For the first time in my memory, we will have a blind student in our school this year. A friend of mine, who will be the young man's teacher, was told that she must provide all handouts in braille. So what's the problem? In order for documents to be translated, they must be submitted to the district six weeks in advance!

I have been trying to brainstorm easier ways to communicate effectively with the student and with parents. I suggested to my friend that perhaps she learn more about podcasting and consider using them as an assignment communication option. Surely there must be more options out there. Here are some of my questions.

1. If you have ever used podcasts as a means to communicate assignments to blind students and their parents, could you please share your experiences?

2. What other technological tools are there out there to make this kind of scenario easier for teachers, students and parents?

Thanks!

Tags: blind, educational, for, specialneeds, technology, the

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One thing that hasn't been mentioned is this student's IEP which is the legal document that was developed based upon evaluations that were completed in the past as well as from information gathered from his IEP team which includes his parents. The IEP will be the driving force for his new team and should mention the accommodations and technology that the student requires to meet his IEP goals and objectives. There must be tools available that the student has used in previous grades, considering that he is now going to be a 7th grader.
Do you have access to the IEP?
No. As I mentioned in the original post, the student is new to my school and another friend has him. I am an eighth grade teacher in a middle school and he is a seventh grader. There is a possibility that he will be one of mine next year.

I'm sure that if I asked his primary provider if I could see what an IEP for a blind student looks like, she would let me, unless the IEP is in the care of someone outside my building. Our special education teachers are no VI specialists, so who knows where it is right now.
One of the students that we work with is totally blind. He has a braille writer which is about the size of a PDA. He uses it to take notes in class and then can print it off at home. He also uses it somehow to do assignments and tests. It seems to work well for him.
How interesting! How old is he? Is is called braille writer, or does it have another name? How does your team modify instruction to meet his needs? How do you present assignments and tests to him? These are the kinds things I am interested in learning.
Hi Ms. Whatsit,

Although this isn't exactly what you're asking, I have some thoughts on the topic. Podcasting can be a very powerful tool. I used it a lot in class last year, and was impressed with how it turned the classroom dynamics another way, by giving voice to the kids who have less of a voice in everyday life (because they're shy, or don't speak at the same pace as others, or just don't "fight" for the classroom voice space). It's a vehicle that allows the developer to have authorship and voice in the same package. It can amplify class communication and create a new dimension in which communication can take place. To get a two-way communication going with podcast productions, post podcasts where they can be reacted to--where people can leave comments and questions. Also, have them presented in class, maybe even with the lights off to accelerate transfer into the sense of hearing.

My class works with senior citizens, and a fair number of them are legally blind. Although I haven't used podcasting with them yet, the plan is that this will be the year for taking our equipment to the senior home and working on podcasting (inspired by programs like StoryCorps). The partners we have had who were blind loved our storytelling, speeches, musical performances, and discussions. The students brought poetry books to read aloud, and had interview questions for their elders to respond to. These were sometimes recorded, and I tell you, the seniors' hearts just opened up when they were asked to record their personal stories. Just the fact that we put in the time and care to move things away from the visual realm (to not make it necessary) soothed tensions and made apologizing for an "inability" (sight) unnecessary. I guess what I'm saying is that finding ways to shift the class sensory input away from the visual (predominant in schools) is part of the whole picture.

Anyway, podcasts will give blind people authorship and Voice. This year we're using them with elders, and can keep in touch with other classes who are experimenting along these lines. I'm very hopeful that this will be wildly successful!

What about assignments, books, readings? I'd have students read aloud to the blind student, all day long. That's a win-win situation. What better way to bring reading skills up than for such a profound purpose?

Well, I hope you get answers to your questions about other technologies to use, and I hope some of these thoughts I've shared are useful. Please keep in touch about what you learn--it'll help us all.
Connie -- Your feedback on podcasts reflects my initial ideas about how they could be used in this kind of situation. Thank you for understanding and affirming them.

One of my endorsements is reading teacher. I wholeheartedly agree with what you say about read-alouds and how purposeful a situation this is truly is.
Ms. Whatsit,

I've been online since the mid-eighties and have always had one or two, sometimes more, correspondents who are blind. These blind people used speech reading technology to enjoy everything on the web except the pictures! So, your easiest solution would be to provide the blind students with a laptop equipped with a speech reader. Then put all your handouts into a text format, give them to the student on disk or put them on a website he can access easily, and he can hear the documents read to him. If the student is headed for college, it will be benefit to him to learn to use the speech technolgoy since it is much more accessible than brailled materials.

But, if there is any reason he cannot use speech technology, you need to tell your school that you NEED a BRAILLE PRINTER and any accompanying software. One of my friends who is blind, has a BRAILLE PRINTER in her home, so it isn't too massive an investment.

Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns, and I'll find someone who can answer your questions.
I do not have any blind students but I use podcasting extensively in my classroom as a review tool. I started by using Audacity which is free opensource software and very user friendly. With no training I was able to figure it out. I then decided to go to video podcasting and now use Camtasia. If you are looking for audio only, Audacity is really a great option.
You can download it from www.audacity.com.

Feel free to take a look a at my website at www.masterymaze.com to see the podcasts I create. They are in the history topics on my Subjects tab. You are welcome to use them as well--
We will eventually have podcasts in all topics so free to check back and contribute anything you may see as helpful to others.

Good Luck!
"was told that she must provide all handouts in braille."

Note that not all blind persons read braille. On the other hand, the ones who read braille have a computer which outputs the text on a braille barette or via text-to speech rather than text on the screen. They will most likely prefer an electronic version rather than a paper translation.

Why not ask the pupil or his parents how best to accommodate the pupil need?
If you are looking for information on this kind of technology for the possibility of in-class support, run a search on google on refreshable braille display. This may be less expensive that having to translate each handout in braille.
There are large-key computer keyboards at www.chestercreek.com that may help if this student has any knowledge of the keyboard (letter, number placement, etc.) The lettering is very large and bold, and they come with either white keys or bright yellow. Check them out.
Great discussion. This is why I signed up.
I am a student teacher and I will have a blind student in my first class ever! History.
This student has a braille writer for and we have an embosser on site. However, the aide is not trained to use the software yet! So the current situation is to provide lessons two weeks in advance to a different sight for braille translation. This is scary for a beginner. I hadn't thought of podcasts. The resource people at my school haven't mentioned audio tech much. Maybe they haven't thought of it. I did think about using audio from NPR.
To revive this discussion: any new advice would be welcome.

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