Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction Cohort – Centerville

Graceland University, in cooperation with Great Prairie AEA, is taking applications for a new Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction cohort to begin in June in the Centerville area.

The Graceland Master of Education program is an innovative graduate program for teachers, based on the NBPTS standards. Teachers in the program work collaboratively to design their own curriculum, plan course activities, and conduct Action Research under the supervision of local and campus-based faculty facilitators. Class scheduling is flexible to support the many demands on teachers’ time and energy. Students complete the 30 hours of graduate credit in a cohort format. June applicants will begin during the summer of 2012 and complete the program in May, 2014.

Tuition for the program is $340 per semester hour, and will not rise during the 2-year sequence. Loans , an interest-free payment plan, and other aid are available to qualified applicants. Applications for the summer 2012 cohort are due on May 8, 2012.

A Preview and Information meeting will be held at Indian Hills Centerville Campus on Thursday, April 26 at 6:30 pm. Please direct all questions to Vince Lewis, 515-577-4243 (cell) or or to Nancy Proctor, 319-350-3931 (cell) or . Detailed information about the program may be found at:

Parent Support Night in Mt. Pleasant on February 23

Thursday, February 23rd at 6:30 p.m.
Fellowship Hall at First United Methodist Church at 309 N Main – Mt Pleasant

Kick-Off the New Parent Support Group – Our Special Kids – for Parents of Special Needs Kids in Southeast Iowa! This group is run by parents, for parents. Our Mission is to Provide Support, Offer Hope and Explore Opportunities – Together! Our first meeting will feature a Guest Speaker from Hope Haven with information about their summer and weekend programs as well as other services. There will also be a time to interact and share ideas with other parents. We will meet monthly, kids are welcome, families & guests are encouraged and there will be refreshments.

Contact Melanie Patton at 319-931-5648 or or Crystal Connolly at 319-217-9146 or for more information.

Download a copy of the Parents Support Group Flier

The dissemination of information from external organizations by Great Prairie AEA does not infer sponsorship or endorsement of the information. It is being passed on to our stakeholders for its educational value.

The Cornerstone – February 2012

The February 2012 issue of The Cornerstone is now available! Scroll down to read articles or click on titles below. You can also download a PDF copy. Enjoy!

iPads/iPods in Education
Role and Function of the Educational Equity Coordinator
Honoring Our School Social Workers
Iowa AEA Online – Database Focus: CyberSmarts
2012 Through The Looking Glass Scholarship: Students Whose Parent Has a Disability
Register for Supervision of Special Education
Great Prairie AEA Student Events Update
Celebrate National Para-Educator Month in February
Register for the Total Science Safety Workshop

Download a PDF copy of The Cornerstone February 2012

iPads/iPods in Education

Since the introduction of the iPad almost two years ago, the education world has changed. Everyone seems to want an iPad.  Administrators have them; teachers have or want them; students have or want them. Amidst all this hoopla, who really needs one? For what are they being used in education? Are they improving student learning?

Let me start by saying that the prerequisite for the acquisition of any piece of assistive technology is to follow the SETT process. (S=student; E= environment; T= tasks; T= tools) In this process, the question is what we know about the student’s abilities/disabilities. The next question to ask is in what environment is this technology to be used. Third, what tasks do we want the student to be able to accomplish/complete? And lastly, what tool(s) would accomplish those needs. AT never starts with the technology and everything that is out there; it starts with the student.

That being said, how are the iPads/iPods being used? Is there an app for that?

As the owner of 574 individual apps, I can tell you that not all apps are created equal. Cost is not necessarily an indicator of an excellent app either. I have free apps that are fantastic and pricey apps that I wish I had not purchased. I will share with you some that I feel have educational potential as well as versatility. With the addition of the camera in iPad2s, it is easier to use videos and pictures without having to connect to download. Many students benefit from visuals.

Assistive technology: For assistive technology, communication is one main area of iPad usage.  iPads are checked out regularly from our SNAP site for this purpose. (Popular communication apps are mentioned under speech language below.)  I like the apps that allow for multiple uses such as Story Kit (free). It can be used as a speech app for determining the correct preposition. Pictures are imported and the student has to select the correct preposition according to the picture. The app can also be used for making a story using student pictures (student can draw or import pictures). The story can be typed in or recorded with student’s voice.  Other apps are eReaders, note taking (SoundNote, Notability), speech to text (Dragon), text-to-speech (Write & Say), record keeping (Percentally) –  scheduling (First Then Visual Schedule, Scheduler, Todo List), timers (Visual Timer, Clock) word prediction (Verbally, I Mean) writing, graphic organizers (Idea Sketch, Popplet, Outliner Free) and how to use an iPad (Slide2Unlock, Touch Trainer).

Scheduling/Cueing: Another area of app usage is for scheduling and/or cueing. There are several good apps for this purpose, but unfortunately none of them is free. One of the best is Scheduler. In this app videos can be imported according to what tasks need to be completed. For instance, the steps in brushing teeth are presented in order. The down side of this app is that the step does not disappear when completed. Other good scheduling apps are First Then Visual Schedule, Visules, and Todo List. The last three allow user to check off as they do the desired activity.

Switch Accessibility: The iPad has some apps that are switch accessible. Unfortunately, most of the switches that are out there only work with a few apps. App makers have to build in the switch usage component which at this point in time is not being done. Once the apps are universally accessible by switches, many more students will be able to take advantage of the iPads. Currently there are two switch apps: RJ Cooper Switch Interface, Attainment Switch and Tornado.

Speech: Speech language pathologists are using apps designed specifically for communication. Apps in this category start at free and go as high as to $299.00. Proloquo2Go is a popular app and costs $189.00. Wow! One might say. However, a dedicated communication device such as a Dynavox or Vanguard cost from $7000.00-$18,000.00. Granted, the P2G app does not support an environmental control option, but if it is just communication that we want the student to be able to do, then this app is a good deal. Other apps being used by SLPs are the Talking Tom, Choice Making, Lingraphica, ArtikPix, Expresssive, Voice4U, and autism apps.  ArtikPix, an articulation set of apps, is also popular with SLPs. Story telling (Story Builder, Puppet Pals, Picturebook), scene building (Playtime), sentence completion apps (Sentence Builder) can provide valuable information about a student’s speech and speech patterns.

Special education consultants are using the iPads for determining what a student can and cannot do educationally. App choice for them is determined by the grade level and abilities of student. Also, the consultants are using them for data collection. Many students are unable to read material that other students have access to. Districts are responsible for providing accessible instructional materials to the students in a timely manner – when everyone else has access to the material. iPads can help this happen. There are now many apps which will read the material to the students: Read2Go (Bookshare books); vBookz; Audiobooks, eReader to name a few of the most popular. The iPad has a built-in reader in Voice Over. Voice Over reads anything on the iPad. Special education consultants are always looking for ways for students who write poorly or cannot spell to take notes in class. Soundnote and Notability allow recording, typing, and writing in the same document. There is also a choice of paper (lined, blank, graph). AudioNote also has recording as well as typing and writing. Dragon apps – dictation, recorder, search – are also popular for students to record answers, save to notes, and then either print or email to the teacher.

Occupational Therapists have specific apps to help determine OT needs as well as practice for improving areas of need. Dexteria, Helicopter Taxi, Touch Trainer, Draw Stars, and Letter Reflex are popular ones. Some apps are used as rewards for a good work session.

Administrators: Recently, I was asked to present bout iPads at the superintendents’ monthly meeting. Part of the time was spent on basic iPad usage. Productivity apps such as Pages, Docs2Go, Dropbox, Dragon Dictation/Recorder were demonstrated to show how they could be used. Administrators currently are using the iPads for eWalk evaluations and data collection.

Teachers: Note taking apps, Splashtop (turn the iPad into a remote device that can control anything on the computer), Flashcard Builder, Pencasts (send lectures with notes and drawings to students) in conjunction with the Livescribe Pulse Pen, word prediction, text-to-speech, rewards, Dropbox pages, iMovie, Docs2Go are just some of the apps of choice for teachers. Students in the classes are using the iPads for remediation of skills not mastered. DoodleBuddy and WhiteBoard both allow simultaneous drawing on the iPad that I think is great for developing joint attention. Collaboration can occur on the same drawing from two different devices and each see in real-time the other screen.

1:1 Schools: Recently our technology team did breakout sessions for teacher professional development in four 1:1 school districts. iPad usage and apps were offered as one of the sessions. The focus of the session was elementary but offered tips and uses for everyone whether there is one iPad, five, or twenty.  Some schools are assessing whether to have the iPads as the 1:1 device rather than a laptop.

Attention needs to be paid on how to find apps which really do what they say they will.  Many apps look interesting, but upon closer inspection, they do not produce. One can always go to the App Store and read about the app. At the end of the app summary, there are customer reviews. It is a good idea to read through those. Word of mouth and app sharing are very good. People who already have the app know if it is worth the money and possibly have found new ways to use the app.  I suggest that an app purchase rubric such as the one below be used to determine the purpose and usefulness of the app.  iPads and apps need to be updated regularly to work at optimum efficiency.

Here is a closing thought: Not all apps are created equal. Do your research before purchase!

Listed below are web links to sites for seeing the apps by category and what they can do.

Marge Nash, Assistive Technology Specialist
641-682-8591 ext. 5391

Honoring our School Social Workers

A March is School Social Work Month Great Prairie Area Education Agency school social workers are highly skilled and licensed mental health professionals who serve our students in so many ways to develop their full potential. They also work directly with special needs students, as well as students with disabilities, giving each individual attention and guidance to assist them academically and socially.

Our school social workers serve as a link between students’ families and the school, working with parents, guardians, teachers, and other school officials to ensure that students achieve academically and personally.

Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people’s lives. Our world grows increasingly more complicated and stressful every day. School social workers deal with these stressful situations that affect students emotionally and behaviorally. They are always available to provide information, referrals, develop and monitor instructional plans and behavior intervention plans, and they evaluate the data as a team with the schools. Our school social workers are knowledgeable about a variety of community resources and services, and can coordinate and facilitate access to those resources.

Great Prairie AEA school social workers are relationship builders who identify strengths to facilitate individualized change, and we recognize and appreciate all they are doing to improve the lives of our students. To learn more about the difference our team of school social workers make, visit our website.

Photo: GPAEA School Social Worker Nancy Gutman (pictured above) with Sunnyside Elementary student, Sean.

Iowa AEA Online – Database Focus: CyberSmarts

Great Prairie AEA Media provides schools with six additional online databases.

  • CQ Researcher – 9-12
  • PowerKids Life Science – 3-6
  • CyberSmarts – 3-7
  • Visual Thesaurus – K-12
  • OneClickDigital – currently the collection is Senior High
  • PowerKids Earth and Space

CyberSmarts is a set of five ebooks with curricular support for safety education plans.

Titles included:

  • Avoiding Predators Online
  • Playing Games Online
  • Protecting Your Privacy Online
  • Stopping Cyberbullying
  • Using Social Network

Each ebook can be read independently or in a group setting.

Each two page spread of the ebooks include multiple ways to develop lesson plans with listed vocabulary, “learn more” links, activities, video clips, instructions for educators for setting up discussions, using journals, helping students problem solve and links to helpful web resources.

Each ebook and supporting sections have an audio component for read-aloud or read-along access. Students are also able to create a login profile and
track their progress.

This is an excellent resource! Educators and students in GPAEA have multi-use, simultaneous access so all districts can use at the same time. The company flyer lists this online resource for grades K-6, but we feel it is geared for grades 3 – 7.

Please check it out today!

All GPAEA online databases are on the AEA Media webpage.

Please contact your school media/tech staff for login information or contact us at

Kristin Steingreaber, GPAEA Media Specialist
641-682-8591 ext. 5265

2012 Through The Looking Glass Scholarship Students Whose Parent Has a Disability

Through the Looking Glass and its National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families are pleased to announce new scholarships specifically for high school seniors or college students who have parents with disabilities. A total of fifteen $1000 scholarships will be given out Fall 2012. These scholarships are part of Through the Looking Glass’ National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families. These scholarships are open to all students whose parent has any significant disability or health condition. Although no specific parental disabilities are prioritized for these scholarships, we especially encourage those students who have a parent with an intellectual disability to apply for these scholarships.

There are separate eligibility requirements for high school seniors and for college students:

  1. High School Seniors. To be eligible, a student must be a high school graduate (or graduating senior) by Summer 2012, planning to attend a two-year or four-year college in Fall 2012 in pursuit of an AA, BA or BS degree, and have at least one parent with a disability.
  2. College Students. To be eligible, a student must be currently enrolled in a two-year or four-year college in Fall 2012 in pursuit of an AA, BA or BS degree, be 21 years of age or younger as of March 5, 2012, and have at least one parent with a disability.

All application materials must be postmarked by March 5, 2012. Individuals may submit only one application per award period.

Selection criteria for all scholarships include academic performance, community activities and service, letter of recommendation and an essay describing the experience of growing up with a parent with a disability. Five of the fifteen scholarships will also consider financial hardship and academic potential in addition to the other selection criteria.

Please go to our website: for more information, including the application form, complete application directions and an FAQ page that answers many common questions as well as offers helpful suggestions.

Celebrate National Para-Educator Month in February!

Para-Educators serve a vital role in our education system. Their responsibilities include supporting individual students to classrooms of students in learning, problem solving, behavior support, data collection, and much more!

GPAEA supports Para professional learning through offering the Generalist Certificate, and Level II Certificates of Early Childhood Development, Speech/Language Pathology, PreK-12 advanced certificate in Special Needs, and Library Media.

Other professional learning experiences are offered in the areas of behavior, classroom management and reading! See the course catalog at