A student came to me when she was 16 years old. She had spent years trying to keep a brain tumor at bay, until one day, she woke and the majority of her sight was gone. She could no longer do the world visually. She was very depressed at first because she really wanted to graduate with her class and it was only a couple years away. But her hopelessness quickly transitioned into hope as she learned her blind skills.

She flew on the technology but resisted braille. She loved math though and was clearly unsure how to do it blind. We started with Nemeth code, NOT braille. She learned Nemeth very quickly and sailed through her math classes. Little did she know, she was learning the Braille code along with her Nemeth. When I finally got her to try a Braille book, she was a bit surprised how well she read the book.

Yes, I taught her braille going through the back door of ease versus the front door of resistance. Once a child gets something in their head of whether they will or will not do something, it is not worth the fight. As teachers, we need to bring them along on the journey by showing them how they can do their favorite things. Then the child discovers that they inadvertently learned what you wanted them to learn in the first place.

Lesson that helps teach

Braille Note Lessons to take you through the Basics to more advanced skills

Today I figured out a new feature in JAWS Tandem. JAWS Tandem is where I connect to people far away and can teach them a lesson virtually on their computer–I had guessed I could do this special trick, but did not have a chance to try it until today.

As one student was working on her Nemeth, reading from her book and inputting answers on her computer, we ran long on our time and she needed to go. She did not have time to email it off to herself to complete from home. She was working on a computer at school as her laptop had gone down the day before. So here comes the magic, I copied her work and pasted it to my computer, saved it and emailed it to her, so when she got home, she could open her email, download her homework and continue working on it.

With another student, somehow she managed to have many font sizes on her math work that she was working on during the day. It looked very odd, so I tried this feature again, by copying it off her computer and pasting it to my WORD on my computer. I have 2 monitors, so literally I can work off one while still be connected on the other. I figured out the problems on the page, then copied it off my computer and placed it back on hers all within 30 seconds. When I pasted it back, I then showed her what she had done to make it look so odd. The "ah ha" moment came and now she knows what NOT to do next time.

I still have that incredibly happy glow….as I just finished the last lesson of the day and just had to share the wonderful magic with all of you.

Lessons to help you teach

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

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

Remote Access using SKYPE

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

One of my older students is taking geometry, which has a lot of algebra and our wonderful Pythagorean Theorem. I went over the basics of the calculator on her laptop during the summer so she would be familiar with it when the time came to use it in class.

During our sessions, I always try to begin homework with the students so they know how to tackle it when they get home. She has a great spatial understanding of how to layout math problems, taking it from Nemeth and putting it in print, so it is just doing all the long calculations to get the correct answer that is required. The one attached to the computer is fully accessible to the talking software and is free, versus buying a scientific calculator for almost $300 somewhere else.

She would read from her Geometry Nemeth book, calculate the answer in her head as she typed it out on the computer, and then she would recheck her answer on the calculator. She grew in her confidence of finishing answers more quickly because now she had a way to double check her work to make sure she truly had the correct answer.

Get list at:  Calculator shortcut keys — This is free for download

As I set up and teach my students about SKYPE or Google Video, I often hear the phrase, "I don't need video because I'm blind!"

I remind them of our lessons on "looking people in the face," when talking to them, standing and walking tall and confident, and making that personal connection. It is the same principal. Sighted people want to "see" you. To make a good impression, we need to hold ourselves in a certain way and with the majority of people being sighted, they want to see, so let's be SEEN.

Even when I virtually meet with people around the country: Given a choice of whether we do just voice over a phone or video conferencing, across the board, people want video. It does not matter that you cannot see someone; video is like standing next to them, making that connection, almost like a touch. It is getting outside ourselves and thinking about what works best for that other person. Then finding a way to make it happen and accomplishing so much more in the process.

Lessons to help teach

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

Remote Access using SKYPE

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

J was in middle school a year before I had met him. He had an incredible Special Education Teacher who noticed that he was getting closer and closer to his pages of work as the months went on. She also noticed that he would not walk around in any dark places. She convinced the parents to take him to an eye doctor and sure enough, he came back with a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).

There was no Teacher of the Blind in the area, so the Special Ed teacher did the research on the Internet to pull a program together for him to start teaching him Braille. A year later, I enter the scene greatly impressed with what she created. She knew someone blind so she knew how to position his fingers on the braille sheet and brailler and she picked out a wonderful Braille program called "The Braille Connection" for children who knew print but were transitioning to Braille. J had learned many letters and some contractions, but his progress was slow. J was several grade levels behind his peers and struggled with learning. He was one of the kindest gentlest people I have ever met and he had many friends. His special ed. teacher was incredibly fond of him as all people in the building and really wanted to see him succeed so was really hoping there were more tricks to teaching students braille.

He had been very active in sports but started missing the ball; or rather, the ball started hitting him because he could not see it coming. When I talked with him, he said that he noticed something funny about his seeing years ago but never said anything to his family. His family was very poor and their focus was on survival. He just did not want to burden them.

One of the biggest challenges was J did not want anyone to know he was losing his sight and he said he would not do any blind skills outside the room. This is why he was learning slowly, he only spent 1 hour a day learning blind skills at school. But, I combined his learning of hard copy braille and the brailler with the Braille Note. As soon as he put his fingers on the Braille Note, brailled a letter and it gave him verbal feedback as well as tactile, he was hooked. He was so hooked that he wanted to take it home and practice. He knew he could succeed because the Braille Note told him what he was brailling and if he made a mistake, it was easy to correct. Within 2 years, he had learned the Braille code. This child labeled "slow" learned the whole Braille code in 2 years.

To challenge him, I would give him Braille to read and he would either input it into Duxbury or the Braille Note…This is the way he did homework also. Then he got hard copy braille reading practice and brailling practice at the same time. While in school, he always wanted to use Duxbury. He could enlarge it enough to see the braille, so what he was seeing matched the braille display hooked to the computer and to what he was hearing with JAWS. With him "seeing" the braille, then hearing it, then touching it, he was able to excel in his learning.

I have discovered there are many children that need multiple ways to learn one thing. By giving a myriad of options, people excel in the process.

Lessons that will help teach

Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving

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

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

  TRACK CHANGES for students and teachers

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2003 and XP

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with JAWS

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with Window EYES

 

Oh so many years ago, leading up to my braille certification, I killed a LOT of trees in the process. I would braille hours every night after school and after work in order to learn that code. Using 11 x 11 paper and a great deal of it.

Today, things have changed tremendously. People who want to learn how to braille can download Perky Duck, which is free and is a minor program compared to its parent Duxbury, which is a very powerful and superb braille to print, print to braille translation program, but cost money. I also use the Library of Congress Braille Handbook and many supplements for my adult students to work from. They six key in their work, then email it off to me for correction. In this process, we save hundreds of trees. When there are too many students, I have them sign up with the Library of Congress, which the National Federation of the Blind has taken over in the correction and helping mode. They too are set up to receive everything through email and they respond using email also, with a grade and or corrections that need to be made.

When taking the Braille certification test, you can use your reference manuals. When I take them through the lessons, I have them mark the sections and underline the areas they are struggling with, so when the test comes and they are unsure, they can quickly turn to the answer in their book. A great supplement to the classes is the Braille Enthusiast's Dictionary. It has every word and contraction you can think of that may be in text.

When my students are preparing for the test I have them braille it out in Perky Duck or Duxbury to get an electronic copy. Then they move to the brailler and braille another copy out. Next, they compare their hard copy to the electronic copy. Proofreading your own work is one of the hardest things for students. It was for me too, so it is great with these new techniques to use to double check your work. If they are really in doubt, they rebraille another copy on Perky Duck or Duxbury. When they are practicing their proofreading or slate n stylus, once again, they can use Perky Duck to braille out all the different options they believe it to be.

I have had more people pass their braille certification quicker using these methods versus not using them. Using everything at our disposal gives us a better idea of how to help our students too. Many methods, mean more success, for more people.

There is a lot of debate about para educators and how to utilize them, so I thought I would tell a story of one of my greatest and best experiences.

I worked in a particular school district for 7 years. It was typical in this district for the para educators to do too much for the students. But that is all they knew what to do. It became clear that the paras needed to gain blind skills in order to stop doing the work for the blind children as if they were sighted. So, the paras started attending training classes that met a couple times a month to learn how to be a para and how to braille. Within a year and a half over a dozen paras passed the braille exam and had increased tremendously in their technology skills. Another year went by and another half dozen or so passed their braille certification and all continued in their advancement of skills. As they passed the braille certification test, they became known as ProTechs–highly skilled individuals working with students.

Most of their time is utilized adapting work. They have fine tuned their knowledge to know when to step in to help and when to step back. They easily can adapt the work for their student or students and assist them when needed. When one Protech is out, the others take over their student or students. Everyone works together with each others best skills.

Skill advancement has to come to all: Protechs (or past paras), students and Teachers all have to constantly advance in their skills in order to help the students learn what is best for them. They will meet their goals and dreams.

One of my favorite things to hear is when the Protech asks the student if they will need any help in a certain class that is difficult and the student replies, "No Thank you, I got it."

Talking software works great for a child with a reading challenge. This one particular student started with me when he was in 2nd grade. He struggled terribly in school and could not do the work, though is very bright. The way the school was giving instruction did not suit his dyslexia and inability to read print.

I started him on JAWS talking software as I knew he needed to listen in order to comprehend. I taught him about audio books and where to get them. He listened, watched the words on the page, and began to learn to read. He typed, listened, and watched and I showed him tricks on how to spell check when he could not figure out how to spell the word. (arrow into the word and hit your applications key or right click with a mouse and the correct spelling of the word appears). When you finish the document, hit F7 for a complete spell check. Slowly but surely this child learned how to read and write.

He is now going into high school and has been doing online school for the past years with great success: A 3.9 grade average. He has learned that he needs to hear those words in order to comprehend them. He uses audio books from all genres, and I am now introducing him to SKYPE and other chat and texting methods to continue instruction with him. He is also working with an online academy that really caters to audio learning. He will also be learning more advanced JAWS talking software techniques, so as he progresses through school and life he will be able to do anything he wants to do.

Talking software is for anyone who happens to be challenged in accessing the printed word.

Lessons to help teach

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2003 and XP

 

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with JAWS

 

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with Window EYES

 

I always tell people I want to get children "Coming from the Womb." Well, 3 months is pretty close. I did not get him earlier because the family did not move into my district until he was 3 months old.

We spent the first 3 years with tactile and full sensory exploration. By 3, he was ready to begin formal braille, technology and cane skills instruction. From 3-5 this little guy learned his braille and technology and by kindergarten was ready to fully participate as any other child. Since he was low vision, he learned his print letters and numbers also. He would type to output his work and hand it in to the teacher at the same time as his peers.

For Braille instruction, before reading time, he would go with the teacher of the blind or braille certified para educator, to learn the new contractions he had in his reading class book coming up that day, so when he was with his class he could read the same material as his peers. This enables him to keep on grade level now and in the future.

There are many wonderful Braille instructional methods, but if you go this route, the child will always be behind his peers until he learns all the contractions according to the particular Braille instructional methods and manuals you are using. You will also have a frustrated child because he is never reading the same stories as the rest of the class. This will lead to resistance in learning the braille. All they can see is they are behind their peers and they blame braille for the lag.

If you just teach the contractions the child is using in class in the books everyone else is using, he can keep up with his peers. More importantly, the child sees braille as a method to help him, not keep him behind his peers.

Lessons and articles to help you:

First Steps in Great Braille Readers

Beginner Braille Reading

Braille Instruction begins at 3 years old

Braille Cheat Sheets

How to STOP scrubbing While reading Braille

Fast Braille Reading

Tricks to Learning Braille in your Teen Years or Later

Free Braille Books-Where to go to get Books

The Synchronicity of Braille & Technology

Braille Rap Song Lyrics

Rap Song to Learn Braille

On virtually teaching, you do not need to have video. It can all be audio. On lessons where I am teaching the braille note or braille, it is all done through the phone. I am listening and giving directions and the people on the other side follow through. I have even done this with computer lessons because the bandwidth was not strong enough to take both video and audio. If you know your stuff, listening is all you need.

On braille instruction. If you are a totally blind teacher, even if you were sitting next to a child teaching them braille, or even touch typing, you need someone sighted to make sure they are using their fingers correctly (that is an in general comment–most blind instructors need the sighted to watch the child's hands unless you have been blessed with working with someone like Jerry Whittle from Louisania Tech, one of the most gifted blind braille instructors around). When present with a student, I start out positioned behind a blind child and I actually guide their hands in the correct way on the paper or the keyboard. It is just as easy to tell someone on the other end to do so also, so the child has an idea of what to do, but there has to be someone constantly making sure they are using their hands correctly. Even when you become a TVI and are not there at the school, someone has to follow through on your instruction. If you are virtual, or even part time virtual and part time direct contact, schools will actually have more contact and communication with you, thus you are able to give better service because you know virtual techniques.

I am looking at this as another way to teach. Not to take over for direct contact necessarily, though it can. I do both, but have more access to more people in the World virtually. If you are trying to do all teaching in person, you can only touch a few lives. If you teach virtually, you can touch and help the world.

The methods that are presently in place are not meeting all the needs of our children. We have over worked TVIs and paras that need a lot more direction and guidance. This is a supplemental way to teach or all inclusive…getting into areas where there are NO TVI's or not enough. Using the combination of virtual techniques and direct contact gives you the ability to do more with efficiency. However, total virtual instruction allows you to sit in one spot and teach hundreds and thousands of miles away in different corners of the world by the hour.

Lessons that help teach

Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving

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

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

 

Remote Access using SKYPE

 

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

 

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