Tag Archives: movies

A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #146: Listener Q & A 14-15, Pt. 2

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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.

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Episode Overview –

Episode #146 features more answers to questions from listeners who have written e-mails over the past few years. There are a few more movie quotes thrown in for fun. Can you name the movies?

A.T.TIPS in this Episode –

A.T.TIP #466: INDATA Podcasts

Also mentioned in this Episode –

Open Source Strategy-A-Day Calendar – http://bit.ly/opensourcesadcal

How to Share in Google – http://bit.ly/sharegoogletutorial

Movies Quoted in This Episode – 

Apollo 13


The Help

Crocodile Dundee

Guest Blog Post for Texthelp

Making Time for Voice Recording – http://bit.ly/makingtimeforvoicerecording

Upcoming Live Presentations

SWAAAC Conference – Denver, Colorado – June, 2015

Strengthening and Streamlining Your AT Practice

Multiple Means of Professional Development

More Than One Way To Skin A Cat – Practical (And Fun) UDL


Baton Rouge, Louisiana – June 2015 – TBD

Brisbane, Australia – June 29th, 2015

Implementing Core Vocabulary & Minspeak All Day Long

With Bruce Baker

Sydney, Australia – July 1st, 2015

Implementing Core Vocabulary & Minspeak All Day Long

With Bruce Baker

Melbourne, Australia – July 3rd, 2015

Implementing Core Vocabulary & Minspeak All Day Long

With Bruce Baker

Perth, Australia – July 7th, 2015

Implementing Core Vocabulary & Minspeak All Day Long

Auckland, New Zealand – July 13th, 2015

Implementing Core Vocabulary & Minspeak All Day Long

With Bruce Baker

Christchurch, New Zealand – July 14th, 2015

Implementing Core Vocabulary & Minspeak All Day Long

Phoenix, Arizona – September 2015 – TBD

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – September 2015 – All Day Keynote

More Than One Way To Skin A Cat – Practical (And Fun) UDL

Strengthening and Streamlining Your AT Practice

Common Recommendations Using (Mostly) Free Resources

Getting to the Core of Language

Grand Rapids, Michigan – October 2015 – TBD

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Assistive Technology Movie Review – The Hunger Games

My wife doesn’t read books. She devours them. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was no exception. I, however, find it difficult to read a book during the school year. My literature consumption primarily takes place in the form of audiobooks or podcasts during my commute.  That said, when my wife circled last Friday on the calendar and said, “We’re going to see The Hunger Games” I felt the urge to read the book before seeing the movie.

As luck would have it, my in-laws came to visit the weekend prior to the movie coming out. In an effort to give them some alone time with their grandkids, I barricaded myself in our bedroom and went to town on the novel.

I knocked it out in two days; a record for me.

I was eager to experience the phenomenon in the same way as my wife so I could have something intelligent to say when the inevitable discussions comparing the film adaptation to the literary work occurred.

Once again I couldn’t help but see correlations  throughout the story to the implementation of technology following a Universal Design for Learning framework.



The story, which is mostly the same between the book and the film, is, at its core, one of rebellion, defiance, and self discovery. It involves 24 children between the ages of 12 and 18 placed within a large, outdoor arena to fight to the death for the purposes of entertaining the masses.  This annual death match, known as The Hunger Games, was established to keep the working class in line as a reminder of the power of the ruling class.  The contestants in this gladiatorial bloodbath are known as “tributes.”

The tributes in the story have a diverse set of backgrounds, skills, and traits, making each one unique and special in some way. My brain immediately equated the tributes to students within a classroom, struggling to survive through the arena of school, trying to win at education, competing with one another for acceptance into college or for scholarships. Just like in the story, despite the cut-throat competition, alliances and friendships are formed. In both the story and within schools, individuals realize that collaboration and teamwork prove more successful than standing alone.

If the tributes in the arena represent students, then the supplies and weapons used to kill opponents would represent the technology necessary to complete a task. The tributes make decisive choices about what tools they need to accomplish their objectives of staying alive and killing others. Likewise, students within an environment following the principles of Universal Design for Learning utilize an array of tools to accomplish their mission of learning the content and achieving educational goals. In the arena, the wrong set of tools could equal pain, suffering, or even death while the correct set of tools matched to an individual’s skills could prove most effective. In school, choosing the wrong set of tools could equal the loss of precious time but the right set of tools, matched to an individual’s abilities, could make a significant impact in student performance.

Blazing hot days, freezing cold nights, swarms of deadly insects, wild mutated animals, and poisonous vegetation are just a few of the hazards prevalent throughout the arena. These conditions are controlled by the gamekeepers in order to provide the maximum entertainment value for the audience.  Like in the arena, the school environment itself can be manipulated to shape the challenge facing a student.  Educators should engineer environments with the educational goals of students in mind. For instance, if a student has a language goal of making requests then placing desired objects out of reach provides the student with an opportunity to communicate. Likewise, if a student is physically having difficulty accessing something within his environment, like a computer or interactive whiteboard, the educator must manipulate the environment to provide access.  Either way, the educator molds the environment in a manner conducive to the needs of every learner.

The protagonist of the story is a character named Katniss, a 16 year old girl thrust into the midst of the carnage. She is provided a mentor named Haymitch who has the primary task of preparing her for the battle royale. During the actual event, Haymitch is also responsible for garnering “sponsors” for Katniss who will fork up cash to provide additional necessary tools not already in the environment.

In this way, Haymitch works like an assistive technology trainer guiding students in ways to successfully utilize the technology already present within the environment. Likewise, when that technology proves too restrictive or limiting, it is up to the assistive technology trainer to provide additional possibilities for the student. Haymitch goes to sponsors asking for additional supplies while an assistive technology trainer goes to vendors looking for tools that might meet the needs of students.

When Haymitch obtains a sponsor who provides supplies, he sends it to Katniss via parachute with a note attached with advice on how to best use it.  In similar fashion, when assistive technology trainers acquire a new device to help students they provide training and tutorials.

In the end, Katniss teaches the establishment of the ruling class a lesson that despite attempting to control the chaos, something unpredictable can occur to upset the rhythm of the status quo.  Educators attempting to provide and implement a variety of technology options to students should recognize this very same fact. A universally designed classroom strives to provide an atmosphere of controlled chaos and insulated entropy.  Students provided with a multitude of choices about tools and activities they wish to use to best demonstrate their knowledge or which best engages them in the learning process might get messy. Almost always, something can go wrong. The unexpected will occur.  Unlike the Gamekeepers in The Hunger Games, educators should expect this. Even more so, they should embrace it.

Providing a universally designed environment, at times, might feel like a difficult task, but remember no one is alone.  Anyone can call out to others, like the song of a Mockingjay, to ask for help. Perhaps a model of a peer is all that is needed for the spark to begin Catching Fire within a colleague. Educators across districts (way more than the 12 outlined in the story) are working toward accomplishing similar goals. Sharing accomplishments and demonstrating successes is the best way to spread the culture of universal design for learning.

As you move forward, continuing on your own mission to provide options for students, I only have these words of encouragement: May the odds be ever in your favor.

Profiles of characters from The Hunger Games with an embedded picture of Chris as one of the characters


Assistive Technology Movie Review: Moneyball

As soon as I saw the trailer for Moneyball I added it to the Netflix queue. I didn’t feel compelled to see this movie in the theater because a) I’m not a big fan of baseball and b) I tend to spend theater dollars on movies laden with impressive special effects to maximize the big screen experience.  I was, however, interested in learning how mathematics and statistics could be applied in an formulaic approach to change how people think. When it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar I bumped it up in the queue.

Like in the last blog post about a movie, I wasn’t expecting to find correlations between a mainstream film and contemporary educational philosophies like Universal Design for Learning.  My apologizes to my wife for the frequent pausing of the DVD to take notes. I couldn’t help it. Ideas just kept pop flying into my head.

The movie, based on a true story, stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, a former baseball player turned general manager for the Oakland Athletics. The movie opens at the end of a successful season for the Athletics. Instead of celebrating however, Pitt finds that his star players have left to take higher paid contracts on other teams. Faced with replacing these high profile names within a limited budget and frustrated with a staff using traditional scouting methods, Pitt begins looking for a different approach to fill the missing roster spots.

The scouts, in my view, echo the mindset shared by some educators that “this is the way we’ve always done it and it has worked out fine so far.”  To some extent, this might be true. For sure, I grew up filling out an exorbitant amount of worksheets and I feel like I received a decent education. But, could it have been done differently? Could my educational experience been even more meaningful? I think so. More importantly, does this traditional approach of providing worksheets to practice a concept work for everyone? I think not.

The movie demonstrates, in glaring fashion, that change is difficult.  People who have been doing something the same way for years, no matter the profession, resist change. Pitt’s character proposes a shift away from tradition and it meets with opposition.

Moving education away from a continuous flow of worksheets following a rigid, one size fits all philosophy into a new world where students are provided with choices as to how best they’d like to engage in their own learning would yield better results.

On a trip to negotiate with the Cleveland Indians Pitt meets a Yale grad, played by Jonah Hill, who pitches a radical new theory of player evaluation. Hill suggests that a wide range of individual variables can each be given numerical values and a quotient can be calculated from these numbers.  This quotient can then be used to get the most productive players for the money available.  The final quotient they use to evaluate a player’s value, the one of paramount importance to Pitt and Hill’s characters, is tendency to get on base.

For years I’ve thought that a merit-based system of pay would be a benefit to education. The theory is simple. Pay teachers based on performance. The most poignant argument against a merit-based system is how to make it equitable based on all the variables present in a classroom. Once I tried to make a list of all the variables that would need to be considered if a merit-based system were to exist. The list was as big as the Green Monster at Fenway Park.

Hill’s character in the movie quantified each relevant variable and generated a formula which he used to boil it down into one number. To me, if this exists for all the relevant variables present on the baseball field, then this same approach could be applied to evaluate, and thus pay, teachers according to a quantified value. The approach, as applied to baseball, is called sabermetrics. It would an interesting project for a class of individuals studying statistics to try to duplicate these efforts applying them to contemporary classroom variables.  The result might just produce an equitable system for paying educators based on productivity rather than solely on a traditional step approach.

Once Pitt’s character implemented the new approach I leaned over to my wife and said, “If this works right off the bat (pardon the pun) it is going to be a really short movie”. Predictably, the new approach didn’t work right away and the nay-sayers felt justified in their negative prognostications. In the movie, things go awry for Pitt and Hill but they stick to their failing approach, dedicated to see it through to the end.

To me, teachers implementing different or varied technologies in their classrooms to meet the needs of the different and varied learners in their classrooms should understand that sometimes things don’t work the right way, right away. Chaos might ensue. Like Pitt and Hill’s characters, stick to it. One loss on the baseball field doesn’t mean the entire season is a wash.  Likewise, one lesson where the technology didn’t work correctly or where students got confused doesn’t mean the approach isn’t solid. If you make an error, letting the proverbial ball roll between your legs, that’s okay. Brush off the dust and use it as motivation to hit a home run at your next “at bat”.

Furthermore, in some instances technology might work to help a student the instant it is put in place. However, in most cases, it usually takes time to successfully implement a technology tool. Consider the examples of implementing word prediction for a student with spelling difficulties or an augmentative communication device for a student who has never used one before. Although these tools can be powerful and life-altering when used overtime, it usually takes some time for a person to learn to use these tools effectively. It typically takes patience, practice, training and time for a student to truly integrate these tools to make a difference in their lives. Therefore, like Pitt and Hill’s characters, stick to it. If the decision to place a device was founded on solid evidence, then it is likely to work. Don’t give up. Chances are, you won’t strike out.l

Faced with a doomed team at the bottom of the standings, the duo  move out of their introverted comfort zones to enact the help of the players. Once the players are educated about the philosophy and brought on board as partners in the approach , positive results begin to occur. The Athletics, remarkably, begin to win against teams that can afford much higher paid players. In this same way, students should be made aware of the teacher’s educational philosophy and be accepted as cohorts in the approach.  Like the players on the team, students will work to improve (and help each other to improve) if they have a shared vision, outlook, or campaign to get behind. Set and share an obtainable and collaborative classroom goal. Authentically involve the students in as many decisions as possible in an attempt to reach that goal. Refer to it and reflect on it together so no one starts striking out on bad pitches.

Likewise, this same approach of establishing and sharing a common goal works for any group or people working together. Grade levels teams, assistive technology teams, school wide and system wide faculties, or any group of people working to achieve a common goal will produce better results if everyone has taken ownership of that goal.

In baseball, the general manager doesn’t necessarily need to fix a flaw in a batter’s swing, he just needs to create the environment in which the player himself can grow to make adjustments. In this same way, a teacher does not need to dictate solutions to solve every problem students encounter, but rather, provide the proper guidance and support to let the students develop their own solutions.

In the end, of course, Pitt, Hill, and the Athletics go on to prove that their system works. The movie claims that professional baseball, steeped in tradition and history, changed forever after that season.  In the following years every team changed to adopt Pitt’s new statistical approach to player evaluation and acquisition.  The profession, and the economy surrounding it, was forever altered largely due to the ideas and efforts of two men.

Educators can have that same impact on their chosen profession. Whether looking at education globally or at each of its subsequent parts (like assistive technology), long standing practices should be challenged, turned over, and re-examined to see if they are truly effective. We might find that embracing new approaches, and showing the determination to stick to these approaches, could result in an effective grand slam for education as a whole.

cropped photo of Brad Pitt in the movie poster for MoneyballPicture of Chris posing like Brad Pitt in the poster for the movie Moneyball


Assistive Technology Movie Review – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Despite having seen all the previous Mission Impossible movies, when I saw the preview for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol I thought, “Ick.” Then, when I heard from a few Twitter friends how much they enjoyed it, saw some additional television spots playing that catchy theme music, and noticed that it was directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, The Iron Giant, etc.) I changed my mind. Still, I was thinking I’d add it to the Netflix queue and get around to seeing it a year or two from now.

Over the winter break my in-laws came into town giving my wife and I an opportunity to have a day out together. We did some shopping, grabbed a bite to eat, and went to see Mission Impossible for the heck of it. As it turns out, we both really enjoyed it.

What I found most interesting about the movie were the parallels in the story to building and maintaining an assistive technology team. Without providing any spoilers, the movie centers around a small team of professionals who use technology to overcome problem after problem in order to achieve their objectives.  The team utilizes their different talents to assess each situation by analyzing their environment and then implementing technology to address the issues.

To me, this is exactly how a team of educators considers assistive technology for a student. The team analyzes the situation, determines what goals need to be met, and then decide what tools are necessary to address those goals.

Approximately half way through the movie the team of good guys realize that they will not be able to acquire any more resources. They are forced to find solutions using only what they have available to them. When implementing technology for a student, educators should first look to what they already have in their environment. Technology that is present and available to every student is always the best place to start and typically these tools are considered the least restrictive solutions. Furthermore, in the current fiscal environment of shrinking budgets, using what’s freely available first, before looking for external solutions that cost money, helps to keep funds available for when a student absolutely needs something to be purchased.

As the events of the plot unfold, the team finds that technology fails them…over and over again. As the technology fails, the team is forced to improvise to continue on their mission.  Unfortunately, this holds true in the world of education as well. Technology breaks down and back-up plans needs to be implemented so students aren’t left floundering without the supports they need to help them achieve their goals.  When the technology goes down, it’s up to the educational team to review, revise, and react, often in innovative ways, to make sure students succeed.

At the end, it’s no surprise, that Tom Cruise’s team is victorious. As team leader he gives a short speech explaining how proud he is of the team for their resiliency, collaboration, and never-give-up attitude. Even if you think the mission in front of you is impossible, whether it be stopping a terrorist from enacting his nefarious plot or assisting a student in achieving his or her educational goals, the edict is the same- failure is not an option.

Providing necessary technology to help students achieve their educational goals is your mission, and if you’re a good educational team, your only choice is to accept it.

Tom Cruise in hoody from MI4Chris as Tom Cruise in MI4

A.T.TIPSCAST Episode 82: Paranormal Apptipity

An image of a hand drawn ghost hovering over text reading "ATTIPSCAST #82: Paranormal Apptipity"

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. To learn about these products and their new suite of web apps go to www.texthelp.com.

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Episode #82 is a recording of an event where Chris and his wife Melissa describe a variety of educational tools as they conduct a paranormal investigation.

A.T.TIPS In This Episode-

A.T.TIP #210 – http://selectsmart.com/topjobs.html

A.T.TIP #211 – The Career Toolkit at http://dreamit-doit.com

A.T.TIP #212 – http://careerpath.com

A.T.TIP #213 – About.me

A.T.TIP #214 – Voice Memo App (for smartphones)

A.T.TIP #215 – Audioboo.fm / Audioboo app (for smartphones)

A.T.TIP #216 – Justin.tv

A.T.TIP #217 – Livestream.com

A.T.TIP #218 – Silence

The Small Mermaid e-book is now available!

Purchase the book from Amazon for the Kindle and Kindle app.

Contact Information-




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A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #72: Digital Video Strategies

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.

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Episode #72 features a discussion of the use of digital video with students, in educational evaluations, and in educational reports.

A.T.TIPS In This Episode-

A.T.TIP #191: Scripting for Video Production

A.T.TIP #192: Students Interviewing Others on Video

A.T.TIP #193: “Right Way, Wrong Way” Videos

Right Way

Right Way Visual

Wrong Way Visual

Wrong Way Visual

Images used from http://www.openclipart.org/detail/thumbs-up-smiley-by-skotan & http://www.openclipart.org/detail/thumbs-down-smiley-by-sunking2

Upcoming Presentations-

To view the entire presentation history check out the “Presentations” link at the top of the blog.

Contact Information-

Join the A.T.TIPPERS group on Facebook and/or Classroom 2.0 ! You can also follow me on twitter.com.

Leave a comment down below or drop me a line at attipscast@gmail.com. Let me know what you think of the show! You can access the podcast and register as a fan of the show from here:

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Thanks everyone and happy listening!

A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #59: Listener Feedback, Part 3

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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 #59 features feedback from listeners of the podcast which lead into additional A.T.TIPS.


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

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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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A.T.TIPSCAST Episode #52: Puzzles- More Than Meets The Eye

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 #52 features a discussion about the use of puzzles and a classic set of toys from the 80s as educational tools to practice fine motor skills, enhance visual-spatial abilities, utilize logical reasoning skills, build vocabulary, and more!

The episode features a jammin’ bumper from Mark Nichols, an assistive technology coordinator with Loudoun County Public Schools in Northern Virginia. Check his blog, The Tech Flash, and follow him on Twitter at @thetechflash2.


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