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Assisstive Technology Presentation

Here is a presentation that I delivered to administrators and senior leaders at one of our Family of Schools Leader Team Meetings.  The topic was Read and Write Gold as Assisstive Technology.

LTM %28Jan 23%2c 2014%29 Read and Write Gold

Using Technology vs Technology Integration

I found this interesting



Education to fill “skills gap” is risky, parents say

Here is an article I had some input into. It looks at how parents, teachers and others are addressing the growing “skills-trade” gap that has formed over the last few decades.

Education to fill “skills gap” is risky, parents say
The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Apr. 30 2013, 7:00 AM EDT

Employers say they can’t find workers for the jobs they do have, while our unemployment rate is not returning to pre-recessionary levels. We were curious about whether parents are paying attention to the debate on the “skills gap” and advising their children to think about the skilled trades or science careers. So we asked the Globe and Mail’s Parent Council to tell us about their family’s education conversations. These are some of their comments:


SEAN SILCOFF If skilled tradespeople are scarce, why aren’t they paid more?
THE SKILLS GAP It’s not about college or university, it’s about lifelong learning
TORONTO BOARD OF TRADE REPORT Toronto’s recipe for prosperity: More graduates – and more paths to good jobs

Video: With a looming skills gap, will companies spend more on training?

Video: Here’s how to make sure your education matches the job market
Follow your passion

I have a 10-year-old who thinks about her future a lot, and it’s something we chat about as a family as she explores her interests and ponders what’s she’s going to be when she grows up.

I have a degree in English, and my husband has a degree in Philosophy. We run our own successful web development and marketing agency, and work with education and social innovation-based start-ups as mentors and advisors. I completely believe that our postsecondary “training” has been instrumental in our success – particularly in developing our faculties in critical thinking and the strong written and verbal communication skills that are absolutely critical in our line of work.

Learning digital skills (coding, programming, design) has come as we have needed to adapt to the changing workplace, but everything we “practised” in our postsecondary education comes into play every single day. Had I gone and done a technical degree in 1995, I would have had to upgrade my skills as time progressed, but I would have missed out on the opportunity to combine the study of my areas of interest and passion (literature, writing, creating).

The best example we can set for our daughter is to show her that we are happy and satisfied in our line of work. She sees that we work hard, but she sees that enthusiasm for our work infuses all of the things we do as a family as well. She knows that we chose our university majors based on interest and passion, and she also knows that we spend a lot of time learning and re-learning and working hard to stay relevant in our business. She is particularly keen on music and books and writing right now. Would I ever steer her into something more vocational if she expressed a desire to continue her studies in these areas?

Not a chance. – Aerin Guy, Toronto

Parents set expectations

I would be interested in finding out what kinds of discussions and modelling of careers are discussed in households. This may open a can of worms, but different families will have different expectations for their kids.

I have heard parents express their key goal is for their son or daughter to graduate high school. Full stop. This is their best hope. No thought to what might come after, to the expectation that a career can be “fulfilling.” The expectation is “a job.”

Others have decided that one child will be an engineer and the other a physician … and this is as they enter into grade 9. The children seem to have no say in this, and there seems to be little vision for other options.

I would expect that a stratification of expectations is maintained by socioeconomic and education level of parents. Parents with postsecondary will likely expect that and model that for their kids. Kids in Toronto who do not even know there is a lake nearby, are not likely to be thinking of becoming a welder and going to Alberta or down east to the ship building projects.

Do immigrant families (parents from elsewhere, children from here) see their kids moving “away” from where the family is currently settled for a career? Many students I have talked to indicate they are only allowed to go to local universities. Otherwise the family will have to move as a whole to the city where the university is located.

Our futures are only as open as the horizons that have been shown to us.

I expect that few students actually have horizons that are open to skill deficit planning. – Steve Masson, Toronto

Jobs aren’t everything

I am a mother of two and a high-school teacher (who can’t find work). What I tell my children (and my students) is that the job market is constantly changing, and whatever you do must be something you feel good about doing, and that you feel you are good at. What I feel is important is that all skill sets be recognized as essential and that every path must be walked with dignity. This may seem a bit off topic, but it isn’t.

When I was a high-school student, my guidance counselor told me to go to university because I was smart enough, and it would get me a good job. (She lied, btw. Took me three tries to get a degree that did anything other than make me more interesting.) Kids who were not perceived as “smart enough” for university could still make something of themselves if they went to college or trade school. I am now embarking on my 6th year as a licensed teacher, and the best I can do is to sub at the same school for a full week. I’ve had a couple of terms, but nobody has offered me a full time job because there aren’t any. Kids I went to school with who got business diplomas or journeyman’s papers all have full time jobs, that they qualified for while I was still an undergrad.

That said, I would not go back and do trade school instead of university. I won’t push my children in either direction. Academics are also dignified. There are careers that require the kind of thinking that is fostered in a university atmosphere. I imagine that an immigration officer (for example) would have better public relations with his/ her clients if that officer had studied human geography or cultural anthropology.

I think kids need to be taught the importance of balancing financial stability/ security with personal satisfaction and contentment, and then let loose. By the time my children are old enough to enter a profession, the “skills gap” may have closed or shifted. – Heather Forgie, Winnipeg, MB

Combine school, learning

There are also many initiatives in different boards to attempt to address this “skills gap” as many high schools now offer specialized programs, internships, apprenticeships and special trades-based diplomas.

There are also other initiatives that are beginning much earlier than high school such as the Essential Skills curriculum which is slowly rolling out of the TDSB. This curriculum –which is to be embedded in already existing curriculum not added on – focuses on highlighting “transferable” or essential skills which can be used in any pathway a student may take. While this is not a board-wide initiative yet, it is an example of how this idea of the “skills gap” is being tackled on the front lines. – C.D. Borges, Toronto

Wages, not skills at issue

I write this as a parent who has to worry about advising his own child, and as a teacher who has the responsibility of advising the children of others.

The recent Harper government announcement about the new $15,000 skilled trades allowance has many tongues wagging here in Nova Scotia. However, I believe a word of caution may be warranted.

I have recently heard it said locally that we don’t necessarily suffer from a shortage of skilled trades workers, but rather that we suffer from a shortage of skilled trades workers who are willing to stay in Nova Scotia and work for half the money they can make in Alberta.

The skilled trades have certainly been in the spotlight here in Nova Scotia since the announcement of the multibillion dollar government ship building contract. However, there is a part of me that worries that we must not be too trades heavy in our educational focus. It has been commented that we in Canada have far too many young people with bachelor’s degrees working at minimum wage jobs. I believe that it is imperative that we try to ensure that we are not, in our haste to employ our youth, saying the same thing about skilled trades workers 10 years from now. – Grant Frost, Dartmouth, N.S.

Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

I was recently asked for my thoughts on the following statement:

As we evolve our vision for future and learning in a digital age, what might be the emerging equity agenda on student success and well being that we need to pay attention to, given the range of students and schools

Here were my initial thoughts:

-access to technology will be the most basic issue: how do we get students access to tech in order to engage with digital media. Initiatives (if you want to call it that) like Bring Your Own Device–and the infrastructure that comes with it-and school–shared iPad carts or mobile computing carts begin to address the diverse needs of our students. However, it’s more complicated than this.

-related to this is one of the most difficult issues: how to change the way we approach teaching in order we build directly into our lessons and assignments the opportunity to address access to, student comfort and student strength/needs with digital learning. Blended learning approaches, differentiated instruction and assessment will be key. Offering choice to our students will also be important. We must understand that while students are inundated by the digital age, we shouldn’t necessarily expect all to be comfortable with it or want to use it in all situations.

-we also must encourage teachers to engage with students in the students’ realm, if you will. We must embrace how kids communicate and find ways to incorporate in into the everyday experience. In order to do this well, we must take the “wow” factor out of tech and digital communication and make it as common place as other tools we use in school (I.e. manipulatives, videos, computers).

-probably one of the more difficult challenges will be getting teachers to be comfortable with different forms of tech and digital communication. Not merely giving professional development, this is more of a complete paradigm shift in how we teach. Enter the idea of the flipped classroom.

This may be going beyond the statement, but these are things that need to be thought of. In short, it’s not merely the notion that we need to put tools in the kids’ hands, it’s more that we need to change the way we think about teaching and how we approach communicating with students.

How Do We Use Our Class Website?

We use our classroom site for blogging and sharing our podcasts. We use it to pick up assignments and to drop them off. We also use the site to showcase a lot of what we do in class. The site acts as a jumping off point for research and for exploration of the themes and units we cover in class. It is a meeting place and a place to share ideas and comments about each others work and ideas. In short, our site is an extension of our classroom. Visit our site to see what it’s all about. We just hit over 50,000 visits. Not bad for a Spec Ed class’s blog site, eh? Way to go Blog Squad!