Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where did the Summer Go?

As I write this post, I am reflecting on the past several days as my wife and I got my daughter situated and moved into her college dorm. If you have never moved a child into a a dorm or an apartment it sure is a lot of work! Once again another transition, as all of us move into our respective lines of work. Tomorrow I am back at the College of St. Elizabeth to start the Fall 2008 semester. It is hard to believe just how fast the summer went! I am eagerly awaiting to see my graduate students and look forward to sharing with them the trends and the new and exciting products that will soon be released. There is no escaping the impact that Web 2.0 has had on the field of educational and assistive technology as more and more mainstream tools on the web find their way into the work that we do. With free text to speech applications and the range of applications like Google Docs, Buzzword, Jing, and Jott- just to name a few, the combinations are endless as we craft our recommendations for the students we work with. As more and more teachers become aware of the power of wiki's- they can really begin to help students make their curriculum more accessible for those students that need it. All this summer I have been working with teachers on a math grant applying the principles of Universal Design for Learning into their math lesson plans. It has been exciting for me to watch how the teachers have embraced the UDL theory and have been able to plan accessible lessons which have been scaffolded with technology.

Reflecting on my trip to NECC 2008- this year will go down as the year of the netbook. If you haven't had a chance to look at these ultra small notebooks now is the time to do so. The netbooks will be seen as just one more vehicle for students to have a rather inexpensive tool to access the internet with. Weighing in at about 2.2 pounds these devices will will run Window XP and in many cases a variant of Linux. Asus, Acer, and HP have jumped into the bandwagon and soon Dell will announce their new netbook which will probably be released later this month. Schools will begin to look at these devices more seriously because of the cost and their functionality for the money. Many of the netbooks start at around $300 dollars and up. It should be interesting to watch as schools begin to adopt these tools.

Teaching at the college gives me another perspective from the vantage point of higher education as to how technology is being applied for instruction. At the college all students have access to Blackboard which is used as a portal for instruction. I have created some very rich courses using Blackboard that provide my students with a multitude of resources. Over the years I have developed many learning resources for my students using Camtasia Studio, a wonderful application for creating screencasts and video tutorials. At NECC 2008, I was introduced to Adobe Captivate 3 which I will add to my einstruction toolkit. Adobe Captivate 3 not only allows you to create video demonstrations, but also allows you to quickly develop compelling interactive media which you can output to Flash. I will be posting some more information about Adobe Captivate 3 in some later posts in September.

Certainly, collaboration is the buzzword and I'm sure going forward you will be hearing more and more about this as developers add these features into their existing applications. But you only have to look to Web 2.0 technologies to see that the foundation is already there for example in Google Docs and Buzzword, just to name a few. For this reason it will become even more important when we are educating our students and preparing them for the world or work that they have opportunities to work in teams and to collaborate with others outside the context of their school. Do what you can to seek out the exciting projects like the Flat Classroom Project that are taking place on the web to give your students these invaluable opportunities and experiences. I have learned that, yes the world is flat and having tools like Skype, Oovoo, CrossLoop, Yuuguu, Adobe ConnectNow and Dimdim, have allowed me to conduct the work that I do effortlessly without the need to leave my office. So reach out beyond your school and district and challenge your students to use these rich sets of tools to make learning more meaningful and rewarding.

I trust that this will be an exciting start to the school year and I look forward to sharing my ideas and experiences with you as I continue to explore and use new tools. Please feel free to email me with your comments and suggestions.

 
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