Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Help for Frustrated Writers

Writing is a subject I could spend a lot of time on. It consists of several processes, any one of which can have various idiosyncrasies. First, writing begins with thought. Students who have language disabilities can have difficulty with word retrieval, vocabulary, grammar and syntax or spelling. They can have trouble generating new ideas, organizing, and elaborating. Summarizing and concluding  involve higher order thinking skills that many students with disabilities are not taught. Then there is the motor planning component. Holding a pencil correctly, forming letters and holding on to a thought can be exhausting for some students. Keyboarding isn't much easier.

Brainstorming and organizing are essential to the writing process, but so is spelling. Students who have learned some basic phonics principles may have trouble spelling, so they need some assistance in that area. Some do well enough just by using spell-check features of word processors, but there is a program that is excellent and adaptable called Co:Writer. It’s fairly expensive - $290 -but the good news is the app is only $17.99. Co:Writer accepts the input of the student and gives up to 6 choices in a drop-down menu. If the student is unsure about which word is the one she wants, she can mouse-over the words and the program pronounces them one at a time. In addition, you can enter special dictionaries of your own to teach about specific topics such as anatomy or paleontology.

I always tell my students how important their writing is. There is no one else in the world with their viewpoints and we won't know what life is like for them if they don't tell us. The world needs to hear from each of us, for we each have something important to say. Are you writing? A journal, a blog, a book, or just grocery lists. They all tell the world about you.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Teaching AssistiveTechnology

I am making my students post on their blogs every week, so I shall do the same. One of the problems I have when teaching this course is the same as for every technology course. There is so much out there and developments are occurring at the speed of light. A simple search for my students' blogs returned eight million, one hundred forty thousand results. Where do I start? Well, if you are new to AT, as we say, I will start with a simple overview. Assistive technology is "…any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2)) (Assistive Technology Act of 2004,, 1/14/14). In other words, any device that helps you do things you couldn't otherwise do. A good example of a device we all use is the TV remote. The laws have gradually over the years grown to specify what schools and the government have to do for individuals with disabilities.  Some people object to this - I remember hearing a church goer complaining about the money that had to be spend to bring the bathrooms up to new regulations for wheelchairs. I could only comment, "Yes, it's hard to imagine what it must be like to be confined to a wheelchair." Some of the students I have taught have been the most courageous people I know. 
At any rate, students in P-12 are protected by the laws to the extent that school districts comply with them. I first took this class in 2008. Needless to say, there has been an explosion of growth in this field. Gratefully, many teachers who have been even minimally exposed to this information get hooked and find ways to expand these methods.
Assistive technology is generally categorized in three levels: low-tech, mid-tech, and high-tech. Low-tech tools are things such as pencil grips or pictures for language communication. Mid-tech tools are things such as electronic dictionaries and tape recorders. High-tech tools are computer programs that read eye scans or hearing aids that magnify only the sounds within voice range. If you know someone who is disabled, follow along and maybe you'll discover something of use.
You can find my two students' blogs here:Assistive Technology and Assistive Technology. Leave them a comment!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Twin Killing by Marshall Cook

One of the benefits of the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference is learning from writers who are successful. Marshall Cook spoke last summer and I bought at least three of his books about Monona Quinn. She's a modern woman who is concerned that her husband will not stick around if she continues to do detective work. Like most detectives, she is always busy, and her life is periodically threatened. In this episode, she goes to her sister's house to help her nephew, who has run afoul of the law. It seems innocent enough until someone is murdered. The author did a good job of developing the characters and the plot had a twist. It's a good, wholesome story with enough mystery to keep you reading and some refreshing wholesome values to encounter in a mystery. Thanks, Marshall!