One of the things that makes me most thankful to be an educator here in San Francisco is something called BAISLD. The Bay Area Independent Schools Learning Differences group is a community of educators who work with what we like to call “neuro-diverse” learners in the independent schools in our region. Most of us are the learning specialist/academic support director types in middle schools and high schools, but our lively listserve and meetings include educators, counselors, diagnosticians, and educational therapists who work with students with a variety of learning needs. We meet in person two to four times per year, and we talk about best practices, trends, and helpful resources on our listserve daily.
It’s always a highlight of my semester to attend a BAISLD meeting. I have the selfish pleasure of coordinating the meetings, so I get to pick when they take place and where we’ll go. Last semester, we started our meeting at the Bay School, which may have the only view of the Golden Gate Bridge that’s nicer than the one from my office. Our latest meeting was yesterday at Marin Country Day School, where they have a great view of the hills and, perhaps less notably, of San Quentin State Prison. (Note to self: at some point, I’ll write about why I recognize the view: I’ve been visiting the prison and singing with my friend in music ministry there since the fall.) Among other things, the conversation ranged to technology tools. We pledged to share our ideas via the listserve, which we did. I shared some things I was aware of, but I discovered some terrific new tools that I’m eager to share with you. Be forewarned: these sites are a little link-dense, but they’re worth it.
Once again, I’m grateful for the wonderful personal learning network that BAISLD is for me. Many of us who serve neuro-diverse learners in schools are one-man or one-woman shows. I was thrilled this week to have a first-time meeting attendee exclaim, “I’m so glad I’m not alone!” That’s the most rewarding part of this kind of collaboration: it helps us know that we’re not alone–better still, we’re among smart, passionate, knowledgeable friends who are eager to help.
And now: the links we talked about this week in the wonderful world of BAISLD.
“iPad as…” This is an old favorite of mine. I love how this site phrases the question of how to use technology: it’s not about picking a cool tool and then retrofitting it awkwardly onto something meaningful for learning. Instead, the site organizes apps by the ways that teachers or students might use them for addressing their needs. Super cool, and a powerful way of thinking about technology.
Tech Potential. This is the website of local assistive technology guru Shelley Haven, whose work I admire and whose PEN talk and workshop on our campus at Schools of the Sacred Heart both blew my mind. Visit her site and comb through her wealth of resources. You’ll discover that your devices have all kinds of built-in features to support learning.
Power Up: Apps for Kids with Special Needs and Learning Differences. Common Sense Media is the nation’s leader in reviewing media for children and families. Full disclosure: I think Common Sense Media is great, and I happen to have written some reviews for their educator website, Graphite. I’m impressed by the work that CSM does to reach out thoughtfully and responsibly to families about digital media and digital citizenship. This isn’t a list that I helped make, but it’s one that makes me proud to be connected to such a smart, socially responsible company.
Teach Thought’s 55 Best Free Education Apps for iPad. This is exactly what it sounds like. And it’s delightful. Give yourself some time to explore–it’s worth it.