As a TVI do you have middle or high school students that are struggling to keep up with the mainstreamed, fast-paced classroom? Math is often visual and the instruction consists of teachers quickly scribbling equations on the board and verbalizing when they remember. This can make it difficult for students with low vision to keep up with the pace or even know which problem the teacher is referencing. Last year this was the case for my bright, high school braille reader.
Washington State School for the Blind Digital Learning Classes
Last year my braille reader was enrolled in a very fast-paced Algebra 1 class with over 20 students. Much of the work was computerized for the sighted students, and the lessons frequently changed at a moment's notice. As a result, my student became increasingly frustrated throughout the school year. When the district asked me if there was an online Geometry class she could take, I was doubtful but began my search. I was pleasantly surprised when I came across Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB) Digital Learning Classes. This year’s digital learning experience for my student has been a complete turnaround for her. She actually looks forward to math class now! I asked her to write about this experience and here is what she said:
“This year, I am taking distance learning Geometry through WSSB. I really like taking this class. I knew before taking it that it would definitely be at least a little better than taking math through my school, but it's even better than I thought it would be. One thing that I really love about this class is that everyone has the exact same book, with the exact same page numbers. Sometimes in previous years, I would have a question about a problem but my page numbers or problem numbers or sometimes even the actual questions wouldn't match up with everyone else's, so it was kind of hard for people to help me. This year, since we're all looking at the exact same pictures and questions, my teacher can help me a lot easier, and the other students and I can even help each other. I've never really been able to help my sighted peers that much in math class, but this year when another kid asks a question they have about the work, I can help them through it and vice versa, which is really cool. I also like it because you can really go at your own pace. There are not that many kids in the class, so instead of constantly scrambling to get through all the material in time and ending up being behind and confused, we are able to slow down on units that people are confused on and get through easier units quicker. Having a smaller class makes the experience a lot more personalized. This class has really improved my outlook on math. Instead of dreading math every day like I used to, I sometimes even look forward to it, and I'm even getting better grades. I definitely recommend this class to anyone that struggles in their traditional math class, or that just wants a more interactive experience that is focused more on their individual needs.”
Alternatives to Traditional Classrooms
Although I believe that the traditional classroom within their district school is the best option, when that does not work it is nice to know about alternatives. This year was so successful for my student that I wanted to share it with others. So here is some information about WSSB Distance Learning Classes to get you started:
- Visit Washington State School for the Blind, Digital Learning
- Classes and instruction times vary from year to year. Schedule comes out in April for the following school year. Math and Computer Science classes are offered.
- Small class sizes taught by Teacher of the Visually Impaired and evaluation of students work
- Real time, interactive classroom, where the digital learner joins the class via Skype or Zoom meeting each day at the designated time
- Classwork is emailed to WSSB teacher from device of students choice (or sent via mail if completed on braille writer)
- $1,000 per semester which includes textbooks and materials (often less than one braille textbook would cost)
- WSSB teacher communicates and submits grades to students district school
2019-2020 WSSB Digital Learning Offerings
- Integrated Math 1 (Middle School or High School)
- Geometry, modified pace with algebra support (High School)
- Modeling Our World with Math. (Prereq. Algebra 1 & Geometry) (High School)
- Algebra 2 (High School)
- Asynchronous on line Computer Science Principles AP (High School)
- Quorum Language – the language and the code editor are built from the ground up to be accessible and usable
- Quorum’s Hour of Code – an accessible, browser-based computer science tutorial for beginners
Comparing WSSB Curriculum to Local District Curriculum
In our case, WSSB gave our district school an outline of the Geometry curriculum. This allowed the district to compare it to their own curriculum and confirm that they were similar enough for the district to give math credit to the student. Because WSSB’s Geometry class met each day at 8:30 am PST, my student needed to adjust for the west coast time difference, which meant that the digital Geometry class would overlap two of her high school periods. Her high school accommodated for this by scheduling a study and math class back to back. Each day at the designated time, my student logs into math class via Zoom meeting. She is immediately greeted by the WSSB teacher and classmates where they have a minute for small talk before starting class. During the lessons, the WSSB teacher is able to talk with each student and confirm individualized understanding. Not only is my student liking math class now, but she is getting better grades, understanding mathematical concepts in a learning environment tailored to her, and also assisting others in the class as a peer mentor. It’s nice to know that when one class isn’t working, there may be an alternative. Check out WSSB Digital Learning Classes for more information.