During the past couple of school years as a TVI, I have begun to experiment with what I call the “Virtual Vision Class.” This is a class in which I meet with one or more students over FaceTime or Skype instead of face-to-face and use Google collaboration tools to work on projects together. I have only done this a handful of times when I was unable to travel to a school due to illness or a schedule conflict, but I think this method of service delivery holds real potential for dealing with some of the challenges of scheduling and traveling for service providers. Since so much academic instruction is now being provided in an online format or with supplemental online content, my students were very comfortable with using this format to attend their vision classes with me. I have held Virtual Vision Classes with individual students and with a group of two students; in all cases, they were high school students with whom I was working on technology and transition goals. The first time we held class this way I obtained permission from school administration for the students to be in the conference room where we normally met face-to-face, because initially there was some concern about the students being “unsupervised” during the class. Since this is a relatively small school and these particular students are known to be very responsible, obtaining this permission was not difficult, but other schools and administrators might require a different type of location and supervision level for the virtual vision class. However, just as with a face-to-face class, it would not work well to try to hold the virtual vision class in a location in which other instruction and/or conversation is happening at the same time. I will describe one vision class as an example of how the method worked for my students and me. In this case, I worked individually with one student and I was in my home office. Since we both have access to Apple Devices, we used FaceTime to communicate, as shown in the featured image for this post.
For more information about online instruction, read the article, Why learning online is better than in-person, and how to make use of your technology.
At the usual time for our class, the student and I contacted each other on FaceTime. As we usually did in our face-to-face meetings, the student and I talked for a bit about his classes and how things were going for him. Then we got to work on our project for the day, which involved working on a draft of the student’s resume (which is included in one of his transition goals). The draft had been created in an earlier class in Google Docs, and the student opened the document on his Chromebook so that he could continue to use his iPad for the FaceTime call (the student also has an iPhone, and alternatively he could have used that device for FaceTime). I opened the same document and we proceeded to make edits in real time as we conversed about the work. When the end-of-class bell rang, the student packed up his devices and went on to his next class, while I was able to immediately work on paperwork in my location, since I did not have to travel anywhere after the class. It should be noted that this method would work just as well with devices in other platforms, such as Windows and Android devices, but the student and teacher must use consistent platforms for communication and the collaboration piece. This is just one example of a virtual vision class, but the possibilities for providing instruction in this format are endless. For myself, I view this method as a great supplemental method for working with my students, but I am not advocating that this method be used to the exclusion of face-to-face classes. There are many skills in which hand-over-hand or hand-under-hand instruction is required, and certainly there are many students who do not yet demonstrate the level of responsibility necessary to benefit from remote instruction. There are also many skills I teach, including braille reading, in which I prefer to sit side-by-side with the student to monitor them, and this would be difficult to achieve with the use of FaceTime or Skype. During my virtual vision classes, I had hoped to assess whether a platform such as Google Classroom or Schoology could be used for the delivery of instruction, but as a contract employee for the school district I did not have access to these platforms to create a virtual classroom. However, this would be an interesting area for vision teachers to explore as they move into virtual instruction. Another area in which virtual vision classes could be incorporated would be as part of services provided to students who are attending virtual schools for all of their academic instruction. In that case, the student would be in her or her home for instruction, while the vision teacher or other service provider could be in a school or office location or in their own home office. One final note: as I am also a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist, I believe this method could be used for supplemental instruction in O&M as well. Some examples of online O&M instruction which could be provided virtually would include working with Google maps or other GPS platforms, researching and planning travel on public transportation, and accessing online presentations on O&M topics. Other types of service providers in both educational and rehabilitation settings could (and probably do) provide virtual services using similar methods.
Editor's Note: This post was first published on Paths to Technology in June 2018.