is a hesitant writer who is motivated by technology

Appropriate Grade Levels: Grade 1-Forever


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Neo Laptop

Neo and Neo 2

This post is in response to a question that was submitted to The Parent-Teacher Conference.

Question: I am looking for information on how my son could best use the Neo at home and in class. Handwriting is difficult and we were advised that the Neo laptop would help him with his notes. If you have any information on how to start with this I would very much appreciate it.

To get a visual, here are a few photos of different versions of the Neo:

Neo and Neo 2


Response: The Neo is a fantastic tool that can be used to support many different types of learners. While the Neo is marketed towards students with Dyslexia, learning disabilities and/or motor impairments, it can be used to support any learner who struggles with handwriting, spelling, note-taking or writing stamina. The Neo is portable and it is compatible with Mac and PC so you can send text directly to your home computer. It can be used in school and also at home to support homework and studying!

Description: There are a few different versions of the Neo. This description refers to the Neo 2. Please keep in mind that if you are thinking of purchasing a Neo for your child, each version comes with different capabilities so you should definitely research which one is best for your child. The Neo is a device with an LCD screen and a keyboard. Your child can type text using the keyboard, share files with a home and/or school computer and print wirelessly. There are add-ons that you can use with your Neo including a hardware device that will enable text-to-speech function so that your child can listen to what he/she has written. Neo is compatible with Co-Writer, which is a word-prediction system. I will give a more detailed description of the Co-Writer program in a later Gadgets for EdGeeks post so stay tuned! The Neo is marketed as a writing tool, but the Neo 2 includes math programs too! The Neo 2 can be super helpful for a student who needs to build automaticity of basic math facts and an understanding of basic operations.

Application in the Classroom and at Home:

  • Use the Neo for a student with illegible handwriting
  • Use the Neo  in conjunction with Co-Writer for a student with spelling that is impossible to decipher
  • Use the Neo in conjunction with text-to-speech hardware for a student who struggles with sequencing. Let the student play back what he/she has written to support them in figuring out what to write next
  • Use the Neo to support students in taking notes

Be Cautious: I will say the one thing to be cautious of is that Neo does not teach students, it supports them. For example, the Neo can act as a tool for note-taking but it will not teach your child the skills of listening, prioritizing information and taking it down in short notation. Be sure to be using activities at home and in school that support the learning behind note-taking.

Advice: I would advise (depending on the child of course) to take a balanced approach between using the Neo and writing with pen and paper. One way of taking this balanced approach is as follows:
  • Student has a homework assignment to write a paragraph about amphibians
  • First he/she writes his amphibian paragraph on the Neo with Co-Writer to support spelling
  • Next, he/she copies the paragraph on lined paper
  • At this point, the stress of generating ideas, sequencing thoughts, spelling, etc. are gone – and all that remains is his focus towards handwriting
Submit further questions at The Parent-Teacher Conference!

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Reading Pens

Today’s post is about a cool gadget called the reading pen. Reading pens are appropriate for children of all ages and even adults! This particular video is of a reading pen that was developed for younger children but if you scroll down you will see versions of this technology with a design appropriate for older students and adults…so keep reading!

I’m not sure how familiar you are with the book “Walter the Farting Dog” but it’s pretty hilarious and always sure to be a crowd pleaser with the little folks. This video cracks me up and is a great “Reading Pens 101” tutorial…

What is a Reading Pen? A reading pen is a portable device that can scan text and read it aloud. Many reading pens also have a dictionary function where new or unknown words can be defined. A reading pen can connect to a computer so that the reader may upload the words they read after each use. Challenging words can then be stored for future use.

Who Can Benefit From a Reading Pen? Reading pens are often marketed specifically for English Language Learners, students with learning disabilities, students with dyslexia or individuals who struggle with reading. All of the above would benefit from the use of a reading pen but I also propose that this tool could be used as enrichment. If your child is reading at a high level and loves a great challenge, or reading the newspaper, he/she may benefit from use of a reading pen to support vocabulary development.

For all of the teachers reading this post, imagine if the students in your class had access to a reading pen! If your class had a shared reading pen, it could go in the reference section of your library and act as another reference tool for students. If you are at a school with greater access to resources, you might be able to order one for each table so students could share while they read. Imagine the possibilities with a tool that assists learners with both pronunciation and definitions for new words.

Today, a wide variety of reading pens are available. One particular company, Wizcom makes many different styles and models. Some of them even have translation functions, which may come in very handy for families and/or students who are learning English.

 Here are three reading pens designed for younger students:

VTechKids Bugsby Reading Pen[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B001T2ZWLU&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B001T2ZWLU[/amazon-product] LeapFrog Tag[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B003JQV9LG&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B003JQV9LG[/amazon-product] Franklin Anybook Reader[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B004C0839Y&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B004C0839Y[/amazon-product]

 Here are three reading pens designed for older students and/or adults:

Wizcom Portable Reading Tutor[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B002HJ28EI&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B002HJ28EI[/amazon-product] Wizcom Quicktionary Pen Scanner[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B004F56IR0&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B004F56IR0[/amazon-product] IRIS Pen Scanner[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B000SQNVTI&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B000SQNVTI[/amazon-product]

Special Note: It is important to ensure that the reading pen does not become a crutch. A student should always try tackling a tricky word themselves before asking for adult assistance or using a device like the reading pen. This gadget should be used as a support system but not a crutch.

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Gadgets for EdGeeks: Introducing the Livescribe!

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Tech Tool: Livescribe

Description: At a recent educational conference I was able to test drive the Livescribe. In a nutshell, this device is a computer inside of a pen. You can use this tool to record audio and to transfer your written notes straight to your computer. The pen has a USB cable, which makes connecting to your computer simple! The Livescribe is available in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB models, which ranges from 200-800 hours of recorded audio. This tech toy makes it easier than ever to save notes in an organized fashion and share notes with friends, teachers, students, etc.

How it Works: The Livescribe is used in conjunction with a special notebook. The notebook is filled with “Dot Paper,” which has three icons at the bottom of each sheet: “Play, Record, Stop.” You just tap each icon when appropriate and take notes with your pen as if it were a regular old ballpoint. Later when you are near your beloved computer, you can connect your Livescribe to playback audio and to view your notes using the Livescribe Desktop Software. This software has functions that allow you to organize your notes in a variety of different ways.

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As if That’s Not Enough… You can download apps for your Livescribe! For example:

  • Language Translation (ie: Spanish Dictionary)
  • Stopwatch
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Study and Organization
  • Games

Application in the classroom: There are countless ways to apply the Livescribe to learning in the classroom. Below, check out just a small list of ways I could imagine using this tool with some of my past students:

  • To model while teaching lessons that explicitly teach note-taking skills
  • During a writing unit that teaches the skill of “Interviewing” (often, children struggle to write quickly enough to capture all of their subject’s words)
  • To teach and study new vocabulary, especially in the content areas
  • While taking notes on math strategies (particularly so a student may play back the teacher’s voice to maximize independence)

Application at home: Depending on the age of your child you can use the Livescribe in a variety of ways. The greatest strength of this tool is that it allows you to hear the teacher’s instruction. If your child constantly comes home saying “I don’t understand my homework” or “My teacher didn’t really explain it,” you can check in with the Livescribe and support your child by helping them recall what the teacher said in school.

  • Have your child use the Livescribe to copy homework each day so your child can have an audio reminder of what the teacher said
  • If your child uses the Livescribe in school, he/she can listen to the audio at a later time to recall a strategy, instruction or sample problem.
  • Use the notes your child took using the Livescribe to create flashcards for vocabulary or a specific unit of study

Appropriate Grade Levels: Grade 2-Forever

Support or Enrichment? This tech tool can be used for both support and enrichment. I would promote it almost as an organizational assistance tool. This tool may also be useful in supporting students with learning disabilities depending on the child’s areas of strength and room for growth. Finally, I see great use for this tool in High School and College. Get your children ready for their future by supporting them in their note-taking, organizational and technological skills all at once!

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