Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Now for the Conference

Dr. V. and I were very intrigued by the title of this conference and we wondered if it would truly be an international conference. We need not have worried. Actually, I am not sure that we have met anyone from Ireland! Yesterday at lunch, we sat with participants from Chile, Italy and Germany and we have met participants from Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and other US states. The education aspect of this conference addresses much more than traditional K-12 or higher education. There are sessions dealing with different types of adult education such as entrepreneurship and technical and vocational training. Some are twenty minute presentations and others, such as ours, are 90 minute workshops.

Each day begins with a keynote speaker. Monday's keynote was by Dr. Cynthia Northington-Purdie who is a psychologist and life coach at William Paterson University of New Jersey. The title of her presentation was The Evolution of Academic Integrity. Her premise was that in the 20th century, the concepts of cheating and plagiarism were concrete and unambiguous. She asked us to consider if the evolution of technology and information should cause us to rethink our concept of academic integrity.

How has technology and access to information challenged notions of academic integrity? What can we do in our K-12 classrooms to make students aware of academic integrity issues and of our expectations in this area?

Tuesday's keynote was by Dr. Richard Cooper who is the Director of Disability Services at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, PA. He described how very differently some people perceive, process, and communicate and the implications for learning and instruction. He provided resources that we found very relevant and valuable and we think that you may also. Most of his handouts and some of the information he shared are available on his website: www.learningdifferences.com. The information he provided was applicable to students and to adults and he works with both groups. I certainly found some useful information that I will be sharing with my classes. He spoke a great deal about visual perceptions, processing, and communicating, which we found very relevant to our research and to our  workshop. He will be speaking to the Birmingham Literacy Council next week.

Dr. Cooper prefers to speak of students who learn differently rather than those who have learning disabilities. What do you think is his reason for this?

We have been especially impressed by the concerns that everyone has expressed for the victims of hurricane Sandy in the States. They have made special efforts to share thoughts and prayers at the start of each session and throughout the day with those of us from North America.

Conference Dinner


Mary Helms said...

I agree with Dr. Cooper in using the terminology "learning differently" to speak of those students who may have a propensity to learn material in a non-traditional way or who simply have different ways of going about learning something as compared to a norm group. As a mother of a child who learns differently, I don't look at her as having a disability. She is not disabled because her brain chooses to respond to visual modes of learning instead of written modes. We all have different learning styles, some are just more pronounced than others. All children should be viewed as ready and able to learn and when we do this and teach to their strengths and abilities then learning and its outcomes can only be enhanced.

Susan Santoli said...

I totally agree. We are different is all way , so why not in the ways that we learn? I certainly saw myself in some of Dr. Cooper's descriptions!

Patricia Hampton said...

Hi Dr. Vitulli and Santoli!

It sounds as if the two of you are having a wonderful experience at the conference. I saw the pictures of the delicious looking food and began to envy you. The conference sounds wonderful too but the food really looks good!:-) I enjoyed reading your post and I love the idea of people with learning disabilities being referred to as people who learn differently. It doesn't sound so much like putting a label on a person as the words "learning disability". I took a look at Dr. Cooper's website and he has some really great tools on it. I especially like the tool "If I Learn Differently,Shouldn't I Study Differently?" It makes perfect sense that we should focus on a person's strengths rather than their weaknesses. I also like the Test Anxiety Study Manual. I know what it's like to have test anxiety and I don't think that's an issue that only people who learn differently have.

I plan to add Dr. Cooper's website to my PLN on Symbaloo for future reference. There are so many good resources on his website and I'll return to it time and time again.

Thank you so much for posting this information and I know you will continue to enjoy the conference and the food! I hope you get some sight seeing time in and Dr. Vitulli we look forward to your return for a full update and pictures. Safe travels back home for both of you.

Pat Hampton

Ariel Robinson said...

I'm pretty jealous that you two are in Ireland right now! I have always wanted to visit. It seems like you guys are really enjoying yourselves and getting the opportunity to meet so many new people.

I think that it would have been interesting to hear Dr. Cooper speak because students do learn in very different ways, and that's totally fine. I am about to go check out his website to learn more. I cannot wait for you to get back so that you can share some of your stories with us!

Susan Santoli said...

Hi, Ariel! We leave tomorrow to come home. Ireland is a great place to visit. I can't tell you how interesting it has been to hear from educators from all over the world!

Elizabeth Mims said...

Hello Dr. Santoli,

My name is Elizabeth Mims and I am a student in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class. I really enjoyed reading your post and others that you have penned about your trip to Ireland. I really like how Dr. Cooper asks that we refer to people with learning disabilities as those who learn differently. After all, we all learn differently, so why should some be labeled as having a learning disability? I think attending a conference with the focus on education would be fascinating and so informative! Thank you for sharing your experiences from your trip with us!

Elizabeth Mims

Amanda Lloyd said...

"Dr. Cooper prefers to speak of students who learn differently rather than those who have learning disabilities. What do you think is his reason for this?"

Labeling children as learning "disabled" can have detrimental affects on future "learning", no matter what the task, skill, or concept. All to often, (I think) we focus on the disability vs. the "ability." Differentiating instruction (and) meeting the social needs of learners is paramount for fostering the development of the (whole) child. We do a great disservice to our students when we focus on their weaknesses instead of building up their strengths.
Education should never be a "one size fits all" approach.

Paige Vitulli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paige Vitulli said...

Dr. Cooper's keynote was one of the most informative conference presentations I have attended in a while. As Dr. Santoli expressed, I also found myself analyzing my own learning differences and I plan to revisit his website and resources to inform my future teaching and learning. After spending more time with "Richard", I discovered he is a also a hypnotist! No, I did not get hypnotized, but he was certainly a kind and interesting educator to get to know and i would attend another session of his.

Ashley Zaworski said...

I can't even imagine what it would be like to go across the world and experience the cultures and traditions of another country. It seemed like ya'll had a great time and really enjoyed the trip. After reading this post, I have to agree with Dr. Cooper's way of thinking. No two people are alike in this world and everyone does learn differently. Therefore, I don't think that it's right to pinpoint only a select few and refer to the students as having a learning disability. Telling a student that he or she has a learning disability is going to do nothing but discourage them and put doubt into their heads. You are the one that is "disabling" their learning by doing that. I love the idea of they are just students who learn differently because that is what's true. Thank you for taking everyone with you on ya'lls trip to Ireland. I enjoyed reading all your posts!!

Brelyn Searcy said...

My brother and I have always dreamed about going to Ireland. I agree with Dr. Cooper, and I am very glad that he talks that way. Saying a student learns differently other than saying they have a learning disability is very good for students. It will not hurt their self confidence and not make them seem "different" to the other students. I know at my high school students with learning disabilities had to go into a classroom that was at the very back of a hallway and they were there for half the school day. I did not think it was fair to isolate them away from the rest of the student population.