Summer '06
Summer '07



Public Service Announcement

"Podcasting Dreams"

I chose to think in terms of the near-future use of podcasts when I conceived my PSA. I conducted exit interviews with some of the Tech Club students and videotaped them. Some of the students identified podcasting as their favorite activity because of the collaboration and expression the project allowed them. When I watched Larry's footage, however, I knew that my PSA needed to concentrate on this one individual and the difference podcasting made in his life this year.

You can watch my PSA here.

The Stakeholders

I identified four stakeholders: two of them are people I work with, the other two work at the district administrative level. I also showed my film to several teachers who work with Larry. One of the teachers cried when she watched the video. The superintendent was at school on the last day of classes, so I showed her the film as well and she was impressed and moved. The people who worked with Larry were most affected by the film.

I captured the conversation we had as notes that I typed while the stakeholders spoke. I left them "rough" because I think the notes most accurately capture the person's voice and the conversation.


Bio: One of two teachers leading the Autism Spectrum program at the elementary school where I work. This was her first year in the program. Background in education: MA in special ed, worked with preschool and elem students. Parent educator in a community college. Small private pre-schools with Autistic students. Not Larry's case manager, but she has worked closely with Larry because he comes to the classroom in the morning. She works with Larry a lot.

Reaction: Thought it was great. Felt it was an effective means of demonstrating how podcasts can be used to communicate. Socializing and confidence building: S. is a valuable part of the school community. Got an inroad into what Larry thinks: hard time understanding what he wants, needs, or is thinking about. Amazing that he is thinking these things. Deep and profound thoughts. Language is garbled a little, but "magic is love," "friends working together," he has a vision of a beautiful world and that he is a beautiful person. Powerful that we have begun to understand him. He's learned the technical process: working with others, practicing. In the past practicing didn't work with him, but this process showed him what rehearsal was about. After listening to another CD [of music Larry created] the other day, Larry walked in and smiled. "I can do stuff, too." Students in the program do not get enough of this. Very effective for our population: technology, social skills, self-esteem. People and peers might come up to him and congratulate him.

Larry was extremely anxious and very easy to escalate into screaming and not knowing what to do with himself. Over the year he has settled down into a more calm person and definitely the last two months, because of Tech Club, he has made a new friend in T. As interested in T. as T. is in him, and he wasn't like that earlier. Greets the routine people independently: before, everything was prompted. Able to express and communicate what he wants: used to have to prompt. Now he is able to tell people what he wants or needs. Able to initiate. Usually these students focus on one adult, but Larry will reach out to other adults around him. He is expressing himself better. He is also doing more writing. I remember when we used to give him writing, he would stare at the screen, even if given words. Now he writes. He enjoys it more because he has seen what it leads to.


Bio: Elementary school principal at the school where I work. Ralph was present for the formation of the Autism Spectrum program at the school and has been a vocal supporter and champion of the program. His career spans the creation and recreation of Special Education. Before 94142 the first law that said you will education students with disabilities: became a principal the year before it went into law. The school he worked at was already heavily special education. Chose to be a principal at schools with sizeable special ed populations. Eventually became a director of special education program before returning to Lakeridge as the principal.

Reaction: Powerful. Brings to mind many years ago, easily 30, I was visited by an educator from Scotland. Doing things with severely disabled kids that nobody else was doing. Sent a book, "Dam Burst of Dreams," written by a 12 year old Scottish kid with Cerebral Palsy who was kept at home. Totally non-verbal, education system considered him a vegetable. Parents considered him their son, spoke to him like a normal kid. Through the magic of tech, electric typewriters came to being. They bought him a typewriter and he wrote a book of poems quickly. So many stories like that now, that show us that we need to find ways to let kids who are communication "locked" to unlock this. Larry is an example of this: most people might see him as "retarded" but he is decidedly not retarded.

Podcasting is like the electric typewriter: it is a chance to bring meaning to communication. He is motivated to that in a way not much of his environment has not. Writing and speaking skills. Typing. He understands that he is saying this to other people and that they are going to hear it. The proof in that is how the kids and the adults have responded to Larry's work. The power of his words is amazing. Somehow Larry gets that and it motivates it.


Bio: Director of Technology for the district. This is her fourth year in the position. Prior to this position she was a secondary physics and math teacher as well as curriculum lead for technology. She also lead the Technology Planning Team and the Tech Advisory Group, a community organization. Two roles: operations, making sure everything is running, buying equipment; leading the instructional technology efforts. In larger districts the responsibilities would be divided between two people.

Reactions: What are people going to understand about the autism spectrum and how the technology increased what the student can do? Nice mix of you talking about the technology and pictures of the student and his work. If you were to show it at the school people would know what you're talking about. If you showed it to a general teaching group they would understand. Obviously, technically it is well done.


Bio: Director of Student Services for the school district. This is Pat's first year in the position. She oversees Student Services at three elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, and an alternative high school. Student services are Special Education, ELL, state and federal programs for struggling learners, truancy. Former school psychologist for 16 years prior to becoming the director. Worked in another district in the state and in California. Former executive director of a private foundation. Director for Camp Fire program for five years.

Reaction: Like the whole feel of it. When he is looking at the computer screen it was distracting to look at the refresh rate of the monitor. The end, as much as I like listening to him sing it got long with just the words. Would like the words bigger or an occasional picture: lost focus. Pulled in by his voice and his own writing. Not clear that he wrote the song. Did not pay attention to the credits. Loved the pictures in there. The stills grabbed me. Pictures will always grab me emotionally. Helpful to identify that he has autism. The increased communication skills, verbal skills were important. Powerful message needs to be that this is an amazing thing to do with kids. Purpose is that this technology helps people communicate. Like pictures of Larry with the microphones, connecting with other kids. Sharing his songs with the school. Loved hearing him sing at the end but it went a little long. What I'm getting from this: podcasting is a way to integrate autistic students and build their skills.


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