Friday, November 30, 2007

Adaptive music tools for people with disabilities; link to assistive technology blog

From eSchool News:

"A program developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) allows students with severe physical disabilities to create music just by moving their heads. A digital video camera tracks the students’ movements on a computer screen and translates them into piano scales or drum beats. The program’s developers hope it will open a whole new world of creativity for physically challenged individuals."

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Brian Friedlander's Assistive Technology blog has a wealth of resources on topics such as
assistive technology, mind mapping, project management, visual learning, collaborative tools, and educational technology. Brian is a school psychologist and assistive technology consultant.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How to use Firefox to access resources offline- copy of post from the Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs Blog

This post is directly from the Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs blog.

Kate, the superwoman behind the Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs blog, works in a school that has limited internet access, and the computer lab is non-accessible. This is a description of how she works around this problem:

How to Access Internet Resources Offline

....."I have an excellent work around for when I want my students to access online content. Here are some instruction on how to do it (for free).

1. If you do not already use the Firefox Internet Browser from Mozilla you will need to switch, at least for this, but it is such an excellent browser I am guessing you will want to switch for everything.

2. Install ScrapBook for Firefox. You can do this by going to the ScrapBook Site and download (you will need to add ScrapBook to the list of allowed sites when asked to). Or you can go to the file bar and go to Tools, then choose Add Ons, then in the lower right corner click Get Extensions. This will open a new web page, in the top middle there is a search bar type in ScrapBook. From the results choose ScrapBook by Gomita. Download, install, restart Firefox (don't worry all of your other open tabs will restart automatically).

3. Go to a website you wish to access off line. For example a favorite story in the The International Children's Digital Library. Choose a page to experiment with and go to your tool bar and choose ScrapBook. Now you have a few choices. The first capture option will allow you to access that page off line.

4. There are much more advanced option for using ScrapBook. For example you can capture and entire Tumblebook or other .swf such as Pass the Ball. In an attempt to not recreate the wheel I will point you to some excellent tutorials to learn how to do these things. First there is the ScrapBook Website and second the printable PDF of the ScrapBook tutorial.

5. If you wish to move your scrapbooked items to another computer put them on a flashdrive and open them on another computer with Firefox and ScrapBook. (You may need to put firefox.exe and the ScrapBook files onto a flashdrive and install them onto the intended computer as well.)"

Thank you, Kate!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

New Technologies: Affective Intelligent Tutoring Systems- Virtual Eve

Imagine a virtual tutor who can recognize when you are confused, frustrated, or simply have no clue about solving a problem or learning a new concept.

In recent years, computer-assisted tutoring systems have been transformed from electronic workbooks to sophisticated applications that harness the power of artificial intelligence in order to provide learning activities that match the specific needs of the individual. These applications, called intelligent tutoring systems, focus on learning objectives that are primarily cognitive in nature, and do not address the reality that learning is a process that occurs within a social, emotional, and motivational context.

Dr. Sarrafzadeh and his research team at Massey University/Auckland Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences, and the University of Canterbury, have been working on the next generation of intelligent tutoring systems, known as affective tutoring systems, use technology to detect emotions, recognize gestures, and interpret and related biological signals from students, in order to individually adapt instruction, via a virtual tutor named Eve.

During the development of this system, researchers used information from observations and videotaped sessions of students and teachers interacting with one-another, in order to model the teaching-learning process in the virtual environment.

Screen shots of Eve, the affective virtual tutor, from the project's website:

Diagram of the system, also from the project's website:

If you are interested in exploring this topic further, here is a sample of articles from the project's list of publications and other listings from the website:

Sarrafzadeh, A., Alexander, S., Dadgostar, F., Fan, C., See Me, Teach Me: Facial Expression and Gesture Recognition for Intelligent Tutoring Systems, International Conference on Innovations in Information Technology, 19-21 November 2006, Dubai, UAE.

Sarrafzadeh, A., Alexander, S., Dadgostar, F., Fan, C., Bigdeli, A., (2007). How do you know that I don't understand?" A look at the future of intelligent tutoring systems. Elsevier Journal- Computers in Human Behavior (in press).

Sarrafzadeh, A., Alexander, S., Dadgostar, F., Fan, C., See Me, Teach Me: Facial Expression and Gesture Recognition for Intelligent Tutoring Systems, International Conference on Innovations in Information Technology, 19-21 November 2006, Dubai, UAE.

Messom, C., Sarrafzadeh, A., Fan, C., Johnson, M., Affective State Estimation from Facial Images using Neural Networks and Fuzzy Logic, to appear in D. Wang (ed.), Neural Networks Applications in Information Technology and Web Engineering, Kota Samarahan, Malaysia: University of Malaysia Sarawak, 2005.

Dadgostar, F., Ryu, H., Sarrafzadeh, A. Overmyer, S. P., Making Sense of Student Use of Nonverbal Cues for Intelligent Tutoring Systems, Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Australian Computer-Human Interaction (OZCHI), 21-25 November 2005, Canberra, Australia.

Related References:

Alexander, S.T.V.: Emulating Human Tutor Empathy, Proceedings of the IIMS Postgraduate Conference, Albany, New Zealand (2004)

Alexander, S.T.V., Hill, S., Sarrafzadeh, A.: How do Human Tutors Adapt to Affective State?, Proceedings of User Modeling, Edinburgh, Scotland (2005)

Beal, C. R., Mitra, S., & Cohen, P. R. (2007). Modeling learning patterns of students with a tutoring system using Hidden Markov Models. In R. Luckin, K. R. Koedinger, & J. Greer (Eds.), Artificial intelligence in education: Building technology rich learning contexts that work, pp. 238-245. Amsterdam: IOS Press.

Abstract: Hidden Markov Models were used to model the actions of high school students who worked with an online tutorial for mathematics. Including a hidden state estimate of learner engagement increased the accuracy and predictive power of the models, within and across tutoring sessions. Groups of students with distinct engagement trajectories were identified and replicated in two independent samples. Finalist for Best Paper Award.

McQuiggan, S.W, & Lester, J.C. Diagnosing Self-Efficacy in Intelligent Tutoring Systems: An Empirical Study.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Games and Learning

Someone recently asked me this question:

"If you look at Sim type games, for example Roller Coaster Tycoon, these are without question games that are filled with lessons and real-world applicable knowledge. Do you think kids go into a game like this knowing they're learning useful skills?"

My response, slightly edited:

I have two young adult daughters, and I'm an aunt - my nieces and nephews ages range from 12 -19. I've watched kids play games for years. From my perspective, the younger kids DO understand that they are learning.

The missing link? Adults who understand what kids are learning, and who also have the means to help mediate this learning in a meaningful way. We don't have many tools to support parents and educators with this task.

That's why I think adults need some brushing up to do. I think all parents and educators need to read a bit of James Gee, Mark Prensky, Henry Jenkins, etc.

Ideally, all games should come with a parent/educator "friendly" set of directions, so that they can understand what the game is about, and also learn how to play it without having to rely so much on the kids.

(This concept is what I call "Guiding the Guider", a concept that applies to a variety of situations, such as the use of technology in the health care fields, including elder care.)

Personally, I'd love it if games came with a "silly adult" mode, sort of like a training mode, but with more information about the deeper structure of the game and the "lessons" that it can teach.

I also think that schools need to spend some time beefing up the curriculum to address the skills students will need in the future, such as multimedia/visual literacy and technology.

Listen to the Natives

James Gee
What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy

Henry Jenkins
Eight Myths about Video Games Debunked

Educational Games Research

Monday, November 12, 2007

Classroom 2.0 - Social Networking and Resources for Educators

Classroom 2.0 is a good resource for educators who would like to keep up with the fast pace of technology. If you work with digital natives, you know how difficult it can be to keep one step ahead of the game! Classroom 2.0 provides forums, Wikkis, and resources on a variety of topics and the content is maintained by members of the network, which at the last count was at 3998.

From the Classroom 2.0 website

"The social network for educators using collaborative technologies!"

"Welcome to, the social networking site for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education. We especially hope that those who are "beginners" will find this a supportive community and a comfortable place to start being part of the digital dialog. Feel free to explore!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A good read, especially if you work with students who have Asperger's syndrome

John Elder Robison's book, Look me in the eye: My life with Asperger's, is an insightful report of "aspergerian" life.

The author is the older brother of Augusten Burroughs, the author of Running with Scissors.

Two other books that provide insight about life on the autism spectrum are Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Version: My Life with Autsim, by Temple Grandin, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime, by Mark Haddon

About Literacy: Children of the Code Website, links

I came across this website today and thought I'd share it- if you are familiar with Children of the Code project, please leave a comment, since I haven't yet explored the entire site.

Childrenof is an on-line multi-media resource that is part of a public/social education project to that aims to spread information and education about "The Code and the Challenge of Learning to Read it"

The project has four main components:
  1. A three hour Public Television, DVD and Web documentary series;
  2. A ten-hour college, university, and professional development DVD series;
  3. A series of teacher and parent presentations and seminars;
  4. A cross-indexed website/database containing audio, video and transcripts with the world's leading experts in fields related to reading.
The website includes over 100 interviews of people from a wide range of disciplines who are committed to promotion of health, education, and well-being of children, youth, and in turn, communities and society.

Here is the project's abstract:

"Abstract: Our children's cognitive and emotional development, self-esteem, academic, and later social and economic success, all depend on how well they learn - on the health of their learning. Whether we are involved in parenting, teaching, cognitive science, psychology, pedagogy, curriculum design, instructional design, direct instruction, constructivism, assessment, multiple intelligences, learning styles, learning differences, learning disabilities, learning theory, learning communities, organizational learning, preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, home school, unschooling, college, university... we all share the responsibility of stewarding the health of our children's learning."

I'd recommend starting with the on-line video tour of the project:

The following is a quote from an interview with David Boulton, the director of the Children of the Code project:

"The mission of the Children of the Code project is to catalyze and resource a transformation in how our society thinks about the "code" of our written language and the "challenges involved in learning to read it.". I think we're living in the "Stone Age of Literacy." Our lack of understanding of what is involved and what is at stake in acquiring literacy is wreaking havoc on the lives of our population, including children"

"..the first think I hope i that it (the project) changes the mental lens through which parents and teachers see struggling learners. I want them to see someone who is struggling as somebody who is struggling with an artificially confusing technology (written language) and somebody who is in significant emotional and cognitive danger.

"What I hope is that people realize that if children and adults struggle too long with the process of acquiring literacy, it can seriously affect how they develop and grow and learn. Struggling to read causes many, many people to grow up feeling ashamed of their mind.."

Here is a list of direct links to many of the interviews you'll find on the site:

Grover (Russ) Whitehurst
Director, Institute of Education Science, U.S. Department of Education
Mel Levine
Author: A Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness & Ready or Not Here Life Comes
Jack Shonkoff

Chair, The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child

James J. Heckman
Nobel Prize Winner in Economic Sciences, Lead Author: The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children
Sally Shaywitz
Neuroscientist, Department of Pediatrics, Yale University, Author: Overcoming Dyslexia
Maryanne Wolf
Director, Center for Reading & Language Research; Professor of Child Development, Tufts University

Nancy Hennessy
President, 2003-2005, International Dyslexia Association
Tim Shanahan
Chair, National Literacy Panel, Member of National Reading Panel (NRP)
Louisa Moats
Reading Scientist, Sopris West - Author: Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling
Reid Lyon
Ex-Branch Chief, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Marilyn Jager Adams
Senior Scientist, Soliloquy Learning, Author: Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print
Edward Kame'enui
Commissioner for Special Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences Director
Keith Stanovich
Chair, Applied Cognitive Science, U. Toronto, Author: Reading Matters: How Reading Engagement Influences Cognition
Todd Risley
Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Alaska, Co-author: Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children
James Wendorf
Executive Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities
Paula Tallal
Board of Governor's Professor of Neuroscience Rutgers University,, Co-Founder, Scientific Learning Corporation
Keith Rayner
Distinguished Professor, University of Massachusetts, Author: Eye Movements in Reading and Information Processing
Rick Lavoie
Learning Disabilities Specialist, Creator: How Difficult Can This Be?: The F.A.T. City Workshop & Last One Picked, First One Picked On: The Social Implications of Learning Disabilities
Richard Allington
Reading Researcher, President, International Reading Association
Richard Venezky
Professor of Educational Studies, Information Sciences & Linguistics, U. Delaware - Author: The Structure of English Orthography & The American Way of Spelling
Sharon Darling
President, National Center for Family Literacy
Kimberly Thompson
Director, Kids Risk Project, Department of Health Policy and Management - Harvard School of Public Health
Robert Sweet
Professional Staff, U.S. House of Representatives - Co-Founder, National Right to Read Foundation
Pat Lindamood & Nanci Bell
Founders of Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes
Carol H. Rasco
President, Reading is Fundamental
Chris Doherty
Ex-Director Reading First, U.S. Department of Education
Sandra Feldman
Past-President, American Federation of Teachers
Robert Wedgeworth
President, ProLiteracy
Lesley M. Morrow
Past-President, International Reading Association
George Farkus
Professor of Sociology, Demography, & Education, Penn State
Susan H. Landry
Director, Center for Improving the Readiness of Children for Learning and Education; Chief, Division of Developmental Pediatrics, University of Texas at Houston
Sarah Greene
Executive Director, National Head Start Association
Peter E. Leone
Director, National Center on Education, Disability & Juvenile Justice
Slyvia O. Richardson
Past President, International Dyslexia Association
Jones Kyazze
Director, UNESCO
Martin Haberman
Distinguished Professor, Depart. of Curriculum & Instruction, UWM - Creator, National Teacher Corp
Donald Nathanson
Professor of Psychiatry & Human Emotion, Jefferson Medical Center, Author: Shame and Pride
Terrence Deacon
Cognitive Anthropologist, Berkeley, Author: The Symbolic Species, The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain
Siegfried Engelmann
Professor of Instructional Research, University of Oregon, Creator of Direct Instruction
Richard Olson
President (2001-2003), Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, Professor, Department of Psychology , University of Colorado
Anne Cunningham
Director, Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education, Berkeley
Steve Reder
Chair, Department of Applied Linguistics, Portland State University
Mike Merzenich
Chair of Otolaryngology, Integrative Neurosciences, UCSF, Member National Academy of Sciences
Patrick Groff
Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University, NRRF Board Member & Senior Advisor
Stephen Krashen
Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Southern California
Johanna Drucker
Chair of Media Studies, University of Virginia, Author: The Alphabetic Labyrinth
Thomas Cable
Professor of English, Co-Author: A History of the English Language
John H. Fisher
Medieval Language Historian, Author: The Emergence of Standard English
Naomi Baron
Linguist, Director TESOL, American University, Author: From Alphabet to Email: How Written English Evolved and Where It's Heading
David Abram
Ecologist and Philosopher, Author: The Spell of the Sensuous
Ray Kurzweil
1999 National Medal of Technology, Inventor of OCR & Speech Recognition
Robert Logan
Professor of Physics, University of Toronto, Author: The Alphabet Effect
Malcolm Richardson
Chair, Department of English, Louisiana State University - Researching: The Textual Awakening of the English Middle Classes, 1380-1520
Bruce Thornton
Greek Historian, Fresno State University, Author: How the Greeks Invented Western Civilization
Frank Moore Cross, Jr.
Professor Emeritus of Hebrew & Other Oriental Languages, Harvard
Leonard Shlain
Historian, Author: The Alphabet vs. the Goddess
Doug Engelbart
2000 National Medal of Technology, Computer & Internet Pioneer, Inventor of the 'Mouse'
...and many others...
(see interview list)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cross post:'s Educational Outreach Program: Multimedia Games, Experiments, and Simulated Environments

From the website:

" has a unique way of introducing the Nobel Prize that goes beyond the mere presentation of facts. These introductions, aptly called 'educational', are made in the form of games, experiments, and simulated environments ready to be explored and discovered. The productions are aimed at the young, particularly the 14-18 age groups, who may know about the Nobel Prizes and the Nobel Laureates, but often lack a deeper understanding about the Nobel Prize-awarded works."

"These educational productions do not require previous knowledge. A central thought or issue is explored during 10-20 minutes of activity, using a specific Nobel Prize-awarded work as a springboard for the whole exercise."

"The productions offer an excellent way of using the Internet for homework, or just plain, wholesome entertainment. The high level of interactivity and the sophisticated illustrations ensure an enriching time spent in front of the computer."


I recently came across the website when I was searching for interactive learning games suitable for use on interactive whiteboards or large touch-screen displays.

For those of you who follow my blog, you'll know that I periodically look for engaging visual and multimedia activities that have potential for use in classrooms where Universal Design for Learning is practiced. Visual and multimedia forms of knowledge representation can help to reach a wide range of people, including those who have reading difficulties, language-based learning disabilities, auditory attention and memory deficits, or have autism spectrum disorders (Asperger syndrome, autism, etc.).

If you are an educator who is interested in using games in your classroom, the resources from are a good start, since background information is provided for each game.