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Virginia Journal of Education


Your Classroom

Texting Opens Doors in Pulaski County


by Toni Elitharp

Here in Pulaski County, where I serve as the director of special education, our schools are filled with people who have big hearts and the desire to make a difference in the lives of our children. We strive to embrace individual differences and find innovative approaches that give students a sense of worth and accomplishment.

Recently, I saw a child playing a computer game on a handheld computer. It wasn’t during the school day, but I asked to look at the device and noticed that it had a texting option. I immediately knew that I had to buy one: Not for me, but for our students who are deaf or hearing-impaired and for children having speaking difficulties. I envisioned these students texting their friends and finally feeling a sense of belonging. There was, however, one major obstacle: “No texting allowed in school!” I explained to the superintendent that I needed to break the rules to give our students a new “voice” through texting, and received the okay.

Now, if you walk into some of our classrooms you might see our deaf students using a Nintendo DS Lite handheld computer with texting capability. Almost magically our students began to interact with others in their classrooms. The handheld computers are small and while they are designed to be used individually to play computerized games, they also allow multiple users to text if they stay within 30 feet of each other. Our students were trained on using the devices and began texting during cooperative learning activities. They also began to text questions and answers to their teachers, and began independently integrating themselves into their classrooms.

Students with selective mutism, a psychiatric disorder characterized by a persistent failure to speak in select settings, have also benefitted from the use of the handheld computers. These children understand spoken language and have the ability to speak normally, but typically speak only to their parents and a few select others. Some of these students also began texting their teachers and shortly thereafter, began using spoken language in school. Language began slowly with simple words such as goodbye, but gradually increased.

The handheld computers we’ve been using have provided our children with disabilities a creative way of building a new richness into their lives. Giving children a “voice” through texting has given them a means to develop new friendships, build relationships with teachers and parents, and connect to their school with a new sense of belonging.

Elitharp is director of special education for Pulaski County Public Schools.
 

Boost Your Chances to Get That Grant

In these economic times, getting a grant to fund a project is a better deal than ever. Whether the grant you’re seeking is through their organization or not, the NEA Foundation offers these tips for writing a more effective application:

• Be creative. Experiment with ideas that you and your colleagues believe will improve student achievement or your instruction.
• Identify clear, specific learning objectives and activities.
• Ask someone not involved in the project to read the application and clarify any confusing, conflicting or vague language.
• Avoid acronyms and jargon.
• Relate budget line items to learning objectives.
• Describe how the proposed work will be a true team effort.
• Develop a strong evaluation plan and connect it to the learning goals outlined in the application.
• Read and carefully follow grant application guidelines.


NBPTS Certification Deadline Approaching

Virginia teachers and counselors who are thinking about being a candidate for National Board Certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards must submit their applications by December 31, 2010. To qualify, educators must hold a bachelor’s degree and a valid state teaching license, and have completed three full years of teaching or counseling.

National Board Certification can offer license portability, contribute to Continuing Education Units and, in many areas, provide higher salary potential. Full or partial financial support is available for most candidates to help pay the costs.

There are nearly 2,000 National Board Certified Teachers in the state. For more information, visit www.nbpts.org or call 1-800-22TEACH.


NEA Offers Online Courses

The NEA Academy offers busy K-12 educators a source of ready-made online courses to meet professional development and continuing education goals. Courses combine the advantages of self-paced study and instructor-led virtual classrooms, and all offerings are screened against a set of quality standards developed by NEA members.

Current courses include Curriculum Mapping, Teaching Reading in the Content Areas, Using Multimedia to Develop Understanding, Differentiated Instruction for Successful Inclusion, The Five Practices of Highly Effective Classrooms, and Teaching the ESL Learner.

To learn more, go to www.nea.org/academy.


Free Content on ‘ThinkFinity’

Formerly called MarcoPolo: Internet Content for the Classroom, the Verizon Foundation has relaunched and reconfigured the site as ThinkFinity.org, a Web portal to standards-based lesson plans, interactive programs and online resources.

Not only is the content free, it is also provided or approved by leading national education organizations, including National Geographic, the National Center for Family Literacy, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Council for Economic Education, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Smithsonian.

To see how ThinkFinity materials can help you and your students, visit www.thinkfinity.org.


Teachers Foot the Bill

As school budgets are cut, teachers continue to reach deep into their own pockets to fund classroom activities, according to a report by the National School Supply and Equipment Association. Some highlights from the NSSEA report:

• Teachers in the survey say they spent an average of $398 of their own money on school supplies during the 2009-10 school year, plus an additional $538 on instructional materials, for a total of $936 for year.
• Ninety-two percent of teachers surveyed report that they spend their own money for school supplies and 85 percent said they do so for instructional materials.
• Nearly half (47 percent) of teachers say that parents are also required to purchase supplies for their children, at an average of $19 per child. With a class size of 25, that’s an additional $475 per teacher.

 


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