Virtual Computer Instruction: Lessons Learned
After almost 4 months of virtual instruction (spring and summer sessions), I am better prepared to offer some suggestions for best practices virtual instruction of BVI students. The following concerns lessons in OS navigation and HTML delivered remotely for a blind student, but these could be utilized for delivery of any content where a student uses a computer. It seems to me that Zoom and other meeting software is unnecessary for BVI students, as the video feature that uses so much bandwidth and computer resources is often unnecessary. A previous post, Remote Desktop Applications for Distance Teaching and Learning, examined software that could be used for remote control teaching of computer and computer science skills. This post builds on that, offering more efficient methods of delivering that instruction.
I decided to use the Team Viewer remote software as I was most familiar with it. The initial mode of communicating remotely with the students (individual lessons) was by phone. I talked the parents through installing the software and subsequent logins as one had to have a session generated password. I was eventually able by practice, to have the student read the password to me as he heard it on a screenreader so that I could log into the student's computer.
The phone sessions had poor audio, but using Google hangouts through the computer to call the student’s phone provided a much more clear and reliable audio connection by using headphones on the computer. Even so, the audio was not satisfactory to me. After some research, I found a very affordable and efficient solution, the Sound Blaster Play! 3 External USB Sound Adapter for Windows and Mac. From the Sound Blaster website: “The Sound Blaster PLAY! 3 is a USB DAC and Amp that provides an instant audio upgrade from motherboard audio. It works with PC and Mac, and houses a powerful amplifier that will drive a whole range of headphones”. This device, only cost $19.99 and was a wonderful improvement for our remote audio, I could hear the screenreader remotely on the student’s computer as if I was sitting there and could then direct the student on his screen, jumping in to help by remoted access when needed. The Sound Blaster also had a microphone input and I happened to have a cardiod microphone that greatly improved voice reception for the student. This was a highly effective method of remote instruction for computer technology lessons and could be adapted for other content areas as well.I am not endorsing this product over any other similar products, this review is only a review of methods that could be used for remote instruction of the blind and is not an endorsement of any product over another. The reader should use this review as a guide to determine their own solutions.
Some disadvantages: the necessity of students providing a password for access to their computers, the unpredictable nature of long distance communications, and one must be careful when controlling a student’s computer that the screenreader does not become overwhelmed with mouse movement and lock up.
I daresay the method was about as effective as if we had been sitting in a class and I have student accomplished work to prove it. I hope this helps teachers and students in these perilous times.