Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Workshop Day

Today the IU held their special ed conference. We have it every year on Election Day. Many years there really are no workshops I am interested in attending or they are all at the same time. This year there weren't any I was desperate to go to but at least I did find some to choose.

One workshop was about cochlear implants. The speaker was interesting but I had mostly heard it before.

I went to a workshop called "Assistive Technology for Writing." Bill Ziegler, the speaker, talked about intellikeys, alphasmarts and other such equipment. Nothing really new there but he also introduced us to two computer programs that he had developed. They can be downloaded from here, for free, by following the Download Software link.

One is Just My Type. The student dictates what he wants to say to the teacher who types it in and then the student practices typing it in. There are a variety of keyboards to choose from and it shows them which letters to type on the onscreen keyboard. Included is Just My Worksheets. You may choose vocabulary words and print spelling worksheets, word searches writing practice sheets etc.

The other one is Report Cards. This one is a simplified graphics organizer for students with writing problems. The first thing the student does is pick a topic. Then he/she creates three subtopics for three paragraphs. The student is able to brainstorm ideas or create sentences. After the three subtopics the student creates up to five supporting details. If the student has problem remembering what he/she wants to say while writing it, the program is setup for the student to record each sentence and then play it back to type in. Once all the sentences are written they can be rearranged into a better order.

Unfortunately for PC users both programs are MAC compatible only. This is because MAC has built in voices and both programs read what is typed to the student.

Now if only I can get Bill to adapt Report Cards so that instead of the students recording their ideas/sentences they can videotape them then this would be perfect for our signing deaf kids. As it is the program is still great. Both of these programs are on my list to show at the PESDHH convocation if we have a computer lab.

The last workshop was on cyberbullying and cyber sexual assault. I chose that because of my degree in instructional technology and the fact that it can become an issue in that field. It was presented by a woman from NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance.)

One of her points was that parents should not ban the internet from their children but instead should put the computer where there are adults present and to partner with the child showing them the proper way to use the internet. I did put our home computer where it is in the middle of everything but I do not sit down with my daughter while she is online. I have made a point of emphasizing to her about internet safety and the dangers of posting info online.

One of the things that surprised me was the fact that most of the predators do not lie about their age. I had always heard that they lure the girls by lying about their age but apparently it's not true.

A colleague and I discovered this year that there was a student who met someone online and then met him at the mall. She appears to have been lucky and the boy is really a boy. She seemed to be unaware of the dangers of the internet. Because the student has to read for one of her classes we are going to look for a book called A Girl's Life Online. It is the story of a young girl who fell for a sexual predator and was raped. Maybe this will help her understand the dangers better since she is your typical teenager and doesn't want to listen to the adults.

This year was definitely a good year for workshops. Hopefully future years will be also.

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