Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Crossover Technology for Deaf Learners

Crossover Technology for Deaf Learners, orginially printed in the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf magazine

Found at:

Although I could not find the author of the above article or the date that it was printed, I am assuming it is a fairly recent publication because the copyright of the website is 2005. Furthermore, I am finding that information is extremely limited on the topic of technology available to improve the literacy development of deaf and hard of hearing students. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find information that I have not arleady reviewed. However, this article discussed an interesting aspect of finding software available for these students by looking to technology created for use with students who are dislexic. I would never thought to look to technology for this population of students, but the article raised several valid points on the similarities between deaf and hard of hearing students and students with dislexia. For example, both populations of students have difficulties processing information orally and often rely heavily on visual cues/information. Software programs that are designed for dislexic students (at least those not completely dependent on auditory means -- which they should not be anyway) would provide a wonderfully visual environment for deaf and hard of hearing students to develop literacy skills. However, I will emphasize the word "skills" because with the exception of one program, Inspiration/Kidsperation, all of the software programs suggested by the article focus on drill and practice means of learning to read and write.

Although I do not agree with the use of only drill and practice software, I do believe there is a time and place for its use, and teaching deaf and hard of hearing students to recognize words or learn to punctuate sentences may be such an instace. Some of the programs mentioned in the article I believe fall under this category are GAMZ Player, Soapbox, Punctuate, and the Kaz Typing Tutor. In regards to the GAMZ Player, which is a program designed to improve visual memory through the use of pictures and words, is an excellent way for students to have repeated access to given vocabulary. Although some deaf and hard of hearing students develop a sense of internal (or external depending on hearing loss) phonemic awareness, many do not. Often deaf and hard of hearing students learn to read based on word recognition and this program would provide access to repeated experiences with words in a fun environment. Furthermore, the teacher is able to create their own games which allows them to individualize the words each student is having access to. I know that in my internship, each one of my students had a different set of spelling words each week, therefore it was difficult to design learning experiences that would assist students in reviewing their vocabulary/spelling words. However, the GAMZ software would be a wonderful way for teachers to address this issue. (if you want to know more about the other programs listed above visit the website)

Moving away from the more drill and practice type software, the article mentioned the use of Inspiration/Kidspiration for mind mapping, or concept mapping. I can attest to the use of this program on several counts of literacy, because I used it (along with the Smart board) many times throughout my internship. With a little imagination this program can be used to do more than map out writing, as the article suggests, but it can also be used to assist students in understanding key literacy concepts. For example, during my internship my students had an extremely difficult time grasping the concept of main idea. With the help of Inspiration and a "main idea" web they slowly began to pick it up. I created a template for my students to use when reading a story and as a class we would fill it in to determine the main idea. In order to assist students in understanding that the main idea was the overall, or general, point of the story (which is the part they were having difficulty grasping), I created a web with all of the outside nodes pointing toward the center node which stated "Main Idea." Students would write one phrase regarding what happened on each set of pages and then would determine after looking at the outside ring, what belonged in the did it all relate. This easy use of Inspiration made this concept visual to my students and I think that was the lacking factor prior to its introduction.

In regards to the information presented in this brief article, I am not sure I learned as much as I did from previous posts. However, it did stimulate my thinking into looking into programs designed for other special needs students with similar learning styles, such as dislexia. In addition, I came away with the name of a program to look into for word recognition and I was able to confirm my thoughts and support the article with my experience with Inspiration. However, as I have found with several other posts I have made, this article lacks substantial evidence in the effects of the named programs on the literacy development of deaf and hard of hearing students. Hopefully in the near future this "issue" will be rectified.


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