Monday, December 12, 2016

I blinked and December was here!

I did it, I really did it!  Those are my initial thoughts as this graduate technology course comes to an end.  Looking back at my first few blogs posts, I have to smile.  I was nervous, not sure what to expect, and also unsure about how much I was ready to step out of my comfort zone.  I have learned about so much technology (simple and more involved) over the course of this semester.  Some of them (i.e. smore, word clouds, weebly, Twitter, iMovie) were easier to grasp then others, but overall what a great course.  It has pushed me to think outside of the box about engaging ways to include technology during my therapy sessions. Given the challenges with each assignment (including writing a blog!), I made myself look at all of the options and choose as many as I could, that I felt would carryover into my everyday world (i.e. my job).

In today's world and in the field of education, the use of technology continues to grow. Taking this course exposed me to many of the resources that are out there.  It has been eye opening, to say the least.  I will continue to explore the different "tech tools" and use them when appropriate.  Like Smore, the online tool to create flyers and share them, when needed (i.e. with parents and staff).  It would be great to have a "go to" site of created flyers that I can refer to and share, instead of handwriting them out when asked.  I also like Blabberize, although I wish it would record for more then 30 seconds (maybe a minute?).  The students really enjoyed that tool as well as the parents.  It was a fun way to show a snapshot of what we work on in therapy.  I definitely feel that my knowledge of technology has grown and that I am more familiar with so many more tools that are out there.  

That all goes without saying, having great colleagues and friends take this course with me helped too!  It was nice to be able to bounce ideas off of each other and to talk about the different parts of the tech world.  The teacher is VERY knowledgeable and willing to answer any questions you have.  (Thanks Nicole!)  

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Talking Images

Making an image talk, now this was interesting!  I was intrigued at how students would react to watching an image and hearing their own voices.  I have to say, the students were definitely engaged!  I used Blabberize, an online website where you can upload an image and then make it "talk".  I let the students choose what image they wanted to make "talk", searched for the image (through creative commons Google images), and then uploaded it.  The students then practiced saying their words, while the site recorded it.  (Make sure you have the volume turned up on your computer!).  Once the students were done, or the 30 second time limit was up, I saved the creation and let the students listen to it.  It was helpful for the students to hear how they sound, saying their target words, and they also enjoyed watching the image "talk".  (You do need to create an account beforehand, but once you have that set up, you can save your talking images to replay at any time.)  I liked that you have the option to share the completed "talking image", which I did, with the parents of the students I worked with for this project.  The parents enjoyed listening to their child, and they were also able to reinforce the correct sound production at home.  

(For some reason the Blabberize images are not embedding correctly, so I also included the links to two of the images I created).

Smore - it's not what you think!

No I am not going to talk about how to make chocolate-y deliciousness using graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows (although that does sound good!)  Instead, I want to tell you about this online tool to make a flyer/poster using website Smore.  Once I created a free account, I had access to many different templates and layouts.  The online templates are very user friendly, so when you pick the one you want to use, the program takes you step by step through each of the components, so you can edit and make it your own.  I was able to edit the title, text, and add pictures with minimal difficulty.  When you are finished creating your flyer, you can save it to your account, and use it whenever you want.  You are also given the option to send it via email as well.

I definitely think this would be a tool that I could use, to make handouts and references for parents.  I typically write out homework, with descriptions for parents, but instead I could send home my pre-created flyers.  I could make different flyers about each sound, how to produce it (with visuals and step by step instructions), and ways to practice at home as well as ways to target vocabulary, asking/answering wh - questions, and boost language skills.  It would cut down on the time I use to write out these tools for home, since I would be able to refer to them, and either print or e-mail them directly to parents.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A cloud of words

Tech Tac Toe #1
I have to say that it took me awhile to decide what 3 technology tools to choose for this project.  I viewed many of the options and started with Word Clouds.  First, I went to Tagul, a website to create word clouds.  I clicked on the "create now" link and it sent me to the page where I was able to make my own word cloud.  (I did not have to create an account to have access to the site).  While working with one of my articulation students, I typed in the target words, as they practiced saying each of them out loud.  (The two samples I chose were the initial "R" and "K" sounds in words.)  It took a bit of multitasking on my part, as I had to input/type the words as the student was saying them and listen to the correct production of the targeted sound.  (If the student said the sound incorrectly, I then worked with the student before moving on to the next word.) Once we got through the list of words, the student was then able to pick out the shape of their cloud.  (I encouraged the students to pick a shape that represented their sound as well, hence the "rain drop" and "car".)  Once that was complete, the student picked the color they wanted and we created their word cloud.  I printed out the clouds and let the students take them home.  The students liked this because it was not just a list of words for them to practice, but rather an eye catching "cloud" of words for them to talk to their parents about (and practice of course).  I was able to save the word clouds to my computer, so I also have a hard copy of what was sent home.  

These clouds were fun to make with the students, and I think they would be a great tool to use with them.  I am not sure that I would be able to create these clouds when working with a group of 2-3 students, but when working with a student or two, I may be able to handle the task (or maybe have the student type the words in themselves).  It is a simple, easy tool, and could be used in a variety of ways, i.e. when targeting vocabulary, wh- questions, describing characters in a story.  It would just depend on the make up of the groups and what their objectives are.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Evolution of Technology

This week's topic was to review the current research regarding educational technology.  Wow there is a lot out there!  After sorting through quite a few articles, I found one titled "From Pixel to Print: The role of videos, games, animations, and simulations within K - 12 education" by Project Tomorrow's Speak Up.  This research article caught my interest based on the title and the first few lines, about how education has migrated from word of mouth (which was popular in ancient Greece, where Socrates emphasized the importance of the oral tradition), to written texts/resources (first made popular by Plato, Socrates' student), to the now ever present use of technology.  
Socrates - Image Source
Plato - Image Source



Given the information and research that is presented in this article, I think that it would be beneficial for teachers, and people in the field of education, to read the current statistics about how technology is impacting teaching.  There are many references to previous years and how the percentage of technology has drastically increased in the classroom (via videos, game based learning, online curriculum, self created videos, etc.).  I found it interesting that when principals were asked about the benefits of using technology during the school day, the key words that stood out were increasing student engagement, extending learning (beyond the standard school day), personalizing instruction for students, increasing the relevancy and quality of teaching, and improving the teachers skills (with technology).  Helping students stay actively engaged and extending their learning beyond the school day, seemed to be a reoccurring theme.  
MacBook Air - Image Source
Technology is not going away, instead it is improving and expanding everywhere, so making sure teachers stay up to date on this topic and current information is very beneficial, so that they are able to stay abreast to all that is out there.  That being said, it is also important for teachers and staff to continue to receive the appropriate professional development and training, with the new technology, so that they are able to use it the best way possible, to enhance their teachings and challenge the students.  

I would hope that school districts read the current research, to find out the benefits of various technology, before purchasing it for the district and/or asking teachers to implement it in their classrooms.  From my experience, and from information that is given to us by our technology department, the staff look into all aspects of possible technology.   What is also just as important, is also continuing to monitor and keep up to date on the best way to maintain student privacy.  In today's world of hackers and malware, school districts do not want to put any of the students, or staff, at risk when information is posted online.  Overall, I think that given the amount of technology that is available to use, it is important for educators to read about the current research, in order to be familiar with the new information, and also to determine the best way to incorporate it with their students.    

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Digital Tattoos - A permanent stamp in the digital world

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What a world we live in!  People used to have to search through telephone books, go to the library, or send paper mail (i.e.  snail mail), in order to find out information on someone...  But not anymore!  Now all of this information is at the touch of your fingertips!  Just a few clicks and there it is, data on people you want to know more about... or maybe not.

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Digital Tattoos relate to the material that can be found on an individual, that means almost anyone, on the internet.  There are many search engines, quite a few that are free, where you can search for just about anything you want.  I knew that a lot of information was floating around the world wide web, but after learning more about Digital Tattoos, and what sites you can go to, to easily search for details, I was pretty surprised!  I am one of those people who has "Googled" myself, to see what popped up.  I was able to find out what sites my name was listed under, what information came up right away, and even if there were more people with the same name (which there are!)  I find that personal research interesting, so I know what others can find out about me, at the click of a button.

When I was in elementary school, all the way through high school, the online world was around, but it did not have such an impact on individuals, that it does now.  Being linked to pictures on social media, or even through a quick online search, was not something I had to worry about.  Now, however, exposing children to the digital world and teaching them about digital tattoos is an important topic to discuss. Letting them know that early on in their lives, their digital footprint was established, and that it was probably by their parents!  I do not think think the digital world is something to be afraid of, or shy away from, but rather students should know about it, so they can make well - informed decisions about what to post (or share) on the internet.  Technology and the internet are not going anywhere anytime soon, so it is always better to educate children so they have the right tools to make smart decisions.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Digital Storytelling

Pictures, pictures, and more pictures....  That's what I have!  I have always been "that person", the one who has to stop and take pictures.  I love to take pictures, as a way to remember many things, like a trip somewhere, a family outing, or even a delicious meal!  I feel like one can never have too many pictures.  My friends and family know that I love to take pictures, and are usually pretty patient with me.  
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Creating a digital story was very appealing to me!  When asked to make one, I was overwhelmed at first.  It was not because I had to use iMovie, 
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an application I had never used before, it was moreso the fact that I had to decide what the topic of my story should be! So much fun, but also too much thinking!  I went back and forth about a few topics, ranging from a kitchen model (that was just completed), to my nephew (who tells me I talk too much), to my Mom's cancer journey.  Given it is the month of October, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I chose to create the story about my mom and how it has affected our family.  

Using iMovie was great!  It was user friendly, and once I played around with the different options (i.e. transitions, fading music), I was comfortable putting it all together.  I also liked that iMovie saved the project as I was creating it, so I did not have to worry about losing the work I was doing.  The only "minor" tech. issue I had was getting the volume right, balancing my narration with the music.  Overall though, I was happy using the program and can see myself using it again!  Here is the Story of Theresa's Trotters:

As far as using this application with the students I work with, I would have to think about how to incorporate this into therapy.  When targeting articulation (speech sound production), I could possibly have the students read a story and create a movie along with it.  Then the students could share it with their parents (and family) to hear how they are doing with the therapy objectives.  Or maybe when students are working on vocabulary, they could come up with pictures and descriptions of the vocabulary word(s), and then create a story using iMovie.  Given the confidentiality of the students I work with, these projects would have to be made private and I would also have to get permission from their parents/ guardians to do so.  I like the idea of using iMovie, as a way of targeting goals, but I would have to think about the logistics of how to implement it in therapy.

Monday, October 17, 2016

PLN's and Twitter - Oh My!

About a month ago, I took the chance and decided to join the Twitter world!  (I should also probably mention that it was part of a graduate course that I am taking.)  I was nervous at first, not being one to step out of the social media comfort zone I am used to, but now I am actually enjoying it!  I have found that going on Twitter a few times a day, and scrolling through my feed has given me therapy ideas and activities to do with my students.  I follow many of the same SLPs on other social media outlets, but have found that they post different resources on their Twitter accounts.

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Image Source

These resources have been helpful when working with my preschool students.  Keeping the attention of the little ones can be tricky, especially for an entire session, so finding these ideas have been great!  I created a "pumpkin patch" for my groups and had them "pick" out their words to practice.  Given the opportunity to use Play - Doh in therapy...  How could I not try it?!  The preschoolers loved building and making different animals, people, shapes, houses, etc. during the session.  I was able to elicit TONS of language as well as following directions and answering questions.  What fun!

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I have been working on semantics with some of my 3rd and 4th grade groups, so this resource was another great way to demonstrate the meaning to them.  Adding in the visual (colorful) component gave the students another tool. 

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Many parents, teachers (and other staff too!) often ask about the development of sounds in children and at what age each sound should be "mastered".  I have a few resources to show people when they ask me, but I found this resource interesting because of the way it is color coded (visually appealing).  

I personally have been following many SLPs (speech - language pathologists) and SLP related twitter accounts, so when I have the time to go through the posts, I like the ideas that are presented and talked about.
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Here is a resource I found that really made me think.  ASHA (the national association that most SLPs are a part of) posted this article with many valid points.  Using the term "push in" may be perceived by others (especially parents) in a way that is not an accurate representation of what we actually do.  Using different terminology, with a better description of that actual service model might be something to consider, so that others understand what is taking place in the classroom.   I find myself reading more information on current topics (like this) and also seeing what other SLPs have been working on in therapy.  

That being said, I am pretty bummed about the whole Twitter chat concept!  I searched through about a month of #edchats and did not find a single chat related to SLPs.  I looked for chats during all hours of the day and even the weekends, with no such luck!  I "joined" a few of them, but most of them had minimal to no posts during the time frame posted.  At first I thought I had the times wrong, so I even double checked that to be sure.  The moderators did not even post during some of them!  

One very popular chat I saw posted, had me hoping that it would relate to my field in some way, so I would be able to participate. Instead, when the time came, I was very overwhelmed at the speed of it, and from the posts, the chat was directed more towards professionals in the medical field, then as a school related topic.

I finally posted on the twitter handle #SLPeeps, where many SLP related topics are posted, hoping to get some responses.

Not one response or idea about where to find a Twitter chat related to my field.  So I am still in search of a chat to really be an active participant in.  

One of the highlights for me, being a Twitter newbie and all, was when I tweeted about an iPad app I was using in therapy and tagged the company.  Shortly after I posted it, the company re-tweeted it and commented too!

All of that being said, Twitter has been an eye opening and beneficial experience.  I have been able to read about new research and topics related to my field, as well as monthly themed therapy activities and how to incorporate them during my groups. Now that the nervousness of Twitter has gone away, I will continue to be active on my account, tweeting and re-tweeting when I can. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Active Learning in the Classroom

Reflecting on my personal learning experiences growing up vs. learning in the present classrooms, active learning was not really an option for teachers, whose classes I was in. I remember sitting in my elementary school rooms, with my pencil and paper(s), and writing endless amounts of notes, as fast as I could.  I did not like to miss any information, just in case it was on the test.  We would get handouts quite frequently too, and a highlighter was one of my best tools to use. The notes and handouts would be our main way to study for any quizzes or tests that we had.  I learned the same way in middle and high school, the traditional learning methods. It was just the way school worked, and if you missed information or did not write it down, you had to hope one of your friends or classmates caught it.  During my undergraduate coursework, I was exposed to more online resources and using the world wide web to research topics.  Graduate school was really when I was immersed into active learning, which was something new, but extremely relevant.

From my own experience with active learning and being a school based speech - language pathologist, I feel that keeping kids engaged and empowered in the classroom, really gives them the motivation to want to learn more.  They have the opportunity to be creative and use techniques that help them learn best.  
Image Source: Learning Styles
There are some reservations about letting students indulge in this type of learning at school.  (This can occur when students, who are working with peers or independently get off task, or when students just click on links or items, so that they appear to be working.) Parameters and structure need to be presented to students, so that they understand what they can and cannot do, when given the ability to use active learning tools in the classroom.  Overall, teachers utilizing active learning tools and incorporating those techniques in their lessons will not only heighten a students engagement level, but will also give the students more confidence and ownership in their work.  

The assignment given to us during our class, gave me more insight into how classroom teachers use active learning during their day.  It was helpful to see examples, from other teachers and their respective subject areas, and how the students took ownership of their work and gathered their own information and thoughts.  As we partnered up and were given blogs that reflected active learning as our assignment, it extended my knowledge of how others use it in their teachings.  Our Prezi presentation pulled various components from the blog/assignment.  The students were given a topic and utilized audioBoom and Pic Collage to demonstrate what they learned about the American Revolution.  

Image Source: Blog

Image Source: Blog

I found all of the blogs that were discussed very interesting!  How neat for students to have these opportunities in their classrooms now!  The   students demonstrated an increase in their independence, were able to communicate with their peers, and used their creativity to produce their projects.

Each week, as I learn more about technology and the tools that are out there, I often reflect on my teachings and the students I work with.  Having a variety of tools in your repertoire, when differentiating and working with students with special needs, helps keep the student engaged and also targets their learning styles.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Wheels are Turning

Where do I begin...  When people ask me to write (or talk) about myself, I often start to blush and never know what to say.  Which I have to say, is ironic because I am usually the opposite, just ask my seven year-old nephew, who tells me, "Zia Maria, you talk too much."

Here you go world -

I am the oldest of four children.  I have two sisters and one brother.  One of my sisters has a seven year-old son, named Jacob, which I love more than words can say.  My father was born in Italy, and came to the U.S. when he was nine years old.  My mom was born in the United States, but is Italian as well. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago.

When I was in third grade, and at least a head taller than everyone else in class, I started playing basketball. I played on school teams, traveling teams, recreational teams, you name it.  I just love the sport!  I was always the tallest person in school (students and teachers too), until I was a sophomore in high school.  That's when the boys finally passed me up!  I continued to play all through junior high, high school, and through my second year of college.

I went to Elmhurst College, where I received my Bachelor's degree in Communication Science and Disorders.  I then attended Saint Xavier University, where I graduated with my Masters (M.S.) in Communication Science and Disorders.   This is my tenth year (I cannot believe it!) as a speech - language pathologist, and I love my job!  I love working with children and their families, and collaborating with other professionals.

When I am not working, I enjoy going out, exploring new places, shopping, and hanging out with family and friends.  If it is a relaxing day, with nothing planned, I like to watch my t.v. shows (which are always recorded on my DVR) or to crochet, a new hobby I have been learning and loving for the past year. Life is good!

Here are a few of my crocheting projects that I have given as gifts -

Image source: Personal Collection
Image source: Personal Collection

Image source: Personal Collection

And yet I have so many more projects I would like to try.  Maybe this or this or maybe even this!  The possibilities are endless!!!