Thursday, May 22, 2008

Trouble with Organization?

Do you have trouble managing your day to day tasks? Here's something to try!

Check out Jott, a free software program that converts your voice into text. You can send voice messages from your cell phone to e-mails, lists, calendars, other people.

Or, using Google Calender, you can send reminder messages to your cell phone, or to your co-worker, child, friend, students cell phones!

Thanks to Ira Socol for the tips on technology. BTW If you are taking algebra or other math courses, or use a graphing calculator on the job, check out the on-screen graphing calculator Graph-Calc.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Learning Connections: Insights on ADHD-LD

Join the conversation on LD and ADHD. Check out my new Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reader Blog Learning Connections: Insights on ADHD/LD

What's up in the field of education and learning? I will post interviews with innovators from education, science, learning disabilities, ADHD, and technology. The focus will be on how to create successful environments for all learners.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Busting the Myth of Normal

I have been working with students who struggle in the traditional classroom setting for about fifteen years.

I started working with high school students who were served by Special Education Services--which mostly meant me. I traveled to different classrooms with the students. My job was to get students to connect to the class, help them if they didn't understand, cajole, encourage, remind... yet, many of them continued to fail.

During my second year working at the high school, feeling like I was failing the students as they continued to fail classes, I attended a free workshop on ADD. One of the guest speakers, Judy Schwarz, described teaching adult non-readers to read---in short, helping all ages of students master all sorts of learning tasks--reading, writing, math, organization, time management, etc. Hearing Judy's stories captured my attention. Wait, I didn't see learning happening like this!

So, I began my training in educational therapy at Another Door to Learning in Tacoma with Judy and her staff. First, I learned to do "Assessments" for different learning profiles. What strengths does this person have? What processing pieces work well--auditory, visual, motor, language, tactile, etc? How does this person make sense of the world? All of a sudden, a whole world of learning diversity opened up around me.

Then, I learned how to design and deliver individualized, direct instruction using some typical and non-typical methods, along with lots of multi-sensory activities to tie the learning together. All of a sudden, the process of learning opened up for my students! They began being successful, and could build on their successes. Failure could return to its rightful place as an exploratory step in learning, not an individual label of "stupid."

Basically I was trained in using a "medical model" of learning.
Something is wrong, here’s what it is, and here’s how to fix it. This moved us away from interpreting learning disabilities as just “laziness” or “moral ineptitude” on the part of the student, and many times, the parent. Yet, over the years, as I have watched individuals develop their skills, and make substantial progress toward their learning goals, I have changed my idea of the "normal" in learning. Normal is different! There is no normal!

We all have areas in which we process more easily. Some like to listen, some like to move, some like to build, some like to daydream, some like to draw, some like to talk, some only hear music... As a culture, we enjoy the fruits of learning diversity, but as an educational system, we've missed the orchard.

What if we don't have to "label" students any more to provide "services."
What if we were curious about how many different ways each of us makes sense of the world around us? What if we focus on each person's unique set of strengths, while providing all sorts of avenues for their success in areas that are more difficult? What if we spent the energy we expend writing up Individualized Education Plans (IEP's) just helping all students be successful in their learning process?

Intelligences can be developed. I know this
on a profound level from years of facilitating learning with struggling students. Language-based learning disabilities, the bulk of learning difficulties, can be ameliorated with universal design technologies such as speech-to-text and text-to-speech software. Classrooms no longer need to pose barriers for students who struggle with reading or writing. What are we waiting for?

Here is the first part of a presentation I gave at the local high school at the end of April. Still working on the technology!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Using AT for Educational Access!

Have you ever used a mobile phone's word prediction for typing in-school answers? Or think about the advantages of wearing a baseball cap to help focus attention and block out the flickering from fluorescent lights? Did you know that Firefox Browser v2 works with CLiCk, Speak, for free text to speech---reading text to you?

Check out Ira Socol's thought provoking blog, SpeEdChange. Lots of useful information on how to use technology to open access to traditionally printed materials and paper/pencil tasks. Many solutions are FREE.

Ira writes powerfully from his experiences with the education system. A Special Education Technology Scholar at Michigan State University, Ira presents workshops on how to create access to classroom materials and every school, parent, and student needs to read his article, "Toolbelt for the Lifespan: Learning How to Learn Assistive Technology."

You can't really claim to be educating all of your students if academic (and school life) materials are not all accessible. So write your plan down, and get yourself started. - Ira

An author, Ira has two published books of fiction. His recent book, The Drool Room, is written from the point of view of a young man who doesn't mesh with the school system. The story is painfully personal, yet familiar for youth and adults with LD.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Check out LD Live!

Since January, SISIUTL is sponsoring a weekly online radio call-in show LD Live! Connecting Innovators, Ideas and Individuals within the field of Education and Learning Disabilities.

Join me, your host, Melinda Pongrey,
for our live broadcasts on Friday mornings at 9 am PST as we speak with special guests from around the country and the world. Bring your questions and concerns for our guests.

Today I spoke with Maria Kelley, OTR/L from the Washington Assistive Technology Act Program.
Maria explained how WATAP and partner programs promote access to assitive technology AT for individuals with disabilities across Washington State. Also, check the WATAP website for the upcoming training in June at the University of Washington.

Last week, I spoke with author, speaker, director of Project Eye to Eye Jonathan Mooney. Jonathan reaches into his past experiences growing up as a student with labels of dyslexia and ADHD and tells it like it is! He shows us the gifts inherent in re-framing LD as part of a continuum of learning diversity. Challenging the concept of "normalcy," Jon lays out LD/ADHD as a civil rights issue, pushing us away from our present special education model toward reforming our whole educational system.

onathan says, "Disability and normalcy are ideas we create as a culture and society and something we can transform."

Check out the podcasts of our previous shows, too. You can download to your favorite mp3 player. Let me know what you think. Who would you like to talk to?