Sunday, June 27, 2010

Can You Help Me With a PLN?

So I'm really getting into this whole notion of having a PLN (Personal Learning Network).  Having a PLN almost seems like a necessity now that I am truly understanding and learning and reading about it.  I was already using Twitter, Facebook, Glogster, Wordpress (, this blog, and other tools, so why not reach out to some people and offer suggestions while taking some advice in the process?

I am pretty sure I was already doing this by following larger organizations like Autism Speaks (@autismspeaks), Mayer-Johnson (@MayerJohnson) and the Upside of Downs of Greater Cleveland (@USODNEO) on Twitter and Facebook and then reading the articles that were posted.  I was doing all the learning, but not contributing much.

What I learned is that, I can follow regular people who tweet and retweet their own blogs.  I can tweet my blog too, and hope that someone will find my messages worthy of retweeting as well.  I can keep learning about the digital tools that we can use and ask for advice and it's okay.

You see, in our district, asking other teachers for help is a weakness.  You never show this weakness.  Collaboration is almost nonexistent.  Sure, we are united for common causes.  We always pull together for charity and philanthropy.  We are friends outside of school.  We are cheerleaders for each other when something great happens.  But when it comes to your class or your students, we are closed door.  They are MY kids or YOUR kids.  It is MY room and YOUR room.  It is MY program and YOUR program.  There is certainly a minority of people who TRY to collaborate, but it is not commonly accepted.

And so, this notion of networking to become better is what I crave.  I crave this network of "strangers" to help me with ideas, to nurture what I can share with them, to understand that I can offer something without trying to boast or be any better than them.  I am so passionate about this work and want to know people who truly feel the same and want to share it.

So, here is my search for a PLN.  I'm on Twitter (@Room5Friends AND @morgank18).  I'm trying to friend lots of people and organizations.  I'm trying to stalk others' "followers" to see who I can follow with similar interests.  I joined The Educator's PLN Ning.  I invited teachers from my school and district to do the same.  And... now what?

So what are my interests?  I LOVE teaching special ed., I love kids with autism, with Down syndrome, with genetic disorders, and all kinds of special needs.  I love trying to integrate technology into the classroom.  I love trying to figure out how to integrate web 2.0 tools with special needs kids.  I love attacking 21st Century Skills for kids with special needs.  How can we get them to problem solve?  How can we get them to critical think?  (while still working on functional living skills and basic reading skills and math skills...)  I LOVE this work. (Oh yeah, and I like long walks on the beach, candle light dinners, etc., etc.)...

And again... now what?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Teaching (and Differentiating) with Technology 2010

Last week I taught a technology class for teachers in our district called "Teaching (and Differentiating) with Technology 2010."  While I was discouraged by the low attendance of these FREEEEEEEEEE classes, I was also encouraged that maybe the few people that attended might begin playing with and using the technologies that we worked on.  Also, one administrator came, so I was really encouraged by that!

Seems to me that, in a district where we boast about our high test scores and student successes, more teachers, administrators, and staff members would be interested in learning about tools that would help them become more efficient, effective teachers.

Regardless, here's a run down of the classes that we offered:

1. Blogging and Homepages (Setting up your own blog through WordPress or your own Homepage using Protopage).  What are the benefits of using a blog or homepage?  What are the differences?  Step by step set up.

2. A Re-Introduction to the SMARTboard (After 3 years of having SMARTboards in our classrooms, you'd think we've have the Basics down by now.  This was the most highly attended class.)

3.  Social Media for Education (By far, I was most excited about teaching this class.  6 people came.)

4.  Beyond the Basics: SMARTboard Tips and Tricks

5.  Flip Cameras (Even teaching this class seems silly because they are so easy and self explanatory, right?)

6.  Digital Storytelling

7.  Google Apps (Oh how I wish more people had attended this!)

8.  Where do you find this stuff?  Web Exploration time (I showed the 5 people that came how to use Wordle, then spent the next hour re-teaching Twitter and explaining our new email.)

9.  BoardMaker Plus v.6 (Mostly for Special Ed. teachers/ Intervention Specialists, but some reg. ed. folks showed too, thank goodness!)

10.  Grant Writing for your Technology Needs

Thursday, June 24, 2010

10 Things Special Ed. Teachers Should Be Able To Do...

After reading the post What Teachers Should Be Able To Do on the "What Ed Said" blog tonight, I got to thinking...

If I made a list of 10 things that every special ed. teacher should be able to do, it would go something like this:

10. Write a legally defensible IEP using the IEP writing software provided by his/her district. (i.e. When learning the new software, do not ask, out loud, how to log in to the computer.)

9.  Give a reasonable learning objective for every activity planned throughout the course of the school day.  (Sure, you might see my student playing Wii Bowling once a month, but I have at least 5 objectives tying to his IEP objectives, developmental stages, and academic content standards that explain why.)

8.  Proofread an IEP written by someone else and ask questions/provide suggestions/find errors.

7.  Explain and/or demonstrate how he/she stays up to date or gets the latest research or information on best practices in special education.  (Can you say PLN?)

6.  Describe how your students can use at least one new piece of technology in making life/communication/ social skills/ social situations/ academics easier.

5.  Relay the relevant background information and likes/dislikes of each student on your caseload without having to look it up.

4.  Describe, demonstrate, or provide evidence of the research based strategies/ interventions/ methods used in your classroom.

3.  Describe or demonstrate assessment and data collection for each student on the caseload.

2.  Create student schedules, special education aide schedules, therapy schedules, and a personal daily schedule from the school master schedule keeping in mind the exact minutes of pull out or inclusion each student has listed on his/her IEP.  Execute and tweak that schedule.

1. Communicate with parents!  Blog, twitter, daily reports, Friday folders, progress reports, notes home, phone calls, emails, etc., etc., etc...

But yikes, this list could go on and on and on and on....