2009: The Year of Universal Access - All Children Have Special Needs
by Dr. Merle Marsh
It's about time, according to author and blogger Ira David Socol, to put all those wonderful technologies we have to work in our schools. No longer should we think "what if" and "we wish we could" and "if only". We need to get to work and do it. In his blog, he tells his story of finding ways to help students with learning disabilities. That was back in 1997-98. The speed with which technologies have advanced make it much easier today to give our kids what they need to learn.
Socol tells us he hated school and had trouble with learning, but his discovery of audio books, his alternative school education, and a very special teacher gave him "the freedom to actually learn." His blog, SpeEdChange is filled with ways to help all students and challenges to make sure we do. Speeding change in education is what
Socol is all about.
In an interview with Open Education, Socol says that all children, not just those who are labeled as needing help, have special needs. He lobbies us to think about children as individuals, each with their own needs, and holds that findings using quantitative research of groups don't always provide the best solutions for individual students.
Although Socol refers to "Digital Native" theories as "nonsense", he advocates effective and appropriate use of technologies in schools. Students, he says, have to learn how to Google and how to use email, cellphones, texting, digital newspapers, and blogs. By giving teachers more freedom and respect and helping them move away from teaching students as they were taught, instruction of all students will improve. Education, according to Socol, as we know it, is "social reproduction" of how we taught students more than a century ago.
Socol's book The Drool Room (with the Rs backwards), is a novel containing stories about a bright, dyslexic kid who fights to avoid being grouped with students who are assigned to what he calls the Drool Room. Although Socol admits that some parts of the book are autobiographical, these are fictional stories designed to let readers see life through the mind of a person with special needs. Socol didn't want to use the backwards Rs in the title, for it could be called generic dyslexic, and Socol's message is that students are not generic. He went with the reversed Rs because it creates an impact.
If you want to learn more about Socol's ideas and challenges for all of us, sign up for his blog and check out The Drool Room.
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