Occupational therapy for special-needs students moves online

All of the exercises that OTs use with students in a face-to-face setting “can happen in a virtual environment,” too, says occupational therapist Robyn Chu.

A young girl sits at a computer, wearing headphones. Her image appears in a box on the left side of the screen, and above it she can see the smiling face of her female instructor. On the main part of the screen is a black-and-white drawing of a girl performing an exercise called the “side-step dance.”

“We’re going to do … that side-step [dance] first,” the instructor says. “Ten times, opposite arm and leg.”

“OK,” the girl replies. She removes her headphones and stands in front of her computer, still visible on the screen, then performs the exercise as her instructor—a licensed occupational therapist—watches closely from hundreds of miles away.

The girl is using a new service from the San Francisco company PresenceLearning, which has provided live online speech therapy to thousands of K-12 students in the last few years through a process known as “telepractice.”

Now, PresenceLearning has expanded its services to include online occupational therapy services as well—something it believes can address a growing challenge for schools.

Nationwide, about one in five special-needs students is identified as needing occupational therapy services, the company says. But some 9 percent of OT positions at schools and health clinics across the country remain unfilled, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We don’t have enough [occupational therapists] overall,” says PresenceLearning co-founder Clay Whitehead. And that’s especially true in rural areas, Whitehead adds, where OTs or the students they serve might have to travel hundreds of miles to complete face-to-face sessions.

PresenceLearning has seen great success in providing speech therapy to students online, and online OT seemed like a natural extension of that service.

(Next page: How online occupational therapy services work)


Adobe Education Exchange now features free professional development

Billed as “one of the largest communities of creative educators in the world,” the Adobe Education Exchange is a free online platform for educators using Adobe’s photo, video, and web design software to find, share, and discuss their projects and ideas.

Now, the newly relaunched site also features a series of free, self-paced professional development workshops that go well beyond product training.

The workshops cover topics such as teaching visual literacy and integrating the arts into STEM instruction. Each online module includes three sections: Get Inspired, in which educators develop background knowledge on the topic; Get Ready, in which they delve deeper into the topic by viewing sample projects and engage in product training; and Take Action, in which they try out their newfound knowledge and reflect on their learning by creating and sharing a new project or resource.

These professional development workshops (which require free registration) have been added to the site’s existing discussion boards and other resources.

Under the “Resources” tab, for instance, educators can find inspiration for projects or lessons they can use in their classroom, browsing by subject area, grade level, and/or Adobe product. Users can sort their search results by criteria such as most recently added, most frequently downloaded, or highest rated.

And under the “Community” tab, users can find and connect with similar educators to discuss or share ideas.


Court backs student in textbook copyright case

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that textbooks and other goods made and sold abroad can be re-sold online and in discount stores without violating U.S. copyright law, ABC OTUS News reports. In a 6-3 opinion, the court threw out a copyright infringement award to publisher John Wiley & Sons against Thai graduate student Supap Kirtsaeng, who used eBay to resell copies of the publisher’s copyrighted books that his relatives first bought abroad at cut-rate prices. Justice Stephen Breyer said in his opinion for the court that once goods are sold lawfully, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, publishers and manufacturers lose the protection of U.S. copyright law…

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KKK in classroom: What can hatred teach kids?

Popular knowledge suggests that hate is learned, like writing or reading. So who is the most effective teacher, and what happens when professors and teachers invite hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and the Westboro Baptist Church into the classroom? Asks the Huffington Post. The answer, of course, isn’t simple. An engrossing piece from the Washington Times’ Tim Devaney describes the rise of this teaching tactic in some schools. Randy Blazak, a sociology professor at Portland State University in Oregon, told Devaney that he brings neo-Nazis into class because they humanize a hatred so extreme that students often consider it separate from humanity’s capacity — like a relic of some past time that’s carried to this day by people who no longer understand it. This lesson is a big day in a syllabus that considers the role of extremism in broader society…

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Pakistan’s education crisis: What ever happened to Malala’s friends?

When 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot point-blank on her school bus in October for her vocal support of girls’ education in Pakistan, it provoked an outcry in Pakistan and around the globe, but it also changed the lives of the two girls sitting next to her on that bus, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Almost half a year after the Taliban attack, the two girls injured alongside Malala struggle to deal with the not-so-pleasant notoriety that came with being associated with the young female education activist. Kainat Riaz, 16, and Shazia Ramzan, 14, were squeezed on either side of Malala on the bench of the school bus when a Taliban gunman boarded the bus and shot the teenage activist. Malala was shot in the head and neck. Kainat was shot through her upper right arm and required four stitches. Shazia was injured in her left hand and shoulder…

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Sixty percent of adults who took standardized test bombed

The bottom line: Sixty percent bombed the test. Translation: Of the 50 accomplished adults who took an exam made up of questions from the New England Common Assessment Program, 60 percent received a score that would — if translated to Rhode Island’s new diploma policy — put a student in jeopardy of graduating from high school, the Washington Post reports. Those were the results released Tuesday of the scores earned by the state legislators, council members, scientists, engineers, reporters, professors and others who took the test. The exercise was staged by the Providence Student Union, a high school student advocacy group, as a protest against a new state requirement that high school seniors must reach a certain level of proficiency on the exam to graduate…

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How the ‘Big6’ can aid in Common Core implementation

With implementation of the Common Core State Standards under way, a method known as the Big6 can help ensure that a curriculum put in place to meet the standards is rich in information, problem-solving, and decision-making, its creators say.

The Big6 is a six-stage model that develops students’ literacy and information skills as they solve problems and make decisions using the resources that are available to them. In essence, say creators Bob Berkowitz and Michael Eisenberg, the Big6 process can help students master the Common Core standards, because the process gives students a way to actually “do” each specified portion of the standards.

“The Common Core State Standards present a challenge for schools and educators to integrate the standards into existing curriculum and into classroom instruction, and [they] present an opportunity for teacher-librarians to be part of the solution, to meet specific standards through information and technology literacy programs, and to raise the status and awareness of the information and technology literacy program,” said Berkowitz.

An educational consultant and retired library media specialist, Berkowitz was speaking during an edWeb.net webinar that focused on helping educators create an instructional program around information and technology skills.

One of the biggest challenges the new standards pose is how they should be organized for instruction. The Common Core State Standards are designed to prepare students for success in college or the workforce, Berkowitz said, and school-level leaders will play a central role in implementing the new standards and in cultivating a shift in mindset from high school completion to college and career readiness for all students.

(Next page: The six stages of the Big6 model—and how they can help with the Common Core)


After decade of criticism, student grouping rises

Teachers say they are grouping students of similar abilities with each other inside classrooms and schools are clustering pupils with like interests together — a practice once frowned upon — according to a review of federal education surveys, ABC OTUS News reports. The Brookings Institution report released Monday shows a dramatic increase in both ability grouping and student tracking among fourth- and eighth-grade students. Those practices were once criticized as racist and faced strong opposition from groups as varied as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to the National Governors Association.

“Despite decades of vehement criticism and mountains of documents urging schools to abandon their use, tracking and ability grouping persist — and for the past decade or so, have thrived,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the centrist Brookings Institute’s Brown Center on Education Policy, who wrote the report…

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Top universities will help train STEM teachers

A group of Tier 1 research universities — the Stanfords, Harvards and MITs of the world – will join the White House-led effort to train 100,000 new math and science teachers by the year 2022, Scientific American reports. A $22.5 million gift from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), announced by the White House Monday morning, will make it possible to expand a successful teacher-training program called UTeach to 10 top research schools over the next five years. “Historically, Tier 1 universities have not been focused on turning out teachers through their science and math departments,” said Tom Luce, the founding CEO and chairman of the National Math and Science Initiative, the group that is leading the expansion effort, in an interview following Monday morning’s announcement. They are focused on turning out PhD students, and they will continue to do so, he said, but the gift will help emphasize that educating new teachers is a mission that all universities “need to embrace if we’re going to reach our goal.”

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