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High Tech Teaching

A typical day of learning in Brian Darby’s Adults with Disabilities Program at Santa Clara Adult Education, begins with a YouTube video of the Backstreet Boys playing on a projector screen, while a full class of students hum, sing, and move to the rhythm.

Next, Mr. Darby might introduce a lesson using Google Maps Street View. He’ll zoom in on a map of the school surroundings, pointing out streets and places of interest in the neighborhood. By engaging the learners with familiar sights, he is able to help them recognize letters, practice the school name and address, talk about bus routes they might take to get to school, and learn the location of their favorite stores and food sources. Multimedia technology helps Mr. Darby hold the students’ attention for a longer time than simply talking to them.

Mr. Darby has experienced firsthand how the program enables adults with disabilities to improve their quality of life by acquiring life skills and knowledge that lead to independence, healthy friendships, and active citizenship. “Using visuals and music helps learners with disabilities become accomplished human beings,” he says.
Adults with disabilities have different needs than adults who are learning English as a second language or senior citizens who are learning how to use the latest technology. The adult learners in Mr. Darby’s program have mental and physical disabilities of varying degrees and spend every day of the year with program staff at the Educational Options agency, part of Santa Clara Adult Education. Some of these adult learners live in board-and-care facilities or with relatives. Some live in supported living settings or in residence hotels or apartments. These students face many challenges, from cooking and personal grooming to acting independently within a community, engaging in social interactions, and pursuing recreational activities.

As the day progresses in Mr. Darby’s classroom, students may work on laptop computers, use software programs installed on desktop stations, or use an electronic calendar to plan the next week’s activities.

As an OTAN Technology Integration Mentor Academy (TIMAC) participant, Mr. Darby is teaching his peers how to create a similar lesson with Google Maps that integrates many of the skills that adults with disabilities need. Since not all the teachers have the access to the Internet, his plan is to develop a PowerPoint lesson using screenshots of maps. He will also offer technical support to teachers and aides at set times before and after their regular teaching hours. Administrators and staff view Mr. Darby as a technology guru, and they look forward to having him share his expertise with the staff.

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Published in the February 2009 issue of the CSCAE Insider