The Pathology of Technology


Saturday, September 13, 2008


Last March, my friend Mary Ann sent me an email to console me, or perhaps just to tell me how she was feeling and empathizing with me because I had emailed her with my feelings and healing activities at the time. It made me cry, and still does, but in a good way.

I felt both sad and empowered by her words. Sad, because someone who I rarely see, who lives on the other side of the state, who only connects with me two or three times a year, was able to write something so touching - while people I have worked with for 19 years have yet to acknowledge my loss at all. Others tell me that they just don't know what to say, but I maintain that a simple I am sorry for your loss would be sufficient because one is left to imagine the worst in the absence of any consolable words from another. Empowered because she made me feel special again and mainly from my daughter's eyes as she imagined Lesley's perspective.

I frequently read Mary Ann's email to me because I need to hear and feel her concern to know that there are some very special people on this planet who mean the world to me because of their compassion and their understanding. I re-read her words to me because I need to feel and hear what I imagine my daughter would say to me from the other side, and I need to put myself in a reflective mode and dream of the days we shared together and the eternal life I look forward to sharing with her when it is my time.

Here then, is that very sincere email in poetic form:


Know that today I share my tears with yours
As time will never relinquish you of the pain of losing a child
Understand that many
Who have not experienced what you have
Often struggle with the "what to say"
And usually can only offer thoughts and prayers
As well with those who don't appear to be supportive
You share what I have heard from others
Who express their frustration over personal losses of
Family, so many friends and colleagues.

I am sure it does not seem possible a year has passed.
Focus on the struggle,
But focus more on your growth and efforts in trying to understand,
Focus on directing your energy in a positive way
To affect others who shared your daughters' commitment
And her belief toward mental health issues.
Picture her smiling upon you
For what you and your wife have contributed in her name ....
I am sure this is a moment of pride
she would like to share with you,
as well as one of comfort that can reach across eternity if possible.
Capture your strength,
Recognize your courage,
When you experience them,
You have done amazing things in her name....

As you say, Good Morning - how are you doing today?
can certainly have different responses at various times and days.... you and I both know that is OK ......
Faith Hope and Love ....
Do not forget any of these ....
Faith that your daughter's love of you and yours for her
will always be there .....
Hope that the pain may ease,
Hope that your perspective will mold a future
that may be different because of your experiences
and because of your daughter's influence, and Love –
shared with others in her name will keep her memory strong
and her life an extension of the love you and your wife continue to share ......
with that love and her memory, she is never totally gone.....
only away for the time being
....... truly ......
smile and know that her presence and life –
as short as it was ....
certainly will be remembered
by many who were touched by her kindness, love and talent.

As the New Year begins -
in the hectic life we all live in ....
remember to stop every day and see what is good around you..... the "rainbow" that is captured behind the cloud,
small but evident,
only if one truly looks for it ....
it is there more often then we know .....
as I look for it each day on my way to work as the sun rises .....
it represents the hope and faith in God
that we both must maintain as we progress in our lives....
you are such a good person, caring, with so much to share –
I truly care that you will be patient
with all that you are feeling at different times on different days ...... and know that you can always share or call if needed .......
truly, you are in my thoughts and prayers -
that it makes you smile and feel a goodness that comes
from friendship across the miles ....
Enjoy today –
as you will in some way touch another as you have so touched me ...... thank you for sharing .......

Friday, September 12, 2008

AT implementation Rubric?

Many of our Local Assistive Technology Specialists (LATS) face the same challenge when it comes to assessment. Not only student assessment, but program assessment. One resource we share with them for program assessment are the QIAT matrices (download them at <> ). But what about adapting these for student specfic assessment? When evaluating how effective we are with systemic implementation of the quality indicators, the range of descriptors are from 1 to 4, or from "unacceptable to best practice." As Joy Zabala recently pointed out on a listserv post, the range of descriptors for assessing students using something like the QIAT Matrices, they could be "current" to "target" or something similar. She goes on to say that current could serve as the baseline to evaluate progress and each step could indicate movement toward the target. So, how do you evaluate the effectiveness of your technology intervention, with fidelity, that all important term that is confounding educators as they strive to find the most effective intervention?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dream a Little Dream of Me

Phillip K. Dick authored "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" which became the basis for a famous you know the name of that movie?

Tomorrow, I will post my most recent lucid dream of my beloved daughter Lesley. One of three I have had since her passing. Interpretations and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

I just typed a beautiful, meaningful allegorical tale of a modern day prince whose Queen asks him to do things that he cannot do. He realizes that decisions about people's lives must be made in consultation with those people, that decisions about staffing and budget must be made in relation to program goals. But because of fear or reprisals from people misinterpreting the allegory, I have to save my story for a future book that I will write in my retirement!

How many of you don't publish what you really want to publish on your blog because you are afraid of what others may think and do?

Monday, April 21, 2008

How to Keep Teachers in the Profession

There is a commonly cited statistic that roughly 40-50% of new teachers leave the profession on their first five years. While I am curious know what other professions benefit from this significant migration, I am more interested in knowing the causal factors in the new teacher’s decision tree.

Is it that they don’t have a mentor to guide them? Could it be a lack of pre-service preparation for motivating and engaging students? Or is it the forces of bureaucracy and organizational stress that wear them down, with their older, wiser colleagues saying, “that’s not the way we do it around here.”

Critics of the education system and NCLB might opine that it is the relentless demand for meaningless, redundant paperwork, unattainable (for some) higher standards, or accountability to single test scores that makes new teachers seek something different for a career.

Or, sadly, is it a breakdown in the social fabric of the student’s and the larger society, with disintegrating respect for all things institutional that makes teachers feel they are waging a war alone and uphill?

Teachers eager to apply their own technological savvy may believe they must suffer lack of school – based resources needed to keep pace with the student’s own arsenal of tools they have at home and in their backpacks.

In the final analysis, a formal one that still needs to be done, it is probably all of these coupled with a lack of time. For any teacher who desires to do the best job they can because they care about the kind of world their students will inherit and because they are deeply concerned about the skills they want their students to develop and apply to making the world a better place, that teacher will not sleep nearly as much as those people in professions that do not require one to take one’s job home with them.

Until we find ways to help teachers and administrators support one another, honor them for their devotion and dedication to their craft and to their students, and give them the autonomy to influence the policies and practices that directly impact their ability to do their jobs, we will continue to endure the consequences of ‘teacher flight” to other more lucrative, more fun, and more engaging careers.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Do we really want everyone to succeed?

Ira Sokol asks on his blog: "Wouldn't Universal Design - that joining together of differentiated instruction, new information and communication technologies, and learner-directed education seem the obvious solution to a diverse community with diverse starting points and diverse ongoing needs?" Yes, Ira, it would. You've summarized decades of research in individualization and differentiation, as well as the justification for same.

Ira goes on to say that, "Nothing quite matches the rhetoric of "we'll get everyone to succeed" better than an educational design which abandons the industrial model for a humanist, flexible alternative. But - UDL is not only not embraced, it is barely considered." While this is the apparent state of affairs, it is not entirely accurate, as there are pockets of UDL implementation that are quite successful, and many others who are in various phases of implemenation of using digital tools to support their differentiation initiatives. What is less apparent, but perhaps more insidious, is why do Response to Intervention and Differentiated Instruction get more attention at policy, budgetary, and implementation levels than does UDL? Do the others have a better agent? More political pull? Easier to understand because they do not focus on brain research? OR could it be that Ira Sokol is correct as he opines that:

"We don't get there because we really don't want everyone to succeed. And certainly those 'in power' don't want everyone to succeed. Only when we admit that, do all the attitudes which run through American education begin to make sense."

Mr. Sokol is indeed pushing the envelope of understanding and questioning the most basic values of our society. Whether the context is UDL or Differentiation or Reading instruction - he raises a most provocative point: what are we doing that proves him wrong?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How Are Your State’s AT Specialists Organized?

How Are Your State’s AT Specialists Organized?

After 18 years as Coordinator of the NY State Assistive Technology Project, I think it would be a great idea to unify all of the people who have been trained as a Local Assistive Technology Specialist (LATS) or who function in that role.

AT specialist is a lonely job at times. Being the only expert in a school or district, one often yearns for more moral support with others who are experiencing the same challenges. Because not all districts or agencies value ongoing professional development as much as we would like them to, nor do they support our attendance at professional association conferences and meetings with reimbursement dollars, there is a void that a virtual professional association could fill.

This group could serve as a vehicle for communication, resources sharing, fellowship, networking, professional development, and having a voice in political decisions that affect their livelihood. While RESNA does so an excellent job of supporting its members, we nevertheless have a variety of certificates out there, not just ATP. Thus, it would be helpful for everyone who functions in the role of LATS, to have an affiliation with their fellow “birds of a feather.”

NYSALATS – the NYS Association of Local AT Specialists is one possible acronym. Whatever we call it, we want to be inclusive, we want to affiliate with our state teacher associations, be recognized by the State Education Department, and by RESNA and other professional associations. We would contact everyone who has earned a professional certificate (LATS, RIATT, RESNA) or college degree in the field, and then meet for the first time at either the NYSCEC Convention, conference, the Governor’s AT Expo, or all three.

All things are possible, but we must act soon – the need is there.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

iTunes U for you!

I have been telling everyone about this new educational resource ever since I came across it, quite by accident. Like most educators, we are always on the lookout for great resources, but how many of us have looked beyond and into the depths of iTunes? One of the services there is called, appropriately enough, iTunes U!

This is the free service of the iTunes store that provides free video and audio for educators. For example, there is a free digital library available at Teachers' Domain. Brought to you by WGBH, Boston's award-winning PBS station, teachers' domain offers downloadable videos and educator guides.

Ranging from A Night in the Coral Reef to Homo Sapiens versus Neanderthals to Mitochondrial Flyover, they offer an invaluable addition to your science curriculum. Bookmark iTunesU, this resource will continue to grow.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

College Students Score Higher In Classes That Incorporate Instructional Technology Than In Traditional Classes

ScienceDaily (2008-03-25) -- The lives of today's college students have always included computers and the Internet. That technology now has moved from the ether into instruction. A new technical report finds that students in a "hybrid class" that incorporated instructional technology with in-class lectures scored a letter-grade higher on average than their counterparts who took the same class in a more traditional format.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Send text message for Google search

Did you know that you can do a google search using your text message feature of your cell phone? It's easy - just send a text message to Google at 466453 (spells Google on your keypad), and within seconds, you have a text message with the information you need. For example, you can type in a person’s name, city and state and get their contact information, including address. You can text words plus zip codes like “sushi 78745” and find all the sushi places in that zip code. You can also get weather reports by texting “weather (name of city),” along with sports scores, stock quotes, dictionary definitions, movie listings, and driving directions. Get the full information and instructions at

This is a free service from Google. You only pay the text messaging rates that apply via your provider.

This post came from a subscriber to the Speaker Net News

How Do We Know We Are Doing Technology Integration Right?

To develop and maintain our positive mindset while working with students with disabilities and their families, it is usually a good idea to ask ourselves: What are we are doing right, what data do we have to show for our efforts, and how do we encourage others to adopt a similar positive mindset for advocacy?

In my last workshop on certifying 21 “LATS” (Local Assistive Technology Specialist) some of the teachers said that when they integrated technology into regular education seamlessly, they got a strong feelings of self - confidence. They knew this was true because of the regular communication that existed between special and general education teachers, and the frequency of meaningful follow up that they gave one another. This support included the what, how, when and who of technology use. Boston schools have established a comprehensive way to implement this goal.

Another mentioned that knowing her leaders had a vision and goals gave her the satisfaction of knowing their district was doing something right as well as having a built in standard against which to measure their progress.

Still others noted that having “current software” (e.g, the newest version of either Kurzweil or Read and Write Gold in their library and on their server was the gold standard. Everyone in the class agreed that having a “Point Person" at all schools that aided them in troubleshooting was the most important ingredient on a day to day basis.

They also were eager to discuss the dark side of Technology Integration – feeling like it was an all volunteer job in the absence of a “Point Person, training, or access to disorganized or irrelevant training. Failure to adhere to the “think before you ban” warning was Banning tools that motivate and interest students of all levels.

Looking to the future, ( a few were willing to fight for their right to give every student an iPod or MP3 player in the classroom because it is a great tool to use for technology modification and it has a high “cool” factor – possibly the most important criteria of all. One might also argue the empowerment factor that tools get used when learning is placed in the hands of the students by the students.

Digging more deeply, one student (a child of one of the participants) said there are two ways of looking at student empowerment – the kind that is borne of rebellion over being denied access, the kind that never leaves the classroom because there is no carryover at home or the school does it to be trendy (as perceived by the students) and the kind that is forced upon them, for example, the school that says: “In the 2008-2009 school year all students will be required to have a video iPod."

Ultimately our goal is to create a teaching learning environment that is characterized with authentic engagement in authentic work.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hello Dear Reader,

I would like to share with you another perspective to the New Year wishes. January 2, 2008 is the one year anniversary of my daughter's passing and it was then that this idea occurred to me.

I subscribe to an online "baby boomer" newsletter and the authors said that it seemed hard this year for people to say "Merry Christmas" and be politically correct, but that "Happy New Year" is something that rolls off the tongue (or out of the AAC device) more easily.

They then opined that we should think about changing the phrase - from "Have a Happy New Year" to "MAKE a Happy New Year." I really like this perspective because happy New Years aren't something we are handed, and in fact they can sometimes be the opposite.

It made sense to me to acknowledge that I make my own happiness, as well as contribute to the happiness of others (with or without technology :-) as this is the essence of my mission.

And so, my wish for all of us is that we are successful in making a very happy new year for ourselves, our loved ones and those we serve.

With Love and Respect,

Through the Looking Glass