October 2011

Teachers and Parents often ask me what their child needs for school. Here is the basic rule of thumb. Look around in the world today and see what is everyone else basically using. What are they using in class today? Educate today, what they need tomorrow.

First, to compete in the world and be able to do what every else is doing, blind, visually impaired children must learn the computer inside and out, Excel, PowerPoint and Word are the main programs. Having an adaptive laptop (such as a Braille Note) is incredibly valuable, but if schools only have enough money for 1 piece of equipment, go with the computer, as it will do everything the Braille Note will do, but the Braille Note can NOT do what the computer can do. They must learn how to do email and socialize on social networking sites like Facebook. There are many other things off this, but those are the main points. If using talking software, they need to learn how to control it and make it do what it needs to do for them. If visually impaired, use magnification where possible BUT also ask, "if my eyes cannot do as much and as quickly as my peers around me, then I need to learn blind skills also."

One thing for sure, you will never go wrong if you teach many tools. The child will get into big trouble if they do NOT have enough skills in their toolbox of learning. Get the education and lessons they need and parents anything that is taught at school, backup at home, or vice versa. Get everyone on the team involved in the education of this child, and you will have someone who can meet tomorrow's challenges.

If you have not already had this experience, some day, someone is going to ask you for your IP address, especially if you start teaching virtually, or you need to hook into a school. Go to Find IP Address

Have you ever wondered why your Internet runs so slow during some parts of the day? First, the Internet is like a highway and the more people on, the slower you will go. If you are on during the peak of the day along with everyone else, you will run slower. If you are on at midnight, you will zoom like a speed car. Here is a test to see how fast your Internet speed is.. Speed Test

Many Services providers offer a faster speed if you need it. By checking your own speed you can be better informed and what you need.

There is an enormous amount of research on music and learning. Music makes learning fun and fast.

Here is a Braille Rap song that will enable your children to learn the Braille Alphabet quickly. Have them sing it for awhile, then when they place their hands on a brailler, it will all come together. Make sure those fingers are in the correct position on the brailler.

Lessons  to help you:

Braille Rap song

Braille Rap Lyric

There are many options when it comes to finding and getting braille books.

For Free Braille books, go to Seedlings Braille Books for Children  They offer 2 Free braille books per year through their Angel program. Otherwise they offer very low cost braille books for your children.

If you want to create your own braille or audio books, you can download books from bookshare.org, where school children can sign up for free. Bookshare offers thousands of books at your fingertips. You can download Victor Reader Soft, from their site, which is free audio software. When you download your books, you will download them in daisy format to be played on Victor Reader Soft right from your computer. Sign up and get your child registered.

Bookshare offers braille book downloads also. If you have braille software such as Duxbury Braille Translation software you can download books in the .brf format and have them open in braille. Combine this with a braille display and your child can read the book from their computer. If they are blessed with an adaptive laptop such as a Braille Note then the file can be saved to a thumb drive and loaded onto the Braille Note, or the Braille Note can go online and download it directly from Bookshare and can be read in the bookreader of the Braille Note.

National Braille Press also offers books, some for purchase and others for free.

Read Books Online and  Classic Reader are other resources for more books too

But never forget about your state book and braille library. This is a free book loan program in your state for braille and audio books. For more books than you can dream of, go to the largest braille library source in the country: Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled
If you go there, they will have a host of other information and where to go and get more braille books and materials. Your state library can help you get books from this resource if you do not happen to live in the loan area for books from them.

Web Braille
is the National Library of Congress loaded with thousands of braille books for download also. When you sign up for services you will go to their download section of Braille Books which will require you to have a username and password. There you will find a plethora and myriad of braille books at your fingers tips also.

Texas School for the Blind also has an extensive braille book list-just get a username and password

If looking for audio for the real young child go to Story Reader Books

So here are a few options to get you going. For more information on educating your child based on experience and years of education, visit yourtechvision.com and ask questions that you need answers too.

When one of my students is having difficulties with their Jaws or needs help installing it, I need to connect to their computer a different way than through Jaws TANDEM. There are many ways to do remote access, but I chose to connect yesterday through SKYPE. For those new to the idea, remote access is where someone can help you resolve computer problems, no matter where you or they are in the world. You just need a phone line, but better is a wireless connection…anything works though.

The student called and then I gave her directions on the key commands so I could call up her computer.

Within minutes her Jaws was fixed. I then gave her the JAWS commands to pull up her computer using JAWS TANDEM and continued her lesson.

When you connect remotely using anything else other than JAWS TANDEM, you will not be able to hear JAWS unless the person turns him way up, which I have done also depending on the issue, but you miss too much information. To truly check to make sure JAWS is working correctly you must pull the students' computer up using TANDEM. I had her and SKYPE on one of my monitors, still connected remotely and then pulled her computer up using TANDEM on the other monitor. I could easily watch the interaction on both screens, tweaking as I needed. Well actually having her tweak. In general, I will not touch my keyboard to control their machine, as this is a great chance for the student to learn how to fix their own problems.

The point is giving them applicable skills that will work for a lifetime, so when they are on their own, they can fix their own issues as they come up. My older students who have long since graduated, can just email me now with a problem and I can give them the answer back through email. Rarely do I have to pull their machines up.

Give someone a fish and they eat for a day.
Teach them how to fish and they eat for a lifetime!

Lessons to help teach

Everything you need to use GMAIL in basic HTML or standard view

Remote Access using SKYPE

A. SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

Skype texting and making a Video Call—with additional JAWS scripts

Skype texting and making a Video Call—no additional JAWS scripts

GMAIL-Google Talk, Firefox, and Chat

We have many low vision students, sitting in the classroom and unable to see what the teacher is doing when she uses the document camera, or projector or computer to project images up on the board, in front of the room.

There is a very inexpensive way to combat this problem. A simple VGA splitter and an extra monitor is all that is needed. An extra monitor can be connected to these other pieces of technology and brought right to where the student is sitting. The student can now easily participate with the rest of his peers, take notes as needed and complete work with more understanding of what is occurring in the front of the room.

Lessons that help teach

Low Vision- Viewing information in the distance with an extra monitor

Low Vision Skills-Windows 7 Office 2010

Low Vision-XP-Office 2003

Open Office is an option to use instead of purchasing expensive Microsoft software. Open Office will open all Office documents too. Basic and easy to use and perfect to get little kids going while you save up the money for years later when they need more sophisticated tools.

Also remember that when you do purchase Microsoft products that one license can be used on 3 computers. You can use it on a home and work computer and a laptop, so you do not need to feel you need to buy multiple licenses for many machines. Lessons on how to use these products, only using keystrokes can be downloaded from the HOME page on this site

All those wonderful flat screens from the IPhone to the IPad to the IPod, Kindles, etc are going to make a leap into touchscreen braille writing given the new technology that has just come out.

Standford University just released a newsletter describing the Touchscreen braille writer. it is intuitive and however you hold your fingers in the 6 key fashion, the tablet will adjust to your fingers and allow you to braille on this flat screen.

You can watch a video at this link Touch Screen Braille writer and learn move about this upcoming technology at Braille Writer Tablet

When you are using Windows 7, every time you hit the start key, think of it as entering a huge search engine for your computer. Any word you type in, Windows 7 will find.

Your Start Key or Windows Key is the second key in on the left of a desktop keyboard (the key with the windows symbols picture on it). For sighted people it is the round button you most likely click on at the bottom left hand corner of the screen.

Let's do some keystrokes to see how fast Windows 7 is:
Hit the start key and type in: volume and down arrow to adjust system volume or what is applicable to your version of Windows 7. Enter on the volume and your options open. Up and down arrow to adjust the volume. Hit ESC –top right hand corner on keyboard to get out of the volume

Hit the start key again and type: documents and down arrow to documents and enter to open–down arrow through all the documents you have already created on your computer
ALT+F4 to close the documents folder

Hit the start key again and type in the name of a file on your computer, down arrow to find the file and enter to open it. The file opens.
ALT+F4 to close the file

You can search for anything on your computer with that START Key….it is very powerful. Now go have some fun and look for other things on your computer using the Start key.

If you would like to learn how to use Windows 7 and Office products using just the keyboard or keystrokes with JAWS, go to the links above and go through the site either with a mouse or with JAWS using Insert+F7. You can move through your options easily on every page, using your TAB key.

If you don't see a lesson you want, just go to the contacts page and request a particular lesson you need and it will be added to the site.

I have the students who take on everything I have to teach them and rise to the top of their class, eventually with no accommodations at all. Completely supported by parents who fight for this independence also and let their child know they can reach this goal.
The children have learned how to read their Braille work, so their fingers fly across the page, then they quickly turn to the computer and output the answer. When the teacher says it is time to hand in the work, they open their email, attach the lesson and send it off before all the other work is collected in the class from the sighted students. The teacher grades the work, using TRACK CHANGES to mark the paper. The teacher emails the lesson back with grade and remarks and the student can easily read it with her JAWS commands, all independently. All these children, are  powerful and everyone looks up to them. One particular child even scores the highest on state tests in the spring time and she is only in the 6th grade. Greater things follow and people seek her out to be her friend and she becomes middle school president of the ASB and later successfully enters the college of her choice.

I also have other students, who are backed or rather fronted by parents who seek unlimited time for their child to finish work and they do poorly in class because their lessons have been cut in half or less, so they are not learning the same amount of content as their peers. This child has the same abilities as the fore mentioned child but because of the limited work and due to an unlimited amount of accommodations insisted by parents, they child cannot rise to their potential. Children like this are frustrated by their poor grades and it hurts their self esteem and they either act out or go into depression or just mediocre silence and apathy. They feel sorry for themselves and believe the school needs to do more for them. The parents believe this also. The more the school does, the less the child does and the less they learn other than they have become pitied and pitiful. They do not have friends. They stay home every weekend and do not even have the skills to go to camps in the summer. They graduate school and cannot get into college or find a college to finally go to after many rejections. They go and within the first month cannot do school and drop out. Some call later to ask what to do, others stay with their parents. Some insist that their rehab counselor find them a job and the pity from others and themselves grow.

This is not a blind thing or a sighted thing, this is a human thing. I have seen it in every age, ability, creed and color. You have the people who believe the world owes them something and you have the people who actively put out the energy to make the world a better place. I go back to what Kennedy said decades ago "Ask not what your country can do for you— ask what can you do for your country." So what are you doing? Are you taking or are you adding?

You can be pitiful or powerful, but you cannot be both. Life is choices. What choice will you make?

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