Kurzweil Camp

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Kurzweil Camp at the District Training Center. These camps have been happening around the district and the feedback from students, staff and parents has been great. Kurzweil is a software program that supports students who struggle with decoding, but have good comprehension, to have the materials read to them. Too often students with such a learning challenge spend their time struggling to decode the text in an attempt to fit in with their peers, rather than reading material that “looks” different. Often this results in a student becoming a reluctant learner. Kurzweil allows students to access grade level curriculum and resources with their peers. Students that could benefit from this program were invited to attend the camp along with  a Special Teaching Assistant or the Learner Support Teacher from their school. The premise of these camps is for both the student and the adult to learn together how to successfully and confidently use this program.

I knew most of the students that attended this camp, students who are often quiet and reluctant to share or participate in class. What I saw at the camp were students completely engaged, expressive and confident. One student, who often shuts down when presented with something new, was raising a hand to share answers or insights, handing out materials to new peers and most importantly smiling. When I asked the students what they thought of Kurzweil they replied, “It will make everything so much faster and easier”.

While faster and easier is not often thought of as a goal for learning, proficiency most certainly is. This tool allows students to engage with text at a proficient speed, which then allows them to interact with their peers in follow up discussions and activities. These students, despite a learning challenge, can now be equals within their learning communities. I think this is an excellent example of providing a personalized approach for each student’s own learning experience and paving the way for their success.


Creative Learning and Expression

At January’s Education Committee meeting, I had the privilege to share a number of videos created by the students participating in Digital Media.  The classroom teacher wanted to expand and deepen student learning about digital media so she organized for Reel Youth http://reelyouth.ca/ to support the students in their learning.  Reel Youth came into the classroom and taught students about claymation, but more importantly they encouraged them to use their voice through this medium.  The results are amazing.

For me these videos highlight two important aspects of learning today:

First, we live in a world where content is rapidly changing; as a result, it is difficult to expect teachers to know everything on the subject matter they are teaching.  Rather, the importance is on teachers being content learners, which may include learning alongside their students.

Second, each student has a powerful voice; however, they need to be empowered by learning different strategies through which they can share that voice.  I often hear people comment that today’s students lack an awareness of the world around them and the desire to engage in it.  I think that these videos demonstrate that today’s students have a strong awareness of the world around them; how they express those thoughts and ideas looks different in the 21st century.