Choosing your own SoTL

Chose your own SoTL adventure. This was my task for my Adapting Innovative Technologies class; find scholarly articles that looked into an interest of mine and go on an adventure looking in the scholarship of teaching and learning. One thing that has seem to have fallen by the wayside in the later years of my teaching career has been the research component. Believe it or not I like to research, but as the paperwork demands of my job have increased, I have increasing relied on others to do the research for me.  I have been in the special education field for 8 years starting with the upcoming school year. The part of special education that has been a passion of mine from the beginning is assistive technology.  I have spent time exploring the topic but I haven’t taken a whole lot of time diving into the research behind assistive technology. As I began to research using the MSU Library, I found the process easier then in my prior graduate school experiences. Conducting searches was simple and not overwhelming. I like the setup of the MSU Library. I didn’t have to contact anyone, but that is not to say in the future I won’t. I am sure there are aspects of the MSU library that I have yet to discover.

Below are the five scholarly articles I chose to focus on for this blog post. There were many more I could have chosen, but these five represent what I am currently looking into and wanting to learn more about. Two are already on my must read for the upcoming school year.

Burgstahler, S. (2003). The role of technology in preparing youth with disabilities for postsecondary education and employment. Journal of Special Education Technology18(4), 7-20.

Preparing students for life after school is a challenge. Preparing for students with disabilities for life after high school provides a new set of challenges. The advancement of technology has allowed students with disabilities to access post secondary education in ways not done before. The challenge is students are not aware of how to use assistive technology beyond high school. This could be for several reasons, one being they were never taught how to use it while they were in the K-12 setting.  Having access to technology and knowing how to use it are two different things. The authors discuss the barriers to assistive technology, which include the lack of funding as well as teachers not having the knowledge to train students on assistive technology.  The authors cite the lack of trained professional to evaluate appropriate technology tools as another barrier to getting technology into the hands of students with disabilities.  In looking at this article, I think I have found my back to school read. Lots of information and am looking forward to learning more.

Edyburn, D. L. (2000). Assistive technology and mild disabilities. Mental retardation612, 10-6.

Assistive Technology has always been looked at for those who have Learning Disabilities and Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities. The 1997 reauthorization of IDEA requires assistive technology be considered for all students regardless of disability.  Edyburn goes through the definition of  LD, EBD and mild disabilities. Edyburn looks at technology that has the potential to enhance academic performance.  This article provides resources of technology tools that have the potential to enhance a student’s academic performance. It is a good resource that looks at how technology, if done right and not just to do it, can help a student in their academic studies. Edyburn goes into questions often raised by administrations and general education teachers who state providing assistive technology in the classroom is cheating, unfair to general education students and makes things easier for students with disabilities. This article, although shorter, provides the ground work for understanding mild disabilities and the role of assistive technology.

Michaels, C. A., & McDermott, J. (2003). Assistive technology integration in special education teacher preparation: Program coordinators’ perceptions of current attainment and importance. Journal of Special Education Technology,18(3), 29-44.

 In looking at research involving special education and assistive technology, a consistent theme has been the lack of preparation of the special education teacher in technology. In order to meet the needs of students with disabilities, special education teachers need to come out of their teacher preparation programs with more then knowledge of assistive technology. The authors address teacher preparation standards and how technology standards need to be addressed in those programs. Technology standard have been adopted by the Council for Exceptional Children and National Educational Technology Standards, the authors state these standards need to be consistent across all teacher preparation programs. There is a lot of information in this article and again it is a must read for any special education teacher or technology person.

Wilson, C. H., Brice, C., Carter, E. I., Fleming, J. C., Hay, D. D., Hicks, J. D., … & Weaver, J. (2011). Familiar Technology Promotes Academic Success for Students with Exceptional Learning Needs. Online Submission.

The more familiar a person is with something the more comfortable they will be using it. This is true when it comes to students with disabilities and their confront level with assistive technology.  This is a challenge for teachers and students alike as time is not available throughout the day to fully integrate assistive technology into the classroom. The authors go on to state that teachers need time to learn the technology in order to properly implement it into their classroom.  Further on in the research the authors discuss how technology can help students with disabilities become more independent both in the classroom and once they graduate. This is an article to dive more into for more information. The article did appear to be choppy, but it provides good information. It gives the reader ideas as to what technology matches well with certain types of disabilities. The lack of research in this area, however, makes it difficult to really dig deep into the effects of the use of familiar technology.

Wollak, B. A., & Koppenhaver, D. A. (2011). Developing technology-supported, evidence-based writing instruction for adolescents with significant writing disabilities. Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits7(1), 1-23.

Writing can be a challenge for students regardless of their disability.  Language delays can affect a students ability to be able to write. There are students who struggle with getting their thoughts down on the paper, they have the ideas, but to get it from their brains to the paper is a struggle. Then there are the students who can articulate what they want to write, but struggle to get it written. This article caught my attention for that reason. There are tools out there to assist students who struggle with writing, but does the research support is always a lingering question.  Co-Writer, developed by Don Johnston, was a feature AT product. Johnston, himself, has a disability and has made it his mission to develop assistive technology specifically for students with disabilities. His products are widely used throughout the United States. Other technologies looked at were Animoto, Flixer, Voicethread and e-pal. Twitter was brought in as a blogging activity for students. This is the most comprehension research I have seen .It is a good paper that goes through the different disabilities and struggles with writing. It then takes the reader through the types of technology and looks at how they were used in the classroom. This is a definite must read for those looking for research in the area of writing and students with disabilities.


CEP 811 and Maker Experiment #3 Reflection

In my final blog post for my CEP 811: Adapting Innovating Technologies for the classroom, I am reflecting back on the eight weeks I have been in class and how I have professionally and personally grown. It was a quick eight weeks, but have learned a lot and excited to pass along my newfound knowledge. In addition, my goal is to continue on in the Masters of Arts in Educational Technology Program at Michigan State.

Professional Assessment & Evaluation: 

The draw to MSU was the offering of the Educational Technology Certificate program and increasing my knowledge in the area of educational technology. There are educational technology programs offered through Universities here in Minnesota, but they didn’t have the appeal nor the classes offered at MSU. The format of programs offered weren’t flexible nor was there an option outside of a Masters, if I wanted to pursue educational technology as an interest, I would need to give up my weekends again. I was not willing to do that.

The Maker Education was introduced to me during my CEP 811 class. Prior to this class I had never heard of the maker kits and will have to admit, when I first read about them I was intrigued. Since I teach high school special education, I can see where Maker Education could fit into the current high school curriculum, but as far as fitting it into what I currently do, it would add more to my classroom this is needed. Would my students benefit, of course, but it would have to come from their science classroom.  Squishy Circuits could be used in our Applied Physics class. I think it would be a great addition as it could lend itself to the curriculum and enhance the learning process in the Applied Physics class, as it is hands on.  Squishy Circuits would also allow students to be creative in creating their circuits; this also would hopefully increase student knowledge.

Things I can bring back to my colleagues as we begin a new school year are numerous. The first thing would be to introduce the TPACK framework to colleagues and encourage the integration of pedagogy, content and technology knowledge (TPACK).   I feel it is important as my district embarks into the world of educational technology; there is much more the TPACK framework can add to the development of my district’s technology and existing ideas.  Assistive Technology is a passion of mine and what CEP 811 has given me is more tools to build on my existing AT tools.  My goal is to have students be comfortable with what they are working with so once the graduate they will be able to confidently operate assistive technology.  Another goal is to consistently use AT in my classroom. It is a challenge to adapt materials for student use in the classroom and too often AT is implemented incorrectly due to either lack of skills of the teacher or not enough time to do so. (Wilson, Brice, Carter, Fleming, Hay, Hicks, Picot & Weaver, 2011). The later is true for me and I want to change that with the start of the a new school year. I will be using the UDL wikki as a reference tool as well as to pass on to fellow teachers. There are websites I am already using so it was great to get some validation on what I am already doing in my classroom.

Personal Assessment & Evaluation: 

Personally I have grown a lot in my first two classes at MSU. There was so much that I learned and gained from my first two classes in the MAET program here at MSU. I had a technology background coming into the program, or so I thought. My first eight weeks in the program were spent getting over my shock of how much more I added to my knowledge based regarding educational technology. It was an exciting shock as there are more tools out there that I can use in special education as well as in general education. I was excited after that first class and the excitement continued to grow through the second eight weeks. I will have to admit, I struggled the second eight weeks as I struggled through my new learning. In the pas things, in regards to technology came easy to me and very rarely struggled. If I did struggle I could usually figure things out in a short amount of time. The second eight weeks, I found myself struggling more the usual and frustration really began to sink in, but with encouragement from my classmates, I began to make it through things.  It is a challenge to take an online course, couple that with it being summer time and there were challenges in their own right. I will have to admit in my previous graduate school experiences, the high standard of academics hasn’t been that high. Here at MSU, I feel I am getting an excellent academic experience, I had to overcome the challenge of the high standards quickly and I am grateful for that. I have always appreciated high standards in my life, it is what I expect of my students and would hope is expected of me. I appreciate what MSU has given to me in my first eight weeks of experience with my online classes and I look forward to what MSU will give me as I continue in my MAET program.


TPACK (n.d.) Retrieved August 20, 2013 from

Wilson, C. H., Brice, C., Carter, E. I., Fleming, J. C., Hay, D. D., Hicks, J. D., … & Weaver, J. (2011). Familiar Technology Promotes Academic Success for Students with Exceptional Learning Needs. Online Submission.

Rethinking learning with UDL

This is week 6 of 8 blogs posts for my CEP 811, Adapting Innovative Technologies for the classroom. This week’s goal is to look over my lesson plan from week 3 to see if I have implemented elements of UDL. UDL stands for Universal Design for Learning. I have had a little training in UDL, but this was the first time I really dove into the aspects of using UDL to design a lesson plan. One might be asking, what is UDL?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that addresses the primary barrier to fostering expert learners within instructional environments: inflexible, “one-size-fits-all” curricula. It is inflexible curricula that raise unintentional barriers to learning. Learners who are “in the margins”, such as learners who are gifted and talented or have disabilities, are particularly vulnerable. However, even learners who are identified, as “average” may not have their learning needs met due to poor curricular design (Cast, 2011). For the visual learner:

UDL helps address learner variability by suggesting flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments that empower educators to meet these varied needs (Cast, 2011). UDL goes beyond the physical classroom and looks at all aspects of learning.  Not all students learn the same way, what UDL provides is the opportunity for all students to learn in a flexible learning environment. Since this is a class revolving around technology in the classroom, UDL provides the opportunity for technology to be integrated. Some students in a classroom may need assistive technology, such as glasses, pencil grips, the opportunity to record lectures, etc. Assistive technology, according to the National Center on accessible Information Technology in education at the University of Washington can be defined, technology used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. Assistive technology can include mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware, software, and peripherals that assist people with disabilities in accessing computers or other information technologies (“What is assistive,” January, 2013)

There are three guiding principles for UDL design (Cast, 2011):

Provide Multiple Means of Representation-the “what” of learning

Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression-the “how “of learning

Provide Multiple Means of Engagement-the “why” of learning

As I looked over my lesson plan from week 3, using the UDL guidelines Educator worksheet  created by CAST, I realized there were aspects of UDL that had been incorporated into my lesson, but there were important aspects that were left out.

I observed in the lesson, I don’t go over the objectives or goals of the lesson and activity. I don’t start my lesson off with letting students know the goal and objectives and I don’t review them at the end of the lesson. This is important, as students need to be aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Starting from the beginning, I need to add in a section that has students going over the vocabulary that will be used in the lesson. Vocabulary such as conductive and insulting., these will have been defined previously but will need to be reviewed to ensure students understand the difference between the conductive and insulting as well as how it works into the experiment.  I would add the vocabulary activity in with the building background knowledge section. I think this is good section as it is working on making sure students have the prior knowledge before the experiment is started.

Assessment of the activity need to be revised as I noticed I need to provide the opportunity for students to reflect on the activity as well as the opportunity to do a self assessment. It also incorporates the second and third principles of the UDL guidelines as student reflection can have students thinking of how they learned. As students begin to realize how they learn it helps them get to the why of learning.

One of the strengths of the lesson is the use of YouTube videos addressing the first guideline of UDL design. It provides students the opportunity to get information in from a source other then the teacher. It also provides visualization and the opportunity to replay a section if something is not understood.  Students are also provided the opportunity to move about the classroom in the form of stations. As far as expression, students are provided the opportunity to create whatever dough animal they want to. Collaboration opportunities are available in the form of small groups.

UDL helps all students learn regardless of ability. Using the UDL worksheet can be helpful when rewrite or creating new lesson plans. It is a great guiding tool to make sure all types of learning styles are incorporated and strengths of each student can be addressed.

Resources on UDL:

Cast created Educator UDL Worksheet:


CAST (2010, January 06). UDL at a Glance [Web Video]. Retrieved from

CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.

What is assistive technology?. (January, 2013 24). Retrieved from

21st Century Classroom

This week in my Adapting Innovative Technology Class, I was asked to re create my classroom. Integrating learning theories and Sketch up, an internet based sketching program, I am to create a 21st learning space. I am always thinking of how I can update my classroom, but it always comes down to money. This was an assignment where I could imagine what I wanted for an educational space without having to worry about cost. Of course in the real world the cost of something is very real, so I am unsure as to whether or not this ideal space would be possible.  As technology around us continues to change and evolve, so must the classroom. I understand this is hard, but I feel if I want my students to be equipped to be 21st century learners, they need to have the 21st century tools to prepare them.

The space that I would like to update would be my personal classroom space and our resource room space. I’ll start with my room. The current building I am working in opened in the fall of 2007. Construction started on the building long before I was hired and before we moved in, the building was deemed too small to fit grades 9-12, so it became a 10-12 building. The first thing I would like to do is make my room bigger as it was previously office space. My room jets out from the rest of the building and would be able to added on to. The extra space would allow mobility in my room without students having to trip over desks, chairs or each other. I would like to add more whiteboard space in my room as well. I would remove the current giant whiteboard and replace with three smaller whiteboards. This allows space for students to work on the whiteboard either alone, together in pairs or groups. There is no shortage of plug ins-why is this important one might say? I love my technology, so the availability of plug ins would help me increase the number of computers and other pieces of technology I’d like to integrate into my room. I would like to integrate the use of ipads.  I would utilize some of the plug ins to form docking stations for Ipads. In order to effectively use the ipads, the wifi in my room would have to be updated and expanded as right now the wifi throughout the high school cannot support the number of people in the building so it kicks users off.

After describing my current space, I went to Sketch up to design my ideal learning space. This is a rough sketch of what I came up with:

Ideal Classroom

There are student workstations that allow for individual student computers and space to complete work. These stations would be able to be moved so groups rather then pairs could be used to enhance the learning process. I would also have a SMART board to use during classroom activities. Two white boards are on either side of the SMART board to be able to utilize white board space while the SMART board is in use and also to allow more students to work together. The three boards also allow different activities to be going on as I teach an Academic Strategy class using student’s current classrooms. My thought would be to group students according to what subject they are working on and then pair/group them off according to their subject area to allow small group learning.  The goal of pairs/small groups would be to encourage collaborative learning amongst my students and encourage them to critical think about what they are learning (Gokhale). The smaller the group the better for my students as they feel more comfortable asking questions when they feel their question won’t be looked at as dumb. The goal of collaborative learning in my classroom is to create an environment in which students are not afraid to take risks.

The goal of my ideal room is not simply for put as much technology in my room as possible. The goal is to create a classroom that is interact and can play to the different types of intelligences each of my students display. In doing research on multiple intelligences I found an interesting statement from an article-“Applications of the new technologies should provide ways for a variety of minds to gain access to knowledge” (Veenema & Gardner). This is so true, even today, for the technology experience I attempt to give my students whether it is in my special education classroom or in my general education classroom.

To say the design process was easy would be an understatement-this assignment was more frustrating to me then the Mozilla Popcorn assignment. I was able to work through the issues I had with the video.  This assignment had its own set of challenges that made me walk away and not want to work on it. This is a program that I would not use in my room and trying to see how it would fit in a room other then an engineering or construction program. It was an ok experience using this program, but I would not use it again unless I needed to.


Gokhale, A. A. (1995). Collaborative learning enhances critical thinking.

Veenema, S., & Gardner, H. (1996). Multimedia and multiple intelligences.American Prospect, 69-76.