Thanks to educator, researcher and autism advocate, Michael Leventhal …..Video Modeling is garnering quite a bit of interest in the special education community. While this is not a new concept, per se, it has not been approached in a collaborative fashion where multiple approaches and applications to the Video Modeling premise will be linked together in one place so that a case specific program can be constructed based on each child’s learning strengths and abilities. This is a novel approach that Michael Leventhal is committed to putting into action through his Video Modeling project that can be viewed at his various web pages which all can be accessed through his giza page at: http://mleventhal.gizapage.com/.
The following is a conversation I recently had with Michael....
Kathleen: Thank you Michael for your time. Just to get us started I’d like to mention a little about your professional history which is not necessarily related to the field of education. Your past includes senior level project design, director of marketing, director of advertising and business analysis. What aspects of these past endeavors do you feel have been incorporated into your current teaching style…..and could you give some very brief examples?
Michael: I come from a long line of great talkers so teaching is in my blood. That, more than experience, has shaped my teaching style. My love of knowledge, and particularly science, has also been a major influence on what I choose to teach and how I go about it. Back in 1994, my classroom was festooned with a life-sized astronaut (made by the children) hanging like pinata, a huge model of the solar system , 2-foot butterflies and my first Pinky robot that scooted across the floor. The kids loved it as much as I did. Every teacher has a personal style. But each also incorporate personal experiences into their work. Teaching is much more than lecturing the class. Today, an educator must be a mentor, advocate, liaison, paper-pusher and classroom administrator. On top of that, educators continue professional study. Someone able to draw on their life experience is in a much better position to handle such a complex job.
I can't overestimate the value of my business background. It allowed me to rise above the traditionally provincial viewpoint of education and see the bigger picture which, I assure you, “ain't” about mounds of paperwork, pointless assessments and reader-less reporting. I don't consider education to a business or the personal domain of an administrator. I see it as a framework to facilitate the learning process. I care more about how children learn best than I do about grades.
While my background has made me a better educator, it has also been the source of great frustration, especially when attempting to get my ideas put into action. In business, everyone shares the common goal of making things better and more efficient (hypothetically). If something is not working properly, you are obligated to figure out a solution to present to the decision makers. But education is like a battle ship that travels 5 miles to complete a maneuver. Navigating the bureaucracy can be tedious. Even after being approved new programs are subject to the financial and political whims of the system. I hit this wall a few times in the business world as well. But while a business may fold because of poor practices, an outdated educational system keeps chugging along, a cross between a rickety 1939 Ford with no crankcase oil and the Energizer bunny.
Kathleen: You have over 25 years invested in the field of special education. Please share why you have been motivated to work with the autism population as well as advances and impediments to best practices that you have experienced and/or observed.
Michael: I relate to people we describe as being autistic. I experience many of the same problems they do. To me, the Spectrum is a full spectrum. I'm just towards the top and feel responsible for advocating on their behalf. When I believe a new approach will help, I feel compelled to do something about it. Many new approaches to working with autism are being introduced. I am thrilled that technology is finally being appreciated. But I am equally concerned about what and how technology will be implemented. Decisions are still being made by the same folks who got us into this mess. A new paradigm is in order. Decisions about technology integration really need input from new perspectives. Instead of a "Them vs Us" mentality, I like to see the establishment embrace parents as a source of valuable information. I see a lot of fancy footwork but have yet to witness much that is constructive.
Kathleen: Video Modeling seems to be an extremely effective method for teaching students on the autism spectrum and an extremely effective motivator. Please give a few reasons why, in your estimation, that this is.
Michael: Sure. Apparently the visual (or combination of visual and auditory) stimulation is able to engage most students despite their intellectual and academic function. In my experience, student reaction to video is not dependent on age or functional level. Usually I explore a variety of VBI alternatives (different programs, website, live video) to see what resources will work with a particular group or individual. Sometimes, I have to be quick on my feet. Often, I settle into one approach for an extended period. It all depends on the daily student mix, whether they're off meds that day or some other consideration. Gaining their attention allows me to better understand each child's style of communicating, learning style...preference for sound, color, movement, loud, soft, etc. and level of cognition.
You start to appreciate intellectual capacity that was not apparent during the course of an average day. Learning to operate the mouse or keyboard can produce an "ah-ha" moment. Suddenly they realize they are able to control something in their environment. Now, they can be offered a choice, and someone gave them this wonderful new tool that permits them to make their own choice, without anyone speaking for them. Some kids never had this option before. That's why, when you watch some of the videos I made of and for the children, you'll see kids leaning on me or grabbing my hands, then placing them around their own necks. As a parent and educator of 26 years, I find these moments to be the most rewarding moments of my career.
Higher functioning students finally have the opportunity to engage in activities never offered to them before. Challenging activities. Fun activities that the average person takes for granted, but which were never before customized to address the needs of autism.
Kathleen: Michael, you are also working on a vision plan for an online collaboration site for the purpose of sharing and disseminating a wide range of autism treatments, tools, software applications, educational methods, etc. Please share a little about that plan and take us out with your project’s ultimate destination.
Michael: Numbers signify strength. The collaboration will have to reach a critical mass in order to prove that it adequately represents all stakeholder groups. Because we represent ALL stakeholders, there are no secrets. Collaboration lays all the cards on the table. What does everyone want to know? Who knows where to get it? How do we go about getting this marvelous technology in use, at home and in school? This is the first opportunity for "voiceless" stakeholders to join a choir that is practicing to sing harmoniously.
Numbers also mean knowledge. Part of the collaboration is the sharing of resources; more people means access to more information. There is a lot of that on the Internet. Some good; some not so good. But, most information on video modeling is merely a reiteration of the research. It can't help a parent decide when its worthwhile to shell out 50 bucks for commercial software instead of simply taking some home video at the playground. Searching for practical information is a frustrating, labor intensive task that few have the time for. By bringing all resources together, customized "road maps" could be generated to save people time and make their experience more productive.
Numbers encourage higher order thinking. By formalizing our group intelligence, we not only help each other, we open the door to higher order thinking. I know my issues and now I know yours as well. But how do we work together as a team? Only a collaboration can answer questions like that.
Numbers give us credibility. Video modeling is not yet acknowledged as an important topic of discussion. No other site focuses on this technology. Only a few address this technology because they operate under a different business model servicing their own membership needs. Our needs are not adequately addressed on any one site. Individually, we are flying below the radar. Together, as members of hundreds of different professional and cause related networks, we become a force to be reckoned with.
Eventually, all sites will link with us. But, for now, we only need a handful of followers from many different places. Our success in encouraging parents and schools to use this technology is based solely on letting the world know what we are doing. If we build it, they will come.
For additional information about Michael's Video Modeling project and various other technology applications for autism advocacy, please visit Michael's giza page which routes to his various websites:
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Policies on transgender admissions at women's colleges
Barnard College's Board of Trustees is expected to vote next week on a formal policy governing admission of transgender students. The vote at the Manhattan campus follows those at a number of women's colleges across the country over the past year. The policies, which all acknowledge changing norms regarding gender, differ in their breadth. Here's a look at some of them:
6 Ways to Save Money on Summertime Child Care
Paying for child care over the summer is no joke for American families. Summer camps -- especially specialized camps -- can cost a fortune. If you don't want to shell out half your kids' college education fund for summertime child care, use these options to save:
Money Minute: Are for-profit colleges really that bad?
What makes for-profits so much worse than traditional, nonprofit schools? Yahoo Finance's Mandi Woodruff explains in this week’s Money Minute.
Judge upholds U.S. 'gainful employment' rules for for-profit colleges
By Joseph Ax NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit filed by a group of for-profit colleges challenging the Obama administration’s new regulations aimed at limiting student debt. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York upheld the Department of Education's rules, which require the colleges to demonstrate their graduates earn enough money to repay their loans in order to maintain access to federal financial aid. "DOE has a strong interest in ensuring that students – who are, after all, the direct (and Congress' intended) beneficiaries of Title IV federal aid programs – attend schools that prepare them adequately for careers sufficient for them to repay their taxpayer-financed student loans," Kaplan wrote in a 57-page decision.
Former British premier: Refugees overwhelm Lebanese schools
BEIRUT (AP) — Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday that Syrian refugees have overwhelmed Lebanese public schools, asking the world for more support as estimates suggest that more than 400,000 children from neighboring Syria need schooling here — nearly twice the number of Lebanese children in school.
Compensation win for Japanese teachers forced to sing anthem
The Tokyo District Court ruled Monday that the capital's municipal government must pay a total of 537 million yen ($4.5 million) to 22 former high school teachers. Some critics say Japan's anthem amounts to a call to sacrifice oneself for the emperor and celebrates militarism. Numerous battles over the years have seen teachers clash with school administrators over the issue, and today nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is accused of trying to play down Japan's war history.
Middle-school players play major roles as stat leaders for some high school softball teams
7th-Grader Hits Walk-off Home Run for Varsity High School Softball Team 8,276 views0:56 Video: 7th-grader hits walk-off home run for varsity high school softball teamSee middle-school slugger Johnna Staggs hit a walk-off homer Aspen Wesley has yet to set foot in a classroom at Neshoba Central (Philadelphia, Miss.), but she has already pitched the Rockets to a pair of 5A state softball titles and is a two-time All-State Team selectee. She has a chance to be a six-time All-State Team member, as well as a six-time state champion. In the state semifinals, she pitched a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in a run-rule shortened 11-0 game, then two-hit West Harrison in the title game. She also no-hit New Hope earlier in the state tournament. With only a few states allowing middle school students to play up, it is a rare opportunity to see such young players leading their teams to state titles. Neshoba Central coach Trae Embry said he's not surprised by anything Wesley accomplishes. He considers the 14-year-old to be the best pitcher in Mississippi. "She might be an eighth-grade hitter, but she certainly is not your usual eighth-grade pitcher," said Embry, referring to her .243 batting average. "She is the No. 1 pitcher in the state at any age. Courtesy photo Aspen Wesley just finished a stellar eighth-gradeseason for Neshoba Central in Mississippi. She'sone of a handful of middle-school players to findsuccess at the varsity level."She is a special player." Wesley isn't alone at making an impact at the high school level though she's yet to be called a prep. A handful of seventh- and eighth-grade students throughout the United States are getting an early opportunity to shine and they're posting numbers worth national recognition. Not all states allow middle-schoolers to play at that level, but representatives from those states that do say guidelines are in place before a student is eligible. Ron Ingram from the Alabama High School Athletic Association says seventh- and eighth-graders can play if it is a grades 7-12 or K-12 school or a feeder school into a high school. And the player must live in the school's geographic zone. "Plus, the (middle and high) schools involved must agree on the player playing up," Ingram said. "There is no distinct advantage to playing up other than the competitive level," he said. "All players in the state are limited to 18 regular season games, not counting tournaments or playoffs. If a player participates in a dozen middle school games, they then can compete in six regular-season games." Ingram noted that seventh-grader Michaela Morad of Huntsville (Ala.) tied a 6A-7A state record in winning the state's large schools golf title. "Many youngsters are ready to compete at a higher level," he said. Ricky Neaves, assistant director for the Mississippi High School Athletic Association, said there are two requirements for youngsters to play at the high school level in Mississippi. One of Wesley's requirements to be eligible to play up is based upon academics. "All seventh- and eighth-graders must maintain a 2.0 grade point average in the four core courses (English, math, science and social studies) and they must live in the school district of their high school," said Neaves, who noted that a 2.0 overall GPA is required for high school students. "There is more pressure and more time away from class in high school sports than at lower levels, so we want to make sure students are handling their core classes before allowing them to play up." Wesley's numbers show that she's handling the classes and opposing offenses. In her two varsity seasons, she has lost just once to go along with 37 victories. Her lone loss was 2-0 to Germantown (Madison, Miss.) early in the 2015 season. However, Wesley beat Germantown twice (4-0, 6-2) in the state tournament. This season, she went 18-1 with a 0.80 ERA and struck out 163 batters in 114 innings. She had 16 complete games. As a seventh-grader, Wesley was 19-0 with a 0.69 ERA and struck out 209 batters in 121 innings and earned her first of two all-state honors. Her ERA would be tied for seventh in the nation but she has not pitched enough innings to qualify for the MaxPreps stat leaderboards. "She works hard at being good. She wants to win and works 365 days a year to be successful," said Embry, who noted she has five different pitches in her arsenal. "Her best pitches are her screwball and curveball. It's tough for batters to get the bat on the ball." In addition to movement, Wesley consistently pitches 61-62 mph and displays excellent control, indicative of just 66 walks in 235 high school innings. In two seasons, she is averaging better than 1.5 strikeouts per inning. "Despite her age, her strong point is her mental approach to the game. She is so far ahead of any others at her age ... she never gets rattled. She never changes expression. She understands she has a good defense and that her team will score runs. She is very confident," Embry said. When Embry took over the softball program at Neshoba Central two years ago, he said he had never seen Wesley pitch, but had heard about her. "But you hear that about a lot of kids," he said. "We have 3,000 students and you get told about this kid or that kid ... some you see it, some you don't." With Wesley, Embry certainly "saw it." "No doubt about it," said Embry. "She is my ace." Though Wesley has had an unofficial visit to a Division 1 school, Embry said "she's focusing" on her immediate future, which will include playing slow pitch softball in the fall. "Playing slow pitch will help her defensively," he said. "Right now, when she plays, she only pitches. This will make her all-around game better." Here's a brief look at some other eighth-graders making an impact at the high school level: Photo by Brandon Sumrall Kaylyn Dismukes, Holtville- Maddie Webber of King's Academy (Seymour, Tenn.) is hitting over .500 and has already verbally committed to Tennessee. - Kaylyn Dismukes of Holtville (Deatsville, Ala.) averaged a strikeout per inning in 194 pitched with a 21-13 record and a 2.63 ERA. She also had team highs in batting (.473), hits (53), RBIs (20) and slugging percentage (.633). She pitched 30 complete games and had a season-high 17 strikeouts against Elmore County. - McKenna Griffin of Wilson Christian Academy (N.C.) only played in 18 games, but made the most of them as she batted .630, scored 36 runs and drove in 33. - Lily Tanski of Tuscaloosa Home Educators (Northport, Ala.) led her team to a 17-9 season by hitting .623 and driving in 38 runs. She also was 13-3 in the circle and recorded a 1.62 ERA with 194 strikeouts in 95 innings. Few players in the nation matched Tanski's two strikeout per inning ratio. - Arianna Burford of Greenbrier Christian Academy (Chesapeake, Va.) hit a team-high 10 homers and helped lead the Gators to their seventh-straight (and 10th overall) VISAA D2 state title. She batted a team-high .507 and drove in 38 runs. - Maelyn Thompson of Johnsonville (S.C.) led the Flashes to the AA Lower State title game and a 26-5 record by hitting eight home runs, scoring 47 runs and stealing 22 bases without getting caught. - Ali Settlemires of Biggersville (Corinth, Miss.) won a dozen games and struck out 146 in 122 innings. - Chloe Culp of North Florida Christian (Tallahassee, Fla.) led the Eagles to a 19-6 record with team-high marks for home runs (seven), RBIs (40), runs scored (47) and hitting (.527). - Kaleigh Caulder starts for Latta (S.C.), which plays in the state A title game this weekend. She is batting .397, has scored 36 runs and stolen 18 bases. - Caroline Clark of Colbert Heights (Tuscumbia, Ala.) led the Wildcats to a 42-7 record and deep into the state 3A playoffs with a team-high 47 RBIs, a .423 batting average and 58 base hits. Teammate Kinsley Milender, a seventh-grader, batted .357 with 31 RBIs and 18 extra base hits. - Daniella Wilson of Indian Land (Fort Mill, S.C.) led to the 2A Warriors to an 18-8 season with a .500 batting average and team highs in hits, homers and RBIs. - Arianna Atchley of Prattville Christian Academy (Ala.) scored a team-leading 52 runs and stole 41 bases to lead the Panthers to a 36-win season. Eighth-grade teammate Melissa Townsend was 11-5 with a 2.66 ERA and batted .324. - Brylie St.Clair of Sand Rock (Leesburg, Ala.) is a two-time all-state player after putting up big numbers for a second-straight season (48 runs, 26 RBIs, .548 batting average and 31 stolen bases). She was the 3A Wildcats' top offensive player and had 26 more base hits than any other teammate in a 19-15 season. - Daja Cowan of Resurrection Catholic (Pascagoula, Miss.) stole 47 bases and batted .479 in 16 games. Not to be outdone by the older eighth-graders, a pair of seventh-graders made headlines. Halle Payne averaged better than a strikeout per inning and had an 0.89 ERA as Hale County (Moundville, Ala.) won Alabama's 3A state title. And Liz Rodebaugh of Dale County (Midland City, Ala.) scored 47 runs and batted .466. Payne picked up two wins at the state tournament, including a four-hit, 10-inning quarterfinal victory. Her only loss on the season was 2-0 to 4A state champion Curry. Her freshman teammate Savanna Holmes batted .407 and won 15 games as an eighth-grader in 2014 to lead Hale County to the state 2A title. Also, seventh-grader Johnna Staggs of Rogers (Florence, Ala.) had a pair of walk-off game winners for the Pirates this season. While some states give the green light for middle-school players to move up, most don't. However, that has not stopped the following Class of 2019 members to verbally commit to play softball for Division 1 universities: - Paloma Usquiano from Downey, Calif. has committed to Arkansas. - Maddison Koepke, who will play at Mill Creek (Hoschton, Ga.), has committed to Auburn. - Sydney Supple, who will play at Oshkosh North (Wis.), has committed to Northwestern. - Raylee Pogue from Ardmore, Okla. has committed to Oklahoma. - Kinzie Hansen from Anaheim, Calif. has committed to Oklahoma. - Ariel Carlson, who will attend Sheldon (Eugene, Ore.), has committed to Oregon. - Deijah Pangilinan, who will play for St. Patrick-St. Vincent (Vallejo, Calif.), has committed to Oregon. - Kaitlyn Morrison from South Park, Pa. has committed to Penn State. - Vanessa Oatley from Providence, R.I. has committed to Penn State. - Michelle Leone from Jacksonville, Fla. has committed to Penn State. - Caitlyn McCrary from Murfreesboro, Tenn. has committed to Tennessee. - Natalia Reeves from Liberty Hill, Texas has committed to Texas State. - Lexandra Sosa from Los Angeles has committed to UCLA.
Alberta energy minister inexperience a concern for industry
By Scott Haggett CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canada's oil and gas industry is concerned about the inexperience of Alberta's new energy minister, but is ready to give her the benefit of the doubt for now as she takes on the closely watched role, analysts and executives said on Monday. Marg McCauig-Boyd, a one-time teacher with a master's degree in administration and leadership from San Diego State University, was on Sunday appointed as energy minister by new Premier Rachel Notley. Notley's left-wing New Democratic Party toppled a 44-year-old conservative government in a May 5 vote, but only a few of its lawmakers have ever held public office.
Explore Ways Community Colleges Serve Veterans
The choice between community college and a four-year university can make a difference in student comfort and success. The structure, cost and demographic of students can make community college a better option for some service members who are interested in earning a degree or job skills. Community colleges tend to offer a large and diverse range of courses and certifications that fall under the GI Bill, many of which match some of the skills that service members built in the military.
High School Teachers Can Help Teens Soar With Aviation, Aerospace
"Most kids have had the experience of flying in an aircraft and most people when they fly in an aircraft they feel one of two things," says Rebecca Vieyra, an Albert Einstein distinguished educator fellow at NASA and a former high school physics teacher. Teaching students about how flight occurs is a good way to grow their interest in science, technology, engineering and math topics, she says. In Florida, for example, one high school recently revitalized its aviation and aerospace engineering magnet program.