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Making Choices to Support Learning

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Excerpt from 'Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds' Davis & Lindsay, 2012. pg.194-5

Diary Entry #13: Barbara Stefanics, Teacher, Austria, via email

Tim had been diagnosed with a form of Asperger’s Syndrome which hindered both oral and written communication. He would stutter terribly - often struggling for minutes before he could say the one sentence that he needed to say. In class, we all waited because we knew that that one sentence would have real value and substance. On any written work or test, additional time would make no difference. The longest response he could manage would be only a few words, up to a sentence or two regardless of an extra allocation of time.
One day in the staffroom (thank goodness for staffrooms), I bumped into Tim’s English teacher. We shared our observations on Tim’s problem, and she gave me the first clue that there was a chance for Tim to communicate normally under certain circumstances. She told me that strangely enough, Tim’s stuttering did not occur when he was involved in drama. That was quite a surprise.
As part of the Horizon Project there were two breakthroughs that gave me a hint of how to actually get a more reliable assessment for Tim in his external examinations and overcome the communication problems. Both used technology.
All of the students in the Horizon Project were required to produce a video. Tim produced this video at home on his own in his room. It demonstrated that Tim using the technologies to create the video could communicate without hesitation or stuttering. This was the evidence that I needed to show that Tim could communicate just like any other student if he could use video or similar technology tools. Furthermore, Tim was awarded runner-up in the Horizon Project for his video.
The second indication I got was in the student meeting on Elluminate with Julie [Lindsay]. All of the students were expected to explain their outcomes of their research and the Horizon Project. I simply could not believe it! Right before my very eyes, Tim was completely articulate. Unfortunately, it was such a surprise that I did not record Tim’s response in Elluminate. We only had the real-time observation by me and the technician who was assisting me on this breakthrough for this student.
It was through the video and the observation from the Elluminate that it was possible to acquire special consideration for Tim to take his external examinations orally for two of his subjects and he achieved his international diploma. The Horizon Project and the use of technology in the project made a real difference for this student.

Further Discussion

  • After reviewing McIntosh's Seven Spaces of Learning, what types of spaces are underrepresented in the schools you work in?
  • What are the characteristics of teachers in the choice-rich environment?
  • What impact is technology having on our ability to provide choices for students?