Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Monday, August 4, 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

Journal 6

Starkman, N.  (July, 2008)  Teachers and technology:  June Weston.  THE Journal, Retrieved August 1, 2008 from http://www.thejournal.com/articles/23000.

June Weston is a secondary school teacher with students in special education from grades 9-12 and across all subject areas.  At any given time, Weston is expected to teach any student any topic at any grade level - a daunting task!  To better accomplish this task, Weston recently implemented the Special Needs Alternative Program (SNAP) from the American Education Corporation.  This program allows students to work individually on their areas of need.  Using pre- and post-tests, the program allows the students to move at their own pace as they master the material.  

What are the benefits of programs like SNAP for students with special needs?
First, because the program tailors itself to the individual, students are able to focus on their areas of greatest need.  Additionally, students work independently and do not feel the pressure of performing for or competing with their peers.  Finally, this program allows the teacher to better address the needs of all students and monitor progress/behavior.

What are the drawbacks of programs like SNAP for students with special needs?  Computer programs do not necessarily address the multiple intelligences of students, particularly kinesthetic learners.  Students with attention problems may have difficulty working at a computer for extended periods of time.  Administration, parents, and others may be resistant to the introduction of new technology.  Finally, teachers must prepare alternative lessons, because inevitably computers crash and back-up plans are a must.  

Journal 4

Reid, R.  RtI:  Innovations in prevention and intervention.  Summer Leadership Institute.  July 17, 2008.

In his keynote address, Rich Reid identified successful approaches to education reform.  Specifically, Reid addressed the implementation of RtI, an approach which focuses on inclusion in the general education classroom paired with early identification of learning difficulties.  Using universal assessments, RtI focuses on identifying students struggling in certain areas and implementing supports and interventions in the general education classroom.  If students do not respond to increasingly intensive forms of intervention, they are referred to evaluation for traditional special education services.

RtI is a general education movement with an inclusive focus that requires collaboration between general and special educators.  Reid identified human relationships as the foundation of successful educational reform.  Too often there is an "us" and "them" mentality between general educators and special educators.  In order to successfully implement positive programs like RtI, educators must collaborate effectively and look beyond credentials and titles to focus on what is best for students.  In this case, collaboration between professionals promotes integration of students and education equity.

What is RtI?
Response to Intervention.  This is a three-tiered model:
Tier 1:  All students receive research-based instruction in the core curriculum.  Students are monitored throughout the year and those struggling with the core curriculum are identified for additional instruction.
Tier 2:  Struggling students identified in Tier 1 are given research-based interventions.  These interventions usually take place in small groups in the general education classroom (for example, during "learning stations).  Students who show adequate "response to interventions" return to the core curriculum.  Students who do not respond then proceed to Tier 3.
Tier 3:  Intensity of interventions increases, with students receiving individual or small group attention daily in problem areas.  Student who do not respond to intervention are usually evaluated for special education.

What are the benefits of RtI?  
1.  With RtI, students do not "wait to fail."  Special education eligibility is based on discrepancy model which requires students to fall far behind before qualifying for services, whereas RtI provides support immediately.  Additionally, students from ethnic minorities and low socioeconomic status are over identified for special education, largely due to cultural differences in learning or a lack of educational opportunities, respectively.  RtI addresses these individual differences and prevents students from being misplaced in special education.

Journal 3

Villa, R.  Restructuring for caring and effective education:  The possible futures of education.  Summer Leadership Institute.  July 17, 2008.

To commence the Summer Leadership Institute, Rich Villa gave an inspiring keynote address.  The presentation began by highlighting the elitist, inequitable history of education, a system that has long been excluding people based on gender, race, and socioeconomic status.  Among the people excluded from the educational world are persons with disabilities.  According to Villa, the concept of a "disability" is a social construct.  As a society, we create standards for excellence and people who are unable to meet those standards are arbitrarily branded "disabled."  Once given this label of a disability, people perceived as different are marginalized in our society.  Students with disabilities are sent to separate rooms, placed in separate programs, given separate teachers; these students are isolated in a system that supposedly outlawed segregation decades ago with Brown v. the Board of Education.

In order to remedy this practice of segregation and generate social justice in our schools, Villa proposed reform centered on "equalence" in education.  Equalence is based on the coexistence of excellence-based education and education equity.  The goal is to strike a balance in our schools.  On one hand, excellence should be valued to promote motivation and achievement in our students.  On the other hand, equity must be made a priority through the inclusion of all students.  Students with disabilities, who may not meet socially defined standards of excellence, must be provided the opportunity to participate in the educational community.  Equalence allows achievement without abandoning social justice.

Is inclusive education a civil rights issue?

Yes.  Despite decades of reform movements, segregation is still present in our schools.  Student in special education who are denied access to the general education classroom are victims of segregation.  Separate is not equal.  Furthermore, our current practices over identify students from ethnic minorities and low socioeconomic status for special education, recreating discriminatory practices of decades past.

How can teachers find a balance between excellence and equity?

The key to achieving "equalence" is to keep standards high while allowing for individual differences.  Students in special education generally do not need "easier" work; instead they need the same curriculum presented in a different way.  Teachers must be sensitive to differences in learning styles and needs and differentiate their instruction to suit their students.

Journal 2

McFarlane, S. H. (Summer 2008). The laptops are coming! The laptops are coming!. Rethinking Schools Online, 22 No. 4, Retrieved July 29, 2008, from http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/22_04/lapt224.shtml

Summary and Reaction:
In this article, Sarah Heller McFarlane reflects on her experience with personal laptops in the classroom.  McFarlane's district supplied each secondary student with a personal computer for use in school and at home.  After experiencing student laptops for one year, McFarlane has mixed feelings on the effectiveness of this particular technology in the classroom.

On one hand, the personal laptops provided an opportunity to close an accessibility and achievement gap between students based on socioeconomic status.  Students without the economic resources to have their own personal computers were given the chance to improve their technology skills.  Additionally, the presence of computers for all students helped remove the social stigma experienced by students unable to afford their own technology.

On the other hand, McFarlane expressed many concerns and frustrations with the implementation of student laptops.  For example, McFarlane expressed frustration with the time consuming nature of training teachers to utilize the new technology.  Additionally, McFarlane felt that she was forced to spend a large amount of her instructional time "policing" students who were using the laptops for non-educational purposes during class.  Finally, over the course of the year, McFarlane observed a decline in social interactions between her students.

Like most thing in life, there seems to be advantages and disadvantaged to providing students with individual laptops . . .

Do schools have a responsibility to reduce the gap in student access to technology?
Yes.  Our society is becoming increasingly technology-dependent.  As educators, it is our responsibility to prepare our students to survive and, ideally, thrive in the "real world."  Student who do not have access to technology and do not develop the related skills will be at a disadvantage when pursuing higher education, employment, etc.  While every student may not need their own personal laptop, the school environment should allow for exposure to and experience with various forms of technology.

Are laptops a valuable use of financial resources?
After reading about McFarlane's largely negative experience with personal laptops in the classroom, I am less inclined to pursue that technological route.  Instead, I would rather disperse the funds across a range of technology, filling the room with resources like GPS, graphing calculators, simulation software, video and audio recording devices, etc.  By having a broad range of technological devices, students get a more diverse educational experience and must learn to work cooperatively to share these resources.