Having all of my senses and being able to function without accommodation is something I have often taken for granted. I don’t know if I have ever really thought about how a disability can affect a person’s relationship with technology. This week’s activities really made me think about how people with disabilities learn and how technology can be used to foster a love of learning.
I first looked at the NFB- Newsline. It is a service that provides news and information to people who cannot read regular newsprint. Subscribers can have information read to them over the phone or computer, downloaded to their mp3's, or access it on the web. I thought this was a great way to help keep people who are visually impaired connected.
This made me think about how I can help kids who are visually impaired connect with their seeing classmates. I have never taught blind students but as a librarian, I would encourage everyone to use the library, not just the seeing. I think a great start to any program would be efforts to raise awareness and promote understanding about visual impairment and methods of communication- especially Braille.
I visited the National Federation for the Blind’s website and explored their resources for learning. I took a look at the Braille Is Beautiful program. I could definitely see something like this being implemented into a school curriculum- either as part of an exploratory or activity period. I have a lot of kids who are very interested in helping other kids with disabilities. In fact, we have several students who are "Lifelong Friends," and spend time in our life skills classroom during the school day. If kids began to learn and understand Braille, it wouldn't seem so strange or unfamiliar. It would become the "norm."
Really, what is the definition of normal? All of our children are beautiful in their own way. It is our differences that make us special.
As for teaching LD student in my classroom- I do that on a daily basis. The inclusion movement has brought students of all learning abilities into the mainstreamed classroom. I have gifted students and special education students together in the same class. As a teacher, providing individualized instruction is often challenging. I have attended many workshops that focus on inclusion and making accommodations for students who are learning disabled. Parental support is key- I have found that students are much more likely to succeed when there is parental support and open communication.
I am very interested in the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM). It focuses on teaching critical content- the things students need to know in order to be successful. I think this is a very practical approach to instruction- one that definitely could provide better results. I could at this point go on a huge rant about standardized testing and how we are supposed to teach our students differently and yet test them the same… but I digress.
I think as educators we always want to provide our student with the best possible education- technology is another tool in our toolbox to help us achieve that goal.