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Toolbelt Theory


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Toolbelt Theory, how to give every student the tools they need for success. Traverse City, 23 June 2009

Published in: Education, Technology
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Toolbelt Theory

  1. 1. The Toolbelt Ira David Socol Michigan State University Share with credit. 2008, 2009 Ira David Socol For contact information http:// /
  2. 2. "Toolbelt Theory" suggests that we must teach our students how to analyze tasks, the task-completion environment, their own skills and capabilities, an appropriate range of available tools… and let them begin to make their own decisions
  3. 3. • Break the dependence cycle • Develop lifespan technology skills • Limit the impact of limitations • Empower student decision making • Prepare students for life outside of and beyond school
  4. 4. Students are taught a specifically ordered version of Joy Zabala's SETT Framework (Skills, Environment, Tools, Tasks). Specifically ordered because, in human experience, the choice of tools is always Task - dependent.
  5. 5. Task. At the most basic, I need to know if I need to cut wood or join it before I start looking for a tool to use.
  6. 6. Environment is next because it makes a huge difference whether I am cutting the wood in my garage or in a forest and whether I am cutting the wood to burn or use to build a cabinet.
  7. 7. Then, I need to know my Skills – Am I strong? Am I exhausted? Is my right hand broken? Am I simply a danger to myself and others with power tools?
  8. 8. Once I know all of that, I need to know which Tools exist – if I have never seen a chainsaw, as many dyslexic students (for example) have never seen a good digital reader, I will spend long hours hacking ineffectively with an axe.
  9. 9. TEST Task Environment Skills Tools
  10. 10. Task 1. What needs to be done? (when possible, break the task down into component parts)
  11. 11. Environment 1. Where must this be done (or is typically done)? 2. Under what time constraints? 3. What is the standard method of task completion?
  12. 12. Environment 4. How does the person with the disability interact within this environment? 5. Who is the task being done for? (specifics of teacher, employer, other expectations)
  13. 13. Skills 1. What specific strengths does the person with the disability bring to this task? 2. What specific weaknesses interfere with that person's ability to complete the task? 3. What is that person's "tool acquisition aptitude" and what tools are they currently comfortable with?
  14. 14. Tools 1. What tool best "bridges the gap" between the current skill set and what is needed for task completion? 2. If the tool is not already "in the toolbox" (the person has been successfully trained in its use), how does the environmental timeline match with the needed learning curve?
  15. 15. Tools 3. If it is not possible to use the "best tool" within this environment what is the "back-up tool"? How do we pre-train so the best tool can be used the next time?
  16. 16. Preparing the School
  17. 17. Up-to-date technology • Schools can not continue to prepare students to use 20th Century technology • They must be preparing students to use the technology that will be around in the next decade.
  18. 18. Is the technology in your school… • Up to that used in most major retail stores? • Up to that used in most offices? • Ubiquitous technology
  19. 19. • Specialized technology is always more expensive, and more difficult to use “everywhere” • The mobile phone, the PocketPC, Google-based solutions, Microsoft-based solutions, Firefox-based solutions, are less expensive and everywhere at the start.
  20. 20. Up-to-date technology • Schools can not continue to prepare students to use 20th Century technology • They must be preparing students to use the technology that will be around in the next decade.
  21. 21. Start by asking: Does your school… • Ban mobile phones? • Ban mp3 players even when students are working individually? • Have all available free Assistive Technology installed on all computers?
  22. 22. Why is school, especially in the US, the least technologically equipped environment many of your students will be in all day? Why does school actually prevent students from developing their own – perfectly reasonable – solutions… such as baseball caps which focus attention and keep your eyes away from flickering fluorescent lights?
  23. 23. Choices of hardware and software readily available • Students must make their own selections and learn how to evaluate • Start small at young ages, and move up to discovering the world
  24. 24. Start by asking: Does your school… • Have various keyboards and mice for students to choose from? • Have more than one form of literacy technology? • Encourage a choice of calculators?
  25. 25. Willingness to allow failure • Without failure there is very little learning. • Make failure “low cost” – learn from the world of video games • Failure now beats failure later.
  26. 26. Start by asking: Does your school… • Encourage all students to try differing methods of reading? • Of writing? • Have assessment method choices? • Allow choices of seating?
  27. 27. Instructional tolerance • Accepting loss of classroom control • Accepting that all students will learn their own ways to do things • Emphasizing “what” instead of “how”
  28. 28. Start by asking: Does it matter… • “how” a book is “read”? • “how” a paper is “written”? • “how” a student “gets to” a math answer if the concept is understood?
  29. 29. Does your school… • Privilege methods? Does anyone in your school ever ask a student… • “What if the computer breaks?” • “What if the power goes out?”
  30. 30. Preparing the Student
  31. 31. Change their view of both “help” and “technology”
  32. 32. “ Help” is something we all need
  33. 33. Mark Haddon The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time “All the other children at my school are stupid. Except I'm not meant to call them stupid, even though this is what, they are. I'm meant to say that they have learning difficulties or that they have special needs.
  34. 34. “ But this is stupid because everyone has learning difficulties because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult and also everyone has special needs, like Father, who has to carry a little packet of artificial sweetening tablets around with him to put in his coffee to stop him from getting fat,
  35. 35. “ or Mrs. Peters, who wears a beige-colored hearing aid, or Siobhan, who has glasses so thick that they give you a headache if you borrow them, and none of these people are Special Needs, even if they have special needs.”
  36. 36. “ Technology” are the tools we all need.
  37. 37. Change their view of “failure”
  38. 38. “ Failure” is practice, it is how we learn.
  39. 39. Change their view of “power”
  40. 40. They have the power, through the leverage of technology, to change their lives.
  41. 41. Change their view of “responsibility”
  42. 42. Build their sense of responsibility for solving their own problems.
  43. 43. The goal is to empower students to continuously assess their changing needs and the ever changing technological environment that surrounds them, and allow them to build their own toolbelts of appropriate solutions to their life challenges.
  44. 44. The student with reading issues will likely need differing solutions for differing tasks for different instructors. She might watch a video of a Shakespeare play, listen to an audiobook of Joyce, need a simple computer reader with annotation capabilities for textbook reading, use a reading pen for a restaurant menu, and require a high-tech literacy support program for testing.
  45. 45. A student with math issues might require just his mobile phone calculator for work and a downloadable computer graphing calculator for homework, but may need to know to transfer data that he cannot write accurately from the teacher's calculator if that teacher distrusts the technology or suspects cheating whenever high-tech gadgets appear.
  46. 46. A student with writing problems might use speech recognition at home but type fastest using a mobile phone's word prediction for in-school answers.
  47. 47. There is not one answer. Tool choice is based in task, needs, environment, prior knowledge, availability, fashion, a sense of self, and the vagaries of what makes one person comfortable but not another, among many other things.
  48. 48. One AT device for each “issue” is as limiting as would be a toolbox with one saw, one screwdriver, and one crescent wrench.
  49. 49. Data-Based Decision-Making In tracking task success students can learn to look at direct results (improved test scores), indirect results (less time required for task completion), and affective indicators (improvements in mood, self-image, stress levels).
  50. 50. Students need to be taught that all of these things matter, and will determine what assistive devices they use in the same way it determines their choice of mobile phone or mp3 player.
  51. 51. We are trying to develop students who prepared for independence and life after school. Who are ready to make their own data-informed decisions throughout their life as their needs and the world – and technology - changes.
  52. 52. Preparing the Teacher
  53. 53. 1. Technology Knowledge 2. Technology Comfort 3. Real Technology Support 4. Technology Access
  54. 54. Technology Knowledge easily available information easy access to information
  55. 55. Technology Comfort Must have time to play with solutions Must have differentiated tech instruction
  56. 56. Real Technology Support School tech support which encourages access and doesn’t block it. School tech staff trained in education.
  57. 57. Technology Access Neither teachers nor students can experiment if web-access and downloading are blocked or severely limited.
  58. 58. Our roles as special needs practitioners will change dramatically. We will become less doctors and chemists/pharmacists, and more librarians and advisors and personal trainers.
  59. 59. And our students will change from helpless and dependent to powerful and self-reliant.
  60. 60. Prepared to succeed in education, careers, and life, in their own independent futures, even as the world changes rapidly around them.
  61. 61. Basics Google Docs Google Calendar Firefox plus Add- Ons Skype VoiceThread (non-synchronous multi-modal conversations) Webspiration (online visual organizer) Ghotit (the best spellcheck system) SMS Blogs Social Networks Mobiles
  62. 62. On Line Text-To-Speech
  63. 63. Phone Text-To-Speech http:// /
  64. 64. Phone Speech-to-Text
  65. 65. Phone Text Conversion https:// / http:// http:// /
  66. 66. Simple Downloadable Windows Text-To-Speech http:// /
  67. 67. Simple Mac OS TTS Open System Preferences - it’s the fourth item in the Apple menu. In the “System” section, usually about the fourth line of icons, there is an icon labeled “Speech” which looks like an old fashioned microphone. Click on the Speech icon.
  68. 68. Simple Mac OS TTS Select any key combination that isn’t already used for something else. Now all you need to do is select some text in an application - I suggest you try it first with Safari or Text Edit - and hit your keys and you should hear Mac OS X read out whatever you have selected!
  69. 69. Multi-Featured Downloadable Windows Text-To-Speech Microsoft Reader with Text-To-Speech engine and Read in Microsoft Reader (RMR) add-ons - FREE pc.asp (laptop/desktop PC) tablet.asp (tablet PC, with "write notes in the margins!") tts.asp (Text-To-Speech) rmr.asp (RMR, creates one-click conversions from Microsoft Word) dictionaries.asp (Dictionaries)
  70. 70. Downloadable MS Office Text-To-Speech WordTalk PowerTalk
  71. 71. Non-Free Full Literacy Support Suites WYNN http:// Read and Write Gold http:// / Kurzweil3000 http:// /
  72. 72.
  73. 73. Downloadable Audio Software Windows – Mac OS Audacity http:// /
  74. 74. Free Text-To-Speech in Firefox Windows – Mac OS
  75. 75. Mobile Web Builders
  76. 76. [email_address]