Another look at Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

Photo credit: renaln
Photo credit: renaln

Each year, as I work with students in elementary school, I continue to worry about their needs being the result of inadequate pre-handwriting skill training.  In short, that really simply means how well they learned to use their hands in play activities and kinesthetic learning.  Children learn to use their hands as tools to help them learn and grow from the moment they are born.  However, sometimes in this accelerated learning environment the we seem to be in now, children are being asked to attempt to learn skills that are far beyond their developmental capabilities.  With this in mind, I offer again my work to draw attention to the learning brain of the child.

 

 

 

Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

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

 

Jean Piaget introduced the world to the learning brain of the child.  Through his systematic study of cognitive development, he discovered that children simply do not learn in the same way as adults.  According to his theory of cognitive child development, “children are born with a very basic mental structure … on which all subsequent learning and knowledge is based.

To read the entire article, click here.

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
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.
All photos are property of the owner of the site they are liked to and their use should always provide that link.

National Handwriting Week! How Does Vision Fit In?

IMG_5430National Handwriting Day is celebrated each year on January 23, John Hancock’s birthday (according to the Gregorian calendar), an American Revolutionary leader and first signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association started this holiday in 1977 to acknowledge the history and influence of penmanship.  And we carry on this tradition today to increase awareness of the literacy benefits of mastering handwriting skills.

 

One of the most overlooked skills in the assessment of handwriting problems is the visual component.  Vision (which is comprised of 17 skills, only one of which is eyesight) can hinder a child’s educational progress by robbing him or her of the opportunity to form accurate perceptions of himself, the environment around him, and letter and numbers.  These misperceptions can lead to reading and writing challenges as well as problems with sports and activities of daily living.

With vision in mind, I am re-sharing this post that explains the vital need for having a child’s vision assessed and the important role vision has in learning.  And that includes handwriting.

 

Anatomy of the Eye Hot Air BalooningIn”sight” Into Handwriting Struggles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
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.

A Vision and Eye-Care Professional Primer for Occupational Therapists

A Vision and Eye-Care Professional Primer for Occupational Therapists

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

 

Vision Facts to Guide Assessment and Treatment:

childs eyes - aroni- by Bessi pixabay

The visual sense is the primary way in which we understand what we see.  It is “our most far-reaching sense” and the one through which we obtain 75-85 percent of what we learn about ourselves and the world around us.  (1, p. 3)   Vision as a term is most often confused with that of eyesight.  However, the terms are not interchangeable.

 

Eyesight consists of our level of visual acuity and our ability to recognize contrasts.  It is a measure of our distance vision and does not effectively determine the efficiency of our near vision skills.  It is also an indicator of eye health.

 

Vision is comprised of 17 skills, one of which is eyesight.  (2)  The measure of 20/20 eyesight and a healthy medical condition of the eyes does not entail the complexity of the visual system.  “In addition to clear vision, an individual must have the ability to use his or her eyes for extended periods of time without discomfort, be able to analyze and interpret the incoming information, and be able to respond to what is being seen.”   (1, p. 6)

 

Visual Brain Journey thru the cortex
The Visual Brain

Vision does not occur in the eyes but in the brain.  The eyes are actually a part of the brain and act as the sensory receptors that collect light and transmit it to the visual brain (3) to “form a model of our world, to identify objects and events, to attach meaning and significance to them, and to establish their causal relations” for the ultimate production of adaptive behavior.   The visual brain is influenced by the brain’s visual pathways and includes the vision that is used for action and that which is utilized for perception. (4)  Neurons devoted to visual processing in the brain account for about 30 percent of the cortex with millions of optic nerve fibers carrying information from the retina to these areas.  In contrast, touch and hearing are represented by 8 and 3 percent of the brain’s cortex, respectively, with each auditory nerve carrying 30,000 signals.  (5)

 

Models of vision have been developed that emphasize vision as a learned process and one that organizes and manipulates space.   It is the sensory system through which we understand the information collected through our other senses.  It a movement pattern and is developed through the use of our motor skills, much like walking and talking.   Vision provides the brain with accurate translation of the information collected through our eyesight.  (1, p. 6)   Therefore, vision plays a key role in learning and can influence the quality of learning through visual efficiency and visual information processing.  Visual efficiency comprises the process of visual acuity and refractive error, accommodation, vergence, and ocular motility.  Visual information Processing involves the higher level brain functions that include the non-motor aspects of visual perception and cognition, and their integration with motor, auditory, language, and attention systems. Deficits in either of these aspects of vision can result in some form of learning problem.  Proper diagnosis of learning related vision problems therefore requires comprehensive evaluation of visual efficiency and visual information processing skills.  (6)

 

vision assessment schedule by hooptometristUndetected vision problems can affect a child’s ability to learn in school by interfering with his ability to see clearly, interpret what he sees, and use his eyes to guide movement.   Although vision screenings are performed by pediatricians and school nurses, their tests are designed to assess for visual acuity and do not reflect how well the eyes focus up close, track, or work together.  Occupational therapists are in a key position to detect the common signs and symptoms that indicate a potential vision problem in these areas and that may be the cause of a reading, learning, or motor performance need.  An efficient OT evaluation will include a vision screening that checks visual acuity, eye teaming, eye movement control, and visual motor integration.  Therefore, it is important to understand and recognize the five most common symptoms that can identify a person is in need of a vision assessment by a developmental optometrist.

 

  • Frequent loss of place when reading
  • Slopping handwriting
  • Eye fatigue or headaches after reading
  • Avoidance of close work
  • Attention problems (7)

 

In addition, it is important for occupational therapists to inform parents and teachers about the importance of early detection of vision-related problems by sharing visual behavior checklists (8) and resources about vision assessments (9) and vision therapy (2).   Equally as important as recognizing early symptoms and sharing information about visual problems, occupational therapists should have a solid understanding about the areas of expertise for those professionals who specialize in eye care.

 

Eye-Care Professionals Guide

Maintaining eye and vision health relies upon regularly scheduled assessments that can alert us and our doctors to the presence of eye diseases and vision disorders.  The early detection of these conditions depends upon the selection of the appropriate eye-care professional to address these specialized areas.  There are four areas of expertise and levels of training that define the providers that address eye and vision health.  (The following was adapted from References 10, 11, and 12.)

 

  • Ophthalmologists (MD) are medical or osteopathic doctors who have completed college and at least eight years of additional medical training. They are licensed to practice medicine and surgery and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease.  Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform eye surgery, and prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.  In general, they use medical and surgical methods to treat eyes diseases and vision disorders.
  • Optometrists (OD) are Doctors of Optometry and the primary health care professionals for the eye. Optometrists complete a pre-professional undergraduate education at a college or university followed by four years of professional education at a college of optometry.  Following graduation, optometrists have the option to complete a one-year residency for additional training in a specific area of practice.  They are licensed to examine, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures.  They are trained to perform eye exams, prescribe and dispense corrective lenses, detect certain eye abnormalities, and prescribe mediation for certain eye diseases.
  • Developmental Optometrists (FCOVD) provide vision care based on the principle that vision can be developed and changed. They are health care professionals who obtain board certification from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) to provide specialized services in behavioral and developmental vision care, vision therapy, and vision rehabilitations.  Developmental Optometrists specialize in the treatment of functional vision problems, including difficulties with binocular vision, eye movements, and depth perception, as well as visual deficits following brain injuries and are skilled in the use of lenses, prisms, and optometric vision therapy.   They perform functional vision tests to determine underlying vision deficits.
  • Opticians are technicians trained to design, verify, and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other eyesight correction devices. They provide services through prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists.

 

A downloadable version of this resource is available at the Handwriting is Fun! Resource Page.

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
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.  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

 

 

 

 

 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.
Photos are the property of the photographers at Pixabay or authors on specific online sites.  Their use should include the link provided with the pictures.
References:
  1. Scheiman, Mitchell. Understanding and Managing Vision Deficits a Guide for Occupational Therapists. 3rd ed. Thorofare, NJ: Slack, 2011. Print.
  2. “Vital Visual Skills -.” COVD.org. College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.covd.org/?page=Visual_Skills>.
  3. Hubel, David H. “Eye, Brain, and Vision.” Eye, Brain, and Vision. David Hubel, n.d. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://hubel.med.harvard.edu/book/b8.htm>. Text Publication: Henry Holt and Company, May 15, 1995
  4. Milner, A.. David, and Melvyn A. Goodall. “The Visual Brain in Action.” Assc.org. The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.theassc.org/files/assc/2367.pdf>.
  5. Grady, Denise. “The Vision Thing: Mainly in the Brain.” Discover Magazine. Discover Magazine, 01 June 1993. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://discovermagazine.com/1993/jun/thevisionthingma227>.
  6. Garcia, Ralph P., O.D., Steven B. Nicholson, O.D., Leonard J. Press, O.D., Mitchell M. Scheiman, O.D., and Harold A. Solan, O.D. “Optometric Management of Learning-Related Vision Problems, 2nd Edition.” Clin Exp Optometry Clinical and Experimental Optometry 89.6 (2006): 403-04. Aha.org. American Optometric Association, 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.aoa.org/documents/optometrists/CPG-20.pdf>.
  7. Hong, Carole L., OD, FCOVD. “Vision Screenings & When to Refer for a Developmental Vision Evaluation: What Every OTR Should Know.” PediaStaff. PediaStaff, Inc., 26 May 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.pediastaff.com/blog/qa-ask-the-expert-vision-screenings-when-to-refer-for-a-developmental-vision-evaluation-what-every-otr-should-know-3592>.
  8. Collmer, Katherine J., M. Ed., OTR/L. “Resources for Handwriting/Writing Development.” Handwriting With Katherine. Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.handwritingwithkatherine.com/resources.html>.
  9. “InfantSEE: A Public Health Program for Infants | Helping Infants to Establish a Lifetime of Healthy Vision.” InfantSEE. Optometry Cares – The American Optometric Association, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.infantsee.org/>. InfantSEE®, a public health program, managed by Optometry Cares® – the AOA Foundation, is designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an essential part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life.
  10. Mischio, Greg. “What’s the Difference between Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist?” Vision Therapy Center. Vision Therapy Center, 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.thevisiontherapycenter.com/discovering-vision-therapy/bid/75509/What-s-the-difference-between-optometrist-vs-ophthalmologist>.
  11. “Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician.” Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician — AAPOS. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/132>.
  12. “About COVD.” COVD. College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.covd.org/?page=About_Us>.

 

 

 

 

Growth Mindsets: Their Implications in Pediatric Occupational Therapy

mind john hain pixabay

Growth Mindsets:  Their Implications in Pediatric Occupational Therapy

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

What is the element in therapy that transforms a goal from one focused upon performance to that which targets learning?  What facet of our service approach drives motivation and addresses or prevents the client’s sense of “learned helplessness?”  At what point do we, as therapists, influence the mindset of our clients and facilitate their growth in rehabilitation?

These questions lie at the foundation of our own growth as a profession as the health care reform initiatives align with our long-held principles of client-centered treatment.  But, just as we are beginning to understand that the medical community is catching up to our perspective, we are equally becoming aware that a client-centered practice framework can produce outcomes that reflect the “shift toward value-based-reimbursement” and “challenge(s) occupational practitioners to demonstrate their unique contributions” (1) to healthcare.  In turn, the quality of a framework that stresses the importance of individuality, holism, and a sense of self and one that values the development of both the individual and a client-therapist relationship is contingent in part on the (client’s) experience of care and his perspective of his involvement in the process.  Toward that end, research and discussions have been directed toward the development of a “working alliance” and a stable relationship that foster a positive rapport with our clients and serves as a means for active participation in their service plans. (2)

possible-geralt pixabay

Active participation implies motivation.  And motivation suggests a belief that one can succeed in his attempts to learn and grow and to achieve his personal potential.  Our ability to motivate our clients demands a certain awareness of the ways in which people are motivated and how their responses to failures can provoke either a helpless response or the determination to master new things and conquer challenges.  Carol Dweck, author of Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success, conducted research to uncover the factors that motivate and direct a learner’s pattern of success or failure.  She concluded that children who were guided toward persisting in the face of challenges and encouraged to believe that failures were due to their lack of trying versus a lack of ability developed “mastery-oriented patterns.”  (3)  Their “attributions” toward success and failure reflected their judgments about the causes of events and behavior, as well as the recognition of the consequences of those attributions, and drove them to strive for learning versus performance.  There is an important difference between performance-oriented and learning-focused goals.  Dweck noted that performance goals focus upon demonstrating the ability to do something while learning-focused goals encourages the increase of ability.  The difference lies in one being static and fixed and the other dynamic and malleable.  The success of client-centered therapy relies upon the participant believing that he has the ability to increase his ability.  It is based upon a growth mindset.

Fostering a Growth Mindset in a Therapeutic Environment

Mindset is defined as “a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations.”  It is a frame-of-mind, a perspective, and a set of behaviorisms that become an inclination or a habit.  According to the prominent dictionaries, a habit is a recurrent and often unconscious behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition and becomes an established disposition of the mind or character.  Therefore, habits can be developed as well as broken.  Fostering a growth mindset in our pediatric therapy sessions is a viable and applicable target in a client-centered service delivery model.  The same assumptions about success relative to a child’s level of academic achievement can be applied to a pediatric client’s success toward therapy goals.  A research team reviewed the literature that studied the “noncognitive factors” involved in student learning.   These included both their Academic Behaviors, such as going to class, completing homework, active classroom engagement, and studying, and their levels of Academic Perseverance, labeled as tenacity or stick-to-it-ness.  They both were determined to be indicators of how likely a child was to continue to pursue academic goals despite challenges.  (4) The results of the review suggested that “one of the best levers for increasing students’ perseverance and improving their academic behaviors (was) by supporting the development of Academic Mindsets.”

key GLady PixabayThe key mindsets that the research team defined as those associated with increased perseverance, better academic behaviors, and higher grades can be applied to our therapy services.

  • Belonging to a learning community.  Our therapy sessions revolve around learning (or unlearning) habits and behaviors that will enhance a child’s opportunity for success.  Our willingness to build a rapport that fosters trust and develops into a working alliance that encourages communication, and in the end becomes a stable relationship that incorporates the child’s opinions and ideas into the rehabilitation process, encourages a sense of belonging in the therapy environment.  (2)
  • Belief in the likelihood of success.  Studies have shown that self-efficacy was a strong determinant of success among similar-ability students.  A child’s sense of his ability to succeed is “malleable” and can be influenced by feedback on performance and ability, as well as the provision of training and assistance with setting goals. (4)  The core components of client-centered care (respect, collaboration, communication, support, and inclusion) and the part that hope and self-perception play in an occupational practice (1) foster the building of self-efficacy.  It is our role as occupational therapists to help our clients to “celebrate” their willingness to take risks, to allow themselves to fail, and to learn from those failures. (5)
  • Belief that abilities and intelligence can grow with effort.  Carol Dweck considers students with a growth mindset to believe that “the brain is like a muscle” that gets stronger with use.  (6, qtd in 4) They are motivated by mastery and enjoy challenging themselves with new ideas and learning opportunities.  (4)  It is our role as therapy practitioners to provide the “just-right challenges” that will build brain muscle and encourage our clients to believe that they can learn and grow despite their personal challenges.
  • Belief in a sense of meaning and value surrounding the work.  As we continue to interpret and make meaning of our experiences, our brains are looking for connections in order to process new information and ideas.  (4)  Tasks and information that do not represent meaning nor constitute any value to our clients will fall short of the mark and limit their potential for success.   Purposeful activities are planned and directed tasks that are key to planning an occupational therapy program, while meaningful activities are those that achieve the program goals through an intrinsic motivation for the patient.  (7)  It is our role as therapists to offer our clients activities that are both purposeful and meaningful and that will bring them back to therapy to build the sense of belonging and self-efficacy that results from a mastery mindset.

Fostering a learning mindset in therapy begins with the principles laid out in the client-centered approach to our occupational practice that build rapport, a working alliance, and a stable relationship, no matter the age of client.

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

atherine 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

Photos are the property of photographers on Pixabay and their use should include the link attached to their photographs. 
 
 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. Mroz, Tracy M., Jennifer S. Pitonyak, Donald Fogelberg, and Natalie E. Leland. “Client Centeredness and Health Reform: Key Issues for Occupational Therapy.” Am J Occup Ther American Journal of Occupational Therapy 69.5 (2015): 1-8. Web. 3 Oct. 2015.
  2. Collmer, Katherine J., M.Ed., OTR/L. “Client-centered Practice in Pediatrics.” Handwriting Is Fun! Blog. Handwriting With Katherine, 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 3 Oct. 2015. <http://blog.handwritingwithkatherine.com/client-centered-practice-in-pediatrics/>.
  3. Krakovsky, Marina. “The Effort Effect.” Stanford Magazine. Stanford University, Mar.-Apr. 2007. Web. 03 Oct. 2015. <http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=32124>.
  4. Farrington, Camille A. “Academic Mindsets as a Critical Component of Deeper Learning.” Hewlett Foundation News. William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2015. <http://www.hewlett.org/library/grantee-publication/academic-mindsets-critical-component-deeper-learning>.
  5. Schwartz, Katrina. “What’s Your Learning Disposition? How to Foster Students’ Mindsets.” MindShift. KQED News, 25 Mar. 2014. Web. 03 Oct. 2015. <http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/25/whats-your-learning-disposition-how-to-foster-students-mindsets/>.
  6. Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. S.l.: Random House, 2008. Print.
  7. Senior, Rob. “Better, Faster, Stronger.” Better, Faster, Stronger. Advance Healthcare Network, 28 Sept. 2010. Web. 03 Oct. 2015. <http://occupational-therapy.advanceweb.com/Archives/Article-Archives/Better-Faster-Stronger.aspx>.

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

 

 

 

 

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

Pictures that are the property of other sites should provide a link back to that site.

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

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/

The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology

This month, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog is proud to host another guest author series.  In July we will be sharing information on the topic of Technology and OT.  Our series will stray from our typical course and discuss non-handwriting related topics, except for the one published the first week.   I know you will enjoy what our guests will be sharing and will learn a great deal from their expertise.  This week, we are proud to publish this blog concurrently with Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L as she presents us with a beginner’s tutorial for helping students achieve their highest level of self-sufficiency with or without assistive technology.

Eleanor, you’re on!

 

community technology geralt pixabay
Transitioning students With disabilities onto the next phase of their lives.

The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology

 

 

As school districts begin to think about transitioning students with disabilities out of school and onto the next phase of life, the idea of becoming as independent or self-sufficient as possible comes to mind. I prefer to use the term self-sufficient as this term implies a sense of power and strength in addition to not requiring assistance from others.  At the age of 14 years, school districts are required to begin developing a transition plan.  Educators, therapists and parents investigate vocational as well as, social and self-care tasks.  In many high schools, Life Skills Programs concentrating on just this effort are charged with the task of fostering self-sufficiency.

Collectively, we explore both basic [BADLs] and instrumental activities of daily living [IADLs]. BADLs include basic self-care tasks, such as feeding, toileting [including maintaining continence], dressing [donning/doffing and selecting clothes], grooming/bathing, walking and transfers (such as from bed to wheelchair). These are the skills that we have begun to develop since birth. IADLs are more complex skills that we are taught as our thinking skills become more developed and include things like money management, driving/using public transportation, shopping, meal prep, communication using a telephone, computer or tablet, managing medications, housework and basic home maintenance.  The IADL and vocational skills are the focus of the Life Skills Programs.

Please click here to read the rest of her article on Eleanor’s blog.

 

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.

 

 

Technology and OT Series

Handwriting:  is an app applicable?
Handwriting: is an app applicable?

Handwriting: Is an app applicable?

Handwriting:  Is an app applicable?

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

This month, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog is proud to host another guest author series.  In July we will be sharing information on the topic of Technology and OT.  Our series will stray from our typical course and discuss non-handwriting related topics, except for this first one.  I know you will enjoy what our guests will be sharing and will learn a great deal from their expertise.  Let’s begin the series with my thoughts on applications for handwriting.

woman ones zeros geralt pixabayAs the Internet nudges print media to the side and encourages the increased use of television, computers, or mobile phones for the collection of knowledge and entertainment, the question, “How does technology affect learning?”  has achieved a higher standing in the minds of parents and educators.  And, although the concern is raised, there continues to be a lack of  guidance for the use of mobile learning with children.  This is partly due to the lack of a “widely accepted learning theory for mobile technologies, which in turn “hampers the effective assessment, pedagogy, and design of new applications for learning.”  (1)

While mobile learning provides “an environment of anytime, anywhere learning” made possible through an interconnecting flow of information between technologies, the production of these “learning tools” does not reflect a consistent theory for teaching and learning effectiveness.  (2)  The future promises a digital literacy that will toss out the linear learning forced on us through paper text and afford our children the opportunity to learn through         e-books, augmented reality and game-based technologies, and computing devices that utilize gesture-based (movement and touch) technology.   (2)  The effects of these promised treasures, however, are yet to be realized as the divide between the producers’ creations and the consumers’ developmental needs remains a wide one, and the implications for education and cultivation of informed educators on the uses of digital literacy tools in their classrooms continue to be investigated.  (1) (Part 3: pages 23-27)

The fact does remain, however, that the Internet and all of the technological byproducts that we have realized from it, are here to stay.  Just as the Gutenberg Press revolutionized the way that we obtained knowledge, changing us from an oral-based society where people gathered together to “receive information” to a reader-based one where learning became a solitary event, the Internet has catapulted us into a personalized state of learning that has us tapping, clicking, dragging, and linking – just us and the computer screen.  In addition, the Internet provides the “learner” with strong “sensory and cognitive stimuli – repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive – that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions.”  (3)  The Internet and its byproducts are not controlled by us, instead they tend to be in control, as they do indeed have an influence on the way we learn, communicate, and make decisions.  Nicholas Carr, in his book, The Shallows, pulls this transformation together in one potent statement about the Net:  “At the very least, it’s the most powerful (technology) that has come along since the book.”  (3)

There seems to be no area of learning that will be unaffected by this powerful tool; and, as a handwriting specialist, I understand that boy and chalkboard akshayapatra pixabaytechnology will change the way that my young handwriters will want to learn.  Their brains, eyes, ears, and hands will demand the “positive reinforcements” of sound, touch, and speed as they gather volumes of experiences from their preferred mobile learning device.  But, also as a specialist in my area of practice, I remain skeptical that the quality of this rapid-fire feedback-feed forward method of learning will provide them with the sufficient tactile, visual, proprioceptive, and cognitive developmental base for mastering handwriting skills.  Handwriting is a complex skill, one that demands the achievement of cognitive, visual/sensory, and physical components.   It is a task which utilizes information from our eyes; our mind; and our auditory, tactile, and proprioceptive systems.  It is a language that uses movement (fine motor), thinking, visual processing, and attention. And it is this last facet of handwriting’s language that begs investigation when we consider diverting our instruction and remediation of handwriting development skills to the mobile world.

Nicholas Carr speaks to this silent facet of the Internet’s control over learning as he describes our behaviors as we click, link, and tap:  We work in a state where we are “often oblivious to everything else going on around us.”  As we seek information, follow a new trail to gather more, and find ourselves amongst all the bells and whistles of positive reinforcement, we become, what he calls, “a mind consumed with a medium.”  Although the book as a medium provides us with a gentler, calmer sense of “losing oneself” inside its text, interactive games, mobile applications, and even social media grab us by the eyes and ears and force us to attend.  And, unlike the book, they do this only to distract us simultaneously with the “rapid-fire delivering of competing messages and stimuli.”  Handwriting applications offer young learners the opportunity to delve into this world of sensory feedback, where colors, sounds, flashes, and pictures have replaced the concentration and attention paid to the tactile, visual perceptual, and proprioceptive facets of learning the skill.   The “haptic” of handwriting has been ignored as we limit the use of the hands to provide our brain with feedback from motor actions, substituting a fingertip or the smooth movement of a stylus for “the sensation of touching a pencil and paper.” Associate professor Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger’s Reading Centre and neurophysiologist Jean-Luc Velay at the University of Marseille published an article in the Advances in Haptics periodical (4) in which they examined the question of whether “something is lost in switching from book to computer screen, and from pen to keyboard.”  Anne Mangen reports that “the sensorimotor component (of writing by hand) forms an integral part of training for beginners, and in special education for people with learning difficulties. But there is little awareness and understanding of the importance of handwriting to the learning process, beyond that of writing itself.”  She adds, seemingly disappointed, that “in educational science, there is scant interest in the ergonomics of reading and writing, and its potential significance in the learning process.”

Despite the lack of interest in the putting-pencil-to-paper aspects of handwriting mastery and the obsessive attention paid to the touch-and-learn angles of mobile media, the initial instruction and remediation of handwriting development skills continues to lie within the realm of the very real developmental stages of learning – Cognitive, Visual/Sensory, and Physical. The learning, development, and mastery of handwriting skills demand that we move within, touch, visualize, repeat, and self-correct our physical work.  We must review the product, uncover our successes and needs, and compare the samples in order to develop an awareness of mastery.  We must attend to it. There is absolutely no substitute for hands-on instruction that is structured, consistent, and guided – and social.  The benefits that the interaction within a classroom filled with students listening to the teacher, raising their hands, asking questions, and helping one another provides will never find its substitute within a computerized screen.  And while mobile learning can indeed offer a supplemental benefit to a 1:1 skill remediation session, the personal connection between the child and his pencil and paper allows the occupational therapist to facilitate the cognitive, visual, sensory, and physical input without the distractions of the bells and whistles. It’s important to remember that, as occupational therapists, teachers, and parents, we ARE the positive reinforcements.  Until research evidence proves otherwise, handwriting development remains a function of the hand.

Katherine

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

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 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) Shuler, Carly, and Cynthia Chiong & Carly Shul. “Learning Is There an App for That?” Learning: Is There an App for That? (2010): n. pag. PBS Kids. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Web. 27 May 2015. <http://www-tc.pbskids.org>.  http://www-tc.pbskids.org/read/files/cooney_learning_apps.pdf

(2)  Richards, Reshan. “Theory of Mobile Learning.” Constructivist Toolkit. The Constructivist Toolkit, 24 June 2013. Web. 27 May 2015.

(3) Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.

(4) The University of Stavanger. “Better learning through handwriting.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2011.

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