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AV Technology in Special-education Environments

AV in the classroom can be a powerful teaching tool for educators in any grade. Sights and sounds can bring new life to a history lesson or bring clarity to a science lecture. But what happens when t 5/07/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

AV Technology in Special-education Environments

May 7, 2008 12:00 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes




AV technology at Texas School for the Deaf

AV in the classroom can be a powerful teaching tool for educators in any grade. Sights and sounds can bring new life to a history lesson or bring clarity to a science lecture. But what happens when the students being served by AV technology have special needs? At the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) in Austin, teachers at the state’s oldest continuously operating publicly funded school have found the answer.

Since its founding in 1857, TSD has seen more than 10,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing students pass through the school. TSD’s focus is on creating a rich learning environment for their students and serving as a resource center on deafness for parents and professionals. The weekday residential program for students age 0-22 is part of a 67-acre campus facility near downtown Austin.

“Five years ago, we began a laptop initiative designed to give each high school student a laptop. Each of our 200 high-school students has an Apple laptop 24/7 and they can take it with them when they return home on the weekends,” says Mari Liles, TSD’s director of technology. Liles works with TSD teachers and students with technology and technology training. “During the first year of our initiative, we were recommended the Promethean Activboards by our Apple sales rep.”

TSD received its first 10 Promethean Activboards and deployed them to the high-school and middle-school teachers. “During the first year of use, we put the boards on wheels instead of mounting them on the wall. Very quickly, we found that once the teachers integrated the Activboards into their lessons, they could not share with other teachers,” Liles says. "Once you have a Promethean Activboard, it does change the way teachers teach and kids learn."




AV Technology in Special-education Environments

May 7, 2008 12:00 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes




After the school had been using the boards for a month, Promethean arrived to conduct a 4-hour training session with TSD teachers even though most teachers had easily and immediately transitioned to using the boards. “The Activstudio software and tools were well received since the beginning. The Activboard has one tool to select from the color palette rather than having multiple colored pens. The boards are intuitive for education use with one item to hold in the hand; it seems like they really thought about how kids use technology to learn,” Liles says.

According to Promethean, the Activstudio software can create electronic flipcharts that incorporate text, images, audio and video clips, and Internet content. The flipcharts can hyperlink to other documents created in Inspiration, Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. “Our kids are visual learners. In addition to reading notes and graphs on the board, they have to focus on teachers who are using sign language,” Liles says. “The uniqueness of TSD and the Promethean boards are that it creates a rich visual environment in addition to teachers who are signing. Especially in a high-school science class, for example, students cannot look down to take notes because they need to watch the teacher. Using the board, the teacher can write whatever notes she needs and then print them out at the end of class. The Activboard has enhanced our learning environment so much.

“For the younger students at TSD, interaction with the Activboard is an exciting opportunity. They like to come up to the board and touch it. And resources like Activprimary in addition to Activstudio have made all the difference.” Promethean’s Activprimary product is a software program that includes sounds, images, backgrounds, and activities for younger students.

Although the school has had the Activboards for a few years now, Promethean will still visit TSD to offer training sessions several times a year. Liles says teachers who have had the boards for more than four years still want to come to training. “We had a training session scheduled on the teachers’ day off, and 17 of our 35 teachers with Activboards in the classroom came to the training,” she says. “There is always something new to learn. For us, it is an exciting tool for many different reasons.”

The Promethean Activboards have integrated well into the other AV technology present in TSD classrooms, including Elmo document cameras, LCD projectors, teacher laptops, digital cameras, and other AV equipment. Classrooms also have a live Internet connection.

Currently, the school’s intent is to add 10 new Activboards every year, totaling a $50,000-per-year investment. “Right now, there are 35 of 90 teachers with boards in their classroom,” Liles says. “The goal is to have about 75 of our teachers using these boards; we will continue to invest until that happens.”




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