Monday, September 14, 2015

Creating a Parallel Universe

Increasingly, the interactive whiteboard (IWB) is becoming commonplace in classrooms around the world and is certainly a crucial tool for presenting lessons in the modern digital age. Sometimes, however, we come across a student, for whom the interactive whiteboard seems to hold no great attraction, leading staff to wonder, can this child see the board ? … Or, is the IWB just too far away to be relevant for that child.  Although the option exists for seating a child with a possible visual impairment next to the IWB computer, we can’t always position that laptop screen in a way that best uses that child’s residual vision. Even when we position a child closer to the IWB, we may still struggle to keep that child engaged throughout our lesson. Some children will attend only to materials that are ‘close at hand’ and unless they are actively manipulating materials they quickly lose interest in the lesson.  

You will recall from a previous post (07/13/15 Primary-Secondary Facilitator Model) that an Animated Step-by-Step group lesson is best conducted within a Primary-Secondary Facilitator Model.  The Primary Facilitator is the person leading the group lesson; the Secondary Facilitator is the staff member assigned the role of ‘silent coach’ for an individual student. When presenting an Animated Step-by-Step™ lesson on the IWB it is possible to present the EXACT SAME LESSON (the parallel universe) on an iPad allowing that student to follow the ongoing lesson ‘up-close and personal’. This is made possible by the free Microsoft PowerPoint app (see several previous posts  for setup suggestions). 

Typically there is a classroom assistant or personal aid available to follow along on the iPad, as the text is being read and animated by the Primary Facilitator at IWB. 

In a previous post (08-03-15, What if You Want the Symbols Upfront?) we discussed how you can alter your Animated Step-by-Steps™ to make the symbols appear immediately when each page opens (rather than at the end of the animation sequence which is the default option). This tactic would allow the Secondary Facilitator (sitting with the child) to be pointing out the corresponding symbols, as the Primary Facilitator at the IWB is reading the text. 

You will recall from another earlier post that the act of touching a symbol on the Microsoft PowerPoint app produces a small red dot that can help to further accentuate where the child should be focusing. 

Don’t forget you also have the option of using the pinch zoom feature to enlarge the symbols making it easier for the child to better appreciate symbol features.
If you have purchased an adapter to make your iPad switch accessible or perhaps you are using a blue tooth switch, it is also possible to incorporate a more active ‘hands on’ component allowing the child to use an offered switch to activate the animations on their iPad.  If the child is cognitively young, you would probably want to provide the switch on an ‘as needed basis’. The simple addition of a motor response can make the difference between a child being ‘plugged into’ a lesson vs. a child that is considering what behavior might he/she introduce to get out of the lesson. The switch option provides the child with numerous opportunities to trigger animations on their iPad and may result in the child being more engaged in the lesson by virtue of being ‘more tethered’ in a meaningful way to the lesson. Now the question arises … do you want to just go with the sound effects produced by the IWB (provided your Secondary Facilitator is ‘on his/her synchronized game’ or should you lower the volume of the iPad to avoid producing competing sound effects. These are questions that must be answered by trial and error on a case-by-case basis. The fact that we have these options available is definitely a plus! Here’s hoping the ‘parallel universe’ plan might be a good fit for that one challenging student in your class.

…’til the next post  (new posts every Monday. Become a follower)

©2015 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Specialist
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator

Visit to view the full library of Animated Step-by-Steps™now available in three versions: Regular, SymbolStix and PCS symbols