[bct] Re: Frustrations with how AT is taught

  • From: "Alan Schlank" <aschlank@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 26 Mar 2006 08:23:29 -0500

Hi Doug,

I actually live in Arlington very close to where DC, Virginia, and Maryland
come together.  I am also an amateur radio operator with the call W7TRI.
Don't operate much any more, however.

Alan Schlank

-----Original Message-----
From: blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Doug Strobel -
Sent: Saturday, March 25, 2006 3:13 PM
To: blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [bct] Re: Frustrations with how AT is taught

alan, where in dc are you? i live in damascus md witch is just half way up 
270. email me off  list at
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Alan Schlank" <aschlank@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, March 25, 2006 1:42 PM
Subject: [bct] Re: Frustrations with how AT is taught

> Hi Debee,
> Of course you are right and your standards are not too high.  I, like you,
> have been in this field for a long time.  After my thirty plus years with
> the government in the computer field, I taught four years at a small
> nonprofit agency here in the D.C. area mostly teaching basic computer 
> skills
> to agency clients.
> What I saw too often was that the students were not ready for college.
> Nowadays you don't go to college without a strong grounding in the use of
> computers.  (This also goes for other basic skills such as mobility, basic
> literacy skills for blind people, keyboarding, etc.).  To my mind, at 
> least,
> there is simply no excuse for someone trying to attend a college or
> university without these basic skills.  Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but
> these are simply things that have to be mastered first.  They simply 
> should
> not need to be taught by you or anyone else at that level.
> Yes, I am aware that there has been a dumbing down process at many 
> schools.
> But how can a blind or learning disabled student expect to achieve
> self-confidence and success in their studies without the basic skills to 
> be
> successful?  Well, perhaps I am just getting old and curmudgeonly.
> Alan Schlank
> -----Original Message-----
> From: blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> [mailto:blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Debee Norling
> Sent: Friday, March 24, 2006 5:08 PM
> To: Blindcooltech@Freelists. Org
> Subject: [bct] Frustrations with how AT is taught
> I just had a very frustrating experience I thought I'd share. I'm curious
> what you others think.
> I work at a community college where I'm in charge of alternate media. Our
> Access technology specialist, (I'll call it AT for short) is a sighted guy
> and he's part-time. He is a speech pathologist with a ton of experience
> teaching dragon. He really doesn't know JAWS all that well, but he is 
> smart,
> concerned about making the campus accessible and seeing that courses are
> truly inclusive. I hesitate to criticize such a caring guy, but he does
> teach JAWS with a keystroke cheat sheet at his side. And I'm sure he
> couldn't use the computer with his screen turned off.
> I think this guy's one downfall is that he is typical faculty; he teaches 
> a
> few classes and just isn't here full-time.
> We are always trying to encourage our print-impaired students to use the
> computer more, and we try to wean them away from depending on their mom
> reading aloud, or using large print or whatever. We want them to be
> conversant with Microsoft Word for preparing their papers, and with 
> Kurzweil
> or similarly appropriate AT for reading their books.
> We have a new blind student, I'll call him John Doe,  who recently started
> taking tests on the computer using JAWS and word. John has been brailling
> out his tests and I've been transcribing them in to print. But we all want
> to see John become more independent.
> Today, our AT guy got  John all set up, but   he couldn't stay because he
> only gets paid for an hour or two on Fridays.
> John spent four hours taking his test and then he printed it.
> Unfortunately, he printed 200 pages of gibberish. There was nobody 
> available
> to help him. I work several buildings away from the computer lab, I'm
> encouraged to focus on my learning disabled students, and the guy who is
> supposedly in charge of the lab is never there because he isn't paid to be
> there.
> So John is a beginner. He's been taught how to type in Word, how to use a
> few simple JAWS commands and how to print. He hasn't been taught how to
> save. He doesn't know what saving is. So he simply waits until his test
> period is over,  gets escorted back to the disability services office and
> tells his story there. John also has a physical disability so he needs 
> help
> getting from one building to another. But in no way is he mentally 
> impaired;
> he's just very new to computers.
> At this point I am called. Even though they don't want me doing faculty's
> job, they want me to fix computer issues when everyone is in a panic and
> nobody  knows what to do. I get there, and John has very carefully closed
> out of Word the way he was taught and his four hours of work are lost. 
> They
> were never saved.
> This happens all the time because our AT guy teaches keystrokes and not
> concepts. He shows people how to read the previous word, but not how to
> cope when things go wrong.
> I've noticed in general that AT people tend to get hung up teaching what 
> to
> me seems very silly; students will learn how to bold and center, but they
> won't know what to do when they need to copy a file off a CD on to a flash
> drive. Even when people are taught how to save, they frequently have no
> concept of file management. I'm forever bailing out people who saved a 
> file
> in the wrong folder and now they cannot locate it.  Just a few days ago, 
> my
> boss, an able-bodied social worker type was in a huge panic because she
> thought she'd lost her power-point presentation for some important 
> meeting.
> I have JAWS on her computer because I'm always rescuing her, and this time
> she'd put it in "My Pictures" instead of on her desktop. Someone else
> recommended she save to her desktop so she could find things. I'd like to
> sit her down and teach her how and where to properly save, but she 
> wouldn't
> sit still long enough.
> She knows all sorts of fancy tricks in Power Point, but she panics so much
> that even the simplest file management tasks seem to thoroughly flummox 
> her.
> But even more than able-bodied, the print impaired, in my opinion, need a
> firm foundation in how to think. Multiple-choice tests and memorizing 
> steps
> to perform a procedure do them no favors.  In our AT lab, the command to
> read the title bar in JAWS is not taught , because it isn't necessary to
> complete the assignments. But that means when the focus goes south, the 
> users have no skills for coping.
> My biggest beef with AT, which is a micro-example of how all computer
> courses are taught here is that people are taught rote methods for
> accomplishing tasks.   They can create a formula in Excel but they can't
> troubleshoot a printing problem.  They can use JAWS to spell the current
> word, but they can't restart it when it crashes. They are taught where
> programs are located on computers in our lab but not how to poke around an
> unfamiliar computer to find stuff. They know how to change fonts but not
> how to insert a paragraph from a document in a different directory.
> It seems a crime to me to teach computer stuff using a paint-by-numbers
> method.
> Sometimes I work with a new blind student, especially when I have to 
> rescue
> him from something that happened while I was off doing my real job, and 
> I'm
> always amazed at just how much hand-holding these people need. Are my
> standards too high, or are we just doing a really lousy job of teaching AT
> these days?
> --Debee

Other related posts: