Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lon Thornburg's No Limits 2 Learning Blog

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist in Oregon who is the author of the No Limits 2 Learning Blog, "celebrating human potential through assistive technology". In addition to assistive technology, Lon's blog focuses on topics related to children, education, disabilities,

Lon recently attended a workshop on alternative text access and podcasting, presented by Steven Timmer, of Premier Literacy, and came away with some good insights, which you can read on his blog post. Steven Timer, who is legally blind, discussed the difference between the concept of assistive technology for learning and assistive technology for living. I liked the quotes from Steven Timmer:

"AT must take what you find difficult to do and make it easier for you- if it doesn't, it isn't AT."

"if they can't use it within 15 minutes of training," Steven shared, "and 3 steps or less, they probably won't use it."

On another post, Lon shared another quote from Steven Timer:

"If kids don't find a practical reason to use AT for something they want to do, they won't incorporate it into their world and use it,"

Lon asks us to think more deeply about the purpose of assistive technology:

"Instead of spending so much time with a software that prepares them to learn information to perform better on state assessments and try to get their scores up, maybe we need to focus more on helping them to independently take text and summarize it, and convert it to an Mp3 file they can listen to it. Oh, and by the way…let them select an article, story or other print media that is relevant to them."

"I have some developmentally delayed and cognitive disabled students that are older - in high school that can use some of both kinds of AT to a certain point, but by high school, we should have given them the ability to use living technology for themselves so they can use it independently to access life. And you know what? If I teach them how to access life with living tools, I bet it will impact their ability to prep for those tests…hmmm just a thought."

Lon's blog is well worth signing up for a feed!

Here is another good tidbit of information he posted from his blog - his notes from an interview with Kristin Whitfield, CCC-SLP, from Dynavox, citing research from Penn State University, Project R, that suggests that early learners (2-5) can benefit from higher-end communication tools, if properly designed for their age and developmental needs. The researchers point out that most current AAC devices were developed by non-disabled adults, and do not model the way young children cognitively and linguistically interact with the world.

By the way, Penn State University offers a webcast, along with transcripts, slides, and handouts from the AAC RERC Webcast Series, Reading and AAC, presented by Janice Light, Ph.D., a professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders.

  • "This session will discuss effective evidence-based practices to maximize the literacy skills of individuals who require AAC. Case studies (including video) will be used to illustrate effective interventions to help student who require AAC: (a) acquire phonological awareness skills, (b) learn to read words, (c) participate in shared reading activities with personalized books, and (d) write their own stories. With appropriate instruction, individuals who require AAC can achieve improved literacy skills and will be able to maximize their educational and vocational outcomes."

Thanks, Lon Thornburg, for sharing so much on your blog!


Lon said...

Thanks for the wonderful review Lynn. I am pretty excited about the potential for using print disability tools to support all learners. A great place to be inspired is with the blog by Ira Socol: SpeEdChange. He has a great post on Toolbelt Theory which says that all students should have a toolbelt of AT tools to assist in learning AND life. it it:
Ira has had a major impact on my thinking. If you haven't read his blog, it needs to be on your list.
Thanks again,

Lynn Marentette said...

Ira Socol's blog is great!

David McNaughton, Penn State said...


Thanks for helpig to "spread the word". You can now find this webcast by going to http://aac-rerc.com and clicking on "webcast"