Great Workshop Day! Part 1

On Monday, I had a chance to work with a group of Occupational Therapists at Pediatric Potentials of West Essex, LLC in Livingston , NJ. I have worked with Laurice Kalb, OT, and Owner and Director of Pediatric Potentials for over 10 years and consulted to her in developing Computer Campus, a division of her occupational practice that is dedicated to helping students with learning differences to maximize their potential using the computer. At Computer Campus, students can learn to type and use a wide array of different technologies that can help support their learning in the classroom. It has been awhile since I had visited her center and worked with her wonderful group of occupational therapists to show them the latest and greatest technologies.

I was able to start the day talking about trends that I see when looking at the intersection of special education and educational technology and we spoke about the impact of Universal Design for Learning, Web 2.0, and Cloud Computing to get the day going on the right track. Introducing them to the world of Google Docs was a real eye opener for them and you could see the wheels were turning as to how they could incorporate these tools in their practice. The rest of the day was dedicated to showing them so new and exciting technologies that I have been exploring and talking about its application in the classroom.

The group was very interested in taking a look at how they could use the Livescribe Smartpens in their practice to teach students how to take notes. I did a demo of the Echo Smartpen and described the various ways it could be used not only for taking notes but as a tool to support students who may need some audio supports for learning and for taking tests. In the first scenario I printed a map with the counties of New Jersey directly onto the dot paper and then simply added some dots. Once the dots were added I hit the Record button and then recorded some facts about the counties. This really brings the page to life and can be a wonderful support for students who learn best by providing them with this type of material. In the second scenario, I showed them how they could cut up the dot paper and place a small audio dot on the page next to a test question and record the question so that a student with a reading disability could access the test independently. When you think how huge that is both for schools and for the student you can begin to see the value that tools like the Echo Smartpen can bring to the classroom. With a little creativity and imagination the Livescribe Echo Smartpen can provide a student with a wide range of supports in their learning and that's even before you think about pencasts!

Exploring ways that teachers and therapists in the practice could use the Echo Smartpen to create pencasts was just another seed that I know will germinate with them. I had a chance to demo how to share a pencast by uploading it online and how to acquire the link or embed code to place it on their website. The therapists in the room with intrigued with the idea of pancasts and how they could use it to help demonstrate ideas and concepts. I closed by showing them how to use the MyScript Handwriting Recognition plug-in to turn their handwritten work to editable text in Microsoft Word. To say the least it was very exciting to experience all the energy and interest in what I was demonstrating.

In part two of the blog post I will talk about the rest of the day and how we explored the Apple iPad and got reacquainted with the NEO 2 from Renaissance Learning. Wow we did cover a lot of ground. To be continued........

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