Archive for the ‘(08) Exceptionality:’ Category

Capstone–Standard 08 Meta-Reflection: Exceptionality

Standard 08 Meta-Reflection: Exceptionality–Capstone

Addresses the unique learning and behavioral needs of all children, collaborating with other educators and professionals where necessary.

Initial reflection during C & I Orientation:

The concept of addressing exceptionality is “where I live—day to day and moment by moment” as a special educator. Regardless of the unique needs presented by each of my students who qualify for special education services, I must ensure that they have access to the general education curriculum to the greatest extent possible. In the process, I must serve as an advocate for each student and coordinate the delivery of services required for offering free and appropriate public education on their behalf.

Meta-Reflection following the completion of EDSP 6644 Educating Exceptional Students

(Please note: A meta-reflection was not a requirement for the original course, EDSP 6644, therefore, this meta-reflection is a compilation of the six module reflections written and posted in throughout the course.)

Having begun my teaching career in 1981 as a young Seattle Pacific graduate with degrees in both Psychology and Special Education, I have a rather long-term view of special services being delivered in the public school setting. Although I did not have the specific words of the HOPE principles before me as do today’s teacher candidates, I do believe the essence of their meaning was inherent in the teachings of my SPU professors at the time. As I reflect on the years, I continue to see evidence of the following HOPE principles as noted and expressed below:

HOPE principle “H”–“Honor student diversity, development, and their right to learn” H3—Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning. Teacher-candidates implement classroom/school centered instruction, including sheltered instruction that is connected to communities within the classroom and the school, and includes knowledge and skills for working with others. 

I remember well the days when the high school I started teaching in offered parallel classes in nearly every subject area—certainly SE English, SE Math, but also SE Science, SE History. For a couple of years, we even offered SE Keyboarding! In practice, anyone with an IEP was “eligible”—regardless of what specific areas they qualified in. Decisions were often based on what we thought the students were capable of. Also during that time, the regular program offered “lab” classes in each of the core areas that were known to be a little less intensive than the standard general education coursework. For example, Practical English, General Science, Consumer Math and History Lab were more suited for students who might not be academically strong. Many students with IEPs were able to be quite successful in these classes. If not, we brought them back to our Special Education classes. However, right about the same time the law required special education to move away from the parallel classes toward full inclusion, general education did away with the “lab” classes. Unfortunately, what had previously been a choice of a range of three “levels” of classes–became instead a huge jump—especially for students who had taken all core classes in special education. As special education teachers, we struggled greatly with how to successfully encourage our students to adjust to these changes, but somehow we all made it—thankfully improving with time and experience. We still maintained SE Math and SE English as well as SE Learning Strategies classes–and for a while, maintained the option of SE Science and History, based on deficits in reading and writing.

When our district’s new high school opened up in 2007, our principal wanted our team to implement a full-inclusion program. Also by this time, all students were required to take Algebra and that same year our district was moving from a junior high to a middle school configuration. The combination of these changes resulted in 58 9th and 10th grade students with IEPs (many of whom had been served in special education classes in junior high) being newly enrolled at the high school level into ALL general education classes. Not only were these students brand new to us, but an additional factor was that no official staff training had been offered to prepare us for full inclusion. Our SE team felt strongly that “a continuum of services” needed to be offered, although this view was not shared by our administration. Therefore, we took data. We carefully monitored every student’s progress in any way possible. We talked with teachers, met with students, checked and recorded online grades, and listened to concerned parents. Data became the magic key. Within three weeks, we were able to discern enough of a pattern and shared this data with our administrators–respectfully requesting that we be allowed to create a few class sections for SE Math, English and Learning Strategies. Our request was granted and this model has since become our status quo. (Although now, the students with the greatest needs can be served in SE starting from the beginning of the year, but others are encouraged to spread their wings, knowing that we have a safety net with alternative approaches if needed).

So, when considering the question: Is inclusion in the general education setting the best placement for students with disabilities—and the best way to honor my students’ diversity, development, and their right to learn? I would have to say, it depends on the needs of the individual students. My experiences have shown me that a relatively small number of students I work with still need to have the option of placement in one or more special education classes, yet I have also observed a significant number of students rise to the occasion when presented with the opportunity to take all general education coursework. I have learned to embrace full inclusion for many—but not for all.

As noted within the text: “Content-area instruction assumes that students have mastered the basic skills of reading, writing, and math. For many students with special needs, this is simply not the case. For these students to benefit from instruction, modifications must be made…changing the criteria for task performance (speed, accuracy, amount of work, or) task characteristics (which) in contrast, refer to the basic skills necessary for performance (Lewis & Doorlag, 2010, p. 203). Lewis & Doorlag also state: “General education placement is considered optimal for students with disabilities if they are capable of making progress in the standard school curriculum…(p.203).” however, The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) by law must be “To the maximum extent possible…” and “Their placement must be feasible; they must have a good chance of successful performance (p. 12).”  Based upon the student’s area(s) of need and the degree of modification required, individual decisions must be made by the individual IEP teams for individual students.  In order to successfully and legally provide appropriate services, a range of options must be available from which to choose when considering how to best address a student’s needs.

HOPE principle “O”–“Offer an organized and challenging curriculum”O2—Offer appropriate challenge in the content area. Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt curricula that are standards driven so students develop understanding and problem-solving expertise in the content area(s) using reading, written and oral communication, and technology.

My focus as a high school teacher who works primarily with students who have a learning disability, is often centered on helping each student know their strengths, understand what they have difficulties with, and be able to articulate and access the type of support they require to engage in the general education setting. Often, these accommodations may be to address reading, math, or written language or behavioral needs and may or may not include the use of assistive technology. At times, I find that students have a tendency to rely on accommodations that may have been put into their IEP in earlier grades, when in reality they have “outgrown” the need for a specific support. As a teacher, I find it very satisfying to watch students “re-frame” the way they view themselves—learning that they are more capable than they had previously believed. This transformation within—derived from “self-acceptance”–can have a dramatic and positive impact on promoting social acceptance by their peers.

In a recent discussion post, one of my colleagues articulated some very good questions: How do you give your students a more realistic view of their abilities? How do you help them see what they are truly capable of and what they still need work on? How do you keep students motivated to grow and improve when they are so focused on what they can’t do?

Even after my years in the classroom, I continue to wrestle with these very questions and find that the answers are never as cut and dried as I might like. Instead they are often as individual as my students. For example, last year one of my students –who has a disability in math–wanted to take Chemistry and signed up for it during registration. His mom called me within the first few days of school and was very concerned that he would not be able to handle the course. The solution we arrived at (based on discussion with the student and teacher) was to arrange for the option of a Pass/Fail grade. When we offer this option, we always include that if the student is able to achieve the level of a letter grade by the end of the course—the student may select the grade they prefer. Often, the presence of the “safety net” gives the student the extra courage to exceed everyone’s expectations. This particular student ended up with a C-/D+ (with accommodations) and was very pleased with his experience and what he had learned.

Another classic example of the safety net I encounter with my 11th graders pertains to state testing. If as a 10th grader a student has reached a Level 2 status in their area of need (which counts as “passing” if addressed in their IEP)—but their score is only a few points away from a Level 3–I will present the student with the option of taking the test again. For some—the experience of retaking the test is so stressful that they opt to not retest. Other students, knowing that they have already attained what is required for graduation in terms of state standards, make the decision to try to raise their score. This is especially appealing for students who may only qualify in one area such as writing, for example. If they have already scored at a Level 3 in Reading and Math and are only a few points away in Writing, a raised score could result in earning a Certificate of Academic Achievement versus a Certificate of Individual Achievement.

Although I always inform students and their families of the various options available to them–based upon their IEP goals–solutions to many of the problems students encounter in the school setting are dependent upon what the student feels comfortable with.

HOPE principle P”–Practice effective teaching: inquiry, planning, instruction & assessment. P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction.Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt standards-based curricula that are personalized to the diverse needs of each student.

Should school districts implement Response to Intervention to improve academic outcomes for students?

Based on my understanding of the Response to Intervention (RTI) process as described in this week’s readings, as well as my experience as a high school special education teacher, I would have to say that it would be difficult to effectively implement “true” RTI at the secondary level, so would answer with a qualified “no”. However, I do believe that a range of interventions can be offered to students within a school, and therefore throughout a given district. As authors Vaughn and Fletcher (2012) state with regard to reading interventions:

Secondary students do not need to “pass through” successively more intensive interventions as in early elementary grades; rather, they can be assigned to less or more intensive interventions based on their current reading achievement scores (L. S. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Compton, 2010). Thus, it is technically current performance and instructional need rather than “responsive to intervention” that places them in a secondary or tertiary intervention (2012, p. 10).”

Although this reference specifically discusses progress in the area of reading, “current performance and instructional need” are often the primary indicators used across skill and content areas when determining appropriate interventions.

Generally, in my high school setting, most students who qualify for special education have been identified prior to entering 9th grade, although we do have instances of new referrals for special education services. With regard to school-wide interventions, however, we currently endeavor to offer three levels of interventions to most students. All students in 9th and 10th grades as well as selected students in 11th and 12th grades are placed in one of three levels of twice-weekly tutorial sessions. As designed by our staff, students who are performing satisfactorily are assigned to the largest group tutorials. The “secondary” or mid-level tutorials are comprised of 20-30 students and offer time and assistance for students to focus on skills and assignments in any subject area. The “tertiary” or smallest tutorials of approximately 10 students offer intensive interventions in either math or English skills. The student placement decisions are made by teams of teachers within both the math and English departments, as well as each of the four “Pods” within our school. The data examined and used to determine placement are semester grades as well as teacher recommendations based on ongoing classroom performance. Data is evaluated each quarter so that changes to placements can be made as needed.

Communication and collaboration between teachers and counselors allow for addressing the needs of students. The process of making the determination and assignments was outlined by our school’s leadership team and appears to be in line with the HOPE principle of “P” – Practicing intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. I find that students seem to respond gratefully when they realize that a team of teachers is working together on their behalf and discussing together how to best meet the needs of students.

HOPE principle “E”–Exemplify service to the teaching profession. E1 – Exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice. Teacher-candidates develop reflective, collaborative, professional growth-centered practices through regularly evaluating the effects of his/her teaching through feedback and reflection.

As a long-time educator in my community, my professional goals are to increase my awareness and application of current research, strengthen my communication and interactions with colleagues and community members, and to inspire students to continue with their education.  Reflecting on my own educational journey, both as a teacher and now as a graduate student, I can see patterns of growth and change. I see how God is at work.

About a year and a half ago, I was discouraged to see that two of my students had dropped out of school–mid-year. Coincidentally, later that week, I received an unexpected phone call from a former student.  The woman on the other end of the line had been a teenager in my class–eighteen years earlier. She called to let me know that despite the difficulties and severe challenges encountered in her life (both as a child and well into adulthood) she would be graduating from college—with honors.  In the midst of our conversation, she offered that she would like to “pay it forward” and that if I felt it was appropriate, she would like to come to the school to share her story with my students. “Mrs. James”, she said, “I want to let them know that if I can graduate from college—so can they.” Even more surprising than the apparent transformation in this individual was the fact that this phone call–from a student whom I thought I had “lost”—inspired me to call Seattle Pacific University to inquire about graduate school.

Now, just today, at the close of my sixth quarter of graduate coursework –ironically as I am finalizing my article review on self-advocacy for the class entitled, Educating Exceptional Students—she called again. Once again, we engaged in enjoyable and encouraging dialogue concerning the ways we are each interacting with others in our respective roles—promoting life-long learning. We are making plans to have her return for her second time as a guest speaker in my classroom. I must indeed take action on my plans for promoting and increasing self-advocacy skills in my students—preparing them to hear and receive her story!

Artifacts for Standard 8:

The first artifact I’ve selected to post for this course, Educating Exceptional Students, is my peer review assignment, entitled: Promoting Self-Advocacy in Secondary Students .My reason for selecting this topic was primarily due to the fact that I see a great need in my current school to further develop opportunities for building self-advocacy skills in my students. Our high school’s special education team has already begun to work on a number of projects designed to address this need and I wanted to examine the latest research to bring back to the team in the fall. (I must say that I was surprised to find the terms “self-advocacy” and “self-determination” missing from the index in the textbook for this course.)

The second artifact I’ve selected for this course is an assignment entitled: Self-Advocacy for Secondary Students: A Literature Review. My choice to expand and elaborate on my peer review topic was primarily due to my high interest in this topic, the need for information, and the fact that I was able to locate a number of very helpful and interesting articles during my original search. The encouraging and surprising conversation this week with a former student from twenty years ago, provided a perfect case-in-point–supporting my desire to promote further education for my students.


James, L. (2012). EDSP 6644Educating Exceptional Students, Principles of Hope: Blog 1,WordPress Seattle Pacific University. Retrieved from

James, L. (2012). EDSP 6644Educating Exceptional Students, Principles of Hope: Blog 2,WordPress Seattle Pacific University. Retrieved from

James, L. (2012). EDSP 6644Educating Exceptional Students, Principles of Hope: Blog 3,WordPress Seattle Pacific University. Retrieved from

James, L. (2012). EDSP 6644Educating Exceptional Students, Principles of Hope: Blog 4,WordPress Seattle Pacific University. Retrieved from

James, L. (2012). EDSP 6644Educating Exceptional Students, Artifact 1,WordPress Seattle Pacific University. Retrieved from

James, L. (2012). EDSP 6644Educating Exceptional Students, Artifact 2,WordPress Seattle Pacific University. Retrieved from

Lewis, R. B. & Doorlag, D. H. (2011). Teaching students with special needs in general education classrooms (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Vaughn, S. and Fletcher, J., (2012). Response to intervention with secondary school students with reading difficulties. Journal of Learning Disabilities: 45(3) (pp. 244–2 56). doi: 10.1177/0022219412442157

ISTE NETS for Teachers – Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership—Goalview IEP System–Training to Become a Trainer

EDTC 6433: ISTE Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership—Goalview IEP System–Training to Become a Trainer

Goalview screenshot

Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

  1. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.
  2. Exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.
  3. Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.
  4. Contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching.

Within the first couple of weeks of this course, EDTC 6433, I noted that our district was in the midst of selecting software for creating and managing online IEPs . I also shared a screen shot of one of the options, Goalview. As of today, I am now in the midst of training to become a trainer for other teachers within our district on how to implement Goalview. Having served on the software adoption committee 15 years ago and teaching others to use the software from then to the present,  I am delighted to have once again been selected to represent the high school team of special education teachers. I am eager to move beyond the “test site” we experienced today. Due in part to what I have learned within this course, today I was able to ask insightful questions during the training, move ahead to see a sneak preview of the benefits of this program, and envision ways that I will provide support to my colleagues as we go “live” within the next month. I definitely see myself actively engaging in part b. of ISTE Standard 5.

In the article, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology1, authors Collins &Halverson (2009), state:  “The revolution that is occurring in education will alter not just the lives of students, but the entire society”. I am continuing to realize that as a public school educator who has served for over three decades, the changes I have already witnessed may be just the beginning. Thankfully, I am not dismayed by this fact, but rather, encouraged.

Recently a colleague complimented me for being recognized and validated as evidenced by my district selecting me to be trained to become a trainer for the new IEP software being used nationwide. Today, during our second day of training, it was easy to see huge advantages to the new features we discussed. A couple of us laughed as we recalled the “IEP system” we used at the beginning of our teaching careers—5-part NCR forms which I later experimented with feeding into the “cutting edge at-the-time dot matrix printers”! Ironically, I need to remind myself to be patient as we make the transition to the new system and agree with my colleague,  David Spencer, that “It is amazing what we can do and learn from each other as educators when we are given/take the time to discuss topics”.

1  Excerpted from our book Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The

Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press, 2009.

EDTC 6433: Career Interest WebQuest–A Quest for the Best~

#EDTC 6433, #ISTE 2, #WebQuest, #Culminating Project, #Senior Portfolio, #Career Interests Assessments


In looking over the requirements for this course, Teaching with Technology, I was eager to learn that I would engage in the process of creating a WebQuest as one way to address ISTE Standard 2: Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments –Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessment incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS•S.

In previous courses, I had read numerous articles about the benefits of using WebQuests, however, did not have first-hand experience with completing one as a student nor had I been exposed to the step-by-step templates as found within QuestGarden. I must say that I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of detailed options available to assist teachers in creating lessons that provide the type of structure that benefits all students, yet is vital to many. I find the extremely structured nature of the WebQuest templates rather appealing, although the design options can seem overwhelming (at least to me as I juggle the current responsibilities in my life in addition to attending two memorial services this week–one for a teacher friend with whom I have worked for 20 years, and the other for my brother-in-law).

The particular focus for this WebQuest is to assist students in completing the preliminary steps for their senior portfolio and culminating project required for graduation. I have utilized online resources from Kingston High School’s website including Our school district used WOIS for quite a few years, then we were without it for the last couple of years. It has been nice to have it back. Actually, it was used at both the junior and senior high level along with a program called Navigation 101—focused on preparing students for their culminating project. Decreased funding has led to an extreme paring down of opportunities. There had been hopes of requiring each student to create and maintain a full online portfolio, however, we simply do not have the enough access to computers to facilitate this comprehensively. I would love to use this tool for each of my students with IEPs because the process creates a wonderful way to address their Transition Plan–a legally required component of their IEP. The beauty of a WebQuest format is that it provides a wonderful guide for students that can be customized as needed to address a wide variety of needs.

Here is the link to my WebQuest:

EDTC 6433: ISTE4: Technology–From Mimeograph to Digital and Beyond~

Student using computer to edit    EDTC6433: ISTE4 Blog 4

During this module designed to address ISTE NETS for Teachers Standard 4 – Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility,  the emphasis has been on broadening students’ perspectives to include their responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and to ensure appropriate modeling of legal and ethical behavior by the professionals in their midst. The original question I proposed was, How can I encourage my students to use technology to the greatest extent possible for their needs and to do so appropriately and wisely?

As educators, our roles do not remain static. On the contrary, we must not only adjust to the needs of our individual students, but also to the ever-changing needs in our society. When I first began to teach in the early 1980s (long before many of my colleagues in this class were born!), the newly obsolete technology at my school was the “mimeograph machine”. (If you do not know what this is, you can be thankful.) Reel to reel, film strip, and overhead projectors were standard items to be checked out from our library and rolled down to the classroom on a cart—and of course, returned by the end of the day. There were no personal computers, CDs or DVDs, and the word “digital” was associated with fingers. Having witnessed the huge technological transformation over the past thirty-plus years and given my interest as a special education teacher, the aspect of Standard 4 I find myself most drawn to is “b. Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources.” 

At the beginning of this week’s module, I noted one of the concerns I have always had is for those families who do not have even the most basic access to technology. As one option to address this very real issue I shared a resource my school librarian had posted with a phone number on our website regarding information to assist families with obtaining affordable service.

While reading Millennial Learners and Net-Savvy Teens? Examining Internet Use among Low-Income Students, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there appears to be less of a difference in internet usage between high and low income students than teachers originally believed (Greenhow, Walker, & Kim, 2009, p. 67). Despite this good news, the authors acknowledged that teachers will need to be mindful of how they might “minimize what still exists as a participation gap” [Jenkins, 2006, p. 13) in level and sophistication and duration of technology and Internet” (p.67).

As one might expect, this “participation gap” can be found among teachers as well as students, and while I am not located as close to the far end of the continuum as some of my “low-tech” colleagues with whom I work, I am competitive enough to want to move further along toward the more “high tech” end. That being said, I do find that my “pre-P.C.” and “pre-web” experience allows me to relate to families who may not have sufficient access. “More” and “most” with regard to families with access reflect that in education we are moving in the right direction, however, for those “relatively few” without access, accommodations must be made to ensure participation. Somehow this reminds me very much of the role of special education teachers in ensuring student access to the general education curriculum….No wonder my focus tends to be on meeting the needs of those who “have not”.

For my students who regularly use internet resources, I must rise to the challenge of helping them to consider the-adult-they-will-become—and to understand the complex and cumulative effect of each keystroke or pressing of the “send” button as well as the responsibility and role they play in the development of both their present and their future opportunities. In light of the fact that much of my work with students is supporting them in completing assignments given by other teachers, I see particular value in encouraging use of editing resources. I agree with a comment shared by a colleague in this course who conveyed that when writing and creating, “students (must) know how to use and reference these tools correctly” (Powell, 2013). She then proceeded to share what I know from personal experience to be an extremely valuable tool, Another resource shared by my blog buddy, David Spencer, can be found at: This resource is very helpful in addressing issues surrounding plagiarism. I was pleased to realize I was somewhat familiar with this site, but also, David was very familiar with the resource which I had shared in my original post called Easy Bib This link takes you to a particularly interesting sub section called You are what you write and seems to be very informative, straightforward, and user-friendly. There are numerous links for students and teachers alike.

Owl at Purdue site

Creative Commons photo–Retrieved from:

Greenhow, Walker, & Kim (2009) Millennial Learners and Net-Savvy Teens? Examining Internet Use among Low-Income Students, Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, Vol. 26, Number 2, Winter 2009-10.

EDTC 6433: ISTE 3 Module 3 Communicating Effectively with Confidentiality to meet Individual Needs

EDTC 6433: ISTE 3 Module 3 Communicating Effectively with Confidentiality to meet Individual Needs

#ISTE3    #communication   #individual education plans (IEPs)   #confidentiality

Within Module 3, our challenge has been to address ways in which we as educators can model the effective use of technology in the midst of our work and learning. My initial question posted for this module focused on how can I as a special education teacher, use technology to assist me in effectively and efficiently writing Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that are compliant with state requirements, streamlined for gathering staff input, and presented in a “user-friendly” format for students and parents? The specific aspect of ISTE 3 that is especially high on my priority list is: c.Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital-age media and formats. Both prior to and during IEP meetings, my desire is to focus more time and energy on my students and their specific strengths and needs rather than “fussing” with processes and documents that are confusing and distracting. One of the software programs our district is considering purchasing is Goalview. Here is the link:

In response to my posted resource, Professor David Wicks, asked if I was familiar with another online IEP system entitled, Goalbook. Following the link he provided,, I watched a sample video of the program in action and was impressed with what I saw. Just this week, however, the decision in my district was finalized and Goalview has been selected. As I have begun to investigate the Goalview software, I have learned that some of the positive aspects include autotext and drop-down menus throughout the program, multiple goal bank options, and a variety of use-friendly printing features. I am encouraged by a remark from one of my friends who served on the selection committee that she does not think that the learning curve will be too steep. Additionally, our new assistant principal used Goalview in her previous district and has very favorable comments about its use and functionality.

Throughout Module 3, I found myself drawn to posts referencing organizational tools for teachers, however, I noted that again this week I was becoming overwhelmed by the volume of available resources. I would click on a site, and sometimes sign up for free access, then after spending a considerable amount of time experimenting with the digital tool, I would find that some feature was not as user-friendly as I had hoped. In one of our readings, the need to be discerning was especially noted by author, Louise Starkey. In her article, Evaluating learning in the 21st century: a digital age, Starkey shares, “Relatively quick access to a wide range of information means that the user needs the ability to critically evaluate the validity and relative value of information accessed (2011, p. 6).

Also, I must share that when considering signing up students for using online tools I have reservations regarding confidentiality. My concern is that every one of my students has an IEP, so just the mere process of having their name being added to a class list of mine—makes it a known fact that they have a disability. The issue of confidentiality reminds me of a time when our current IEP system was brand new and in the process of the training we discovered that we could create a PDF of each page of the IEP. I was excited to try this feature and with parent permission, sent a draft of an upcoming IEP to a parent via email. In discussing this action later with my special education director (at my initiative) I was asked to not continue this practice.

Unfortunately, what was possible in a technical sense, was considered unwise for the situation, and while I clearly understand the reasoning behind the directive to not email the contents of a student’s IEP, it seemed ironic that the use of such a time-saving tool was prohibited. This illustration is also ironic to me, as I consider the results of a study by Jia Rong Wen and Wen Ling Shih: Exploring the information literacy competence standards for elementary and high school teachers, which found the dimension ‘‘attitude’’ (to be) the most powerful force for promoting teachers’ information literacy competence and their willingness to apply information technology in teaching”. I believe my attitude is one of openness and willingness to embrace technology—especially if it can streamline communication between all parties of an IEP team, however, I must be thoughtful and discerning in the decisions I make—ensuring that the individual needs of my students always trump other factors of consideration. I wonder if confidentiality is one of those issues around which practices must be altered to keep up with the ever-changing needs of society? After all, consider online healthcare and financial records.


Starkey, L (2011) Evaluating learning in the 21st century: a digital age learning matrix Retrieved from:

Wen, J. & Wen. (2008): Exploring the information literacy competence standards for elementary and high school teachers. Retrieved from

EDTC6433: ISTE2 Using technology to meet individual needs: Writing as an intervention

EDTC6433: ISTE2 Using technology to meet individual needs: Writing as an intervention

Throughout this week, I have been inspired to consider using some of the technology shared by colleagues in support of the ISTE 2—especially those that focus on encouraging individual students to respond in writing.. One of the resources shared can be found at the following link: From this link, I have since set up a free account and have joined a community of special education teachers. I am eager to continue in my efforts to seek out technologies that will benefit my students. At the beginning of this module, the question I raised was:

Can the use of online student portfolios support transition needs for high school students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs)?

I shared that I am interested in finding a method to gather student input throughout the year to address key transition interview questions required for discussion during each of my students’ IEP meetings. Ideally, rather than being located in a teacher’s file, this information should be accessible to the student on an ongoing basis so that they can provide updates upon request or as they choose (for example: a new job, experience, career interest, accomplishment, etc.). I see the need for empowering students to understand their strengths and to develop a way of presenting themselves positively to others both now and in the future.

The section of the ISNT 2 Standard I find most applicable to this focus is: c. Customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources.

Although my high school currently has an online portfolio system available to students through a resource called WOIS, it is not free and is only available as the budget allows. I will continue to investigate the various free online portfolio options to determine which format might be most “student friendly”.

This article discusses the pros and cons of various online portfolios and provides a variety of links to examples, reviews, and even the ISTE standards. One major consideration in addition to whether or not students will continue to have access to the portfolio after graduation, is whether the portfolio is functional in the event they move to another school

In the process of working on module 2 in this online course, as well as preparing my students for wrapping up the end of first semester, I learned something about priorities. The following explanation (perhaps a bit lengthy) is intended to show how sometimes in the midst of our quest for one thing, we find ourselves learning quite another.

Within one of the readings this week, Deepening Connections: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology, the results of a recent PBS study were cited. One of the specific results that stood out to me was that 81% of teachers rated laptops as a “portable technology with the greatest educational impact”. (p. 7). Based on my experience, I must say that I agree with the thought that access to laptops increase flexibility for both teachers and students. Currently, in my setting, the available laptops are in the form of computers on wheels (COWS) which can be checked out by teachers for a given period. As a special education teacher, my classes are generally comprised of only 15 students, so I choose not to check out a COW with 30 laptops, since the COWs are regularly in high demand. An easier solution for me when I am choosing to focus on word processing only, is to use NEO keyboards. Although a rather antiquated technology, I would like to convey how this week, use of this tool served an especially vital role in addressing an individual student’s needs.

Since October, my students have written self-reflections to guiding questions using the NEO keyboards and I have uploaded these into individual templates I created in Word. Often times, I can easily see the changes in how students view their progress, as well as see the development of their writing skills. Although I had high hopes of switching to an online blog format, I chose instead to use the NEOs for the final exam in my Learning Strategies classes. Each student was required to write a self-reflection, elaborating on their performance throughout the semester. One particular student, who had refused to complete any handwritten responses and was also quite reluctant to type any responses early in the term, has become more open to using the NEO. During the final exam last week, all of my students were readily typing their reflections. Unlike when using laptops, there was no time-consuming set up, logging in, or wait time required. Students simply picked up the NEO with the number that had been assigned to them for the term, clicked the power button, and began to type. Even my previously reluctant student showed evidence of being fully engaged in the writing process. As one of my colleagues and I discussed this week in our Google+ threads, “People who would not normally participate in class are more likely to (express thoughts using technology) because they are not actually speaking aloud”.

What I was not prepared for, however, was the content of this student’s written reflection. As I uploaded his final exam from his NEO keyboard to the word document on my laptop, and watched his extensive and articulate writing spill onto the page, I read very angry, hostile, violent, and extremely disturbing words—including his desire to kill and inflict pain—especially to innocent people. Though not directed at anyone in particular (thankfully) the tone and content gave clear evidence of a very troubled young man. Do I believe he would have shared these thoughts verbally? No. Do I think he would have shared them, given only the opportunity to write by hand? No. Do I believe he would have shared these words in a blog that he knew would be read by other students in his class? Probably not. I do believe, however, that he knew I would read this assignment and that somehow he felt “safe” enough to express himself–using a tool that assisted him with his writing disability. Needless to say, I was able to print his reflection and take it directly to my assistant principal so that this situation could be properly addressed.

Indeed, I do believe that technology can assist me in addressing the needs of my individual students—even if the technology is not the newest and best.

#EDTC 6433 #ISTE2    #intervention   #self-reflection   #writing

London Trip Day 4 031


NEO Keyboards

EDSP 6644 Educating Exceptional Students–Artifact # 2


The second artifact I’ve selected for this course is an assignment entitled: Self-Advocacy for Secondary Students: A Literature Review. My choice to expand and elaborate on my peer review topic was primarily due to my high interest in this topic, the need for information, and the fact that I was able to locate a number of very helpful and interesting articles during my original search. The encouraging and surprising conversation this week with a former student from twenty years ago, provided a perfect case-in-point–supporting my desire to promote further education for my students.