04 April 2008

Reading Inclusion

A few more important reading assignments (in part thanks to Steve Lee at fullmeasure). Remember, you don't need to buy a lot of books to stay on top of the assistive technology, universal design, and ed tech fields. Free documents are everywhere, written by the world's leading experts. Download them, read them, share them.

First, three essential publications from Futurelab:

Designing Educational Technologies for Social Justice

One Action Research example cited in this report: "The residents of a housing estate in Lambeth, south London, designed their own computer literacy course, alongside academics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and tutors from adult education services. The Penceil project (How People Encounter E-illiteracy) started from the belief that people’s information technology (IT) needs have, for too long, been defined from above: by government; by IT suppliers; by training providers; by exam boards; and so on. The basic questions of how people experience any lack of skills in their daily lives had not been asked: what barriers does this present to them, and what they want to do with the skills they learn? This was an action research project, so it not only tried to understand the issues but worked with residents to design and implement programmes to meet their needs. The Penceil project used digital technologies to widen access to learning, and a personalized approach, developing a course based around the needs of the estate’s residents. For further information and research reports, see penceil.lse.ac.uk."

E-inclusion: Learning Difficulties and Digital Technologies

On the need to bring technology together with the social model of disability: "…the shift in perspective to engage with a social model of learning difficulties encourages an engagement with improving and diversifying the contexts (social, material and cultural) in which all children can be enabled to learn. As has been suggested (Daniels 2000), the challenge is to go beyond the rhetoric and achieve real change. As such, the social model is particularly relevant to our consideration of how digital technologies might be used to enable e-inclusion."

and Handhelds: Learning with Handheld Technologies

On mobile learning in a Special Needs School: "In languages, the teacher distributed a piece of text, via Bluetooth, to the class; students corrected the text, recorded their speaking of it and then ‘beamed’ it back to the teacher. Having listened to the recording and looked at the corrected text, the teacher would beam back a final version, or send back a comment on that piece of work."

And if you still have time...

An article from the Guardian on the "universal" use of the ASUS mini-book computers in schools in Middlesborough and Sittingbourne. "Kipling says the mini laptops "offer a comprehensive solution that other mobile devices cannot compete with. We love [its] size and are impressed with the possibilities it offers. The potential for assessment for learning is great, and already we have teachers gaining instant access to learners' responses through blogging and other miniBook capabilities".

'"It enables teachers and pupils to access internet and other ICT resources traditionally available only in our ICT suites. It effectively gives us access to another six ICT suites that are attached to the learners."

"The machines are used most in subjects such as maths, English, science, geography and history." Alternates to the ASUS mini-book are suggested at the end of the piece, including the soon-to-be-available Elonex One.

and then two sites of the kind we need many more of:
Action Research - real teachers evaluating real solutions with real students, and sharing that information openly so others can learn.

Of course the Becta Test-Bed Evaluation site has many examples of this. I have sent many pre-service teachers to this site to get them to start to see the range of possibilities. Ireland's Learning from Laptops Initiative is trying to get a similar thing going with "classroom results" reviews of software. You can also download their Engaging Learners book.

- Ira Socol

Meanwhile, an upstate New York middle school has decided to eliminate all distinctions between school and prison. Faced with a student population no longer quite white enough ("enrollment has gone from overwhelmingly white and working class to 35 percent black and Hispanic in recent years") Cheektowaga Central Middle School principal Brian Bridges began a program which now excludes "more than a quarter of the 580 at the school as of last week ... from all aspects of extracurricular life" and hands out detentions for, apparently, almost anything. "'A child who only has detention to look forward to at the end of the day is less likely to come to school," said Laura Rogers, a school psychologist in Harvard, Mass. and the co-author of Fires in the Middle School Bathroom," in the New York Times article. Well, duh... but then, we don't really want all these kids staying in school, do we? In the end they'll just hold down the district's No Child Left Behind test scores. Better to get them to quit right now.

The Drool Room by Ira David Socol, a novel in stories that has - as at least one focus - life within "Special Education in America" - is now available from the River Foyle Press through lulu.com

US $16.00 on Amazon

US $16.00 direct via lulu.com

Look Inside This Book

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