For some innovators in the world of education, the drive to create something altogether new and ground-breaking comes from seeing a need in the marketplace, and then filling it. For others, like Pam Gahir, it is deeply personal. Gahir’s son is non-verbal with autism. “Watching him learn, cope, interact and understand the world around him has been an amazing journey,” says Gahir. “The way people interact and learn is part of life’s education.”
Gahir is co-founder of Mozzaz Corporation, whose mission is “to create applications based on the gaps and deficiencies found in existing products.” One such application created by Mozzaz is TalkingTILES, a “touch-based Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) application that runs on all major mobile platforms and on any computer. It is a full-featured, customizable assistive speech application. It can be personalized so that children and adults affected by a speech or language disorder can communicate with the world around them using symbols and visual words.”
At its core, TalkingTILES makes learning accessible for anyone with a language or speech disorder, their families, caregivers, and team of support workers. This includes individuals who have a communication disability brought on by a neurological disorder (such as autism, cerebral palsy, ALS or Parkinson’s Disease) and those who have suffered a trauma (such as stroke or brain injury).
Here, Gahir shares her perspective on making learning tools accessible to students and people with special needs, and her hopes for the future of education. Enjoy!
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
I was actually very shy in school and was told by my grade 13 English teacher that I would get better grades if I participated more, so I started to raise my hand and share my ideas and thoughts. It helped me to become more confident and less shy.
Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?
I am a co-founder at Mozzaz, where we have developed TalkingTILES, an assistive learning and therapy app for individuals with a special need or a disorder. It’s gratifying to see individuals feel a sense of inclusion in society through the use of socially acceptable mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
Learning from my son and watching him use TalkingTILES to communicate and learn has been amazing. Building on this and working with researchers, educators and other families enabled us to think of leveraging the cloud and cross mobile platform technologies to deliver personalized solutions to those in need.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
It’s exciting to see that kids with a communication disorder can now communicate and participate fully in their academics. It’s exciting because it shows others that these kids can communicate — just in a different way.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
With technology at our fingertips and living in a fast and immediate info/knowledge world, the ability to search, question, validate and assess data and information is critical to gaining knowledge and making responsible decisions.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
The tool to manage mind over body and the power of positive thinking to cope with stress, challenges and self-worth.
What is your country doing well currently to support education? Canada has programs to help support students and young entrepreneurs and businesses succeed through various government and private programs, which creates a healthy environment. The three way collaboration between the education, government, private sectors leads to a very supportive environment for innovation and progress.
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
Accessibility, adaptability and affordability. Everyone is unique, and utilizing technology to deliver individual and relevant educational plans and tools is a powerful vision for the future of education.
About Pam Gahir
- Birthplace: Bradford, UK
- Current residence: Milton, Ontario, Canada
- Education: BA York University
- Website I check every day: Oprah, News channels, Various Autism sites
- Person who inspires me most: My son
- Favorite childhood memory: Trips to Wasaga Beach, Ontario.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Jamaica (vacation)
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? Everyday!
- Favorite music: Anything Prince, Bruno Mars, Beyonce, Alicia Keys – upbeat dance!
- What is the best advice you have ever received? Don’t judge others, you don’t know their life story.
- Your favorite quote or motto: Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.
- Favorite Book: Carly’s Voice by Arthur Fleischmann.
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