I’ve recently begun working with a 10 year old boy who has dyslexia. That’s not unusual for me. It’s an important part of what I do in my educational consulting practice, and I’ve been doing it for years.
What’s new is that the young boy and his family live about four and a half hours away by car. So, on our respective Macintosh Computers, we have our language-training intensive tutorial sessions, four days per week, via Apple’s FaceTime, their video calling software. And so far, it’s working great.
I know this isn’t necessarily breakthrough stuff; Skype’s been around for awhile for example. But, for me, and for this particular family, it’s a thing of beauty. FaceTime gives them access to me, a trained dyslexia specialist, without leaving their somewhat rural home. It allows me to stay connected to a wonderful kid and his family.
One of the things I wondered about was whether the screen/virtual connection would somehow miss too much of the intuitive, non-verbal aspects of communication that I depend on. In my work, I’m not simply transmitting information. There’s an exchange that goes well beyond that. Pleasantly, I’ve found that I can be nearly or exactly as perceptive to subtle cues and input from my student as I can in person. The fact that we began our relationship in person and that we have that as a base of knowing one another, is, I imagine, very helpful.
There is an aspect of any therapeutic relationship that happens right-brain to right-brain, intuitive self to intuitive self, and I wasn’t sure how that would translate in a computer environment. It’s working very very well.
Another aspect of a teaching/remedial/mentoring relationship that I wondered about concerns motivation and attention. Would the video-phone environment diminish my ability to capture and hold his attention? Would he be able to sustain his attention? Let’s face it, even in the same room, teaching someone who’s dyslexic all about spelling patterns for example, generating and holding attention is important and not a foregone conclusion (smile).
As it’s turned out thus far, he’s had a higher level of concentration because of the technology and novelty of the interface. Because of the demands of computer-computer interface, we’re working more than ever with word processing, and besides improving his reading and spelling, he’s also having to learn how to cut and paste, how to use links, how to get more out of his browser, and how to select and use extensions. He’s loving it!
So, expanding our concepts even for elementary-aged students, of what the teaching environment, interface, and delivery should look like, is good thing.
Having the right tools helps. On my end I’m working on a brand new iMac with a large enough screen and a fast enough processor, and high speed internet connection, that I think helps FaceTime works like a charm. FaceTime software on a large enough screen allows my student to hold up his paper and work to show me, and unlike previous versions of Photo Booth for example, the letters and words appear correctly and not in mirror image.
There’s nothing in what I’m using, that is “adaptive” or “assistive technology.” This is simply the basics of what’s out there for anyone.
Next, I’m trying to figure out how I can screen share easily through new and improved features inherent in Lion OS 10.7.2