Our SET-BC consultant, Nedra Post, is pleased to share her experience supporting a student attending school in the lower mainland.
At Hollyburn Elementary in SD45 (West Vancouver) I had the privilege of learning a thing or two from an extremely polite, smart and tech savvy young girl in Grade 5. She showed me her many talents and abilities while demonstrating how her learning was supported with various tools and strategies.
Romina has been an English Language Learner and she has a visual impairment that everyone is still trying to understand. What is known is that her visual impairment includes congenital horizontal nystagmus and partial albinism. This means she has considerable difficulties in both near and far vision and she suffers visual fatigue as well. Despite these challenges, Romina is undaunted. She proved she is so much more than her disability by inviting members of her support team, including me, to a meeting to discuss her current technology supports and her future needs. During the meeting she laid out a presentation and led a discussion about the technology she currently uses through a SET-BC loan and then shared what technology she feels might be needed for continued success in the coming years.
Seven guests attended Romina’s meeting. She was organized and articulate in sharing how her technology solution must change to meet her future needs. Romina currently uses a Davinci HD camera for near and far magnification and a Toshiba Ultrabook with Zoomtext and Kurzweil 3000.
Her program at Hollyburn in Grade 6 and 7 will include changing environments, inquiry based learning, and increased independence and expectations. Although she discussed how her technology was the right choice for a student learning to read, she felt that for a student reading to learn, across multiple environments, she needed something different. As a group, we came to realize she was right!
When I first met Romina, she was shy. Her English was emerging and hesitant. At this meeting, she was confident and able to clearly articulate that she needed an integrated system to support her vision while learning. She advocated effectively for both her independence and the specific tools she felt she needed to complete her curriculum tasks. She thought critically about what she needed in order to achieve to her abilities presenting her ideas on chart paper so it was visual and clear for everyone at the meeting.
During her presentation, Romina reported that she finds her laptop screen too small for the size and amount of text she often has on the screen. She finds that she cannot find the cursor easily. Her suggestion was that it was time for a larger screen to view documents and to conduct internet research and that a touch screen might help her relocate a cursor by tapping when she was unsure. She recognized that it was time to use eText and digital materials more and this would require more screen “real estate”. She also recognized that she still needed magnification and text to speech options to prevent fatiguing. Her Davinci had served her well when she was learning to read, but now, as she looked ahead to high school and climbing stairs and moving classrooms, she feels she needs a portable room viewer that could connect to her laptop and allow her to toggle between doing internet research and completing a research report. Romina was clear that she needed something to keep it safe during room transitions, as well.
Regardless of what the final decisions will be around new technology supports for her, Romina showed all of us that she is a bright young lady and an effective problem solver. She is able to forecast and consider what she has learned and how assistive technology makes a difference for her. She has incorporated technology into her life at home and at school, using it extensively because it is so difficult for her to achieve without that support.
Many students with visual impairments rely a great deal on adult support and intervention, but the Hollyburn team sees the value in supporting an independent learner who happens to have a visual impairment. Romina sees the path ahead – she has defined it well and has created goals for herself along the way. What a great self-advocate!