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Posts Tagged ‘needs

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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. 

This blog entry by Lisa Lane was a timely reminder that educators should focus on what learners need and not necessarily what they want.

Learners might want the path of least resistance. They need to learn that the easy way is not always the best way and that things worth learning take hard work.

Learners might want good grades or the easy A. They need to learn that grades are not always indicators of learning, competence, or character. The test of school is not as far-reaching or as important as the test of life.

Learners might want answers, but they need to learn to ask good questions first. Learners might want distilled wisdoms or model answers; they need to learn how to think creatively and creatively, and to embrace nuance.

Two roads diverged in a wood... I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference. -- Robert Frost

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For kids that we label normal, technology is often limited to enhancing or supporting the learning.

For kids with special needs, technology enables the doing and learning they might not be capable of otherwise.

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Now here is a thought: Why do we not think that all kids and all learners are special? We are. Why do we still believe that there is a normal or an average? Have we not heard of the end of average?

So if we are all special, shouldn’t technology be used to enable instead just enhance?

When I read the STonline headline, You don’t need much space to have sex: Josephine Teo on ‘no flat, no child’ belief, I wondered if the paper was making a mountain out of a molehill.

After I read the article, I concluded that it was, but it had a good reason to.

There is a mountain of an issue in family planning and housing, and there were reasonable sound bites from the rest of the interview. However, all that logic seemed to be negated by the juicy molehill quote: “You need a very small space to have sex.”

What was the context for the quote? Senior Minister of State, Josephine Teo, was addressing the fact that couples seemed to prioritise getting a flat before coupling and having children.

Given how long saving for an apartment, waiting in queue, waiting for a flat to be built, getting rejected, and trying again takes, a candid response might very well be a Nike-inspired, “Don’t wait. Just do it.”

There is being candid and there is being Trump-like. A comment referring to the “small space to have sex” is was a Trumpet and shortsighted.

The act of copulation is takes a relatively short time (insert snigger here) compared to the duration of rearing and nurturing children. Most people, including the Minister herself, know that.

I recall a verse that someone wrote in an autograph book (yes, those things existed) when I was in school and it went something like this:

What is love
It cannot be explained
One night’s pleasure
Nine months pain

A young teen could see the mid-term consequences albeit tongue-in-cheek. An adult with fiscal and family responsibilities looks at longer term consequences and the larger picture.

I point this out plainly not to score political points (or get demerits as the case may be) nor to poke fun at an off-the-cuff comment. As with most things, I make links to schooling and educational technology. At the moment, I have more questions than answers.

Why do many teachers still take the short term view by refusing to move away from teaching methods that do not include meaningful and powerful technology?

Why do they focus on the immediately obvious (e.g., curriculum-driven content and exams) instead of the larger picture (i.e., the holistic development of the child?

Why do we make it easy for them to operate in “a very small space” that is the schooling bubble?

Today I continue my journey as a consultant by revisiting experiences I used to facilitate almost ten years ago. I have designed ICT-focused modules for a group of allied educators whose work revolves around children with special learning needs.

As a teacher educator in NIE, I used to facilitate a core classroom management and special needs awareness course. Back then I relied on PBwiki (which became PBworks) and Google Sites to provide rich learning experiences.

Back then, the content of the course was centrally planned by a committee and content was stuffed awkwardly into an LMS. Once student-teachers graduated, they could not access the resources. I decided to use open wikis to provide continued and timely access.

The wikis are open to this day. Google is good at leaving things as is; PBworks annoys me at least once a year by asking me if they can claim the space.

This time round I am experimenting with the newly minted Google Spaces to provide a springboard for accessing numerous other online resource, tools, and platforms.

Google Space for CAE/SEED course on ICT for Inclusion.

Some things have changed in the area of ICT for special needs and others have stubbornly remain entrenched.

The ICT-enabled learning possibilities for individuals with special needs is immense. I have been collecting online references for a few months and the possibilities are mind-boggling and heart-warming.

Like most socio-technical phenomena, the problems lie in human ignorance, indifference, and inertia. One word encompasses all three: Administration. The group that should support and enable instead enforces and blocks.

Administration is typically multilayered, and while bureaucracy is generally a pain, I have been fortunate to work with a layer that has given me some freedom. I will use that leeway to design learning experiences that are active instead of archaic and meaningful instead of mundane.

Why do I do this? I believe that every one has “special needs” when it comes to learning. Each of us lies somewhere along a continuum of preferences and abilities. A course designed by an administrator ticks boxes and reaches for the low-hanging fruit. A course designed by a learner tickles and challenges.

Administrative tasks should support learning, not the other way around. That is the theory anyway.

We have administrative forms to fill largely because we have people we are accountable to. Hardly anything happens before real or electronic paperwork is completed first. There are big things like proposals, MOUs, and partnerships, and smaller things like permission slips, survey forms, and report cards.

But people whose job is to administer often lose sight of, or worse, are blind to what is important. The administration is meant to enable learning possibilities. Unfortunately, red tape often does the opposite.

Educators experience how IT infrastructure and policy dictate or limit use educational technology instead of enabling it. This could mean locking out devices, blocking websites, or otherwise preventing timely access.

As I do work in the background to make teacher education workshops to happen, I experience an assortment of administrative practices.

Some administrative tasks are easy to rationalize. I work with different agencies and need to get paid. So I jump through the hoops to make sure that happens in whatever system I am working with.

Some administrative tasks seem to be designed to confuse, delay, or obstruct. Others are blatantly childish, churlish, or calculative.

Like a child using a parent as a shield, some people hide behind policy or bureaucracy instead of focusing on needed change. Others ignore communication or fail to respond in a timely manner.

Still others try to get most bang for the buck to the detriment of their learners. For example, a potential partner might want to reduce the number of workshops needed or increase the number of attendees. These actions make sense if you only play the numbers game and ignore things like instructional design, modelled pedagogies, and learning experiences.

There are reasons for why there are six sessions and not four or why a workshop is for a classroom of learners instead of a lecture hall. I create experiences and I want participants; I do not do gatherings of attending zombies. I design time, space, and opportunities to optimize learning; I do not focus on a pay cheque.

Administrators is another group of people I need to educate. I can see why the administrative tasks need to be done. They must see why is it important to focus on the learner and learning.

As I learn how to walk the tightrope of an appointment holder, I have come to the conclusion that there are at least two main organisational needs.

There are the needs that you try to fulfill; these tend to maintain status quo. Then there are the needs that you try to create; these tend to initiate change.

If we at the CeL continue merely to support what our colleagues want for e-learning, we are likely limit ourselves to e-lectures and LMS-limited activities. These are safe, comfortable and within acceptable limits.

But we need to initiate change. We need to focus on learning, not just teaching. For that matter, learning that is social, open and mobile, not just teaching that revolves around content, is locked in LMS or limited to face-to-face time.

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