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Winter 2003 Table of Contents
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Distance Education

Holly Cooper, Ph.D., Technology Consultant, TSBVI Outreach

In Outreach, we do a lot of training for teachers, parents, and others who spend time with students with visual impairments. We do the big conferences like Texas Focus and the Texas Deaf/Blind Symposium, as well as smaller sessions at Education Service Centers, and individual training when we do consultation visits. In spite of that, we often get requests for training from people who couldn’t get to, or didn’t know about, the sessions we offered. We can only be in one place at a time. Or can we? Well, through the magic of technology, we can and routinely are, in many places at once!

Last year, Outreach math and technology consultants, as well as others, did training over an interactive video system. Some vision teachers are familiar with this training medium since they took vision teacher certification courses this way. While it’s not as engaging as real live face-to-face interaction and communication with colleagues, it’s a good way to get information to people who need it.

GETTING CONNECTED

Do you want to find out what is scheduled for the remainder of this year? Math and Tech Outreach staff are both doing presentations once a month on Wednesday afternoons. You can see the list of topics and dates at: <www.tsbvi.edu/technology/de-pres-out.htm> for technology, and <www.tsbvi.edu/Outreach/math-de.htm> for math. To view the presentation, contact your local Education Service Center. Currently, about half of the ESC’s are connecting and participating. Many local school districts also have the capability of connecting. In the Dallas area, Region 10 has researched and found a variety of sites in high schools and other local campuses that have connected and viewed our presentations live.

Audiences have included teachers, parents, and students, all of whom have had questions and needed information about how to use a specific device, or how to make the device more useful in the educational environment. If your ESC is not making this service available, contact them, and ask others to contact them and request these distance education sessions.

BE PREPARED

To get the most out of a distance education session, it is crucial to come prepared. If the training is on a particular device, such as a notetaker, bring the device with you to the training. If it is on a computer application such as JAWS, bring a computer with JAWS installed on it. Many computer applications for people with visual impairments are available as downloadable demo versions from the manufacturer’s websites. A demo version is great way to familiarize yourself with a product. So bring your computer with the software installed on it to the training session. Bring along user’s manuals and other materials that you have on the device.

If your student or child is mature enough to participate, try to arrange to have them come with you. Two heads are better than one. It’s a lot of information at one time, and impossible to remember it all when you get back in the classroom. If you can have another vision teacher or paraprofessional come along with you to take notes, that can be a great help. Before coming to the session, spend a little time trying to use the device or software and exploring its features. Make a list of the questions you have, and features you would like to ask about. The strength of interactive video conferencing is in the interactivity, so come prepared to ask, and don’t be afraid to speak up during the session.

As presenters, we really appreciate questions and comments from the audience, especially feedback sharing ideas about how others have used a device or software application. If you have a question, chances are the other people do also. If you plan to come to a session, you can send us an email to ask us in advance to spend time really explaining a particular aspect of the topic. We want to give our viewers the information they need!

We send the preliminary version of the handouts to the ESC’s by the Friday prior to the session. Typically we email them, and the local people furnish print copies. Often we will have a list of web resources that will help you with tutorials, lesson plans, user’s guides, and other supporting material. We are doing training both on specific devices and computer applications as well as about instructional strategies and general overviews of topics. In the spring we will be planning for next year, so send us an email about training sessions you would like to have in the 2003-2004 school year. Tell us what you want; we aim to please!

WHY COME TO A DISTANCE EDUCATION BROADCAST?


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Last Revision: August 25, 2003