One of my high school students has been learning technology for awhile, but because she did not start it until high school, she had no paradigm for how technology worked, so struggled with using it. This year, it has started to click in and she is really getting it. When she is learning a new skill on the computer, she can start to figure out where I am going to take her and what we are going to do.

I have been telling her about Google chat for awhile, but she had so many other areas that needed addressing that we were not able to start it until today. With JAWS tandem I can connect and disconnect with just a keystroke, so once I got her all set up, I told her we would just communicate through chat and I was going to disconnect for a bit. We text each other back and forth and as she was inputting her 5th response I quickly brought her computer and her up again. The smile on that child's face lit up the room.

I told her that once she gets really good at it, that she can leave her Gmail and chat box open all day. Whenever she does not know how to do something, she can just text me and get an answer within seconds. I asked her if she understood the power of this tool. "YEAH!!" was the quick response. That incredible happy smile of JOY beaming throughout her will warm me for quite some time.

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

 

I have teachers of the blind calling me from all over to learn the virtual techniques to teach students. The excitement of showing them another way to help the children is always a joy for me. Today was no exception to this rule. If you want to be one of these teachers…send an email and we can get going.

A few days ago, I received an email from a teacher who had quit her job last year to have a beautiful baby. Before she had quit I told her what I had been doing in regards to virtual teaching and that if she wanted, she could do it too from home, while still caring for her children. A couple days ago I got the email asking about the virtual teaching.

I took her through the process of being the student and how I connected to her and then her being the teacher and connecting to me and all the many aspects that went along with virtual teaching. Her excitement of its potential could be felt across the wires. We will practice until she is comfortable and then when she gets students I can assist when she needs it.

I have discovered several different ways to do virtual instruction. When you go across state or country lines, the connections vary. Instead of phoning and adding up long distance charges, I connect with SKYPE, give directions, then bring up JAWS Tandem and we continue both throughout the lesson. If the video becomes too garbled because of bandwidth, we use only audio. Local calls can be phone and straight Tandem. I have also given lessons straight through chat, text and Tandem. There are so many ways and options. Meetings with school personnel can happen through SKYPE or a phone. If teaching braille or other hands on skills, a para educator is on the other side following instructions on how to help the child position their fingers….all watched through video on my side.

Most importantly, we have the ability to teach every child as long as there is a phone line. Every child could potentially have the ability to receive as much instruction as they need to achieve their goals and dreams. This is one more option to address the challenge of teaching so many children.

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

 

TRACK CHANGES for students and teachers

 

I receive many personal emails about fear or frustration. Paras and teachers do not know how to let the district and the families, know how frustrated they are with the teaching system for the blind children. They feel hopeless and trapped and sad for the child. Not everyone, but a good portion.

I have paras who know their students are dependent on them and that they do a bulk of the work, but they are waiting for direction from the teacher of the blind (TVI). They fear for their jobs if the students they are working with do not show a good grade….. they are waiting for that help and direction.

The teachers of the blind are overloaded with a huge caseload. The teachers generally can only see children a miniscule amount of time each week. They are putting out fires more than really teaching. Not to mention the teachers have no time to help the para and no time to gain further skills to help themself and in turn help the student.

We have districts with the directors, that IF they know, they are trying to look for more personnel to hire but cannot find qualified people. But many directors do not know. Many teachers of the blind and paras suffer in silence over the condition and are not sure where to turn.

As a collective community of people that want to help make a difference, we need to start really thinking outside the box…and way outside. I see this condition getting worse in many areas, especially now that I am communicating and teaching all over this county and in different parts of the world. People are looking for direction.

Virtual teaching is a "think outside the box" area that is blooming in its possibilities. If anyone is interested in a virtual lesson, email me and I will get you going. I have been teaching this way for over a 15 years with great success. Teachers can access more students in one day than if they are trying to drive to every school.

Another aspect of virtual instruction is if our community all gets on texting, chat, video conferencing, everyone is always 1 second away from an answer or the help they need. Get more information on virtual instruction in my contact page on this site.

I am blessed to have known one particular young person for almost 2 decades. She came to me in lst grade with little blind skills, and had a progressive eye condition. She loved print…large print and was determined to stay with it and nothing else. IN ADDITION, she would argue to stay with large print, if allowed. Consequently, it took her hours to do the work that the other children did within shorter periods of time.

I asked her if she wanted to learn how to do her work as fast as her friends did. She immediately said "Yes" but then added, "What do I have to do," with a concerned look on her face. I demonstrated the talking software on the computer and she was amazed at how fast my fingers flew across the keyboard and how I could not only get everything to speak for me, but I could get it to repeat and make that computer do anything I wanted. I had an older braille student demonstrate her fast fingers moving across a braille page, sitting up straight and tall and confident in her abilities. The younger child was impressed and hooked.

This young person was convinced this was the path for her…but not without "buyer’s remorse." The technology was easy. It always is for the kids. They pick it up incredibly fast and are pretty much independent with it within a couple of weeks. By third grade, she was emailing her work and receiving it back from the teacher. However, the braille was harder. It took more work. She got the idea of how much faster it was, but she still resorted to large print and could see it if she got a couple inches from the paper.

We compromised on her using the large print for everything but reading books, as I knew she would need to practice to become proficient but also to be ready for such little vision that she would not be able to use large print any more. You have to get students to "buy" into where you want to take them. If they are not on board, it will not happen.

I have had low vision children go from seeing large print in the spring to NOT seeing in the fall. I have had children come to me who had vision one day and woke with NO vision the next. This sudden loss brings with it terrible depression and a lack of will to do anything. We have no idea when loss will come, so be prepared. It takes a lot more effort to get the child turned around if they have no idea how they are going to handle life. I knew that if this young person learned those blind skills along the way, the transition would be far easier into the no vision.

Her sight loss was very gradual. Every year, she used the large print less and less and increased her Braille. She was already full on board with the technology so the output was easy for her, whether it was Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet, email or an adapted laptop with braille display. She had it down. She did not even have a bump in the road on her sight loss. The progression of gaining the blind skills made it easy. Though little sight, she had her VISION of who she was and what she was going to do in life and she just continued to gain the skills she needed to achieve those goals. She is in college now, pursuing those dreams and goals, happy and blessed with many friends and a great family and the ability to embrace life.

One of the biggest issues in the blind field (and there are many) is how much should a para educator be with a child?

What I have seen:
When a district does not have a teacher of the blind, a para is glued to the child's side and does most of the work for the child because the para lacks the blind skills to help the child do it for themselves. The child appears to be succeeding (though only because of what the para is doing, NOT the child) and all are happy. BUT the parents do not realize how much their child is NOT doing and many times, the district is unaware of this also. Or, parents fight for a para next to their child all day, without realizing this para will be a big brick wall between their child making friends and achieving their own goals and potential.

I went to a school district and watched a blind child rocking back and forth while the para did the work. Sitting side by side, the child was miles away, in her own little world. When I talked with the child, the most intelligent words came from her mouth, so I knew there was a brain there. We spent the next couple of years teaching her all the technology, braille, and other blind skills, and she was completely independent by the third year. The para just adapted the work for her and made sure she had it in class when all the other students did. This is more of what SHOULD be happening with all paras and students.

I have had the first scenario over and over and depending on the "pain" level of weaning the child from the para, it is really up to the child and parents. Most are on board with the heavy duty technology, braille lessons and other blind skills and within that 2-3 year window you can have an independent child.

However, there are the people who are not thinking ahead to graduation, college, a job. They really think that somehow, miraculously their child will be completely independent when they graduate, when in fact, they have been completely dependent on a para throughout their school career and this dependence and lack of ability follows the child. The child ends up living with the parents and the parents continue to do everything for this child who has the potential to climb Mt. Everest inside, but instead the child sits like a rock going no where.

Parents and children bring the fear to each other. The child brings that fear to the parents and the parents have the same fear, or the parents put the fear on the child and they tell the child they cannot live without the para (the second scenario is the most common). They truly believe they cannot live without that para being right next to the child all day long. It kills the confidence of the child. The child lacks friends because the para has become the end all to be all of their life. They fail to gain enough skills to go onto college, and worse, be gainfully employed to their IQ level.

So, back to reaching your potential. We can't do it without "pain". It will be painful, not physically, though I have seen a lot of sweating, but emotionally. The fear. The dread of not being able to do your work because you forgot something. The fear of getting lost in the school or on a bus ride because you got on the wrong bus.

I use the phrase: We learn more from our failures than our successes. I give everyone permission to fail because we are going to fail at something no matter what it is. Don't feel bad about it, feel happy that you are progressing toward something. We can learn from our mistakes, but if we never try, we do not know our own potential.

When the children are getting ready to take their first solo bus ride, they are very fearful of getting lost. I tell them, cheerfully, "Don't worry…you will!! And they laugh. That is why God gave you a mouth. Speak up and ask someone directions. Same thing goes for class. Speak up and ask." I see relief come over my students. Yep, it is better to fail at trying something than to never try anything. You can only reach your potential with work and pain….but the pain goes and confidence and success stay.

I try to have my students take a class called Financial Fitness…This class allows practical application of life and how we spend money…or over spend it. The students have to set up a monthly budget, get a simulation job and pay their bills. They use an excel sheet to layout all their information, do auto calculations and very sophisticated formulas, then they create a graph that encompasses all this information. The graph does not mean much to my blind students, but it does to the teacher. If the rest of the class is going to create a beautiful and colorful graph with headings, titles and number plots, then I want my students to do it also. After all, they will most likely needs this in college and they may need it for their job.

After my students create the graph, I have them type it out in long form so I truly know they understand what they are doing. They move their cursor below the image of the graph and start to type out every number in an XY plot graph or shade in a bar graph selecting each cell accordingly, and then they plot the graph. If they need further detail, we take out the Draftsman or some other tactile drawing kit and draw it so they can feel what they just did. Once they have the concept in their head, they can easily create any graph required by the teacher.

Watch video to get you going: Excel lesson and Student doing excel through virtual instruction

Lessons that help teach

Twelve main Excel Office 2003 Lessons

 

Twelve main Excel Office 2010 Lessons

 

In one of my school districts we were fortunate to have the Elementary, Middle and High School within a block of each other. In addition, there was a grocery store and many other stores that we could travel to and practice our O&M skills (orientation & mobility-cane skills). I selected days to go shopping with the whole class. We would make a grocery list. Some of the students chose to put the list on their Braille Notes, others practiced brailling it on a piece of paper and took the list with them. The advantage of the braille note is, the students were able to keep mathematical track of the cost of our purchases: adding in a math lesson also. Whatever we bought, we would take back to school and cook.

These were always multifaceted lessons: Making the lists, walking there, learning to pay with money and credit cards, walking back, cooking the food, and socializing. The buying and cooking would happen on different days, so the lesson could be accomplished within 1.5 hours. The older students would mentor the younger students, and all learned how to purchase products and use money. It really gave the students examples of real life experiences.

Another huge advantage of mentoring is the younger students get to see how quickly the older students accomplish their skills: whether walking, brailling, reading, or accessing the computer. Likewise, some of the older students who walked very slowly increased their speed significantly and by the end of the school year were walking as fast as the others, so they too could keep up and socialize as they progressed down the streets.

We all need each other to learn about the best we each have to offer, and in the process improve our own skills.

I frequently get asked, What type of magnification system do I use with my low vision students? So, let’s address this.

I have tried Zoomtext and Magic, and a plethora of other items, which are good, but found one method to work the best for students. I always give them options and this is the one they chose by far because it is so easy and on every computer they sit at.

There are so many methods to enlarge everything, something, a bit or whatever you desire on your computer with just a couple key strokes. These attributes of magnification are already built in, but in general it is NOT the magnification system built into the accessibility feature.

Example. Last week while a low vision student and I were working, she was having a difficult time visualizing a long math problem with just her talking software. With an ALT+V then a Z to zoom (this will work on any PC system), she was able to increase the magnification to 500% to see the problem. Then she matched it with her talking software and could completely understand the math problem. She decided to do the rest of her problems this way and finished within record time. With zoom in effect, the student never has to worry about printing something with 78 font characters. The font is 12 point always.

With another student, she was working in Excel and needed that visual feedback also. With a quick F6 she jumps to her zoom and increases to 400% and continues her work.

I have some students who love the black background with green font and everything enlarged all the time on the screen. This feature is easily accessed in the accessibility feature on a PC. If you only want to increase the ICONS or taskbar or anything, you can pick and choose with a simple applications key (right click with a mouse for mouse users). The options are endless. Because a student can pick and choose, they prefer this method.

The most important skill I teach my low vision students is to use touch typing on their keyboard and their talking software. Mouse use really slows them down. Their hearing is far stronger than their eyes, but when they want to use their eyes, they have the skill to do so. When done with the visual task, they go back to using their ears and their fast fingers.

Lessons to help teach

Magnify your screen, add Narration as needed-audio/visual lesson

Watch video on Youtube: Dr. Denise Robinson demonstrates Low Vision tricks on the computer

 

 

 

 

 
 

I had 2 students who were sisters. They both were losing their sight. It was a gradual loss, so they went from large print most of the time and gaining on braille to mostly braille. One child just switched completely to braille because she just did not like the eye strain, but the other kept with the large print as long as possible, despite her nose was sitting on the page to read it. She just did not want to be different. Interestingly, a child does not think it is different to be hunched over a large piece of paper with large print on it but yet it is different to sit up straight and read Braille as fast as their peers. However, you cannot fight with a child's logic, just find other ways to steer them the direction that would help the most. With good steering, I know they will make the leap into Braille when they are ready.

When children do their lessons with me, it is to read Braille: Their favorite stories of course. I always start out reading the first few chapters to really get them hooked. Then they really want to finish. This method has always worked. The one child above who resisted reading Braille at school in front of her peers, did not resist at home. In fact, her mother would tell me that after lights out, she would periodically check on the girls and there they would be reading their braille books in the dark: Sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. When mom would wake them the next morning, there the braille books would be laying on top of them. They would wake and fess up they read until very late, or early (in the morning as the case may be).

They would come to school and tell me about the story. Harry Potter always seemed to be the mainstay of books to get kids hooked. Even in the middle of the book, they would ask for me to read a chapter at the start of our lesson. Of course, I would. To increase their speed, I would do what I called paragraph jumping. I would read a paragraph and they would follow along, then they would read. If they got lost because I read so fast, they would jump down to the next paragraph and wait. They had their right finger on the last 2 words of my paragraph, and their left fingers on the start of their paragraph, so they would know when to begin reading without a stop in the flow. This method increased their speed significantly, especially with all the reading at home too.

The biggest key is "Get them Hooked on the Story", Then they learn the secret of reading in the dark, Then they don't want to put the book down, Then they get hooked on Braille.

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

I was working with a child with SOD-Septo optic dysplasia. She had a lower IQ and struggled socially and behaviorally. If a child can talk, walk and wiggle their fingers, there is a good chance I am going to teach them braille, technology and other blind skills. For 2-3 diligent years she learned her braille and typing skills for class and her orientation and mobility skills to move around the school. She was integrated into her regular education classroom, minus the direct one on one time with me to go over the contractions she would be reading in her classroom.

One day as they began their spelling test (story told to me by the regular education teacher), every time the teacher gave the spelling word, she would notice this child reach up to the braille sheet to the left of her keyboard. The child would feel something on the page, then go to the keyboard and type the word. After a couple more words, the teacher figured out that the child was reading the braille word, then typing it on the computer. The children were then let out for recess. When the test was done, she called me in to check her thoughts. As she told me the story, I walked over to the child's computer and sure enough, the braille-spelling list was sitting on the table.

We called her in from recess and asked her about the spelling list by her computer. She wiggled, squiggled and squirmed and finally fessed up she had not studied for the test. She knew the teacher did not know braille, so she thought she could get away with cheating. She had clearly moved into the power of Braille and understood the magic that it carried. Now, we just needed her to use it for good. –smile 🙂

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

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