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Online Resources Provided by the US Department of Education (Part 2)

In my previous post I wrote about Tech Matrix, an online database of technology resources for teachers to help in educating special education students.  This was one of three Department of Education organizations that I recently found while searching online.


Today’s post is about another Department of Education organization that I found was very helpful for learning about technology for special needs student: The National Center for Technology Innovation.  This site is directed more toward researchers and companies that make assistive technology, however, as a teacher, I found the information useful to keep up-to-date on the cutting edge research in special education and assistive technology.

Technology Innovators Conference

This organization will be holding an intriguing conference in Washington D.C. in the middle of November called the Technology Innovators Conference.  This conference is based upon  research grants that are applied for the prior year for their program called Tech in the Works.  The research on the chosen topics is then completed, and then the researchers share their findings at the conference.  Resources of past conferences including online video and presentations can also be found online.  This is a great resource to learn about the top research topics in this field.

Other Resources & Articles

Under their Products Link in a Section called Yellow Pages, I found a resource where teachers can find funding for assistive technology for the classroom.  You can also search  people, research projects, and vendors through this feature.

Relevant articles can be found through the Case Studies, Publications, and Innovator Profiles links.  Topics include speech technology, the future of assistive technology, assistive tech products put to the test, and using technology to empower students.  Many of these articles revolve around various products and technology programs that are on the market for special needs individuals.  This information can be very helpful when comparing various technologies that you may want to implement into your classroom.

Top Tech Trends for Special Education

The trends section of this website aggregates information from the top online resources including blogs, journals, magazines, and newspapers.  This information is then represented using a word cloud.  The links of words that are the largest are the ones that are the most written about topics in the trends today.  Selecting on the links will bring you to pages of articles and resources about this topic.  Below, topics can also be chosen based on pre-set categories of interest.  One cloud link that I found interesting and current was about portable technology.  Many of the articles are about the iPad, e-books, and cell phones and how they are helping individuals with disabilities to communicate.

Overall, this is a great website for special education teachers (and students who are studying to become special education teachers) to find information about current trends in special education technology and the research of the future.  The articles I found were intriguing and make me to read and learn more.

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By ~Brenda-Starr~

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Online Resources Provided by the US Department of Education

The United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs has three programs that are great resources for special education teachers, administrators, and technology coordinators:  Tech Matrix, The National Center for Technology Innovation, and The Center for Implementing Technology in Education.  Their companion websites have research-based articles, professional development resources, specialized searches, assistive technology reviews, articles, and events information related to technology and special education.


Today’s post will include information about Tech Matrix.  Please come back over the next two weeks to learn more about The National Center for Technology Innovation and The Center for Implementing Technology in Education.

Tech Matrix

Tech Matrix is a free online database for teachers and parents to use to find research-based articles, professional development resources, specialized searches, and assistive technology options from various private and public online resources.  This site aggregates the “best-of-the-best” resources available for learning and implementing strategies for special education.  Tech Matrix helps to simplify the search of information in regards to special education.  Tech Matrix is created and maintained by The National Center for Technology Innovation and the Center for Implementing Technology in Education.

There are several different ways to search for resources and research through Tech Matrix.  There is a search option if you know what information you are looking for, and there are three general topic areas.

The first one is the Consumer Guides section.  This section helps to connect education administrators and assistive technology companies in building relationships and making technology decisions for special education students.  This PDF document includes information on funding, standard alignment, and implementation in an easy to read format.

The second section in Tech Matrix is the EdTech Locator.  This portion of the website allows teachers, administrators, and tech coordinators to see where they stand on integration of technology in the classroom.  This would be a great resource for a professional development course.  The user takes a short quiz to see where they stand and the program has tree targets – early, developing, and target integration of technology.  This site can help teachers to reach the goals of integrating technology in the classroom without feeling overwhelming and making sure that the technology integration is meaningful and helping the students achieve their academic goals.

The third section in Tech Matrix is the Hot Topics section.   This section includes the information from the content subject areas.  This is the most helpful section for the tech-savvy instructor who wants to learn more about technology integration in the classroom with special needs students.  Topics include reading, science, math, and writing for struggling readers along with differentiating instruction, technology integrating and transitioning with technology.  When you select on one of these topics you will find information related to the topic including relevant research papers, links to other online resources that answer hot topic questions, and technology product reviews.  Many of the resources are pulled from, a PBS national education service.

Don’t hesitate to take a look at the Tech Matrix pages above and leave a comment about the resources that you found the most helpful.

Article By Laura Ketchum

Picture By Ranoush

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Back to School Technology Mashup

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, almost all of the schools around the country are open for learning!  Enjoy these technology sites and ideas for incorporation into all levels of classrooms this fall.



Blabberize is a free web 2.0 tool where students, or the teacher, can upload  a person or animal photo, add audio, and animate the mouth so that the person or animal is speaking the audio you uploaded.   Implementing a project using this site would be a great activity for students to complete when learning about the history of famous individuals, or when learning facts about animals. Teachers can also search for already created blabberized photographs to share in class as a fun activity or opening activity for a chapter or lesson.


Thinkfinity is a website that provides a wide variety of free online resources that are frequently updated by various organizations including Verizon Foundation.  They have lesson plans for grades K-12 for many different subject areas including the core subjects along with economics, literature, geography, and art.  They also have an interactive games and tools section where students can go on the computer and develop creative projects including interactive dictionaries, post cards, maps, and graphs.  These activities provide great guidelines on how to implement them into your classroom along with the information for appropriate grade levels.  Another great feature on this site is the “Today in History” section.  This would be great to start off a history lesson in class every day with the fact and a critical question relating to the fact of the day.  Teachers of all subjects, grade levels, and ability levels should definitely check this site out.


Exploreatree is another free web 2.0 resource.  On this site, students can create, save, and print, a wide selection of graphic organizers.  This site has very simple and very complex graphic organizers appropriate for many different classes and levels including math, science, and language arts for all grade levels.  Students, or teachers, can even start with a blank template and create their own graphic organizer for a specific lesson.  After creating a graphic organizer, you can even upload it to their database of graphic organizers and share it with other users.

PSB Kids Design Squad – Designit Buildit Fidgit

Design Squad is a science, math, technology, and engineering television show where teens compete in making machines to try to win a college scholarship on PBS Kids.   They have a companion website for the television show.  Designit Buildit Fidgit is an online logic game that student can play on a computer during technology centers or as an activity for when they complete assignments early.  The goal of the game is for the students to solve various puzzles including shapes that can be rotated for flipped to save the ‘fidgits’ by getting them back into their box.   Students can play levels that other students have created and once familiar with the game, they can actually create their own level to challenge other students.  There are also several other games related to the Design Squad show that can also be accessed via the Fidgit site.

These are great free online resources for creative projects and lessons in your classroom for the beginning of the school year.  If you have any ideas of other great free sites, please feel free to leave a comment!

– Article By Laura Ketcham

– Picture By San Jose Library

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Behavior Management Tips & Tricks for ADD & ADHD Students

Students with ADD and ADHD have difficulty focusing and concentrating in class.  In the inclusion setting, these difficulties can be displayed via various attention seeking behaviors including calling out in class and other disruptive behaviors that affect the learning environment of all students.  Typical behavior management techniques like rewards, redirection, and providing explicit instruction do not always resolve the issue, especially for tweens and teens.  Creative management techniques may be the answer.


Be Consistent

Students with ADD or ADHD do benefit from a structured environment.  In a structured environment, the students should be provided not only explicit directions, but also have the behavior and academic expectations modeled to them on a consistent basis.  The teacher needs to be consistent with praise, punishment, and upholding high standards both academically and behaviorally.  Both praise and consequences should be given immediately.  This way, the student can attach the feedback to the action.   When administering consequences, be aware of how the student may feel if they are singled out in the classroom.  If the student is sensitive, consequences should be handled in a manner to make the student not retract or feel defensive.

Creative Positive Reinforcement

Creative positive reinforcement techniques must be used with tweens and teens.  Typically, behavior charts and prizes are not the reinforcement they are looking for the most.  However, I have had a good response with verbal and written praise.  I have had many students with ADHD want to have a daily update on “how did I do” or “did I do better today”.  I will respond with explicitly what was good or bad.  For example, “I liked how you raised your had today every time you had a question” or “tomorrow, I’d like you to spend 5 minutes (with a timer) working on your worksheet in class.”  Being specific will help the child to know specifically what to work on and what they did well.

Incorporating Technology

Teens and tweens are highly motivated by the use of technology.  Using technology in your behavior management strategy with students with ADD or ADHD can help you to provide consistency and reinforcement.  One way to do this would be to have the student create a Google Calendar.  This calendar can be shared between the teachers, parent, and student.  The student can update the calendar with information about homework, projects, and assessments.  They can also create an area that can be updated with a reflection on how the student felt the class or day went.  Teachers can then read and also add or post information about the behavior and academic goals for the student.  This type of strategy will also help for parent communication and can be integrated to be used through a cell phone or other cell applications.

Teachers and students could also use one of the many online point and reward sites.  These sites allow teachers (or parents) to track student behavior.  Once students reach a certain goal, they will earn various rewards or incentives that can be setup by the teacher.  One free site that is specifically designed for the classroom is KidsPoints.  On this site, a teacher can add all of their students into the program.  Each student would have a login and password.  The teacher then will add or remove points based on a set of criteria.  Once the student earns the required amount of points for the reward, they then can redeem it with the teacher.

Every student will need different modifications to help them to be successful both academically and behaviorally.  Trying out some of these creative techniques may be the key to a successful year in your classroom and help those students with ADD and ADHD be successful as well.

Online Resources for Teachers

  1. Online Stopwatch (helps to time activities, quiet time, and attention lengths)
  2. KidsPoints (online reward tracking system)
  3. Positive Reinforcement Checklist

Article By: Laura Ketcham

Picture By:telekommunist

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Stand Among Friends – Special Needs Assistance

Last week I visited a local non-profit organization, Stand Among Friends, that assists college students and adults with special needs.  This organization was formed to help individuals with disabilities by developing and opening a universally accessible computer lab facility at the Florida Atlantic University main campus in Boca Raton, Florida, along with providing employment matching services and workplace accessibility evaluations.  They also produce a TV show called “Life Without Limits” that airs in Palm Beach County Florida and is available online.   I was very excited to see the number of great services and high-tech resources that Stand Among Friends provides to the local community with disabilities.

stand among friends

Computer Lab

I was given a tour of their computer lab facility by Charmine, the Administration & Events Coordinator of Stand Among Friends.  She walked me through the various different computers and technologies available for use by individuals with disabilities at the computer lab.  Many of the different technologies that they have at their lab are technologies that I have written about in my previous blog posts!  It was great to see them being utilized for learning by individuals with disabilities.  Here is a list of the technologies they use at their high-tech lab at Stand Among Friends:

  1. Jouse 2: joystick mouse operated with the mouth and puffs of breath
  2. Smart Nav: mouse controlled by a head tracking system (web cam and sticker attached to head)
  3. Hydraulic adjustable height desks: provides access individuals to use computer stations at a varying level of heights for accessibility by wheel chairs or for individuals to stand at computer desk
  4. Adjustable height chairs (ability to go much higher or lower than the traditional desk chair)
  5. Keyguard – keyboard overlays to separate keyboard keys – especially helpful for individuals with tremors
  6. Frog Pad – 1 handed keyboard
  7. Dragon Naturally Speaking – speech to text software
  8. Large Screen Monitors – 42” flat screen HDTV hooked in as a monitor for a computer
  9. Large Keys – large print keyboards with high contrast yellow and black coloring
  10. ZoomText – screen magnifier
  11. JAWS – screen reading software
  12. Kurzweii – software where scanned text can be read aloud including text highlighting

The individuals with disability who utilize the lab use it for educational advancement and employment opportunities.  They have a helpful staff that can assist the users with building a resume, developing work skills, or learning the technology that can help them to be more independent.

Employment Services

The Employment services program at Stand Among Friends includes many different facets.  Individuals in the local community who have disabilities can come to their facility to speak with a representative to sign up for their employment matching program.  The program attempts to match the individual, based on their qualifications, with an employer.  Many of the connections are made through a database that has been developed by Stand Among Friends.  If a match is made, the employer will be educated on the needs of the individual.  This can include helping the employer to provide an appropriate work area (ability to navigate and use technology), provide them with the assessment of the employee and what technology they will need to complete the job, or with technology the employee may need for a work at home employment opportunity.  Stand Among Friends will also help in the completion of any government paperwork that needs to be completed for accessibility to needed assistive technology and accommodations for the employee.

Areas of Need

One area of need for Stand Among Friends is the need for reliable transportation to and from their facilities at FAU.   There are county and university bus routes that service the area, but there can be a long wait time for transitions from one bus to the next without a covered waiting area.  Sometimes the participants of the program will walk or transport in their wheel chairs over a mile from the bus stop to the facility.  This is especially difficult for the blind individuals they service along with those who do not have electric wheel chairs.  They would like to be able to provide reliable, efficient, and handicap accessible transportation for individuals to come to use their high-tech computer lab to help prepare and assist them in finding employment.

There are also several participants of the lab and employment program that could benefit from the donation of reliable mechanical wheelchairs.  This would help them to become more independent in everyday activities including visiting the lab and finding employment.

If you would like to make a donation to Stand Among Friends, would like to learn more about their programs and events, check out their website at Stand Among Friends.

-Article By: Laura Ketcham

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The Winning Vote – Special Needs Vocabulary Words

Politics and the government are definitely important issue that all citizens of this country should be aware of. From local to national elections, topics of voting and these authority figures usually come up in everyday conversation. For students with special needs, these topics can sometimes be more difficult to understand and learn. These terms that help people both conduct and participate in an election can help students understand the process and participate in it. MangoMon offers both vocational and occupational flashcards that help these students learn such important information, like voting terms.




Voting terms are so important to teach because they involve events that most people do every year. From electing a class president to casting a ballot for the local mayor, these terms are very influential. Each term included in the set has the word, picture, audio pronunciation and sample sentences.

These terms are great for helping students learn the terms that are beneficial to any election, no matter how big or small. There are ten vocabulary terms in this set. Words like ballot, candidate and President are some examples of a few of the words in this set.

Special needs students as well as English language learners will benefit from the flashcards because they have the ability to both hear and see the words. The pictures allow them to link words with meanings and form mental images of what each one means. Arrow keys enable students to review and practice the terms on an as-needed basis.

Interactive flashcards like these offer a different way for students to practice important terms. Combining technology with vocabulary lessons will not only help students in the classroom, but they will be prepared for their future.

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Summer Resource “Mashup” – Technology for Education

There are a lot of resources that I have come across this summer that don’t fit one particular theme or concentration of subject.  I have been thinking about how to make these various resources meld together into creating a cohesive blog post, however what I’ve come down to was spurred the music mashups created by the hit television show Glee.  A music mashup is a combination of portions of songs meshed together to create one song.  So here is my variation of a mashup that I am going to call a resource mashup:  various sites and resources, not necessarily related, all combined together to make one informative post.  These various links include technology resources for summer viewing for all types of teachers — elementary, special needs, science, math, social studies, or language arts.

technology for teachers

Free Technology 4 Teachers

Free Technology 4 Teachers is an award winning blog that is maintained by Richard Bryne about technology tools for teachers.  His most recent posts include a link to Edutopia’s summer rejuvenation guide for teachers and also has several “e-books” that he wrote about teaching teachers how to use the free tools from Google.  His posts include various grade levels and subject areas and this would be a great all-around resource for incorporating technology in the classroom.

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Twitter

Kathy Schrock is a Discovery Educator and prominent technology figure for education.  Her ISTE presentation given last week was about incorporating Twitter into your PLN.  Her easy to follow presentation, resources, and links will give any educator a head start to using Twitter.

Combination Search Engines

Do you use Google, Bing, or Wolfram Alpha to complete your Internet searching needs?  Why not use them in combination at the same time!  Goofram combines Google & Wolfram Alpha.  You type in your search and on the left-hand side of the screen you find the Google results and on the right-hand side of the screen you find the Wolfram Alpha results.  Bingle is very similar.  On the left-hand side of the screen you will find the Bing results and on the right-hand side of the screen you will find the Google results of your search.  These are great tools for you to use when planning a lesson and for your students to use when researching for class assignments and papers.

Rushton Hurley’s Online Materials

I heard Rushton Hurley speak at the Florida Educational Technology Conference this past January.  He is a very engaging and energetic speaker with a well-rounded education-related background along with teaching and administrative experiences.  He covered many topics in his presentations including free online tools for educators and video projects for the classrooms.  He always puts his presentations up online to share with audiences beyond the attendees of his presentations at various conferences.   He also sends out a monthly newsletter via his website about creating videos in the classroom called  Check out the link for one of his presentations from ISTE about various free tools to use in the classroom.  There will definitely be tools and ideas that you might be able to incorporate in your classroom in the fall!

Fun Tool to Answer Questions

As a teacher, I am sure you get bombarded by many questions every day, from both students and fellow teachers.  I’m always surprised at the number of questions that could have been answered by just completing an online search from Google.  A fun way to have both teachers and older students learn how to answer their own questions is from a site called Let me Google that for you.   You type in the question that they asked into a search engine similar to Google and it will create a link.  You can then share this link with the individual asking the question and it will literally show them step-by-step how to Google a topic for themselves and then show the results.   This is a way for individuals to gain independence and be able to quickly answer their own questions when possible.  Warning:  Make sure who ever you share this site with knows how to take a joke!

Feel free to comment on this post and add any other technology resources that you may have found in your summer searching.  If you like this post let me know and I will continue to add technology resource mashups to my blog posting.

– Article by Laura Ketcham
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Taking You to a New Place – Special Needs Vocabulary

Getting around town is something we do everyday. For students with special needs, these terms are important, so getting from place to place doesn’t have to be an extra struggle. It is important to learn these words that can not only help students get places, but let them help others, too.  MangoMon offers a vocational and occupational flashcards to give students an interactive way of learning important information, like these words.


Transportation terms are so important to learn because they allow students to know the proper places and ways they can get to a certain place. From finding a room in a building by taking an elevator up two floors to getting on the bus at the right location, these terms serve a great purpose. Each term in the set has the word, picture, audio pronunciation and sentences explaining the use.

These terms are great for helping students remember and learn terms that are most common when traveling around town or in a new location. There are ten vocabulary terms in this set. Words like escalator, motorcycle and boat are some of the words in this set.

Special needs students and ESL learners will especially benefit from the flashcards when learning about these terms. Because they have the ability to both hear and see words being used with pictures, they can easily link words with meanings. With arrow keys, they can review and practice the terms again and again.

Interactive flashcards like these give students an extra lesson in common terminology. Using technology to help them learn will also prepare them for their future in both education and society.

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It’s Safe To Say These Words Are Important #SPED #ESOL

Common safety words and terms are important for all students to learn. No matter what age you are or where you live, all students should be aware of the areas around them and how to remain safe in everyday situations. For students with special needs, emphasis on these terms may be what they need to have them better comprehend the importance and understanding of these words. Accidents can happen to anyone, so it is important that they learn some of the common words that may be used in such times. MangoMon offers a vocational and occupational flashcards to give students a unique way of learning important information, such as these terms.


Safety terms are so important to learn because they can help make the difference between an accident and serious harm. Each word in the set has the term and a picture, audio pronunciation and sample sentences. The samples and situations used here are typical of a real-life accident that could happen to anyone.

These terms are great for helping students remember and learn terms that are most common in an accident. There are ten vocabulary terms in this set. Words like caution, fire extinguisher and sharp are some of the words in this particular set.

Special needs students and ESL learners will all find these flashcards helpful in learning situations. Because they have the ability to hear and see words being used with pictures, they can easily link words with meanings. Arrow keys one each slide allow for additional review of the terms.

These flashcards give students a helpful addition to a lesson in safety. Integrating technology into learning will also prepare students for their future education and the advances in technology.

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Start Your Engines and Get Ready to Learn! | SPED / ESOL

Approaching vocabulary terms from a different angle of learning can sometimes be a refreshing task for many students. For those students with special needs, unique teaching approaches are what often help them retain information. Because many of them will soon be on the road driving or spending time in cars, vocabulary terms about parts of a car will prove useful. Interactive flashcards from MangoMon offer a range of vocational and occupational terms. These free flashcards offer a unique way of learning important information that is used everyday.

Parts of a Car

Students can easily practice the terms they will use when driving or riding in a car. They will most likely be using these terms on an everyday basis so it is a great use of practicing vocabulary.

Each word in the set has the term and a picture, audio samples of the word and example sentences. These words are helpful samples of what students may encounter on the road and in a driving environment.

These terms are great for helping students remember and learn terms that are most common in a driving environment. There are ten vocabulary terms in this set. Words like brake light, windshield wiper and fender are some of the words in this set.

Special needs students and ESL learners will all find these flashcards beneficial. Because they can both hear and see words being used with pictures, they can easily link words with meanings. Arrow keys allow for additional review by moving back and forth between terms.

These flashcards give students a better understanding of such common terminology. Resources like these are always a helpful addition to any lesson for students with special needs or learning disabilities. Integrating technology into learning will also prepare students for their future careers and advances in technology.

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