Verity, please verify

I should not pollute my blog with this, but it matters. The Minister of Education for NSW, Verity Firth has posted a political video on the NSW Department of Education website and YouTube.

Firstly, she claims that ‘140 million people have visited MySchools website’s pages’ in 3 months (Australian population is only 22 million – the real time clock is here). It is great to see so much of the world are interested in looking up Australian schools by postcode.

However she may have this very confused with 140 million hits – which is not the same thing at all. Here’s something I Googled to explain the MASSIVE difference in the metrics.

This seems symptomatic of the way the Minister likes to bandy around numbers. There is no evidence to support this claim, and indicative of the way the government likes to report on education, not by outcomes. Its easy to spend money and build websites, much harder to provide effective professional development and support.

Let’s look at some of the other issues with this video.

Firstly, that the message is clearly, but not suprisingly political, and only the last few seconds gives any information about the new ‘hotline’. I called the line, it was closed.

Various statements are made about how they will not ‘allow teacher action to damage a child’s education” … that the “Federation has banned the NAPLAN” … blah … adding more details about how important NAPLAN is. Again, the Minister seems confused – it is the supervision of it that teachers are not providing, they are not banning the test itself. You can read today’s update here from John Nixon, Teachers Federation.

Assurances are given of 3,500 qualified people poised to administer the test. You can apply for one of those jobs here, they pay $19.08 an hour.

The Minister seems quite triumphant that not listening to teachers is the best way to ensure quality public education – as well as keeping your place at the Kings table.

It seems the Minister is missing some detail. The Federation cannot ‘ban’, but only act on the advise of members – who are teachers. Teachers are not against the test, but increasingly worried about the accuracy and point of the data that ‘parents want’ – given that all the results are given directly to parents, available in the school annual report etc.,

The Minister then claims this is vital information communication between parent and teacher. Parents do attend open days, interviews and contact the teacher anytime, so again I don’t see any evidence that schools or teachers are inaccessible to parents. I’m off to the P&C tonight – all welcome, the principal will be there.

Now lets look at some more serious issues.

This video is inaccessible and there is no transcript. The breaks the Departments Code of Practice, and probably the Accessibility Legal Requirement of a Government Department. There are no closed captions on the video – though YouTube seems to interpret it’s own version – to a somewhat amusing end.

As the Minister mentions how keen the Department is to do the best for children, I wonder then exactly why my children are being disadvantaged by the Building the Revolution – as the entire school cannot currently meet its ICT outcomes. You see, the builder, Hovis – has blocked off the computer room and made no alternative arrangements. Since the beginning of the year, they have had zero hours logged. That Minister, is direct EVIDENCE.

It will be interesting to see the ‘views’ on the video – given that it logs them from YouTube and the Dept Website – stats that they can’t fudge. 151 and counting … it’s going to be a while until we get to 140 million.

While we wait for that – have a look at the UK experience of league tables and data base reporting. Post re-election, the inspection of schools seems inevitable here too. The government seems to be very selective about what it calls ‘data’.

To save parents the hassle of using the myschools database – the Top 100 schools have already been listed here.

What’s right with this classroom?

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This is a photo of a virtual world. I’d like to highlight some of the pedagogical features of this room. Firstly, the IWB and projector is off. The teacher is not standing in front of it as the conduit between information and learning. Secondly the students are not using small netbooks, and using desks with a high degree of ICT-friendly ergonomics.

On the desks are pens and paper, so presumably the teacher has prepared some structure, instruction that requires writing and brain-mapping. The more tech-savvy observer will notice students are using Quest Atlantis – individually – yet collectively exploring a virtual world.

A year or so ago — this classroom, this pedagogy — this learning experience didn’t exist. The thing that changed is a teacher. Not a teacher attending some PD or being told to use some application — but a teacher who wanted to be better and took it upon themselves to invest the time and effort to learn. More amazingly – this teacher completely changed their subject and role – taking on a challenge that a year before wasn’t even something under consideration.

We do not need league tables, websites with statistics or netbooks sans-pedagogy – we need to recognise any teacher or school who does this for students – because they want to. This is the missing-website that the government is unable to conceptualise let alone make and spend millions promoting.

This classroom didn’t cost millions of course – Quest Atlantis is free, safe and pedagogically sound. It is blended learning with critical thinking and shared reality — motivating and compelling.

We need a website for ‘the league of ordinary-teachers’ in Australia, kicking-new ideas and leaning new skills — despite crap workplace conditions and Ministerial spankings.

A motivated movement that highlights the issues being faced – from poor training, lack of access and  OH&S issues that demand refurbished learning environments and new work practices.

From this movement would come a better Bored of Studies and a truly authentic Virtual School – delivering advice, content and learning where is it needed most. The cost of doing this is zero. The number of bureaucrats and politicians needed to run it is also zero. Right now the legal, ethical and social debate of the HSC often rages unseen – yet the HSC itself is getting spanked over the way it operates.

This classroom — and this story, illustrates why spanking teachers and focusing on one exam undermines the very system that politicians are attempting to score capital from.

They should be talking about what kids are learning in a small town in Montana – because of one teacher. I just had to share this photo – it should be happening in all those schools who just got spanked.

What a totally depressing week in edumacation.

Activating Leadership

PRESIDENT Lincoln is reported as saying “Men moving in an official circle are apt to become official – not to say arbitrary – in their ideas, and are apter and apter with each passing day”. He was talking in relation to his social philosophy in which he valued communication with ‘ordinary’ people, not just receiving office-seekers and bureaucrats. It strikes me that despite our almost god-like technology that our current leadership seems grotesque oppositional to Lincoln’s philosophy, a man who was often called disruptive in his time.

I wonder if technology, once used to create hierarchy and singularity now needs leaders who can receive ‘ordinary’ people.  I get this feeling that we are increasingly involved in the unification of science with disciplines such as the humanities. This is activating the intrinsic human mind’s pre-programming to participate in the process of learning. The artifacts of 21st Century learning; blogs; wikis; podcasts; youtube; virtual worlds and games are conflict with mechanisms of the past – firewalls, filters, proprietary software, private networks, experts etc.,

edumacators_001

It seems plain to me that the authors of the hidden-curriculum, those who are 21st Century teachers are seeking a much greater rallying point than some appointed bureaucrat responding to marketing, surveys and political party lines. This activates nothing, and places emphasis on the ‘cost’ and ‘opportunity’ that they are providing us, passing responsibility of professional learning principles or executive. These people are likely to make poor(er) decisions, follow the guidelines of office-seekers and ideology.

We need to activate executives and principals as collaborators with an ability to act independently for their community. Something enjoyed by Catholic and Independent Education – both of whom have the SAME duty of care as public. Yet the policies and ideologies are massively different.  Mr Whitby says is a consistent voice in the community,  Greg Black, tirelessly tries to open up conversation – we don’t see this reflected in pubic education – which loves to give itself titles that end in the world ‘Authority’. Open up, we want to come in.

How worse would a school be if it took ONE laptop out the look and re-allocated funding?

Take $5000 and throw it into pedagogy. A virtual world $2000.00 (blocked), a campus blog ($1000) blocked; pro-flicker account ($50, blocked) – for less than the software cost of one laptop – schools can activate so much more opportunity, but have been lock-stepped from it though the policy now in place, which is driven by notions of centralised governance; in a world which clearly rejecting socially. Don’t let the costs and numbers fool you – all of this investment needs activation. The DNA to do that is with online communities.

Like the naughty independent senator – there is a collabatorium manefesto won’t tow the line without negotiation. We wish to inform and be informed. In addition to infrastructure we also want pedagogy, citizenship, open resources, open learning, virtual classrooms and better policy. Its a global problem, but Australia has less people to solve it than our American cousins who are equally dissonant.

Data, transparency, and public availability of educational information are all highly desirable elements of education reform. It’s ridiculous that today a parent can find more information about choosing a new washing machine or automobile than about choosing a school, and it’s a travesty how frequently ideology trumps evidence in education policy making. Andrew Rotherham

How can they organise effective professional learning for their staff – who do they access, and how do the find these people? – This is why the back channel is important and why Twitter matters. Mark Pesce remarked to me “by any means necessary” in regard to maintaining pressure on change. To me we cannot allow the door to close in the next 6 months, as laptops find their way into schools.

DET/DER need to be far more open to alternative scenarios (and people) to actively receive advice from those who are able to help them with reform in the classroom – as well as having technocrats to interpret the operational requirements. It seems to me that though policy, action and marketing – the message, let alone the people is not yet being received.

Bureaucrats in public office have a public social duty of care to train teachers how to become active, informed online learning facilitators – not just filter out what doesn’t suit them.

For example, I want my local community to be fantastic – as that is where I live. I’m willing to help the local high school communities learn about teaching with laptops, because it matters to me, my kids and my community.  DET/DER needs to continue to expanding it’s appetite  to receiving people whom it currently sees as ‘the crowd’. This will help them recognise how in-accessible some of their current goals are unless they open up more grass roots opportunities and stop messing about with pilots.

So if you’re in 2251 postcode; give me a call – lets talk. It’s not too late – or come to the Unconference.

School Without Walls #2

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FOLLOWING on from the great feedback in relation to the previous post and #sictassy (check the Tweet-related URLS here), I’d like to start expanding out some of the ideas forming around ‘the school without walls’, leading from the discussions with the DET (Department of Education and Training).

I am in no way suggesting this idea is limited to the DET – but that was the start point conversation and #sictassy. The creation of this ‘school’ I believe can only come about as a result of participatory culture and that has to be the central motivation for those students choosing ‘media based education’.

A Virtual School is not a new idea, or an ideal, but I see the school without walls as a very bright idea – as it is ideal to model best practice, model professional learning, and deliver 21st century pedagogy within existing desires of education.

In the comment stream, there are numerous ideas … and we are still talking about some central issues that surpass foci on ‘technology’ itself. The Twitpoll over the weekend took 43 votes – so the conversation has gone from 8 at a table to the network. 95% thought it was plausible. Not a big number, but it represents something bigger – a movement.

3402869547_5d5993b55fThe Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, this week said  “The government did not want this generation of young people to bear an ongoing burden from the economic crisis”, to me, this burden is not just future taxation – but the nature of employment and preparation for it.

The Minister also talked about “… creative provision of education, they can be back, back learning, back gaining self-esteem and self-respect, and back gaining opportunities that are going to make a difference for the rest of their lives.” and “We don’t want people sitting around doing nothing,” on Fairfax Radio.

If this is goal, and we want students to ‘learn or earn’ – why do we have to have duality – why not find a way to blend both or either – depending on the needs of the learner. Some may financially need to earn, but also want to be learners. Even in this mode, the school without walls makes sense to me. Ideas are in a loop, looking internally for answers – or hoping to co-opt ‘the cloud’ and cherry pick palatable ideas based on the past.

Why not empower and trust in the existing movement of teachers already forming behind this idea? – That’s the message.

The National ICT Symposium was addressing some of this.   I see the project as taking innovation to integration – delivering on existing ‘needs’ by the various bureaucratic statements such as the Federal government’s provision for “recognition and reward for quality teaching” or for beginning teachers to have demonstrated successful teaching experience.“. I want to create leaders, not experienced teachers. I experience traffic in Sydney daily, and don’t see it as valuable to my life – quite the opposite.


To keep the conversation flowing – I’ve put together an idea for a charter statement – which you are free to comment, or add to on Etherpad. Please note it only deals with 8 people at once, so be patient if there is a rush. How do you see a mission and vision for this?

I think we are having a great conversation about what are hard questions, please please add your voice – local, international, DET, CEO, AIS, TAFE – participation is the currency of communication.

Blocked Learning

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Teacher Trauma On Twitter

Image by Ewan McIntosh via Flickr

“But is ‘it’s blocked, I can’t access it”.

But the ‘firewall’ supposed to keep them ‘safe’ does not work. They go home to read and watch it, or use their phones? Are we then to install mobile phone ‘jammers’? We have not created a ‘firewall’, but a brick wall – we are Blocking Learning. We might be ‘covering’ it over with policy, rendering it with policical ‘motherhood’ messages, but behind the rhetoric is a solid wall, that believes ‘the internet’ is somthing that can be controlled and monitored, and that a few people (Senetor Conroy, the czar of communication in Australia –  #nocleanfeed) should dictate our social connections, contracts and learning.

My wife tried to access the EPA this week with her year 1 class. Can someone please explain the criteria used for to evaluate the Envronmental Protection Agencies not condusive to learning if the teacher thinks they are? In fact all the science sites on environment they searched for in Google were blocked. This, despite taking part in an online, DET promoted, ‘science competition’.

IMBEE – a social community in which students can only talk to and friend other members of their group (their class) and all chat is moderated – as banned from use – and so were the fabulous parent and student resources, which included cyber safety. “imbee is a parent approved, teacher endorsed social networking site appropriate for kids and ‘tweens.” Posters and booklets specifically designed to address safety – banned. What is better IMBEE or Habbo Hotel or Club Penguin – both of which have MILLIONS of unmoderated residents.

Learning impairment

Teachers can’t ‘plan’ serious ICT activities, and be sure they will work. Many primary school teachers have little to no ‘relief’ time to plan at school, so have to use their own ‘free’ time. There is absolutely no doubt that the DET is out of control, has too many political masters (who DET say are to blame), and lack of clarity or effective policy that can be aligned and aligned in the classroom. The is for example no DET portal ‘request’ for access – even for an hour to a site. What is the point of putting infratructure, wifi and laptops into schools – if what they connect to cannot effectively allow communication flow ?

A connection to a brick wall, not a firewall.

There are ways to deliver better ‘duty of care’ – the current model is based on fear, lack of understanding and policy designed for physical spaces and objects. Rumour has it that Queensland and Western Australia want to ban any site that has ‘data’ stored outside of Australia. Who thinks this stuff up? With No Clean Feed and Conroy re-introducing the ducking-stool and covert ops in state education departments banning anything remotely ‘engaging’ and doing nothing to facilitate, professionally develop staff etc. Stack this up against  public ‘draft’ policy, that smells like ‘National Curriculum’, Gillard talking about adopting New York Ciry school models, vague attempts to introduce low-end netbooks, recent laptop dumps in High School and the ever promised ‘fibre’ to schools roll out.

What does the DET ‘innovations’ department do?

We all know, much of what we can give teachers is free, already tested and widely reviewed and researched by reputable institutions. Quest Atlantis for example. A brilliant virtual world, we a great global community, that will won’t comply to QLD and WA rumored ‘policy’. Has anyone involved in QA been approached by anyone from these ‘elected’ guardians of education? – I doub’t it. Unlocking virtual worlds or any other technology is not something that will happen unless teachers start making lists, and principles start sending those lists to parents, MPs and lobby groups. List the banned sites. ‘Ah’, you say ‘I can’t put that on a wiki, they are all banned’. But here is what you can do, as I am getting a bit tired of ‘yeah buts’ based on no-consultation from elected representatives.

Perhaps Mrs Gillard would like to discuss? But probably not unless there is an imperative, so maybe we should make one. Theres one thing NOT blocked. And that’s ‘email’. So here’s what you can do, to let the DET know what you could not teach in your classroom.

Take action – let ‘them’ know this is – BLOCKED LEARNING

blockedlearning

Just send an email!

blockedlearning@gmail.com
You don’t need to put in your name or your email address.

A screenshot would be ‘sweet’.

Please include the URL of the site, the grade that could not see it, your state and what you wanted to teach. 140 Characters or less so you can “Tweet it”.
The post will get blogged at http://blockedlearning.posterous.com and perhaps a beneficial resource for our elected state and government officials.

Please share the URL, post on Twitter with #blockedlearning – so we can see the list growing. This will let other teachers know, ahead of time – what is already blocked by the various ‘experts’. If you want to attach a screen shot of your favourite blocked filter message – we can start a meme!. Just attach it to the email, Posterous figures it out.  This is a practical way of using technology (posterous, email and twitter) to highlight the ‘blocked learning’ in K12 – and to save other teachers and students the frustration of trying to learn though the policy or non-teachers and learners.

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Realism, Relevance, Retention

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This is a bit of a passion piece, but I think it’s important to say. I listened to some of the audience’s questions during Will Richardson’s presentation in Sydney last Friday. As ever Will was pulling out the main issues that face parents and teachers. As ever, some questions were very specific ‘which blog do I use’ or system-damming ‘but it’s blocked’ and ‘but I don’t have time’.

The Industrialist 3Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic), are still being cited as the capstones of learning –  when learning is cited as ‘failing’-  the call is to go back to basics – as if technology is somehow disconnected from these things. Learning with technology is part of the ‘digitial’ 3Rs – realism, relevance and retention. These are things to strive for in relation to a broader array of classroom activities. They are enhancing the capabilities of gifted teachers, not displacing them. But even motivated teachers find it difficult to access professional learning that is going to allow them to learn to do it. We have the ability to transform learning  and increase motivation though technology, and still address traditional ‘values’.

Imagine a global virtual world in which students have to negotiate through the complex politics surrounding a wildlife habitat construction project in the developing world, making the case for its economic and environmental benefits. Students take on the ‘role’ of diverse stakeholders, and though classroom research – the can role-play, using exploratory and explicit learning to put forward their solution for a negotiated outcome. They interact in a virtual world, develop models and ideas – blended these with reflection and discussion in other online media such as a blog or wiki to collect and justify their collective action.

picture-11We now have 6Rs, Reading; Writing; Arithmetic; Realism; Relevance and Retention. The above experience can be created using a range of technologies; MeetSee, Edublogs; Skype; Google Docs etc., and easily blended into the classroom. Teachers can connect with other schools (see Jenny Luca’s recent presentation), and can easily ‘chat’ using very low bandwidth, low-tech web tools such as Tiny Chat. In primary years, this can be created with Quest Atlantis, or ever the excellent eKidnaworld (an Australian parent developed virtual world – that needs your support!).

What is critical is that teachers have access to ongoing ‘mentors’ that can show them how to create this – though adaptation of existing, readily available technologies.

To be effective, teachers need to learn about more than Bloom’s taxonomy, but to learn how to develop learning frameworks that contructively align outcomes (what do we want them to learn), activities (how to be create motivating classrooms) and assessment (how to we know they did it). Teachers also need to learn about ‘communication’ with digital media. More often that not, they focus on ‘marking’, and not ‘talking with’ students using more informal strategies.

So before teachers begin to utilize new laptops and faster networks, there remains a huge need to help schools develop goal-orientated, achievable learning frameworks to renew curricula, and will place valid, relevant arguments to the Department of Education as to why students need to access curricula that motivates. Duty of care relates to a physical state, not a virtual one.

The current policy of ‘banning’ sites is at best inconsistent. Are schools breaching Google’s AUP in schools?. If a child is bullied on their way home on a mobile phone – does the school breach it’s duty of care? If someone complains about a ‘blog’ then, despite following policy,are teachers are left at the mercy of the legal system? In short, unless ‘we’ move to a  position where we have effective policy, effective leadership, professional learning and on the ground ‘help’ for teachers, we might as well return to the 3Rs of the 1950s. We will fail and continue to orbit the issues and not end the digital winter. The best professional learning is happening inside personal networks, not systemic ones – and I don’t see any movement forward in public schools.

The DET needs to be brave, it needs to release teachers to mentor based professional learning, and link that with clear assessment via the NSW Institute of Teachers, in co-operation with the Teaching Unions to ensure equity. Instead we find Queensland and Western Australia blocking Quest Atlantis (as the data is held off-shore) and the DET using Twitter to make announcements, but blocks it in school. In short it is a mess and the debate over laptops and school intrastructure is meaningless unless clear policy and action is taken at DET level. I’d love to have that conversation.

Will’s session was another demonstration that teachers want to learn, but lack access to people who can help curriculum leaders, libraries and classroom teachers renew curricula and develop 21st Century pedagogy. There is no preparation for the introduction of fibre connectivity or laptops in the classroom, and well over a decade since the DET ‘re-trained’ teachers.

Realism is not present; what we are doing is no longer realistic. Relevance; current professional learning is limited to policy implementation. Retention; motivated teachers are ‘expelled’ by systems unable to recognise the significance of what they are trying to do. In our desire to be equitable, we fail students. Access to powerful professional learning and therefore powerful schools is increasingly limited by geography and social capital. Bringing any scale to what is a massive problem is difficult in Australia, imagine how much more complex it is in the UK or USA.

However, I wonder at what point someone (maybe me?) form some organisation to deliver 21st Century Learning in whole school, public access level in Australia. PLNs are great, but I think that we need to start something far more significant, that is recognised as professional learning and in some way aligned to recognition and motivation, and in such a way that it transcends the organic and provides constructive advice, policy and lobby for change.

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Aspi2.0

I stared a blog post and discussion form on Classroom2.0 for this, which I figured was the best place to ‘go fishing’.

As a few of my friends know, Mr.7 is a kid with Aspergers. Not so much a kid with special needs, more a kid with special interests and a different perspective on the world. These kids simply learn in different ways and are often ‘above standards’ in their given year group, highly perceptive, but struggle to deal with implied meaning in language, social situations (especially new ones) and struggle to understand emotional decisions ‘neuro-normals’ make.

They will often have an affinity with technology (machines are more predictable than people), and have some kind of interest focus. This can be transient – with the interests moving over time, or a range of interests : Star Wars, Mythology, Cars – to more extreme single interests. I once met a child was only interested in cornices.

However, they generally enjoy maths and sciences – subjects which are are less interpretive.

There’s way to much to say about it from a medical view point here, but as a parent, the most significant issue is that their schooling is not inclusive – even though they attend an inclusive school.

These amazing kids often appear to be just like every other kid, their needs are often not explicitly addressed in school.

This is a great video, I love to share with teachers.

Simple things make a BIG difference – one way or the other. For example, moving from one class to the next is a very anxious time, yet schools will almost no effort to ease the transfer (they are busy). Putting kids into more general ‘funded’ groups is another. In my case, our kid is stuck in a reading group with a few other kids. He can read, and he knows the kids – and they are always the same kids. This is a waste of time and funding – yet try as we might, the teacher and school fobs us off continually over this.

I think the start reality is that the mass of information on kids with Aspergers concerns itself with medial and social (behaviour) issues. There really is little out there (or that I can find) that is hands one classroom advice.

So here’s my idea.

To create a wiki – Apsi2.0 – that:

  • Can be used by parents to give to teachers as a general resource with classroom activities they can use.
  • Practical lesson/learning activities that last about an hour – that specifically address their needs
  • Differentiated use of technology to engage them in the same ‘classroom’ activities as their peers – but approached from alternate, less confronting social situations. (Quest Atlantis, collaboration, peer review etc.,)
  • To allow parents to develop their own ‘life long learning’ wiki for their kid that they can give to teachers, as a resource so the teacher knows what the students engages with or dis-engages because of.
  • Allow teacher/parents to share pedagogical success stories (be them based on individual focus’)
  • Allow teachers who DO engage properly (no lip service laggards) to share interventions and learning approaches that have led to better learning outcomes
  • A resource for siblings to learn about their brother/sister – and help support them
  • A resource for parents (struggling with schools) to self-help learning
  • A knowledge bank of lessons/strategies/activities that can be used – right out the box – to improve the lot of our kids in schools.

I am not saying that the whole spectrum of Autism is not a major concern in inclusive education. But I am saying, that from experience, the professional development and ‘self’ development in teachers is just not there. I am sure there are amazing teachers, but a lot of the time – these kids struggle in school as they try and interact with other students and kids. They need to learn how to interact. An example of this could be, a new student joins a class. There is an established group of friends, and one kids has Aspergers. While the new kid joins the group, the Apergers kid will not understand why, and probably see it as a bad thing, as it disrupts the social balance. The immediate reaction might be to try and get rid of the new kid. That seems logical. It was okay before, now it’s not – what changed? Easy – get rid of the annoyance. They don’t understand that making friends is the way that new people enter a group. They have to learn it, while most kids will learn it by doing it. The danger is that in attempts to bounce the new kid, they are segregated from them, and most likely segregated from their friends.

The teacher doesn’t understand this, and indeed might have no idea that the kid with Aspergers is frustrated, anxious and burning up to understand why thier world is suddenly under attack, not just from the new kid, but from the teachers and their friends.

My point is, that schools are highly social spaces. Teachers need to know how to, and be seen to, use any funded time, spare time to create social learning opportunities. They often don’t, or won’t. It’s easier to get a reading group than it is to address their specific interests or needs. It means doing something different – which is not in their program.

You might tell me, yeah but there is an individual learning plan, there has to be. I’ll tell you that is all crap. There might be a piece of paper somewhere, but that is not the reality that parents know. We can’t be there all the time, we can’t negotiate the world for them, so we must advocate for them – as they can’t do it for themselves.

Here’s a couple of examples of the replies I got in Classroom2.0 – these are exactly what we need to hear.

I showed your post to my daughter and she suggested having a section on your Wiki for the siblings of children with Aspergers. She benefited a great deal when she understood her brother’s special interests and wanted to know ways to become closer to him. Our school system found simple ways to let her become a resource for my son during the school day without making her assume adult responsibilities. For example, the school scheduled their lunches so they could eat together. They simply felt like they were enjoying time together and never realized my daughter was providing a model of social interaction each day for half an hour. She never resented this time together and eventually my son began to sit with other students and interact successfully. Tanya Travis.

Here is one from a teacher, David Wees

I had a student with Asperger’s who spent every lunch hour reading by himself. His favourite thing? Japanese mythology and culture. So I introduced him to a collectible card game about Japanese mythology and then introduced him to some people he could play with. Now he plays cards at lunch time with his peers, interacting socially far more often than before.

How amazing would it be to hear things happening for my kid. So far this year, I have had nothing positive or volunteered by the school, yet have been ‘up there’ several time to get tea and sympathy messages – when quite clearly they are wasting his time and mine. It is all very frustrating for us, but easier to pass off than address by the school.

Critical, hell yeah! – but we want our kid to be in public education and to be included. As he goes through life (not in a wheelchair), the world won’t deal him a different deck, but the biggest need he has is to learn about how the social norms work. He won’t pick it up unless it is taught. We do it at home – but we want to see it in his school – and so does every other parent like me.

I’d hope that this something I can ‘teach’ parents in the future, as it seems to me to be a direct positive step.

So that’s my ‘new’ thing – if I have a ‘thing’. I’m over the apathetic approach, the light on pre-teacher preparation. Right now, as a parent, I think this is the ONE thing I can do for my kid. Have a resource that explains to his teacher how he has learned over his whole school engagement. I would love it if his teacher added to it – but it’s not likely this year. I think this every year, maybe I’ll get a teacher who ‘gets’ him.