Early adopters of the SMART Brailler™ have become speedy achievers at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB). I had the pleasure of meeting with administrators, teachers, parents and students at the school on April 29 and 30, 2014.
FSDB received a SMART Brailler almost two years ago when Principal Mary Lou Hofmann saw it at a conference. She was impressed and wanted her Braille Specialist, Kathy Michaelson, to try it out. Kathy has been using it ever since to help teach students in grades K – 12 . Now, as a result of Kathy’s enthusiasm and advocacy, the school has 10 SMART Braillers which they are using in as many classrooms.
Why the SMART Brailler?
Kathy and the teachers report that the biggest factor is the immediate feedback that the SMART Brailler provides – the students know right away whether or not they have brailled correctly. Plus it is cool technology, so the motivation level of the kids to learn braille is dramatically increased. Kathy said, “It is a tool that provides incentive to the students, and makes learning braille fun – which is key because many kids want the easy way out. You think kids would be that excited on a regular brailler?”
Nancy Berger, another specialist in transitioning kids from print to braille, spoke about one of her students, a 12-year-old in the 6th grade. “He had a terrible time learning braille before and now he catches errors immediately,” said Nancy. “It has made a big difference in the work he is turning in to me and to his middle school teachers. The auditory and visual feedback is critical – he knows when he has brailled correctly and he needs that positive feedback because he has had a rough road.”
All five teachers that I interviewed said that the SMART Brailler has made a big difference in learning outcomes and achievement levels for all the kids who have used it. Why? Here are 6 reasons why the SMART Brailler makes learning easier:
- Gives kids more independence to learn and enables them to take ownership of their output.
- Allows the teacher to use his/her time more efficiently because they can differentiate between the level of oversight required – those students who can work more independently can do so, enabling the teacher to spend more time with those who need the oversight.
- Makes braille learning fun and is also a good introduction to technology.
- It is more user-friendly than a Classic brailler – it is easy to erase mistakes, has a lighter stroke and the keyboard is more compact for smaller hands.
- Gives kids confidence when they have brailled correctly.
- Gives the teachers more confidence in helping to teach braille (especially those who are not braille specialists but are subject specialists).
Laura Matz is the director of sales & marketing at Perkins Solutions.