Proactively, many universities have moved to virtual instruction and a number of K-12 school districts in at risk areas are temporarily closing. Parents of students with underlying health conditions are choosing to keep their children home. Educators are being asked to prepare lesson plans for the possibility of moving to virtual instruction. What does all of this mean for TVIs?
Note: Many TVIs, technology specialists and therapists are using virtual classrooms with students on a regular basis – separate from the Coronavirus. University programs frequently offer online courses – including teacher prep classes for TVIs and COMS. TVIs and COMS have many opportunities to join virtual meetings and webinars with colleagues and experts across the US and beyond. Most professional jobs use virtual meetings to connect colleagues and many professionals have the opportunity to work from home or any location. Learning how to virtually collaborate with others is a critical 21st century skill for everyone!
First, determine the service delivery format.
Will the student be sent home with a list of assignments or have access to digital assignments through email, a cloud service (such as Dropbox) or management service (such as Blackboard)? With this method, the teacher can assign due dates but basically the student is responsible for completing the assignments on his own and at his own pace.
Is your student enrolled in an established online course? Here in North Carolina, many students are physically in school using the NC Virtual Academy. NC Virtual Academy is one of many companies that offer online courses on various subjects for various grades. Students can log into these courses from home as easily as they can log in at school. Note: Many of these online courses are not fully accessible to students who rely on a screen reader; especially courses that rely heavily on video instruction.
Will the classroom teacher, TVI or specialist provide group or 1:1 instruction through a virtual meeting application such as Zoom? With this type of service delivery, the student(s) and teacher meet virtually in real time. For students with vision, the teacher may share his/her screen or use the camera while teaching, so that the student can follow along. For a student who is using a screen reader, often the student will share his screen with the teacher, so the teacher can follow along as the student works. Sometimes, the student will use the camera on his/her computer or tablet in order to demonstrate what he is doing with manipulatives, a braille display, etc. For students with VIB, teaching is often done 1:1 with the TVI or tech instructor, similar to pull out time in school.
There are many factors that are considered when choosing topics for virtual instruction. As always, the classroom teacher is responsible for teaching the main content, while the TVI is responsible for teaching the skills required to access the general education curriculum. So the classroom teacher is responsible for teaching reading skills but the TVI is responsible for teaching the braille code; or, the classroom teacher is responsible for teaching research but the TVI is responsible for teaching the screen reader commands and the tech concepts unique to a screen reader, such as teaching how to jump through a list of Internet article titles by Headings or Links. The same is true for virtual instruction: the classroom teacher might assign a report that requires research. If the student has not learned how to navigate the Internet, the TVI might do a virtual lesson on navigating by Headings to find the desired link and to navigate by Headings through the chosen article.
Reading Efficiently with a Screen Reader: Headings
The classroom teacher should determine the content that all his/her students will be working on at home. The TVI should support these concepts as needed and the TVI should continue to work on the student’s IEP goals.
Another TVI responsibility is to teach the classroom teacher how to make accessible digital materials, including accessible Word documents and PowerPoints (or Google Docs and Google Slides). Since the classroom teacher is uploading – and often creating – these digital materials for the students to access from home, the classroom teacher should know how to make sure these documents are accessible! This post contains resources that can be shared with classroom teachers: Creating Accessible Word Documents and PowerPoints: Teacher Resources post
The student’s IEP goals can help guide the TVI to come up with lesson plans for virtual instruction. A young student might have a technology goal of learning how to keyboard. The TVI might assign specific lessons in a keyboarding app. Ideally, the TVI will introduce the keyboarding app in a face-to-face session at school; however, depending on the student’s tech skills, at home, the student might be able to use the keyboarding app without assistance or may need a family member to help him/her get started. The TVI might also choose to set up a Zoom meeting and instruct the student virtually, with or without family support.
If your student is home for a temporary school closing, (eLearning Day due to bad weather days or an extended time frame due to the Coronavirus), TVIs can grab these opportunities to focus on tech skills through virtual classroom. Tech lessons might be to learn additional keyboard or braille display commands, to learn a new software application such as Excel or SAS Graphics Accelerator with JAWS or to apply tech skills to create a multimedia presentation. As part of the student’s self-advocacy or transition goals, the student may be assigned to research his eye condition, write in his/her own words what that means, and be able to verbally explain his condition. That assignment might be taken a step further by creating a multimedia presentation or video about the student’s eye condition and how that eye condition impacts his/her learning style and what modifications that are on his IEP.
Other virtual lesson topics might include diving into online resources for students who are visually impaired. These might include learning more about the accessibility features of the technology that the student is using. Note: Most students have gaps in their tech skills; learning to research about a specific device or software update about that device, and connecting with others who use that device/software is a critical piece of how students can take responsibility for keeping up-to-date. Search for and join user groups, create an on-going list of resources, connect with mentors, etc.
Here are some suggestions:
It is never to early to start thinking about transition to college. There are numerous resources about transition, including posts by Veroniiiica. Veroniiiica is a successful college student with low vision who blogs about her experiences and share tips for college success. She has over 100 posts, covering a wide range of topics related to being visually impaired and college success. Ask your student to read some of her posts or assign posts that would be beneficial for your student to read. Encourage your student to write a similar post about his/her own experiences and/or tips. (We’d love to publish these posts on Paths to Technology!)
List of Verioniiica’s posts.
Books are always wonderful for parents to read with their students at home – especially during long days when students are cooped up inside. Many elementary schools have subscriptions to digital book libraries – some of these digital libraries have simple quizzes available after each book. There are numerous interactive book apps (I love the Ocean Media Interactive Books!); although, these require purchasing. There is also the option of YouTube books – popular books that are often read aloud by a teacher or adult. Here is a post that includes QR codes that can be printed off and sent home. Use the built-in camera on a smart phone or tablet to quickly open the link to the YouTube book. There are also ePub books available for free download on Paths to Technology – many of these books were created specifically for students to access with a tablet and braille display. Some students can independently create their own ePub book using Book Creator or any book app available for a tablet or computer while other students may need family assistance to create books. Encourage students to share the book directly with their family and classmates – and share these books with everyone through Paths to Technology! Note: There are several O&M-related ePub books available on Paths to Technology!
Does your student have an Alexa or Google Assistant? Consider assigning a variety of Alexa educational trivia games. Did you know that there are O&M trivia games already available? Math flash cards? Braille Challenge games? and so much more!
Encourage families to work on Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) during eLearning Days. Cooking is a always a fun activity!
By Diane Brauner