Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Working with Students With Visual Impairments

The Bean Experiment has just been posted!


I like the challenge of trying to make an activity work for everyone in the class. Working with children with visual impairments (VI) presents additional challenges especially when conducting a group lesson on the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). Steps must be taken to ensure engagement, despite limitations in their visual input.   This newly posted activity (Bean Experiment) can be used to illustrate how the the Animated Step-by-Steps, by design, can help children with VI stay ‘tuned into’ what is happening on the IWB.

At the most basic level, the student with VI can be provided with some ‘hands on’ interaction with each item as they are introduced during the What We Need section of recipes, crafts and science projects. This can be accomplished under the guise of having the child pass the object to another adult to place on the work table. Thus it becomes an additional step that is functionally integrated into the flow of the lesson.

The sound effects incorporated  into the Animated Step-by-Steps can also be valuable in helping students with VI stay connected to the lesson. Here are a few features that come to mind:

Chime Sound
A chime sound is used to indicate when a page is complete thereby signaling a need to move on to the next step or page.

Whoosh Sound
A whoosh sound is consistently used to mark the entry of a new visual on the page. 

Page Forward and Page Backwards Sounds
You may have noted that the sounds associated with the page forward and page backward arrows are different. This feature was incorporated to provide students with VI additional clues as to which direction the program is moving. If for example, the teacher is progressing through the life cycle of the bean plant … has moved to the ‘continued page’ but decides she now wishes to backtrack to the previous page, the ‘page backward’ sound is audibly different than the ‘page forward’ sound. This immediately alerts the child with VI that the program is moving backwards, not forward.

Object Identification Sounds
Objects can often be identified by the sounds they make. During the What We Need  section, for example, it is sometimes feasible to add sounds to support object recognition. In the Bean Experiment, the sprayer enters the page with a whoosh followed by a brief spraying sound. Similarly, after the marker enters the page, it draws a line accompanied by the familiar squeaking sound that a marker makes when being used.  After the masking tape whooshes on to the page, the tape end is animated and the familiar sound of tape dispensing can be heard.

The Bean Experiment is also designed to promote skip counting by 2s. This can be problematic when you are unable to see two items moving in for the count. Steps were therefore taken to introduce a repetitive double sound to indicate that two beans are landing in the bag just before the corresponding auditory number is heard (pom pom ... two; pom pom ... four; pom pom ... six).

In addition to features that are inherent in the design of the Animated Step-by-Steps, there are also several relatively simple and inexpensive options to allow students with severe VI to view the IWB content up close:

Option 1:   A child with VI may derive benefit from being seated at the classroom’s IWB computer. Although this is the simplest solution, it may not be feasible in your classroom (e.g., IWB computer may be elevated or located outside the immediate area of the IWB).

Option 2:  The Microsoft PowerPoint App (free) can be installed on an iPad allowing  the child to view the currently displayed Animated Step-by-Step on the iPad while the teacher is using it on the IWB. The student (supervised by a Para Educator) can now follow the lesson up close on an iPad. This option does, however, require that an adult monitor the forward movement of the program, i.e., he/she must be vigilant about keeping pace with the IWB version. It is also necessary to make sure that the needed file is linked via Dropbox to the Microsoft Powerpoint App on the child’s iPad.  In the free version of the app there are limitations to the number of files that can placed in the program at one time. Once a file is no longer needed it can be deleted making room for a new file.

Option 3: Splashtop is a software program that can be used to display the IWB on the teacher’s iPad. It has the advantage of allowing the teacher to control the IWB lesson from anywhere in the classroom. It is important to note that the teacher now controls the IWB from the iPad not the IWB. After downloading the Splashtop app on to the classoom’s iPad, another program called Splashtop streamer must be downloaded on your IWB computer.

Option 4: Of greater interest, however, is another version  of the software called Splashtop Classroom. This software allows the IWB computer to be simultaneously displayed on up to 3 iPads! While the teacher uses one iPad to control the IWB, a student with severe VI can be using a second iPad displaying the exact same content. This approach has the advantage of allowing the child’s iPad to automatically move forward at the same pace as the teacher’s iPad, thereby eliminating the need to manually pace the program. Please note with Splashtop, the child can also be called upon to trigger an animation (by touching anywhere on their iPad). The animation can be seen by all on the IWB.

     http://www.splashtop.com/classroom            (install on iPads)

     www.splashtop.com/streamer.                        (install on IWB computer)

Here’s hoping these features and suggestions will be beneficial for all the students in your class!

... ‘til the next post …

© 2015   Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.