Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Podcasts that I like

WBGO podcast: Autism tales and Special Needs
This podcast talks about various stories regarding students with Autism and other disabilities. This specific podcast is called "Interview about the Drive for Rebecca." This podcast is very helpful because it educates parents about disabilities. They frequently feature different families who share stories about their children who have disabilities. During this podcast, the father talks about how he advocated for his child to receive adequate services. He lets parents know that they must know their rights, and what they are entitled to. He also recommends that parents have an advocate or lawyer to keep them informed. The father also feels that private schools and public schools need to come together to share information about how to best educate students with Autism and other disabilities. This podcast is a phenomenal resource for parents and educators. I would recommend this podcast because it gives wonderful advice and support for families and teachers who work with students with disabilities.

Education Podcast with John Merrow
This specific podcast talked about new initiatives in New Orleans in regards to public schools. John Merrow interviewed the superintendent of New Orleans about public education in New Orleans. This specific podcast discussed the new schools, technologies, and teachers in New Orleans. I really enjoyed this podcast, and John Merrow has many interesting podcasts in regards to education. They benefit educators, teachers, and anyone who is interested public education. I was especially interested in the remarks made about the amount of Teach for America teachers who are now working in New Orleans since I am a TFA alum. The superintendent felt that even if TFA teachers only stay in a school for a few years, it will benefit rebuilding schools in New Orleans. I would definitely recommend education podcasts with John Merrow to educators. John Merrow asks great questions, that challenge all people that he interviews. It provides information that may not have otherwise been heard. For example, from this podcast, I learned about the vision of the New Orleans superintendent, and his plans for New Orleans public education.

NPR Education Podcast
This podcast discussed the concept of giving all children a laptop. I love NPR's podcasts about education. They cover a wide variety of topics. This podcasts talks about how there are large amounts of children in the US and abroad who do not have access to computers and/or the Internet. This podcast discusses how students can use the laptops to work together on the laptops. Birmingham, Alabama is attempting to get laptops to all students in their city. NPR Education podcasts always have new and interesting interviews, and topics in regards to education. I would definitely recommend NPR Education Podcast to all teachers, parents, and those who are interested in education to get the latest in education news.

NPR Technology Podcast
Again, I love NPR. They have the latest in technology news. This specific podcast discusses a few architects who want to build houses that float in Dubai. The architects wants to use the coastline to build houses, restaurants, and shopping centers. Due to global warming, these architects say that it is imperative that we think outside the box, and create developments on water. The architects argue that anything you can build on land, you can build on water. This concept is a possible solution for the rising sea levels that are currently occurring. Again, I would recommend this podcast to all people who are interested in fascinating ideas and new technologies. It keeps you up to date on new projects that are taking place around the world.

Special Needs Kids Podcast
This is an interesting podcast, which provides families and students with information about IEPs. It seems incredibly helpful for parents who are new to IEPs, and gives them important facts about IEPs, and special education. I found the first part of this particular podcast slightly boring. The first 6 minutes was spent making small talk between the interviewer and the interviewee. This podcast spent way too long sharing unexciting stories. Originally, I was excited about this podcast, but then it turned in to two women sharing stories that were not very helpful for parents or teachers for kids who have "special needs." I definitely got pretty bored about 20 minutes into this podcast. It is possible that there are better Special Needs podcasts, and I chose a boring one, but I've got to say, as a busy professional, I didn't appreciate the small talk. The podcast would be good for parents who want to listen to other parents who have special needs talk about their concerns. It seemed to more of a venue for parents to vent about the difficulties of having a student with special needs, than a place to actually give solutions to problems.

Overall, I must say, I love NPR and the John Merrow podcasts that best. They are the most informative and helpful to educators and parents.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Podcasting in Education

Podcasting in education is wonderful idea. According to "FAQS: For Podcast Fans," podcasts are episodic programs delivered via internet using an XML protocol called RSS. Podcasting is fabulous for education because it includes audio files, videos and documents. According to FAQS, TV or radio can be transmitted, as well as lectures and performances. Podcasting is great for educators because it is free to subscribers and thousands can be enjoyed everywhere, and at anytime. Again, according to FAQS, subscribing seems very simple. Once you have ITunes, you simply go the ITunes store, click on podcasts, and then search, find and subscribe. Other reasons why podcasting is wonderful for educators is that you can find video, podcasts in various languages, and there is still the safety parental control.

According to "Making as RSS Feed", by Danny Sullivan, RRS is a means to syndicate content. Although I have not attempted this, the articles states that you can simply list the page as an "item" in your RSS file. Then you can can have the page appear in front of the those who read information using RSS. RSS allows people to easily add links to your content within their webpages. According to this article, bloggers are a huge audience. Finally, and most important for my understanding of RSS, starting a blog, generates an RSS file.

In the article, "Podcasting in Education" it becomes clear just how helpful podcasting can be in education. It is so ideal for the classroom because it goes well beyond traditional education, and meets the needs and interests of our students. Students love using technology, and most of our student know more about blogging, podcasting and other technologies than teachers. It is our responsibility to be web-educated, and meet our students where they are at. As educators we can bring students well past their traditional assignments. In the classroom, you can use podcasting to deliver content to students, distribute homework, and even narrate text to low readers. As a special education teacher, the last use sounds incredibly helpful. I am constantly searching and downloading books on tape, but if I know how to narrate text for my students I would do that. It would benefit low readers and EL students. Again, if teachers integrate podcasting into the classroom, we open up new opportunities and ways of learning for our students. The possibilties seem endless with podcasting.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Web activities for young children and teachers

The amount of websites for students and teachers is pretty incredible. Depending on what the student is interested in, or, what lesson a teacher wants to enforce, there is usually a website that covers the material. These websites provides games, extra practice for certain topics, or tools that teachers can use to enhance their teaching.

Websites for children that I really like:

I really like funbrain because it covers a wide variety of activities for students. Students can read web books and comics, review for classes, and play fantastic games that reinforce lessons being taught in class. I especially loved the fun brain arcade. It allows you to pick the topic you want to review, your gender and grade level. The games are fun and engaging. This website is great for students in grades K-8.

PBSKids is another great website the covers a lot of different types of material. Depending on what you want to do, as a teacher, or student, you can find it here. PBS kids allows you to click on famous characters such as Clifford, or Curious George and read books, or do activities, which involve these characters. There are also many printables, and activities teachers can do with their students. The site also provides music, games and coloring activities.

Ok, I loved this link. This website has many fabulous games for kids, and are pretty entertaining. I especially love:, which lets you pick the athletes that you want to compete, and what event you want them to compete in. I spent a lot of time playing this game. I can see this site as a great reward that students can earn if they are on a positive reinforcement plan (which many of my students are on).

This website if phenomenal for teachers. It allows teachers to find lesson plans, fun activities, games and even jokes that are appropriate for students. There is so much on this website, and it also provides links to other websites such as:, which allows teachers to print out math work sheets to helps students with things such as curriculum based measurement. This is a website that I use all the time, and give as a resource to other teachers to help them with differentiation. There are games that teachers can create for students, review worksheets, flashcards that can be made. It is more for teachers, as opposed to kids, but can provide amazing resources for students.

There are so many phenomenal websites out their for students and teachers. Depending on what a student is looking for (review, a game) there is a website for everyone!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Web Safety

The web can be an incredible tool for student learning. The web provides students with an unlimited amount of information, and allows kids to communicate with people around the world while sitting at their home, or classroom computer. However, as teachers, we have the responsibility of teaching kids strategies about web safety, and how to become web-literate.

There are many dangers that kids face on the web. On the website , Larry Magid, discusses the major risks that kids face on the web. He states that kids can be exposed to inappropriate material, physical molestations could happen as a result of inappropriate use, harassment and bullying can happen via the web, students can get viruses on their computers, and ignorant students can run into financial and legal issues on the web. The first strategy that Magid suggests to teach kids web safety is that we tell kids to never give out personal information. Next, he stresses that students should never be allowed to arrange a face-to-face meeting with anyone. Finally, the last strategy that he suggests is that students need to be taught to never respond to suggestive messages. I think these are all great strategies, and must be explicitly taught to students. has a great strategy for teaching kids web safety. They have kids create a surftificate, which states that students understand web safety. On the surftificate, each student agrees to, and understands many important rules for web safety. The strategies that this website include the following: students learn that the Internet is not exactly like my neighborhood, students should be cautious of everyone they meet, and students will not arrange meeting without asking parents. Next, the surftificate has students agree to not give out any personal information. Another aspect of the surftificate is that students must agree that if they are in the chatroom and anyone asks them something they they don't like they will exit the chatroom and let their parents know what happened. Finally, this activity has the students agree that if anything they see makes them feel uncomfortable then they will show their parents, and ask their parents if the site is right for them.

I definitely think that students must be explicitly taught these safety strategies. The surftificate activity would be a great activity for students to complete so they can print it out and have it next to their computer to remind them of web safety.

Along with teaching kids to learn web safety strategies, students must also be explicitly educated to be web-literate. In the article, "Teaching kids to be web-literate," Alan November provides some great examples as to how teachers can do just that. First, he says that it is imperative for students to know that not everything is true. The story about "Zach" was a great example of how kids can get incorrect information if they aren't careful. Students must be taught critical thinking skills. They need to check web sites for validation. Teachers must educate students to make meaning out of what they find on the web. They must examine who the author of the article is, what qualifies him or her to write about the topic, and then whether or not it is an "official" site, or simply someone's personal webpage with their opinions on various topics. Alan November recommends that for students to research background of an author they should use, which is a multisearch engine that searches many search engines at once. Then students will be aware of who wrote the article, and if it is valid. We must always teach students to question the credibility of the site and the author. November adds that there is "no link police force," and anyone can add links. Finally, he suggests that we can educate students to be web-literate by creating an activity to have students think about various websites and see if they are connected or affiliated with some of their favorite websites, and/or well known websites.

Next, in "Teacher Guide #1: Evaluating web pages," the article recommends ways to examine the web resource. Similar to November's advice, we must teach students to research who the author is. Is the author an expert in the field that he or she published? Is their biographical information about the author? Is the information published from a reputable online publisher? Is there a bibliography? Next, the website suggests that students must research the publisher. Is the article part of a site, or an individual's own website? Did someone evaluate it? Next, does the author have a particular bias, and finally what is the age of the information?

All of these suggestions are things that teachers must teach students so that they can become web-literate. Teaching students to be web-literate is just as important as teaching web safety.

Reading information on the web can be very different from information that we read from published books. Again, anyone can write an article on the web, not everyone can publish a book. This leaves room for a lot of unreliable information on the web, they we wouldn't find in books. Not everything can be trusted on the web. For a book to be published, it must be approved and edited; this is not the case with everything we find on the web.

Although some books are more reliable, there are many benefits of the web. Some of the information that we find on reliable websites are more up to date than books. We can search for almost any topic on the web and within seconds we can get information. Also, if people are interested in simply reading someone's thoughts, on a blog for example, the Internet makes that possible. When thinking about finding material on the web vs. a book, it depends on what kind of information you are looking for, and how web-literate you are. For these reasons, teachers must education all students to be web-literate.

Monday, April 21, 2008

NETS for Students

First, I like the introduction to the NETS for students much better than NETS for teachers. The introduction makes it clear what these standards are for. This intro states that the new standards, "Identify several higher order thinking skills and digital citizenship as critical for students to learn effectively for a lifetime and life productively in our emerging society." Now there is a mission statement and reason for the standards! The world is flat. All students need to be equipped to compete with other student in the digital world. This website makes sense in that it describes what students need to do to be engaged in our digital society. The first standard states that students are able to use critical thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. What a powerful standard for students to master. The second standard states that students can use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at distance, to support individual learning, and contribute to the learning of others. Again, this standard is so important for the time period that we are living in. Students in America, can very easily work collaboratively, with students in India given the right instruction and the right technology. The third standard state that students should be able to apply digital tools to gather, evaluate and use information. The fourth standard states that students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using digital tools and resources. The fifth standard states that students must understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Finally, the last standard states that students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems and operations.

Again, similar to the NETS for Teacher, I never would have seen NETS for Students if I wasn't enrolled in this technology class. These standards are so important, and yet, I didn't know they existed. Again, we are at a time in our history where students can work together with anyone, anywhere, at any time using digit technology. It is so incredibly important that students understand these standards. Again, I wonder who actually teaches our students these standards? Who is responsible for teaching these standards? Is every teacher made aware of these standards? What role do school administrators take in ensuring that these standards are met? It seems imperative that if our students are going to compete in the global world that they understand and can use technology in an appropriate way. I know at my school students are exposed to some technology, but definitely have not mastered all of the standards. I wonder if our technology teacher actually uses these standards to set up her curriculum.

I like how the NETS for students has a section on necessary conditions to implement these standards. Furthermore, there is a section that gives a website for implementing these standards. Teachers can check out:

The one thing that I could not find on this website are the standards by grade level. I would love it if someone could let me know where they break the standards down by grade level!

NETS for Teachers

As far as I can tell, the most recent update on NETS for teachers is 2000. The website adds that the 2008 updates will be published in June of 2008. I had no idea that the website served as a preservice for teachers, which provides a framework for teachers as to how to implement technology in teaching in the classroom. I actually had no idea that such a website existed. I do wonder who actually uses the website. If I wasn't currently enrolled in the this technology class I would never have stumbled across it. I also wonder who enforces these standards. I know that some technology standards are embedded in the California State Standards, but how many teachers actually implement the technology standards? Where do teachers get the training to implement these standards? Is it only from taking a technology course that clears their credential? The first standard states that teachers "demonstrate sound understanding of technology operations and concepts." I wonder who is testing teachers to know if they are meeting this standard as it is described in the student standards. It seems rather subjective. Next, teachers must design and implement lesson plans supported by technology. Again, who measures this? The third standard states that teachers must be able to use technology in the curriculum that maximizes student learning. Next, teachers must be able to use technology to do assessments and evaluations. Another standard is that teachers use technology to help themselves be more productive in their professional practice. Finally, teachers must understand the social, ethical, and legal issues surrounding the use of technology.

Although I appreciate the standards and guidelines stated on this website, I am wondering who actually uses this. Again, I would never have seen the website if I wasn't directed there by this class. Are all teachers supposed to understand and implement all of these standards? If so, how is this enforced? Do administrators check to ensure that teachers abide by these guidelines? I think they are great to digest and implement, but I wonder how many teachers actually take the time to look at these standards. In the ideal world, all teachers would use these standards to guide instruction and lesson plans. However, I know that at my school, not too many people implement technology in their classrooms. This could be a very useful website if all educators took a look at it. It is my hope that teachers take more than one technology class when they are earning their credential. It is amazing how much I have learned about technology in such a short period of time.

McKinsey Report on Education

After listening to the KQED Forum podcast dated December 21st, 2007, I was intrigued by the various opinions that were shared during the discussion. It is clear that much change needs to occur for public education to improve in America. However, creating a clear solution to the problem of education is not a simplistic task. I agree with much of what the guests on Forum suggested. First, it is imperative that districts attract good teachers, train them, and then hold on to them.

In order to attract good teachers, I completely agree with Tim Daly's comments that we need to think about the overall job market, and must make teaching attractive. It is imperative that we make teaching a profession that is a high on the list for young college graduates and professionals to consider. Furthermore, we must make teaching a profession this has a higher standing in society, and a profession in which people can advance over time. How we do this, I'm not sure. I think making some type of career ladder, as suggested by Tim Daly would be helpful.

Next, once we attract good teachers, it seems clear that we must give them adequate training. I liked Catherine Lewis's suggestion of allowing teachers more time to observe well-trained teachers teach, and also observe students' reactions to teaching. This technique would be very effective for inexperienced teachers. Also, to train teachers, we need to allow teachers the opportunity to select the type of professional development they need and want. When teachers are forced to go to professional developments that don't pertain to them, there is no teacher buy-in, and it is a waste of money. Also, the state needs to provide districts more money for professional development. Carlos Garcia made the point that businesses spend between 6-10% of their budget on professional development, whereas, education spends less the .5% on professional development. This statistic is incredibly alarming, and it is no wonder that teachers leave the profession.

Once we train teachers, we must hold on to them. Teacher retention is a huge issue for many districts. Schools and districts must set up communities within their schools to allow teachers to feel a part of a close community. Teachers must also feel valued to stay in the profession. Finally, teachers must be allowed ample collaboration time during the week to work together so that they feel like they are part of a team, and not their own lonely island. Again, I believe that Catherine Lewis is right that the more that teachers have time to collaborate, the more they will stay at that particular school site.

I also agree that schools currently spend way too much time attempting to teach the standards. I appreciated Mr. Garcia's comment that studies on standards report that it takes 13 years to teach standards, but really, to teach standards you would need 22-24 years to teach them. Due to this emphasis on standards, Garcia argues that textbooks becomes the curriculum. For teachers to remain teachers they need more autonomy, and need to be engaged and have more choices. If teachers are forced to teach out of one textbook, they will most likely get bored and will not be enthusiastic about what they do. I believe that teachers and schools need more autonomy so that they have more buy-in to what they are teaching.

I would reorder the priorities in the education system by allowing schools more autonomy so that each school was more invested in what they were teaching. I would focus less on covering hundreds of standards each year, and dig deeper into various topics. Furthermore, I would want schools to have students learn through experiential learning. Finally, professional development must be on-going. Teachers must decide what they need more training on and be able to get the training that pertains to what they are teaching.

As a special education teaching my favorite form of professional development is observing other schools' special education programs. I like to watch the way special education teach, and then implement things that I learned in my classroom. I also like to attend conference on topics that I feel I need to further understand. For example, recently I attended a conference on Aspergers because I wanted to learn more strategies for working with students who have Aspergers.

Once resource that I need to become a better teacher is to be able to collaborate with other special education teachers. I always want to learn about best practices. I need to continue learning about disabilities that I'm not an expert on.

I think standards are important, but as a special education teacher, I focus on the current levels of performance of students that I work with, and then create goals and objectives that are based on their areas of need. At times I take grade level standards, but then modify them so that my students can master that standard. I think that teachers attempt to cover far more standards than can possibly be covered over the span of a school-year. Instead, teachers should go more in-depth on fewer standards.

No Child Left Behind has placed too much pressure on teachers to teach to state tests, and prevents teachers from teaching an exciting and engaging curriculum. It also prevents schools from being autonomous. It takes away buy-in from teachers because they are forced to teach to the standards. I do see the value on holding schools to some standards, but there should not be so much pressure on a single multiple choice test that is supposed to show how much a student has learned.

Small class size helps me to meet the needs of all learners. The larger the class size, the harder it is to ensure that all students are mastering the content that is being taught.

I became a teacher because I became aware of the education inequities that currently face America's public education system. I believe that all students deserve an equal oppurtunity to education.

I really enjoyed learning by listening to the podcast. It was very informative, and I appreciated the various perspectives.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fun with Technology

Hi, my name is Sarah Olsen and I am a Learning Specialist at KIPP Summit Academy in San Lorenzo. KIPP Summit is public charter school south of Oakland, which serves students in 5th-8th grade. This is my fifth year as a special education teacher in the Bay Area. This year I am attempting to finish my Master's in Special Educaiton at Sonoma State. I will be starting my thesis this fall, and plan on researching the effects of mindfulness and yoga on students with specific learning disabilities.

Besides teaching and taking classes, I love playing soccer, going for runs, hiking, biking, and doing yoga. This summer, I am renting an adorable cottage in Sonoma, and taking two classes to continue working on my Master's.