Friday, July 23, 2010

Do you Vizzle?

Vizzle is a program created by Monarch Teaching Technologies, based out of Shaker Heights, Ohio.  This company has created software for visual learners, and helps teachers 'save time and drive achievement with visually rich interactive lessons for special education.'  I hadn't had any previous experience with Vizzle until this past spring.  I am on our district's assistive technology team, and we were determining what AT requests we could fulfill that were submitted by teachers in our district.  While going through requests for various types of hardware, software, subscriptions, etc.  I came across two teachers in our district who requested a subscription renewal for their Vizzle software.  This is the first I had heard of it, but I know these teachers had students who were similar to mine, so I immediately started doing research.  I found the vizzle website at, and signed up for their free 14 day trial.  I have to say that I loved having the option to trial the software, but I also did it during one of the last weeks of school, also one of the busiest, so I didn't get to try out as much as I would have liked.  Anyways, I liked what I saw and I think this could be really useful for some of my students with Autism who are visual learners and who really enjoy working on computers.  I requested a subscription for my class, and it should be starting soon.  I feel like during my trial period, I barely touched on all the ways this program could be used in the classroom.

So my question is: do you Vizzle, and if so, how do you use it in your classroom?

Friday, July 16, 2010

iPad/iPod touch apps

In May, I was grateful to receive  a PTO grant and was able to purchase two iPads for my classroom.  They arrived right before school let out, but I had a chance to trial one of them during my summer school and ESY classes.  I still have many apps to explore, but here have been some of the favorites over the summer so far:

Time Timer:  This has been really helpful with one of my students, as we use a regular time timer with him frequently.  One of the benefits to the app is it is more discrete, more portable, and he can keep it in his pocket if he is working on a task that makes him get up and move frequently.  This app is $4.99-- a little pricey, but I thought it was worth it.

Brainpop:  My district has a subscription to Brainpop, and we use it frequently in my class.  This app is free, and offers free videos of the day.  I am very happy that Brainpop has an app, but I wish they had a 'members' app where we could have access to all of their great videos.  This would be really helpful when I'm with a student in their inclusion science class, and the rest of the class is reading an article; we could just pull out the iPad/iPod to watch a Brainpop video on that topic.  I'm hoping they come out with another app soon.

Animated stories:  One of the biggest hits with some of my kiddos has been the animated story books you can purchase in itunes.  They are accessible to my students who typically use switches to access material, as the pages of a book are turned by touching anywhere on the screen. Usually you can choose a mode so the story is read to you, with the words highlighted while it reads.  The biggest downside to these books is how expensive they can get!  Some of the Disney books are $8.99 each, but I've been lucky to find some that were free for a limited time or on sale.  Here are some of the class favorites so far:

Shrek Forever After: $2.99

Toy Story Read- Along: FREE (There are Toy Story 2 and 3 books, but those are each $8.99)

How to Train Your Dragon- Kids Book HD: $2.99

I know there are so many more apps out there to try, but these are a few that my students have really enjoyed so far.  What apps are favorites in your classroom?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unique Learning: Transition Level Curriculum

This spring, I started to work on scheduling my classroom and students for the following year, as well as planning out what our day would look like and what types of curriculum we will be using.  I really enjoy using the Unique Learning Systems curriculum by the folks at News-2-You, although I can say I am still only using it here and there and definitely not yet to it's full capacity. 
While browsing the free materials offered by ULS for summer school, I noticed that the transition level materials were also available.  On this level, there is a link to core materials that are supposed to be used each month when using this level.  I felt like I came accross a secret treasure trove; even though these plans and materials are meant for students above the high school level, I feel like it offered me the perfect plan for my middle school students.  I'm a big stickler for age appropriateness, and I love the age appropriate 'classes' and activities offered by this level.  I spent at least a weekend browsing through all the materials, and figuring out how they could work within my own class schedule.  I love some of their ideas, like having a daily living club, jobs club, etc.  I encourage you to check it out if you haven't yet, as it won't be available for free after they take down their summer materials.  I will continue to post how I plan to use some of these ideas in my classroom this year!