Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good News --- Current Events Web Sites For Special Needs Students

Here are some neat web sites I've just learned about to support students with special needs. They've got accessibility features and visual symbols to support comprehension. Of course, thanks to the magic of UDL, they will also support students of ESL / ELL. If only they featured more Canadian content.... Free, published monthly. Click on eLive for for news; site also has other symbol-supported content. View online, or print out. UK-based. paid subscription, published weekly, with each article rewritten at different levels, with worksheets and other related content. View online with built-in speech support, or print out on paper. With 40+ pages every week, there's a lot of content you could cover. Very well done. USA-based.

BONUS SITE: The Week In Rap Free, very high quality hip-hop summaries of the week's news, from the folks who created Flocabulary. Scroll down to see the lyrics of the week's rap, with hyperlinks to online news articles. Released every Friday during the school year, these raps are something many kids, special needs or not, will enjoy. USA-based.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Spoken Word --- Using Microsoft Word Sound Objects

For those students who can express themselves better orally than in writing, Microsoft's Sound Objects, built into Word, can be a life-saver. Sound Objects allow the user to embed voice recordings in Microsoft Word in standard MS Word documents. Besides MS Word, all that is needed is some form of microphone, either built-in or external.
Here's a how-to video showing the method for setting up a toolbar button in MS Word 2003 that will make recording sound objects quick and easy.

Applications in the Classroom (and at home, if the student has MS Word)
The main way students can use Sound Objects is to produce a permanent document (or artifact) in MS Word, even if they ha
ve difficulty with writing. If Jimmy can't write well but has MS Word at home, he can answer (and ask) questions, respond to reading, create stories, etc., orally and end up with a product that better represents what's in his head.

Students with poor memory can brainstorm into a mic to get their pre-writing ideas down.

Teachers can also record instructions or oral prompts using Sound Objects in electronic documents if students have the ability to download from their teacher. This is especially useful for teachers ESL/EFL, French, Spanish, or other foreign languages, who want to provide a pronunciation model to which students can repeatedly refer. However, it also can simply be used as a means of Universal Design for Learning (UDL); by recording written instructions orally, teachers can ensure students can understand the instructions regardless of their reading ability.

I've used Sound Objects for recording the oral portion of educational assessments, such as the WIAT. It's easier to transcribe using the sound player than using a tape recorder.

Students can also get creative and record songs, raps, etc. without the need for additional software.

The main limitation is that the recorder stops after 60 seconds, but if it is stopped, each time you push the record button again, you can add on an extra 60 seconds.

Note that this is a voice recorder; it does not transcribe voice to text. Students can't print out Sound objects; they have to share their electronic file with their teacher, and the teacher listens to the recording when it's convenient.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Today's post is all about my favourite Assistive Technology and Educational Technology blogs, where I get a lot of my info. If you want to know where I get some of my information, these are the goods.

Of course, I share these at the risk that you'll ditch reading my blog and start reading one or more of these, but hey, whatever floats your boat. I'm here to serve you, even if only temporarily. But you may opt to stay with CyberSERT because I'll filter out the best of the best for you, especially if you're an educator in Ontario, and esuperspecially if you're with my Board, the YRDSB.

AssistiveTek is by Brian S. Friedlander, Ph.D.
If you google Assistive Technology Blog, this one comes up first. Dr. Friedlander teaches a course on assistive technology and is quite the expert. His focus is primarily on LD-related software and gadgets. His primary interest is in mind-mapping software, and he tends to spend a lot of time blogging about it. We, in Ontario, have SMARTIdeas licensed by the province, and it's pretty good. I'll throw my own 2 cents in the mind mapping software discussion in a future post.

All Together We Can is geared more towards the Augmentative and Alternative Communication side of assistive technology, and is actually not devoted exclusively to AT.

Free Technology for Teachers is more of a general education site. This is a very prolific blogger, and you really have to skim through the myriad posts that go up every week. To help you find the gems, the most popular posts are listed each week.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tweet This!

If you're on the Twitter bandwagon, I'm using Twitterfeed to relay my blog posts on Twitter. Find and follow me at (Of course, Twitter is blocked by many workplaces, including the YRDSB, so you might have to stick to RSS feeds or checking back at blogspot often.)

Mmmm... Delicious Links is a site that allows you to save and share internet bookmarks. To learn more about it, you can watch this brief video from Common Craft.

I'm happy to share my bookmarks with you. I'm pdienstm on, and you can see my education-related picks from the web (many of which focus on special-ed and/or assistive technology) at Visit often, since I'm adding more all the time and I won't be mentioning all my latest discoveries in this blog.

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