Online learning is one of the great developments of our time. But while it has its benefits, it also has some drawbacks inherent in the off-site learning process. One major drawback is the lack of interaction with people. It’s true that most online learning programs have discussion boards, but there is still no human to human contact. Last year, the Washington State School for the Blind tried out a new program by Microsoft called Lync which will hopefully solve this problem. The software allows for a teacher to interact with their students personally regardless of their location.
Robin Lowell lives in Seattle, but she teaches math to blind students all over Washington through the use of the software. WSSB had tried video conferencing software for distance learning, but it wasn’t as effective as Lync. The Lync software is keyboard user friendly which is vital for students who are unable to use the mouse. The students are able to see a projection of their teacher, and Lowell is able to see her students and their computer screens with the use of cameras. Students are also able to instant message their teacher independently so that they can ask questions that they may feel timid about asking in front of the whole class. Each student has a white board on their screen which the teacher can use to help them with individual problems.
The innovative way that WSSB is using this software won them the top prize at this year’s Microsoft Partners in Learning U.S. Forum. Sherry Hahn and Robin Lowell will be traveling to Prague later this year to represent the U.S. at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum. The school hopes that they will inspire other schools to use this software to make learning more effective. Since finding qualified teachers of the visually impaired can be difficult, this would give school districts the option of hiring someone without requiring them to move to the area.
To learn the full details about the program visit this link: http://www.oregonlive.com/clark-county/index.ssf/2012/09/washington_state_school_for_th_1.html