Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Professional Development Team Summer Meeting

We did not make AYP in 2006-2007. Our Special Education students did not make the mark. That's not so surprising. If you look at our MSA scores over the last few years, it is clear that Special Ed would be the first group to fall below the line. So now we have decided to focus our staff development on helping students who receive special services.

Our Professional Development Team Met on July 23 to discuss how to meet the needs of our Special Education students. The data from the MSA was not encouraging but it wasn't dreadful either. So the administration team had decided to move our Professional Learning Communities into cyberspace to form an Electronic Learning Community (ELC). This was great news! I have been advocating for using courseware such as Blackboard or Moodle. I have even detailed it in the paper I wrote for Supervision of the Schools.

The premise of an ELC is simple. By putting staff development information online, teachers can access the training 24/7 and participate in a time table that fits their busy life. The greatest challenge is to facillitate the online learning process. I have completed a course in facilitating online learning this past Spring so that experience should help. The plan is to have each teacher choose one of four topics: Technology, Behavior Intervention; Instructional Strategies, and a Book Talk. I am leading the Technology strand.

The team brainstormed what technology would be presented. My two top choices were the ExamView test creation software and Inspriation. For use to really pinpoint in what skills students lack and in what skills student are proficient, we must be able to give tests that are correlated to specific curriculum objective. My plan is to teach the teachers how to use this software to give pretests that can be used to find skill gaps and skill strengths when planning their instruction.

I really believe that all students can benefit from using Inspiration software. It is a concept mapping software that duplicates the traditional concept web that teachers would draw on a large flip chart paper. Using the electronic version allows students to organize their thought when the create brief and extended response answers. The software has a large library of clip are that can be used to create more visual webs to help students identify pattern or relationships. Inspiration is also identified as a research based product that has been shown to improve student performance.

We also have Audacity audio editing software for creating podcasts and other audio presentations. The premise is that students use and listen to audio files on the Internet and to have them create the files they use in their "play time" would make it more engaging and motivating for them.

In addition to the other titles, we now run Windows XP and Office 2003 which has Speech to Text and Text to Speech capabilities. That can be a big asset for the Special Education teachers.

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