Thursday, December 11, 2014

For When You Just Need the Text to Speak to You

Last year, our district started its 1-to-1 initiative by putting Chromebook carts in my classroom and each eighth grade classroom (because we had all taken REMC's Blended Learning in the Classroom course).  I was on one of the teams that had a number of students who had accommodations stating that texts and assessments be read aloud to them.  My problem that year was that I only had support during one quarter of my classes, so if I was going to read every chapter from the book, and every quiz and test aloud, ALL of my students had to hear me; while this benefitted some of my students without IEPs, many of my students complained of being distracted.

In order to make sure that I was meeting the needs of all of my students, I started recording myself reading chapters using Audacity, but found that that was very time consuming; there had to be another way.  I'm not sure how I discovered Chromevox, which is a screen reader extension for Google Chrome, but I do know that many of my students benefited from hearing the text read aloud while they followed along in their books.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hey everyone, it's that time of year again...Computer Science Education Week (CSEW) where the organization is trying to get tens of millions of students to to try an Hour of Code during the week of December 8-14...oh yeah, and its the holiday season, too, I suppose.  I'm sure that some of you are saying "But Erik, I'm not a computer teacher, why should I be interested in CSEW?" and one of the best answers that I can come up with is creativity.

More and more things that students are interacting with on a daily basis were created using coding, from the apps on their phones and tablets, to the newest and fastest operating systems, the creation of all of these things rely on people knowing how to code. "Ok, so I get why it's important" you say "but you still didn't answer the question of 'How will it help me?'".  If we can give students the skills to think more creatively, they will start to bring those skills to our classrooms; we'll start to see children thinking outside the box, making more connections, looking for creative solutions to the problems that we present to them.  This can be summed up by Doug Belshaw, in his article This is Why Kids Need to Learn to Code when he states