Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Physical Books vs Electronic Media

Roughly a year ago we abruptly abandoned almost all electronic educational items for Amber on the recommendation of her occupational therapist. Meaning, we no longer use e-books or online learning programs - not even for reviews.

Why would the occupational therapist make such a recommendation? 

Amber has sensory processing disorder along with / as a result of her Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (connective tissue disease).  She has long mentioned that she is not fond of e-books and such, but never did I realize they were restricting Amber's learning. When she couldn't tell me much of what she had just read in a history e-book, I assumed she had skimmed her reading. When she could not work math problems much below her level in an online math program we used during a review, I assumed she was goofing off.  I should never assume with this child or anyone.

The occupational therapist provided us with documentation from research that shows some people with sensory processing disorder (and other issues) have trouble comprehending and retaining information from electronic sources because of the lack of tactile input. Whoa.

I'm clearly not one of those people, so this was a new idea to me. Yet, it explains why Amber hates researching online too. She just can't sift through the information because she's not comprehending it as she should.

It was recommended that I provide Amber with physical books for all of her education or print out what she needed to know from electronic resources. That was a serious blow to my plans for her ninth grade year! I thought I had it all planned out and ready to go, but just a few weeks before classes should start we were acquiring additional materials and printing many documents I had intended her to read on her iPad.  I also had to stop accepting online review products. Ugh.

Still, I had to admit it made sense and thus we made the decision to give using solely physical books a try. It was not a requirement by Amber's occupational therapist, but simply a suggestion to help her with a perceived struggle. We value the ideas and opinions of all of Amber's therapists who ultimately have her best interests in mind, but especially this particular occupational therapist who is always trying to help Amber work smarter and better within her abilities.

Studying for her written driver's test - it's available online as a PDF, but she needed the physical book.

Did we see any benefit from these changes?

Yes, almost immediately. Amber's attitude toward school reading was much better. She didn't feel frustrated by her reading assignments in any subject, she completed them quicker while comprehending more with less mental exhaustion.

We have come to the point where we've been actively striving to remove electronic learning from Amber's schooling is for a whole year. I do find it difficult to remove all electronic media and on the rare occasion will send her a small piece of text to read on her iPad. Yet, I know that convenience comes with a price. I will have to allow a good deal more time for reading and comprehension and account for the fatigue it causes. This is clearly not an ideal learning method for her.

We did try an online computer usage course as a review earlier this year with mixed results. While she was fairly successful with the instructional video portion of the course, she still often missed key pieces of information because there was not a physical textbook to follow along. She did always read the lesson text after watching the video, though it took her significantly longer than it should and her quiz scores showed she had some problems remembering basic information. She also reported not understanding the quiz questions fairly often, but if I went over the quizzes with her orally, her score was vastly improved.

However, video lessons in conjunction with an actual text book are a much welcome addition. For example First Form Greek: On the first day of a new lesson, we watch the associated video with an instructor presenting the lesson while following along in the text. It is more like a course instructor speaking directly to the student and expanding on the printed information. This is an ideal learning situation for her, as far as we can tell.

Video lessons with a physical text, works well.

The Future:

I can only say we have seen vast improvements since cutting out electronic learning media from Amber's school work. Which is a good enough reason in my mind to continue this course of action. Still, on the recommendation of Amber's therapists, she will go through neuropsychology testing during this school year to determine and document the extent of her educational needs. We will see where the results stand on electronic media.

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