Monday, June 4, 2012

iPads for those who really need em...

Visiting a special Ed school was an experience on its own. The school was a k to 21 school and their job (god bless them) was an exhausting experience. I was humbled by the generosity of staff, the care, dedication and patience. Walking down the hallways of this school of nearly 400 students and all most as many para professionals was daunting stuff. The kids were huge and the variety of skills went from very very severe to medium and there were many autistic students. I had the pleasure of meeting the head of technology and an amazing principal. One random was that the principal had a door in her office, she had her own toilet, she saw it as a bonus, obviously she has never drunk speights! That was the type of person she was, never mind the 1950s Nelson block type school, there are opportunities everywhere and we will look for them, even if it's a toilet in an office.
The school has many students who have an iPad as their educational device. It's built in as part of their IEP but only if the device is considered essential to their learning/growth. I met a boy who is 15, he had never spoken to anyone some sounds but that was it. Cathy bought him up to the office and I had a conversation with him. He manipulates his way around the iPad at the speed of a nerd typing code (like a rat up a drainpipe). He has an audio programme (with pictures) where he has answers or questions that he often uses. As the iPad is speaking he will speak with it and his speech is now audible and you can tell he will be able to go without the iPad one day. The cool thing is that the phrases are not cut and paste ones, they are written with him so that he uses things at his level of ability to start with and new questions and answers are being built in conjunction with him. It was really apparent that he knew all the phrases and words because he could manipulate the programme with high speed, he knew where everything was.
I visited a couple of music classes, one at a very low level of ability and another at a higher operating level. You try a music lesson of 50 minutes with kids who's attention span is seconds (oh new entrants maybe) and keep them all on task. One boy was so quick to push the home button on the iPad it required a full time para professional to correct the behavior, this didn't stop the teacher, he had his 8 students engaged entirely, yes he switched apps for each student about five times, but he innately knew which app each student was capable of using and he carefully built a lesson around the students capabilities.
The next class was a higher ability level and he had all the iPads plugged into a sound system (note to @macash it took four minutes and worked first time) and the band started, the cool thing was that the band had their drum player away and two children had to play other instruments, change for these kids is almost impossible, but with clever guidance the band was away, no loops here just good old fashioned playing by ear.
This guy was a highly qualified music teacher with degrees in fine arts, he played many many instruments and in bands and orchestras, he could lecture in fine arts. Q: what was he doing in Queens 177 school? A: a bloody good job!
He had every known music app on his music iPads, there was no mention of 'what app this - what app that"? or "how do you sync"? It was all about the learning. Queens177 school I tip my hat to you each and every day #amazingpeople

I have video clips of our friend who now speaks, the music teacher and the Principal, you'll have to wait for the iBook (available soon for a kazillian dollars) for the extended version. Podgorani signing off from seat 42G AirNZ Lax to Akld