Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Below is the theme song for the new Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). These guidelines were created to explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities.

Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make Web content more usable to users in general.

Please follow the link above to the web content accessibility guidelines to learn more about how to make your web content accessible to all. I'm not sure about where I learned about the WCAG, but I'm thankful that I did. It is an important document to pass on.

Accessibility consultant David MacDonald wrote and produced this video.

Instrument Evaluation: Do You Toobaloo?

The Toobaloo is a telephone like instrument that a student talks into. It allows the learner to hear how they sound as a reader even when they whisper.
During snack time I observed a 5th grade student using this tool. He whispered a whole page of novel to himself during this busy break in the day and then answered questions about the page.

From my perspective the student appeared to be focused while using the Toobaloo, since his attention was on the page in front of him rather than the other students buzzing around the room.

When I interviewed the student he said, "The tool helped me listen to how I sound while I read. Since I didn't have to listen to anyone around me, I could focus more."

In my opinion, there are benefits to using this instrument in a busy inclusion classroom with 24 students. Even in a busy room, a student can tune out the other noises in the room by reading or speaking into the Toobaloo even at a whisper. Doing this allows the child to hear them self read. With direct instruction in fluency skills, a child can easily recognize how their speaking should be fluid and not stilted. Using this tool allows the student to determine how they want to sound when they're are reading aloud or speaking. This tool could be easily used in speech/language related service instruction as well.

The only problem I found with the Toobaloo is that it only uses one ear and it does not have a hands free device. Yet despite these limitations, my experience with the Toobaloo has been nothing but positive. As a Local Assistive Technology Specialist candidate I would consider recommending or using this tool with students that have speech/language difficulties, fluency deficits, comprehension issues or attentional delays.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Digital Storytelling as a Deep Learning Tool - Salon Response II

The article "Researching and Evaluating Digital Storytelling as a Deep Learning Tool" by Helen C. Barrett provides the fuel for a round table discussion or blog discussion among educators about using digital storytelling with K-12 students and beyond. The framework of this specific article is based on some proposed digital storytelling rubrics, guided questions about digital storytelling for the discussion participants and resources for the digital storytelling natives. The premise is this: "If Digital Storytelling is to become accepted in today’s schools, it will be important to collect data to be able to draw conclusions about the impact that the process has on student learning, motivation and engagement and how teaching practices and strategies change with technology integration through digital storytelling."

Based on the article by Barrett, "Digital Storytelling facilitates the convergence of four student-centered learning strategies: student engagement, reflection for deep learning, project based learning, and the effective integration of technology into instruction."

While digital storytelling is fun, engaging and powerful in the eyes of students and teachers, data is going to be detrimental to administrators in order to rationalize the money that will be needed to fund the staff development and technology tool costs associated with digital storytelling in schools. Data is also detrimental to the persuasion tactics that some administrators and staff developers will need to engage unwilling educators to participate in the digital storytelling revolution.

Since the advent of digital cameras, video cameras and cell phones with camera/film capabilities, digital storytelling has become an easy new learning tool for willing teachers and students across all grade levels. Applications like PhotoStory, MovieMaker and Frames have to be purchased, but there are also free online story telling tools such as VoiceThread, Xtranormal, Animoto and Mixbook.

Teachers that are interested in learning more about digital storytelling should start by visiting the Center for Digital Storytelling. The Center for Digital Storytelling assists educators around the world in using digital media to share, record and value the stories of their lives. It is the goal of the center to promote artistic expression, health and well-being, and justice. Other resources for digital storytelling include Alan Levine's CogDogRoo site: 50+ Ways to Tell a Digital Story, as well as
Silvia Tolisano's Langwitches' Blog Post on Digital Storying. Larry Ferlazzo also has a great post on the Best Digital Storytelling Resources on his Website of the Day Blog.

Personally, I love using digital storytelling with my students. Most recently we finished a storytelling unit on Tall Tales where groups of students were given the task of retelling and elaborating on an assigned Tall Tale story. The video below was
inspired by Lee LeFever and Common Craft videos and it was created using a Flip Camera and edited within MovieMaker.

While my students were provided with a very specific rubric at the beginning of this particular Tall Tale assignment, I know that this type of assessment does not indicate or document the
impact that the digital storytelling process has on student learning, motivation and engagement, nor does it show how teaching practices and strategies change with technology integration.

I will say, however, that there has been an improvement in the quality of student work since we began introducing this year's class to digital storying this past September. While the visually appealing end result is engaging to on-lookers, there was a lot of note-taking, research, reading, writing, editing and digital literacy skills that are involved in digital storytelling. These are the same skills involved in writing essays and reports, but from my perspective: digital storytelling is so much cooler in the eyes of a child.

If you haven't tried using any of these digital storytelling tools with your students, I would hope you would make the effort to try. While you might not
officially collect data on the impact digital storytelling has on student learning, motivation and engagement, you'd give yourself the opportunity to practice with the tools and the strategies that would make digital storytelling successful for you.

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try." ~Anonymous