Wendy L. Buckley, Ed.S., is the Assistive Technology Specialist/Teacher in the Deafblind Program at Perkins School for the Blind. Wendy has extensive experience in working with students using a wide range of assistive technology. Wendy receives many inquiries from parents and professionals regarding the use of technology with students. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions related to SMARTBoards
I am a Teacher of the Visually Impaired and I am involved with a Kindergarten student who is multiply impaired and blind. The classroom has recently received a SMARTBoard and the teacher would like to include this student in SMARTBoard activities. Do you have any suggestions in this regard?
Students can participate in a number of different ways with a SMARTBoard or interactive white board session. A child with low vision can use a separate monitor connected to the SMARTBoard computer to follow the activity. A simple device known as a video splitter sends the video signal to both devices. A wireless mouse and wireless keyboard are also useful. The student using the monitor for close-up viewing can interact directly with the content by using the wireless mouse and/or keyboard in addition to using the tools at the SMARTBoard. The activity can be set up for the children to work in teams or with a partner. Depending on the activity, children can also participate by using the wireless keyboard or switch to make selections. There are many interactive white board friendly web sites that have a "full screen" option. This option puts the focus on the activity content and removes any sidebars or extraneous advertising that can be distracting.
What about students who have physical limitations – do you have any suggestion about how they can participate?
Many of our students have limitations with fine motor abilities or arm/hand strength. Some children cannot exert enough pressure with their own finger or may have difficulty holding the standard stylus provided with the white board. A tennis ball works very well as an alternate pointer. One option is for the child to grasp and hold the ball while using it to select or drag objects on the screen. Other options are to mount it to some type of handle. I have used different sized tennis balls and readily available materials to achieve the right weight and size for the child’s hands. For a small handheld pointer, the wooden handle from a foam paintbrush works well. A mini tennis ball found at the pet store can be placed on the top of the stick and mounted by creating a slit in the tennis ball. After removing the foam paintbrushhead from the stick, it can be inserted into the hole in the tennis ball and secured with hot glue. This creates a stylus that is a little bigger, easier to see, and easier to hold. For a student in a wheelchair I have used a bigger tennis ball and the handle from a plunger purchased at the hardware store. This makes a larger wand for reaching to the top of the board without adding too much weight to the pointer. PVC pipe is another option for making an alternate pointer or wand.
Can you suggest any websites that would be helpful?
There are a number of software programs and web sites like www.starfall.com include speech output, music, and sounds that can be helpful when including a child with a vision impairment. A totally blind child can work with a partner and/or utilize other materials paired with the SMARTBoard activity. One example is the Reading A-Z website. I use many of their stories with a beginning braille reader. The companion site RAZ-kids has a selection of the Reading A-Z stories as audio books. Kids can listen (and watch) the story on the SMARTBoard, the teacher can use the SB tools to interact with the text, and kids can record themselves reading the story. By providing the braille reader with a copy of the story in braille, she can read along with the group and record herself reading the story as well. There are sample books and even a 7 day trial available. HelpKidzLearn has a range of activities for cause & effect, simple counting, early literacy, and exploration. The Priory Woods School in the U.K. has a resources section on their website. Both interactive talking story books and cause & effect/targeting activities are available under the resources area. The Children’s University of Manchester (UK) has science, literacy, and history activities that work well on the interactive white board. Be sure to select the full screen option. PowerPoint books are also very effective at the SMARTBoard. Talking Book Library, Tar Heel Reader and Pete’s PowerPoint StationM contain a variety of resources in PowerPoint format. Click to watch a webcast about using SMARTBoards.