Building Statewide Capacity through Electronic Media

Authors: William Daugherty, Superintendent, TSBVI

Keywords: TSBVI, blind, visually impaired, deafblind, distance education, broadcast technologies, webinars

Abstract: Superintendent Daugherty explores the opportunities and benefits of distance education through broadcast technologies.

The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been involved in a variety of broadcast and web based seminars and trainings for at least the past five years. We have learned much about how this is done, often through trial and error, and now have considerable expertise among the staff most involved with it. But we have long been aware that to do it well and on a larger scale, TSBVI needs to bring in more specialists who are trained in the area of media-based production and delivery.

As a special purpose school with a single focus of educating students who are blind, visually impaired or deafblind both on our campus and statewide, we have been given the opportunity to develop a wide-range of expertise on teaching methodologies and the supports needed to put them into practice. TSBVI has also been a hub of collaboration with the many outstanding educators across the state who are similarly interesting in sharing what they have learned with others trying to improve educational outcomes. The result of these factors is that there is an amazing body of knowledge which has developed in our state that often goes unnoticed and unknown because there is not a mechanism to disseminate it in a way that reliably reaches all of the people who would benefit from it. To address this issue TSBVI is seeking funding in the upcoming legislative session that will equip the school to move rapidly into an increased electronic media presence.

The Building Statewide Capacity Initiative is intended to use distance education and broadcast technologies to support schools and families striving to provide better school outcomes for students who are blind, visually impaired or deafblind across Texas. The vast geography of the state and the need to have access to high quality information wherever people live and on their own schedule, must be met with new service delivery models. The Initiative will develop and produce webinars, video broadcasts, training videos on demand, and other means to equip teachers and parents with skills and information necessary to support the highly specialized learning needs of these students. The Initiative will also provide direct instruction and support via on-line courses and webinars for students statewide modeled after, and managed by, the school’s Short Term Programs (STP) Department. As such, its initial intent with students will be supplemental and at ISD request, just as STPs are today. Based upon ISD interest it is our hope to develop the capacity to expand this to more formalized approaches to help students and their teachers statewide to meet both academic and IEP goals.

Key in this initiative is a request for additional funding to ensure that Texas Tech and Stephen F. Austin State Universities are increasing their output of new Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists via stipends to replace those leaving the field. The Initiative will support these new educators once they are working in Texas schools using the successful statewide mentoring model long-established by TSBVI and the two universities. This is in realization that no initiative by TSBVI can reach its potential unless every one of our state’s 9,127-and-growing students has adequate access to well-trained TVI and COMS regardless of where they live in Texas.

As with many things good that have come from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, it has been the input of statewide stakeholders that have driven it. This is especially true when those stakeholders have an interest in collaborating with TSBVI, sharing their energy and expertise for the benefit of all. We look forward to hearing from you about what you may already be doing in this area, and how we might work together to build the capacity of this promising way of communication within our community.

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