Saturday, May 14, 2011

When working with K-2nd grades, it’s often the case that students are able to verbally communicate their ideas, but typing those out is another matter.  Using, we solved this issue for a second grade class that was creating slideshow presentations. is a web service that lets you create effective presentations through your PowerPoint files.  What makes this site unique, is it lets you add a narrative to the presentation. Once you upload your PowerPoint, you can record a narrative through your webcam and microphone as if you were presenting the slideshow. The final presentation then appears with your webcam recording on the right and slides on the left. A filmstrip view of the slides is also given on the bottom of the presentation. 

The elementary school I was working with used Google Docs, then converted the presentation to a .PPT file, which Present.Me only accepts.  After the presentation is uploaded, it is queued for the students to record their own words to describe each slide, and time when they want each slide to advance. 
Once they are finished recording, they have the option to record the presentation again if not satisfied with what they did.  Otherwise, you can then publish the presentation, giving it a unique URL that can be shared with anyone. The free plan of only lets you publish up to 10 recordings per month; each of these presentations can be 15 minutes long. Having the students work in groups allowed the class to stay under the ten recordings limit.  

While we used with the primary grades, it could be just as useful to any other age group. 

Troy Kuhn is an instructional technology specialist in Texas for Bryan ISD. Visit him now at his blog Troy's Tech Tips, the district technology blog he manages Techy Things Teachers Should Know, or follow him on Twitter.

Individualized Technology Plan Helps Student with Autism Achieve Learning Goals

October 3, 2010:
“Michael, what is 2 plus 0?”
“What is 2 plus 1?”
“1?” “2?”
“What is 1 plus 1?”

January 10, 2011:
“Michael, what is 7 plus 8?”
“5 plus 5?”
“9 plus 3?”

Michael is a third grade student with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder. At the beginning of the year, the extent of Michael’s math knowledge was filling out a number chart from 1 to 100 with 80% accuracy. He was not able to do simple addition, tell time, identify coins, put together puzzles, or identify shapes.
Michael’s parents were adamant that he attend a public school and be placed in a regular class and Michael enjoyed being with his classmates. However, Michael was not learning. He had a short attention span and the teacher covered new material very quickly. As Michael’s Dedicated Aide, I worked hard to keep him on track. I rarely had time to teach him fundamental skills.

Six weeks into the school year, Michael was still trying to learn addition, while the rest of the class was working on identifying quadrilaterals and solving word problems. I realized that if I did not take charge of Michael’s learning, he would continue to fall farther and farther behind. I knew he was capable of reaching his Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals; he just needed more individualized instruction and something to engage him in learning. I got permission from the Principal, his parents, and his teacher to pull him from the classroom for two hours every afternoon.

I brought my laptop and iPod Touch to school to see if technology would peak Michael’s interest in learning. I was amazed at how quickly Michael picked up the basics of using different technologies. Within minutes, Michael was using a mouse to navigate the computer and operating the touch screen on my iPod touch to find applications and play games.

Technology became the optimal learning tool for Michael. I used Michael’s IEP goals to create 3-4 smaller weekly goals. Then, I searched the Internet (and the FreeTech4Teachers blog!) to find online games, resources, and activities as well as iPod applications. I created a blended learning environment for Michael. He would spend 20-30 minutes on a computer game or iPod app, then I would give him a written quiz, and we would review his answers. Then, we would move on to the next skill set.

Here is an example of a typical 2-hour lesson plan:

Addition (0’s, 1’s, 2’s)
Time (Hours and Half Hours)
Motor Visual/Spatial Skills
Numbers to 1000
If we had time left over, I would let Michael play Angry Birds as a reward. He fell in love with this game and he worked extra hard every day just to play it for 5 minutes at the end of the learning block.

What Did Michael Learn?
Within two months, Michael achieved four out of five of his math IEP goals. He was able to add single digit numbers with 80% accuracy, tell time to the half hour, and write, count, and indentify numbers up to 1000 with 80% accuracy. He also solved 6 and 12-piece puzzles in less than 5 minutes and he was able to identify coins with 100% accuracy.

What Did I Learn?
I learned that it does not matter how far students are behind, if you engage them in learning and provide them with the right tools, they can achieve their academic goals. For Michael, technology was the ideal learning tool. The online games and iPod apps gave him instant feedback. He knew within seconds whether his answer was right or wrong. The games also provided Michael with a low-pressure learning atmosphere where he could try, fail, start over, and try again until he mastered the level or solved the problem. This kept him engaged and gave him the chance to succeed. While Michael was never able to put more than two physical puzzle pieces together without getting frustrated and giving up, he could solve a puzzle on the Let’s Tans iPod app in seconds. He would tap pieces to turn them, double-tap to flip them, and then slide them into the shape. His mind worked incredibly fast and Let’s Tans allowed him to try as many times as possible at a rapid pace. 

Technology changed the way that I taught. I learned how to mentor and guide rather than lecture. Instead of telling Michael how to solve a problem, I would let him try it on his own. When he couldn’t figure it out, I would teach him how to find the solution. Then he would try again. He would continue working until he needed my help again. Allowing Michael to control his learning pace and reducing the amount of new information he learned at one time helped Michael process the information better and retain it in his memory.

Finally, I realized that technology is only part of the learning experience. While technology engaged Michael in learning and provided him with feedback, I still guided and supported him. I spent time reviewing answers with him and helping him learn new material. I conducted ongoing assessments to determine how much time Michael should spend on each activity and whether he needed to learn additional skills. It was a combination of individualized instruction and new technologies that helped Michael achieve his learning goals.

My Advice to Teachers, Aides, and Educators
If you have students with disabilities or students that are below grade level in a certain subject, find technology tools that will help them achieve their academic goals and let them spend 20-30 minutes using those tools every day. Be available to answer questions, but wait until they come to you for help. Make sure to check in with these students when they finish to assess their progress toward their academic goals. You will be pleasantly surprised with how fast students learn to use new technology tools and how this opportunity will help the students become more self-sufficient and responsible learners. This will also allow the students to learn in a low-pressure, student-centered atmosphere.

Torrey Trust ( has a Masters of Arts in Educational Technology from San Diego State University. As the Technology Coordinator at an elementary school in Washington, D.C., Trust designed a database of technology tools (K-12 Tech Tools) categorized by subject, grade level, and standard to connect teachers with technology resources and make it easier for them to integrate technology into their lesson plans. This fall, she will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Education (Teaching and Learning) with a specialization in Technology and Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Week in Review - The Goslings are Back

Image Credit: Denise Blain
Good morning (day, evening) from Maine where I am happy to report that spring is officially here as marked by the return of a family of Canadian Geese that raised their young in the swamp next to our house last year. They're back again with more goslings. Just like me, the director of the Free Technology for Teachers walking program is very interested in seeing the geese every morning.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Is Your State Short Changing Schools? - Infographic
2. Goodreads Makes Great Readers
3. Scrible - Highlight, Annotate, and Bookmark Webpages
4. Interesting Ways to Use an iPad in the Classroom
5. Google Search Tips Posters
6. New Sort By Subject Option in Google Images
7. A Brief History of Timezones - Interactive Display

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SimpleK12 is my blog marketing partner.

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Delegate Administrative Tasks in Google Apps

If your school uses Google Apps for Education, your administrator just got a new option for delegating tasks. Google now allows you to have "Delegated Administrators" of your Google Apps for Education domain. A Delegated Administrator is a person who has access to some administrative tasks, like password resets, but not all administrative functions. For directions on activating Delegated Administrators, see Google's announcement of the new function.

Applications for Education
At the beginning of the school year delegating the tasks of password management (creation or reset) to a handful of people in your school building could enable you to get students and staff using their Google Apps accounts faster than if just one person is responsible for that task.

Discover Yale Digital Commons

Image Source
Yale University has made more than 250,000 digital images available online. Discover Yale Digital Commons is the search engine for the Yale Digital Commons. Through Discover Yale Digital Commons you can search through the archives of five museums, libraries, and galleries administered by Yale.

The images in the Yale Digital Commons have been labeled Public Domain. Jock Reynolds, the Henry Heinz II director of the Yale University Art Gallery, in the announcement from Yale regarding the new Discover Yale Digital Commons, explains why Yale is doing this:
"Through this new university policy, scholars, artists, teachers, and students worldwide will now be able to more fully engage our collections for active learning and use in publications, classrooms, and creative projects without incurring any fees whatsoever, eliminating what has previously been for many a daunting financial hurdle."

Watch a slideshow sampling of the images available through Discover Yale Digital Commons.