In one of the videos that Dr Strange had us watch for this blog post, Having a great time teaching mom what her deaf/blind child is learning on the iPad, we watch a mom use an iPad and she learns how her child learns on their iPad. It was so neat to see how an iPad can be used and how you do not have to be able to see or hear to use one. On the Microsoft Accessibility website there are numerous tools that could be used depending on what type of disability your student has. There is a product called an alternative input device and this allows students to control their computer through other means instead of a traditional keyboard. One assistive technology that I found that I thought was really neat and it fit my major is a website called Learning Ally. Learning Ally is an assistive technology that is available to educators to help their students who have trouble reading. Learning Ally is a leading provider of audiobooks. Another great reading assistive technology that I discovered is Bookshare. Bookshare is a company whose goal is to make print accessible to people with disabilities. Bookshare makes books available in accessible formats such as digital texts and digital Braille.
I feel that all of the assistive technologies I mentioned above are ones that I could potentially use in my classroom. Literature is a large part of English language arts and with websites like Learning Ally, I could have stories put on audiobook for students who have reading disabilities, and Bookshare, I have stories turned into Braille for a visually impaired students. These are just a few of the assistive technologies that are available to me as an educator. In using these assistive technologies I am giving each of my students the opportunity to succeed in a way that is conducive for their individual needs.
Luckily, I decided to take EDU400 this semester. I did not think it would be so immediately rewarding that I decided to do so. The class is entitled “Education for Exceptional Children and Youth” and has well informed me of the challenges I might face even teaching in general education classroom. Since the passing of the “No Child Left Behind” Act, teachers are encouraged to integrate all students into the “Least Restrictive Environment”--especially those with special needs. Considering everything I have learned in that class this semester, these videos were no surprise.
In The Mountbatten, Amy Archer illustrates the wonderful device known as the “Mountbatten” which aids blind students in the process of learning braille. The machine writes Braille for the students using certain buttons or a combination of buttons while a recorded voice on the machine announces the letter the student produced. The Mountbatten can also save files and share them with other computers. As an English teacher, I look forward to working with blind students to enhance their rhetoric and their writing skills using the Mountbatten.
Coincidentally, The Mountbatten is also featured in another one of Amy Archer’s videos entitled ”Assistive Technologies for Vision and Hearing Impaired Children”. This video shows a number of (you guessed it) assistive technologies for vision and hearing impaired children. These devices include Gotalk, a Hearing Information Centre, and as I said The Mountbatten, among many others that remained unnamed in the video. The video is obviously meant to encourage teachers to take the extra step in educating children with special needs. The video also offers information such as, “One in 2500 Australian children have a vision impairment” but its main purpose it obviously to inspire teachers to go beyond the status quo of teaching, which unfortunately rarely considers the needs of special education students.
Professor Art Karshmer, of the University of San Francisco School of Management, shows in his video a device he and his team built to teach math to the blind. Professor Karshmer explains that without a knowledge of math blind students cannot from a career in the study of all the core sciences, which rely on math as their root language. Using computers and computer-based devices, Professor Karshmer has devised a system which translates the 2-dimensional realities of mathematical problems into the otherwise single dimensions of braille to allow a blind student to impress those realities into their visual cortex through touch and electronic feedback.
The device is composed of blocks with numbers written in braille and a board to place the block on vertically. The blocks also have a bar code on them that allow the student to scan the bar code and the computer speak the number. The student can align the numbers vertically on the board and solve the problem as a sighted student would.
Wesley Majerus (who is blind) is the Access Specialist for the National Federation for the Blind. In this video, iPad Usage For The Blind, he shows how a blind person uses the iPad. He explains that the iPad is equipped with a voice-over tool. Using this tool he is able to move his figure across the screen and the voice-over tells him the apps he can choose from. Once he finds the app he is searching for, he double taps to open the application. The iPad also has an offers a mainstream e-reader, which reads different books aloud. The e-reader allows him to choose by chapter or page number where to start. Using voice-over he is even able to surf the web.
I thought both of these videos were very intriguing. I didn't attend school with anyone who was blind, therefore I'm not sure of the services that may have been provided. I had never thought about how hard it is for a blind person to learn math. Professor Karshmer's device seems to be a great way to help the visually impaired learn mathematics. I also had no idea the iPad was programmed to service the blind. This is an amazing development in technology!