Friday, August 29, 2014

Wandoo Planet



It took me quite a while to get through my backlog of podcasts, so I just listened to a great episode from Chris Bugaj of the A.T.Tipscast.  Episode 132 featured an interview with a former educator spreading the word about Wandoo Planet.  Wandoo Planet is a recommendation engine for children, think Pandora or Netflix.  Basically, kids pick some of their favorite interests, via a fun game, and the website suggests books and/or movies for them to check out.  The goal is to help students find books in their interest and get them reading more, which as we all know, is one of the best ways to increase students ability to read!

I took a few minutes and tried it out myself, and have to say it's fun.  The game is a great way to get children thinking about their interests.  Some students may need to have the interests read to them, and a suggestion to make it more accessible might be to include pictures or text to speech for the interests.  It looks like a fun way to engage students and get them reading!



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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Powtoon - Free Accounts for Teachers!



Powtoon is a fun platform for creating animations.  I've personally used it to create the trailer for the EdCeptional Show.  So far that's all I've done, but I can see it would be a fun way to engage students and excite them about a topic or lesson.  So, that's why I claimed my FREE Powtoons account!

Powtoons is giving away over $5 million of teacher and student accounts before October 2014.  All of these accounts will be valid for 1 year, and include 1 teacher account with 60 student accounts!  You can get yours now at Powtoons ToonUp.



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Monday, August 25, 2014

AAC/Medicare Changes


I was hoping to have written this post last week, so that you might have more time to help out, but life got in the way!  This is a VERY important post, especially to those of you who rely on Medicare to secure AAC devices.  Specifically this is related to patients with ALS, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Rett Syndrome,spinal cord injuries, spinal muscular atrophy and other impairments and their ability to retain and receive Speech Generation Devices (SGD).

As of September 1, Medicare will be changing the rules and will not allow patients to receive this devices to "unlock" them.  Thereby, denying individuals the ability to communicate with their families and other individuals via email, text, video chat, etc...  Even though the unlock fee is not paid by Medicare, they will no longer allow individuals to purchase devices that this could be done on.

Medicare has also been denying Eye Gaze devices for those individuals whose only means of access if via an eye gaze system.  Many of these cases have 2 medical professionals certifying the need for an eye gaze system and it is still denied. The backlog of appeals is years long and many patients are being denied the ability to communicate.

Please take a moment and go to this website - Center for Medical Advocacy, fill in your zip code, and the short form that follows to contact your representatives and urge them to sign a petition to stop these rule changes!  It takes just 2-3 minutes.  You only have until August 27, so please do it right away!



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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chrome - QR-Code Extension

I a big fan of the Google Chrome Browser, there are a ton of amazing extensions and apps that you can use with students.  I've blogged about quite a few of them - Read & Write for Google Docs, Kaizena,  and on EdCeptional #42.  Here's a new one that just for creating and reading QR Codes.

The QR Code Extension is designed to allow you to quickly create QR codes for downloading and sharing.  Once you are on a page, just click the icon in your extension bar (to the right of the address bar) and it will show you the QR Code.  Click "Edit This QR Code" to find options for downloading and sharing.

The other option is not one I've seen in an extension.  Click the "Scan a QR Code" and it allows you to use your webcam to decode a QR Code.  So if you've ever been sitting and wanted to use a code, this is the extension for you!!  It's a great option for students, I've always advocated for using QR Codes for long URL's and this would help do that without a special program.  Just print out QR Codes for your students and let them scan using the extension.

You can try out The QR Code Extension here!



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Monday, August 18, 2014

QR Codes for Vocabulary



Matt Bergman, at Learn, Lead, Grow, shared a great post on ways to use QR Codes to teach and retain vocabulary.  I love the ideas of engaging students with technology to teach this skill.  Check out all his ideas at his blog:

3 Ways to Use QR Codes to Make Word Walls Assessable to ALL Students #UDL



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Friday, August 15, 2014

Google Classroom for SPED


Google Classroom is a new offering for districts who use Google Apps for Education (GAFE).  Classroom is a combination of Edmodo and Doctupus; part social network and part document manager.  Once Classroom is enabled you are able to create classes and invite your students to join.  Google creates a folder in your Drive, a place for you to upload and/or create documents to share with those students.  From the main Classroom page you have options for posting Announcements or create assignments.  Assignments can be linked to a Drive Document, Youtube video, weblink or you can attach a file.  Students can then complete the work and turn it in via Classroom.  When using Google Docs you have the option to allow students to view the document, edit one document or it will create a separate document for each student.

For self-contained teachers this immediately solves issues with distributing and collecting Google Doc files.  It's also a place for students to communicate questions with their classmates or you.  While the interface is limited and the themes are pretty basic, I think the potential for this product is astounding.

From my new perspective of a push-in support teacher, I see this as a way to push out modified assignments to students.  Part of our new reading curriculum involves discussion guides and we, as a special education team, are considering modifying them so they are Google Docs.  This would give me a way to push out specific docs, to specific students easily.  I also think giving students a place they can post questions might be useful, especially students who may not want to speak up in class.  I can see it as a way for those students to contact me when we are not together in class.

I'm going to continue to give it a try, and see if there are other ways it can be utilized.  I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on using Google Classroom.  This week Google opened it all users with GAFE account, but there is one caveat.  You and your students must be on the same domain.  This is actually a problem in my district, my email ends in "d57.org" and our students are "students.d57.org" so I cannot create a Classroom unless I have a different login.  This is frustrating, but Google is aware and hopefully they will fix it in the near future.



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