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

The start of the school year has begun and along with that assessing the students to see where they are and where they need and want to go, we make goals. If their want is small, giving them the vision of where they could go is essential. Grouping students together is crucial in this endeavor and each watch the other achieve goals they never thought possible thus increasing their own vision of what they can do.

Within 2 weeks of school beginning, my high school students are already seeing huge leaps in their learning. I have 3 older students who were typing around 60-65wpm and they all set their goal of typing for the end of the year to be around 100 wpm.

The brain grows as does wisdom, through repetition of doing a skill correctly. Within 2 weeks of applying this strategy, 2 have reached around 95 and one reached 111 wpm. Everyday, they immediately come in, send homework that is due to al their teachers, then begin practicing their typing techniques. They now have to set a new goal for typing.

This same principal works in Braille reading. At the end of last spring, two were reading around 65 wpm and one around 212 wpm. They all practiced their reading over summer and by employing similar strategies at the start of the school year, now 2 are reading at 137 wpm and one at 315 wpm. They now are really starting to stretch in their confidence about themselves so 2 are reaching for 200 wpm and the other for 400 wpm by the end of the year.

I also have 3 beginners and all three have increased their reading by 7 wpm in 2 weeks and their typing by 8 wpm. How they feel about themselves has grown and where they did not even try to hand in work, now are doing so. Not a lot yet, but it increases each week as they see their skills grow, which in turn increases their confidence in who they are and what they can do. They are gaining a vision of their potential.

We are all teachers. Teach a skill and watch learning grow.

Every day is an incredible teaching day when I am with students, but this summer has been that plus some. During the summer, parents drive their children to my home as I have too many to drive to them and this way I can get in more children. The great thing about this is I grew a large garden this year. During the summer, the children get to feel the garden when it first starts out, then feel it in its different stages. The raspberries and strawberries come first and the great pleasure of picking fresh fruit and truly tasting what fruit should taste like always gets huge smiles. Even kids who thought they hated one of these fruits because of the bland flavor they always encountered at the grocery store soon discovered that fruit from a garden does not taste the same as at the store. Let's just say I have many converts now.

However today was the culmination of absolute joy as one of my students went through and picked her first zucchini, broccoli, carrots and peas–feeling the tiny little pumpkin and watermelon that she would be picking soon also. Each time she would reach down and figure out how to get the particular vegi's off its stem her smile grew larger and larger. I still am picturing her huge smile with each new adventure in the garden. What she never understood, she now does. Her understanding of the world has grown ten fold just by understanding how food grows. Now she has the much more to connect with her sighted peers and "get" what they are talking about.

If you are looking for resources.
American Printing House for the blind- http://aph.org/ offers just about everything under the sun for books and other materials for the blind/low vision
Grocery stores now have raised line paper from Mead–Thank you Lori for that info. It can also be had from APH
If you are looking for balls with bells and braille on games, go to
http://www.braillebookstore.com/view.php?C=Toys+and+Games
Another great source of toys, games, canes, and all things blind is:
http://secure.nfb.org/ecommerce/asp/default.asp
If you would like braille books free or to purchase, go to:
http://www.seedlings.org/
That should get you going…have fun.

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