Saturday, March 28, 2015

Personalized learning with a school iPad in special needs: Feedly and Pinboard shares

I may be have an opportunity to do some more writing, in which case I’ll have more to say about the good and imperfect aspects of our school district’s iPad-based personalized learning program for special needs students.

One imperfect aspect of the program is that it doesn’t exist just yet. The school iPad is real though, so #1 and I are doing something on our own. He completes daily assignments to earn home WiFi services for his school iPad. 

One part of the program that works well is using a Feed Reader [1], in our case Feedly. I’ve subscribed him to a number of Feeds including

  • 6 NYT section feeds [2]
  • 7 local and national road and Mountain Bike blogs, the latter has video feeds
  • Family Calendar feed and photo share
  • CNN Student News (video)
  • Sports: ESPN, Formula1, Golf
  • Local: streets, walking
His daily assignment includes reading one or more feeds and doing a verbal summary of something he’s learned.
Today I added a new feed, one based on my Pinboard shares. I use Pinboard as a microblog link-comment platform. Every Pinboard post tag has a feed, and via PourOver and IFTTT rules I publish to Twitter, and my own archives. I started tagging science and other things I want him to study with his first name, and then I added the Pinboard RSS for that tag to Feedly.
So when I see a great BBC visualization of exploring the earth’s core, I just add his name to it and it shows up in his Feedly reading list as assigned reading.

[1] When the school program started we could install approved apps from the School’s service app, or “free” App Store apps (meaning ad-supported or exploitative, so superb educational apps like DragonBox are unavailable). So we went with Feedly as a feed reader. Feedly has actually worked quite well, but sadly the school has ended the App Store service leaving many apps of interest to special needs learners in limbo. If Feedly stops working I’ll switch him to using either AOL’s free Feed Reader or Feedbin.

[2] He reads at a 4th grade level. I don’t know why he likes to read the NYT.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Things we might have done differently: High School

#1 is finishing High School. Some good things have happened in High School, but if we could rerun the tape we’d have tried something different — perhaps a local charter school that specializes in autism disorders.

The Junior and Senior years have been remarkably weak. I think this is partly due to local conditions; we’ve seen problems with leadership, policies, and funding — particularly funding and support for class aides.

I don’t think that’s the whole story though — I suspect very few schools or school districts have figured out how to manage special education for ages 16-19, particularly in integrated settings.

I’m concerned the post-secondary “transition” period will be no better — particularly since care of special needs adults in the US seems to be replaying the history of psychiatric deinstitutionalization (note - did not go well the first time).

No particular words of advice here — except don’t be afraid to do something different after middle school. You might not do better, but you probably won’t do worse.