Developing New Distance Education and Training Resources at TSBVI

Authors: William Daugherty, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Keywords: distance learning, website, visually impaired students

Abstract: Distance learning technology and other innovations implemented by TSBVI are supporting the needs of teachers and learners with visual impairment around the state.

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) has an interesting history of small side projects going on to become important and far-reaching resources used by visual impairment professionals and families statewide, nationally and internationally. The TSBVI website, and the dozens of publications that have come out of the TSBVI Curriculum Department, are good examples of initiatives that started with a very limited scope by TSBVI teachers who mostly had other, full-time jobs, but saw a need and filled it. None were experts on websites or on producing curricular materials, but it soon became apparent that there was a tremendous need for these types of resources. The school wisely began to devote staff and funding to these efforts, and to reach out to others around the state to draw upon their expertise for some amazing collaborations. Today, the TSBVI website and curricular publications are among the most widely-used resources of their type in the world.

The ever-changing landscape of how digital media and technology are used for learning was recognized years ago at TSBVI as a trend to which the school needed to respond. In keeping with the usual practice, a small group of educators and media specialists who had many other responsibilities began putting on webinars and filming various experts in the school’s studio to be shared with the state. The school soon recognized it needed outside expertise and dedicated personnel to first play catch up, and then to begin to innovate. The Texas Legislature responded to TSBVI’s request for additional funding, and an amazing team of technology and media specialists joined with the existing group to lay the foundation of how we will produce, manage and distribute content moving forward.

In this edition of SenseAbilities, the article by TSBVI Short Term Programs principal Sara Merritt shows where the school is headed in providing new resources that will make the content of these programs available to students and their teachers without having to come to Austin campus. In most situations, the student and teacher will be participating side-by-side. There are obvious benefits to this arrangement because it helps teachers better support the student as the new learning is put to use in the local school. The Statewide Outreach Media Team now has videographers, a digital archivist, and web-based learning specialists. This group will use our campus expertise, national and international experts, and the many talents found in the school districts and regional service centers across Texas, to develop first-class media products for professionals and families alike.

Put another way, these new media and technology based learning products and services are “The Next Big Thing” at TSBVI. Within a few years there will be something for everyone interested in the education of students with visual impairments, and something to address all of the incredible range of learner characteristics represented among the 10,000 or so students in Texas. And here is something the readers of SenseAbilities should know if they don’t already: Virtually everything TSBVI does is in response to stakeholder input. What teachers, orientation and mobility specialists, parents, advocates, and students statewide tell TSBVI they need, forms the basis of the School’s initiatives. This latest initiative will grow and get better year after year with your input and your willingness to work with TSBVI to ensure that all service delivery and learning gaps get the attention they deserve.

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