To have success in today’s 21st century classrooms, students require access to a variety of different technologies and reading materials. Many of these students don’t think twice when booting up a computer to do some internet research on a classroom topic – it is as simple as a couple of clicks with their mouse. However, students who are blind have a steeper learning curve, as they must learn to access their computer with keyboard commands with a screen reading program such as JAWS to assist them in their navigation of the desktop, programs and the World Wide Web.
In light of this challenge, a peer mentoring group has been set up with a Vancouver School Board high school SET-BC student (Mathew Alvernaz) and two middle school SET-BC students in Burnaby. Mathew is highly independent with his use of JAWS on his laptop computer, and agreed to provide support for his younger peers to help them learn and become more independent on their computers. On March 7th, the group of students came together to work through a series of tasks, with guidance from SET-BC consultant Janet Watts.
The students began with reading a piece of e-text on Ancient Greece. Mathew gave instruction for reading commands and navigation within the document. Because internet research is such an important skill for students nowadays, the next activity was to launch Internet Explorer and search for information about a topic. The internet can be tricky for JAWS users because of the various elements that students need to navigate through to get to the target content, but the students worked together to learn tips and tricks for reading information and taking notes in a word processor.
Overall, the mentorship morning was successful with each of the students learning new things that would assist them in the future (even Mathew our student mentor!). Additional sessions will be set up in the future to give the students an opportunity to continue to practice and learn new things with the overall goal being full independence with their computers!