Experience is the Hardest Teacher…

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Experience is the hardest Teacher, she gives the test first, followed by the lessons.”

Life takes us to unexpected places. Families with children having Autism and other challenges that affect their communication abilities are overwhelmed by the experience of coping with and caring for their child. Sometimes the lessons that help families cope and make sense of the world come after the hardest imaginable experiences. Stress and worries over “running away,” “acting out,” and other “challenging conditions, behaviors, and reactions,” to name just a few, occur daily. The normal cognitive function and the adaptive mechanisms of the person don’t develop in average or recognizable ways, and behaviors are frequently uncontrollable, persevering way beyond parent and love ones abilities to cope. Inclusion of people with Autism in the family circle creates real tensions and new dynamics in the family’s relationships, which there are few blueprints for working with.

Through loving, learning, the greatest patience imaginable, and by reaching out to experts and other coping families, caregivers can get the feedback and methods they need to begin communicating with and teaching the non-verbal person. Slowly each problem of development and growing up can be addressed. Fortunately, we now also have individualized technology solutions to help with many of these challenges. “ED TECH” is a term often used to refer to digital tools that can help and assist the person with disabilities (and others) meet and engage in a fulfilling life. Start by making a list of what you really want from educational technologies, because the number of devices, services, and applications (software) on the market is rapidly growing. Actually, the personal health care and the learning technologies innovations in the consumer electronics market is one of the fastest growing new business areas in the economy today.

Although scads of new and incredible products are now becoming available to us, many of these items are not yet well tested, tried, or rated by the consumers they are intended for. It’s not like we can just hand a new item to our non-verbal child and say, “Try this out and tell me what you think.” That leaves teachers, parents, and caregivers to choose edtech digital tools that they think will best help students meet their goals, while trying to address that person’s true functional levels, and hopefully getting some useful “bridges” that help address the gaps in knowledge and access to the world the person has. My blog will turn some attention to helping parents find more knowledge answers to What new EdTech is available and How can I integrate it consistently with current neuroscience research.

What kind of goals can edtech help individuals and families address?

  • Closing gaps in functional and academic areas (Reading, Writing, Math, CCSS)
  • Practicing skills to improve self-confidence and mastery (Reading, Writing, Social)
  • Enrichment (Art, Music, Video, Games, Interactive Programs, Communication skills)
  • Transitions and Independence (Orientation, Communication, Independence, Career and Post-Secondary Educational opportunities, Tracking/GPS)
  • Strengthening Nueropathways, Executive Function, Analytical Thinking, and Autonomous Learning skills
  • Ed Tech can help the child with disabilities, but also the adult and senior family member to maintain their independence and community connections.

What are the most important qualities and characteristics of edtech products?

  • Consistent and User-friend functioning for the stated purpose. When a product or app fails to perform as promised, or will not perform the same way multiple times, it becomes frustrating and breeds a negative CX (customer experience).
  • User Buy-In activates the brain’s inward motivation and competition systems. The user must enjoy the overall experience even as it is challenging them to improve.
  • Joy and enthusiasm are essential for learning.” Or Mary Poppin’s would say, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Personal motivation is key to why game-based learning is so successful with kids.Game-based learning appeals to tech savvy learners.
  • Individualized opportunity to participate. Digital learning can be engaging because it is offers personal control and choice. Students do not necessary succeed in mastery in a straight line of learning. Achieving challenges engaged in over time and through personal choices is highly motivating.
  • Intrinsic (internally originating) challenges, when overcoming personalized challenges leads the student to a highly energizing, and completely satisfying dose of brain chemicals (dopamine) which naturally lead students to better performance, more motivation, pleasure, perseverance, improved attention, memory, and cognitive ability!
  • Products that provide Feedback and plots Progress of the student in understandable ways. Feedback and progress mapping improves the students ability to focus and sustain practice to master challenges. Feedback teaches and enforces perseverance and mega-thinking (seeing patterns in problems).

One of the most worrisome problems for the family with a member with Autism is the frequent “run away” event (many times combined with losing clothes and possessions). In the next few blogs I will be posting my experiences using different personal tracking devices to find a lost person. The electronic devices we will review are meant to address the issue of a person getting lost; by accident or on purpose. We will look closely at products that are currently available on the market; their pros and cons. Stay tuned; like or subscribe to our blog site, and-

Remember to visit our website at www.enablethem.com

Ref: Willis, Judy (2016) “Matching edtech products with neurological learning goals,” Edutopia.org/blog

CX = ED*

A lot has been written and said over the last 100 years regarding what is the meaning and function of education in a modern person’s life. Is it simply functional (to make money; hold a job; be academically, socially, and professionally appropriate) or is it enrichment (to engage, inspire, elevate self-worth and human compassions over the breadth of the life span), or is society’s academic fulfillment (the advancement of society through scientific and intellectual discovery and growth) the real function of education?

Education has been called an economic investment, a path to the future, and an asset to industry and national security. Education has been task with many solutions to various problems, but in the 21st century I think education is essentially just a CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE (CX). Educators must attend to the student’s experiences to be successful!

Education once consisted of the “3-R’s,” that was Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmatic. These essential skills then became the foundation of all later knowledge and the organizing structure for most of what one knew. But now the world seems to have changed and expanded in its dimension and speed since simpler times. With more and faster changes, our ideas of what education needs to be in the primary and secondary years has grown and become more complicated as well. Today’s public schooling requirements have become so overwhelming and disconnected-from-reality for many people that by the time one reaches their high school years, almost half of all students will choose to abandon traditional education and simply drop out of school; eventually perhaps acquiring a GED over a diploma. Whether it benefits them or not, modern students simply don’t “like” going to school.

Education is changing. Technologies such as fast computers, touch screens, interactive technologies, the internet, have changed everything. I got a science undergrad degree in the 1980’s and we did research, but our data was created by hand and analyzed manually on big paper spreadsheets. The human mind was the main computational device then. I never learned anything about “coding,” or programming. Today, many 3rd graders use Excel to collect and analysis data in class, and then write code for math class. They routinely use research skills I was not even exposed to until college, and are using many different technology tools like “natives.” So education has changed drastically in just a few years, and the needs and choices of our students have grown exponentially too.

Today, students require “buy-in” and ownership of their learning choices and methods to be successful in school. To  be educated for the future, students need to learn in ways that have been mostly overlooked by traditional educators. Today’s students are masterful consumers of electronics, media, social media, free resources, expert opinions and reviews; as well as being regularly exposed to the worst in scams, marketing, and con artists! Today’s students are much more than passive participants. The are psychologically primed to engage in reality in many different forms; physical, virtual, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, social, and individually personalized.

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Consider, that students must be personally engaged and interested in something to benefit by it. They clearly gain more from the experience if they are relaxed and having fun. Today’s students are better “risk-takers” to new learning when they feel safe and at ease in their environment, and when they are given many more choices along the learning path. Consider that most students are highly engaged in many social activities by age 5, and most between age 8 and 18 learn more effectively from their peers.

Education today requires more flexibility and individual choices than ever before; it requires teachers and schools to provide up-to-date materials, technology, and classroom environments for success, it requires integration of assistive technology, and reduction in standardized tests. Students today need accurate and timely feedback and assessments to learn from mistakes can help them address mastery and correct their know-how. Students today need discussions, not lectures; they need hands-on projects, not textbook quizzes; they need integration of team work into their daily schedule, not homework. Children don’t require enforcers, they do require fair consequences and many second chances.

More than ever before in history, education and educators can help students have empowered lives by building and strengthening their personal paths to autonomous learning, and by recognizing that each learners’ path is unique, diverse, not-often-straight, and vitally important to us all.

*The Customer’s Experience in the Educational Environment is Paramount to Learning

Remember to visit my site at www.enablethem.com