Wednesday, May 25, 2011

IEP Recommendation: Mobile Access

By Shelly Blake-Plock

As a parent of a dyslexic elementary schooler who happens to be obsessed with all things tech -- especially iPods and WoW -- I've been thinking recently in terms of what his future might look like. And I keep coming back to the idea that mobile tech is the single best vehicle for addressing the confidence and practical needs of many of our kids with learning differences.

I don't mean to say that the tech itself is the 'difference', what I am trying to say is that the tech -- and especially the personalized and always-on facet of mobile tech -- will provide the connection to the tools, the teachers, and the interventions that will make the difference in a way both unique and also requiring a re-thinking in terms of how we offer relevant services to students with learning differences.

And two things need to happen if we are to make the most of what the current digital situation represents. First, we need to explain to developers what we and our students need from them. Even better, we should be calling for Ed Schools to provide instruction in app making and digital design so that we -- the teachers -- have the capacity to program our own teaching. App design and personalized programming might do very well as a standard requirement for a master's degree in education.

Second, we need to push now for an end to the access issues facing all of our schools: public and private. So let's start by writing mobile tech into the IEPs. Let's make districts come to the realization that mobile devices and mobile access are the point-of-entry for learning right now. Let's put state funded devices in the hands of kids who need them and let all kids bring their own INTELLECTUAL EMPOWERMENT DEVICES to class.

My son learns better and understands better when he has access to the net. And given some common sense simple provisions, there is absolutely no reason why he nor any kids like him nor any kids at all in this day and age should not be allowed the resources the world has to offer them and that are offered anywhere but within the confines of a 20th century school building.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Question: Have you gotten this in your son's IEP (or I am guessing he may not have one) or do you or anyone else know of an example of an IEP with a component like this?

    Also making app design or programming a master's requirement would eliminate a lot of teachers from grad school. Not making a judgment about that, just saying...

  2. @Mike

    Yes, he's got one... and no, this of course is not in it (the term "dyslexia" isn't even in it... hmm...), but a guy can dream, no?

    As far as the ed school requirement of app design and programming, I think if approached reasonably from an empowering perspective and not from a "turn-you-into-a-computer-programmer" perspective, I think this would actually draw some folks into education who otherwise might not think they would be interested and it might open up possibilities for folks in education who might not otherwise have them.

    Rushkoff has been writing and speaking recently about the idea of "program or be programmed", and I think there's a lot in that for us to think about as educators.


  3. I have this in one of my student's IEP's. It took me all year, but I finally got it in! Working on making the device work well for the child so that independence can occur over time.

  4. My 4th grader has a SOLO program that has word prediction software, the ability to scan worksheets and have them read to him via the program, he also has the accommodation to type answers. We are trying to push the tech because that is what he will use in real life and by the time he gets to HS will be what everyone else is using too.
    We still have issues with dictation software...I just can't get the darn things to work.
    Both of my boys have an iTouch and we love it for all things educational!
    But I agree accommodations are sadly lacking to even the playing field for our dyslexic kiddos...heck even getting the opportunity to verbally give an answer is like pulling hens teeth!

  5. I appreciate this post, because it gave me a glimpse into who you are (always a bit of a mystery to me) and what drives you.

    I totally agree. I don't see why this can't be part of his IEP. Would they be against netbooks or iPads? Or is it only smart phones that they oppose to? And if so, what is the big difference between a tablet and a smart phone, beyond size?

  6. I have been supporting my dyslexic son's path through school for 9 years now. Next year he is a senior and will be very glad to escape the narrowness of school. He loves to learn but the ways school is set up are too confining.

    We found out that he was dyslexic and actually could not read but 17 two letter words when he was 10 years old and in third grade at an "excellent" school. It has amazed and saddened me throughout his journey how little schools, even some learning specialists, know about dyslexia compared to the gobs of science and information that is out there. Assistive technology of a variety of types will make all the difference in the dyslexic learner's sense of confidence, competence, and trust in his teachers and school setting.

    I wish I had gotten my son a smart phone like at age 4th grade instead of 9th grade because when he started texting with his friends and with girls, all of a sudden, he took a great interest in spelling and sentence structure. I also wish I had given him a laptop and showed him TED and Steve Jobs keynotes earlier because it is amazing how he learns and remembers by hearing things.

    Some of the best things we did were to put him in learning situations where he could control the pace and there is one-on-one interaction like Scouting and community service projects. One of the besting things also has been his junior year abroad through Rotary International in Germany and he is now very functionally fluent in German, having not spoken one word when he left in August. Learning a foreign languate from a book in school was just torture. He is a great, curious learner but not from books. We actually had one tragic teacher that complained that he asked too many questions. That curiousness will eventually pay off, just not in school. And lastly, I am amazed how well he can write when he is dictating his thoughts to a scribe.

    I would recommend that you do have his IEP mention and document "dyslexic" as you will need that as the stakes get more competitive in middle school and high school. That things are put in place to empower him as a learner is federal and civil rights law, for public schools and for private schools but you have to have firm documentation that he or she needs it.

    We have had teachers who said "whatever it takes to help you succeed and grow" and we have had teachers who think any sort of accommodation is unfair to everyone else. It is a tough road, so focus on your child's learning and growth, confidence, and resilience. Help him develop his strengths and interests and to partner in weak areas.

  7. I agree with you all....but not just for dyslexic kids...I have been encouraging the use of cells and other digital devices in school for years now. I have lost another job over the issue. The fight will be long and hard. There will be casualties....are you willing to be one!

  8. Shelley,

    You may find some of the free online resources linked at the UDL Tech Toolkit helpful for your son. My son, with a language based learning disability, survived high school with the help of his mother who advocated for assistive technology throughout his high school career. He is now 20, an Apple store employee and learns best with all things tech. I couldn't help his teachers to understand that.
    Keep advocating for your son. His school experiences should be more successful if his teachers use the readily available tools. Feel free to share this resource with them.

  9. So many schools are against students bringing their own tech into the school, even for educational purposes. It often opens the doors for behavior issues, i.e., distracting from the education, theft, etc. Also, many districts block so many sites that the tech is all but useless to the student. There are a ton of useful resources on the web for teachers and students alike but they are all blocked by district servers. It is sad because this is what so many students use in real-life to make sense of their world, yet at school we say no, no, no. That is off limits. There has to be a medium found in accessibility before it makes sense to include tech into the IEP. Again, many districts tell you to keep it general or they have to pay for the device. Again, it is a shame. It is what is best for the pocketbook and not the student.


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