The Learning with Computers textbook series
Once the basics of BVI computer use are mastered, a curriculum is necessary for computer courses. It is difficult to find curricula specifically designed for the BVI population, not only for computer and technology courses, but for general education courses as well, so it is incumbent upon the TVI to modify existing curricula. This also has the added benefit of BVI inclusion in curricula designed for the general (non BVI) school population. When I first started teaching at our BVI school, I was assigned to teach a course entitled Introduction to Business Computer Applications. Because there was a series of textbooks already in the lab, I used them for designing a curriculum. However, it should be no surprise they were designed for the general education population with little regard for BVI students other than Braille versions.
The textbooks were the Learning with Computers Series. This post is not necessarily an endorsement of these textbooks over any other similar curricula by different authors and publishers, they are examined here because they were used as a matter of exigency and efficiency since they had already been invested in at our school. According to the publisher Thomson’s website, “Learning With Computers is a series of project based keyboarding texts. Using the computer as a learning tool, students learn and apply computer skills as they work through the cross-curricular projects”. Electronic materials were found on the textbook vendor Cengage’s site and I embarked on a 5 year journey of modifying and using these materials for my classes. Since then, I have also used several other textbook based curricula but continue to use Learning with Computers as a curriculum for a foundational course after students have achieved acceptable acumen with keyboarding, keyboard shortcuts, and operating system navigation.
I felt these materials were valid and useful for a BVI course in Introduction to Business Computer Applications because they include activities for research, reading, and writing that are relevant to social studies, science, math, and language arts curriculums, in addition to MS Office proficiency. The curriculum provides a basic grounding in the 4 major objects in Microsoft Office, namely Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Access. Obviously, there must be a previous command of keyboard shortcuts for students to access and complete the assignments after they have been modified for BVI use.
I do feel that the Learning with Computers Series provides a (mostly) engaging and fun curriculum and can be used by TVI teachers with confidence, although there will be necessary modifications of materials but I have found the modifications required are generally minimal.
It has always been a basic concept for my classes that computer/technology use and proficiency are not ends unto themselves, but that technology and computers are tools to help accomplish tasks firstly for general education and successful living. If a student then desires to pursue pure computer science studies, then the student will be well prepared to do so. The “Learning with Computers” Series complies with the requirement to offer “real world” tasks very well.