Yesterday was a huge "Ah Ha" moment for one of my virtual students.

I started lessons with her about a year ago. She was in 9th grade. I tested her skills and discovered she did not know how to turn on a computer, did not know Nemeth (Braille math) and did not know a plethora of other blind skills. She also lacked orientation and mobility skills (cane travel). BUT, she did know Braille and that had gotten her to the point she was, however she relied heavily on a para and her parents to help her do her work.

The biggest problem was not understanding how a computer works or what it could do for her. She relied on memory. She tried to memorize every step, and for those of us who use JAWS talking software, we know you cannot always depend on memorizing steps because JAWS is unpredictable. But, if you "understand" how a computer works, no matter what occurs you can figure out the issue and take control of the computer instead of it controlling you.

Anyway, as we did our virtual lessons, she would move along, but spent a lot of time memorizing "hiccups" (unexpected occurrences with talking software) that occurred as we moved in and out of the Internet. Many times the lessons were smooth and flawless as she followed her memorized steps. However, when she tried to do the lessons on her own, and ran into a "hiccup" she was stopped in her tracks.

Yesterday however, she turned a corner in her approach to learning.

I always start my kids out using BASIC HTML in Gmail, which is one of the most accessible emails there is around. Once they learn the basics, I switch them over to Standard View because there are so many more options available, but far more commands to learn. One being texting, two being video chat, three being the auto filling of addresses and so on.

Now this young lady is VERY stoic and proper. Something VERY special has to occur for her to crack a smile or laugh. As I was doing a virtual lesson with her, I showed her how she would not need to memorize email addresses any more with the auto fill aspect of Standard View. As I showed her, I actually got an "OHHHHH WOW". More importantly, when I showed her how easy it was to go back and forth from Basic HTML to Standard, her approach shifted and she actually asked the right question to let me know she understood the difference AND how to do it whenever she wanted.

She was moving from that all important step of just memorizing steps to do something, to understanding what she was doing and that SHE had the power to make that computer do what she wanted instead of the computer taking that power away from her due to her lack of understanding. With understanding, we gain power!

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

Articles:

Teaching Virtual Teachers

Virtual Teaching Options

I keep in contact with many of my past students and families. That is one thing so wonderful about this field, the close connections we make and keep.

One of my students called me about 4 years ago very distressed about her life. She said she was tired of depending on everyone to do things for her.

She was in 10th grade and had lost the majority of usable sight. But she still had a speck of sight in the corner of one of her eyes and she was determined to use every ounce of it—and not be classified as blind. However, she grudgingly learned braille but just enough to keep me happy. She had never touched a computer before, so I taught her basic computer skills and within 2 weeks she was back in class independently working away on her computer….slowly but doing it herself. She begged for a para-educator to do all her work, telling me how much faster it would be. I said "Yes it would faster but your skills will never improve." For the next 2 months I heard this topic many many times, but by the end of the 2 months she was so fast, it never came up again. She did fairly well in school and graduated but did not push herself to learn more blind skills.

We talked and emailed several times during the next few years. Every year that remaining speck of sight became worse until it was unusable. One day I got the sorrowful call, which I have gotten before from other students. When the student depends too much on a remainder bit of sight, and they stop learning skills after graduation, only to lose finally that speck of physical vision, they then believe their dreams can't become reality. This was the case with this student.

After calming her down, I told her about a great rehabilitation center in Louisiana where she could go and gain the skills she needed. I told her who to contact and what to do, but it would be up to her to do it.

It was time for the people she relied on to back off. We adults sometimes do way too much for our children and students. I am constantly analyzing myself and making sure I am giving them the skills by making them do their own work.

Sadly, for a long while, this student thought I'd jump in and do the work to get her into the training center, while she sat back. But I didn't. It was difficult to hold off, because I could easily jump in and do everything. But, I knew her life would only change if she applied herself.

She finally did apply herself. She registered for the training center, got approved and went on to graduate. A whole new woman. Completely independent and not afraid to go anywhere or do anything. She now has her own private Massage business and knows how to run it on her own. She is the boss of her destiny now. She can truly live out her dreams and she is dreaming even bigger now. Now that is true VISION….having the skills to see your own potential.

I am always trying to figure out better ways to help my students virtually. Teaching the students their ability to text messages is an immediate help. My students who have learned enough technology skills, can sit in class and text me for a quick answer to any technical problem they have whether it's about hardware or software. For example: At the start of the year, teacher's are usually fearful of having a blind student in their classroom and they are very unsure what to do. A teacher emailed me last week saying, "I will be giving the class a test, How do I give the blind student the test?" I told her to put the test in a WORD document, then save it to a thumb drive. Then give the student the thumb drive and tell her which document file to open when the rest of the class was working on their paper test.

This is where their ability to text me as their teacher became valuable. The student opened her test and realized she has forgotten some of her talking software commands over the summer. She text me with the problem (I am hundreds of miles away from her, but at my computer and beside her virtually) She needs help with her technology. I give her the code for a JAWS tandem session so I can pull up her computer and take a look at her issue. I text her back with what she needs to do to get JAWS to read the problems and tell her where to answer. She is off and running.

She does not disturb anyone else in the classroom as she has her headset on and quietly listens to my directions in the text. No one else knows she is getting help from me but the teacher. A virtual teacher beside her whenever she needs.

This access to a virtual technology teacher who knows skills for the blind gives the regular education teachers and students peace of mind because they have the technical help whenever they need.

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

Articles:

Teaching Virtual Teachers

Virtual Teaching Options

While not so difficult for sighted students, it can be a challenge for blind students to get books for school. However, technology is taking the bite out of the challenge and blind students are now blessed with many websites where they can download books quickly.
Only a few years ago, a book for the blind would have to be ordered from a book and braille library, which may take up to a week to deliver, if the book was on the shelf to send…but that time is past.
So, do not let those times when the teacher decides at the last minute that a new book will be required for class the next day.
Right in class, because the blind student, who never goes anywhere without her laptop and talking software or her Braille Note, can go online to one of the best accessible sites around, BOOKSHARE. Click on BOOKSHARE and download the required book before the sighted students even have all the books passed out.
Can't find it on bookshare, then go to NIMAC find it, let bookshare know and they will setup the file correctly for you and enter on bookshare for you to download.
If a child knows technology, they can access the world!
Lessons and articles to help you:
Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving
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 have been working with a woman since she was about 80 years old, teaching her computer skills. Her hands were and still are very shaky, so her typing is very limited. Because she is losing her vision due to macular degeneration, I've taught her how to use JSAY.
JSAY brings together Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional version 11, from Nuance, and JAWS For Windows version 12, from Freedom Scientific.
As you talk, Dragon will type out what you are saying. JAWS will then tell you what you said. You then can go back and make corrections in the text as necessary. This is wonderful for typing up letters to save and/or email.
I have also had CP and other physically challenged children using this product. The most successful are the ones who can talk the clearest. Though if you train JSAY enough, using your own special diction, JSAY will learn the words you slur or pronounce different from the world.
JSAY is a powerful tool for those who can't use their fingers on the keyboard and who also have limited vision.
Watch Youtube video on older woman learning the computer using JSAY, a speech program that controls your computer and MyReader a type of CCTV the enlarges text

Even though I appreciate technology, it is important to remember there are low-tech tools that help our learning process immensely.
Click Draftsman Tactile Drawing Board by APH.org to see what students can use to practice their print letters and handwriting. These boards can also be used in math class. Students can draw what the math teacher is drawing and follow along with the class. The boards are also used to draw pictures and diagrams, hey even a game of tic-tac-toe!

A friend told me about DigiMemo–a new tool that has jumped into the technology scene. She uses it for her low vision students. When the teacher is writing notes on the board, a sighted student can copy the notes on this computerized pad, because the low vision student rarely can see the board. After class, the DigiMemo can be hooked into a computer and uploaded as an image for the low vision student to read.
Well, I have taken this tool and added a very important component: The ability to read handwriting and transfer that handwriting into text.
When I first tried the DigiMemo, I could only get an image which talking software does NOT read, I was incredibly disappointed. So, I thought surely we have come far enough that software can read handwriting. Well, we have. Just a bit more sleuthing and I found what I was looking for. I loaded the handwriting software and did another copy of notes on my DigiMemo, transferred the information to my computer–did a couple simple tricks and viola…text that Jaws talking software could read.
What a powerful tool. The sighted student is not doing much more than they typically do. They write their notes, which are stored in the DigiMemo, then transfer the information into text, which requires using a mouse. I believe, in time, the DigiMemo software will be accessible to blind students who know their hotkeys.
The downfall is DigiMemo cannot do graphics…well of course. AND the person taking the notes needs to have legible print so the computer can read it easily. I tried cursive, but it only caught some of the letters. I tried really sloppy writing and I was still very pleasantly surprised at how much it picked up but you would need to be a detective to figure it all out. You need good printing skills…period.
For about $140, I think it is a great investment. Teachers and students are excited when I tell them about DigiMemo. A great tool for school this year and another lesson for me to prepare–hey, that is what I like!!

I added this tool to my toolbox of instruction awhile ago as it always takes time to work out the bugs. I have a very excited diligent student that always wants to help with the new ways of technology. We started with Skype as she really wanted to use the mouse, so we enlarged everything on her screen and gave her an enormous mouse to find where she needed to go, but it took her a long time to read the text compared to her JAWS reading it to her.
We tried other video chat options. But one lesson changed everything, as I sat on my mountain and she in her house, I told her to use FireFox, Jaws talking software and GMail to do video chat. When I texted her and JAWS read it back, her elation was felt through the text box, as she texted several dozen !!!!!! Being low vision, her response time was still not quick enough when she tried to use her eyes and she knew it. After a lesson, I told her I needed to go back to Skype to figure out all the hotkeys for her. She texted back very quickly that she wanted to keep using the mouse in Skype. So I said that was fine and I would just do the hotkeys for the other kids. A minute later (I could tell she was thinking) a text came back and said, "Well, I am moving so much faster using Jaws maybe I should use the hotkeys too." I smiled–if you give a child permission to want what they want, they usually turn your direction fairly quickly. I texted her back and said that was fine. I would give her the hotkeys to Skype too and she could decide what method she would use.
The huge advantage of this is when the student is in class and they run into a problem, they can immediately text for an answer without bothering anyone in the class. How powerful is that! A teacher of the blind can instruct so many more kids at a constant given time no matter how far apart the students are in the country. It is virtually bringing all the kids to the teacher's door–or rather computer. 🙂 -smile
 

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

 

Technology has certainly taken us a long way. In the last year, I have been working on and perfecting the use of teaching long distance with students. As in, I am hundreds of miles away form my students, but with a phone call and a computer, I can pull up their machines, give instruction and watch everything they are doing, just as if I was sitting right next to them: Correcting, inputting and watching their skills grow.
If you would like a free lesson on this, contact me offlist at deniserob@gmail.com and I will set up a time to demonstrate this powerful tool. You too can be a teacher sitting in one place and teaching far more students than you ever believed possible. No car or gas needed.

SOD-Septo-optic dysplasia- visual and metobolic issues-children ranging is all areas of skills and cognitive levels.
I have my HS students going to see the elementary students to mentor and socialize. This week I had a senior working with a 5th grader. He was a very poor speller and has had very inconsistent instruction in his school career so has not been able to show his potential. Now that he has a full time TVI, this is changing. The same strategy I use with my HS kids, I use with younger students. I had the senior give him the sentence: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." He helped him spell each word and he typed it until he spelled it easily, which only took a few minutes for each word. Within this simple 30 minute lesson the boy started typing the whole sentence, typing at 20 wpm. Everyone was shocked and elated. The boy was beyond himself in his success.
This child had also been very unsuccessful in learning math. I thought since he did so well with typing the sentence that I would show him how to use the calculator, but first I taught him the num pad use so he could do calculations quickly. Once again within 15 minutes this boy was doing calculations. I know since he has found joy in this that he will practice typing math problems over and over and just by the fact of listening to the problems he will learn math, as I have seen this over and over. By adding manipulative's to what he is doing, it will cement in the process.

It is just raising the bar to the top and teaching to that level. Over and over again, students show me they can do it with the right instruction. It was a great week….as always

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