Recently I took my students on a field trip to our local shopping centre to hang out at the food court, wander the mall and play in the Apple store.
What kind of teacher do you think I am?
All nine of my students have developmental disabilities, and half my class has Autism as well. Although they are high school aged, they work and think at a primary level. The focus of my program is on life skills and independent living in the community.
So now going to the mall, hanging out and buying stuff at the food court makes sense. These are all valuable life skills.
My class took public transit to the shopping mall, and then used maps and environmental print to find the places listed on my scavenger hunt. Students were very excited to search for ‘Apple store – go try an iPad’ or check out the movie theatre.
Students used money in a real life context in buying lunch and had to communicate their orders clearly. You can bet they were motivated to order their hamburgers and French fries!
For me what was interesting was the social aspect of the outing. When I planned the trip I wanted to focus on skills we had been practicing – using public transit, being safe in the community, mathematics and language, reading maps and environmental print. I wanted to let my students experience the technology that we did not have in my classroom. I did not anticipate the social benefit to my students.
I supervised a group of four teenaged girls with developmental disabilities. I forgot that I was supervising four teenaged girls at a shopping mall. They acted like, well, teenaged girls at a mall.
In the Apple store learning to use the iPads led to checking (fictitious) Facebook accounts. Soon they were rocking out to Youtube videos of Justin Beiber and Hanna Montana. The girls danced, tapped and swipped their way through the iPads to the tune of ‘Baby.’
The girls then moved on to trying out the iPhone 5. Soon they were rabidly texting nonsensical messages, emailing random words, and playing games. My students really cannot read and write above a grade two level. But they had obviously seen family members doing these things. So they did them too.
Staff graciously left my group alone as the girls giggled and pointed at the devices. One student stumbled upon a weather app and was showing me the weather forecast – just like I do every day in class!
Another student had two iPhones in her hand, exclaiming that she was texting her girlfriend. With dramatic flair would pick up one phone, and roll her eyes and sigh at the message. She would use the other phone to text again. We really have no idea if she was sending messages anywhere at all.
But she had a great time – being a teenager.