Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Impact of the Perspectives of Teachers and Parents on the Literacy Media Selections for Independent Study of Students Who Are Visually Impaired

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Impact of the Perspectives of Teachers and Parents on the Literacy Media Selections for Independent Study of Students Who Are Visually Impaired

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study explored the choices of literacy media for independent study of students with visual impairments. The predictors that were taken into account were teachers' use of technology, experience in teaching, and mastery of braille and the knowledge of braille of students, parents, and close friends.

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The reading and writing modalities used by individuals with visual impairments (those who are blind and those with low vision) have been the focus of ongoing research in an effort to evaluate and subsequently establish their comparative effectiveness (Cooper & Nichols, 2007; Johnson, 1996; Luxton, 1990; Spungin, 1996). The increased use of digital information, combined with the existence of new software and hardware, has resulted in modifications in teaching strategies and techniques for educating students with visual impairments. The notion of teaching students with visual impairments through a variety of media is relatively new and constitutes a challenge for educators. To be effective, such an approach needs to be in accord with the principles of well-structured and up-to-date programs, in which teachers have the chance to broaden their knowledge and learn how to use the software and hardware deftly (Koenig & Holbrook, 2000).

Little research has been conducted on the preferred means of reading (haptic or aural) for independent study by students with visual impairments or the views of students on new technologies. Erin, Hong, Schoch, and Kuo (2006) conducted comparative tests among students who were blind, were sighted, or had low vision via oral and written formats, measuring their test scores and the time needed to complete the tests (multiple choice or short answer). They found that the oral test scores were not significantly different among the three groups, whereas the participants who were blind scored significantly higher on multiple-choice items in a braille (written) test compared with the other two groups. Interviews with the students revealed that their preferred medium of testing (aural or haptic) was not always in accordance with their best performance medium.

Lusk and Corn (2006) conducted a study on the instruction of children who were students or users of dual media (print and braille). In the first part of the study, they explored the demographic characteristics of the participants (108 students and 95 teachers), aspects of the decision-making process to provide dual-media instruction, and students' and parents' attitudes toward learning and using dual media. Lusk and Corn reported that the teachers' decisions to teach dual media were affected by their philosophies, by such factors as the students' reading speed and stamina, and by the possibility that the teachers used subjective judgments when conducting informal learning media assessments. They also found that even though most parents were supportive of their children learning and using dual media, only a small proportion of them knew braille. This finding implies that the parents did not express support of their children by learning braille themselves; instead, it seemed that there was lack of written communication among the family members.

Corn and Wall (2002) found, from a survey of 410 teachers of students with visual impairments from 44 U.S. states and 4 Canadian provinces, that the respondents preferred to use general technology in their lessons, not because it was more appropriate for the needs of their students, but because they felt more at ease with general technologies (such as word processors, computers, CD-ROMs, or DVDs) than with assistive technology devices. Finally, Corn and Wall high-lighted the threshold between an in-depth and a working knowledge of assistive technology devices and suggested that teachers of children who are visually impaired need to develop a coherent working knowledge of devices so their stu dents can receive appropriate instruction that is pertinent to their needs. …

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