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Posts Tagged ‘ability

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The central figure in the video above, Maxx, has dyslexia. According to the interview and video description he was “five weeks away from his final examinations when he experienced memory loss”.

He did not do well in the high-stakes exams and made his way into what many here would consider the lower rung of education. But you would be fooled into believing that given how articulate and confident is was.

I am confident he learnt not from schooling, but despite it. Schooling and the social pressures here typically emphasise academic excellence. Little, if anything, is said about character and mindsets. Why? Exams do not measure such things.

It should not take a learner who has dyslexia and memory loss to tell us that non-academic  processes and outcomes like perseverance are more important all the time.

Maxx also highlighted how his dyslexia did not hold him back. He considered that to be an essential part of him. He reminded me that we need to focus on enabling behaviours instead of disabling with labels.

That reminder is timely given how I will soon be facilitating modules on ICT for SPED. The next two videos give be pause for thought.

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The Lost Voice Guy has cerebral palsy which left him unable to speak. So he uses a speech synthesiser to talk. 

In his closing joke for the Britain’s Got Talent judges, he questioned the use of the “special” label, i.e., special needs, special school. I had a good laugh and it got me thinking about how use ridiculous labels.

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Francesca Martinez also has cerebral palsy and described herself as “wobbly” in this TEDx talk. In the comedy routine above, she said: “Who wants a normal life? I want an amazing life!”

The shift in SPED to focus on abilities instead of disabilities has started, but like most things in schooling and education, is moving at a glacial pace. We might learn from Maxx, the Lost Voice Guy, and Francesca how to break expectations. 

I do not expect to change everyone’s mind when I facilitate my modules. But I do expect to push and pull a few educators forward in the right direction. 

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This video illustrates two teaching principles that I am a squeaky wheel about.

Focus on ability, not disability
When teaching learners with special needs, it is easy to focus on what they cannot do instead of what they can.

While such learners will need knowledge and skills to fit into larger society, e.g,. taking public transport or working to support themselves, they are no less people than “normals” are.

It might be easier to pigeon-hole Jeff and his condition to, say, a simple service job with repetitive tasks. This video illustrates how he has developed his strengths and passions to be an artist, TikToker, and online seller.

Process and product
It is easier to focus on products of learning than on processes of the same. But this video illustrates how important and impressive the processes are behind the products that Jeff makes.

It also reveals the support that he gets and illustrates the roles that others play in the education of the so-called disabled.

Some of the folks in special needs and inclusive education already know this: You can focus on the disabilities or the abilities of your learners.

This is not just a philosophical shift in perspective. The shift can determine curricula, programmes, and resources.


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More people need to be inducted into this more progressively oriented approach. Perhaps these two recent videos might pave the way by listening to the those with these abilities.


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This episode focused on how we might use artificial intelligence (AI) to augment ourselves to end human disability.

The first example in the video was artificial legs with embedded AI. The AI used machine learning to process a person’s movement to make the continuous and tiny adjustments that we take for granted. What was truly groundbreaking was how such limbs might be attached to existing muscles so that the person can feel the artificial limb.

The second example was improving existing abilities like analysis and decision-making in sports. The role of AI is to take large amounts of data and make predictions for the best payoffs. But despite the AI ability to process more than humans can intuit, we sometimes hold AI back because its recommendations seem contradictory.

We trust AI in some circumstances (e.g., recommending travel routes) but not in others (e.g., race strategies). The difference might be the low stakes of the former and the higher stakes of the latter.

The third example highlight how we might enhance our vision and hearing while increasing trust in AI in high stakes situations. It featured glasses that augmented vision for firefighters so that they could see is now or zero visibility. The camera and AI combined detect and highlight edges like exits and victims.

The video ended with the message that increased trust in AI will make it ubiquitous and invisible. But trust to be built, we need to remove ignorance, bias, and old perspectives.

AI can be a tool that we shape. But I am reminded of the adage that we first shape our tools and that our tools also shape us. This was true in our past and it will apply in our future.


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