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Smartphones in the Classroom? Teaching Takes on New Shape at Landmark Innovation Symposium

by Solvegi Shmulsky

students using technologyHow can educators use fun, popular technology—think iPhones, mobile apps and pencasts—to teach all their students more effectively? Expert presenters will share answers to this question at the 2013 Learning Disabilities Innovation Symposium on Friday, October 4th. Hosted by Landmark College in Putney, Vt., the Symposium is a dynamic professional development day for classroom teachers, learning specialists, college faculty, other educators, innovators and technologists. Sessions focus on immediately applicable uses of popular technological tools, with special emphasis on how these tools benefit those who learn differently. 

Why is this symposium important? Technology that improves access to learning makes a difference not just in school but in occupational pursuits that come later. Consider the prescient concept of “knowledge worker” coined by management guru Peter Drucker over half a century ago. Knowledge work is done by a crucial and growing class of U.S. workers who must absorb, make sense of, and use information to do their jobs effectively.  Professionals and paraprofessionals in IT, finance, health, engineering, law, and academia—as well as students—are among those counted as knowledge workers.

As the term knowledge worker suggests, the need to understand and use information lasts well beyond school and college.  What students learn in classes is important, but knowing how to use information may be the most critical ability for success in a knowledge worker world.  For those who learn differently, this ability can be challenging to develop. 

“Real impediments to processing, comprehension and more exist for many students; this can prevent them from understanding core concepts in the area they are studying,” explained Dr. Peter Eden, Landmark College President. “When technology ameliorates or even eradicates these obstacles, the student is free to absorb, assimilate, apply information—and gaps are narrowed.”

Taking Drucker’s definition of knowledge worker a step further is the new term insight worker.”  Referring to those who can use information wisely to create valuable, punchy ideas and innovations, insight workers are responsible for the exciting tools and applications featured at the 2013  Learning Disabilities Innovation Symposium. Insight work led to these technological inventions, which fittingly bridge gaps for students who learn differently and open the door to membership in the insight worker class.

“Innovations in action” sessions include— 

  • Small screens to enhance reading for individuals with dyslexia. Come see keynote speaker Dr. Matthew Schneps, Director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, discuss cutting-edge research comparing how people with dyslexia read on paper versus a small screen, such as that of an iPod or smartphone.

  • TinkerPlots breaks barriers to statistical thinking.  Learn about TinkerPlots, the interactive software designed at the University of Massachusetts to teach statistical reasoning.  Dr. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki, Research and Education Specialist at the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT), will demonstrate practical uses of TinkerPlots.

  • The promise of pencasts. Used by students and instructors alike, pencasts are the first note-taking capability that seamlessly connects the sounds and sights of a lecture into a handy, shareable file.  Find out how to make a pencast with Dr. Anita Long, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Landmark College.

  • Writing Assignments Made Easy with Adobe Acrobat. This show-and-tell session will demonstrate ways students can use “Adobe Acrobat Standard/Pro” smart tools to create multi-media notes and self-directed supports to facilitate their writing process. Information will also be shared on ways faculty can assign creative assignments for students with LDs using Adobe Acrobat software. Dr. Manju Banerjee, Vice President and Director of LCIRT, will demonstrate the easy-to-use, flexible note-taking capabilities of Adobe.

  • Creating with apps. Participants will learn a few key apps and techniques that enable the creation of accessible content and media for use with their courses. Explore how mobile device or laptop's cameras, mics and built in screen capture tools can be used to create ebooks, audio, video, and annotated instructions that are accessible on most devices.  Presenter Caleb Clark is the Program Director of the Educational Technology Program at the Marlboro College Graduate School.

From solutions to help individuals with dyslexia read better—and more comfortably—to advances like Tinkerplots, pencasts, Adobe note-taking, and other technology, the 2013 Learning Disabilities Innovation Symposium highlights practical uses of new tools.

Speaking prudently about the promise of innovations like those featured at the symposium, Dr. Eden said, “Technology itself does not automatically enhance education;  it advances and augments the process of and approaches to education if skillfully utilized by instructors to open up windows and avenues of learning.”  Take part in this dynamic day to learn more about what’s available to make your practice better—and more fun.

Landmark College was the first institution of higher learning to pioneer college-level studies for students with dyslexia. Today Landmark College, offering two and four-year degree options, a graduate level certificate in universal design with technology integration, and summer programs for students who learn differently, is a global leader in integrated teaching methods for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, ADHD, and ASD. Students, faculty, and other professionals from all over the world are drawn to Landmark College for its innovative educational model—designed through research and practice to help all students who learn differently become confident, self-empowered, and independently successful learners. Be part of the conversation!

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