Ken Rabac Transformation Teams (T Teams) John Kenneth Rabac

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Transformation Teams (T Teams)

SP Interviews Ken Rabac

 

SP: How did the T team approach originate. I know you have been a counselor and teacher for over 30 years, but when did you first start using the T Team approach?

 

From Software to Psyche

Ken Rabac : As clinical director of the Neurocognitive Assessment and Treatment Institute (NATI) in Altamonte Springs, Florida, I was fresh out of a one-year stint as a research and development specialist with a software development think tank.  The task was to create, market and manage a special education and learning disabilities clinic that incorporated current computer technology with a very successful but very low tech approach to aided learning and therapy of learning challenges created by Dr. Donald

Lyman.

 

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/orlandosentinel/obituary.aspx?n=donald-e-lyman&pid=87143051

 

Don had written a popular book in the field and was recognized around the world for his Lyman Method. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1987-08-25-0140210114-story.html

 

Don had no intention of having me learn the method, which was acting out the letters of the alphabet “cheerleader style” and prompting motor memory recall.Don even attempted, futilely, to train the author to perform the motor memory exercises and then settled for achieving a “full understanding” without actual enactment.

SP:  Dr. Lyman was well known at the time?

Ken Rabac: Sure was; this was ’91-’92 and it was really a boom time for creating computer aided educational approaches. Oregon Trail had been developed in 1971 but it suddenly gained new popularity in classroom applications. Of course it had been updated along the way many times. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Oregon_Trail_(series)

 

Ken Rabac:  Don was a legend in the field of LD or learning diabilities. He had written a widely praised book about learning disabilities as they were known at the time. He created the Lyman method and clinics around the country started to offer that program. There was not much competition in the field as it was just fully developing then.

Tactical Resources

Ken Rabac: The programs I designed for NATI, had had to dovetail with the Lyman Method and I had to assure Don that technology would not override care and compassion.  I created “t teams” which were viewed as both tactical and transitional.  To differentiate my programs from Don’s we created Tactical Resources.As part of that portfolio,  the transition teams would bring together groups of learning disabled (LD) and Special Education (SE) clients and create self-supporting, constructivist teams which would collaboratively work with resources provided by the clinic to devise methods to aid all group members in meeting learning challenges.  The results, measured by grade point and/or letter grade improvements were remarkable and the clinic thrived.  We very quickly attracted 30 clients and then far more with referrals from local psychologists and counselors.  Both Don and I were very well regarded and the referrals rained in.

SP: Sounds like you could still be in business with a popular approach like that; what happened?

Private Practice

Ken Rabac: Financial irregularities caused NATI to founder and close, so I moved on to private practice at a local educational psychology clinic and ultimately to co-founded a therapeutic high school for high risk, LD and SE students.Central Florida Community High School still exists as part of Central  Florida Community School. While the innovations introduced in this cumulative process were primitive by today’s standards, these rudiments are reflected in the current application of Computer Aided Training to active learning for SE students.

 

SP: Tactical Resources provided active learning networks, right?

Ken Rabac: Rogerio De Paula (2003) had researched active learning networks and emphasized the need for teachers to have a collaborative environment and support system also.  As we learned at NATI and CFCS, t teams were very effective with students but teachers also needed help in making the pedagogic transition from chalk and dry erase board methods to CAI (Computer Aided instruction). 

 

Ken Rabac: De Paula wrote that: “An effective use of computer technologies in special education hinges on an effective approach for ongoing and long-lasting professional, social and personal support” (p. 1).He adds, “Adequate teacher professional development (TPD) is critical to help educators learn and receive the appropriate support to use computer technology in their classroom activities” (p. 2).Essentially, the teacher support systems provide “situative and collaborative learning activities among distributed communities of learners”  (p. 2).For this purpose, De Paula created active learning networks as a flexible and universal alternative to communities of practice (CoP)  that can be rigid, formal and prescriptive.  In the process of participation, social worlds are formed according to his theories.

SP: and today…..

Ken Rabac: The challenge in contemporary applications of CAI is to create similar social worlds to embed both teachers and students in discrete online communities and to create combined communities also.  The benefits to special education students include creation of a social support environment, exposure to other students through online collaboration, and in-person teamwork.

SP: Is the research on these colalborative communities supportive?

Ken Rabac: Rena B. Lewis, in an article on special education technology in the new millennium, reviewed the history of CAI in special education for the Journal of Special Educational Technology and noted that in the early 1980’s (the era of NATI), there was general consensus that computer technology would transform the lives of special education students.In 1987, when Lewis and a team of investigators surveyed California K-12 special education teachers and administrators, the team found that these specific benefits were identified by at least 45% of the education professionals: immediate feedback was provided to students, pupils worked at their own pace, CAI could be varied individually.Other cited gains included self-concept and enthusiasm for school improvement, engaged time increase, improved academic performance, more rapid learning and exposure to a broader range of knowledge that they would not have otherwise encountered.  In others words, instructional, affective, and performance  benefits were acknowledged.

Ken Rabac: The computer programs were mainly tutorial, tools providing “drill and practice, simulation”, and games (p. 2).  Indeed, at NATI, the clinic and CFCS, tutorial and game functions of the computer programs were the main uses.Students were enthused with immediate feedback versus delayed gratification associated

with gradually demonstrating rudimentary skills for minimal acknowledgement.NATI

and CFSC used Oregon Trail-like games and our own drill programs as well as reading and math comprehension challenges.

SP: Oregon Trail and the like were pretty user friendly? How about the classroom technologies of that time?

Ken Rabac: As Lewis points out, these approaches were linear and highly structured.  Contemporary software and hypermedia present operators with nodal choices that allow for individual trajectories and paths through the content to be developed through interaction, and most often, hyperlink activation.

SP: Was the research supportive of such sophisticated approaches supportive?

Ken Rabac: Surprisingly, a review of the literature indicates that word processing alone has a small but significant benefit on the quantity, quality and accuracy of special education students, says Lewis (p. 3).My current literature search confirms this finding, which appears counter-intuitive to my direct experiences in the classroom and clinic where teacher/faciliator intevetion was a key factor.

 Ken Rabac: It is difficult to ignore the empirical evidence of struggling students who achieve diplomas, degrees and fulfilling lives as the result of therapeutic progress in computer aided environments.In her article on Benefits of technology in special education, Cheryl Vitali, provides perspective on this: “The secret of technology is not the technology at all, it is having something of enough interest to the student in their pursuit of learning that the use of the technology enhances, expands and unleashes new dimensions” (p. 1).Lewis’ interviews with special educators in 1994 and 1988 resulted in 250 such success stories.  Many of these centered on affective benefits of technology.  While the anecdotal reports are abundant, objective evidence is still  somewhat elusive.

SP: So word processing is good; anecdotal evidence is highly significant but the students still have learning challenges….

Ken Rabac: Lewis agrees that computer technology is inarguably beneficial but “not a panacea: it does not eradicate the effects of a learning disability”. (p. 5) She adds,

T teams 6

“Students with learning problems are not transformed into high achievers by sitting at computers.”

SP: Teacher intervention is crucial?

Ken Rabac: Lewis points out that teacher mediation is crucial in SE but also that students must not only learn basic operating skills but must also master strategies of learning.  She writes: “Knowing how to run a program is not enough for students who

have difficulty learning, choosing and activating the strategies appropriate for task performance” (p. 8). 

SP: What are the key personal factors for students to benefit from Computer Assisted learning?

Ken Rabac: Joseph Renzulli, an expert in Talented and Gifted education (TAG) is quoted by D.G. Moursund as listing at least 4 aspects of  CAI empowerment: expertise, self-knowledge and metacognition, self-assessment, and transfer of learning.  The benefits for gifted learners include aid in accelerating levels of expertise in required curriculum, increased awareness of aptitude and capability, personal assessment of academic and cognitive progress and use of learning transfers to “novel settings” (p. 6).

SP: I know you have always specialized in novel settings…

Ken Rabac: Yes when I was student services director at a Florida College for LD students, I would hold classes in the city part for an entire semester and a main part of my job was to guide students in socializing and developing refusal skills, especially with alcohol and drugs and, let’s say, romantic overtures. I would take students on weekly field trips to entertainment venues and even young adult clubs and help them adjust to those environments. I would schedule entire ecological learning days at swimming pools, lakes and forests.  I taught tennis, wallyball and all manner of physical education at exercise facilities.  I would teach psychology along with tennis on nearby public courts and billiards at the local pool hall. (I studied Billiards in college with Professor William Z. Irons at Grand Valley State in the early 70’s, so I know how education these unique settings can be.)

SP: Computer Aided Learning can yield exceptional results…

Ken Rabac: TAG (Gifted) CAI benefits cited by Geoffrey Jones in a well-distributed ERIC Educational Digest include recognition of unique learning styles, support of self-confidence, awareness of academic strengths and weaknesses and appropriate rate of progress.Jones sees computers as “idea engines” and also cites opportunities for individual and small group investigations, practice of higher level thinking skills, and collaborative learning.

SP: Computer assistance is a wide range approach…

Ken Rabac: Both SE students and TAG pupils experience added intellectual horsepower when linked to classroom idea engines.  SE aids include assistive technology, FM amplification, screen readers that address sensory disabilities, a variety of custom joysticks, optical character recognition  (OCR) and alternative keyboards.  These aids are used to address impairments, disabilities and handicaps.Collectively, these aids and software applications are known as assistive technology that supports mainstreaming and inclusion in education.Universal design also provides consistent environmental engineering that accommodates individuals with disabilities.  Universal design includes computer control panels that are also being refined and standardized.

Roblyer identifies a wide variety of technology integration strategies related to software applications from interactive storybooks to Coin-U-Lators, to text to Braile converters.Instructors can refer to a variety of websites and online sources for guidance in selecting strategies and software.

Variety is the Spice of LD

SP: There are all in one hardware/software companies that provide educational programming across the board. Is it limited to use a single vendor?

Ken Rabac: Normally, SE instructors and specialists draw from a variety of sources, but there are advantages also to selecting an entire suite of applications from a single vendor, if the vendor has an educational approach and philosophy that is conducive to preferred classroom strategies.  The use of a variety of software from one company can provide some familiarity between applications. I took advantage of the similarity of design of certain proprietors of educational software to maximize familiarity and ease of use. However, being strictly devoted to one provider is limiting and restricts the range of creative as well as didactic possibility.

SP: Any examples of single source providers.

Ken Rabac: Well, an example of a full-range provider is Laureate.On the Laureate website, information is provided regarding computer software programs and educational games that aid severe/profound disabilities.  The education issues addressed include cause & effect, turn-taking, auditory awareness, visual tracking, discrete pointing, and use of a single switch.  Laureate also offers vocabulary training, beginning with programs to enhance mastery of 100 nouns and 50 verbs. Other programs address language and grammar development, and vocabulary building.  More advanced Laureate programs aid syntax training and auditory discrimination.

SP: Do they take accesibility in to account?

Ken Rabac: Laureate offers hardware options that aid accessibility including touch screens, alternative keyboards and a "Jelly Bean " which is an oversized, heavy duty switch.  The Laureate line includes portable communications devices of various kinds.  These kinds of full service hardware and software providers cover an increasingly wide range of applications, bringing the possibility of single recognized providers for whole classrooms closer to reality.

SP: How about for gifted classrooms?

Ken Rabac: Strategies for Talented and Gifted learners include electronic communities, research projects and interactive and multimedia presentations.  Hoagies’ website  is an example of a full service site, but one that recommends hardware and software applications from a variety of vendors.  The applications include games in which students accumulate knowledge while completing compelling game based tasks. 

Ken Rabac: An example is Descartes’ Cove created by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.  Gamers are transported to an imaginary island where French philosopher Rene Descartes once lived and given maps and gear with which to explore the island while solving academic puzzles and math problems. Hoagies’ approves of the WarCraft interactive games that claim over 8.5 million worldwide participants.  Gamers create a persona and explore a vast environment of large cities, jungles, mountain ranges and, of course, many dungeons.

 

Ken Rabac: Hoagies’ also recommends a series of zoological games in which students choose and care for animals and create zoos, complete with pens and habitats.  Players also learn business management and venue design by creating human comfort stations like bathroom and refreshment stands.  Mythology, historic epics and empires and civilizations are explored in other games. Games that allow gifted students to design and create their own educational games are also offered.  Some of the staples of NATI, CFCS and Tactical Resources are available in current and revised versions, including Mavis Beacon's typing trainers and Kid Pix revisions.

References:

De Paula R. (2003) Active learning networks: designing for computer supported social networks in special education environments. Paper presented at the ECSCW'03 Workshop on Social Networks, 14–18 September, 2003, Helsinki, Finland. Retrieved online on 28 July 2007, from http://www.ischool.washington.edu/mcdonald/ecscw03/papers/depaula-ecscw03-ws.pdf

Jones, G. (1990). Personal computers help gifted students work smart. ERIC Digest, E483, Retrieved 08/01/07, from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/20/95/a7.pdf

Lewis, R.B. (Spring 2000). Musings on technology and learning disabilities on the occasion of the new millennium. Journal of Special Education Technology. 15, 2, 1-9.

Moursund, D.G. (2006). Computers in education for talented and gifted students: a book for elementary and middle school teachers. Retrieved August 17, 2007, from Dave Moursund's Writings on Information and Communication Technology for Preservice and Inservice K-12 Teachers and Other Educators. Web site: http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/Books/Tag/Tag.html.

Software favorites. Retrieved July 27, 2007, from Hoagies' Gifted

 

Education Page Web site: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org

 

Special needs software. Retrieved July 27, 2007, from Laureate Learning

 

Systems Web site: http://www.laureatelearning.net/professionals602/

 

Vitali, C. (1995). Benefits of technology in special education. Newletter of Western Center for Microcomputers in Special Education, Inc., Retrieved 08/02/07, from http:www.thecatalyst.us/zDoneArticles/22_2Vitali.pdf.

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: May 26, 2020

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