Tag Archives: engagement

A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #139: The Nightmare Before Technology

Jack Skellington's eyes and nose with the word "ATTTIPSCAST" as his mouth


This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp, provider of the award-winning Read&Write software solutions. Click on the banner above to learn about the amazing Read&Write products.

Episode Overview –

Episode #139 features three song parodies from The Nightmare Before Christmas. My apologies to Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. As you listen, please keep in mind that I’ve never had one singing lesson, ever. In case you’d like to sing along, I’ve added the lyrics below.

This is Technology 

Boys and girls of every age

wouldn’t you like to see something strange

Come with us and you will see,

our use of technology

This is technology, this is technology,

students scream when they see its sight

This is technology, everybody make something,

click or press to squeal with deeeelight,

It’s our time, everybody scream,

in this time of technology

I am the one you hold in your hand

screen gone dark and battery glowing red

I am the one sitting in your lap,

keyboard up and ready for your tap

This is technology, this is technology, nology, nology, nology, nology

Press the button to go home,

everyone post things all day long

Its our time, don’t we love it now,

everybody’s waiting for the next surprise

Pinch that corner, then,

zoom in if you can,

that gadget only weighs an ounce and don’t break the..


this is technology,

front and back and going green,

Aren’t you wired?

Well, that’s just fine,

say it once, say it twice,

take a chance and hold the mice,

write while you type, yeah it’s alright

Everybody scream, everybody scream,

its our time for technology

I am the boy with the tears on his face

gone in a flash with a tablet in place,

I am the girl who you need to teach

I am the one who you need to reach,

I am the teacher trying to get it right,

Making their futures nice and bright

This is technology, this is technology, nology, nology, nology, nology

slender tablets everywhere,

make it fun so we all care,

that’s your job, know what I mean?

in our time of technology

In this time don’t we love it now,

everyone’s waiting for the next surprise


helps you with the facts

will help you learn just how to be

Give you tools so students win!

This is technology, everybody scream!

Please make way for a very special guy

Our man Chris is king of the Tipscast,

everyone hail to the tipscast Song

Now, this is Technology, this is Technology, nology, nology, nology, nology

In this time we press home everyone hail to the techno song

On on on on turn it on on on on on on on


Chris’s Lament

There are few who deny,

That technology is the best,

For it’s benefits are renowned far and wide

When it comes to surprises

With a backlit light

We make things without even trying

With the slightest little effort

using hashtags and alarms,

Twitter helps teachers find what they seek

With a mic in your hand

And a dulcet tone,

Podcasts swept many listeners off their feet!

Yet year after year,

It’s the same routine

And students grow so weary

when we lecture things.

And I BET!

They like making things,

But they’ve grown tired of the same old thing…

Oh, somewhere deep inside their bones

An emptiness began to grow,

There’s something out there in the wide unknown,

A longing that they’ve never known

They can master it alright,

with strategies out of sight

teachers guide them rightwhen others can’t

They might think it’s yucky or they’re super unlucky

that they’re learning more in Finland, what’s the chance?

And since they have read, they can fill others’ heads

To spread technology integrations.

Any woman or man can learn like they can

But hurry ‘cause we need those educations

Oh you there please do understand

That the song I sing should make you grin

you’d lose that frown,

if you only understood

We can’t give it up,

that wouldn’t be good

We can’t fill that empty place all alone

Students need to explore the great unknown

Give praise and praise year after year

Makes students smile from ear to ear


What’s This?

What’s this? What’s this?

There’s tools everywhere

What’s this?

There’s strategies in the air

What’s this?

I can’t believe my eyes

I must be dreaming

Wake up, Chris, this isn’t fair

What’s this?

What’s this? What’s this?

There’s something that I dig

What’s this?

There’s students making things

What’s this?

The schools are lined with

Little children laughing

Everybody seems so happy

Have I possibly gone appy?

What is this?

What’s This?

There’s children using tech

Instead of using pens

They’re busy building joys

And absolutely no one’s ever sad

There’s apps on every screen

Oh, I can’t believe my eyes

And in their bones I feel the choice

That’s coming from inside

Oh, look

What’s this?

They’re putting things online,

they post!

Why they looks so engaged,


They’re gathering around to share a story

Roasting worksheets on a fire

What’s this?

What’s this?

In here there’s so much that is free,

how queer!

And who would ever think

And why?

They’re creating unique things

Let’s see what this electric gadget brings

And there’s a smile on everyone

So, now, correct me if I’m wrong

This looks like fun

This looks like fun

Oh, could it be I got my wish?

What’s this?

Oh my, what now?

The children are amazed

But look, there’s something underneath

All tools, no glitches here to block them or ensnare them,

very little mobile things

Secure them in their dreamland.  

What’s this?

The worksheets are all missing,

the nightmares can’t be found

And in their place there seems to be

Good feeling all around

Instead of screams, I swear

I can hear learning in the air

The spark of thoughts and reason

Are absolutely everywhere

The sights, the sounds

They’re everywhere and all,


I’ve never felt so good,


This empty place inside of me is

filling up

I simply cannot get enough

I want it, oh, I want it

Oh, I want it for my own

I’ve got to know

I’ve got to know

What is this place that I have found?

What is this?

UDL? Hmmmm???

A.T.TIPS in this Episode –

A.T.TIP #453: Song Parodies to Represent Content for Learners

Upcoming ATIA Webinars

Social Media for Beginners: Twitter 101  with Beth Poss – 3:30pm – 5:00pm ET on April 22, 2015. Webinar for the Assistive Technology Industry Association

Upcoming Live Presentations

Technology Driven Data Collection: Using Digital Tools to Document Progress
One-Day Pre-conference – January 28th,  2015.
Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference

Register Now!

Data Collection Cartoon

Schedule of Presentations at the 2015

Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference

Date Time Title Co-Presenters Additional Information
1/28/2015 8am – 4pm Technology Driven Data Collection: One-Day Pre-Conference Beth Poss http://bit.ly/dataatia15
1/29/2015 8am – 9am Generation Tech! Empower students with an authentic writing/publishing opportunity Eliza Anderson, Melissa Bugaj
1/29/2015 12pm – 1pm Professional Development Smackdown Diana Carl, Mike Marotta, Kirk Behnke, Beth Poss
1/29/2015 2:20pm – 3:20pm PD2015 – Using a Strategy-A-Day Calendar to Elicit Change Sally Norton-Darr, Mark Nichols, Judith Schoonover
1/30/2015 8am – 9am Indiana Jones meets the Internet: Becoming an Assistive Technology Archaeologist Beth Poss
1/30/2015 9:20am – 10:20am Twitter 101–Building Your AT Professional Learning Network Beth Poss
1/30/2015 2:20pm – 3:20pm Innovative Practices in PD 2015: It’s Not Business as Usual Diana Carl, Mike Marotta, Kirk Behnke, Linda Wilson,

EdCampAccess International

1/31/15 in Orlando, Florida!

I’ll Be There! Will you?

Register Now! Its’ Free!

Utah Center for Assistive Technology

Strengthening and Streamlining Your Assistive Technology Practice –  February 3th, 2015

KEYNOTE: More Than One Way To Skin A Cat (Practical & Fun AT) – February 4th, 2015

Common Recommendations Using (Mostly) Free Resources – February 4th, 2015

Contact Information

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A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #121: EnGAMESment – Let’s Play!

A.T.TIPSCAST spelled out in blue blocks on sandy peninsula in Minecraft

This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp, provider of the award-winning Read&Write software solutions. Click on the banner below to learn about the amazing Read&Write products.

Image that reads "Start the new school year off right! Give your students Read&Write for the Desktop, Google, or iPad. Award-winning software solutions for individuals with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, or reading and writing difficulties. Free trials and special IEP Pricing are available now! Texthelp

Episode Overview-

Episode #121, the first episode of Season 7,  features an article written for the Assistive Technology Industry Association’s (ATIA) newsletter about the implementation of digital games to target educational goals. A big thanks to my wife, Melissa Bugaj, for narrating the article. If you prefer to read the text version of the article please enjoy the ATIA newsletter. Some paid games were mentioned in the article. Free-to-play games are listed below as A.T.TIPS.

A.T.TIPS in this Episode –

A.T.TIP #368  – Minecraft PE Lite app

Students demonstrate their knowledge of Native American culture by constructing a longhouse in Minecraft.

Students demonstrate their knowledge of Native American culture by constructing a longhouse in Minecraft.

A.T.TIP #369 – The Myth of Average Ted Talk by Dr. Todd Rose

A.T.TIP #370 – BlocksWorld HD app

A pixelated man sitting next to a pixelated evergreen tree with a yellow flower nearby. A tools palette can be seen onscreen to the right as well. A.T.TIP #371 – Lunacraft app

Spaceman hovering over a tools palette

A.T.TIP #372 – Kodable app

A digital green field with a blue path being cut through it. Control arrows are pictured in the top right.

A.T.TIP #373 – DIY app

Image of three badges: Gamer, Gardener, and Geologist Image of three badges: Ornthologist, Painter, and Papercrafter

A.T.TIP #374 – Using the plot of a story-based video game to teach narrative concepts

Also Mentioned in This Episode –

AutisMate’s Hero of the Week Interview

Minspeak Newsletter featuring A.T.TIPSCAST Episode 116

Upcoming Presentations –

Speaker at TEDxAshburn – September 28th, 2013

Logo from TEDxAshburn

Chew the P.H.A.T – Policies & How-to’s in Assistive Technology with Sally Norton-Darr – 8am on October 9th, 2013 at Closing the Gap in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Get Your Body Moving – Adventures in Gesture-Based Learning with Karen Dietrich & Dr. Tara Jeffs – 8am on October 10th, 2013 at Closing the Gap in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Multi-modal Professional Development with Sally Norton-Darr  – 8am on October 11th, 2013 at Closing the Gap in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mission Possible: Proliferating a Culture of UDL with Beth Poss  – 8am on November 4th, 2013 at the Promoting Achievement through Technology and INstruction for all Students Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.

REGISTER NOW! —> Digital Make N’ Take: Digging Deeper           with Beth Poss – Two-Day Preconference on January 28th and 29th at the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Professional Development Smackdown with Beth Poss, Kirk Behnke, Mike Marotta, and Diana Carl – 12pm on January 31st at the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference in Orlando, Florida. Room – Caribbean VII

Contact Information-

Follow me on Twitter

Send an e-mail to attipscast@gmail.com

Register as a fan of the show to receive e-mail alerts for new episodes


Assistive Technology Movie Review: The Avengers

I’m a super hero geek and proud of it. I didn’t just grow up reading comics. I played games about super heroes, watched super hero cartoons, created robust fight sequences and narratives (often in that order) with super hero action figures, and pretended I was the one taking down the bad guys.

It was “Super” fun!

Today, I get to relive those adventures with my two little ones by fighting giant robots, thwarting the plans of treacherous villains, and protecting the lives of the innocent baby dolls scattered around the room.

Picture of Chris and his kids dressed like generic super heroes (masks and capes)

This is “Super” fun!

Over the past few years, the folks at Marvel have been releasing movies starring some of their most popular super heroes.  Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor have each had their own summer blockbuster movie (Iron Man actually had two).  These movies set the stage for the ultimate super hero team up, bringing all of them together in The Avengers.

Without even asking me about it, my wife made babysitter arrangements and pre-purchased the opening night tickets. She had watched all these movies with me, loving the Iron Man movies the most. She wasn’t nearly as excited as me to see The Avengers but when I told her it was directed by Joss Whedon, creator of her favorite show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she was all in.

As you can probably guess, on the night of the big event, I found myself grinning from ear to ear, mesmerized for over two hours.  Despite the fact that I was ten years old again, I couldn’t help but draw some parallels between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and contemporary practices in the world of education and assistive technology.


The Tesseract as Curiosity and Engagement-
The movie starts with an action packed sequence of events where the villain of the movie, Loki, steals the Tesseract; a powerful energy source with the potential for creating sustainably clean energy for the planet. Loki plans to use the Tesseract to create a portal into space through which he can bring an invading alien army.

It comes to light during the movie that Loki has not been the only power looking to use the weapons for less than peaceful purposes. S.H.I.E.L.D. (a government agency) works to exploit the power of the Tesseract to create its own set of unique weaponry which can be used to keep the peace. Good intentions to be sure, but by keeping this fact a secret they cast a nefarious shadow of doubt over the entire organization.

The Tesseract is unharnessed energy, not unlike the enthusiasm of students entering school. Have you seen the overflowing brightness behind a kindergartener’s eyes before the first day? It is brimming with hope, eagerness, curiosity and a desire to learn. The raw energy is palpable. Students come to school, en masse, already engaged. Therefore, keeping them interested in school should be as easy as saying some incredibly cool catch phrase. Unfortunately, somehow, it’s not.

Educators, throughout the entire span of students’ educational careers, have the massive responsibility of helping students continue to feel engaged in their learning.  It is not the fault of the Tesseract that people are trying to exploit it. Likewise, it is never the students’ fault if and when they become disengaged with learning.

Students DO NOT CHOOSE to be bored.

The power of the Tesseract is like that of curiosity in students. Curiosity can be kept flowing through students by providing them with options about how they’d best like to learn. Curiosity will continue to drive student’s engagement when they get to make choices about how they’d best like to learn.

For now, the curriculum is set, static, and determined, but the ways for students to experience that content is changing, dynamic, and flexible. By providing students with options, you give them freedom, much like an Avenger keeping the world safe from a race of invading aliens. If educators approach each lesson plan by saying, “What’s the best way I can engage each learner?” and then successfully execute those lessons, they will have taken a heroic first step.

A Group of Individuals Does Not a Team Make
The Avengers brings together a group of individuals, each with his or her own set of unique traits and abilities which add something to the whole. Each character has a skill set that makes them a valuable asset and which makes them vital to the success of the mission. When an Individualized Education Program is being developed, individuals from different disciplines and perspectives come together for a common purpose. Each individual member brings his or her own set of talents to the table to formulate a plan which outlines the instructional needs of a student. However, a group of individuals working toward the same cause does not necessarily make it a team.

Throughout the course of the movie, the Avengers learn that individual feats of strength and demonstrations of skill might be impressive (and fun to watch) but don’t necessarily equate to getting the job done. It isn’t until the end of the movie, setting egos aside and learning to work together, do the Avengers truly form a team. Likewise, when developing and implementing an Individualized Education Program, the team should work synergistically, not separately. It is not the job of the speech therapist to work on goals related to communication, the job of the occupational therapist to work on fine motor goals, the job of the physical therapist to work on gross motor goals, the job of the parent to work on things at home, the job of the general and special education teachers to work on academic goals, or the job of the administrator to ensure that everything gets done. Rather, it’s the job of everyone, to work on every aspect of every goal, collaboratively. When this happens, the individual skills of professionals blur into something cohesive, a true team forms and the student is the one who ultimately wins.

Character Before Technology
Each hero in the Avengers utilizes a weapon that matches their individual set of skills. Captain America uses his iconic shield. Iron Man is outfitted with a suit of armor. Thor wields Mjolinir, a mighty hammer. Hawkeye shoots a bow. Black Widow uses acrobatics and firearms. And the Hulk is a weapon all unto himself.

In this movie, just like in all of the other Marvel movies, the focus is on the character, not the tools they use. The weapons support the characters, not the other way around. In this way, the weapons used by the heroes are similar to the process of selecting a device or strategy for a student.

When Steve Rogers was becoming Captain America, the plot wasn’t the discovery of some shield made of Vibranium and how someone could use it. Rather, it was about a man who stays true to himself while facing incredible circumstances. In Iron Man, the story isn’t about a man who sets out to develop an invincible suit of armor but rather, creates one out of necessity. Thor’s hammer serves as a symbol for doing what is right, but the story of Thor centers around humility.  Bruce Banner’s main conflict comes from an internal struggling for control not about the ramification of experimenting with gamma radiation. In truth, what gets to the core of all of these characters has nothing to do with the tools they use, but rather, who they are as people.

Device selection happens in much the same way. When selecting an intervention for a student or class, the question should be centered around who the student is and what they needed to accomplish, rather than the idea of having a tool and wondering who could use it. For Marvel, it’s not “We have this shield, suit of armor, mystical hammer, gamma radiation, bow, etc. We should give them to someone”. Instead, it’s “There’s this complex character who faces intense problems. What type of tools should we provide this person to help solve these problems?” For selecting specific assistive technology for students, it shouldn’t be “Look at this shiny cool tool, who should use?” Instead, it should be “This student (or groups of students) has a problem. Which tool(s) can this student (or these students) use to help address that problem?” When devices are selected based on the character of the student, rather than the other way around, one can be sure that the student is getting what is needed.

Sacrifices –
Agent Coulson has been described as the glue that holds the various Marvel movies together and helps to maintain continuity. The character makes an appearance in many of the other Marvel movies. He is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who helps to bring the individuals together because he believes in the idea of forming a cogent team of Superheroes. Agent Coulson makes the ultimate sacrifice to provide the final catalyst for driving the group to work together as a team.

Many educators do this too. Many live for their students, providing countless hours way beyond the limits of the typical work day to provide the very best service they can. They believe they are making a difference, investing in the future, and truly impacting the lives of students in a positive way. Coulson died because he believed in the Avengers. Educators sacrifice money, resources, and (most importantly) time to the idea that students, no matter their ability, can and will learn.

Also like the Avengers, educators perform these selfless tasks with mixed levels of support. At the end of the movie, the director makes the point to show how the public reacts differently to the knowledge that heroes exist. Some embrace the heroes, thanking them diligently. Others question their true intentions. Some even outright blame the heroes for the invasion. Educators, despite their passion and sacrifices, receive this same mixed response from the public at large, however, educators shouldn’t be chastised or scorned. Rather, they should be respected and revered for being the heroes they are.

Overall, the Avengers is a fun, action-packed thrill ride that brings a helicarrier-load of laughs and smiles. Engaging characters drive a compelling plot all supported by the backdrop of a fascinating universe. Working in the field of education is much the same. Teaching, and supporting students, is one of the most enriching and rewarding professions. It is filled with memorable, meaningful, jaw-dropping moments that leave an impression, move you to tears, and can make you feel like you’re the hero you always wanted to be.

Chris's face superimposed over the Avenger's faces

The Avengers Movie Poster

A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #58: Text – to – Movie

Animated Gif of the A.T.TIPSCAST log in lights

Episode Overview-

This episode of the A.T.TIPSCAST is sponsored by Texthelp Systems, provider of award-winning literacy solutions including Read&Write GOLD and Fluency Tutor. For more information, go to www.texthelp.com.

Read & Write Gold, TextHelp, and Fluency Tutor logos

Episode #58 features a description of how teachers and students can turn text into short, engaging video segments.


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