This morning the final group of teachers departed after 5 days, first at the excellent conference on the Perkins campus and then the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) conference in Boston. The well-attended POSB (Principals of Schools for the Blind) conference included many teachers who teach both science and math, as well as classroom teachers of younger children who are visually impaired, and itinerant teachers working with students in regular classrooms. Meeting with teachers of science and math from schools for the blind across the country is always a renewing experience for me! It reminds me of why I am still teaching at Perkins and enjoying every day that I am here! Accessible Science website moderators Kate, Laura and Stu all attended the conference on the Perkins campus which featured a variety of excellent workshops. The vendors displayed products that will enhance our students learning. Many of the Perkins teachers attended both the conference on campus sponsored by the Principals of Schools for the Blind, and the National Conference for Teachers of Math in downtown Boston.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Conference
The Boston NCTM conference attracted math teachers from around the country. While designed for teachers working in regular education classrooms, workshops featured many hands on activities, as well as ideas for activities that could be easily adapted for students with visual impairments. The vendors showed a large number of products that are wonderfully hands on and accessible to all students. These included companies such as NASCO and DIDAX. One particular product displayed at every NCTM conference is a graphing calculator from Texas Instruments. The TI vendors and others benefit from feedback on ways to improve the accessibility of their products.
Principals of Schools for the Blind (POSB) Conference
At the POSB conference, the improved accessibility of the graphing calculator became clear at the Wednesday morning workshop by Susan Osterhaus and Maylene Bird. The Orion TI 84+ is a talking calculator that is user friendly and works well in both the science and math classrooms. The workshop provided an opportunity to learn about the layout and use of the keys on the TI84+ portion of the calculator and the Orion portion . The Orion part is the upper section attached to the calculator that gives it the accessibility features. Each participant at the workshop had a calculator to try out and individualized instruction was provided. Terrific for those of us new to using a graphing calculator. Later that morning there was also a session describing all the improved and advanced features of the Orion TI 84 +. For more about the calculator check out www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw151205
Before lunch a session presented by Dr. Cary Supalo demonstrated high tech and low tech ways for students with blindness and visual impairments to participate in science lab activities. This included the use of the Lab quest, a hand help device commonly used with a variety of sensors in science labs across the country and overseas. With the Talking version of the the Lab Quest developed by Dr. Supalo students who are blind can measure and collect data, doing exactly the same experiments that their sighted classmates are doing. At this session participants had the opportunity to try the thermometer to graph changes in temperature. Since the talking LabQuest is used in science classes here at Perkins, I brought my entire chemistry class to the session with me! For more information about the Talking LabQuest http://www.vernier.com/products/interfaces/talking-labquest/
After a lunch featuring delicious salads and sandwiches and a walking tour of the Perkins campus, teachers returned to the afternoon workshops. Laura and I introduced the latest features of the Accessible Science website. With participants we looked at the various parts of the site, including getting started and how to earn credits for submitting activities to the site. We also looked at a number of activities and resources on the site, including the newly added section on how to adapt equipment. For many, the highlight of the presentation was the chance to try out some of the featured activities with the hands on materials provided by the presenters. The teachers in attendance made drawings with Wikki Stix TM and constructed shapes out of play dough to illustrate a variety of concepts that they could show to their students or that their students could show to them using the materials. Another activity featured molecular models found in many science classrooms. Designed to teach chemistry concepts, these models are accessible to all students for construction hands on models of molecules a simple a water and as complex as many organic compounds. For more information on the kits, see https://www.webelements.com/shop/product-category/molecular-models/molecular-model-kits/
The afternoon included many other exciting and helpful workshops, but soon it was time for teachers to depart for the opening session of the NCTM conference in Boston. Plans are already underway for the next conference that will provide teachers of the visually impaired who teach math and science to students of all ages to come together to share ideas and learn from one another. We are better teachers today because of opportunities like this!