In our ongoing effort to make professional development and master’s degree programs available to as many future teachers of blind students as possible, the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech is offering both an Assistive Technology and Braille II course available online.
The class schedule is designed to work for somebody who is already busy or working during the day.
“A teacher can come home, get dinner on the table, help the kids with their homework, and then sign on for class once per week,” instructor Eric Guillory said.
The class differs from other universities’ online teacher-prep programs in two ways. For one, students complete all of their assignments in hard copy braille. Louisiana Tech provides pre-addressed, stamped envelopes to students, and for spur-of-the-moment exercises, students hold up embossed braille in front of their web cams. Networking among students is strongly encouraged during class and at the once-per-quarter, in-person session.
“The overwhelming majority of the materials and work are done online,” Guillory said. “There is one long weekend in February where students come to Ruston, which gives us a chance to proctor final exams and hands-on evaluations.”
Just as with the Institute’s other, in-person classes, instructors are always available.
“Every student has my mobile number,” Guillory said with a smile. “I’d rather folks feel connected than isolated. Work in any school district is spread out and so many teachers just feel so alone. Part of what you do as an instructor in our program is calming teachers down. People get fired up if there’s something that they don’t understand, because they feel alone and overwhelmed.”
The class—which some instructors unofficially call “Nemeth without Tears”— meets via a Skype video conference, and there have been very few technical issues. On the contrary, the ability for students to share the instructor’s screen has made it easier to demonstrate initially complex principles, like aligning multiple choice test questions in hard copy braille.
“Even though there are braille examples in the book, some people need to see the kinesthetic process,” Guillory said. “To really see how a person would go about formatting an exam, I can use six-key entry in Duxbury and the students can see it on the screen.”
Most importantly, the online format has opened the curriculum to teachers across the country and across the state of Louisiana who would otherwise be unable to move to Ruston.
If you are looking for a program that will inspire, grow, and challenge you, we invite you to give us a call at (318) 257-4554.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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