I am a registered tutor with Dyslexia Scotland and am working with students as well as adults. I am constantly seeking to find apps for mobile devices and software that can support and help develop strategies. Using Mindly for instance, this is a mind-mapping software for Android, but while traditional mind-maps can actual create even more dispersion of thought, the way Mindly works is nested, almost like Russian dolls. The beautiful and simple design does not have any inherent distractions, and the way the pop-out circles are structured enable the user to think in a networked way but create an almost linear representation. Which is really important for anyone who struggles with linear representation of thought.
Finding a Way for Learners ‘who couldn’t be there’
Last semester a handful of participants from my course had to miss a half-day session due to unexpected circumstances at work. Which in general is an issue working in academic staff development, rather than with full-time students. So the participants were concerned about missing out on the learning experience. They decided to meet in person instead via Skype, to talk about the background reading for the course, and I suggested that everyone creates a digital artefact mirroring the activities I ran in the workshop. These artifacts were meaningful to their own practice, so I got for instance a Pinterest Board with resources on student learning, a course Facebook Page created for a student-led event with reflections on the use of the artifacts. In the busy work and study schedule of the participants, being able to offer virtual space for participation and creation of content is really helpful. It was the first time I asked for digital artifacts to substitute the missed sessions and have found this to be a meaningful engagement that still enables the participants to engage in the course and share their thoughts.
Change in Increments
I find it very challenging to reflect on changes to my practice in this format as to me this is a continuous dialogue and sometimes the changes are so small they instantly become habitual. Such as installing the free dyslexia font on my machines, having noticed that I should always add alternative text to the photos I publish and began to add this, offering a member of staff on my course who really struggles to sit with the silence while their students undertake an activity and ends up cutting the activities short, the easy solution of running Google Timer on the screen. It never occurred to the staff member to use this.
To actually changing the assessments in my course so that participants who struggle with writing assignments, or whose brains are otherwise reluctant to engage in linear representations of written text, have the opportunity to engage in a more meaningful way with the assessment. Written text is still an option, but in my opinion the courses we offer are professional development for people who all hold PhDs and usually a series of other degrees, asking for an assignment like an undergraduate student doesn’t seem the most suitable development option. Using the creation of artifacts, digital or otherwise, enabling the engagement with multimodal texts, to build a professional development portfolio, and create student engagement activities that are directly applicable to their own pedagogy, whilst receiving peer and tutor feedback for these seemed much more appropriate. Of course there will be an evaluation of how the participants perceive the implemented changes. As I mentioned earlier learning and teaching are and ongoing dialogue, of change and growth.