Fictionaut Interview

In this interview a talk a bit about being a LD writer.

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Twitter as a Learning Tool?

I reacted like most people when the subject of entering the Twitter-sphere came up. Why do I need to know what Paris Hilton had for breakfast or what that little Bieber kid has done now? Yuck! However, I was told repeatedly that my work depended on it; I would have to get involved, really involved. So, I plugged my nose and dove in.

I started by following people and organizations who seemed relevant to my Daveland interest: learning disabilities and education reform. I received daily postings from major education organizations and related thinkers. From these thought centers I began to see a pattern of conversation: mostly about the integration, access, and use of technology in and around the classroom. (And I still find that this trend increases and evolves each day.) All good useful stuff I thought, even though I still didn’t see its true power.

However, I quickly found myself distracted (one of the downsides of an LD person doing anything on the net) with the feeds from political satirists, economists, organizational change agents, and environmental scientists. Most of these people posted regularly, often providing links to articles they were writing or that merely caught their attention. I spent hours sifting through their recommendations and I realized something: How powerful is the tool that can push what’s on the mind of the top thinkers in any given subject on any given day? Whatever your interest or specialty, there are thought leaders daily opening up their mind for the taking, and these nuggets are pushed to our inboxes. Wow! It’s like having an expert seminar every day on your laptop. I also learned through tragedy there’s a timeliness to Twitter. Six days before the mainstream media reported the details around the Fukushima Daiichi electrical plant disaster in Japan, I received retweets passed on from direct sources at or near the plant in real time.

If I were to go back to the college classroom today I would require each student to create a Twitter account dedicated to our field of study. It would be like having the best possible guest experts in our collective pocket helping us learn. More importantly, it would help students learn how to use technology in a powerfully productive way.

As teachers embrace a changing role as technological guides and mentors rather than merely knowledge dispensers, finding productive uses for things like Twitter are essential. This is especially true for those helpers of the LD person who may be enthralled with all the activity of a Twitter account but blinded by its enormity. I could easily see a Twitter virgin pulled into the rabbit hole never to return.

So, do you have any great uses for Twitter that you would like to share?

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A Different Tribute to Jobs

I recently watched a 60 Minutes profile of Steve Jobs where they spent time delving into his personal flaws as well as his legacy of connecting people with technology. I was surprised that they devoted a whole show to Jobs, considering everything else going on in the world. In fact, I remember opening my Facebook page the day after his death and finding the majority of posts about Jobs. The response outweighed any single event I’d ever experienced while on social media. It made me wonder what it would’ve been like if Facebook had been around during 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination. (Twitter reported over 1.5 million tweets about Jobs on the day he died.) All of this seemed disproportional. Sure he was a great innovator but the way he treated other humans was less than desirable, and his premium, proprietary products weren’t affordable for everyone. However, since his death I’ve reconsidered the man and reflected some about his products and their impact on my life.

As a struggling graduate student, and having just been diagnosed with a learning disability, I broke the piggy bank to be the first among my peers to own a personal computer, an Apple IIc. I talked about the influence of computing on my life in Daveland:

“My writing skills grew with computer technology. As software improved, my spelling improved; eventually my visual world came closer to my auditory world. I even made a game out of eliminating colored lines from the text. The computer didn’t make it personal; it didn’t care if I misspelled the same word five different times in the same document and it didn’t care if the second part of my sentence didn’t match the first. It just pointed it out and rewarded me by taking the colored line away when I fixed the problem. It still allowed me to write wrong words correctly, as when gallery becomes allergy, but nobody’s perfect, nor are computers.”

I stayed with Apple through the lean times because of their commitment to accessibility and intuitive design, even though I’ve managed to screw up the simplest things on my computers, some of my miscues becoming legend around Apple. (Apparently my intuition is not always the same as the design engineer’s.) Even with our occasional mismatch of logic the technology allowed me to accomplish things, develop skills, and learn in a way that I never could in school.

More advancement in software has brought more accessibility and opportunities to many learners. In the 60 Minutes report there was a segment about how the I-book has opened the door for autistic people, especially for those unable to communicate. Some autistic people are now able to express themselves to those around them for the first time in their lives. And I realized that in a way my laptop does the same thing for me every day by helping me organize my distracted mind, helping me make sense with my words, and allowing me to explore my unique talents in new ways

For autistic persons and the broad spectrum of learners alike, Apple designs will help lead this technological transformation that will forever change the way we learn. Whether schools adapt to these advancements or not, Jobs’ work will be a part of changing the way we all learn for the foreseeable future. In his life and as a leader he was an imperfect genius. However, I guess we all, not just Apple stockholders, owe Steve his due.

How has Mr. Jobs’ innovations impacted your life? Please share.

BTW, two pieces about Jobs in the media caught my attention. The first was a very unflattering portrait by Maureen Dowd and the second a very moving tribute and eulogy written by his sister Mona Simpson.

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A familiar story from a Pulitzer Prize winner.

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Different learners require different models: here’s another one.

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One person’s view of how technology will change education.

I really like this site hosted by PBS. I do question the timing though; it may take that long for education to catch up, but not the kids. Again, the kids (or more accurately, the kids with access to technology) are already there.

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Kids Understand What’s Happening.

So, what does this have to do with kids who learn differently? Well, who else knows more about figuring out the best way to learn than the learner? The big word now is inclusion but inclusion only works with a system designed to allow inclusion. After a century of rigidity that fostered exclusion maybe the tide has turned, and it will be the kids/learners who crush those barriers to inclusion. BTW,check out the original post from these kids @

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