The Individualized Education Program (IEP) – Writing Software

Any special education teacher will tell you that one of the most challenging things is balancing the paperwork involved in the profession with the time spent educating students.  The endless amount of progress monitoring, IEP writing, lesson plan differentiation, curriculum modifying/accommodating, co-teaching, meetings, etc, etc can drive any sane person crazy.  So why not find a tool to simplify some of this?  There is no one magic tool or one application that will solve it all, but I use one to manage my IEPs, goal progress monitoring and file management.  It is called IEPOnline.  The link is dashboard.ieponline.net

This web-based software can be linked to a central database of students in another application or can manage its own database of students.  The real benefit of this program is that it simplifies the process of writing an IEP and makes progress monitoring much simpler.  Below is a screenshot of my caseload. 

All I have to do is click on a student’s name and it takes me to their IEP or a place where I can write a new one.  It makes all IEPs uniform.  It tracks and records all transition data which is very nice.  When the IEP is complete, the record is locked and cannot be edited unless a formal revision is requested.  This makes all records very safe.

We found this application through our Intermediate Unit.  It is a great tool not only for teacher management, but it allows you to progress monitor on-the-spot and gives a teacher access to goals and objectives without having to go to the guidance office or the cumulative folder to get the actual hardcopy of the IEP. 

There are some downsides to this application.  Before using IEPOnline, we created a Microsoft Word template and used that to guide the structure and required elements of the IEP.  I miss the ability to format and to improve readability.  Using different fonts, indenting information, bolding, italics, and other options for editing are just not available in the online version.  This cramps my style so to speak.  I can’t even change colors!  It often wastes paper because this program does not self-regulate paginating.  When the IEP is done, it creates a PDF file that is then not editable unless you have a PDF editor.  There is a host of other problems, but those will suffice for now. 

Despite these problems, IEPOnline is an easy program to use.  It only took about 1/2 hour to go through and train a group of teachers.  There are tabs for the major portions of each IEP section.  There are sub categories in each tab.  It looks like this:

 

The site is easy to access.  With hundreds of users it can be slow at times, but not unreasonably.  It must continue to update its interface to be competitive.  Its structure seems archaic but it is organized very logically.  It isn’t “pretty.”  There are some other IEP writers out there that seem more attractive.  One plus is that this company does tailor the application to our use.  Since this company is nationwide, it has to deal with some states that have their own special education requirements.  Pennsylvania has Chapter 14 in addition to the federal IDEA law.  Unlike PA, Florida defers all special education services to IDEA.   This would make it easier to manage for IEPOnline.

As far as reviews are concerned, I could not find any web sites that review IEP writing programs.  However, in my school there are varying opinions about its use.  Some are of the opinion that uniformity is important and that protection of the original document is imperative.  Having a record of everything that is done to that document and having an exact record of who accessed to online files is helpful.  Others are of the opinion that formatting is important and having a document that is easy to edit and work with is helpful.  All would agree that there is a usage curve.  The more you use it the quicker you get at using the program.  Overall, everyone agrees that we should continue to work with this company to streamline editing abilities and to smooth out some of accessibility problems. 

 

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Published in: on November 22, 2009 at 11:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Face to Facebook Classroom

I have decided that I would like to use Facebook in the classroom.  You might ask, “How do you use a social networking site like this in the classroom when you have students physically there that could talk face to face?”  I am glad you asked.  As teachers we always want to expand the horizons for our students.  We always want to give them a new perspective, to freshen things up a little bit – to give them something new and exciting to talk about.  But how do you talk about, for instance, new things in history?  After all, history is history.  It’s been done.  There is nothing new to the curriculum you have been teaching for ten years.  There isn’t possibly any way that it can be freshened up without spending thousands of man hours rewriting curriculum and infusing it with new ideas.  Or IS there? 

There is a free way and a way that uses less curriculum building hours to create the new perspective that you so desperately want to give your students.  The following is an example of how a social studies teacher could infuse Facebook into the curriculum and give students a new perspective on an old subject, an old war – World War II.  It could be done using any war or event in history though. 

The main point of using Facebook in this way is to show students that truth is not always from our own perspective.  One event can have multiple points of view and can be right at the same time.  It gives students the opportunity to respect opinions, respond appropriately, learn from others and to realize that there are other valid opinions. 

Here is why Facebook is such a great tool for this assignment.  Facebook is not only a United States fad.  It is a worldwide known social site.  Facebook has unique, easy-to-use features such as a profile page, a wall, a photos and video section.  There are many application such as the “courses” application that make is so easy for a teacher to create a great online classroom environment.  In the courses application, you don’t even have to “friend” students to interact with them on Facebook.  Abilene Christian University is doing a study on the Facebook’s effect upon students using their “schools” application.  Read about it HERE if you are interested.  Facebook has many security features as well which creates a great safe environment for students.  In this application of Facebook, we will be using a group set to private where only those invited can see it and participate.  This is being used to preserve the classroom environment and to put some parents at ease as some will be concerned about their children just having a Facebook account let alone talking to students from a foreign country. 

Other sites that were considered in hosting this were: Ning and MySpace.  Ning is not as widely known but is a fine social networking site.  It does have its benefits.  I did not see the ease of organization, however.  It seemed harder to navigate.  Perhaps if I spent more time with it, it would be easier.  MySpace is popular but does not lend itself as well to educating.  There are some privacy concerns as well.  Most students have Facebook accounts, it has a great “course” application that can be utilized to keep personal lives separate.  There are apps like quizzes and polls that can be used in Facebook too. 

The Lesson:

World War II

Discussion:

Ask your students:  What did Abraham Lincoln mean when he wrote to W.H. Herndon in 1856…“History is not history unless it is the truth.”  There will be varying answers but hopefully some students will mention the accuracy of writing history.  Discuss how an author’s perspective or a perspective of a nation or particular society may have a view of something that might be different from another nation or society.  Use a current example of how some might view how the current president is doing a good job while others think that he is not.  Two different perspectives.  Who is right?  Is there even a wrong? 

Assignment

Using Facebook, we will be collaborating with another classroom for the next two weeks.  This other classroom will be located in Europe and will be studying the same WWII subject we are studying. 

Directions:

If you do not have a Facebook account, you need to get one.  Before you get one, you need to have your parents permission.  Have the form I hand out signed by your parents and given back to me within three days.  Once you have your account, you should let me know your email address so I can invite you to the class group.   The group is private so you cannot search and find it.  You must be invited.  Once invited, you should accept so you can view the group.  You can find the group each time by going to the groups you belong to on your personal Facebook page.  Each day, there will be a new assignment that you will be required to respond to or complete.   

Previous to answering these questions, we will discuss them, learn about topics involving World War II and express our opinions and thoughts.  Then, you can be better prepared to answer the questions.

 Activities

Here are the first five days of activities so you can prepare.

Day 1 – Reasons for the war:  Answer the following questions by commenting on each one.  Your counterparts in Europe will be doing the same thing and asking you questions the next day. 

  1. For what reasons did your country enter WWII?
  2. What was primary cause of WWII?
  3. Was there anything from World War I that could have cause World War II?
 Day 2Questions about the Holocaust
Collaborating class will ask questions on this day

Day 3Weaponry and the Atomic Bomb:

  1. What weapons did your country use/invent during World War II?
  2. Do you think the atomic bomb was necessary in ending World War II with Japan?
  3. What was your country’s view of the atomic bomb?

Day 4Battles:

  1. Discuss what battles you consider key to winning WWII.
  2. Explain the importance D-Day has in your country?
  3.  COLLABORATING CLASS WILL ASK QUESTIONS HERE TOO

Day 5Answer the following questions:

  1. Evaluate your country’s perspective on U.S. involvement in WWII.  (Were they a welcomed addition? Nuisance?  non-event?, etc.)
  2. Appraise how Germany was dealt with at the conclusion of WWII. 
  3. TWO QUESTIONS from the collaborating class

Week 2:  Week 2 will involve taking pictures of local monuments, photos of WWII paraphernalia if you have any, MP3 recorded memories of any WWII veterans and your own project of what you have learned from the other class using PowerPoint, Prezi, video or another application online.  

 PROJECT:  Your project will involve two major elements.  They are:

  1. Comparing and contrasting the views of WWII expressed in the Facebook group
  2. Explaining how Lincoln’s quote “History is not history unless it is the truth” is relevant here.

Guidelines for
Expectations and Behavior

As with any online social interaction, there are consequences to things that you say and do.  There are consequences to things that you don’t say and don’t do as well. 

As a student, you are expected to act politely and in a socially appropriate manner while interacting online. 

Before you post your comments, pictures, projects, etc. ask yourself if there is anything in your post that is questionable.  Would this potentially get you into trouble or possibly hurt one of your peers?  If your answer is “yes” or “I’m not sure”, then don’t post it.  See your teacher about that particular post. 

If anything is posted that is inappropriate, it will be dealt with according to your student handbook.  Examples of inappropriate online behavior are in the handbook as well if you need to refer to them. 

Examples of inappropriate online classroom interaction: 

  • You:  Hey babe, waaaa sup?  Wanna get together tonight?
    Her/Him:  Nothin’s up… And no…Not with you!
     

This isn’t inappropriate because you got rejected – sad maybe.  It’s inappropriate because you are not talking about the subject you are supposed to be talking about.  If it were in the classroom, I take your note or ask you to stop talking.  Please don’t!  It won’t get you expelled but it will get  you ALL CAPS from me!

  • Don’t talk about what you did last weekend.  Not that it isn’t interesting that you got pulled over for speeding and your grandma was driving…but save it for lunch time. 
  • Refer to your handbook about drugs, alcohol, bullying, etc.   You know that won’t be tolerated.  
  • Since we are dealing with another classroom in a different country/culture, we will review some important factors about that society and what you can and can’t do. 
  • Being humorous is ok – done appropriately and at the right time.  
  • Being dramatic is ok – done appropriately and at the right time.
  • Be careful using emoticons.
  • Sarcasm should probably not be used in this setting
  • Most importantly, you need to enjoy this experience.  You will walk away from this with new knowledge and possibly new friends! 
Published in: on November 16, 2009 at 12:04 am  Comments (2)  

Twitter for the Classroom

I read an article about experiments in higher education classrooms using Twitter.  Here’s the link.  It seems that it has made some success but results are still mediocre.  I found it interesting that several mainstream universities (such as Penn State) have experimented with it.  As a result of last weekend’s game with Ohio State, maybe the football team should stop Twittering and start playing — ARRRRR!   Anyway, I found the use of Twitter in the classroom intriguing and thought I would critique it. 

Twitter in this experiment is used as a tool to ask questions and respond during class.  The professor projects the tweets on the board and responds to the questions and comments as they come in. 

ADVANTAGES

  • promotes questions and comments without having to take turns
  • Allows those who are reserved to ask questions and make comments
  • Students and teachers have tweets they can refer to when studying or responding
  • Allows students to ask questions at any time – even when not in class
  • Students can refer to these tweets  if they miss class
  • Teacher can give previews of class before actual class

DISADVANTAGES

  • Tweets are public
  • Not all students have ready access to twitter – most do, not all
  • While tweets can focus discussion, they do not lend themselves to extensive explanations (more than 144 characters)
  • Twitter was originally designed to be a program to post about the casual.  It can be difficult to find that tweet you made or someone else made 4 months ago.

Using twitter in this way really has some great advantages.  Using a more traditional route is routine – like raising your hand or just calling out.  If you want to, students could write questions on the board or on a sheet of paper and hand them in instead of doing this on Twitter.  The real advantage is that everyone can see the questions and hear the responses when done electronically.  I like this new method.

I will try this in my classroom.  With an activboard, I can put them up there on the board as they come in.  It generates discussion and organizes a direction without having to call someone out to respond or ask a question orally.  In time, I see a better program being developed or discovered to do this more effectively.  For now, it is a great way to involve students in learning in the classroom and out.

Published in: on November 8, 2009 at 11:14 pm  Comments (2)  

Web-Based Presentation Software/Tools and Review

Here is a link to the presentation that I put together with Prezi.  Granted, it isn’t “pristine.”  For a first-timer, it’s not too bad.  I can pick out all the problems as I know you can too.  Anyway, I am hoping that the next time goes easier.  This is a resource that I am going to use in the future for sure!

http://prezi.com/kihcmo3jukew

This was quite an undertaking.  I will have to say after reviewing the million or so web-based resources for web-based presentation tools, I found Prezi.com quite exhilerating.  I wanted something other than a slide show and Prezi seems to offer it.  I can’t quite explain it but Prezi makes order out of a bunch of confusing information.  Yet, you can go back to that presentation every time and get exactly what you need without having to go through slide after slide.  This is a time saver.  It is refreshing as well.

Ease of use and intuitiveness

This was very easy to use.  It takes all the fluff and gets rid of it.   There are things I was looking to do with fonts, etc but it wasn’t available on the free version.  Not sure if it is available on the paid or not.  Either way, it gets rid of a lot editing tools that you come to believe are really unnecessary. This is such an easy tool to use.  I had one problem and that was trying get everything fit into the screen.  I had issues with media inserts as well. However, that was in the creation of the media to the FLV format so Prezi would take it.  What I did was created the video and the audio in ScreenToaster.  Then I converted it to mov format.  Then I got a DVDVideoSoft MOV to FLV freeware converter, Converted the file and loaded it up to Prezi.  It took a little work around but worth it for the experience.  I couldn’t get the flash animation that I created to stop.  It kept looping.  Not sure if it was a Prezi issue or not.  In testing, it did not loop, but after I loaded it to Prezi, it wouldn’t stop.  Other than that, I love this software.  I can’t wait to use it in the classroom!

Features and other value-adding components, especially features not available in PowerPoint.

This too lets you see everything at a glance.  Even if it looks jumbled at first, once you have gone through the presentation, the whole thing is there for you to see at one time. 

The ability to export the presentation out of their website so it can be saved locally and used offline.

This presentation can be saved locally and used offline if desired.  I did not test this but there is a button to do so – even for the free version!

Accessibility, permanence and performance of the site

Once people find out about this little secret, it will be the rage. It will have to say that the platform will do itself a great deed if it can find another way to be used.  This style of presentation is great for those who are on-the-spot/spontanaeous presenters.  It is more informal right now, but I believe it will hit the boardroom someday if it hasn’t already. 

A quick and informal search for other people’s experiences using the tool.

http://www.rethinkpresentations.com/prezi-review-more-than-buzz/

http://www.appappeal.com/app/prezi/

http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2009/02/prezi.html

Published in: on November 1, 2009 at 11:25 pm  Comments (1)