Friday, January 30, 2009

On paydays and light bulbs

I’ve been working with a group of kids now for a period of roughly two months. Most of what I’ve been doing is teaching them how to use the JAWS screen reader, although I know there are many other fine points I’m overlooking if I say that’s all I’ve been doing with them. I have also demonstrated for each of them what the Victor Reader Stream is, and how this versatile media player can assist them in day-to-day activities. I’ve also introduced them to DVS movies and computer games for the blind, mostly those from Jim Kitchens’
Web Site.

There is more to come and I'm learning as well as the kids are. I am learning the keystroke commands for Serotek's
System Access Mobile
screen reader so that I can teach them how to use this as well. As the students turn in their application forms, they are getting their own jump drive versions of the System Access Mobile screen reader as part of Serotek's Keys for K-12 program.

The experience of teaching and empowering these young minds is incredible. I don’t think the students realize just how much they give back to me, but they pay me in denominations beyond words or anything of monetary value. It is so beautiful when the lesson we’ve been working on comes together for the student and that light bulb clicks for them. It just warms my heart each time this happens and I’ve been getting warm-hearted a lot lately. Its like the assistive technology professional I work with tells me, Today was payday and you just got paid.”

I was working with one of my elementary school boys yesterday on a lesson involving editing a document. He was learning where to place the curser to insert a letter in a word. Instead of putting it on the letter in front of which he wanted to insert the text, he would put the cursor on the letter he wanted the text to follow. Needless to say, he was getting a little frustrated. He was undaunted though, and kept trudging through the lesson, putting the pieces into place and finally finished the document just like it needed to be. It was beautiful to see that whole process happen.

While he was doing this, I was sitting back, coaching him, just grinning ear-to-ear as I witnessed learning in action. I told him that he was learning what to do as well as what not to do and attempted to illustrate with the story of Thomas Edison. I asked him if he knew who Edison was and he replied, Isn’t he the man who invented electricity, or was that Ben Franklin?” Then he went back to editing his document.

I grinned and then shared the story about how many times Edison had to work at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked Edison how it felt to fail so many different times, his reply to the reporter was, “ I didn’t fail those times. I just learned that many ways that the bulb didn’t work, which led me to figure out how to make it the right way.” (I wasn’t sure of the exact quote, but was paraphrasing in an attempt to illustrate the learning aspect for my student.)

Then, this boy told me, “Yeah, but he was just inventing the light bulb. He wasn’t trying to write a document like I am.”

Ka-ching! I just got paid again.

If you can’t tell, I love this job.

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