Accessibility on My Computer

I am using a relatively new Toshiba laptop with a Windows 7 operating system.  The standard Microsoft “East of Access Center” is part of the programming with tools for: disabling the display (for blind operators), optimizing visual displays through contrast control or magnification, disabling mouse and keyboard (through onscreen keyboards used with joystick or voice commands), keyboard and mouse optimization for speed of use or dexterity, and visual notifications for sound (for the hearing impaired). 

The display disabling is a nice feature that save battery life, but unless it is being used in coordination with several other tools it is basically just turning your monitor off.  The innate accessibility tools I found the most useful for use with students with special needs were the mouse and keyboard tools.  Slowing down the mouse movements or clicks for a student with dexterity control issues would be a great feature to help decrease frustration I often see when students are asked to double click or maneuver across the screen.  Likewise, the “sticky key” option was great.  At my school every student is required to hold and click CTRL+ALT+DELETE upon starting the computer and logging in.  This is a difficult task for some students requiring them to ask other students or a teacher to open the computer for them, but the “sticky key” function would solve that. Another great tool was the magnifier, which enables a visually impaired student to magnify a screen for better reading when not on the internet. Internet Explorer and Google Chrome both have native magnification tools within their programs. 

The Microsoft tool I found the least useful and the most upsetting was the Narrator function.  Basically, it is a text to speech screen reader application.  However, the setting functions leave much to be desired.  After several attempts I had to just turn it off, because it was just reading everything: web addresses, buttons, key strokes, everything. I did a few more searches online and found several reviews with similar complaints regarding its lack of user control.  This is really a shame, because I feel that this tool of all others, could have added accessibility to highest number of students: visually impaired, low readers, and ELLs. 

Another feature pre-installed on my laptop was Voice Recognition software. O’Connor (2011) suggests that “For students who struggle with the writing process because of physical access difficulties, vision impairments or specific learning difficulties, this software is a possible assisitive technology solution.” After a quick tutorial, I was able to enable the software and began using it right away using only the microphone installed on my laptop.  I even typed several sentences in this essay using the voice recognition software.  The only problem I had was with my children talking in the background; however that problem would have been solved by a headset microphone.  The major downfall of voice recognition software are the long lists of varying commands.  It certainly would not be accessible to a young child.  O’Connor (2011) recommends vetting a number of other options for students with special needs “before tackling the challenge of learning how to use speech recognition.”

Though my computer came pre-installed with many accessibility tools, they were all very generic.  Obviously, schools will need to think more specifically to the needs of their special education students.  Roblyer and Doering (2013) discuss the two types of technology that districts need to consider: assisitive technology and instructional technology. Where “no-tech” solutions are possible, that is the clear advantage.  However, some students’ needs are so great that “high-tech” solutions must be considered, and sometime they must be considered specifically for the individual students.  The goal is to “make the curriculum accessible, [so] students with disabilities have the same opportunities to learn as their peers” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013).

 Sources: 

O’Connor, G. (2011, February 27). Speech Recognition Software – An Assistive Technology Solution for the Classroom | The Spectronics Blog. Retrieved April 21, 2013, from http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/web-links/1796/

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Adversity in Technology

Technology Adversity                          

The 21st century commands that technology and teaching be synchronous.  Language Arts teachers especially have been encouraged to incorporate a slew of technologies in an effort to increase skills for various reading and writing standards.  The stress of raising achievement through the assessment of standardized tests have led districts to find avenues in technology to increase their abilities to collect data on student achievement as well as to bolster the effectiveness of classroom instruction.  Language arts curriculums have changed in recent decades to include new forms of literacy that essentially require the use of technology by teachers and students.  Digital literacy, as described by Roblyer and Doering (2013), is the need for today’s students to not only understand text of a variety of genres and formats but to understand the devices and technologies used to house them.  This requirement is in a continued effort to increase informational literacy.  Informational literacy can be described as a skill set students use when doing research for projects and papers (Roblyer and Doering, 2013). 

 Robyler and Doering (2013) relate the opinions of experts who “agree that adequate funding can determine the success or failure of even the best technology plans” and therefore must implement strategies for “optimizing available funds.”  However, too often schools focus their attention on purchasing the technologies or licenses to use technology and fail to reserve funding for proper training.  Burns (2010) summarizes a report from Walden University which determined: “Despite access to technology and despite the fact that novice teachers are entering the classroom with far more advanced technology skills than their counterparts of an earlier age, only 39 percent of teachers report ‘moderate’ or ‘frequent’ use of technology as an instructional tool.”  Burns (2010) goes on to discuss findings by the NEA that teachers feel “that the instruction they receive in technology integration, whether online or face-to-face, is still too focused on learning how to use the software versus integrating it into the teaching and learning process.”  Burns (2010) suggests that what teacher technology trainings lack is the emphasis on integration into the classroom.  Though teachers are trained on the equipment and software they are being asked to incorporate into the classroom, they are not being trained or provided time to properly plan and coordinate with their colleagues

Schools might consider reevaluating their strategies when attempting to incorporate new technologies.  To receive the highest level of relative advantage, it might behoove schools to consider less technology. When creating interventions to raise scores within the language arts classrooms, cooperative planning days for their language arts teachers should be considered rather than new technologies.  Teachers can design ways to utilize current technologies or even research free resources that can be used online.

Sources:

Burns, M. (2010, September). elearn Magazine: How to Help Teachers Use Technology in the Classroom. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1865476

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Literacy Education’s New Frontier: Gym Class

There has been a shift in education – a shift that has changed an American tradition in education. Students must now read in gym class. “Spurred by an intensifying focus on student test scores in math and English as well as a desire to incorporate more health and fitness information,” school districts and physical education teachers have had to recreate the American gym class in a way that no longer resembles the nostalgic view of gym class most Americans hold (Rich, 2013).</p

Computers can hold a huge relative advantage for p.e. teachers looking to increase literacy activities into gym class. Khun (2001) explains that “computers can be extremely helpful in providing learners with opportunities to explore information across the curriculum in a highly motivating manner.” The National Physcial Education Standardsf have moved their focus from sports education to health literacy, “the capacity of individuals to obtain, interpret, and understand basic health information along with the competence to use such information to enhance health” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013).

Introductory activities or homework assignments that include reading, researching, and writing, about sports and health related topics online are only a few of the ways that technology can be integrated into the gym curriculum. There are a multitude of programs out there including calorie trackers or exercise and fitness programs that students can be asked to use to track and understand their own fitness levels. “The interactive nature of these sites has the potential to engage students with their research to a greater degree than would usually be the case with more traditional methods” found in gym class like pen and paper journals or exercise check lists (Khun, 2001).

This shift in physical education curriculum is an effort to extend literacy objectives and skills into non-core classrooms. The relative advantage technology brings to the table cannot be overlooked.

For additional resources on using technology in gym class, check out this site: http://www.internet4classrooms.com/links_grades_kindergarten_12/physical_education_pe_health.htm

Resources:

Kuhn, M. (2001, April). Taking computers out of the corner: Making technology work in the classroom. Reading Online, 4(9). Retreived April 13, 2013. Available: http://www.readingonline.org/electronic/elec_index.asp?HREF=/electronic/kuhn/index.html

Rich, M. (2013, February 18). Gym Class Isn’t Just Fun and Games Anymore – NYTimes.com. Retrieved April 13, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/education/gym-class-isnt-just-fun-and-games-anymore.html?_r=0

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.