Making a mark in education

India’s large youth demographic is often touted as the country’s biggest (yet-to-be-realised) asset. But the insidious presence of learning disability in its classrooms is often overlooked. In fact, it was only as recently as last year that the Central Government’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act included Specific Learning Disability as one of the 21 new health conditions on its list for the very first time.

Specific Learning Disability is a generic term for a group of neuro-behavioural disorders that affects the acquisition and use of skills related to reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia) or arithmetic (dyscalculia) in individuals who otherwise possess normal intelligence.

It is not uncommon for parents and teachers to wrongly associate learning disability with mental retardation.

As experts point out, early intervention and remedial teaching can offset the problem and help to reintegrate learning-disabled children into the mainstream. But awareness about it remains low.

“With any other disability, the signs are very clearly identifiable, but this is a hidden disorder,” says M Prabhavathy, Assistant Professor and Head, Centre for Differently Abled Persons (CDAP), Bharathidasan University. “Our education system at present doesn’t cater to these children, who often get labelled as slow learners.” The Tiruchi-based centre trains educators to spot learning disability and formulate lesson plans for students who are lagging behind in class.

Raising awareness

With few statistical studies on the prevalence of learning disability available in India, those in the field point to a combination of factors that pushes these intelligent children out of society.

Parents who tend to obsess over their child’s academic performance create a situation where the desire to come first in everything assumes an inflated importance.

Children who cannot keep up, show their frustration through excessively rebellious behaviour or withdraw completely from social interaction.

Sometimes this leads to an extreme outcome of learning disability children being sent off to special needs schools.

“The worst thing that can happen to a learning disability child is to have him admitted in a special school where children with severe retardation and other loco-motor disabilities study. It’s a big blow to his or her self-esteem,” says Manasi Uday, a psychologist in Tiruchi.

“Parents have to learn to accept their children as they are, and stop emphasising on grades or certain professions like medicine or engineering as a sign of excellence. There are hundreds of jobs out there that don’t require intensive reading and writing skills,” she says.

Manasi recently organised a seminar to raise awareness about the issue in collaboration with the National Service Scheme (NSS) wing of National College in Tiruchi. She is hoping to create a resource centre dedicated to learning disability in the city.

Certification for special educators is an area that needs greater attention from the authorities, she says. Standardised testing tools are hard to use in a multilingual society, especially when they are in a language that the child is not familiar with.

“Generally parents ask for Intelligence Quotient (IQ) assessment, not learning disability tests, which are in English or Tamil,” says Manasi. “We use the Binet-Kamat Intelligence Test for most preliminary testing. But if the child already has a perception problem, the BKT tool is not accurate, because the child cannot understand the language. The test then is not an assessment of your intelligence, but of your knowledge of the language, so how can it guide us in spotting learning disability?”

Retraining

How effective is remedial teaching? Teachers can be trained to spot and rectify mild to moderate learning disability in the current education system, but severe cases will require specialist care, says Manasi.

“Any child before the age of 8 can be trained successfully through remedial teaching because he or she doesn’t have to unlearn a lot,” she says.

“It is a sad fact of schooling that kids who don’t fit in are often bullied or ridiculed by their peers. Learning disability kids tend to be socially withdrawn, and after the age of 12, it becomes harder to apply basic modes of remedial instruction.

“Teachers have to be very patient, and adjust the pace of the lessons to their level of understanding. You can see results in a matter of weeks or at the most, a year of remedial teaching,” she adds. What about children in the State board schools whose learning disability is diagnosed late because of the ‘no-fail’ policy until Class 8?

“Such children should be given an opportunity to shift to vocational education after senior school, because they are quite creative,” says Dr Prabhavathy of CDAP. “The only other option for them is to drop out from schooling completely.”

A few mainstream schools in the city have opted to coach their learning disability students during vacations. SBIOA Matriculation and Higher Secondary School, for instance, identified learning disability in 13 children from Class 1 to 5 last year, and offered them remedial classes during the holidays.

“The result was quite positive, so we are planning to repeat it in the forthcoming academic year,” says the school’s principal V Ambujam.

“Besides training our staff, we had to counsel the parents first to accept the situation, and not to rush their children to do well in studies.”

With even Government schools in the State having tech-savvy classrooms now, the time is right for education to be more inclusive, says Dr Prabhavathy.

“Rather than pinpointing learning-disabled children through special classes and courses and embarrassing them among their peers, we should be working towards a classroom that accommodates students of differing capabilities with all-inclusive lesson plans,” she says. “This is quite possible with educational software.”

Psychologist Manasi agrees. “There are some 25 apps available for learning disabled education — why can’t we create something that works for all?”

Source:-thehindu

Trump’s disdain for diplomacy is making the world more dangerous

Donald Trump has shown no interest in advancing the UN-run Geneva peace process for Syria. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Meet the stylish entrepreneur making cannabis gear that women actually want

April Pride poses in the well-curated passageway of the downtown building where Van der Pop is located in Seattle.(Credit: Kristen Angelo/Narratively)

This article originally appeared on Narratively.

April Pride is standing on a side street north of Little Italy in New York with a cell phone pressed against her ear, telling someone on the other end that she needs ten-to-fifteen feet of rope. She’s traveled here for one night from her home in Seattle to host a salon about cannabis and sex at the Alchemist’s Kitchen, a shop in the East Village that sells herbal remedies and botanical medicines. But first, she’s ordering material for a sail she’s erecting over the entrance to her shop called Van der Pop in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, which sells high-end cannabis products for women. It’s a hard-to-find, sleek spot located up some stairs and above a restaurant. She wants to give her clients as much privacy as possible.

Read more Narratively: Why Breast Cancer Survivors Are Reclaiming an Ancient Jewish Ritual

“Women don’t want to go into dispensaries,” Pride says, noting men run many of the shops. “They find them intimidating and they’re worried they’re going to run into their kid’s teacher.”

Pride, who is 41 with free-flowing auburn hair, launched Van der Pop in January 2016 and has become an unlikely voice for reversing the stigma that has followed women smokers for years.

Read more Narratively: Courtney Williams Is on a Mission to Get Black and Brown People to Bike

Dasheeda Dawson, the southwest regional market leader for Women Grow, an organization that connects women in the cannabis industry, explains when she “came out of the cannabis closet,” other women of color criticized her for being open about smoking around her thirteen-year-old son, especially having grown up during the War on Drugs.

“I think the judgment is that you don’t have a high regard for yourself,” she says.

Read more Narratively: This “Old Guy With a Sign” Protests Trump Every Single Day

Pride also credits Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign to her being anti-drug for much of her childhood. She grew up in a Virginia town where people maintained southern hospitality, but extended invites into their social circle based on a family’s standing. Her parents openly smoked joints and she still remembers how appalled she was. She didn’t smoke in high school, but began warming up to marijuana in college and was especially turned on to an easy-going lifestyle after visiting the west coast one summer.

Now, this demographic is gaining a foothold in the industry. Thirty-six percent of executives are female compared to just twenty-two percent in other industries,and women make up forty percent of users annually. Of these women, over eleven million are over the age of 26. Under two million are teenagers.

Pride broke into the industry with little knowledge about the science and research behind the drug’s benefits, but knew it made movie night with her husband more fun, helped her bond with her kids, and boosted her sex life. For the most part, she seems like an average working mom who enjoys getting high.

“When I discovered Van der Pop, I thought ‘What a breath of fresh air,’” says Gigi Mae Cueva, a merchandising consultant who wants to work with Pride and is a cannabis user herself. “Men just think women are such delicate figures that it’s not what they expect. I think with [Pride] coming into play, it sheds some light that we do think about [weed] in a certain way, in a sexualized way. I think it’s great Van der Pop can break that mold.”

The idea behind Van der Pop is to create chic products that mimic other aspects of customers’ lives. If they can have beautiful purses, why shouldn’t their weed accessories be up to par, too? Several of Van der Pop’s products are designed to maintain discretion as well. One of Pride’s newest items, a leather purse called Poppins Stash Bag (named after Mary Poppins’ medicine bag stowing her ‘spoonful of sugar’), is outfitted with a bank lock to keep out snoopers. She’s also planning to sell swaths of odor-blocking fabric so women can arrive at cocktail parties without betraying their stashes to hostesses or guests.

Van der Pop has also become a place to talk freely about topics like sexual pleasure, menopause, cramps, and the portrayal of female users seen on social media or in advertisements, like “dab girls” who smoke in thongs or pose with a bong between their legs. Pride whips out a water-stained copy of mg Magazine, a leading cannabis trade magazine, and flips to an ad featuring a photo of a woman in a low-slung dress. She comments that this is modest by usual standards.

For about an hour after the talk ends, the women mingle and consider the products. One group revisits the CBD clitoris revelation. “Who wouldn’t want that?” a woman asks rhetorically.

Later, Pride grabs an IPA to decompress. She and her husband don’t drink in the house, so this is a treat. As the night wears on, she goes outside to smoke a joint. She thinks the event went well and approves of the intimate setting. It makes women feel comfortable asking potentially embarrassing questions.

“It’s going to be impactful if it’s grassroots,” she says of the movement. “No pun intended.”

Apple’s Next Big Challenge: Making Siri Smarter

Apple's Next Big Challenge: Making Siri Smarter

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Apple is set to announce a better Siri version at WWDC on Monday.
  • Besides Siri, Apple Watch 2 and macOS are also to debut.
  • As per reports, Siri will be open to devs now.
Apple’s Siri made a big splash when the wisecracking digital assistant debuted on the iPhone five years ago. But as other tech giants jockey to build intelligent “chat bots” and voice-controlled home systems capable of more challenging artificial-intelligence feats, Siri at times no longer seems cutting edge.On Monday, Apple is expected to demonstrate an upgrade to Siri’s smarts as it kicks off its annual software conference. It’s a potentially momentous time for the company; sales of its flagship iPhone are slowing, and AI is emerging as a key tech battleground. Apple, Google, Facebook and others are racing to create digital services that consumers will find indispensable for shopping, chatting, controlling other appliances and simply getting through their daily lives.

And while Siri has gained new abilities over the years, some experts believe Apple still lags in the AI race, hindered in part by its unwillingness to pry too deeply into your personal information.(Also see: Apple to Announce iMessage for Android at WWDC 2016: Report)

“Google Now has kind of eaten their lunch,” said Chris Monberg, co-founder of Boomtrain, a startup that makes artificial intelligence software used by online retailers. Monberg argues that Google’s proactive digital assistant provides more useful reminders, recommendations and tips on local weather or traffic, largely because it reads his email and other data from his Android phone and crunches it with sophisticated algorithms on Google’s powerful servers.

Amazon’s Echo home speaker likewise has its fans; it recognizes informal voice commands and can order flowers, pizza or a ride to the airport. Similarly, many analysts believe the future lies in plans by Facebook, Google and Microsoft to incorporate intelligent “bots” into the voice- and text-messaging services that people use to chat with their friends.

In some respects, Siri remains plenty competitive, at least so long as you stick with Apple’s other services. If an iPhone owner uses Google’s Gmail, for instance, Apple’s software may not scan those emails for useful information. But Jan Dawson, a tech analyst at Jackdaw Research, notes that Siri can volunteer helpful reminders from the Apple calendar, offer suggestions based on a user’s location, or search for images stored in Apple’s photo app.

Still, some experts say Apple is at a disadvantage with Google, which has compiled vast quantities of data – about individual users and consumer trends – from its search engine, Gmail, maps and other popular online services. (Many of those Google services remain popular on the iPhone, despite Apple’s best efforts to replace them.)

With AI, “systems get much better the more they know about the user,” said Alan Black, an expert in voice-enabled technology at Carnegie Mellon University. And while today’s smartphones have powerful processors, he added, they don’t have the capabilities of more specialized processors used in big data centers.

Apple collects plenty of data from its users, but hasn’t “focused on connecting all the dots,” said Raj Singh, co-founder of Tempo AI, an artificial intelligence startup acquired by Salesforce.com last year.

Google, of course, makes money from advertising that’s keyed to individual interests. Apple, which makes most of its money from iPhones, says its software respects customer privacy by working with an individual’s data on the iPhone or iPad, while anonymizing information that’s uploaded to its servers.

“We don’t mine your email, your photos, or your contacts in the cloud to learn things about you,” Apple VP Craig Federighi said at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference last year. “We honestly just don’t want to know.”

Apple declined comment on plans for Siri. Last fall, however, Apple acquired a startup that makes AI software specifically for mobile devices, and another that helps computers carry on extensive voice conversations. And tech news sites have reported Apple may loosen its restrictions on Siri’s ability to work directly with other companies’ software. That could enable Siri to book a restaurant reservation on command, or order a ride from a car service, rather than show a link to an app like Open Table or Uber and requiring the user to do the rest.

Imposing that extra step may seem like a classic “first-world problem” – hardly a serious burden. “We’re getting lazier as technology is getting smarter,” joked Forrester Research analyst Julie Ask. But for tech companies, she added, money and power flows from providing the software that consumers use to interact with other companies and services.

Along with new Siri features, Apple is expected to unveil other software improvements for its iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. Analysts are also predicting an overhaul of Apple’s music service. And after Apple’s dust-up with the FBI earlier this year over its iPhone security, some believe Apple might announce new security measures to protect users’ data.

Experts say the quality of Apple’s software and online services is increasingly critical to maintaining its popularity with consumers.

Services like Siri, Apple Music and Apple Pay add significant value to the iPhone and other Apple devices, Dawson said. “They’re important to keeping the Apple ecosystem attractive.”

Tags: Apple, Apple Event, Apps, Facebook, Google, Google Now, SDK, Siri, WWDC, WWDC 2016, Worldwide Developers Conference, iOS, iPhone
[“Source-Gadgets”]