An Interview with Mary-Ann Fuduric


MaryAnnMary-Ann Fuduric is the Executive Director for the Learning Disabilities Association of Windsor-Essex County (LDAWE).  She was good enough to take the time to participate in this interview.  Read on to find out more about this interesting educator.

Doug:  Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.  First question I always like to ask – do you remember where and when we first met?

Mary-Ann:  We first met in cyberspace, Twitter specifically!  I was a relatively new educator and I joined twitter to develop my own Professional Learning Network and to learn more about the trends in education. I started following you and to my delight you followed me back! It took off from there.  We officially met in person a few years later at an edCamp in Tilbury.

Doug:  That was an amazing day and it was so much fun to make and renew connections with folks again. Do you remember any specific takeaways for yourself from that event?

Mary-Ann:  I loved the vibe and the enthusiasm in the room.  It was motivating to meet so many awesome educators and to learn new things in an unconventional way.

Doug: edCamps have appeal to a certain learning style for educators. There really isn’t a specific theme.  In your work with LDAWE, I’m wondering – would an edCamp targeting the goals of your organization have a place and be successful?

Mary-Ann:  I think it would!  If you look at the numbers, 1 in 10 people have a learning disability.  Some experts argue that  the number is closer to 1 in 5 people.  This means that an educator has the potential of having 4 or 5 children in their classroom with a learning disability. There is so much to learn about how to teach individuals with learning disabilities including using assistive technology in the classroom and moving towards a UDL (Universal Design for Learning) model.  Equally important is how to support these individuals not only through the school years but how to prep them for the world beyond school.

Doug:  With your experience in the auto industry, as an engineer, and as a Mathematics teacher, you just have to be inclined towards using the “making experience” with your student clients.

Mary-Ann:  All of our children’s programs are strength focussed.  Meaning we don’t focus on what the students cannot do. We concentrate on what they can do and what their interests are. We have spent a lot of efforts and funds over the last year and a half examining our programs and trying to understand how to better help our student clients.  Engagement is everything and naturally people are more engaged with what they know and what they like. With that engagement comes the ability to truly help whether it’s improving literacy and math skills or focussing on social skills or providing social opportunities with peers. We do try to offer opportunities for STEM activities. Based on the research, individuals with disabilities are underrepresented in STEM careers despite advances in adaptive technology. So we really try to incorporate science and technology in our programs as well as that hands on experience.

Doug:  Can you give us an example?

Mary-Ann:  An example is our summer camp which is created around some really cool themes.  This year we ran a full Lego week after seeing a huge interest in lego during STEM week last year. We ran a fully individualized math and literacy program incorporating lego building and design. We also received an amazing grant from We Care for Kids to purchase iPads for our literacy program. This offered us an opportunity to individualize the student’s reading while still engaging them in the process. The STEM too was a huge success as the students used robots to learn to program.  This required collaborating with peers and using their literacy and math skills in the process. Focusing on interest and individual strengths allows for a better experience for the students and staff.

Doug:  Most of the readers of this blog post will be educators.  What services do you provide your student clients beyond that offered by local school districts?

Mary-Ann:  We provide a variety of services that span the school years and beyond.  For our children’s programs we offer individualized math and literacy tutoring in small groups.  We also have a popular social skills program which focuses on foundational social skills, dealing with emotions and friendship.  This fall we have added a class in Leamington so we are very excited about that. In January, we are piloting a LEGO-Based Social Skills class which is a collaborative play group in which children work together to build LEGO models. The goal of this program  is to provide the opportunity for social communication, social support, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills.

For our youth we offer Brainology which is a program that focuses on understanding the brain and how it works. The students are taught how to apply this knowledge in the classroom and develop strategies for tackling learning challenges. Having a growth mindset and being mindful are important elements for everyone. For students transitioning to middle school and high school we offer SOAR which offers tools for success (strategies, support, and accommodation), and making choices for the future. Moving to high school and high school life is a huge transition and many students will struggle with this change.  Our goal is to help students with learning disabilities and ADHD transition smoothly. We also offer a youth group that provides an opportunity for socializing in a positive environment.  We have outings and activities that the participants choose collaboratively.

For individuals 16 and older we provide employment supports. Our employment counsellors work with the individual on resume and interview prep, job search and filling out application forms.  Once employment is achieved our dedicated counsellors provide job coaching, help explain accommodation needs to the employer if needed, help fill out forms, and have meetings with the employer if needed.  They are there for the client and will support them.

We also offer a transition program for individuals that are transitioning from high school to employment, college or university pathways.

One-to-One assistive technology is available to anyone and is individualized to what the clients needs are.  We sometimes have parents who come in and want to learn more about the technology so they can help their children.  Sometimes we have students who need a bit more practice using their assigned school technology.

Doug:  You have an impressive list of supporters.  http://www.ldawe.ca/our-supporters.php  Are there still areas in Windsor/Essex County that could use your services?

Mary-Ann:  The needs are huge in the community and we are always working to secure funds to expand our services and to expand to more locations.  This year we are going out to Leamington for our social skills program and I am sure we could offer many more programs out there.  The issue comes down to funding and we are always trying to stretch our dollar while providing great services and programs.

Doug:  Since you’ve worked both in schools and with LDAWE, you have insights to both systems.  What services do you provide that schools are unable to?

Mary-Ann:  I like to think that we complement the services that are provided in school.  We offer students the opportunity to receive additional individualized learning opportunities. What we can offer is a non-judgemental learning environment.  All of our participants are diagnosed with a learning disability and ADHD. We find students are much better able to understand their learning differences and connect with peers in a safe learning environment.

We are staffed by OCTs and support staff who not only have their professional credentials but they understand the unique challenges that individuals with learning disabilities and ADHD have. They are also amazing at knowing how to help these clients.  We don’t want to be seen as a continuation of school but rather as a compliment.  We want our students to be motivated and excited to attend our programs after a long school day. We are also there to support the parents of these students who are navigating the world of IPRC’s and IEP’s.  They worry about what the future holds for their kids and through 1:1 conversations and through participation in our PACE Parent’s program we try to help them too. I am always available for any parent who wants to come in to talk or wants to speak on the phone.

Doug:  Supporting parents is so important and may not be the first thing that comes to people’s minds.  Thanks for mentioning it.

Is funding for your student clients sufficient?

Mary-Ann:  It’s non-profit – There is never enough money!  There is so much need in our community and only so much that we can do.  We could provide four social skills classes at a time and it would not be enough. We are very fortunate that our community is so giving – we receive many donations from so many different organizations.  We are so thankful for their support because it’s what allows us to help these individuals. It’s what helps us grow.

Doug:  Your Twitter handle is a regular on my “FollowFriday” lists.  That’s an indication that you’re very active in your use of the service.  Do you have a specific personal use for social media?

Mary-Ann:  I use social media to feed my passion which is special education. I am also passionate about all things related to education especially math and educational technology. I love everything non-profit and am always trying to learn how to be a better leader not only for my staff but for the organization and the people we serve.  It’s my platform to learn and to engage with like minded individuals.  It’s an an opportunity to learn from the best of the best. I hope that by sharing my knowledge and experiences I can help others learn. It’s also a platform for me to engage in conversations about causes I believe strongly about including our community and the challenges we face as a society.

Doug:  If someone asked you who they should follow on Twitter, who would you recommend?

Mary-Ann:  Wow – my list is so long and diverse. For all things non-profit Joan Garry(@joangarry) is a must. For assistive technology and UDL definitely Karen Janowski (@KarenJan) and Mike Marotta (@mmatp). For learning disabilities the whole #LDchat crew with @UnderstoodOrg and Amanda Morin (@AmandaMorin) at the helm.

Doug:  Do you promote social media internally at LDAWE and with students?

Mary-Ann:  We do with the staff and right now I am playing around with using Workplace by Facebook.  For students whose parents have given their permission we feature good news stories and showcase their great work.  We find a lot of our clients are engaged through social media.  They love when we post about the behind the scenes work we do which really makes me proud.  We have an incredible group of staff who are passionate about our organization and about helping individuals with learning  disabilities and ADHD.  I find myself incredibly lucky to be leading them.

Doug: On your website, there’s a very comprehensive and useful list of resources.  http://www.ldawe.ca/resources.php  I think that this is a very insightful list for all educators.

Mary-Ann:  Thank you.  We are working on revamping our website this year so stay tuned for an improved resource list.

Doug:  Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview.  I appreciate it.

You can follow Mary-Ann on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/MaryannFuduric
She is a rich supporter and retweeter of stories dealing with Learning Disabilities.

The LDAWE website is at:  http://www.ldawe.ca
LDAWE is on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/LDAWE1  and Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/LDA.Windsor.Essex/

 

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OTR Links 09/30/2017


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Friday!  And another chance to take a wander around the province looking at the great things that have appeared on the blogs of great Ontario Edubloggers.  I hope that you can find time today or on the weekend to check these out.


Un système d’excellence, pas une brosse à poissons

I thought that I had read every possible angle to professional learning until I read this post from Joel McLean.  I understand, and actually live, his description about keeping dandelions off my lawn.  The lawn does indeed look good when it’s freshly cut.  But then, they come back.  <grrrr>

I think that most professional learning facilitators can see their world in this way.  For that moment during the cutting/learning session or immediately afterwards, things look good.  But then, the dandelions come back.  It takes a bigger, systemic approach to really make the change to your lawn that you want.

I’d actually seen this analogy before.

But, what I hadn’t seen was the discussion of cleaning the fish tank.  Read it and see if it doesn’t bring to mind professional learning sessions you’ve attended.

You’ll smile; I’m sure you’ll nod; and you’ll now have a great analogy for change.


Keyboarding

Andy Forgrave jumped in with a post in response to my post bemoaning the lack of formal keyboarding instruction.  And, I think he agrees with me judging by his concluding sentence.

Touch-typing/copy-typing remains a valuable skill in 2017, and kids should learn it early on, to supplement the continually improving methods of voice-input.

But, in getting there, be prepared for a history of keyboarding efforts in the province.

  • Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing
  • Almena
  • Dragon Natural Speaking
  • Read and Write for Google Chrome

We saw eye to eye on the hunter and pecker approach but he offered a new mode – the Columbus method.

The bottom line is that we need to find some way to have students acquire these skills.  In the past, we’ve learned to print and then learned cursive.  Cursive is all but gone.  If we think the natural transition is printing to keyboarding, there has to be a way to support it.

Our discussion turned to programming where you use brackets and parentheses quite a bit and Andy shared this resource if you’re going to use Siri for dictation.

http://www.siriuserguide.com/siri-dictation-guide/


Defining Moments

The meme continues!

This time from Tina Zita who apologizes for not having five.  That’s OK; the three that she offers could easily be expanded to five if meeting quota was a requirement for posting.  Fortunately, it isn’t.

Check out her thoughts about

  • Wait
  • Community

and the other one.

Once again, I’ll bet that you see elements of yourself in her post.  This meme has been great for reflection and further thinking.

If you haven’t written a post of your own, please consider doing it.


Appreciating My Circumstances

I love this post and its honesty from Eva Thompson.  I made myself a note – everyone should be able to write a post like this.

And, if you can’t, you should consider getting a different job.

Selection_001

Experience is always priceless in teaching.  Oh, and the ability to see the future.

Regardless of how difficult or challenging the current moment might be, good teachers always see the best on the horizon.

Take a moment and reflect on how you appreciate your current circumstances.  You may not put it to a blog post like Eva did, but I’ll bet that there are so many things that you value.


Conferences Long Ago and Coming Up as Practical PD

Diana Maliszewski takes us on a trip of her professional learning experiences for this fall.  I think it’s exciting that she and her daughter will be headed to Phoenix.

This is why I decided that for this school year (2017-2018) the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) conference in Phoenix would be my only big library conference. I am paying all the expenses associated with attending AASL myself (flight, registration in ALA, registration for the conference, accommodations, and food). That’s a lot of money, especially considering that my daughter will be accompanying me as a co-presenter!

Is Phoenix ready for them? What costumes will they wear?

I recall a NACOL Conference that I attended there years ago.  It’s hot!  But, I had to visit the University of Phoenix Stadium to see the grass.  We were lucky; it was outside when we visited.

What’s even more interesting is that Diana dug up a conference report from a long time ago and has scanned the pages and shared them with us.  It’s actually quite interesting reading.

Do you ever wonder if the principal, union, or superintendent that you submit these to actually reads them themselves?


Make Your Students Love Books As Much As You Do

Stepan Pruchnicky had a learning experience as a LTO “Teacher Librarian”.

The job was “Teacher Librarian”, and I had no idea what I was doing. I remember confiding my fears to my principal. Her advice: “make kids love books as much as you do.” The advice stuck. I have kept it in mind for the past twelve years.

Of course, this is premised on the fact that he loved books.  And, what educator would not agree?

The balance of the post lists six suggestions that he offers to help the process.  They’re all good advice and the very best education will definitely make #6 happen.


How does this happen?

And, we close on a sad note.

Aviva Dunsiger’s father passed away and she took to her blog to let us know about it.  It’s not something that I would do but does illustrate another way that people use the blogging space.

She offers some advice from the experience.

Today’s heart-breaking experience has reminded me of something important: savour the small moments.

My sympathies go out to Aviva.


Please take a moment and click through and enjoy this collection of blog posts from Ontario Educators.  There’s some great content and reflect there.

OTR Links 09/29/2017


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Reboot, again


I’ve confessed before and I’ll confess again.  I like to tinker and play around, particularly when there’s something new that catches my attention.

This morning, it was about the updates to Firefox.  Once, my absolute go-to browser, it had been surpassed by other browsers in terms of speed and just the modern look.  Fortunately, we live in an ever changing world where nobody stands still – including Mozilla.

So, when I was reading and poking around, I read about the upcoming releases of Firefox and the changes that will be made for better speed, battery life, modern interface, and memory management.  This all sounded awesome.  Plus, you can play around with the development of the product if you’re so incline.

Inclined I was.

Off I went to kick the tires on the Quantum release.

After a quick download, I was up and running.  I was pleased to see that it remembered my history and settings, etc.  As always, I head off to the preferences to see what tick boxes I could play around with.  Nothing particularly caught my attention although I did reflect on how clean and organized things looked.

Then, I was off and browsing.  It was here that I paused for a second.  The black background was different but the whole layout looked scarily clean.  I couldn’t put my finger on it until I started to go through my morning computing routine.  Then, I got it.

The cleanness was a consequence of most of the add-ons that I regularly use not being there.  There were a couple left though.

Hmmm.

Maybe they just weren’t visible.  Or maybe I just have to redownload them.

Off to the add-ons page I go.  I find the missing add-on and …

2017-09-27_0715

Uh oh.  Well, you know what they say about getting into things too quickly.

While I had done some reading and was getting excited, I never even thought that there might be a reality check with add-ons.  After all, they’re one of the reasons people flock to Firefox in the first page.

But a read of this page reveals that the game is changing for add-ons.

In the end, things will even out.  The add-on developers are just a bit behind the development of Firefox.  It’s probably not a bad approach as things change and you want to be 100% go on release day.

So, if you’re excited like I was when you read stories like this, you can learn from my experience and decide whether or not you want to proceed at this time.  At the very least, I’d recommend having both the old and new versions of Firefox around, particularly if it’s a mission critical use.

In the meantime, the new version does seem to deliver and I think it’s ultimately going to raise the bar once again for browser developers.

OTR Links 09/28/2017


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A communication solution?


Just doing a little wondering this morning as I post this.

One of the biggest challenges in education is communication between home and school.  There are all kinds of solutions like sending notes home, making calls home, sending emails to parents, using social media to parents, sending notes to the teacher, sending emails to the teacher, using social media to schools, parent/teacher nights, etc.  Add you favourite or least favourite to the list.

The biggest factor in all this, it seems to me, is the time lag between sending and receiving the message.  (if at all)  After all, most parents are working during school hours and teachers are busy anyway.  Then, in the evening, real life takes over and teachers are busy being parents or lesson planning or relaxing and not in a position to take calls.

In a perfect world, instant communication would be the best of all solutions.  Right now, it takes good planning, dumb luck and the alignment of the planets to get teachers and parents together.

Perhaps a better way is on the horizon.

I’m fascinated by the concept of Artificial Intelligence.  In this case, the chatbot.  I wrote earlier about going to a Ford dealer website and having a conversation with a chatbot indicating that I was looking for a Camaro …

With the growing sophistication of chatbots, how long before we see them on school or district websites?  Imagine an all-knowing AI tool on the other end that can give answers immediately.

Now, I’m not talking Clippy here.  I’m talking about an entity that absolutely knows the school or district policies letter for letter.  This entity knows what fundraisers are happening, the bus routes, the weather, and all the goodies that a school or school district knows and you could get from the right person if they were only available the instant that you want it.  24/7

Check out the example here.  Or the big list here.

It seems to me that the market is wide open for the first company that can come up with a solution that is educationally sound and functional.  Imagine a world of perfect communication.  How many of our current attempts be replaced?

Imagine this:

CHATBOT:  Hello, how may I help you?

PARENT:  I’m new to the town and want to register my child for kindergarten.

CHATBOT:  Are you at home now?

PARENT:  Yes

CHATBOT:   It looks to me like your address is 1234 North Street.  Correct?

PARENT:  Yes

CHATBOT:   Your child would go to our XXXX School. 

Let me tell you a little about it.  The website is here <link>, they’re on Twitter here <link>, and Facebook here <link>.  Your bus pickup time would be at ##:## and returned home at ##:##.  We also have an intranet site that you’ll be added to once registration is done.

Your school won the skipping challenge last year, finished second in the district Track and Field Meet, and the girls’ Basketball team won the championship again.  There’s so much more.  The “Meet the Teacher” night is September 12 at 6:30.  We have a BBQ set to go for the event.

The school has improved EQAO scores for the past four years.  At the school, we also have an excellent Latchkey program if you need it.

Can I book an appointment for you with the principal?

PARENT:  Definitely

CHATBOT:   How does next Tuesday morning at 9:15 look?

PARENT:  Perfect.

CHATBOT:   Thanks for checking in with us.  Is there anything else I can do for you?

Too far out there?  Remember that there was a time that something like VoiceMail was deemed to be impersonal and not desirable.  Now, it’s the way we do things.

Heck, even a chatbot that knows how to quickly find things in the monstrosity of a website that many schools districts have would be a welcome being!

What do you think?  Impossible, or on the horizon?