Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kids with Autism DO grow up! Learn more about Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism

"On July 15, 2010, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism hosted a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. that brought together federal legislators, national policymakers and advocates for adults with autism -- including individuals who have autism -- to discuss priorities for action in the public and private sectors that address the increasing and unmet demand for effective services for adolescents and adults with the disorder."

Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism Congressional Briefing Videos

Must-reads about what needs to take place within our communities to prepare for the rising number of young people with autism who are approaching their young adult years!
Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism 2009 Think Tank Report (pdf)
Executive Summary of the AFAA National Town Hall Meeting (pdf) 11/13/2009

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Digital Storytelling Resources: Make Me a Story (Lisa C. Miller)

When I first became involved with digital storytelling, there were very few resources around.  I'm  updating my resources and as I go through this process, I'd like to share some of my newest finds.  Lisa Miller's Make Me a Story: Teaching Writing through Digital Storytelling is a good reference for people working with K-5 students who want to support writing in a way that is meaningful to young people. This is especially important, since most children entering the fifth grade this school year were born in 2000, and their "formative years" have been influenced by the explosion of digital technologies.

Make Me a Story
Make Me a Story

Podcast:  Lisa Miller on Digital Storytelling

Sunday, September 19, 2010

EduTech: ClassDroid, Collaborative PrimaryPad, Android Apps - Lots of Possibilities!

ClassDroid is an application designed for Android-based smartphones. It lets you take a picture of the student's work, or of the student, or anything else,  and instantly upload it to the student's on-line portfolio. 

ClassDroid is available for free from the Android Market. According to Johnny McClear, the app "supports images being stored on the wordpress site which can be accessed through a web browser on any web-enabled device. Parents and pupils can then view their work and grades online."

Here is a demo video:

PrimaryPad is a "web-based word processer designed for schools that allows pupils and teachers to work together in real time"

Primarypad - Etherpad Guide from ian addison on Vimeo.

PrimaryPad is a clone of EtherPad, a web-based collaborative word processor application that is now part of Google.  It is similar to PiratePad, which is powered by EtherPad. The EtherPad code is open source and can be found at   Additional information can be found at

Exciting Ways to Use Primary Pad in the Classroom 
Primary Paint goes public Beta! (Primary Paint is part of Primary Pad, I think.)

John McLear's School Technology
Top 10 Google Android Apps for School #education (John McLear)
Richard Byrne's blog: Free Technology for Teachers

(Cross-posted on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Laying the Groundwork for Interactive Video Activities for Students with Special Needs: Community Places Road Trip

Followers of this blog know that I've been experimenting with videos set to calming music for teachers to use with students who have significant special needs, including severe autism.  

One of the schools I serve as a school psychologist has interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in every classroom, including the room that I use with students.   Since most of our IWBs are new SMARTboards that provide good screen resolution and a decent sound system,  I use high-definition video for my projects.

Many of the students are learning about the community- community places, community and safety/road signs, community workers, community helpers, and so forth.    On a recent weekend afternoon, I went for a ride with my husband in his convertible car, with the top down, around part of the countryside of Union County, NC, and then up and down the main drag, I-74, between Indian Trail and Monroe.   I was able to capture just about every sign we passed.   I edited the video to about 12 minutes.  I used more upbeat music for this video, selected from the collection in iMovie.   

The video, as it stands, can be used on an IWB, and stopped at any point for a discussion about the scene.  I was amazed that the students paid attention to the entire clip.  They especially enjoyed it when I stopped the video at a scene of about a dozen shiny new trucks - we counted all of the trucks.  This particular class has a field trip planned to visit Target soon, so we stopped the clip to look at Target.

My plan is to transform this video (or a similar clip) into an interactive video, and create hot spots that students can touch to obtain additional information or activities that tie into various scenes.

For now, "low tech" activities will be OK. One idea I had was to provide the students pictures of the various signs in the video, and have them go on a virtual treasure hunt.  One student could be in control of the video and stop it when requested by another student who "spies" the sign.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Link - Autism Research: For Measuring And Analyzing Child Behavior, NSF Awards $10M To Develop Computing Techniques (Georgia Tech)

Autism Research: For Measuring And Analyzing Child Behavior, NSF Awards $10M To Develop Computing Techniques

"A team led by the Georgia Institute of Technology has received a $10 million "Expeditions in Computing" award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop novel computing techniques for measuring and analyzing the behavior of children."

"These technologies will be used to enable new approaches for identifying children at risk for autism and other developmental delays. In addition, these methods may potentially improve the delivery and evaluation of treatment."

Information below was taken from the Georgia Tech Autism Research Group website:
Dr. Gregory AbowdFull, Distinguished Professor
Dr. Thad StarnerAssociate Professor
Dr. Jim RehgAssociate Professor
Dr. Rosa ArriagaSenior Research Scientist


Tracy WesteynPh.D. StudentEarly Detection via Smart Toys, Wearable sensors
Ping WangPh.D. StudentEarly Detection via Computer Vision
Maithilee KundaPh.D. StudentCognitive Modeling of Autism
NazneenPh.D. StudentSenseCam
Fatima BoujarwahPh.D. StudentRefl-ex-Teaching Social Problem Solving
Yi HonMasters StudentSenseCam
Hyorim ParkMasters StudentEarly Detection
Aaron BozorgMasters StudentSupporting Data Collection in Special Education settings
Sudarsun KannanMasters StudentRapidABC
Hwajung HongMasters StudentRefl-ex Teaching Social Problem Solving

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Link: Mobile Learning in the UK: MoLeNET Research Article "Modernizing Education and Training: Mobilizing Technology for Learning"

I've been following the research about learning and mobile/handheld devices since 2003,  and can now say with confidence that the era of mobile learning has arrived.   Netbooks, smartphones, e-readers, and iPads are in the hands of people of all ages, and more people are spending time learning "on-the-go" - for informal learning as well as learning that is attached to a formal course of study.

Thanks to the hard work of researchers around the world, there is a growing body of scholarly research that supports this trend.  The following article, published this year (2010), focuses on research in the UK, but is worth reviewing by educators (and learners) in the US and other countries:


Authors: Jill Attewell, Carol Savill-Smith, Rebecca Douch, Guy Parker
Mobile Learning (MoLENET) Program

"In recent years there have been amazing advances in consumer technology. The Mobile Learning Network (MoLeNET) initiative has enabled colleges and schools to harness some of this technology in order to modernise aspects of teaching, learning and training. The result has been improvements in learner engagement, retention, achievement and satisfaction. This publication draws on the experiences of the 11,253 learners and 2261 teachers involved in the 2nd year of MoLeNET. It also reports the findings of research which sought evidence of the impact of introducing handheld and wireless technologies for learning. This evidence has been collected and analysed by LSN Technology Enhanced Learning Research Centre researchers and by practitioner researchers trained and supported by LSN. The handheld technologies used by MoLeNET 2 learners included mobile phones, MP3/MP4 players (e.g. iPods), iPod Touch, netbooks, gaming devices (i.e. Nintendo DS and Sony PSP) and various tiny cameras and specialist scientific technologies. 

Positive reactions from practitioners include one teacher commenting that the introduction of mobile technology has had more impact on their teaching than anything else in the last 10 years adding 'there is no doubt that mobile technology has a place in the classroom'. Another reported that 'learners in outreach centres or work-based environments felt better supported' and a senior manager told researchers 'it has transformed teaching and learning in some areas. It's opened up a world of new possibilities'."

Jill Attwell is the Research Manager and Carol Savill-Smith is the Development Officer at the Research Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning  Both have been involved in research about mobile learning for many years. Below are a few links to some of their previous work:

The use of computer and video games for learning – a review of the literature for the m-learning project.  Carol Savill-Smith, Alice Mitchell, published in September 2004

Learning with Mobile Devices   Papers from the MLEARN 2003 conference, Carol Savill-Smith Jill Attewell, published in May 2004

The use of palmtop computers for learning – a review of the literature for the m-learning project.  Carol Savill-Smith, Phillip Kent, published in August 2003

Computer games and simulations for adult learning – case studies from practice, Carol Savill-Smith,  Sara de Freitas and Jill Attewell, published in December 2006.

Universities and Libraries Move to the Mobile Web  
Alan W. Aldrich, Educause

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

iPad Apps: Supporting Communication for Young People with Autism (& Links to Moms with Apps)

Have you ever watched a kid pick up an iPad for the first time and just go with it? 

Some parents have found that the same is true for their of children who have autism.  The  iPad is a great way to support learning and communication in that it is user-friendly and easy for children- and parents- to understand. 

Here are two videos that were shared with my by Liz Ditz,  author of the "I Speak of Dreams" blog.  The first video is of a boy with autism. The second video is of his little sister, interacting with the iPad to watch a "home-made" social story about a family trip to a coffee shop, created in the "Stories to Learn" app.

iPAD Spelling App


"Another too-cool app for his iPad, this one all about writing as well as spelling ( For each letter in the word, the app says the letter, has him trace it in super-easy guided steps, and his written letter replaces the original letter in the word (at top of screen). When he finishes, the word appears in his handwriting. The program then spells it and pronounces it, displays a kid's illustration of the word -- and Leo gets to shake the original letters into a hole in the corner of the screen. LOVE IT."


"Our family (and a friend) worked together to make this social story about visiting our local coffee shop for my son with autism. We used Stories2Learn (, on our iPad. It was so easy! And he loves it. In fact he loves it so much I had to have his sister demo it, as he loves to play the voiceovers over and over again. :)"

Moms with Apps
Moms with Apps for Special Needs
Moms with Apps:  Characteristics of great apps for kids with autism

Posts on the I Speak of Dreams blog:

Cross-posted on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Accessible Instructional Materials: Exploring the On-line AIM Navigator and Universal Design for Learning Resources

The National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials at Cast has an on-line interactive program for IEP teams to use when planning for students who require accessible instructional materials.  Here's the description from the AIM Navigator website:

"The AIM Navigator is a process facilitator that guides the work of a collaborative team as they work through the AIM-related needs of individual students. It is not a screening or diagnostic tool. The Navigator consists of a series of guiding questions to assist teams with decision-making about need, selection, acquisition, and use of accessible instructional materials. Learning supports for completing each decision-making step are available throughout....As a team works through the decision-making process, the Navigator collects the decisions made along with any notes entered into text boxes at each point. All are included in a summary that can be viewed at any time, saved to a local computer, or printed."

"Today's methods are hands-on, interactive, engaging, so hopefully by doing that and having them (the students) actually doing something, instead of reading about sugar molecules, we're going to demonstrate it in a different way."  (Discussion about a UDL science lesson)

David Rose on Implementing Universal Design for Learning

National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials
National Center on Universal Design for Learning
Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age:  Universal Design for Learning
(On-line interactive version of the 2002 book of the same name.  Still very good!)
Universal Design for Learning Research
UDL in Detail:  UDL Guideline - Version 1.0

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Autism Every Day: Take 7 minutes and watch this video! Update- read the comments about the controversy this video generated...


The "Autism Every Day" video came to my attention from a parent of a young adult with severe autism who also works as an advocate. The video was also shared by a director of an advocacy/support agency who previously worked with students with severe autism and cognitive delays as a special educator.

After I posted this video, I received a comment from Liz Ditz about the controversy that this video generated within the autism community. Part of the problem is that the video did not depict any positive scenes. For example, if the purpose of the video's creators was to generate awareness of the needs of families raising children with autism, it might have been useful to devote some time showing families who experienced positive outcomes and specific examples of the supports have been put into place.

My deep concern is that in my state (and others),  funding was significantly cut for community support services for young people with severe autism, as well as for young people with severe psychiatric disorders, as well as their families. Special education funds were cut, and we have been prepared to expect a "funding cliff" at the end of the 2010-11 school year.  Related services providers in the schools, such as speech/language therapists and occupational therapists have larger caseloads than in the past, and in some cases, are not replaced if they move.

Below are my original comments, written in an attempt to bring awareness that our schools, community support agencies, and health care systems need to provide more supports for the growing number of children, teens, and young adults with autism spectrum disorders and their families.

The children with autism in this video are young, and in no time will reach their teen and young adult years. I work with teens and young adults with severe autism in my job as a school psychologist. We need to prepare our middle and high schools for the increased numbers of young people coming through the doors.

If you know of a similar video that targets the needs of teens and young adults with autism, please let me know, and I will share it on this blog and my on-line social networks. I would be willing to help produce a similar video locally, with the cooperation of parents, if one has not yet been produced.

Note: This video will include positive vignettes!