“If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
-- Ignacio Estrada

Thursday, April 28, 2011

embracing a child's talent of drawing

I just had to share this website. This student attends the school where I work. Although I have not worked with him directly, nor have many of the staff at our school come to think of it. Yet, he has touched all of your lives. He brings a smile to my face each time he looks at me, smiles and says "Hi #98!".

I am touched that his parents are embracing his talent and cultivating it! And not only is he a wonderful artist, he also is an amazing author. Maybe something for the future?? ☺

Please take a minute, check out his site, and consider supporting his fundraising for ASD.

Kieran's Kreations


Monday, April 25, 2011

My First App ~Review~

In attempt to write my first app review, I thought it appropriate to choose the collection of apps created by My First App. Although I call this a review, which I guess it technically is, I think of it more as a discussion. It is me “discussing” the apps that I have used in the classroom - what worked, what didn't work, and how the students reacted. Initially, I downloaded these apps with a couple of students in mind. I was looking for basic educational apps that would reinforce the ‘touch and drag’ concept of using the iPad that were “fun” for the students, yet graphics were simple. I often find an app that I think will be great, then the visual stimulation of the app is too much for me to handle. My First App gave me 2 apps that were exactly what I was looking for and a couple more that were able to engage all my students. Due to using a modified TEACCH work system in my classroom, I found these apps to make a nice connection between the concrete work and same skills on a more abstract level.Visit about my classroom for more information about the students using these apps.

Here is my first attempt at an app review....here goes!

My First App has created a collection of apps that develop the matching, visual perception and spacial skills of users. Meant for ages 1.5+ years, each of the apps assist in developing hand-eye coordination, categorizing skills, and fine motor skills through engaging the user in a variety of matching activities. Currently, there are 6 apps available in the app store. According to myfirstapp.com, they are working 6 additional apps. With each of the apps (minus Slide and Spin), six activities are included in the FREE download, with an additional 3 activities, per app are available for $0.99 upgrade per app. Additional screen shots and directions are available on the developers site for review before downloading.

Match it up 1 - This app offers simple matching tasks, such as by color, shape, and by picture. I have used with with students to teach and assess simple matching skills. I like that the activity is similar to the independent matching tasks that the students are familiar with completing. It takes the skill to a different level from the concrete matching to the touch screen. It is a great way to use simple skills to develop the concept to “touch and drag”.

Match it up 2 - This app offers slightly more abstract matching activities relating to part to whole, such as find the other half of a picture, matching color icon to black-line drawings, or matching color icon to shadow of the icon. Some of my students found this one more difficult, so it was more of teaching tool versus an activity they could complete independently.

Match it up 3 - This app continues to build on the matching skills from the first two apps. With Match it up 3, users are given tasks relating to more detailed matching, such as matching the picture to a shape (pumpkin=circle), animals to habitat, and environmental pictures that are related (rain to raincloud). This app was only appropriate for a couple of my students due to the increased difficulty in the concepts. This app also is primarily utilized as a teaching tool.

Build it up - I like to think of this app as a “virtual ring stacker”. It develops early math skills of spacial awareness by presenting activities that require the user to order or build pictures by item size, such as the ring stacker toy or building a snowman from bottom up. The activities use bright colors and nice pictures that make the app more enjoyable for the user.

Slide and Spin - This app is similar to the toy I used to call the “twist and pop” with my kids.  This app develops cause and effect as well as fine motor skills requiring the user to slide or spin a virtual knob to get the picture to show up. The students will play with this app occasionally, but it doesn’t keep their interest as much as other cause and effect apps. Addition of a music component versus the cheer may help increase interest.

My Scene - This app was not in my initial download of My First App apps. I became aware of it while I was searching for information on the app developers. I would describe My Scene as a big sticker book. It presents the user with a choice of scenes (hence, the app name), such as playground, beach, or circus. Once a scene is chosen and displayed, various pictures relating to that scene are available to touch and drag into the scene. This app has many potentials. It could be used for developing vocabulary, teaching spacial concepts, or used to create a story. I look forward to utilizing this app soon.

I do have a few suggestions that would make these even better. I wish the apps would included a options that would allow for more individualization per user, such as:
  • having an option to let all choice still show once a match is made to make she that student can truly match all icons
  • having an option to set the number of choice so that you could start with one matching and increase as student begins to master the skill
  • an app option OR blank app that would allow for picture import so that the app could contain images that would be motivating to the user
In conclusion, I have been very pleased with these apps. I was surprised to see some of the negative comments within the app store reviews. They are definitely apps the fit into the category “can’t believe these are free”.

developer: My First App
website: http://myfirstapp.com/Site/Home.html
itunes: My First App
category: educational
recently updated in April, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

MeVille to WeVille

I have tried a variety of reading/language programs over the years. Some years trying to adapt the grade level and phonics materials which often didn't meet the needs of the students. Some years I created all "teacher made" sight word based curriculum. This was time consuming and again, didn't quite meet the needs of all the students the way I had hoped. Finally, a couple of years ago, I found MeVille to WeVille as I was searching AbleNet's website for wireless switches. I purchased it and that next fall I went on maternity leave so needless to say...it was put on the shelf and not used that year. I looked through the curriculum again the following year, but wasn't sure how I could make it work in the classroom. The students were so diverse. Could this one program meet their needs and my expectations in a literacy program? After that, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to try it out this year.

And so begins this year's journey from MeVille to....well, MeVille. The literacy program is broken into 3 units: Me, My Family, and My School; each unit containing 3 parts. Due to the structure of each unit, the extension activities, 'game' activities, and the interactive lessons I created for use with the Smartboard, we only made it through Unit 1: ME.....thus MeVille to MeVille. Next school year maybe a challenge as I will have some new and returning students. My summer project will to figure out how to make it work with both groups, extending our MeVille to WeVille.

This year, I decided to set up the schedule so that I could tailor the reading/language portion to the communication needs of the students. Group #1 is comprised of my non-verbal, assistive tech users. In this group, 2 students use their personal Vanguard devices (see technology tab for more info on the Vanguard) and 2 students use a variety of low tech options, such as PCS symbols and a Big Mack switch. We also introduced some simple sign language as we went through the unit. In this group, our focus was on increasing AAC use, developing picture/word associations, participating/utilizing an interactive whiteboard, and attending to a group. My verbal students (using that term in a vary broad sense) made up Group #2. We used mostly verbal speech, sign language, and occasionally some of the low tech options. In this group, we focused on reading the words, identifying the pictures, taking turns, categorizing items, and attending/following along in a group.

As it grows near to the end of the school year, I think back to where the groups began and where they are now. It is amazing the growth in language each student had made and I know that it is because of this program. No matter how big or how small the growth, we have seen growth - from tracking the picture of the word of the week to the ability to read a sentence with a blank and input the missing word. The systematic lessons, the consistency with the PCS symbols, the repetition, and the focus of the student has helped make this year's reading groups a success. The school SLP, who is in my classroom 3 days a week during this literacy time, has also commented on the students growth in language and vocabulary skills.

A special thanks goes out to the parents for supporting the program by sending in photographs and filling out several questionnaires. Without that information, the personal touch, that I believed help make this program appealing to the students, could not have happened. Thank you!

For more information about the MeVille to WeVille program, visit the Ablenet site listed below.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Apps in Education *blog*


I found this blog through one of searches. I can't remember where as I tend to find things, save them to my bookmarks, and look at them later. Thanks to someone who may have posted this on facebook, had it on their own blog, or 'tweeted' about it. If I could have remembered, I would have given you the credit.

This blog gives some great information about the iPad, adaptations for the iPad, and how the iPad effects the principle of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The HOME page of the blog is a compilation of various articles relating to the iPad. Then each "subject" area has a separate tab which lists apps for that area, some listing app price, small app icon (which I find helpful to make sure I have found the right app when searching), and a review of that app. There is a tab relating to APPS for TEACHERS/SPECIAL NEEDS. I was quite excited to see this until I really looked at what was presented. There was a list of 3 apps earmarked as special needs and many listed as teacher; however, no app reviews are listed in this area. I still found the subject area breakdown helpful when looking for a specific area; however, I may need to make some contact with the blog and see when we will see some reviews in this section.


Friday, April 15, 2011


OK, I have ventured out into "twitter-land" tonight. I kept telling myself  "I'm not going to tweet, I'm not going to tweet, I'm not going to tweet.....". And yet, here I am tonight, confessing that I have finally set up a twitter account.

Over the past month or so, I have realized that the information available on the internet at our fingertips is amazing. I always knew it was great, but for me to post information about a website (http://techinspecialed.com/), the admin of the website to find that I made the reference in my blog, and him to email me.... all in less than 24 hours, just blows my mind. THEN, within 48 hours, Technology in Education had made reference to my blog on his facebook page! Talk about the speed of technology!

Anyway, I started to feel like I was missing out a little on the twitter thing, especially when people were getting iPad codes for free apps, classroom ideas, tech tips and other fun stuff.

So, Happy Friday! Happy Tweeting!

AKA teachwtechbrox on twitter
and I also started a facebook page under my name: Melanie Broxterman
* I will use both accounts as ways to network with others about technology and educational issues

Thursday, April 7, 2011

iLearn Conference

On April 2, 2011, I had the to opportunity to speak at The iLearn Conference: iPad, iPod, and iPhone in the Real World. It was sponsored by the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, Redwood, and United Cerebral Palsy  of Greater Cincinnati. The conference focused on the recent "iTechnology" and how they can be used with students. My presentation was on Using the iPad in the Classroom. The presentation was done in collaboration with my partner intervention specialist (grades 3-5). The presentation focused on how we got started with the iPad, what apps we have used within the classroom, and the impact and reaction we have seen by the students.  If you go to the included link, you can access all the presentations from that day.

I would definitely suggest you check out the section "smackdown results". These are compilations of the ideas/questions shared during the presentations and the "share" time after each presentation. It includes some basic "how to's" of using the iPad, use of suggested apps not listed within the presentation, and some discussions on accessories.

Thanks to Kelly, Janet, and Susan for the opportunity. I enjoyed sharing my experiences and had fun! I also learned several new things about the iPad myself. I look forward to being a part of this great event again. (Hopefully, they will have me back!)


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Technology in Education website

In between dealing with a couple of sick kids, I was doing some facebook searching and came across a great website.

The site gives a collection of applications, tools, and information on using technology in education. They have the site broken down into categories that hopefully makes searching for something you need a little easier. The home page currently lists FREE/Discounted Apps available during Autism Awareness month (month of April).