Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Clerc Center Digital Video Project Web Site

Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, Gallaudet University

Digital Video Project Web Site Found at: http://clerccenter.gallaudet.edu/dv/

This web site contains digital video created by students from the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center and was developed through a project intended to assist the students in developing certain literacy skills. The project was broken into five part, with each part containing video signed by students in these areas of interest: digital dictionary, idiom digital dictionary, multiple meaning digital dictionary, math stories, and ASL poetry and stories. The digital video dictionary was created in 2000 by a group of third, fourth and fifth grade students who were taking a bilingual approach to literacy development. They created a Digital Video Dictionary that included pictures, English words, signs, fingerspelling, ASL sentences, and English sentences. In order to make the dictionary students used multimedia technology such as text, graphics, and video clips. Through the making of the digital dictionary students were able to improve their vocabulary, reading, and writing skills. Similar to the Digital Video Dictionary, another group of students created an Idiom Digital Dictionary. English idioms often produce confusion for deaf and hard of hearing students because these students are not native speakers of the language and ASL has its own forms of idioms. Therefore, the students explored this use of language by creating digital video sentences and stories that used idioms. The English sentence is seen on the screen with the idiom highlighted in red. Video is available of the students signing the ASL translation of the sentence and idiom. Option number three on this web site deals with multiple meanings of words, which is yet another difficult area for these students. Students created multiple meaning stories from various English words. The stories are written in English, the multiple meaning word is highlighted in red, and viewers have the option of clicking on the word for further explanation of its sign in ASL. Although on initial viewing, the fourth category, math stories, looks as though it has little to do with literacy, it actually presents a wonderful, innovative way at combining math and language arts. Students created math word problems, wrote them in English, and then signed them in ASL in the form of stories. This allowed the teacher to address language barriers many deaf and hard of hearing students have in solving math word problems while at the same time providing them with opportunities to write. Finally, the last section of the web site contains ASL stories and poems as written and signed by students. This is a great way to provide students with opportunities to enjoy literature, because they are expressing themselves in their native language. The benefits of this section seem to be similar to those found within the American Sign Language Literature: ASL Quest web site posted and discussed previously.

Overall, I see great benefits in not only the web site itself, but the ideas it presents. Technically speaking, the web site video is somewhat difficult to view and understand (it is somewhat fuzzy or "jerky"). However, the ideas presented within the activities completed by the students on this site would be easy to reproduce in one's own classroom. All you would really need is a digital video camera and access to web space (which any school should have). All five of the areas discussed produce great ways for deaf and hard of hearing students to develop literacy in meaningful and interactive ways. It is much more enjoyable for a student to write something they know will be videotaped and reproduced for others to see, besides the classroom teacher. My experience has led me to believe that many times deaf and hard of hearing students lack opportunities to deal with language in meaningful context. Many teachers use drill and practice methods to assist students in understanding and learning the grammar of English, but the ideas presented on this web site show that students can learn from authentic experiences with language as well. Furthermore, grammar could be addressed through out the development of the digital video projects through editting and writing conferences prior to filming. In a well organized and "community like" classroom this could also provide collaborative opportunities for students to learn to work in groups. Students could discuss what words to choose to add to the digital dictionary each week (I believe it should be an ongoing project all year, not just a one time deal), they could present their stories to their classmates prior to filming for constructive suggestions, and they could decide which idioms to focus on at given points in time. Deaf and hard of hearing students are often naturally expressive and social, therefore creating digital video projects like the one's discussed on this web site would allow students to access literacy skills through activities they deem interesting and important. Furthermore, if they are on the web they could be accessed by students at home for use with family and friends and the digital dictionary could be used as a nice source for teaching family members that do not know how to sign various words and their meanings.

Generally speaking I believe the web site listed above is extremely beneficial for students to view, but I feel it is even more beneficial for the potential it has with sparking ideas within the classroom. Any teacher, with a little time and effort, could recreate some form of the projects discussed on this web site, which would provide deaf and hard of hearing students with opportunities to work on literacy skills and translation skills (English to ASL and vice versa). However, before posting such video on the web I would look into how to make it so the picture is clearer for the viewer. The ones posted on this web site vary in their degree to be clearly seen and understood, and I feel this drastically decreases its effectiveness for the viewer (but not necessarily for the student who created the digital video). However, I feel the activities and projects discussed on this web site have the potential to allow teachers to address key issues in literacy development of deaf and hard of hearing students such as vocabulary development, understanding of multiple meaning words, use of figurative language in both languages (how it varies and how it is the same), and the use of authentic ASL literature.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Cornerstone: Website

Cornerstones: Building Blocks to Literacy

Website: http://deafness.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=deafness&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fpbskids.org%2Flions%2Fcornerstones%2Findex.html

I was extremely excited when I came across this website, because it further explains and provides the materials for the Cornerstone curriculum I read about in a previous article (and post). It is a curriculum designed at repetition and meaning in language to assist deaf and hard of hearing students with developing literacy. The site provides background information for the project/curriculum, an introduction to the curriculum, the technical resources one would need to make it work, reproducible teacher and student resources, links to the online, interactive games that accompany a story, and comments from teachers who have used the units before. Also, it provides additional links to related websites for resources and information for deaf and hard of hearing students.

One of the aspects I like most about this website is that it allowed me to really conceptualize and understand the article I read before. As seen in the previous post, I found the information on the Cornerstone units to be extremely beneficial and believed they would drastically influence the literacy of any student, deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing. However, this website allowed me to truly understand what I was reading and view the materials, videos, games, and comments of other teachers. The website validated what the article said and what I had thought. I think the most valuable experience on the website, besides that it provides all the needed materials, is that I was able to try out the games and videos and review the lessons. I was thinking about my internship at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and was trying to picture my students completing the games or exercises. Although I think they would be able to complete the unit since it is focused on repetition and exposure, I had a somewhat skeptical view of certain aspects of the games. The games are geared toward comprehension and vocabulary and that is wonderful. However, they seemed to rely quite a bit on reading. I am assuming the creators are thinking that students who go through the unit will be able to complete the games and understand the writing, but when I think about my students who were reading on a preprimer to primer level, I just don't see them being able to complete the games alone...at least not at the point they were at, but perhaps the continual use of Cornerstones would assist them in getting to that point.

However, on a positive note, the expansion of vocabulary and meaning in the games was wonderful. The hypermedia text allowed students with access to further explanations on meanings of words through written English and accompanied pictures. I can see this as being an extension used in centers with the more whole class activities, such as reading the story and teaching of concepts, being done during language arts time. I think one comment I read said it best when it stated that Cornerstones provided teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students with great spring boards for further development of ideas. The key to teaching...take it and make it your own! My future interest in this program is rapidly expanding, because all materials are availabe to teachers online and are free! My hope now is that the Cornerstone producers will take the curriculum a step further in designing materials for students at a slightly older age group (the ones now are for primary elementary years). Overall, I think this would be a great addition to any classroom, and it could be used with other programs such as ENFI or the Sign Smith software (which could be used to possibly attach signs to the games that require more reading...hmm...something to look into) to focus further on reading and writing!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Article: Technology Enabled Scaffolding for Young Writers

Englert, C., Manalo, M., & Zhao, Y. (2004). I can do it better on the computer: The effects of technology-enabled scaffolding on young writers' composition. Journal of Special Education Technology. 19(1), 5-21.

Found at: http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/shared/shared_main.jhtml;jsessionid=F15KVQPLYCFURQA3DILSFGGADUNGIIV0?_requestid=3350

Although this article was not specifically related to technology and deaf and hard of hearing students, it did have implications for ESOL students. Futhermore, the study conducted was not conducted with deaf and hard of hearing students in mind, but I feel it could be used as a beneficial tool in assisting the writing development of deaf and hard of hearing students. The purpose of this article was to summarize the results of a study conducted to discover the impact of a web-based software program on the writing of lower elementary students in a low socio-economic urban setting. Englert, Manaol, and Zhao attempted to answer three questions through this study: (1) does the use of certain scaffolds influence the writing performance of certain students, (2) what are the effects of the scaffolds on students that face particular challenges (i.e. ADHD, ESOL), and (3) how well are the scaffolds internalized over time. Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments on the Web (TELE-Web) was the program used throughout this study. This program allowed teachers to develop prompts to meet the needs of individual students that could be seen by clicking a button but disappeared when the student began writing again, directions for activities that could be simplified or expanded for specific audiences, and an “Information” box that allowed certain information to remain visible throughout the writing assignment. In addition, students could access online support, have their text read back to them using a text-to-speech function (this could be used with hard of hearing students with a very mild hearing loss), share their work with fellow students or the TELE-Web community, and could turn in the assignment through an online feature.

During the use of TELE-Web, students were prompted with text boxes that provided them with a direction in writing. The first box was for the topic sentence, and the remaining boxes were for detail sentences that answered the questions of who, what, when, where, and how. Students were allowed to collaborate with classmates throughout the writing process, and when they were finished writing their story, the computer program composed the text boxes into one comprehensive paragraph that followed narrative text conventions. Results of the study showed that when students used the mediational-technology they experienced an increase in the level of sophistication of their writing. Students' writing was longer, contained more detailed, more directly followed the rules of conventions, and followed the story-like nature of narrative text to a greater degree when using the TELE-Web. In addition, results indicated that the use of scaffolding in the program had long term effects and transferred into the students' paper and pencil writing.

Deaf and hard of hearing students often have a difficult time writing because most of the time English is not their first language (unless they are raised orally). Therefore, this study had direct implications with deaf and hard of hearing students. I believe one of the most valuable functions of this program was its ability to be individualized by the teacher and provide scaffolding for students in areas where they needed it. The teacher controls the scaffolding provided for the students and can determine where the student receives assistance. Furthermore, teachers can take assistance away as students develop the necessary skills on their own. The explicit reminders and visual representations of each portion of a complete paragraph would assist deaf and hard of hearing students in understanding the writing process. It almost seems as though TELE-Web is another, more advanced form, of a concept map. It extends the ideas of a concept map for a paragraph into separate text boxes, which are then combined to form a complete paragraph. In my experience with many deaf and hard of hearing students, understanding the "format" of a paragraph is just as difficult as understanding the correct "format" of a sentence. This program allows teachers to provide the necessary assistance. However, I do feel it is important to remember that such a program should never replace the teacher, rahter assist the teacher in further meeting the needs of students.

When I read this article I was pleased with its ability to individualize and provide visual cues, but I was slightly concerned about the ability of certain students to read the visual cues. Students that have a difficult time with writing often have a difficult time with reading and in this program the two seem extremely interdependent. However, I then thought of the prior post regarding the Sign Smith software. I remember that the information on this software stated the graphics could be used through hypermedia and web based programs. Would it not be wonderful if the Sign Smith software would allow a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students using the TELE-Web program to provide visual cues for writing using the sign characters?! I believe the combination of both these programs, if they could be used in conjunction with one another, would allow a teacher to truly scaffold and make instruction and individualized assistance meaningful to the students. Furthermore, students often love writing on the computer (much more than paper and pencil) and these programs would provide students with additional practice in writing through forms of "personal tutors" in the signing characters and scaffolded assistance established by the teacher. The use of these two programs (or at least two similar ones) in conjuction with one another would provide a wonderful tool for developing the writing skills of deaf and hard of hearing students...this "partnership" is something to possibly look into further???

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Authoring with Sign Smith Studio

Vcom3D. (n.d.) Authoring with sign smith. Available: http://www.vcom3d.com/Studio.htm

Earlier in the blog I posted a write-up about a software program called "Reading Power" for deaf and hard of heairng students. The software I came across today is produced by the same company, Vcom3D. However, the "Reading Power" software focuses mainly on reading development while the software "Sign Smith Studio" can focus on reading or writing, depending on how the teacher, or student, wishes to use it. However, the initial drawback of the Sign Smith program is that it seems to require more knowledge of technology, and possibly more teacher training, than other programs I have reviewed or come across. However, I believe that if a teacher learned the software and was able to use it to its fullest potential it could be a great asset for any deaf and hard of hearing classroom.

Sign Smith allows the user, in this case the teacher or student, to add character animations that sign to any written English in the document. The character will sign whatever is written in the box for the viewer to see. Furthermore, the piece of work can be uploaded to the web for reading by students, with an option (not a must see) to view the signing when needed. In my opinion this provides a wonderful support system for deaf and hard of hearing students when learning to read and write. Students are presented with a support structure for reading words or sentences they do not understand and when using this a student's comprehension will not be impaired.

Some of the key features of the Sign Smith program I find appealing are one can write in English, choose to have it signed in Signed English (word for word) or American Sign Language (different sentence structure), and add facial expressions, body language, eye gaze, and other features key to understanding in ASL to the character doing the signing. A teacher could write stories in English, use the Sign Smith program to add accompanied sign, and have students view it online during centers or some other time throughout the day. This could be used as a reading comprehension activity, a scaffolding activity (because teachers can individualize stories and sign support), or a writing activity. In my mind I see this program being used as a writing activity through the teacher creating sentences in English, but hiding them so the students cannot see the English sentences. Students can view the sentence being signed in American Sign Language and have to write the sentence in English. This activity could then later be checked or discussed and this can assist teachers in identifying individual students' needs in developing writing skills. Furthermore, once the webpage is created teachers can have students complete the activities independently. Teachers could also use this to publish student work online for younger students to read with the supported sign language characters.

This is a program that allows teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing to create literacy experiences that connect English and American Sign Language in an interactive manner for students. Furthermore, it allows the ammount of support a teacher provides to be individualized and scaffolded, along with providing opportunities for students to publish work for others in the school and take ownership of their writing. This program is not free from difficulty or cost by any means, but if it could be afforded and learned, I believe it could provide students with an effective means of being engaged in the reading and writing process. In addition, it is very difficult to find interactive programs created specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students and this is a program that focuses on the meaningful structure of language, not the phonics-- a key aspect of learning to read and write for these students. For further explanation I suggest one view the website above and go through the demo on the site. It does a great job at showing the options availabe to the educator as far as what the program is capable of doing.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Reading and Deaf Children

Loeterman, M., Paul, P., & Donahue, S. (2002, February). Reading and deaf children. Reading
Online. Retrieved March 20, 2005, from http://www.readingonline.org/articles/loeterman/


The authors of this article discussed the first phase of a technology enhanced approach to classroom literacy development called Cornerstones. One of the reasons I enjoyed this article so much was that it provided valuable evidence of the use of a literacy development program regarding its influence on deaf and hard of hearing students. Furthermore, it supported the ever popular technology integration concept of content first, technology second. Judi Harris advocates for the asking of two is it worth it questions when she discusses the use of technology: does it allow you to do something you couldn't do before, or does it allow you to do something you could do before but better. It is clear through this article that the Cornerstones project clearly displays this mindset by placing the content of delivery first and seeing the technology integration as a way to make the delivery of this content more effective.

At the content base of this program is teaching word meaning through multiple strategies such as concept maps, figurative language, and multiple meanings. Teachers introduce and cover a unit for six to eight days, two hours per day. Within these units, students are immersed in the language and ideas of given short stories. The units are pre-established by the designers of Cornerstones. However, technology is used to enhance the instruction and maintain motivation through the ability to present stories in various forms (i.e. english, ASL, print), the use of still pictures, story video, clip art, interactive games (that address word meaning), and video retellings. Through these forms of media, students are exposed and re-exposed to various forms of vocabulary and are able to develop a stronger sense of understanding regarding the meaning of given target words.

Results of this study showed an increase in student understanding of word meaning and ability to comprehend what was read. Through this technology enhanced project the reading level of deaf and hard of hearing students was beginning to increase. Due to the results of this study, new funding is being received by the United States Federal Government and a phase two of Cornerstones is going to be implemented. I will be interested to see the results of the more rigorous implementation of this program.

Furthermore, if I were to connect information from this article with information from others I have read, I would say that this program would work well with ENFI--the writing program posted earlier. ENFI could be used as a method of discussing stories and key vocabulary addressed throughout a Cornerstone unit. This would open students to not only the reading aspect of language, but would perhaps assist them in transferring this knowledge to writing. It appears to me that technology designed specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students seems to positively influence their literacy development. Furthermore, this program, Cornerstones, could be used to influence literacy development of hearing students. In my opinion, this is the sign of a well-rounded curriculum--one that can be individualized to meet the needs of any student.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Literacy, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Reading Power

The "article" I read, and I use the word "article" loosely here because I found this write-up online, but it does not state the author or where it is located other than on the Internet, can be found in:

pdf format at http://www.vcom3d.com/RPdeafliteracy6-17_a3_cb.pdf

-or-

html format at http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:8OVvizW84AQJ:www.vcom3d.com/RPdeafliteracy6-17_a3_cb.pdf+literacy+technology+in+deaf+education&hl=en&ie=UTF-8


I was initially drawn to this article because it was mentioned in the abstract that a partner in the program for implementing the technology, Reading Power, was the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Having completed my internship there one year ago, I was interested to see what this article had to say about the use of this program. Furthermore, I am now curious as to which departments it was used in and believe I am going to inquire with my connections at the school to find out more detailed information regarding the programs use.

The article began by listing four reasons deaf and hard of hearing students have a difficult time learning to read. I have addressed some of these reasons in previous posts, but for a quick summary, the article states that these students often have a difficult time developing literacy because English is a second language they learn without access to the spoken aspects, ASL has a grammar very different from English, English is a phonetic language and most deaf and hard of hearing students do not have worthwhile access to this mode of learning, and the majority of deaf and hard of hearing students are born to hearing parents which often results in a significant language delay for these children. I have first hand experience with this last factor from my internship and interaction with deaf and hard of hearing students outside of school. It is sad to say that many of these students live in households where they have little to no communication with their hearing family members. They often experience isolation linquistically and socially and this creates enormous problems when it comes to learning to read and write (language is usually learned initially in a social atmosphere).

Furthermore, the article addressed the advantages of using computer-based learning in the education of deaf and hard of hearing students. Although I agree with most of their reasons, I would like to know where they gathered their information from and how they came about these conclusions. The other articles, website, and information on software I have read thus far agrees that their is a positive influence on students when they use given technologies, but only one article, the one pertaining to ENFI, even remotely presented valid evidence of where their data was collected. Nonetheless, the authors of this article (whoever they may be) stated that e-learning environments provide deaf and hard of hearing students with a repetitive and safe learning environment, individualized instruction, the opportunity to learn computer skills as a by product, and the opportunity to free teacher time for more one-on-one instruction. I would like to address these advantages by stating that I believe all of these factors have the potential to occur, but only if the software used is designed for deaf and hard of hearing children, or at least is modifiable. I have had previous experience with a program designed to improve literacy development of students, specifically hearing students (or at least students that read on grade level), and this program did not meet the needs of freeing up teacher time or allowing students to learn in a worthwhile manner. SuccessMaker is a wonderful program for students who can hear, or deaf and hard of hearing students who read on grade level, but not for those deaf and hard of hearing students who lack the primary skills necessary for learning to read. I have been in a classroom of deaf and hard of hearing students before where specific amounts of time on this program was required by the school, and although I saw it work in a classroom where students were reading on grade level, I also saw its disadvantages for those students who were not. For example, the beginning lessons within the program require the student to hear a computer voice asking them questions and explaining reading concepts to them (i.e. phonics); well, this is not beneficial for a student who cannot hear and it requires the teacher, or a volunteer, to interpret the program in order for the student to complete the lessons. Was there repetition? Yes, so much of it that the students would just memorize right answers without learning the concepts.

However, here is the difference between the program discussed in this article and the one I mentioned above. Vcom3D's Reading Power and Signing Avatar is specifically designed for use with deaf and hard of hearing students. Students are "matched" with computer graphic tutors that are able to sign. Each character has its own story to tell and the students can share information about themselves with the Signing Avatar tutor. Student engagement and attention span drastically increased when using the program, and students were provided with wonderful "role models" through the computer based tutors. The computer characters read stories to the children in sign language and worked on vocabulary and comprehension. It was reported that at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind students' comprehension increased from 17% to 67% when changing from text-only to text accompanied by sign using the technology. On the outskirts, I think "wow!" this is great, but if it was this successfull when implemented why did I not know about it during my internship a year ago? This is something to look into...perhaps I will have further information on this in posts to come.

Monday, March 14, 2005

American Sign Language Literature: ASL Quest

ASL Quest web address: http://www.aslquest.com/index.html

I found the above site while searching through http://wally.rit.edu/internet/subject/deafness.html, which provides subject-based resources for deaf and hard of hearing students.


Although this website does not actually discuss the use of technology in literacy development I feel its use with deaf and hard of hearing students has possible benefits in this area (with a little creativity). This website provides video of ASL literature in the form of poems and narratives. What is ASL literature you ask? Well, according to the site:

"ASL has a literature of its own that has passed down from one generation to the next by culturally Deaf people. Its is conveyed
in a visual spatial dimension. It shares similar elements and functions of any literature in any language. For Deaf childeren, it
is an important building block that presents them opportunities to learn language, knowledge, values, morals and experiences of
the world around them. It also provides them the bridge to English and other literature. ASL literature exists in two forms;
1)through the air and 2) on the videotapes. (Heather Gibson. May 2000)

My personal opinion of this site's influence on the literacy of deaf and hard of hearing students stems from the value of the motivation and ownership students can develop through this site. Often these students have little access to adult deaf and hard of hearing role models, and this site allows these students to view a piece of their culture in their native language. I feel as though this is an extremely important aspect of literacy development for deaf and hard of hearing students--the ability to take ownership of literacy that exists within their culture, not the "hearing" culture. An innovative teacher could use the presentation of the stories and poems on this site as the prompt to several writing and reading activities. Students could view a story or poem online and write a summary of the story they viewed in English, or the teacher could use the viewing of one of the stories or poems as a prompt to a writing/ASL literacy assignment in which the students have to develop their own piece of ASL literacy to be filmed. Furthermore, if one wanted to connect it's use with other posts made in this blog, the viewing of stories or poems on this site could be discussed using ENFI, which could lead to students' authentic writing in English about literature of their own culture. I veiw this site as a form of technology that would benefit the literacy development of deaf and hard of hearing students through increased motivation, ownership, and understanding of language.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

FSDB to Fdlrs Webpage

In today's blog I decided to post the web address to a section of the Fdlrs web site. I located this web site while browsing the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind's webpage. You can find the section I was focusing on at:

http://www.fsdb.k12.fl.us/rmc/multimedia/software.html#top


Although there was much more to be found on the website as a whole, this was the area I focused on for today's posting. This site provides teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing access to software they deem usable with students who are deaf and hard of hearing. The software is organized by subject area or overall theme, and this makes it easy to go directly to the area you are focusing on at that point in time. However, the site only provides the name of software, and I thought it might be even more beneficial if it would provide links to other sites that discuss each piece of software's use, advantages, and disadvantages. It does provide links to publishers, but this requires more searching on those sites to find the information you are looking for. Furthermore, from pure knowledge at hand I know that some of the resources listed were designed for hearing students and I feel as though their use might not be as beneficial as software designed specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students. However, at least a list provides teachers with a starting point.

Although I find this site to be extremely useful in providing me with information about software that is available, it does little to assist teachers in knowing how to use the software in the classroom or if it has worked before with students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Although entries in my blog are limited at this point, I would say the other two resources I provided were much more beneficial in answering my research question of what technology exists in increasing the literacy of deaf and hard of hearing students. I would further refine this to information about what exists and what is known to work, because today's web site provides general information but nothing specific regarding advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, I will now use this site to further explore the uses of some of the software listed for deaf and hard of hearing students for later postings.

In addition to this specific page, the entire site provides teachers with information on professional development, technology integration, tutorials and much more. The home page for the Fdlrs resources is http://www.fsdb.k12.fl.us/rmc/index.html.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Research Article: ENFI--An Approach to Teaching Writing Through Computers

Marlatt, E. (1996). ENFI-An approach to teaching writing through computers. American Annals of the Deaf, 141, 240-244.

Found At: http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.lp.hscl.ufl.edu/hww/results/results_single.jhtm.?nn+13

ENFI stands for Electronic Networks for Interaction, and it was a program established in 1985 by Gallaudet University. The purpose of ENFI is to provide deaf and hard of hearing students with real time, authentic uses of writing for communication. Using a computer and the program, students and teachers can actively participate in "online" dialogue with one another. The computers in the classroom are all networked together so that everyone is engaged in a literacy environment of reading what others wrote and responding with their comments through written English. (it works somewhat like an "IM" environment online)

Often deaf and hard of hearing students view writing in English as a chore, and ENFI allows these students to practice writing in English in an authentic manner without really feeling like they are being forced to write. It is being used for a more social purpose and students seem to respond to this use extremely well. Furthermore, instructions in phonics often do not benefit these students, and ENFI allows students to access written English in a whole language environment. The article mentions four popular activities teachers have used with the assistance of ENFI: open-ended discussion, discussion of a reading text, collaborative story writing, and creating and solving a hypothetical problem. Therefore, ENFI allows students to focus on writing in cross the curriculum activities that can be used with any subject area.

On a personal note, I believe the use of technology in the classroom always runs the advantage of increasing student motivation (at least in my experience), and ENFI provides students with a fun, less pressured way to practice written English. Students can be engaged in authentic writing experiences that can be saved and printed at the end of the day. I believe this is a valuable characteristic for both students and teachers. Students have the benefit of re-reading class discussions for studying purposes or literacy activities, and teachers can use the saved dialogue as informal assessments of students progress as well as a tool in individualizing writing instruction to the individual needs of students. One of the major concerns with deaf and hard of hearing students is that they are drilled with the grammatical aspects of a language they do not know, and ENFI allows these students to engage in real-life use of written English. Moreover, with ENFI being used to address the written aspects of language, teachers are able to address face-to-face communication with American Sign Language, a meaningful form of communication for deaf and hard of hearing students. This article did not present detailed information regarding the quantitative impact of the use of ENFI on these students, but I would be interested to find out more; my personal opinion is that the use of ENFI in a classroom would drastically improve the technical and motivational aspects of writing with deaf and hard of hearing students.

Friday, March 11, 2005

I can Read! ASL to English: A Software Program

Initially, I found the name and a brief review of this software program at the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center website, located at http://clerccenter2.gallaudet.edu/stg/STGTitle.asp?RecID=431.

However, further research led me to more information regarding the software at this website: http://www.deafsoftware.com/cdroms.html.

I was extremely drawn to this piece of software from the get go, because last semester in my graduate course, Designing a Technology Rich Curriculum, at the University of Florida, I partook in a personal endeavor to create a similar concept using Mediator. I wrote a story, took pictures relating to the story, and then filmed my sister signing the story. I created an electronic storybook using Mediator that would allow deaf and hard of hearing students to independently read through the story, but if they came across a word they did not understand they could click on the word and a video would pop up of my sister signing that word for them. I was extremely pleased with the end product, but found limitations in that it cannot be uploaded to the web with the video components. Therefore, right now, it can only be read on a computer with Mediator (at least read to its full potential!).

With that in mind, my initial review of the software, I can Read! ASL to English, serves a highly similar function at a low cost, and with the software in hand the program can be run on a computer at home or in school! The current stories are definitely directed toward younger students, geared toward primary level children who are learning to read. However, the site does mention the possibility of software in the future directed at a slightly older crowd! Furthermore, in addition to allowing students to see a video of the sign of a word (or whole sentence) they do not know, it also provides interactive quizzes at the end of each story that emphasize key vocabulary found within the text. Students complete tasks such as matching the name of words to pictures (very low key and contains little pressure).

Although I have never actually seen this program, on the outskirts it appears to have very positive characteristics in assisting deaf and hard of hearing students in literacy development, while at the same time developing a sense of reading independently. Many times deaf and hard of hearing students lack decoding strategies many hearing students posses, and this leads to them needing assistance when they come across a word they do not know. This program takes that constant assistnace away and allows them to develop a self-confidence in being able to read independently. In addition, students can run the entire program independently at home or in the classroom. The program is self directed allowing studnets to choose the story and guide themselves through the storybook. If used at home, this program could be a great way to get parents involved. It is low in cost and seems to be high in ease of usability. Many deaf and hard of hearing children are born to hearing parents, many of whom do not sign. This program could be used as a great bridge to home and school because its interactiveness and ease of video accessibility could allow parents to read a storybook with their children and possibly learn a few signs at the same time! I am sure there are drawbacks to the program not seen in the reviews, but an overall look at the software, I can Read! ASL to English, it appears to be an extremely beneficial program....I might have to purchase a copy so I can check it out further and see for myself its true benefits!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Introduction

Literacy development is a common struggle for deaf and hard of hearing students. A large portion of these students do not benefit from the phonics instruction many hearing students receive. This lack of phonemic awareness produces great difficulty for many deaf and hard of hearing students when learning to read and write. There are numerous technologies that exist to assist students in literacy development, and I have had experience with a small selection of these programs. However, the majority of these programs are designed for hearing students and often rely on the learner being able to hear a computer voice recorder. I am interested in researching and learning about technologies that have been, and are currently, successful in assisting deaf and hard of hearing students in literacy development. Does such technology exist, and if so, does it show significant gains in the literacy development of deaf and hard of hearing students?