A journey to Make Learning Possible

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This week’s topic and presentation were an eye-opening experience for me.  After, the excellent presentation by Channing, Kelsey, and Haiming, I kept reading and reading about assistive learning and UDL (Universal Design Learning). I believe I will continue reading about this topic even after we finish our course ECI 833 because it touches me personally. Preparing for this blog,  I learned things that I wish I had known ten years ago.

I was able to connect with many concepts that have been said in the presentation.  For example, we talked about some barriers and challenges of using assistive technology and one of the problems was the fear of feeling different.   Another example, when my colleagues mentioned the quote that says

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Absolutely agree.  It is the meaning I have in mind for any technology tool or even strategy we use to make learning possible and sometimes more accessible.

I will discuss in this blog a case I know first hand.  Without, the use of iPad, that person wouldn’t be able to use a simple program like Raz kids to enhance his ability to read as he were a late reader. After many years, now he is in high school, but he is not a good note taker. A teacher advised him to use Livescribe pen to allow him to record the teacher voice while taking notes that he can integrate with his Ipad. It was recommended for that person to take a tutoring class in the high school. He didn’t like it. He didn’t ask for help for the whole year. One reason, he is an introvert and doesn’t want attention. When I asked him why you don’t ask questions or talk to the teacher, he told me, ‘my friends say this class is for stupid students”.  Yes, it is “fear from feeling different.”  We had to think of an alternative to support and help him. Putting into consideration that:
1- He is struggling with some comprehension and memory issues.
2- He is committed and willing to put the effort if he has the time and not feeling stressed.

In our on-going experiment, we went through a couple of stages to provide the required support. (Readers, please provide feedback on what do you think of this).  In the beginning, we came up with a plan to reduce the load for him by taking three classes per semester (instead of five) that he can focus on and have the time to comprehend and study the material. The principle of the school approved and supported this decision. The student himself was happy with this option and there has been a bit of enhancement in his marks and little stress and more smiles.  But he may be delayed by a year graduating high school!!!!!

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Summer was approaching, and the idea of online class came across. He took an ELA online over the summer and did much better than his typical English courses. Two main reasons for this success were, first, Online learning enabled him to access learning content, all the material were well-organized and always there for him to watch, read and listen over and over again. Second, he worked at his own pace and willingness. He can skip a day or study for 5 hours another day.

He felt the difference and asked for more online classes. Again, more challenges. Online courses are expensive, $500 per class for students in the public school system. We explored different options and found out that he can take many online classes if he is enrolled in a homeschooling program. We did not like this as it may result in him being isolated from his friends. Luckily, The homeschooling program here in Saskatchewan allows him to take two courses per semester at his regular high school along with his homeschooling program. We think this mix is perfect for him. He will be a part-time student at school taking two courses and socializing with his friends while taking online courses spread across the academic year to not be too late for graduate while getting the content in the best possible ways that suit his capabilities!!! We took the decision and enrolled him in the homeschooling program starting next term.

Back to you,  do you think we took the right decision? Is this the right approach? Please provide your input or experiences or advises.

Hmm …  I am now wondering if we followed a UDL approach coming up with this plan?  According to the UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING IN BC 

“ Implementing universal design typically occurs in 3 developmental stages: advocacy, accommodation, and accessibility.”

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We advocated for the best interests and style of learning for the case mentioned above. The support we get from the school to reduce the load for him, accommodate his needs for a longer time to absorb and study his material and concept which he can’t achieve if he is taking a full load. Online courses made the learning content accessible for him in an organized way.

While reading about web 3.0 to prepare for a previous blog, I kept thinking about how it can help that case? I imagined him searching for a topic using web 3.0 semantic web along with the artificial intelligence that will analyze his personality and style of learning and come up with the material that is easy for him to understand and absorb. Now, while reading about Assistive tech, I found this article  that explicitly mentions the possibility of this to happen
As we venture into the world of AI in schools, the implications for disabled children are enormous. Children with learning disabilities, like dyslexia, need more time to process information. And, systems which allow students to learn and interact at their own pace will be invaluable for these children. Teachers already provide video lessons for students to watch from home. I believe these lessons will transform into an interactive experience through the use of personal artificial intelligence tutors, helping students with learning delays or autism absorb lessons at their own pace and with personalized electronic help.

The future seems promising especially with the massive advancement in technology and the arousing awareness of different students needs. I hope we achieve this goal “True accessibility is achieved when environments are engineered to ensure that supports are available to everyone at the time they are needed.”  UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING IN BC

After all, the future should be equally accessible to those with disabilities as well as everyone else.

I will leave you with a story of a second grader, who has delays in communication and cognitive skills, and was viewed as essentially non-speaking since she spoke only a few words now and then. One activity that Julie really enjoyed was completing word searches, finding hidden words in a grid and circling them. When the regular classroom work was judged to be too difficult for Julie, her teacher gave her word searches to complete instead.

As part of an initial assistive technology assessment, Julie was given the opportunity to use word
prediction software with audio. The assessment team did not expect this program to be useful to
Julie, since she did not seem to have phonemic awareness. Julie was given the starter phrase “I
like . . . ” She quickly learned how to make the computer read the phrase aloud. With prompting,
she completed the phrase verbally, saying “stars.” Julie’s teacher then typed “Why?” into the
program, asking Julie to listen and read the question. Julie then responded appropriately with
“because,” and with prompting typed the initial letter “b.” When the word “because” appeared on
the monitor, Julie recognized it immediately, reading it aloud and then selecting it with the
mouse.
Julie continued to verbalize her ideas, typing the initial letter for each word and then searching
the word list on the screen for her choice. After just a few trials, she learned that if the desired
word did not appear, she needed to type the second letter of the word. In just 20 minutes she
went on to type: “I like stars.” Why? “Because they are beautiful. I like to clean my room. I like
sleeping up in my bed. I like getting up and going to my school bus.”
Julie’s special education teacher had tears of joy in her eyes as she watched what Julie was able
to do on the computer. The teacher hadn’t realized that Julie had that much to say. Julie had said
more in those 20 minutes than she had all year. Additionally, this was the first time Julie had
written a complete sentence.

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