Friday, January 29, 2010

#3 - Break the classwork down into pieces so it won't be too complex for the students to understand.

When knowledge is broken down into little pieces, the information is taken out of context.  This makes the learning process more difficult for the students.  This is not only because the students struggle to comprehend the new information, but they also grapple to relate the material to a familiar context.  Without a sense of place the student has no anchor to relate what they are learning in class to the world outside.  In a very short period of time the student will begin to lose interest in the class work

Brain research has suggested that human beings learn by two basic methods, route learning and map learning.   Route learning is short-term memory and map learning is more permanent long-term learning.  A good example of route learning is when a tourist memorizes instructions to find a house in an unfamiliar neighborhood.  These instructions are only good for one particular task, and the instructions assume that the tourist won't get lost or forget them on the way.  

If that tourist stays in town for a couple days, she might find herself identifying some frequented locations.  This tourist has begun to build her contextual map of the city in which she is visiting.  This map is a part of her long-term memory.   If she decides to stay for a couple of weeks in the same city, exploring it more thoroughly, she might find that her personal map of the city is getting good enough so she does not need to relay on the routes she had memorized for getting around

Teacher guidance is important in the early stages of every student's development, but the teacher has to respect the student’s development of an independent process.  The teacher could allow space for individual interpretations of the information being studied.   

When we learn, we build our map to a level where we can function effectively independently of other sources.   Students develop competence when they are allowed to become independent of teacher guidance and when they are allowed to develop their own maps.  Having the teacher support this process of gaining independence is very important to students.  Sometimes students need someone to hold their hands and sometimes they don't.  A good teacher knows the difference.  

This is post 3 of 12 posts on How to turn a Teacher into a Prison Guard.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Art, Storytelling and Dyslexia

The writer is Eric Wolf Storyteller

Art is not limited by state budgets, the few hours of life apportioned or others acceptance.  The only limitation of art is our desire to embrace art as we know it and to love that expression that calls us into our passion - into our being - into the voice of God.  Of all the arts, storytelling is the most able to thrive despite budgets cuts, institutional ignorance and community apathy.  Storytelling brings people together and serves as a beacon for community healing.

To be an artists is to give yourself over to a creative process that promise no fruit with each effort.  But instead enlightens our lives with a gift that can only be declared - soul.  Art in it's purist form is God's hand in our mortal lives.  A living testament that their is more to our lives then this simple physical frame.  To be an artist is to see the world, not only as it is - but as it can be or will be by our will.

Art makes meaning where there is none, gives power to the powerless, heals wounds long scarred, and above all hold love triumphant for the entire world to see.  Successful art brings people together through compassion, forgiveness and understanding.  Art and storytelling is held and holds community in it's sacred trust.  Art binds the sinews of the mortal world into a tapestry that ancestors hold in their immortal coil.

When we examine what it means to be dyslexic in a modern society we find ourselves looking at an entire class of creative types who are artists by definition.  Though their creative efforts may be far from what society defines as “art”.  They as a group fall in the range of artist by their very necessity of invention. Their inability to fit with the bounds of normality causes them to rush into the worlds of creativity that others will never experience.  Not to say that to be dyslexic is to be born a painter, actor, poet or artist.  Far from that.   Dyslexics make the best storytellers by the requirements of the world bent down upon them.

Storytelling is the refuge of sinners and survivors.  Storytelling is an art long associated with lying and dishonesty.  Oral Narrative is held in disrepute for the same reasons it is so widely successful.  The ease at which storytelling can be adapted and used to support the powerless and the oppressed is the same ease that allows sinners and con artists to bends it to their will.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Review of Learning Outside the Lines

Jonathan Mooney and David Cole have written the student support book I wished I read when I started high school and college and was classified as having a learning disability

This booked is packed full of tricks and twists to get the troubled student to survive the system and all it’s annoying realities.  From how to replace lost notes to how to take notes this book is an A to Z survival guide written by two students who had bee there and done that.  Each author brings a unique perspective to the table with Mr. Mooney talking about Dyslexia and Mr. Cole speaking about ADHD.

As the authors point out students who are categorized with a learning disability are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the college system and get a full college education with out having to sit through another lecture or test.  Many students are unaware of how flexible a liberal arts education can be and in this book we see all the levers and insider tricks laid bare.

Not being interested in attending any more schooling with my MS in Education I was not as interested in backbends and other nifty moves covered in the 2nd half of the book.  I as a dyslexic survivor of out modern schools system I appreciate the skill set that the authors offer – the one weakness of the book is that the authors don’t spend enough time explaining a students rights and legal recourse under the American with Disabilities Act.

Many students in technical schools and state colleges may find that some of these tricks described in the book are not available to them with out the liberal education focus… but even these students would benefit from a reading of “Learning Outside the Lines” 

The most moving section of the book for me by far was Jonathan Mooney’s autobiography chapter.   I hope that he has published this elsewhere because the story of his early educational experience should be widely distributed.  I cried like a little baby when I read his description of hiding in the bathroom to avoid reading a loud to the class and how he took days off to avoid tests.  Memories I am sure I have buried and long forgotten.  I howled with anger to hear his description of his teachers’ hard line attitude that all the children needed to have the same standards.

These things happened to Jonathan and David in the 80’s when the American with Disabilities Act was in full force.  I went through grade school on the liberal west side of Manhattan with enlightened people who did the same behaviors ten years before.  This book makes me wonder how many teachers continue to belief that all children need to learn the same way.  Growing up in NYC I was not turned off by the language, but I have read that some people are.   My experience working with troubled teenagers is that they know all that language intimately and the idea that they need to be protected form it is insulting to them.

Thank-you Mr. Cole and Mr. Mooney for writing this book.  Required reading for any college bound student who suspects he or she may qualify as a learning disabled student.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

10 Best Dyslexia Resources Online in 2010.

This list is up for revision - so if you have better resources to offer let me know.  If on the other hand you want me to sell something for you - please give me money or don't bother me.  I personally find much of what is written about dyslexia is either disingenuous or downright ignorant.  The writing is not meant to empower the students, teacher or parents - merely to placate parents and help maintain an uneasy unholy alliance between schools and government in which a lot of people are gainfully employed and a lot of children willfully ignored.

I started out this list as a simple to do and find myself, here days later, a little pissed off at the state of blogosphere today.  Are we as dyslexics so castrated as to have no voice?  Are we with these few exceptions just lying down and taking it?  What the hell?  I am lucky to have reached these ten - I started out looking for blogs but I had to settle with resources because I couldn't find ten blogs that met my standards for inclusion.

1) Jonathan Mooney's Website

Normally I wouldn't even consider a small site like this for the list, let alone for recommending as resource for parents, let alone top of the list, but the man is a genius.  His book made me cry and I love him for that.  The review will be coming our next week so come back and check it out if you get the chance.  The to go resource for living with dyslexia in the system.

2) The Davis Method

Look I don't know if it works.  I don't care if it works - what I care about it is that they are trying something and they are by many accounts succeeding - without drugs or expensive therapies - maybe soon I will have a long  conversation with a practitioner of the Davis method.  They don't feel like some other slick outfits that charge thousands of dollars for snake oil, but some nice people trying there best with a difficult deal.  In recognition for their efforts I place them in 2nd.  

3) The Dyslexic Storytellers Blog 

Well clearly this blog is the best on the subject. LOL

I still dream of having other dyslexic people join me in writing posts of their experience in modern educational settings or in succeeding with overcoming there dyslexia.  I invite you to help me spread the word.  Here are the rules to submitting a post
a) No corrections by anyone else.
b) No selling or self-promotion of books, etc..
c) All real experience of dyslexic people is welcome here

Like many blog actually written by a dyslexic person this blog does not post that often.  But the writer is really striking at the underpinnings of the intellectual crusade that terrorizes dyslexic people all over the englishdom.   I found his posts witty and a cleaver counter point to the old and some what out dated thought patterns else where in the blogosphere.  A bright light in another wise dark room.

5) Eide Neurolearning Blog

Examining the brain and it's relationship dyslexia and other LDS issues.  I enjoy every time I have found myself reading it.

6) Myomancy ADHD, Dyslexia and Autism

Examining the world of LDS this blog does not publish enough.

7) The Dyslexia in Victoria Blog

This blog is a fresh if traditional perspective on dyslexia and learning in Canada.

8) Travel and Photography from the Dyslexic Point of View

I enjoy reading this blog - always surprising and inventive.  Not always on topic but follows the rule that we love here - spelling after content - let not the lack of ability to spell stop us from delivering the message.

9) The Dyslexic Blog 

Pretty mainstream in its perspective.  But has some fresher thoughts and perspectives of all the different parent resources on dyslexia perspective online.

10) Your suggestion...

There are fifteen wonderful website that are conspicually absent from this list.  They are absent because they represent an orthodox perspective that is based on old world beliefs.   Before you recommend one of them ask yourself;  Does this website validate the idea of school over education?  
Does this website empower dyslexic children?  
Does this website recognize the ability of children to co-create?  
Finally does this website have an inherit self interest in children or dyslexia being a problem that should fixed or solved?