2003 Conference Proceedings

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A FRAMEWORK FOR BRAILLE LITERACY: EVALUATING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY TOOLS FOR THE LITERACY CURRICULUM

Presenter
Donna McNear
34651 Blackfoot Street NW
Cambridge, MN 55008
763-689-3602
Email: dmcnear@ecenet.com

At the end of this session, participants will...

In the United States, teachers are mandated to provide assistive technology services to students who are blind and visually impaired and local education agencies require teachers to base these services on a valid decision-making evaluation process. Even though there have been many tools provided to teachers of students with visual impairments to help in this process, many students still lack the necessary assistive technology devices to maximize their learning in the general education curriculum.

The professional literature on braille literacy frequently includes information on including assistive technology in braille reading and writing instruction. As we move full speed into the 21st century, assistive technology devices are seen as essential and critical literacy tools for students who read and write in braille. But are teachers using these assistive technology/literacy tools to maximize student learning? Do they have the knowledge and skills to evaluate student needs for assistive technology and braille literacy tasks? Do they know how to evaluate students' needs in the context of the literacy skills needed in the general education curriculum?

During the past year, teachers were introduced to A Framework for Braille Literacy: Integrating Assistive Technology Tools in the Literacy Curriculum at technology conferences and professional development in-services. It is a document designed for teachers to increase their knowledge and skills in integrating assistive technology tools in a braille literacy curriculum. It is a results-driven framework that focuses on what students should know and be able to do. A Framework for Braille Literacy is based on a continuum of 56 braille literacy tasks that students need to perform in school, home, and community environments in emergent, academic, and functional levels of literacy. Teaching strategies include how to complete literacy tasks with tools such as tactile image makers, electronic braillewriters, electronic braille/audible notetakers, refreshable braille displays, translation software, and associated computer applications.

The feedback from teachers clearly indicates that the Framework for Braille Literacy has made a difference in their teaching practices in including braille assistive technology tools and providing appropriate braille instruction. They feel it has helped them change their teaching and learning activities and focus on student achievement and how assistive technology tools will prepare students for future success.

A Framework for Braille Literacy has been expanded to include an assistive technology evaluation process to assist teachers and other team members in making decisions regarding student needs in the use of braille assistive technology devices. At this session participants will be introduced to a unique decision making process based on the 56 braille literacy tasks that students should be able to perform to demonstrate competent literacy skills. The decision making process is based on what students should know and be able to do with braille literacy skills. This results-based assistive technology evaluation provides teachers with a method for documenting student needs for assistive technology devices that are critical in authentic environments and in the general education curriculum.

This focus on braille literacy tasks in the evaluation process guides teachers in a new way to conduct assistive technology evaluations. Instead of focusing on a tool, the use of the features and functions of a tool, and if a student can master the tool...it is about how a tool can provide the vehicle for student mastery of literacy tasks needed in the general education curriculum.

The Framework for Braille Literacy: Evaluating Assistive Technology Tools for the Literacy Curriculum WILL help teachers use assistive technology/literacy tools to maximize student learning, provide teachers with the knowledge and skills to evaluate student needs for assistive technology and braille literacy tasks, and know how to evaluate students' needs in the context of the literacy skills needed in the general education curriculum. Ultimately, students WILL have access to the necessary assistive technology devices to maximize their learning in the general education curriculum.


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