Technology that can change learning

My final blog,

I’ve used technology to create some videos, along with some helpful links. Technology has really been my wings in learning to fly free of my disabilities. There are so many great programs out there that no matter who you are, there’s an answer out there for you.

I think the first step to knowing what technology is right for you is to understand what needs you have and where do you excel.  Both through learning styles and types of intelligences, we can create a better undrestanding of ourselves.

VARK is a site that asses learning styles.  I subscribe to the VARK theory rather than the traditional Visual-Oral-Kinesthetic theory because it distinguishes differences between reading and visual and is a lot more intensive.  The acronym stands for Visual, Aural/Oral, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic.  I would suggest completing the questionnaire and reading up on the descriptions of the various learning styles.  If you find that you are more visual, than programs like Prezi, and SmartIdeas may be better suited to your abilities.  If you find that you are lower in the Reading/Writing learning styles than you may benefit from using programs like Premier.

Multiple Intelligences:  Here is a test to determine where you are likely to find the best skills.  When students struggle in subject/intelligence areas, they tend to lose motivation to complete tasks.  Knowing that a student mayy struggle with a certain subject area, teachers, parents, and students themselves can use technology to make studying easier and more enjoyable.

Once you have an idea of how you learn and you strengths, here are some programs that may help.  Each link will redirect you to a short video that walksthrough some of the functions of the program and how they may benefit your student.

Smart Ideas and Inspiration are brain storming/mapping software programs that help students with studying and writing.  These programs draw on visual learning.

Premier and Kurweil3000 are reading programs.  Both programs allow students to scan in text books, have them read back to them, create study notes, and even create MP3s of the scanned documents.  Premier has a few more tools, such as word predictor, word processor that reads back your work to you, and a summarizer.  It also has a lower price point.  For this point, I have focused mainly on the Premier software.  Both of these programs support aural learning.

Google Drive, Google Forms, and Google Sites are all part of Google’s version of “Office.”  They are all cloud based and allow for collaboration, revision histories, and strong communication venues for parents and students.  You can truly spend days trying to figure out all the possibilities that the Google suite can offer learning.  This suite focuses on Visual, Aural/Oral (you can dictate text through Google speech), and Reading/Writing.

Prezi is another free program that runs off of the cloud.  Prezi is a presentation alternative that many student prefer.  It is very visual and interactive, focusing on the Kinesthetic and Visual learning.

Now, some of these programs are free to use (Prezi, Google drive, Google forms, Google sites) while others can cost as little as $50 to as much as $3000.  It can’t be expect that every parent will be able to afford such luxuries and as such the government provides programs to increase accessibility to these programs.

IPRC is a program that is used at the primary and secondary levels.  Once a student is formally diagnosed, recommendations are made by a panel ofeducators, psychologists, and parents on which resources will be available for the student to use.  Being informed, parents can advocate for the proper technology so that their students can find the most success.  Often students may be assigned a personal computer along with access to many of these programs.

The Bursary for Students With a Disability (BSWD) is not advertised as well as it should be.  This program is available at the post-secondary level.  Students must report to the schools’  centre for students with a disability and request a form.  They usually are then given an appointment with a councillor to help fill out the information.  They will need a final approval from the councillor, and often the councillor will insist on an updated diagnosis.  The BSWD will cover for various resources up to $15,000 a year (from what I can remember.)  In the past, I have received approval for a video recorder, voice recorder, laptop, desktop, Kurzweil3000, Inspiration, a printer, and a scanner.  Approval is based off of financial (must qualify for OSAP) and educational needs.  Not everyone will get a new computer, however, this program is still something everyone should look into.

These bursaries are great for evening out the educational playing fields.  As teachers continue to adapt to DI, technology allows students to find success without having to wait for teachers to understand their personal needs.  By being informed, educated, and prepared, both students and parents alike will have the necessary tools to advocate for a strong and fair educational program.

As my blogging comes to an end, my work for students with disabilities continues.  I have been and will continue working as an advisor and tutor to many students with disabilities along with my daily work as a teacher.  I encourage any and all parents with any other questions regarding my personal experience, or my professional opinion to tweet me @followmrcasey.

Cheers,

Matt Wachna

(aka Mr. Casey)

The $64,000 Question

Guest Blog Post by: Erin Plumb

 

Hello My Name Is…

So I am new to the blogging world. This will be my first ever post and as such I thought I would take the time to introduce myself to you.   My name is Erin. I am an assistive technology trainer who works in a variety of places, including LDAWE, with a variety of age groups and disabilities. I have been an advocate for persons with disabilities for over 20 years. LDAWE asked me to create and facilitate a course for Adults with LD several years ago as Bev, our phenomenal Executive Director, and I share a passion for this under-serviced group.

What do I mean when I say under-serviced? Well, let me explain. Children within the public and separate boards have reasonable access to assessment, accommodation and funding for both. Young adults in either college or university have similarly comprehensive access. Adults by and large do NOT. That is not to say that parents and educators don’t struggle implementing reasonable and equitable accommodation; but, simply that adults have a couple extra hurdles.

Sculpture by artist Su Blackwell featured on the National Art Society. Click on the link to hers and other fantastic art. http://nationalartsociety.com/?p=4165

Sculpture by artist Su Blackwell featured on the National Art Society. Click on the link to hers and other fantastic art.
http://nationalartsociety.com/?p=4165

An Unhappy Ending

Once upon a time, before EQAO testing, IPRC and IEP meetings; there was no standardized system that existed province wide. There was limited resources for exceptional children in terms of testing and accommodation. Special education existed as a separate program for only the most severely disabled children. Many learning disabilities (LD) had not even become widely know to educators and parents. Even today many LD’s are poorly understood and many difficulties persist due to the invisibility of the disability. Adults who attended schools during this time were most often referred to as poor students who were perhaps lazy, deviant, or intellectually stunted. Unfortunately this fairytale does not end with “they lived happily ever after” for those involved.

The Woes of the Many

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Many of the adults I have met over the years have expressed fear and loathing as the most prevalent feelings associated with their school years. Many didn’t read well, had poor writings skills and were singled out for it. For many it has led to lower literacy, poor self esteem, and less employment opportunities. Many are chronically under or unemployed. Many end up on Ontario Works and ODSP without even the knowledge that they have rights much less how to stand up for themselves. Many who were either not diagnosed or misdiagnosed. Many who become frustrated, disillusioned with society, angry and isolated. The many are a growing group representing as much as 2.5% of the Canadian population.

The Vicious Cycle

Vicious Cycle 2The biggest problem for this group of “many”is access to funding and support. If they missed out on meaningful diagnosis they run the risk of being trapped in a vicious cycle. A diagnosis is required for any formal accommodation; however, without an understanding of strengths and weaknesses many adults don’t know what they need to succeed and have difficulty asking even for informal accommodations. Assessment is a pricey undertaking especially if you have a fixed or limited income. School or training without accommodation is difficult or impossible. Many adults also have profoundly negative feelings of school based on their experiences and inherently mistrust education. With limited education this population has limited employment opportunities. A lack of accommodation coupled with all the problems associated with poverty leads to difficulties retaining permanent employment. Rinse, lather, repeat. At least until utter the frustration and perceived futility of the exercise causes complete disengagement from the goal of success within the society.

The $64,000 Question

Given the amount of barriers and the difficulties overcoming these barriers is there a functional solution? Can we as people of many different abilities devise an equation that is balanced? My writings on this blog will not likely solve all of these problems; however, I do have some ambitions and caveats.

Stuff that I will do:

  • create a positive space for adults with LD to talk openly about their experiences and ideas
  • try to shed some some light on the available community resources for this group
  • create awareness of  the needs of adults as distinct from those of children
  • discuss possible solutions both high and low tech
  • encourage society at large to embrace inclusivity and understanding

Stuff that I will NOT do:

  • give specific advice to individual cases
  • tolerate any hate speech or demeaning commentary towards any group of society regardless how angry/frustrated someone is with that group
  • engage in an “us vs. them” mentality

I will be writing 9 more blogs throughout the year. It is my sincere desire to generate some discussion so that we can use the collective wisdom of our experiences and ideas for change to make a difference.

Did I mention I am new to blogging? I managed to post this before I wanted to, not figure out how to add tags, AND delete the title while doing so. So here’s hoping the edit will address some of those issues.