2004 Conference Proceedings

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Donna McNear
Teacher for Student with Visual Impairments/Orientation & Mobility Specialist
Rum River Special Education Cooperative
315 Seventh Lane NE
Cambridge, MN 55008
Phone: 763-689-3600
Email: dmcnear@ecenet.com

Braille technology tools such as braille personal data assistants/notetakers and electronic braillewriters are gaining wide acceptance as effective communication and literacy tools for visually impaired people who read and write in braille. These devices are viewed as essential personal tools in order to increase literacy skills and communicate with sighted people in a mainstream environment.

Now that the power of braille assistive technology tools is making a difference in the everyday lives of people with visual impairments….it is time for educators and all service providers to capitalize on the power of using technology tools to provide effective instruction to students and clients. Electronic braille tools are not just for individuals who are blind…they are also for instructors, family members, and peers. They are the vehicle for providing quality, dynamic, and "real-time" instruction in braille literacy skills to enhance the teaching and learning process and improve student outcomes.

This session will demonstrate braille teaching and learning strategies in an electronic environment with braille assistive technology tools such as an electronic braillewriter and a braille notetaker/PDA (personal data assistant) and traditional computers. It will be framed in the context of research-based strategies in the area of effective instruction.

A glance at the research in effective instruction provides thought-provoking challenges to instructors of learners with visual impairments and the methods in which braille instruction has traditionally been provided. As instructors in the area of braille literacy, we should take a critical look at the teaching-learning process used to teach braille skills and question what has been and look toward changing our instructional practices based on research-based instructional strategies. Electronic tools, used by both learners and instructors, are an effective method for providing quality instruction.

The Algozzine-Ysseldyke Model of Effective Instruction is a research-based model of providing effective instruction. Several of the essential principles in delivering instruction identified in this model are: (1) presenting information, (2) monitoring presentations, and (3) adjusting presentations. Instructors who teach braille have experienced significant limitations in their ability to utilize these principles of effective instruction because of the lack of flexibility and inability to present, monitor, and adjust instruction in an individual teaching session.

These limitations in instruction are frequently due to the inability to quickly and easily create or change braille materials and lessons for instruction because they are typically prepared ahead of time and often times at a different site. But it is possible to change this restrictive scenario through the use of electronic tools and assistive technology.

If both an instructor and a learner are using electronic tools, such as a laptop computer and a braille personal data assistant (PDA), an instructor can easily adjust instruction by modifying a braille lesson immediately in the laptop computer, transfer the new material to the student's PDA, and in a few minutes the new braille lesson can be presented to the student. Braille instruction conducted in this manner can employ the principles of effective instruction and more closely replicate the kind of instruction that occurs in most classrooms with sighted students.

Use of electronic tools by both instructor and learner will dramatically change the teaching and learning process, improving instruction, and ultimately improving student performance. It is time to challenge out instructional practices and move forward with powerful tools to make a difference in the learning outcomes of students.

Algozzine, B. Ysseldyke, J. & Elliot, J. (1997). Strategies and tactics for effective instruction. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.

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