Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Can you say that again? And again?

    One of my students in my "Computers and Students with Learning Disabilities" (let's call him Mike) just had a bit of a breakthrough in tonight's course. It was the last night of the course, and it was the best night yet. Mike has CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder). This means that when he hears things, somehow the signal gets turned around in his brain so that he doesn't hear the sounds that enter his ear. He also has trouble with his vision, and sometimes what he see also gets turned around.   
     When I asked Mike if he preferred to read or listen to a story, he said listen - with his right ear.  When I asked him if he would rather speak an answer, write an answer, or type an answer, he said....type!  Mike displayed a good sense of how to navigate menus (file -> save, or edit -> copy), and type at a decent speed for a student about 13 years old.  So I thought of ways for him to do his work using a computer to help.
    Mike was showing some good skills with photo editing using a simple graphics program.  I wanted him to use a digital camera to tell a story, as he could use photographs to tell stories with less typing, than just writing out a story alone.  I also showed him how he could use royalty free pictures and or PowerPoint to create simple presentations with either voice narration or typed explanations.  Mike was pleased.

      Mike's mom reported that Mike had difficulties remembering step-by-step instructions, such as "resizing a photo" (about 4 steps).  As our lab has Audacity on each station, and many of our computer stations have headphones, I decided to use Mike's preference for audio instructions and skills with a computer to give him a way to remember step-by-step instructions.  I used Audacity to record the steps as an mp3 (sound) file.  Mike put on his headphones, but only on the right ear.  He played the steps using Windows Media Player, and pressed pause when he finished listening to a step.  Mike was able to resize a photo listening only to the recorded instructions; he listened, paused the instructions, did that one step, and went back to listen to the next step!  

     Mike's mom said she was pleased to see that he could do instructions step-by-step by listening to an MP3 file of instructions, but wondered how Mike could do this in class?  I suggested an iPod!  Some models of ipod have microphones to make a recording.  He could ask the teacher to make a recording of Mike's instructions, pausing after each step.  Then Mike could play it back, listening to just the right headphone in class, and pause the track at each step.  By using headphones on his iPod, he would not be disturbing others.  He could then save the file on his computer and his iPod to listen to it again in the future.  My hope is that someday Mike records his own instructions, and becomes able to teach himself.

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