Friday, April 08, 2005

Teachers' Voices: A Teacher Speaks Out About the Challenges of Deaf Literacy

Milone, M. (2003, February). A teacher takes on the challenges of deaf literacy: An interview with Jennifer Herbold. Reading Online, 6(6). Available:

This article presented the results of an interview conducted by the author with a deaf teacher at the New Mexico School for the Deaf. Jennifer Herbold, the interviewee, comes from a deaf family and is currently working on earning her doctorate. The interview consisted of several questions relating to her background, job as literacy specialist, and position on literacy challenges facing deaf and hard of hearing students. However, for the purpose of this post, I focused on the questions pertaining to literacy development and the use of technology. The author asked Herbold for information on some of the ways she (and other teachers) use technology with deaf students. Herbold's response included uses of technology that I was previously familiar with and technology, or ideas for using technology, that I had never considered.

She discussed the use of sharing emails with other students to increase writing skills and "social" English skills. Deaf and hard of hearing students live in culture that is completely different from the mainstream and it is important for them to learn what is "acceptable" in the mainstream environment if they are to succeed. I thought the idea of email pen pals was a wonderful concept in addressing the issue of writing and social skills. Furthermore, she discussed the use of connected notebook computers (E-mates) for the purposes of interactive communication. I found this to be similar to the idea of the ENFI program discussed in an early post. Both provide students with opportunities to write for a purpose in an authentic experience. If students feel they are writing for an audience they are likely to increase their motivation and effort in order to "impress" the reader. Other uses of technology she discussed that I am more familiar with (or at least have thought of and used before) concern the use of the SmartBoard and digital cameras. I was lucky enough to have access to a SmartBoard during my internship and I can say from experience it makes creating a visual literacy environment much easier. Also, in my experience it drastically increased student motivation and enhanced the desire for my students to come up to the front of the class and read/share their own stories. In regards digital cameras, the author suggests using them to allow students to take pictures and then use the pictures as writing prompts. I have thought about this many times but have never implemented it into the classroom. However, when the opportunity arises I believe I will try it because I think it can provide deaf and hard of hearing students with wonderful opportunities for taking ownership of their writing.

Although several other uses of technology were mentioned, I am only going to discuss one final one here. If you wish to see the others you may visit the website. I am currently involved in a practicum at a public elementary school (hearing students) and my students are in the process of completing a documentary. I have thoroughly enjoyed this project and believe my students have gained valuable leaps in their knowledge surrounding the topic. Herbold mentioned the use of digital videocameras and iMovie for deaf and hard of hearing students to make documentaries, and I know this is a wonderful learning experience from my current involvement in such a project. However, the added flare to her response regarding the documentaries that really pertains to literacy (besides the research involved in creating one) deals with the concept of captioning. Herbold mentioned that students create documentaries in American Sign Language, edit them in iMovie, and then write captions for the movie in English. What a great interdisciplinary idea! I thought this was a wonderful way for students to create innovative projects while at the same time making the assignment meaningful to their culture and allowing them to develop writing skills. Although this idea seems clear to me now, I am not sure I ever would have thought of it on my own.

I enjoyed reading this article because it provided a very personal account of the use of technology in literacy development by a teacher that actually uses it. Although there is no "research" (presented in the article) to back up the statements made by Herbold, I would venture to say that her experience as a deaf student and a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing provides her with a certain level of credentials to trust. The "hard" research I have located in other articles I have posted (as little as it may be) is useful, but I find a different level of usefulness in information that is presented by a teacher actually using the technology. Furthermore, the technology ideas Herbold presented use technology that is accessible to almost any teacher and show that although there is not a lot of software specifically designed for deaf and hard of hearing students, there is value in the everday technology that we use!


At 1:57 AM, Blogger CODYLDHU said...

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