- Hello, hardworking teachers and school staff.
Do you have a deaf or a signing hard of hearing student in your class? If so, you've lucked into an opportunity that not all educators get, a learning experience that may broaden and enhance teaching strategies in unexpected ways.
We know you've already been working really hard, trying to figure out how to move your teaching online and keep it accessible to your students.
We've been figuring out how to ensure your virtual classroom is accessible to signing and visual students.
So far, we have some tips and thought we'd share them with you.
Some might work well for you, some might not, it's okay, we'll figure it out together.
When hosting an online meeting consider the number of participants you have.
With six students, everyone's nicely visible, but with 20 plus people everyone ends up being about the size of your thumbnail and understanding a teeny tiny signer is almost impossible.
If you need to host a larger meeting, consider asking your students to turn off their cameras.
This way only the teacher, the signing student and the interpreter remain on screen, but they're more clearly visible.
If students have a question, they can turn on their camera to get your attention, ask their question and pop back out.
This has the added benefit of helping students focus and know who's speaking.
If you, the student and the interpreter have two devices, you can run two meetings simultaneously.
On the left, you have your whole class meeting, including everyone with potentially small windows.
On the right is a second meeting with only the interpreter and the signing student.
This way, communication remains clear while everyone participates in the class together.
Students can also pin the teacher or the interpreter making that window larger than the other.
When you screen-share however, please allow the students a moment to adjust their settings because seeing the pinned interpreter and your screen share at the same time is kind of tricky.
Demonstrating through screen share is great, but it does split visual attention.
So try to explain and then show, and use descriptive language.
Look here when the cursor's really small is not as descriptive as look at the link at the top of the page, followed by a second for them to look.
Most platforms allow you to add captioning.
It's not perfect and it's no substitute for an interpreter, but it's one more added visual support.
Students can also raise a virtual hand.
We all know that managing turn-taking in the classroom is not easy at the best of times, but if all of your students mute their mics, they can then raise a virtual hand, you call on them, and when they unmute that highlighted speaker window shifts to them.
This way you have only one speaker at a time, everyone knows who it is, and the class is less distracting and more accessible for everyone.
It may be helpful to connect with your signing student, perhaps their parents and your interpreter before class begins.
Students may have a preferred way of navigating these platforms.
Let's face it, kids usually understand technology better than we do, they may have some great ideas.
If you need a little more support or you have any questions, feel free to contact APSEA at any time.
We're all in this together.