Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Difference It Makes

When I think back to the cookie cutter approach to teaching, learning, textbooks and tests of my own 'education', I shudder.  Mind you, I was one of the lucky ones; book-learning came relatively easy for me.

 Seeing my name on the wall didn't bother me-I got STARS!
I LOVED to read and write and spell!
But not everyone did.  Not everyone could make the grade.  
Some children never got a spelling star.
Some kids hated to be asked to read aloud.
Some kids hated school.

I can recall the look of terror one of my friends had whenever we had a Math test...which was too often.  She just couldn't get it down fast enough, neat enough.  She was not an effective writer but boy, could she draw!  If only we had numbers, pictures and words in math back then!

And then there was the boy who I am pretty convinced was dyslexic.  How he made it through high school amazed me. But then he had his mother reading everything for him over and over and he spent all his evenings copying her notes.

I can think of several of my classmates who struggled through elementary grades junior high 
and then dropped out.  
Kids who knew stuff, 
kids who understood things I couldn't.
                                                               Kids who could sing
                                                                 and talk to people
                                                                      and draw
                                                                and make things
                                                                 and build things
                                                         I was not so good at doing then!
                                                           (And still not able to do!)

And I often wonder where they would be now if they were in today's school system.

What difference would it have made if they had attended today's schools that recognize multiple intelligences and multiple ways of demonstrating learning?

What if Janice could have present her work in a dramatic reading instead of passing in her scribbled down essay?

What if they had  let Sarah draw diagrams to show what she learned instead of grading the answer?

Or if Terry had built a model to demonstrate how those simple machines work instead of having to write the report.  What difference would that have made?

And what if the child who couldn't write successfully could record his or her thoughts?  What then?!!

I recently purchased an iPod Touch and I used this technology in a new way last week to capture one of my student's responses in a Language Arts activity.  Using Dragon Dictation, one of my students was able to compose his answer to a question and record it with just two taps on the screen. 

This is an intelligent child who reads above grade level, makes strong connections between topics and personal connections to many of the discussions we have across the curriculum, however he is unable to write his name in clearly formed letters and has little sound-letter relationship skills. Conventional use of such word processing software and handheld dictation taking devices have proved to be exercises in frustration often distracting from the main purpose in using them - independence.

Can we conceive what a difference it makes for a child to feel that they are able to show their teachers, their classmates and their family what they know-how well they know- without the help of others!

I wish the people who are not yet convinced of the importance of having tools in our classroom with access to APPS and programs and such - on all the devices we have at our disposal- could have seen his face when he heard HIS voice.  

I wish those people were there to see the look on his mother's face when she came to pick him up and she heard it and realized what a difference this one tool alone would make; that we could email and print out any of his thoughts, ideas, stories...

I wish all the children who needed this type of support had access to it.

I wish all schools had a principal who is as passionate in supporting me, my colleagues, and most importantly the children, as mine!

 What a difference it makes!

That the touchscreen technology has made this and so many other activities possible was not imagined forty years ago... is what it is.  BUT now we can make a difference, we have to make a difference. 

There are no acceptable reasons not to do so.

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