Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Section 508 and Education

Because of one of my majors is Special Education, I am more likely to look for tips that make easier to people with special needs, navigate in a website. So, I found these useful tips for accessibility:

1.     Make a better choice of colors different to combine green and red together, especially on items like navigation bottoms. This will be useful for people with color blindness.
2.     Use alternative text for images, which may not be longer than 5 to 15 words.
3.     It is good to add links to text-only version; this is nice for people who use screen readers.
4.     If you are going to use a video in your website, you can add captions or subtitles. This function will be very useful for deaf and hard of hearing.
5.     Write clear and simple information instead of use jargon, which make it more accessible to everyone.

What not to do?

1.     Don’t use animation, blinking texts or auto-loading sound.
2.     Don’t put text over image backgrounds, it is too amateur!!!
3.     Minimize clicking, Put as few clicks between your visitor and your information as possible.
4.     Don’t use frames
5.     Don’t use light text on light background, or dark text or dark background.

Section 508 standards provide information about federal regulations for any kind of electronic and information technology.  As educators, we have the power to use the best resources in order to pull out the maximum achievement in our students, but how to do it without the accurate information? In our classroom we will have diverse learners, children who have different needs and interests, and technology will help us in our dairy labor of teaching.  Here are 3 ways to ensure our students can access technology easily:

1-    Getting information about software applications such as alternative keyboard navigation, useful for people with visual impairments who cannot rely on a mouse.
2-    Most of verbal tags, graphics or frames are available in an accessible format, like HTML code.
3-    Most of Multimedia products have captioning and audio description, which can be turn on or off according to the viewer.
 All these resources apply to students with special needs.

Visit my website:

Regarding Plagiarism

The video “Before he cheats” is funny, interesting and educative. It is an ingenious way to treat such a delicate subject as cheating. I did not have idea this kind of plagiarism was possible; when I was in school, students were cheating writing formulas and info on legs and arms, erasers, pencils and stuff like that. Now everything is technological.
I think that events like those described in The University of Texas’ video/article, happen all the time. A lack of knowledge about plagiarism can lead students to make terrible mistakes, with long-lasting consequences. However, I think that students at college count with at least two fantastic resources to avoid fatal mistakes, one is the writing center and the other is Turnitin. Common sense is also a good advisor when something is going wrong.
 Rutgers video is not only entertained but also educative, that is just the kind of information that I would show to my students in the future.  It clearly defines what to do and what not to do in order to avoid plagiarism. Interactive quizzes of this video offer a good start for a forum or debate in the classroom.
 The article written by Andrew Kantor shocked me. At the beginning, I thought he was kidding about the cheating issue, or even using inverted psychology; but then I realized he was spreading around all kinds of technological tips for being a successful cheater. I would not show this kind of articles to my sons or to my students; that would be like taking my children to a candy house and tell them “don’t touch anything”.  Despite of that, I think it is very interesting and informative for teachers.
 I think that in my subject, foreign languages, students would be cheating using their cell-phones     to recall information during quizzes or tests; also, for writing assignments, students could copy and paste from any web site or even get a whole essay for a modest monthly amount. It is always a possibility that somebody use an audio device like those described in USA TODAY.com. For digital projects, students could make somebody else do it for them, somebody with more technological skills.
In order to avoid plagiarism in my classroom, I would instruct my students about this issue, perhaps using Rutgers website and promoting debates. I believe also that, if students have the need for cheating it is because they don’t have confidence in what they know so, an effective teacher has to provide the elements for an authentic learning of the subject.  Only in case that anybody still wants to cheat, I would pick up all electronic devices at the entrance, and arrange the students’ desks in a convenient way, for me of course.

1.     Explain what is plagiarism in your own words.
2.     Mention three forms of plagiarism.
3.     Is using the same essay that you used before for another course considered plagiarism? Y/N and Why?
4.     Is it honest to cut-and-paste for a written assignment? Why?
5.     If you find something in a book, newspaper, magazine, Internet or other sources, and you want to use that idea in your paper, What should you do?

Checking two websites for kids

Title: ESL-KIDS.com
Description: This is a website for foreign language teachers. Thedesign is o.k. It is very easy to navigate and features like colors and letters in different sizes make reading fun and light. About thecontent, this site provides activities like flashcards, games, worksheets and songs that help teachers to create amazing lessons for kids who are learning English, Spanish and even Korean. ESL-KIDS.com is free but also links with other sites even more structured, only for members. Regarding credibility, this page is sponsored by several organizations but the copyrights belong to one person. I could not find his contact information. I have used this site in the past because it is easy to find what I need for my lessons, and it’s great for accommodations. About technical elements, I can say that connection is quick, all links work and graphics download easy.

Title: IXL.Math
Description: This is a site for Math teachers, students and parents. Its design offers interactivity and it is really fun; good use of graphics and colors.   The content is current and reliable. It is easy to navigate and provides contents for math P-K through eight grades, which are updated. Students can practice, understand concepts at their own pace, get feedback, and practice at home. For teachers is ideal since they can get a membership for their classrooms. For parents it is great since the company send every week a report of progress and time at work. About credibility, this site belongs to a company, which have another line of educational products; the contact information is available.  I believe this site really meets the needs of the target audience. About technical elements, I found it runs fast in my computer, graphics download quickly; it is easy to follow even for little children because exercises have the audio mode. 

Don't be afraid of the progress

We are always afraid about we don’t know and future is definitely unknown; that is why many people try desperately  to grab the past, because is the only thing that brings them security. We can hear people saying: “Past time was always better”, or this one: “ Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense and the past perfect”, but the truth is  that time runs forward and we have to move according to it, otherwise, we are taking the risk to be isolated in the past time.

I have a friend in Colombia, she is now 63 years old and she never touched a computer until her daughter came to live to the U.S.; she founded herself in the need to communicate in the distance and she learned how to use messenger, email and many other useful things. I mean, if my friend could everybody can!.
I believe the need makes us progress; slates were too little, so paper offered wider options; pencils were good and still are, but there are documents that should not be erased, so pens and ink were the solution.  Nowadays, computers and Internet make our lives easier and their applications are infinite. It is our responsibility as educators get our students ready for the upcoming challenges, and in order to do that we have to be emotionally and technologically prepared. My plan for bridging the technology gap between “old school” and “new school” is  to create in the students the need to learn, to  propose them assignments which could be better developed using technology.