in Collier County
Success with an Assistive Technology Approach
in Collier County Schools, Florida
“We've taken a proactive approach to getting WYNN out to all students. It's an awesome tool for any student who needs support, not just students who have qualified for special education services," reported Bill Schulte.
"What we've seen is that our ESOL students and Level 1 readers and writers also greatly benefit from the flexibility of WYNN’s auditory and visual presentation.”
Recently, Collier County School District was featured in Scholastic Administrator, highlighting the district’s ability to use assistive technology to meet the needs of all its students.
In this article, Bill Schulte, instructional technology instructor, cited the use of WYNN software as one of the essential assets for the district's Universal Design for Learning approach.
The program has resulted in improved learning and motivation for the students. WYNNing Word asked Bill to share with our readers Collier’s plan for success for implementing WYNN district wide.
“The key to our success is two-fold: setting an expectation for using WYNN and providing training and follow-up support. From the district office, we are sending out the message that all ESE staff should be proficient in using the software,” Bill stressed.
Realizing that training was the centerpiece to their success, Collier set a very specific schedule.
Freedom Scientific Training
Peggy Dalton, Director of Professional Development for the Learning Systems Group of Freedom Scientific, worked with Bill to develop a series of training sessions to follow the district’s plan for incorporating webquests for enhancing classroom lessons. The staff was able to learn the basics of WYNN while developing actual lesson plans for their students.
In order to accomplish the training, three all-day training sessions were presented by WYNN trained professionals from Freedom Scientific. The trainers and WYNN tech support were available at any time over the seven month period to answer any questions. By the end of the training series, Bill identified staff members who would become expert “in-house” trainers.
Collier's "In-house" Training
“Teachers who attend all three sessions report that their comfort level is "extremely high" and that they incorporate the use of the software into their weekly lesson plans," Bill said.
"We know that classroom incorporation is the cornerstone for success. This can only be accomplished by good training."
Researching, outlining, and proofreading – essential tools for students – were targeted learning for the beginning training. The basics of WYNN’s four toolbars were explored, but the main focus was the Writing Toolbar and WYNN’s interactive Internet access. Learning these features allowed the teachers to achieve a comfort level quickly. They were able to implement WYNN the very next day!
The Writing Toolbar provides many beneficial writing and editing tools including easy to use outlining tools, word prediction, homophone verification, and spell check.
The WYNN 5 Web Tools Toolbar supports users’ need for a multitude of cutting-edge learning tools while viewing Web site pages. Some of the tools include highlighting information and one click extraction of the highlighted material directly into WYNN.
During the advanced training sessions, the participants learned to prepare documents for a student’s individual needs using custom settings available on the Reading Styles Toolbar. They were also introduced to scanning which allows educators to bring any printed document into WYNN.
"Since WYNN reads any document aloud, the struggling reader will find it much easier to comprehend material regardless of the student’s reading level," commented Bill.
The Reading Toolbar permits users to personalize auditory and visual presentation to meet individual reading needs.
This last session was dedicated to developing materials to use in the classroom. Participants took a more in-depth look at scanning, document clean up, and dynamic zoning. These are tools that allow the educator to further tailor a document to meet the needs of students.
Document Clean-up provides the tools necessary to correct OCR errors that may occur in the document during scanning. This ensures that the document will be spoken correctly by WYNN. Dynamic Zoning allows you to define your own reading order on a scanned page. Dynamic Zoning can also be used to avoid recognition errors from graphics, or to exclude the speaking of headers, footers, or other unwanted text.
After the Training
Bill went on to address how training transitions into actual classroom learning. "Since all of our classrooms now have LCD projectors, surround sound, and interactive whiteboards, WYNN allows teachers to model using the program as an effective learning tool and sets expectations for students. It is a powerful tool to assist students in manipulating and mastering text.”
For example, teachers in Collier may model outlining a chapter from their science or social studies text with the goal of creating study guides using WYNN’s Writing and Study Skills Toolbars. At first, the lesson is accomplished as a whole class effort. As the year progresses, the students become more independent in developing their own study guides working with WYNN at their own computers.
Not all classrooms are equipped with cutting edge technology. Modeling can also be accomplished by using computers, large screen TVs in the classroom, computer labs, or libraries. Additionally, cooperative learning worked well. Improved confidence and motivation resulted from peer learning with students acting as either the student instructor or the learner.
Tech Support Staff
Often teachers worry about having the time to familiarize their students with WYNN. Collier has enlisted the services of its instructional technology teachers to help solve this problem. Beth Nelson, instructional resource teacher at Laurel Oak Elementary School, who received the training, has developed lesson plans to embed WYNN training into curriculum based lessons. The combination of the modeling and the lab training has made WYNN an essential tool for more effective and efficient teaching and learning in the classroom.
Technology in Place
Bill recognizes that having WYNN available for use district wide and having an across-the-network installation of the software has played an integral part in the success of their implementation plan.
“The fact that WYNN is now district wide on every computer allows the Exceptional Education Department to set an expectation that this tool be used as part of the intervention process. If a student is struggling with reading or writing we expect our staff to try WYNN to see if the additional support helps provide appropriate accommodations for that child.”
Collier has also found that having WYNN instantly available across the network has empowered IEP teams to include Assistive Technology software supports without a long, complicated process. They have found that since IEP teams can make this decision autonomously, it has reduced the number of Assistive Technology referrals.
WYNN is now imbedded into the curriculum at Collier, and the school district has achieved its goal of equipping each classroom with a laptop for the teacher, an LCD panel, a document camera, an electronic whiteboard, a sound system, and microphones for teachers and students. Certainly this accomplishment has helped to insure the ongoing success of Collier’s Universal Design for Learning plan. This did not happen easily. The vision, hard work and commitment of the administration and staff of the Collier County School District is to be applauded. We congratulate Collier County School District for its commitment to improving the teaching and learning environment in all their schools through the use of assistive technology for all their students!
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about Collier’s lesson plans for training teachers, introducing
students to WYNN in a lab setting, modeling for the students,
or WYNN classroom activities?
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Keep an Eye on the News
Senate subcommittee keeps school ed-tech grant program afloat
The U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee last week approved $272 million in funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology block-grant program for fiscal year 2007, a move that, if approved, would continue program spending at current levels. For the program to be sustained, the spending bill must pass the full Senate and a conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers. (See eSchoolNews.com for more information.)
High-tech windfall awaits California schools
California schools soon will receive up to $600 million in educational technology funding, thanks to an antitrust settlement with software giant Microsoft Corp. State officials announced the expected windfall, which will total at least $400 million, on July 26. California is one of 15 states that settled class-action lawsuits with Microsoft, all of which stipulate that a portion of unclaimed funds will benefit schools. (See eSchoolNews.com for more information.)
$80M in tech vouchers await Florida schools
Florida schools to get $80 million from Microsoft antitrust case. (See eSchoolNews.com for more information.)
TIP of the MONTH:
Collier County's tip for placing WYNN documents into individual student network folders.