District: Fairfax County School District • Location: Fairfax County, VA
Leaders: Meaghan Tracy, AT specialist and writing camp director
Imagine standing in front of a room of 8th graders who just gave up a week of their summer to strengthen their writing skills. Not a very excited crowd! As the week at our writing camp progressed, however, this apathetic group of students changed from not wanting to write into empowered self-advocates excited about using SOLO and other assistive technology to improve their writing skills. In Fairfax County Public Schools we would say “Rock On!”
I have been the director of the Rock On writing camp since its inception in 2005. In Fairfax, we have held successful assistive technology-focused writing camps for elementary aged students since 1999. The next step came two years ago when the middle school camp was created. This camp was designed to not only target assistive technology writing needs, but also promote student self-advocacy. This writing camp case study (PDF) will detail what made Rock On the right fit for many of our students.
Teacher Leader Tips!
Organizing a summer writing camp may seem daunting! I certainly thought so two years ago. In thinking about a good teacher leader tip you have to start with the details.
- Recruit a strong team of counselors.
- Select your tools. SOLO was a key component to our writing approach.
- Now you need students! We developed a teacher survey to identify the students who would benefit most from attending our camp.
- Finally, this year we were excited to use Don Johnston’s autobiography, Building Wings to emphasize our student self-advocacy focus and student initiative.
About Meaghan Tracy, Director Fairfax, VA Writing Camps
I grew up with a family of educators and knew I had an inherent desire to teach people and help students learn. The best part of my job is walking into a classroom where an enthusiastic teacher is modeling the use of technology; students are engaged and accessing the tools they need to be successful and they are helping other students learn how to use these tools.
My career began in high school history. Later, I was given the opportunity to work with students with learning difficulties. It changed my life! It challenged my skills and encouraged me to learn new strategies about how to unveil the strengths of students who learn in different ways. I got my master’s degree in special education and now work with students with emotional and learning difficulties. As a teacher, I realized that all students can access their true potential when given the right tools.
As an Assistive Technology Resource Teacher, I help other teachers and students recognize the benefits that hardware and software can bring to a classroom setting. I train teachers on how to use the latest tools and resources and also how to integrate them into the curriculum. I work with individual students to determine what tools best fit their needs and see students excel in areas where they may have otherwise struggled.