School Visit Notes

Friday - March 22nd, 2019

The IDRC team was invited to visit a specialized school during their weekly music gathering on Fridays. We hope to be able to work with this school as a research partner in the near future and this visit was important to establish further relationships with the staff and students. We were invited to join the Music time and were offered a tour of school afterwards. 

  • Students have very diverse physical and communication needs
  • They are from different age groups from 4-5 years old to teenagers
  • During the Music time, some of the students were able to request their favorite song via their tablets or the teacher/assistants' tablets
  • Almost each student had an educational assistant to take care of their needs
  • Most children seemed to enjoy the music time–each communicating their excitement differently, some were running, some dancing, some could clap, some could make sounds and some were just observing
  • Two teachers/assistants were interpreting songs to sign
  • A few students could recognize we were new in the community and came to us to dance with us, greet us or were just curious who we were
  • After the music time, we were invited to visit several classes
  • In one class, students were using tablets to communicate
    • each student was using a different tablet and with a different set of symbols according to their needs
    • One student was using "My Pod" that was connected to an eye gaze system. She had a wide range of symbols to choose from.
    • Another student was using another communication pad on his tablet with different range of symbols, and one was using an iPad with real images of things/people/places instead of symbols. (symbols and images all had text labels)
    • Teacher mentioned that the visual design of the symbols are not very meaningful to students, instead the meanings that teachers/parents associate to those symbols make them meaningful for students
    • Teacher said he is very careful of adding new symbols to the communication system, because they don't want to add something and later on remove it–As these symbols build up the students' language.
    • Students start with a set of core icons maybe 4-5 icons and then as they progress, teachers add more icons
    • They also have a separate set of "Fire symbols" that is for quick actions like Yes and No
    • One student had to wait for the replacement of his tablet's battery for 3 weeks, during this time, they were communicating through simple yes/no questions
  • In another class, the teacher was showing students a board with multiple images, each representing a different song. Each student could pick one item from the board and then the teacher was playing that song for them.
    • The teacher was adjusting the number of items on the board based on student's abilities. For instance, the teacher gave one student 10 options to pick from but for another student she was giving her two options.
    • Some students were pointing at the options on the board, some were looking at their favorite option. The teacher was encouraging them to reach out to those items and grab them from the board.
    • Interactions between students and teachers/assistants was very personalized and based on deep understanding of the student needs.