Welcome, blog readers & session attendees, alike! My #LDAOrlando presentation, Reading with Google: How App and Extensions Can Help (minus a few simulations and jokes) can be accessed on my Events page.
However, as multiple attendees asked about learning more about Google Apps for Education (GAfE), I wanted to share some of my favorite blogs and Youtube Channels for learning about Google tools. My book will also have a lot of these step-by-steps, so be sure to pre-order.
I Love Learning. Don’t You?
Blogs and Videos about Google Apps for Education:
Teacher Tech: Alice Keeler seems to know everything about Google! She writes about all things Google Apps for Education, including Google Classroom, and has a range of resources from beginners to pros.
Shake Up Learning: Kasey Bell’s site has a plethora of resources in the form of blogs, Cheat Sheets and eBooks about all things Google
Google A-Z: Monica Martinez presented at the first EdTech Team Summit I attended, and her site really is the A-Z of all things Google.
New Visions Cloud Lab: For those of you familiar with Google fundamentals, New Visions has numerous, free Add-Ons and Google Tools for increasing your productivity. All come with instructional videos or links to question pages/G+ communites.
Since Valentine’s Day was earlier this week, love is in the air, so I have been thinking about tools that I love and how they help me. Let me count the ways…
Shortcuts, how I love thee…
Roses are red, Violets are blue,
When you make a mistake, shortcuts can help you.
Roses are red, Violets are blue,
Shortcuts save you time. Is there anything they can’t do?!
I use shortcuts constantly, namely for productivity and efficiency, or to make up for the many, many mistakes that I make. Below are my 5 favorite shortcuts for Google Chrome:
Reopen closed tabs: if you click Command+Shift+T, Chrome will reopen in order from most to least recently closed. You’d be surprised how often you realize you close tabs you still need!
Undo: a classic along the lines of an LBD. Command+Z undoes the last action you did (works in Google Drive).
Open a new tab: Command+T opens up a new tab
Open a link in a new tab: If you “right click” on a link (aka hold down Command+Click), the link will open up in a new tab. BONUS: you can duplicate the tab you are in by clicking Command+L and then hitting Control+Enter/Return button
Switch between tabs: Although I’ve been trying to cut down on having a zillion tabs open, sometimes it is necessary for productivity (esp. when I’m looking up how to do something while simultaneously doing it). In order to switch between tabs, hold down Command+Alt+arrow keys (left or right, depending on which way you’d like to go). BONUS: You can also go to a specific tab by holding down Command+# (e.g. the first tab would be Command+1).
Congratulations! You have gone through the laborious, time-consuming (and often expensive) process of obtaining a neuropsychological evaluation for your child. Ideally, many of your questions about how your child learns best have been answered. It is essential that regardless of your child’s age that he/she is involved in the debriefing process. If for some reason, the neuropsychologist can’t or won’t discuss the results with your child, then I encourage you or your child’s teacher/tutor/other educational professional to do so.
Find role models, either Success Stories or real life role models (from your community or through organizations like Eye to Eye, a national mentorship program for kids with LD/ADHD)
Discuss fairness with your child– especially if a child is to receive an accommodation, it is essential that they (and their teachers and peer) recognize that:
Fairness doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same thing. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.
You can use the analogy of glasses, if that helps you. Just because one student has glasses does not mean that every student needs to have glasses to make it “fair.” In fact, it probably would not help the other students!
Without going overly jargon-y, do not shy away from using real times, especially about the diagnosis (#saydyslexia). This will help them as they practice their self-advocacy skills.
A diagnosis is an explanation of how your child’s brain works. It is not an excuse.
Create a brain map with your child (This idea was obtained form Laura Rowden from Marshall University’s H.E.L.P Center). Here is a brain map template, which asks students to write/draw their strengths, needs, and likes. You may print and fill it out by hand, or fill it out right in the Google Slide (where you can easily search for pictures under Insert-> Image). Make one for yourself, too, so your child sees that you have strengths, needs, and likes.
At this point, you may have read about the various Benefits of Obtaining a Neuropsychological Evaluation, but all of those benefits come after the process is over, so what can you expect in the lead-up to and on the day(s) of the Neuropsychological Evaluation.
What to Expect from a Neuropsychological Evaluation
No disability can be meaningfully diagnosed using a single tool, or even a series of assessments. Good evaluators rely on multiple tools to develop a complete picture of a child’s capabilities. Dynamic assessment — that is, seeing how a child learns as opposed to what she already knows — as well as caregiver observations and clinical judgment are essential for accurate evaluations.
Additionally, great evaluations include “differential diagnoses,” meaning that they rule out possible disorders over the course of the diagnostic process. For example, a child’s hearing ought to be evaluated as part of an accurate speech and language assessment to understand if there is a physical basis for a child’s struggles. In the absence of a hearing impairment, a child may still have a speech or language-learning disability — but it’s important to rule out hearing problems as a possible root cause of speech struggles.
All evaluations of your child’s present level of functioning should include:
A family history to understand if there may be a genetic component to a learning disability
Teacher checklists and school work, including work from prior years or previous classes
Whenever possible, observations or interviews with people who care for your child in a variety of contexts
Often, the family history and “primary concerns” are obtained prior to the day of testing. On the day of, you will likely be separated from your child during the evaluation, for most if not all of the testing. This is to emulate a schooling environment, and to minimize your child turning to you for help, or feeling the need to impress you as their caregiver. Some psychologists have a two-way mirror in their offices so that you can still observe what is happening during the testing, which can have the benefit of seeing if your child performs in a representative manner (although children can behave differently at home and at school).
Testing can be fun (it can also be boring)
It is essential that you prepare your child before the testing day. Some psychologists may give you materials about what to tell your child, in which that should take precedence. Otherwise, tell your child that:
he/she is encouraged to try her best so the evaluator can see how he/she thinks, but nobody is expected to know all of the answers in the questions the evaluator asks (and in fact, some of the questions are written for older students; they are asked merely to see how much the evaluator can challenge him/her)
if you don’t know something, it’s usually okay to guess (the evaluator will likely remind your child of this)
if your child doesn’t understand something, he/she should say something. Sometimes, the evaluator won’t be able to re-explain or repeat a test item, and that’s okay!
your child may get tired because it will be a long day of thinking
if your child has questions at the end of the day, the evaluator will be happy to answer those questions
Many psychologists provide rewards or have a series of breaks built into the evaluation day. However, do not promise these to your child without understanding how the psychologist will structure the day.
You will likely have your own questions about the process of the Evaluation in addition to specific questions about your child’s thinking, learning, and behavior. Below are simply some questions that may help you decide on an evaluator, if you are seeking an Independent Educational Evaluation. Plus, the responses can be shared with your child in order to put him/her more at ease.
Questions to Ask Your Child’s Evaluator
How many sessions will you see my child, and for how long? How often will my child receive breaks?
What will the evaluation include– academic information only or also social-emotional development and/or mental health? (Whether you would like to include social-emotional development or mental health will depend on what concerns you or your child’s school has about him/her. Learning disabilities can be accompanied by anxiety or mood disorders, and these will likely interact (which will influence what interventions should be undertaken and when). Many students I have worked with also experience anxiety disorders, and I have found it effective for them to have a few sessions with a therapist before we begin our work so that they are open to the work we are doing. However, I do not recommend working entirely sequentially since competence often leads to confidence, thus working with me (as an SLP and/or Learning Specialist) often helps students feel more confident, which can positively counteract their anxiety
Do you speak with my child’s teachers/tutors/other providers? This is essential for getting a more complete picture of your child’s skills and struggles. Children necessarily behave differently in different situations. In addition, one unavoidable flaw of evaluations is that they only take place over a day or two, which leaves little room for recognition of improvement, or for counterbalancing the fact that your child may be tired, may have a cold, etc. Teachers, tutors, and other professionals can share their observations with the evaluator, both to help him/her recognize progress made, and to add to what helps your child learn
Do you provide a feedback session with us (caregivers)? This is typical, but you want to be sure that you have a feedback session so that you can ask any clarifying questions and ensure that you fully understand the contents of the (often-very-long and jargon-y) evaluation.
You are allowed (nay, encouraged!) to have many questions
Do you provide a feedback session with my/our child? This is helpful even for young children. This allows your child to learn about his/her strengths, to ask questions about his/her brain (which all children I have encountered are fascinated by), and to begin to get comfortable with some of the language surrounding his/her learning.
Do you provide a feedback session with my child’s school? Some evaluators do not do this, and that can be acceptable since most schools have their own school psychologists or learning specialists whose job it is to read and understand Neuropsychological Evaluations. They can then help with the follow through of recommendations. Nonetheless, you will want to make sure that the Evaluator is available for any questions that these professionals may have.
How long will it be before we receive the report and/or feedback? Writing a Neuropsychological Evaluation requires many skills, many hours of analysis, and often many hours of interviews. Therefore, it is understandable if it takes around a month. However, the longer the evaluation takes, the longer you need to wait to implement the (valuable) recommendations, so longer than a month (unless it’s near holidays) is undesirable.
Despite the potential cost (if a family decides to opt for an Independent Educational Evaluation) and the necessary time commitment, Neuropsychological Evaluations can be immensely helpful in helping you and your child’s teachers and support team understand how your child’s brain works, and how best to support him/her.
The Benefits of Obtaining a Neuropsychological Evaluation
The evaluation validates your child’s strengths– depending on their age, children with learning disabilities often have low self-confidence, and may not recognize their own strengths. There are activities that you can do with them at home, such as this strength rope idea from Understood.org, but ultimately, your child may not recognize their strengths, and sometimes, they won’t trust their parents and teachers to recognize their strengths without rose-colored glasses (i.e. “You’re just saying that because you’re my mom/dad/teacher”).
The evaluation can highlight the underlying difficulties your child is experiencing. This can help you recognize patterns in your child’s difficulties. For example, if your child has ADHD that can result in a difficulty with reading, as well as a difficulty with organizational skills. While reading and behavior appear seemingly disparate, attention can impact both behaviors. Managing the ADHD will help your child when he/she receives interventions around reading and organizational skills.
Frustrations can be explained
The recommendations help support your child in and outside of the classroom: chances are, if you are considering obtaining a neuropsychological evaluation for your child, it is because you and/or your child’s teachers have noticed him/her struggling with academic and/or social skills. The evaluation can
The recommendations section are often specific and will uniquely support your child (vs. taking more of a “crop duster” approach where you may trial several strategies that ultimately do not help your child).
The evaluation will highlight how your child tests best (try saying that 10 times fast!). Some neuropsychologists purposefully provide your child with multiples tests that assess virtually the same thing, with only subtle differences, to reveal what environments help your child demonstrate their strengths. For example, the Gray Oral Reading Test . This can also lay the foundation for obtaining Testing Accommodations or Strengths-Based Accommodations.
Understanding your child’s brain takes time and expertise
The list of relative strengths and difficulties can lay the foundation for your child’s self-awareness and, eventually, their self-advocacy.
The strengths outlined can help you and your child figure out how to compensate for their areas of difficulty. Maybe your child enjoys drawing pictures more than writing words. Great! Then, she/he can take visual notes in lieu of written notes (read more about the potential benefits of sketchnoting from KQED’S Mind/Shift).
If your child receives a diagnosis, then he/she will be part of a large community of individuals with learning disabilities, which can also become a source of pride. Organizations like Eye to Eye provide mentorship for individuals with Learning Disabilities in order to harness their LD pride, their self-advocacy, and their sense of community.
I realize I am in a unique position to get to read many neuropsychological evaluations. I am consistently amazed by the deep analyses made by school psychologists and neuropsychologists, and finding causes and supports for surface behaviors parents and teachers observe. Despite their value, parents occasionally can be wary, which is understandable. If parents choose to opt for an Independent Educational Evaluation, the costs can be exorbitant (especially here in New York). In addition, parents worry about what the schools will do with the information. Lastly, parents can be concerned about the effect of such intensive testing on their child.
What’s going on in there?
While understandable, many of these concerns are unfounded from my experience (and I have seen many students go through the evaluation process), thus I hope to allay some of these potential fears through a short series about:
Wow! Tuesday felt long & education-filled (#LDAOrlando – Tuesday Roundup), but I was only there for a part of the day. Today felt exponentially longer, but I also feel like I learned even more. I’m grateful to all the speakers for their humor, their energy, and for the occasional prize :º)
Once again, I couldn’t be everywhere, naturally, and each presentation was so dense it warrants a post of its own. However, I will try to summarize the most “bang for your buck” parts. So without further ado, here is my *drum roll please*
#LDAOrlando – Wednesday Roundup
Laura Rowden (from the H.E.L.P. Center at Marshall University) gave a wonderful session about explaining learning disabilities to kids. This is a topic I am passionate about because for too long psychologists and/or parents thought young children (i.e. elementary aged children) were too young to know about their diagnoses. However, this is harmful. They simply feel stupid, and all kids are interested in learning about their brains. Plus, knowing where their difficulties lie also comes with validating strengths. She provided a 4-step process for helping students understand their brains with the acronym “KEEP,” which stands for: Know, Explain Empower Plan.
“You can’t leverage a strength you don’t know you have”- Laura Rowden
She spoke about making a visual of a child’s strengths, needs, and likes with them to help them understand themselves. Positive role models (including ones from your community who are more “real” and who could potentially act as mentors) and books about individuals with ADHD/LD are also a useful part of a child’s understanding. Her presentation made me think of two other valuable resources: for more on strengths, check out Understood.org‘s strengths checklists or strength rope, and for more on mentorship, visit Eye to Eye (website, Twitter).
Jill Haney from Saddleback Publishing led a session about hands-on reading comprehension strategies and these were great. First, she introduced us to Dr. Dooriddles, which were a great warm-up about puns/multiple meaning words. The reading comprehension strategies were very much in line with what’s in my book and my presentation tomorrow (which felt validating), but they were all no-tech (which may be necessary for some classrooms). She talked about teaching the process of reading, including explicitly teaching how to skim (look for answer about Who the book is about, Where the book is set, What is going on, Why you chose the book, and Why you want to keep reading). I liked the goal-directedness, the fact that it worked with fiction & non-fiction texts, and the focus on student choice was also excellent to see. Her during reading strategy was visualizing, so she read a short story (from the incredible Weighty Word Book) and we were asked to draw a picture with labels & a caption for each part of the story (which she strategically picked at 3 easy-to-visualize and crucial parts of the story). Finally, to summarize, she shared the 4-part Who-Wanted-But-So structure (which is very similar to the Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then summary keychains I’ve shared). All in all, it was interactive, and very research-backed. I enjoyed it!
My summarizing keychain
Carol Cao spoke about using technology for global collaborations. Her work is predominantly with high school Science students, so not all of the content was relevant to me, but she was right to point out that the underlying frameworks and ideas that she shared could be used by all grades. She shared the pros and cons of international collaborations, then shared some resources for finding people to collaborate with, including Global Teacher Connect, Education Beyond Borders, and ePals, to name a few. She also encourages teachers to sign up to collaborate within the U.S. on her site at tinyurl.com/gcpartners.
I gotta tell you; I almost didn’t stay until the 4pm sessions, but I’m glad I did because Jennifer Hasser of Kendore Learning did a very interactive session with games for teaching diverse skills– from phonological awareness and decoding skills, to higher level social studies content– anything that requires students to automate what they know. There were even toilet brushes and beach balls! All of her engaging materials can be found here under Multisensory Activities.
Yes, this can be an educational tool.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s short day & my presentation (yikes!).
I have to admit that I did not arrive until the 11:00am sessions, so unfortunately, I missed the keynote (which had me spectacularly bummed since I respect Dr. Fuchs’s work & I’ve only heard positive things about his talk this morning), and the first sessions this morning. Nonetheless, I feel that I have plenty to report from today, so fear not!
#LDAOrlando – Tuesday Roundup
I was going to do a session-by-session summary of what I saw today, but I think you’ll get the most “bang for your buck” by recommending short tips, sites, and other resources for you to do further learning. Many of their handouts are available through the #LDAOrlando App (if you are also an attendee). Below are my some of my favorite tools & takeaways:
A session by Georgia’s Assistive Technology Tools for Life Program (website, Twitter) recommended their App Finder, which allows individuals to search for apps by category, cost, and device type. This particularly supported their message of “end goal first,” which of course all good educators and assistive technologists should bear in mind. This means,
You should match tools for students’ needs, not try to match the student to the tech tool you have.
Square peg/round hole
I went to a session from Caitlin Parker at Landmark School (website, Twitter) about expressive language disorders. While the information was new to me, I found her session to be spectacularly well-organized and suitable for both general and special education teachers. It’s like she summarized 2.5 years of my graduate studies in SLP in an hour! She stressed the importance of:
recognizing the interconnectedness between listening, reading, speaking, and writing. She shared a chart that showed listening and reading are receptive and speaking and writing are expressive. Even this is of course overly simplified, since that made me think of the Katts & Camhi chart that differentiates between difficulties with decoding/encoding and students with difficulties with language (i.e. listening and reading comprehension) (see chart on top left of the 2nd page).
looking at relationships between tests (e.g. on a Neuropsychological Evaluation). For example, if you compare an expressive language test with a receptive language (pointing) test, and there’s a significant difference, then you know the student “has the words in their head,” it’s a matter of teaching strategies or tools to access those words (vs. a student whose vocabulary requires explicit instruction).
analyzing students’ mistakes to provide personalized learning goals (in addition to a few class-wide goals). She pointed out that a simple spelling mistake may actually be rooted in a phonological processing difficulty where students mis-hear words, then encode them incorrectly. A spelling mistake can also be a semantic/word retrieval difficulty (she provided an example of someone using “device” for “advice;” this could be auditory in nature or a mistake rooted in mis-retrieval).
Which road to go down? Phonological processing? Encoding? Vocabulary instruction?
Chris Dendy shared this ADHD Iceberg at her session on executive functions and ADHD. While the poster is a little out of date (e.g. it uses the term ADD), I liked the focus on what’s hidden, as a way of gaining understanding, and hopefully empathy for all that these students have going on simultaneously. She also shared a variety of common struggles and a variety of common supports for students with ADHD and Executive Function difficulties, which were focused on compensations and environmental changes, which I appreciated, but I am more interested (see this article on Noodle about the Difference between Organizational Skills and Executive Functions)
At the end of the day, I went to a session on RTI and MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) with Mr. David Davis. He shared Florida’s resources for MTSS, which is another goldmine. He spoke about two key things that stuck with me. First, was the “myth of the average child” (recommending this Tedx talk by Todd Rose). My favorite quote of his was,
“If your curriculum is designed for a mythical average student, your curriculum isn’t designed for anyone.”
In addition to highlighting the problems of being obsessed with an imaginary average, Mr. Davis also spoke about the fact that many states are doing RTI all wrong (couldn’t agree more). As I have also said, RTI is contingent on all teachers providing effective instruction at Tier 1 (where all students “live”). When this isn’t happening, the whole system is broken. Because Tier 1 is often not evidence-based, it then becomes a race to Tier 3 to actually get students the support they need. In that scenario, RTI isn’t effective for students with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD). Mr. Davis subscribes to a problem-solving based model where each phase isn’t about giving a label, but about giving support! If a technique or method works, everyone celebrates but progress is monitored, and if a technique or method does not work, then problem-solving continues and suggestions are based on that actual child (not a “one size fits all” model). This resounded very much with me, and now I would like to get more involved in RTI, but more than that, ultimately, I would like to get more involved in teacher training since that is the most essential component of RTI’s success.
If you attended #LDAOrlando, what did you learn? Please write in the comments.
Tomorrow, I look forward to Dr. Don Deshler’s Keynote about online learning and sessions about self-advocacy and hands-on learning, among others.
I’ve been working with younger kiddoes a lot lately, and since I’ve also been researching the strong connection between language and literacy (more on that later), it’s inspired me to write a post with a list of some of my favorite online videos. Most of them are silent (I like wordless picture books, too!), therefore it may not help with exposure to vocabulary, but they help build childrens’ schemata of a good narrative, and I’ve also used them to work on past tense, on retelling, on pronouns, and a slew of other speech and language goals.
YouTube Videos for Narrative Development
Almost any movie or show can be used to address narrative (or syntax, or retelling) goals, but below are some channels, playlists, and individual videos that I like the best, and use the most frequently:
Simon’s Cat: these are a goldmine. Most have a simple beginning, middle, end (aka character/setting, problem, resolution), and they’re very funny. Kids almost always love them!
Animated Short Films: This channel is one of my favorites. It has 21 videos (at press time), including a lot of Pixar short films, which are beautifully done and have a wonderful narrative structure. They also require some
Pixar Shorts: This playlist has 26 Pixar shorts, and each is wonderful in its own way.
Oktopodi: this is one of my favorites. It is silent and has to do with two octopi and someone who wants to eat one of the octopi. I’ve also used it to address inferring (e.g. where are they? how do you know? what do you think will happen after the movie is over?), but the narrative elements (character, setting, problem, resolution) are clear in it
Tom & Jerry (this is a Tom & Jerry channel, but there are several others): Yes, they are overly simplified and yes, they are somewhat violent, BUT they are excellent for working (and they make me nostalgic for Fridays at my grandparents’ house when I was a kid
Paper Man: this is a sweet NYC love story that is more appropriate for older students (who also sometimes require narrative support)
I will continue to update this list as I find others. Please share yours in the comments!