Sunday, July 13, 2014

Research versus reality television

Please don't judge.  I don’t enjoy reality television, but I do enjoy reading research related to my field.  Drama is draining, I avoid it as much as possible. Research, on the other hand, is filled with facts, no drama. My magazine holder is filled with journals and that makes me happy! 

 As much as I enjoy reading research, I don't enjoy doing research myself.  When I completed my thesis, the literature review was my favorite part of the process.  I savored my time in the library, immersed in the work of others.  Less enjoyable was the process of completing my own study, crunching the numbers and interpreting the results.  The amount of work needed to complete my small, rather inconsequential study, was staggering.  Completing the process increased my appreciation and respect for those who complete well designed studies on much larger scales.  To all of the researchers out there, thank you for all of your hard work.    

I view reading research as a professional responsibility, it is a practice that supports intentional, effective teaching.  It is my responsibility to use effective, evidence based practices when working with families and children. Because I work in the field of early intervention, there is an inherent sense of urgency.  I know that the early experiences I am promoting and providing  make a significant impact during this small window of development.  I want to work with families and teams to choose interventions that will significantly change the developmental trajectory of a child. Reading research helps me stay relevant and be confident in my choices.  It helps me decide what I need to keep doing, start doing and stop doing.  I know that if my teaching looks the same as it did 20 years ago, I am not being as effective as I could be.  Of course, there are practices from 20 years ago that still have plenty of evidence supporting effectiveness, but I also need to identify those stale practices that are not research based. This can be a daunting task, it is easy to drift from implementing a new practice back to the ineffective practice.  Knowing what works and putting it into practice are two very different things.  That is why my latest reading subject has been implementation science.  Again, don't judge! 

It is much easier to stay current than it used to be.  Two things helped me amp up my research mojo, I joined DEC and I followed more researched based organizations and institutions on Twitter.  Now that I am a DEC member, research journals are delivered to my door and I can access the archives.  Researchers and policy organizations are a part of my healthy, balanced, personal learning network (PLN).  Here is a link to my Twitter list of research and policy related organizations. Here is a link to the CEC/DEC membership page. 

Now back to reality television.  Maybe I would like a reality show about researchers and peer review boards?  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ECSE App All Star: Photo Buttons

Photo Buttons by  Software Smoothie is a simple cause-effect app.  Touching the screen makes a colorful circle appear, tapping the circle reveals the picture and accompanying sound, tap the picture and it pops and disappears.  There are 21 backgrounds to choose from, with a black screen as an option.  The black screen with the colorful buttons offers nice contrast for children with visual impairments. The app comes with 54 sample buttons.  Under settings, you can select which images you want to appear.  You can create customized buttons by using the device’s camera or pulling an image from the camera roll.  You can also add a recording to the image.  Creating customized buttons was a quick and easy process once I figured out that when in landscape orientation, I had to scroll down to find the “save” button.  The app is child friendly in that it does not have any ads or in app purchases and to access the settings, you need to press and hold the icon.  A few features that would make this app even better would be the ability to organize the custom buttons and add an option to make the buttons bigger.  I also wonder how many custom buttons you can make.  I am not sure if there is a limit, I couldn't find any documentation about this on the support site.  

This app stands out from other cause/effect apps because it allows me to customize the images that are triggered by the touch.  So now I have an app option that builds visual discrimination skills, cause/effect skills, and functional vocabulary.  This app would be a good option for use with children learning English as a second language.  I can also see therapists and interventionists finding uses for this app in working on a variety of language and readiness concepts.  I look forward to hearing about how this app is being used in ECSE.  Here are a few app activity suggestions.  

Photo Buttons App Activity:  Color scavenger hunt:  Children really enjoy the novelty of popping the images and watching them disappear and going on scavenger hunts.  Create a custom scavenger hunt around targeted skills such colors.  Create buttons for a variety of colors and the numbers 1 through 5. Touch the screen until several numbers and colors are on the screen.  Students take turns choosing a number and color, finding that number of objects of the chosen color, and then popping the number and color to complete a turn.

Parent App Activity:  Nature scavenger hunt:  Encourage outdoor play and exploration by using the same method as above to create custom buttons of things in the your yard and outdoor areas.  Help your child find and talk about the items before popping the image and making it disappear.