Mainstream tech in the classroom
Using mainstream information and communication technology (ICT) at school can improve all pupils’ learning and help develop relevant digital skills, but here we look at how it can have particular benefits for deaf children. You may want to discuss some of this with your child’s teacher
ICT can make teaching and learning very visual by using images or videos on a screen. A visual style of teaching allows children to develop their general knowledge, even if they can’t always hear the teacher.
More and more schools use interactive whiteboards, or smartboards, which are a bit like giant touchscreen computers. They can work with other technology, such as iPads, and can encourage children to actively participate in class. Using screens, instead of textbooks, to present visual information means children face the teacher, making it easier to lip-read, watch body language or see the interpreter. Simple sentences can be put on the screen, making it easier for deaf children with a language delay to understand the information. As the teaching material is digital, a teacher can easily replay a lesson and make sure everyone understands it. Your child can even ask for a copy of the lesson so they can look at it at home at their own pace.
“We have an interactive screen in each classroom. We can instantly access the internet for visual support and this can enhance language development. We can immediately illustrate words or sentences using a picture or symbol and put it into context. It helps the children gain an understanding more readily and makes learning meaningful.”
Liz Ward, Elmfield School for Deaf Children
Some schools also let pupils use iPads or tablets. Your child can use this to take photos of notes on the whiteboard rather than copy them down. This way they don’t need to look away from the teacher or interpreter and miss important information.
“iPads are great but care should be taken that they aid communication, not prevent it. They can be used for recording lessons, taking photos of experiences and using apps to promote language and listening skills and discussion between teachers, parents and children.”
Hearing support team, Birmingham City Council
Some schools use particular apps, such as apps for viewing and setting homework. These can help to make sure your child knows what their assignments are and can reduce anxiety about not having understood correctly what homework was set by the teacher.
“At both our mainstream high school and our school for the deaf we use the Show My Homework software and app. If pupils miss the homework the teacher has set or if the pupil is off they can see what their homework is in the app. Parents also have access and it’s very beneficial for deaf parents as they don’t need to contact the school to check what the homework is.”
Catherine Finestone, Head of Windsor Park School for the Deaf
There are other apps your child could find useful. For example Evernote, which is a notetaking app that also allows your child to make sound recordings and take photos to add to the notes, which can then be shared with other users. Your child could also use the integrated voice recorder on their phone or tablet, or voice-recorder apps in which the voice recording can be edited, such as Voice Record Pro (available only on iOS devices). In this free-of-charge app the pitch of sound recordings can be changed, so your child can make the recorded voice sound lower if their hearing is better in the lower frequencies, or the other way around. They can also play the recording slower or pause it when needed.
“Voice recordings can be useful for secondary school but especially for further education onwards if pupils don’t want or have a notetaker but can’t take all the information in. They can listen to the information again at their own pace and with the technology that works for them, such as using direct input leads plugged into their hearing devices.”
Davina Allen, Teacher of the Deaf
Touch typing can be a great skill for deaf children and young people to learn. It makes it easier to take down information while still watching what teachers or lecturers are saying.
Soundfield systems amplify the teacher’s voice evenly throughout the classroom. It benefits everyone: teachers don’t need to raise their voice, it’s easier for children to listen to the teacher even when they sit at the back of the classroom and it improves children’s levels of concentration. Deaf pupils in particular can benefit from being able to hear the teacher’s voice above unwanted background noise. Many soundfield systems can connect to whiteboards, so sound from the whiteboard is spread evenly throughout the classroom. Some soundfield systems can also be connected to radio aids.
All mainstream technology discussed here could help your child’s learning, but remember that deaf children can particularly benefit from using a radio aid to support their learning, language and listening development.