Competition and Children: A learning experience

 

Competition and Children:  A learning experience

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

learn-geralt- pixabay -586409_1280

The month of August brings thoughts of the new school year and a fresh look at how children learn and grow.  With that focus in mind, the Handwriting is Fun! blog is proud to bring you a series of posts that will share insights from Occupational Therapists that reflect their views on and visions for our students’ learning experiences.  In our last article of the series, we will discuss the role that competition can play in a child’s learning, considering the positive and negative aspects, as well as our role as OT’s, teachers, parents, and coaches in turning the negatives into positives.  I hope you will enjoy it and I look forward to your feedback.

 

Competition and Children:  A learning experience

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

This month I turned my attention toward the concepts of learning that have played a major role in providing effective handwriting development services to the children and families in my practice.  Learning, by definition, is simply “the act or process of acquiring knowledge or a skill.”  But learning in itself is not a simple process.  We may all go through the same steps in learning – reading, listening, watching, imitating, and practicing – but we all complete those steps in our own individual and unique way.  In this article, I hope to share with you some of the positive measures we can take, as therapists, parents, and teachers, to address our children’s learning styles and emotional needs as we guide them toward mastery in a competitive environment.

 

Competition, Play, and Education

 

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” (Michael Jordan)

 

When I was a teacher, I shared this quote with my students many, many times as they struggled with their academics.  I have found it to be just as helpful as a guiding light in my occupational therapy practice.  I often share my own feelings about disappointments, explaining that there are days when I feel that I’ve let the team down and that the world is going to stop spinning and everyone is going to point their finger at me and say, “You lost!”  It helps them to understand that everyone misses the mark sometimes and that more often than not the loss turns into a gain.   It helps to open the discussion about the ways that we re-strategize and re-organize everything we’ve learned in that experience into an even better plan.  There are times, however, when a child views losing as a powerful force that either pushes him into a fiercely public domain pictures pixabay sad-217252_1280competitive stance or forces him to back away from the challenge.  Playing, in its role as both a fun activity and a child’s learning ground, can become a place where children are labeled as “winners and losers.”  As children begin to engage in interactive play, the games become competitive as well as a fun learning experience.  School is another opportunity for children to engage in competition as skill mastery, homework, tests, and report cards take center stage as a measurement of learning.   So, how do we keep the fun in games and enjoyment in education while nurturing the competitiveness that helps them to learn and grow?

 

What role does competition have in a child’s learning?

 

You may be asking, “Do we really need competitiveness in children’s games and in education?”  Yes, to a certain extent, we do.  As children go through their life’s journey, they will be faced with both intrapersonal and interpersonal competition.  Games and sports should be enjoyable opportunities for children to experience competition while learning the value of hard work, teamwork, and a competitive drive.  The development of these skills can enhance their success with educational skills as they become more confident in their ability to pick themselves up and continue to learn.  We all want to win; it’s validation that what we are doing is paying off.  But the joy of winning should be more about getting better at the game versus beating the other players.  I recently read the perfect quote that speaks to that notion:

 

“When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that’s important, not winning.”  (Reiner Knizia)

 

Learning to lose graciously is a skill, just as much as learning to win with honor.  In my practice as an occupational therapist, I use games to develop the underlying handwriting development skills my students need for mastery.  While they may be having fun in therapy, they are also experiencing winning and losing as they challenge themselves to learn or enhance a skill.  So, how can I help children to develop the art of gracious losing and honorable winning when they are playing games with me, as well as when they are playing with others?

 

Four Guides for Challenging Learners 

 

1.  Know when to win and when to lose!

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Give them an opportunity to challenge themselves!

During my work with children, I walk a fine line when I’m playing games with them. The mere fact that they are working with me indicates that there are some visual-perceptual, visual-motor, and visual-spatial issues involved.  For the younger ones, chances are I am going to be more skilled at the game. (Chances are!!)  Sometimes they know that I am holding back. When they ask me why, I tell them that these are practice sessions, like in sports, and as they get better, watch out!  I’ll be putting them to the test. That seems to encourage them to compete with themselves to learn as quickly as they can and reminds them that there will be some competition with me later.  As they progress with their skills, I “high five” their success and then ask them to remember when they didn’t succeed.  We talk about how they felt about the challenge then and how they viewed that same challenge now.  And then I remind them that I am going to be asking them to push themselves beyond that success until they can teach me how to play the game better!

For the older students, most of the time I will be learning with them!  I tell them that we are working as a team and that encourages them to challenge themselves to perfect their skills so that they can teach me.  Teaching has always been the best way to learn and a most satisfying way to experience success.  As we progress through the learning stages of a new skill, I ask them to talk me through it while they teach me a step, giving them an opportunity to be in control of the session, so to speak, and to recognize the areas in which they continue to need assistance.   With each success, I congratulate them, ask them to reflect upon the struggles they’ve overcome, and remind them that we will be pushing ourselves even further the next time to increase our skill level.

 

love-683404_1280 geralt pixabay
Energize their spirit and Emphasize their successes!

2.  Energize and Emphasize!

It’s important to remember, and to emphasize, that it is only a game.  Of course, in order to not speak out of both sides of our mouths, we need to practice what we preach.  Children will learn whether or not winning is the most important part of the game as they observe our actions and reactions in our conversations with them and other adults.  I’ve found that the most revealing truths about winning and losing can be witnessed while watching or talking about national sports!    Children will also form their perception of losing when they hear us talk about our own losses.  Actions, as they say, speak louder than words.  As I pull out the board games, I begin the discussion about the fun we will have as each of us works toward his or her own personal best.  Chatter about past successes can encourage a child to embrace the challenge ahead of him.  “Remember when you got 14 points last time?  That was awesome.  Let’s both see if we can each raise our own scores just a little bit!”  There will still be a winner and a loser.  But, the emphasis is on self-improvement.  Satisfaction with personal achievement helps to take the punch out of the winning-or-losing conundrum.

 

3.  Encourage and Empathize!

The Cursive Club worked together to build a village - and then to write a fun story about it!
The Cursive Club worked together to build a village – and then to write a fun story about it!

Games that encourage a combination of competition and cooperation have been shown to provide players with the greatest satisfaction and to produce the highest results.  And this goes for table-top games as well as active sports.  Michael Jordan didn’t win or lose games all on his own.  Team players work together to construct and carry out a plan.  Of course, winning is the goal.  But helping each other to attain it is the path toward completing it.  And that’s the place to encourage children to empathize with and to encourage each other.  The emphasis should be on solving problems and not the competition.  As they work together, they will discover that winning depends upon how well they have solved the problems.

During the Manuscript and Cursive Clubs I’ve offered, the sessions focused around group tasks that fostered opportunities to share, encourage, and empathize with team members.  The activities ranged from designing and building a Lego city, to writing a play, and to following each other’s directions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  As the groups matured, I often placed one member in the leadership role to guide the team as a “fellow student,” modeling the behaviors that bring forth success.  Each time, the members would bring their own personal failures and successes to the table to encourage a struggler or to empathize with his challenges.  Who needed me?

 

4.  Laughter and Lots of Chances!

Share some laughs and lots of chances for success!
Share some laughs and lots of chances for success!

Learning a game or sport, and perfecting those skills, can get tough.  The same goes for addressing the underlying skills that build learning successes.  In my work, I don’t open the door to giving-up or throwing in the towel.  I monitor the child’s behaviors during a game or task, balancing his challenges between testing and frustrating.  Just before he has arrived at the point of frustration, I know it’s time to laugh, talk, and try again.  Learning to laugh at themselves can go a long way in taking losses less seriously.  “Isn’t it silly how you’ve missed that three times already?”  Opening the door to discussion gives a child the opportunity to analyze his actions and to ask for help.  And, always, having another chance to do work at it again lets him know that he’s a winner for trying!  I feel that this strategy is the foundation for learning, for everyone.

 

 

The adage, “Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose,” is true in the game of life.    The sooner children recognize it, the easier it will be for them to play the game and the sooner they will feel comfortable about striving for “personal excellence.”

 

 

Competition, as a tool, is a healthy way to learn.

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L
 
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

http://www.handwritingwithkatherine.com/handwriting-development-assessment-and-remediation-book.html

 

 

 

 

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Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

 

 

The past articles in this month’s series:

Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing, by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on he Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing, by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on he Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Help With Handwriting: A Screening Activity
Help With Handwriting: A Screening Activity

Help With Handwriting: A Screening Activity

The month of August brings thoughts of the new school year and a fresh look at how children learn and grow.  With that focus in mind, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog is proud to bring you a series of posts that will share insights from Occupational Therapists that reflect their views on and visions for our students’ learning experiences.  The third article in our series is presented by Lyn Armstrong, OTR/L, and will explore the the process of identifying handwriting struggles early to prevent our students from falling behind in their handwritten work.  I know that you will find her strategy easy to use and an asset to your OT Tool Box!

 

Help With Handwriting:  A Screening Activity for All Ages

            by Lyn Armstrong, OTR

 

Handwriting is a very complex task at any age!

 

If you can picture in your mind a ladder, let’s look at each major rung!  The top rungs of this handwriting ladder are composed of written expression items (spelling, thought organization, punctuation, and sentence/paragraph development).  The middle rungs may be composed of sensory motor items such as visual perception, tactile/proprioception.  The bottom rungs handle fine and gross motor skills.

A student with handwriting difficulties may have problems related to each rung, particular rungs, or multiple rungs in each area.  For example a child with Dyslexia may have different issues affecting the quality of writing than a student with “just fine motor skills” (rare these days).  Illegible handwriting is sometimes called “Dysgraphia”.

Dysgraphia Subtypes (Deuel. Journal of Child Neurology 1995)

Spontaneous written text Oral Spelling Copying Drawing Finger tapping(fine motor)
Dyslexic Dysgraphia Poorly legible with textural complexity influencing legibility Severely abnormal Relatively preserved Relativelypreserved Normal
Dysgraphia due to Motor Clumsiness Poorly legible Relatively preserved Legible or if neat extremely slowly produced compromised abnormal
Dysgraphia due to defect in understanding space Poorly legible preserved Poorly legible abnormal normal

 

In this chart, you can see that a Dyslexic student’s difficulties center on spelling and textural complexity rather than fine motor skills.  For the observer of a Dyslexic student, the handwriting puzzle may be confusing as one may see the following:

  1. Legible letter formations in handwriting workbooks or sheets
  2. Legible writing with short sentences that are composed of familiar words
  3. Decreased legibility as spelling demands increase
  4. Decreased legibility as spelling, time restraints, reading comprehension, and/or organization is required

If we go back to look at the handwriting ladder, we see that the majority of handwriting issues with a Dyslexic student center in the upper rungs of written expression and not in the lower rungs of fine motor or visual perception.  Therefore it is critical to work on the upper rungs of written expression not necessarily the lower rungs of perception and motor which generally are intact. An occupational therapist though specializing in handwriting may not be as helpful for a Dyslexic student as a Language therapist or a Dyslexic tutor who is more specialized in reading and spelling.

Knowing where the difficulties lie, help determines which professional is needed and which classroom modifications are appropriate.

 

The first thing to consider with a student who is having writing difficulties is whether or not the student knows the letter names, has attached the letter names to a symbol, and can write that letter (symbol) without thinking about it.  If he can do this, it frees up the mind to concentrate on the aspects of writing sentences, spelling, etc.

A simple screening exercise for grades 1 and higher is mentioned below.  Please remember that this is a screening only!  It should help you determine if the child is visualizing the letters correctly, transitioning quickly from one thought to another (cognitive associative shift), and receiving good input through the sense of touch (tactile) and body movement (proprioceptive).

 

Screening Procedure: Choose a time when the student is not tired.  Place a piece of blank paper long wise in front of the student.  Have the student write the upper case alphabet in his/her choice of print or cursive with his eyes closed.   Have the student open his eyes to check his work.  Then repeat with the lower case alphabet.  Always praise the student even if done poorly.

As the student writes, make notes of the following:Poor Handwriting Example2

  1. Hesitation on a letter
  2. Difficulty sequencing the alphabet: you may help by giving a letter
  3. Talking out loud as he writes a letter or the sequence

Once finished note the following:

  1. Are the letters placed on an imaginary line? If so, it appears the student knows where his hand is as it moves across the page.  If not, you may want to work on sensory items with the student to help with better sensory input in the hand. Check for pressure: are the letters made very lightly or can you read them from the other side of the page (engraving). Extra pressure can result from poor sensory input or from over concentration on the activity.

Also draw a line across the top of the letters and one under the letters.  The space between these two lines (height of the letters) may be the comfort level of the moving fingers.  Adjust the writing spaces on other papers to be equal to this space. For example, if the letters of a third grade are large like a kindergartener, the student may have trouble writing in the small spaces on a fourth grade workbook or college rule notebook paper.

  1. Are there hesitations with certain letters? We picture the letters as we write in our minds.  The letter as it is being written matches or does not match a letter in our minds.  If a student has trouble visualizing a letter, he will hesitate or say “I don’t remember”. Work on that particular letter.
  2. Can the student write the alphabet sequence without help? This requires writing a letter, remembering where the letter is in the alphabet sequence, picturing the next letter, writing it on the paper and repeating this process.  This takes memory, visual recall, visualization and motor production.  Shifting from one skill to another may be difficult and need extra help.  Processing speed may be slow as well.
  3. Are the letters made top to bottom or bottom to top? If the letters are legible and made bottom to top, this may not need to be corrected.

 

Lyn Exercise PhotorThe following may be helpful as you scan the student’s papers after you have noted motor, perceptual or sensory issues:

  1. Look at the student’s writing in all subjects. Just because a student has good grades in spelling, one needs to look at the spelling in the context of writing sentences and paragraphs.  One may be able to remember the spelling words in isolation but not when thinking about what to write.  Even look at math papers for number formations, sizes of numbers, ability to write in smaller spaces and written words in word problem solutions.
  2. Look at the spaces the child must write in on the various pages. Some students have a need to completely fill up a space even when writing their name on the top line of the paper. Others who may be insecure with their writing may choose to write very small to disguise errors. Others may have visual perceptual issues!
  3. Check the consistency of line size in various subjects. A child with motor planning difficulties may have difficulty adjusting his motor movements for writing to different sized spaces.  Look for consistency of letter size.  Size can Lyn Poor Handwriting Example1affect in legibility.
  4. Look at where the lines of writing move to across the page: Some prefer to start on the left and move to middle of paper. They slowly pull away from the left side of the paper and start their sentences in the middle of the page indented to almost the middle of the line spaces, making a diagonal pull from the left side.  Modify by moving the left side of the writing page to the body’s midline as it appears these students are more comfortable with their right body space.
  5. Check the color of the paper. Some students with visual perceptual or sensitivity problems write better if the paper is colored which seems to reduce the black/white contrast. Look also at overhead lights to see if they are causing a glare on the paper.
  6. Check the furniture. A too high desk will result in the student laying his head down.  Same for a too low desk.
  7. Check computer skills: Note taking may be faster on a computer.

 

Truly, handwriting is a complex task!

 

Lyn Armstrong is a pediatric occupational therapist with 35 plus years of experience living in the Houston area. Her primary focus has been on handwriting which has led to authoring several articles in The International Dyslexic Association Resource Directory and to her book “Alphabet Soup: Stirring Your Child’s Interest in Letters”.  She can be contacted through her website, lynaot.com.

 

Weeks 1 and 2 in the Series:

Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing, by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on he Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing, by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on he Handwriting is Fun! Blog

Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing

The month of August brings thoughts of the new school year and a fresh look at how children learn and grow.  With that focus in mind, the Handwriting is Fun! blog is proud to bring you a series of posts that will share insights from Occupational Therapists that reflect their views on and visions for our students’ learning experiences.  The second article in our series will explore the vital role that the process of learning to write by hand plays in our students’ ability to adequately present their knowledge and thoughts.  I look forward to your comments and feedback – in handwritten form, if possible!

 

Handwriting and Learning:  A Vital Link to Skilled Writing

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

Wrist & Hand anatomy clinic hq
Picture courtesy of Clinic.hq.co.uk

Frank R. Wilson writes in his book, The Hand:  how its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture,

 

“Where would we be without our hands?  Our lives are so full of commonplace experience in which the hands are so skillfully and silently involved that we rarely consider how dependent upon them we actually are.”

 

 

He goes on to say that “any theory of human intelligence which ignores the interdependence of hand and brain function, the historic origins of that relationship, or the impact of that history on developmental dynamics in modern humans, is grossly misleading and sterile.”  Studies have shown that the hand plays a major role in learning.  And research is uncovering the impact that it has on the process of reading and writing.  The hand, as it is utilized in the mastery of handwriting, is involved in the development of motor memory for letter recognition.  And letter recognition has been found to be the most reliable predictor of future reading success.

 

writing upsplash pixabayHandwriting, by definition, is writing done by the hand, in some cases that which characterizes a particular person.  The hand has been described as giving “the upper limb its importance and originality.” (1)  It is a complex unit comprised of intricate muscle, joint, and ligament components that create movements so flexible and dexterous they allow us to manipulate a grain of sand.  The inside of the hand is innervated with neurons that relay signals to the brain relative to contact with objects, while proprioceptive information relative to finger and thumb positioning is transmitted through the joints, muscles, and ligaments.  The tactile sensitivity of the fingertips (2) detects spatial differences allowing for receptive touch such as that used to read Braille characters.  The hand extends from the body to engage, react, and defend.  And, it is continuously working together with the other senses to enhance learning.

 

From birth, infants discover the world through their senses.  They move their head toward a sound.  Their vision guides their eyes toward movement or light.  They maintain life through their sense of taste.  As they grow, they begin to explore the world with the addition of their vestibular and proprioceptive systems – rolling over and pulling up to become active players in the world in which they live.  And from the moment that they discover their hands, they begin to stretch and reach to learn more about the objects around them.  From this time on, their hands provide the medium for manipulation, exploration, and expression.  Learning through the use of their hands, as well as their vision, opens the door to curiosity and creativity.

 

Learning through the use of our hands continues to be a vital link for educational success throughout life, with handwriting playing a major role.  Efficient fine motor writing skills in pre-kindergarten have been found to be indicators for higher academic scores in second grade.  (3)    Recent research has uncovered its role in the process of skilled writing, an additional predictor of educational success.  Handwriting, with its tactile and  visual-motor integration skills, (4) addresses the perceptual and sensorimotor (5) combination of the complex process of writing. (6)

 

It is important at this point to make the distinction between “handwriting” and “writing” skills:

  • Handwriting it the process through which the writer uses his hand to produce letters, words, and sentences on the page in order to convey knowledge or thoughts.
  • Writing, on the other hand, is the vehicle that transforms handwriting into a means of expression.

 

Skilled writing requires the writer to utilize three cognitive processes:

(1) Planning to generate ideas and set goals,

(2) Translation to turn ideas into written text, and

(3) Revision to recreate the text for improved clarity and idea expression.

In addition, children’s translation has spirit-geralt pixabayalso been found to require text generation and transcription, which includes handwriting (letter production) and spelling (word production). (7)

 

 

 

Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, in the Foreword of Writing Next:  Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School, (8) stresses the importance of skilled written expression:

 

“…it is obvious that if today’s youngsters cannot read with understanding, think about and analyze what they’ve read, and then write clearly and effectively about what they’ve learned and what they think, then they may never be able to do justice to their talents and their potential….Indeed, young people who do not have the ability to transform thoughts, experiences, and ideas into written words are in danger of losing touch with the joy in inquiry, the sense of intellectual curiosity, and the inestimable satisfaction of acquiring wisdom that are the touchstones of humanity.”

 

In that same report, Graham and Perin site statistics that reflect Mr. Gregorian’s reason for concern.

 

  • Seventy percent of students in grades 4-12 are low-achieving writers.
  • College instructors estimate that 50% of high school graduates are not prepared for college-level writing.
  • The knowledge and skills required for higher education and employment are now considered equivalent.

 

Writing, with its requirement that the “writers formulate their own thoughts, organize them, and create a written record of them using the conventions of spelling and grammar,” (8) demands certain efficient cognitive skills.   Information about letter formations and sounds, word and sentence structures, as well as the principles of grammar, must be accurately stored in memory, available for quick retrieval, and produced automatically in order to free up the cognitive skills needed for the writing process.  Considering the evidence that handwriting affects the grading of a student’s work, (9) legibility must be considered to be an equal partner in the development of skilled writing.

 

keyboard-geralt pixabayTechnology, keyboarding in particular, has been suggested by many to be a viable, more timely substitute for handwriting.  Computers are expected to replace the need for handwritten work in the educational system due to the increased demand for keyboarding skills in the workplace.  And typewriting has been perceived to be equally as effective in the development of writing skills.   Considering the research that strongly suggests a tie between writing movements and letter memorization and the relationship of cognition with perception and motor action, (6) as well as the link between automaticy in handwriting and skilled writing skills, (10) the substitution of typewriting for handwriting warrants research.   Mangen and Velay, in their article, Digitizing literacy:  reflections on the haptics of writing,  (6) reported upon the significant differences between the motor movements involved in handwriting and typewriting.  Handwriting produces a strict and unequivocal relationship between the visual shape (of the letter) and the motor program that is used to produce the shape, with each letter associated with a given, very specific movement.  They report that typing is a “form of spatial learning” that requires the writer to transform the visual form of each character into the position of a given key, turning the movement to create thoughts into a visuomotor association linked with pointing movements and characters on the keyboard.  In that light, they felt that the less specific typewriting movements should provide little in the way of visual recognition and memorization – Memorization that is required for automaticy and skilled writing skills.

 

“Writing is an immensely important and equally complex and sophisticated human skill commonly ascribed a fundamental role in children’s cognitive and language development, and a milestone on the path to literacy.” (6)

 

Handwriting cannot be ignored as an important step on that pathway.

 

To read Week 1’s Posting in the Series, please scroll down past the references!

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.
 (1) Wilson, Frank R. The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture. New York: Pantheon, 1998. Print.
(2) Johansson, Roland S., and J. Randall Flanagan. “Coding and Use of Tactile Signals from the Fingertips in Object Manipulation Tasks.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience Nat Rev Neurosci 10.5 (2009): 345-59. Web. 19 July 2015. <http://130.237.111.254/ehrsson/pdfs/Johansson&Flanagan-2009.pdf>.
(3) Renaud, Jean-Paul. “Good Handwriting and Good Grades: FIU Researcher Finds New Link.” News at FIU Florida International University. Florida International University, 08 Jan. 2012. Web. 19 July 2015. <http://news.fiu.edu/2012/01/good-handwriting-and-good-grades-fiu-researcher-finds-new-link/34934?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-handwriting-and-good-grades-fiu-researcher-finds-new-link>.(4) Daly, C. J., G. T. Kelley, and A. Krauss. “Relationship Between Visual-Motor Integration and Handwriting Skills of Children in Kindergarten: A Modified Replication Study.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 57.4 (2003): 459-62. Web. 19 July 2015.
(4) Daly, C. J., G. T. Kelley, and A. Krauss. “Relationship Between Visual-Motor Integration and Handwriting Skills of Children in Kindergarten: A Modified Replication Study.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 57.4 (2003): 459-62. Web. 19 July 2015.
(5) The University of Stavanger. “Better learning through handwriting.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119095458.htm>.
(6) Mangen, Anne, and Jean-Luc Velay. “Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the Haptics of Writing.” Advances in Haptics (2010): 385-401. Web. 26 June 2015.
(7) Berninger, Virginia W., Robert D. Abbott, Amy Augsburger, and Noelia Garcia. “Comparison of Pen and Keyboard Transcription Modes in Children With and Without Learning Disabilities.” Learning Disability Quarterly 32.Summer 2009 (2009): 123-41. Sage Journals. Web. 6 July 2015. <http://ldq.sagepub.com/content/32/3/123.abstract>.
(8) Graham, Steve, and Dolores Perin. Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School. Alliance for Excellent Education. Alliance for Excellent Education, Sept. 2006. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://all4ed.org>.
(9) Gentry, J. Richard, Ph.D., and Steve Graham, Ed.D. “Creating Better Readers and Writers: The Importance of Direct, Systematic Spelling and Handwriting Instruction in Improving Academic Performance.” Saperstein Associates. Saperstein Associates, n.d. Web. 07 July 2015. <http://www.sapersteinassociates.com/>.
(10) Graham, Steve. “Want to Improve Children’s Writing? Don’t Neglect Their Handwriting.” American Educator Winter.2009-2010 (n.d.): 20-25. Web. 26 June 2015.
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page, or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

Week 1 in the Series:

Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

 

Learning and Retaining through Technology

The month of August brings thoughts of the new school year and a fresh look at how children learn and grow.  With that focus in mind, the Handwriting is Fun! blog is proud to bring you a series of posts that will share insights from Occupational Therapists that reflect their views on and visions for our students’ learning experiences.  Our first article, written by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L,  is an enlightening discussion of the initial attempts of researchers to collect data on the benefits of using technology in learning, as well as the elements that apps provide that enhance learning for our students.  I know that you will find her information useful.

 

iPad Angel or Devil

 

Learning and Retaining through Technology

by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

 

 

 

 

Nothing can compare to learning face to face from an excellent teacher. With the increasing demands of the Common Core and state testing, many teachers and parents today are turning to technology as a learning tool. PBS Learning Media (1) conducted a survey in 2013, of the 503 web-based interviews conducted with Pre-K-12 teachers in the United States, nearly three quarters [73-74%] reported technology allows them to reinforce and expand on content, motivate students to learn and respond to a variety of learning styles.

Pre-teaching, teaching and re-teaching are terms that initially come to mind when beginning to explore the world of technology in learning. I would like to just clarify those concepts, as I have experienced them, in the most basic terms. Pre-Teaching is introducing the topic or key concepts to the student prior to actually teaching the material. In my personal experience, pre-teaching can be as simple as exposure to the material by reading a chapter before going to class or even just guessing at definitions, much like when you were in OT school and the first class looked at the student’s knowledge of the profession, i.e., “What is OT?” Some teachers like to ‘pre-teach’ while others feel it disrupts the flow of the lesson. In a class that is alternately assessed, pre-teaching can be a matching activity, matching the new word to a picture, for example. Teaching is the actual imparting of knowledge, instructing students in the ideas and concepts contained within the lesson. Re-Teaching is as simple as it sounds, to teach the ideas and concepts again, sometimes in new or novel ways. When re-teaching, the materials may be presented in different ways, for example, using straight vocabulary then expanding into a word search by definition or a crossword puzzle.

A really good example of using an app for a skill that an OT works on in a school-based setting, and what Katherine Collmer is expert in, is handwriting. I do not propose that handwriting can be learned through an app only that certain handwriting skills can be reinforced through an app. There is nothing like using pencil and paper, feeling the drag of the pencil, moving through, learning and understanding the directional concepts of letter formation, learning how to meet the writing line and many other components of the handwriting skill. An app cannot use hand over hand or modify pencil grip as needed. What the right handwriting app can do is reinforce letter formation [starting the letter at the top] and writing on the line. Another great thing an app can do is collect and share data. Believe it or not, an app can collect data on how long the student practiced, how many questions were completed and how many questions were correct out of the total number of questions. Apps, such as the Touch Math series, will collect data on the number of trials to gain a correct response to a specific question, generally up to three trials.

Many apps have the ability to customize practice to an individual-to create customized lessons. BitsBoard [Free] and BitsBoard Pro [$9.99] are great examples of this customization capability. The BitsBoard series allows the teacher or therapist the ability to add curriculum materials, such as vocabulary. The teacher or therapist can then choose from up to 20 game based learning activities to pre-teach, teach or re-

BitsBoard Match Up
BitsBoard Match Up

teach the material. Depending on the student, the teacher can choose activities such as Match Up, Bingo, Word Search, Spelling Bee, Pop Quiz and many more. A score is generated at the end of each activity which can then be e-mailed to the teacher, therapist or the parent. In my experience, once students understand what that score means, they often want to do more and increase their score, much like playing a video game. Each of these activities can be customized as to the level and type of prompting. This becomes one method of differentiated instruction for the individual learner.

Continuing on with the concept of using apps in learning, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center in association with The Sesame Street workshop published a document called Learning: Is There an App for that? Investigations of young children’s usage and learning with mobile devices and apps. (2)  This document identified Key Opportunities and Key Challenges in mobile learning. Key Opportunities include “anywhere, anytime” learning, reaching underserved children in low income communities and developing countries, promoting and fostering collaboration and communication, more natural fit within various learning environments, personalized learning experience. The Key Challenges include surmounting cognitive, social, and physical challenges, the potential for distraction or unethical behavior, physical health concerns, and data privacy issues, cultural norms and attitudes, lack of widely accepted mobile theory of learning, diversity among mobile devices and internet access, poor design of some mobile technologies adversely affect usability and distract children from learning goals. In my opinion, apps are very concrete. Either the response was correct or it was not. In addition to the challenges identified in the report, eye hand coordination and postural control can be significant factors in accuracy of response when it comes to using tablets with apps.

In many ways, technology becomes a motivating factor in learning. Julie Alex, a 2nd grade intern at Easterly Parkway Elementary in State College, PA, stated, “I need to remind myself that the children I am teaching are growing up in a world where technology plays a big part. Students today do not know anything different. It is a way of life for them. They are not afraid to try new things on the computer, or think it may be too complicated. They just do it.” (3)  Ms. Alex reported that 16 out of 18 [n=18] students remembered more facts after completing a presentation on the computer using PowerPoint. She also reported that 16/18 students remembered more facts that they had included in their presentation and that 7/18 students remember additional facts from the research that they had conducted that was not included in their presentation. While this is a small study, I feel that this is a well conducted study with pre and post surveys to the students and their parents. An important component in her study explored the motivation of her students, after learning how to use the program and completing the presentation, 100% of her students reported that it was fun to create a presentation, were proud of the work that they had done and enjoyed sharing their work with others.

Dr. Susan B. Neuman, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and Professor of Early Childhood Literacy Education at NYU, released findings on an App called Learn with Homer. This was a small [n=18] blind and randomized study conducted at seven Head Start programs in Brooklyn. According to this report, 4-5 year old children using this app for 15 minutes per day [without the assistance of a teacher] for 6 weeks over the summer increased school readiness skills by 74% over those children not exposed to the app as assessed by pre and post testing using the TOPEL [Test of Preschool Early Literacy]. (4)  Although I personally feel that this study needs to be repeated in a number of settings with a more varied student population, this is significant in terms of understanding the power of technology in learning.

Learn With Homer
Learn With Homer

Technology is relatively young and I believe still in it’s infancy with regard to education. Much of the current research has been through the survey model and not through randomized trials which is why the Learn with Homer research is so significant. Some educators embrace technology while others are kicking and screaming when asked to add technology to their curriculum. Either way, technology is here to stay with over 1.5 million apps in the App Store, 1.6 million Android apps, with Amazon and Windows apps trailing behind. (5)  Laptop computers whether they are PCs or Macs are getting lighter, more portable and more flexible with the addition of a convertible laptop [converts from a laptop to a tablet]. Smart phones and Google Glasses makes technology even more portable. We have come a very long way since the introduction of the iPad but we still have a long way to go with much research to conduct.

 

 

 

Eleanor CawleyEleanor Cawley is an occupational therapist with many years of experience in the pediatric sector and specifically in transitioning students from high school to post high school.  Much of her practice focuses on using technology when lower tech strategies fail to meet the needs of her students. She is the author of Using Rubrics to Monitor Outcomes in Occupational Therapy and The Student Interview.  You can read her work on her blog site and contact her at eleanorot@gmail.com.

 

 

 [1] http://www.pbs.org/about/news/archive/2013/teacher-tech-survey/
[2] http://www-tc.pbskids.org/read/files/cooney_learning_apps.pdf
[3] https://www.ed.psu.edu/pds/teacher-inquiry/2007/alexjinquiry0607.pdf
[4] http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12244516.htm
[5] http://www.statista.com/statistics/276623/number-of-apps-available-in-leading-app-stores/
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