As always, I am shocked that the semester came to an end so quickly! When I embarked on my learning project, I felt as though I had all of the time in the world. With that being said, I still feel like there are more facets to explore regarding ASL and Deaf culture. Nonetheless, I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and enjoyed having the opportunity to whole-heartedly dive into an area of interest that I otherwise may never have. In addition, I believe this project may be useful in the future for myself, a colleague, or a student. I look forward to referring back to this experience and potentially applying the resources and knowledge I’ve gained! For now, allow me to walk you through my process…
The Beginning (Project Outline): I had always been interested in learning American Sign Language (ASL) and have had some interactions with Deaf people throughout my life. It hit me the most in university and working with a Deaf man. He was able to sign, but as I’ve learned throughout my project, signing only goes so far if no one else can do it. I also wanted to ensure I approached my project respectfully, so I made one of my goals to learn about Deaf culture as well. To get the ball rolling, I created a Tentative Schedule for The Learning Project. This changed so significantly that I ended up planning week by week instead! I was also fortunate enough to know some speech and language pathologists and teachers with experience teaching Deaf students to point me in the direction of some credible resources. I was a little overwhelmed with the amount of resources, so I created The Learning Project: Resource Dump # 1 to give me a manageable starting point.
Update #1 (Weeks 1 & 2): At this point, I was still getting my bearings. However, I had a few things I was hoping accomplish throughout this project.
Interview people who could offer some insight on Deaf culture and learning ASL
See a Deaf education classroom
Join a community of practice in my division for teachers who teach in Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) classrooms
Learn some ASL by continued independent practice
During my first two weeks my learning project, I learned the alphabet (AKA: fingerspelling) in ASL. This ended up being very helpful, as it comes in handy when you are not sure of the correct sign for something. I also decided to follow Bill Vicars free ASL lessons on a weekly basis. The first two lessons were great, but were more difficult than I thought! I figured I could just watch and remember the signs… I’m not sure why I thought that would be effective, seeing as I write everything down. When I went to film an update video, I realized I couldn’t remember anything and certainly did not practice enough. I decided to redo these lessons in the following weeks and take notes in order to help my learning retention. The highlight of these two weeks was my interview with Alyssa, who is a speech and language pathologist in my school division. While she works with all kinds of students, her area of focus is in Deaf education. I was in awe after this conversation. She was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. She also offered a variety of Deaf created resources, so I made sure I honoured those throughout my process. This conversation was amazing and I learned SO much. I was truly a blank slate when it came to Deaf culture and left our conversation feeling more confident in my understanding. I also started listening to the Seen and Not Heard podcast and worked my way through the first three episodes.
Update # 2 (Weeks 2 & 3): Kelly had so kindly passed down Michelle’s information to me, as well as notified me that there was a community of practice for teachers in DHH classrooms. Unfortunately, this was only intended for these teachers, so I wasn’t able to join. However, Michelle said she would pass down any worthwhile resources. My conversation with Michelle was also fantastic! What I appreciated about chatting with Michelle was she could offer guidance to teachers and parents because she has a Deaf child. A moment that gave me chills was when she said if she could give any piece of advice to parents, it is that you can always change your mind– when one intervention doesn’t work, don’t stop there or feel like you can’t try something else. Michelle graciously asked me if I would like to see her classroom. I said yes immediately, but it didn’t work out with sub coverage. I was so disappointed. Michelle had offered this to me because she said it is very difficult to explain what this type of classroom looks like and needed to experience it myself. Although it didn’t work out this time, I would still love to check out Michelle’s classroom. I continued listening to the Seen and Not Heard podcast and I dove into the Gallaudet University history and the ASL Connect Basic Vocabulary lessons as well. Alyssa suggested checking out Deaf U on Netflix, so I started watching this series… As if I needed another series to binge (haha). Since Deaf U takes place at a college, there is a lot of content that reflects partying (as one does in university) and personal drama. In my posts, I tried to focus on the pieces that related to Deaf culture and the experience deafness as a young twenty something, trying to find a place in the world. In terms of my ASL practice, I focused on learning my numbers 1-10 and 11-20 and Bill Vicars’ Lesson # 1.
Update # 3 (Weeks 4 & 5): At this point in my learning journey, my focus shifted a little. I was still learning about Deaf culture, but also focused mainly on learning ASL. In this post, I did a review video of my numbers 1-20 and the alphabet. In addition, I learned how to sign different places and spent some time exploring Handspeak and Signing Savvy, which are ASL visual dictionaries. The person in the video I watched for the places tutorial was so fast! To make sure I was catching the nuances in each sign, I used the visual dictionaries noted above to support this process. In addition, I did lessons #2 and #3 from Bill Vicars. I also continued my exploration of The Seen and Not Heard podcast and Deaf U to continue versing myself in Deaf culture. Like I mentioned previously, so many great resources were passed along to me. To create a resource and to keep myself organized, I made a Wakelet. I spent more time with some resources than others, but I still wanted to keep track of the ones that looked interesting or helpful, so I included them anyway!
Update # 4 (Weeks 6 & 7): I completed lesson #4 from Bill Vicars and learned some outdoor activities signs from ASL Connect. I was hoping to do the fifth lesson from Bill Vicars, but the previous lesson took longer to learn and film. Something I’ve learned throughout this process is to be patient with yourself and set small goals. At the beginning of my project, I was full of ambition and setting some lofty goals. However, I began to feel a little frustrated with myself because I was not able to keep up. I realized the issue was that I was biting off more than I could chew, so I needed to downsize my weekly to do lists. Like in previous weeks, I continued on with listening to Seen and Not Heard and watching Deaf U, but decided to jump into some social media accounts that I also came across. Chrissy Can’t Hear You was very honest and informative about the lived experience of deafness told from Chrissy’s perspective. Her posts offered useful insight on how to respectfully approach my project. I also explored Connect Society, as Alyssa used to work for this organization. I enjoyed their signs of the month posts!
Update # 5 (Weeks 8 & 9): Finally, the last leg of my project! I tried to keep this one relatively “low key,” as I was also working on my Summary of Learning. I added more resources to the Wakelet and explored a few other resources that I stumbled upon: #WhyISign, Deaf Identity, Rocky Mountain Deaf School YouTube channel, and ASL Kids Club YouTube channel. I wanted to include some resources for children because most of the resources I explored were created for adults. I figured a little variety makes for a more versatile resource hub! I decided to finish the Deaf U series and take a break from my podcast. I still had a number of episodes left and I wanted to wrap up at least one of the shows! I also learned how to sign some basic needs from ASL Connect and created a mash up video of some of the highlights from my learning this semester! Somehow, I feel like there’s still more to do…
Things I Missed:
In Brittney’s post, she included a segment of things she would have to have done over the course of this project. I shared the same sentiment as Brittney… I accomplished lots, but I have some ideas that I would have liked to try out!
Signing a song or children’s book
Seeing a DHH classroom (I tried, but it didn’t work out)
Putting my signing to the test and signing with someone who knows ASL
Incorporating this project into my classroom: I didn’t feel right teaching ASL on my own, seeing as I am a hearing person and I am very much so a beginner. In retrospect, it would have been neat having someone come into my classroom to teach the students some ASL!
I am by no means an expert on Deaf culture or ASL, but I can say with certainty that I have learned a lot! I enjoyed this learning project because it was more process than product driven and I felt I had the flexibility to change the course of my project when needed. I am so grateful for the people that helped me along the way and supported my journey! It was challenging and took a lot of practice to make gains, but it was fulfilling and worthwhile. I look forward to using this blog and the resources I’ve accumulated in the furture! Before I wrap this post up, my fiancé shared this Instagram post with me from ESPN this morning, which was then shared by #WhyISign. Watch the full video here and check out the post below.
Well, folks this is my final update! My Learning Project has been more of a journey, than a destination. My goal was quite broad, as I wasn’t quite sure where my project would take me. Although this is my final post, I still feel like I am not ready to be finished! There are so many things I was hoping to do (e.g.: explore even more resources, sign a song or children’s book, complete more of my ASL 1 lessons, etc.). However, this project has acted as a catalyst into an area of inquiry that holds potential for future career endeavours! Although I’m putting this project to rest for now, I don’t think I’ve seen the last of it…
I’ve been continuing to add to the Wakelet! It is my intention that this Wakelet be useful to anyone reading this blog and myself in the future. Since so many resources were shared with me, I compiled my favourites/ones I’ve spent a significant amount of time exploring, as well as other resources that were recommended to me that could potentially be useful in the future. Below, I’ve provided a brief overview of the following resources.
The #WhyISign campaign was started by Stacy Abrams to spread awareness about the importance of ASL. She aims to inspire families to share their experiences of why they learned to sign with their Deaf children. Stacy highlights that the Deaf community truly values families who support their children’s learning journey in ASL and wants to connect hearing and Deaf individuals. She explains that she is from a hearing family and they learned to sign in order to support and communicate with her. She states, “I will succeed, because I have language.” This resonated with me because it echoes much of what Michelle discussed in her conversation with me about language deprivation and the impact it can have on children whose families do not learn to sign with them. There is also an Instagram page that showcases the stories of people who learned to sign. I encourage you to check it out… It is amazing how deafness has touched so many people. With that being said, I am glad I started a resource hub because you never know who you will meet!
Deaf Identity is a clothing brand that I learned about from Chrissy Can’t Hear You. The website is pretty self-explanatory, as it is used to order clothing that raises awareness about deafness and empowers the Deaf community. After watching Deaf U, I was beginning to see how the Deaf community can be somewhat divisive. I appreciated that this brand made a statement that highlights there is no “right way” to be Deaf and everyone’s experience is unique. This reflects much of what Cheyenna was feeling in Deaf U. She felt that she was not accepted or “Deaf enough.” It was reassuring to see that there is more than one way to experience deafness and that these experiences are a vast spectrum. In addition, I found it very powerful when this statement touched on being told, “Oh, never mind”, which also echoed Bet’s experience at family gatherings from the Seen and Not Heard podcast.
Resources for Kids: Rocky Mountain Deaf School & ASL Kids Club YouTube Channels
The Rocky Mountain Deaf School YouTube channel was recommended to me in both of my conversations with Michelle and Alyssa. Essentially, this resource has a variety of children’s books that are signed in ASL. The storyteller is very expressive and the videos are well-made. For example, the pictures and words from the book are clear and the person on the screen is front and centre to make their signing easily recognized. Like most videos I’ve watched this semester, there is no sound. In addition, an ASL specialist named Jeni Jackerson edits and signs these stories and is a staff member at Rocky Mountain Deaf School, which is located in Denver, Colorado. When I was thinking of learning to sign a children’s book, I was planning on using this resource! The ASL Kids Club YouTube channel is a resource for children who are interested in learning sign. Most of the videos have background music and the words that are being signed are said out loud along with the sign. This channel contains basic ASL vocabulary for kids, as well as signed children’s books. The books have audio and text along with signing. This channel was created by a teacher named Ms. Trina who has taught and been an ASL interpreter for over 20 years. On the YouTube channel, there is also a link to access her website. On the website, it appears that there are other lesson options beyond the YouTube channel that have different price ranges.
I made it through the first and only season of Deaf U! I watched the last three episodes over the last two weeks. I knew I most likely wouldn’t be able to finish the Seen and Not Heard podcast as well because there are a number of episodes left. I decided to focus my time on finishing Deaf U, as I was so close! In addition, I’ve become somewhat invested in the lives of the students on the show… I just needed to know how the season ended!
Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve tried to keep my posts about this show focused on the Deaf culture piece. Since there were only three episodes left, most of the Deaf culture pieces have already been covered and now the show mainly focuses on the stories of the students. However, there are some interesting pieces that I took away from these episodes. For example, I’ve been thinking more and more about the Universal Design (UD) model and ways to create Deaf friendly environments (us teachers may be most familiar with the Universal Design for Learning). This train of thought was sparked when DQ and his girlfriend were on a subway and there were announcements at each stop. Usually, there is a visual that accompanies this message. However, there are other announcements that do not have a corresponding visual. Since DQ can hear, he would interpret for his girlfriend. This made me think about what Deaf people do in these situations when they are alone and if there is an emergency. In the comfort of your own home, you can have your space adapted to meet your needs, but this can be tricky in public spaces. One of the principles of UD is flexibility in use. This means having choice in the method of use. To alert a Deaf person there is an announcement in a subway station, it might be helpful to have a light flash and a screen that is available for the person to read.
Furthermore, Cheyenna discusses that more Deaf singers are beginning to be represented in music videos and in live shows. She interpreted for a singer and explained that she memorizes the lyrics, but needs to feel the rhythm. It was also discussed how interpreters usually do not perform live, as this is very challenging to do. Cheyenna also explains that it is difficult to demonstrate the changes in the singer’s voice and pitch. She also expresses that she feels very unaccepted by the “elite” group of students at Gallaudet because she is caught in between the hearing world and the Deaf world. She also signs different than the “elites” and mouths when she signs, especially on her YouTube channel. Her friend Cameron explains to her that the Deaf community is small and that it is important they preserve the culture and language. In the final episode, we find out that Cheyenna ends up dropping out of Gallaudet. She was disappointed to leave, but was struggling with the social pressures that come with being involved in the Deaf community.
Final Mash Up & Connect ASL!
Initially, I was planning on doing Lesson # 5 with Bill Vicars, but I figured it was more appropriate to do a final mash up of what I’ve learned! It’s nothing fancy, but my goal was to showcase the bits and pieces that I’ve learned in terms of my ASL. For this video, I decided to pick a few of my favourite items and put them together in one highlight video. I decided to showcase:
5 outdoor activities
5 basic needs
Bill Vicars’s lesson highlights
I wanted to mix things up and try making TikToks to the beat of a song for these segments. However, my speed just isn’t quite there yet! I needed more than a minute for most of these, so I went back to my trusty YouTube! Although TikTok wasn’t the right platform for the job, I think once I get my speed down it would be such a great way to showcase any further learning! I did need to review each of the segments prior to doing them for my mash up video, but once I began practicing these skills again, it came back quite easily. To be honest, I am a little disappointed that I did not have the chance to learn how to sign part of a song or a children’s book. If I had just a few more weeks, this would have been my next big goal! I am still scratching my head trying to figure out where the time went…
I also was planning on learning family terms for my next ASL Connect lesson. However, on the website I found a video for basic needs, which I thought would be helpful. As a result, I ditched my original plan and pursued this route instead! Since my basic ASL vocabulary is starting to improve, I decided to do this video in one take by not chopping it into sections. I spent about an hour practicing in the mirror and reviewing with the video. After, I decided to just go for it! It took about four takes when filming, but I was able to do it way quicker than previous videos. In my videos prior to this one, I would include symbols or descriptions to remind me of the motions. In this video, I just used my word list without the descriptions. Progress!
Something else I would like to mention is that Michelle was featured in my division’s Monday Information Source. There is a Google Chrome extension that will automatically caption videos played in the Chrome browser. This is definitely something to consider implementing, as I find students retain information from videos we watch more effectively when they can also read captions. This is a great way to reach a variety of learners. Check out this link here to install the feature!
Thank you for sticking with me on this learning journey that has been full of change and growth!
Well folks… That’s it, that’s all! However, before I officially wrap it up, here’s a little background information on my Summary of Learning…
Since learning about Creative Commons licenses, I aimed to use the majority of my photos from this resource. In addition, Alec spoke to how humans shape tools and eventually the tools shape us. He made a reference to people taking pictures of notes and how this is not an effective use of a tool because it does not promote learning retention. This resonated with me because writing is such a huge part in how I learn and consolidate information. Bearing this in mind, I decided to do something that involved writing. Creating jot notes, symbols, and mind maps to showcase my learning this semester felt meaningful and came naturally when filming. Lastly, I love anything stationary related. I went out and bought myself a whiteboard and a multi-coloured Expo marker pack… Was this necessary? No. Did buying brightly coloured dry erase markers spark joy? Yes. In EC&I 833, I originally wanted to do a video like this. However, since the class was focused on educational technology, I felt it was more appropriate to create my summary using a tool I learned about in the class. For this summary, I was excited to put my original idea into action! The video looks pretty low tech, however, a significant amount of editing, filming, voice recording, and learning how to work my fiancé’s Canon M50 camera was a process. I had some knowledge on how to use the camera from EC&I 832, but it has been a while!
The conclusion of these classes are always a little bittersweet. I had so many artefacts of learning this semester I wanted to share, making it incredibly difficult to choose which pieces to highlight! Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed this journey and the relationships I’ve gained throughout the course. It has been a pleasure learning alongside you all!
Based on my previous blog post about OERs and the many useful resources Alec provided for us to explore, simply put, yes– the OER movement is valuable and certainly “worth it.” There are so many well-made resources out there that often go over-looked because Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) has the monopoly on this one. However, paying copious amounts of money for teaching resources isn’t necessary. There are many OERs available, but no one knows about them. I haven ‘t met a teacher yet that hasn’t heard of TPT. I’m excited about the concept of openly sharing knowledge, but somewhat hesitant because I don’t know where to start, what OERs are available, and which ones are easy to use with high quality resources. By having the opportunity to explore various OERs this week, I can deep dive into an area that has sparked curiosity since I have started my graduate studies. It is also pretty handy that this post can become a future reference tool as I slowly expand my horizons beyond the grasp of TPT.
Before I get too carried away and start assessing OERs, I must admit that I don’t really know what I’m looking for when it comes to the evaluation piece. I stumbled upon this checklist from OpenLearn to help guide my thinking in regard to what makes a “good” OER:
I was expecting a number of items on this list, such as: clearly licensed through Creative Commons, must be from a source you trust, and cannot contain copyrighted content. One aspect of this list that took me by surprise was the final bullet point. When using OERs, you can’t expect perfection or that it can be applied to all contexts. As a matter of fact, some OERs are intended to be remixed or adapted.
As I continued to establish some kind of criteria when assessing OERs I came across The 5Rs of Using OERS. Although this may not be a “checklist” of the qualities a good OER should have, it does outline the purposes of OERs and the different ways they can be used. Basically, whatever OER I am evaluating, it must connect with at least one of those 5 Rs in some way and meet some of the qualities outlined in the above list.
Sidebar: The link where the above graphic was found also included a great explanation in the form of a farming metaphor to explain what an OERs is and what can be done with them as well. Check it out for an interesting perspective!
How are OERs valuable? How could they be used?
I chose two OERs that piqued my interest to research more in-depth. Currently, my understanding is very surface-level and I am hoping to learn a little more about them. I’ve heard of these in some capacity before making this post, but haven’t really spent much time exploring them as a resource. Please keep in mind my assessment using my own “criteria” could be incorrect or have gaps… Feel free to comment if I have missed something, as I am still learning about OERs. Keep reading to see my thoughts and experiences!
Use: What drew me to this OER initially is that I’ve heard of Ted-Ed before just from watching the occasional YouTube video. However, I didn’t realize they had an entire OER for teachers to implement! In terms of its use, the website clearly outlines what can be done with Ted-Ed:
“Discover ideas that spark the curiosity of learners.”
“Create customized lessons for your students.”
“Inspire your students to share their big ideas.”
“Share YOUR big idea in a TED-style talk.”
I created an account to get a solid snapshot of this resource hub, which was straight forward and quick to do. I appreciated that it didn’t ask a plethora of questions or for a bunch of information, making the process comfortable to complete. After I created an educator account, I began perusing the website. My overall impression of the aesthetic of the site is that it is easy to find what you’re looking for and it is well laid out. I didn’t need to search through a variety of tabs or scroll through pages of resources. It is also helpful that there is a search bar to help you find content efficiently. From what I gather in the educator category, there are four pages to visit: Discover, Create, Manage, and Support. I spent the most time looking at the Discover and Create pages, as these were the most applicable to my context.
Discover: This is where you’ll find ready-made lessons on basically any topic… No prep needed! The general structure of these lessons are: Watch (a video), Think (basic comprehension, multiple choice questions/some short answer), Dig Deeper (offers additional resources to explore), and Discuss (offers various articles to keep the conversation going). I like this format, as the students’ thinking gradually becomes more critical. Most importantly, I like that the structure is present, but teachers can add their unique spin due to its flexibility. There are also video series about a variety of topics as well, which are all organized by theme. In addition to this section, there is another section called Earth School, which includes lessons about climate-change and how we can reduce our ecological footprint. Lastly, there is another section that includes a Ted-Ed blog that contains articles on a variety of topics. Overall, I was very impressed with the content coverage of the Discover tab.
Create: Essentially, teachers can create their own lesson that follows the structure outlined above. You can search for a YouTube video to add or create your own, then follow the template provided. In addition, teachers and students can register for the Ted-Ed Student/Educator Talks Program. This program teaches students and educators how to share/present their ideas in the form of a short Ted Talk. However, the program for students requires an application process. For educators, there is a Masterclass available to take and you can have one lesson for free.
I created my own lesson to gain an understanding of the process that follows the Ted-Ed format. My overall impression is that it was very easy and quick to put together! I kept my lesson brief, as I was experimenting with different features, but feel free to click on the link above to check it out! When I was creating my lesson, I was supplied with a simple template to fill in with my questions or additional discussion prompts. For my video, I chose one right off of Ted-Ed, making the creation process efficient as well. Students can create logins or they can complete the activity using a link provided by their teacher. Teachers can view and track student progress as well, making it slightly reminiscent of Kahoot! or Quizizz. I also thought it was a nice touch that teachers can add video time codes to the questions being asked for hints
Value: I was curious about how my students would respond to the pre-made lessons on Ted-Ed, so I decided to take one of the lessons for a test drive. We did the lesson titled, The Amazing Effects of Gratitude. Most of the kids had already heard of Ted Talks and were excited about using a “Ted” resource. We watched the video and did the multiple choice questions for our morning Bell Work. I had the kids respond to the questions on their whiteboards and we discussed each as a group. Next, they needed to write down (at least) three people or things they are grateful for and their “homework” was to express their gratitude. They were excited about their task and enjoyed the video, as it provoked a lot of discussion. On the teacher end, it was very low prep and provided a helpful template to follow without being too restrictive. This is definitely a resource I plan on bookmarking. Curtis commented on my tweet and mentioned that he had used Ted-Ed for math this week, highlighting that different teachers from different grades are able to implement this OER. I think it has relevant and valuable content that is easily accessible as well. I was blown away by the sheer volume of topics that Ted-Ed covers through their lessons!
Does it live up to the criteria examples I’ve noted above? From what I can tell, it is:
Easy to find
From a source I trust
Easy to modify (e.g.: creating your lessons)
Imperfect (e.g.: serves my purpose, but I can also create my own content)
In terms of the 5Rs:
Overall, I really enjoyed using this OER! One thing I would change is having a paper version of the lessons or alternate forms of templates to follow when creating a lesson. Nonetheless, I found this resource valuable and applicable for a variety of contexts and uses.
Use: Prior to the last two weeks of class, I’ve never heard of OER Commons. However, it has come up in multiple blog posts this past week and it was one of many OERs that were recommended to me. To highlight its use, the website states, “OER Commons is a public digital library of open educational resources. Explore, create, and collaborate with educators around the world to improve curriculum.”
Again, I created an account for myself and began exploring this resource. On the first page, you can type in what you are looking for, subject, education level, and standard. I first noticed that this is an American made resource because I couldn’t seem to find any Canadian standards. On this page, you can also make your search more specific by using the advanced search option. For my first search, I tried finding some resources on the novel called, Fish In A Tree. I typed this in, but unfortunately my search didn’t yield any results. However, when picked a broader topic, such as, parts of speech I got significantly more resources. Something I noticed right away when looking at these resources is that it notes the Creative Commons license types with the resource, so there is no guess work in regard to its usage rights. The website is organized into four categories: Discover, Hubs, Groups, and Our Services. I mainly focused on Discover, Hubs, and Groups for the purpose of this blog post.
Discover: In this tab there is a Resources section and this is categorized into two parts: Subject Areas and Materials Types. In both of these sections, there are a variety of options to choose from. I clicked on Games in the Materials Types section and I came across this game called 70 Characters or Less. Essentially, this game aims to answer the question on whether 70 characters is enough to communicate a message clearly, which appears to be inspired by the character limit on Twitter. The instructions are outlined on the right side of the page. Essentially, students need to paraphrase a sentence stem or question into 70 characters or less and respond to each other, again, in 70 characters or less. Students then analyze if the conversation thread made sense and if this was an effective way to communicate as a post-lesson activity. The resource also offered a website called Who am I Online? that offered a variety of digital citizenship resources. This website was created by the creators of this game and the lesson explained above was part of a larger media unit. Although this lesson was developed for students in grade 9 or 10, I could use this idea and create my own similar game for younger students. It is important to note that unless I requested access to edit the Google Docs provided, I wouldn’t be able to change them.
There is also a Collections section under this tab which is essentially curated collections that have been thoughtfully organized into various categories. In these categories, it is helpful that you can search for specific topics, as some collections have hundreds of resources
Lastly, there is a section called Providers under this tab too. Essentially, it is list of organizations that have provided resources. This could also help narrow down your search if you are looking for something that you know was created by a specific group, rather than sifting through the many resources on OER Commons.
Hubs: OER Commons notes that the Hubs tab is, “…a custom resource center on where groups can create and share collections associated with a project or organization. Projects, institutions, states and initiatives make use of Hubs to bring groups of educators together to create, organize, and share collections that meet their common goals.” I appreciate that there is also a collaborative piece to this OER, as this contributes to building a community of creators that share and develop meaningful content. However, it appears that you need to join as a Hub member in order to do this, but it is not required to check out the resources.
I explored the CAST Hub, as I have some familiarity with CAST through my Major Project in EC&I 833. Each hub has sections that cater to specific topics that provide either lesson plans or information. There are also hubs for many other topics as well, however, they are somewhat broad categories and may take some sifting through to find what you’re looking for. In this particular hub, it navigated me to different parts of the CAST website and was more information-based than lesson plan-based. I wish I had known about the many layers to the CAST website, as this would have been helpful for my project last term!
Groups: OER Commons also provides groups for its users to join. I explored the OER Science STEM User Group. You can request to join the group, but even without the membership, I could still access their resources. However, I couldn’t view or participate in their discussions. I think the collaborative nature and connections that can be built through OER Commons is an exciting and unique quality of the resource!
Value: Overall, I think this a useful OER with tons of great resources. Based on the sheer amount of resources available for a variety of grades, subject areas, and contexts I can see other educators making use of this. Plus, I think it is unique because it allows educators to connect and collaborate together by forming groups, which truly lives up to the OER standard. Furthermore, it is extremely organized and there are a variety of ways to search for whatever you are looking for. Lastly, it correlates with the Creative Commons licensing, so it makes the user aware of exactly how the resource can be used. In my opinion, an area of improvement would be the finding of resources. For example, (not to mention TPT, but…) on TPT it is incredibly easy to find a unit/lesson plan for a specific book or topic, which is why it is usually my “go to.” I found on OER Commons, you need to go into it with an open mind and some time on your hands. I found a lesson plan (noted above) that I would like to use for a media literacy lesson, but it wasn’t what I was searching for necessarily. A potential reason for this issue could be that OER Commons is not as widely used as TPT, so there are fewer resources at this time. Also, I am not a seasoned OER Commons user. It might be easier to use and locate resources once I’ve gained some experience with how it works and use it primarily for broader searches, but as a new user it was a little overwhelming. Now, in terms of my criteria…
Resources were highly organized
Clearly licensed through Creative Commons
Free of copyright
Recommended to me by colleagues
Imperfect– some resources had a concept, but I would need to modify it to fit my context
In terms of the 5Rs…
Revisable (depending on licensing)
Remixable (depending on licensing)
Redistributable (depending on licensing)
Challenges of OERs & Areas for Growth
OERs present the opportunity for collaboration, resource sharing, and can offer new perspectives. I also think they make acquiring resources for teachers equitable because they are free. However, OERs will not have success if people do not contribute or improve resources that are already available.
According to an article by Tom Berger titled, “The Uncertain Future of OER”, OERs can often not be of high-quality or it is difficult to find the right resource that serves your purpose. From the two OERs I spent time exploring, I would say they do have high quality resources, but can pose difficulties when finding the right one. Furthermore, the article reinforces my opinion in regard to the contributions piece. Berger highlighted that not everyone is a content creator and in order for OERs to be successful there needs to be some kind of sharing economy in place. In addition, the article makes a mention of TPT and that people are more willing to generate content and share it for money, not just for the sake of sharing resources to hopefully gain something in return. Lastly, I would say the biggest challenge associated with OERs is that there is not much awareness about them, which can have an impact on the amount of resources available and the quality of them. Many teachers create fantastic lessons or units and don’t share them– not necessarily because they don’t want to, but the culture of sharing and exchanging ideas is not necessarily widespread, although I do believe it is gaining some traction! Chris spoke to this in his post last week. He mentioned that he created this fantastic unit for a career education course, but it just stayed static and was never put to use again because it was not shared with others.
If there is one positive that has come out of the pandemic, I think people have worked a lot harder to connect in virtual settings and exchange ideas. The pandemic also had people who aren’t necessarily the most “tech-savvy” learning new skills, such as shopping online or connecting with others virtually. The article I’ve referred to above is from 2018 and many significant changes have happened since then. I feel the future of OERs is not as bleak as it was three years ago. However, with that being said, I need to be less of a content user and more of a content creator/share-er. By creating more collaborative spaces online or in-person, we not only pave the way for other educators to hop on board, but ultimately our students reap the benefits!
Items to ponder…
Did you take a look at Ted-Ed or OER Commons? Is there anything you would like to add or that you feel I may have missed?
What are your thoughts on the challenges and areas of improvement associated with OERs?
I spent most of my time with Ted-Ed and OER Commons… Are there any OERs you explored this week that I should explore further?
It’s been another busy two weeks since my last post! I’m slowly starting to bring my project to a close because our last class is only two weeks away… Anyone else thinking they should probably start working on their Summary of Learning Project…? Nonetheless, it’s a little bittersweet realizing that this project is wrapping up. I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to connect with people in my school division and to learn a language that is rich in culture and community. Although we are nearing the end, we aren’t quite there yet… Keep reading to see what I’ve been up to and what’s on the horizon!
Where We Started…
Continue with my ASL 1 lessons (Lesson 4 and maybe 5)
Keep up with Deaf U and Seen and Not Heard shows
Continue to explore ASL Connect… I’m thinking of learning how to sign different outdoor activities.
Continue building my Wakelet resource hub
Explore Deaf influencers on social media and other educational accounts
Where We Ended Up…
Bill Vicars Lessons: Lesson # 4
Initially, I was planning on doing both Lesson # 4 and # 5, however, I found Lesson # 4 a little more difficult to learn, practice, and film. Plus, I was also in the process of mastering ASL outdoor activity signs. It was starting to feel like a bit much, so I decided to pull back and focus on just Lesson # 4 for now! Since I did find this lesson more challenging, I needed to create my update video in chunks because I kept forgetting the signs when I was trying to do them all at once! What I found challenging about this particular lesson was that Bill would teach the student a few new signs, then would share a fingerspelled version of those words. The student needed to figure out what the word was and then sign it back to Bill. This was certainly challenging, but also a welcome change. I had learned the ASL alphabet as one of my first tasks and wasn’t finding much opportunity to apply it, so it was exciting getting to combine this with one of my lessons. It was also a nice review because it has been a few weeks since I’ve practiced the alphabet. Something that surprised me in this lesson was that I already new “friend” and “help” from a song that I signed and sang in choir from elementary school!
For some reason the struggle was real when I was trying to sign “bedroom.” As the lessons carry on, they are also moving much quicker, making it difficult to notice the nuances in each movement. However, I resorted to Signing Savvy and Handspeak to catch the signs I was struggling with. I tried sticking as closely as I could with the signs Bill was doing, although some were slightly different than the signs on Handspeak. This was also the first lesson that I’ve done with Bill that had longer sentences. For example, “If teacher spell slow you understand s/he?” Not only did I need to apply new information when signing this sentence, I was also able to apply some previous knowledge too! I am starting see the overlap between each lesson and how they gradually progress. Next week, I am aiming for Lesson # 5!
ASL Connect: Outdoor Activities
To continue supplementing my lessons, I’ve also been learning basic vocabulary terms. This week I decided to focus on Outdoor Activities from ASL Connect. Overall, I found the flow of this video a little slower than the video I did last week. However, I still needed to double-check with Signing Savvy and Handspeak to make sure I wasn’t missing any small details. Since I am slowly gaining some fluency with signing, I originally was planning on breaking this video into three separate chunks and learning one chunk each day. As it turned out, it only took me two chunks to get the hang of these signs. Of course, I also practiced in the mirror prior to filming, which I found helpful. In my video I couldn’t include one of the signs from the tutorial… I could not figure out what activity they were referring to at 2:47! Feel free to watch the video and let me know if you have an idea! You’ll notice that I left that one out in my practice video update. I’m hoping to squeeze in one more of these lessons for my next update. I’m thinking of the 5 Whs or Family.
Seen and Not Heard Podcast & Deaf U
Seen and Not Heard: For this post, I listened to Episode 7. It begins with Bet getting her hearing aids checked out, as she has been experiencing some discomfort with them. Something interesting I learned about hearing aids is that some people are actually allergic to the material that is in them, which can cause an allergic reaction. The specialist tells Bet that her reaction to the hearing aids could be more of a mental adjustment than a physical issue. They ask her to take note of when she feels agitated by her hearing aids and to take them out for a break. Later, Bet goes to her mom’s music concert. Her dad and sister get close seats, but Bet explains to them that it probably won’t help and hearing will be difficult anyway. Her sister assures her they will crank the microphone volume, but Bet is also skeptical about that helping. The concert begins, and as Bet predicted, she can’t hear because the reverberations are too strong. As she is watching the concert, she begins to feel anxious about the social after in a crowded, large, echoey auditorium. As she is talking to the guests, she pretends to know what people are saying by nodding and replying, “Oh, yes, yes!” Sarah and Bet notice that their Dad looks concerned while they are at the social. He shares that their grandmother is ill and is in the hospital. Bet is guilt-ridden on her way to the hospital. After she lost her hearing, she stopped visiting her grandma unless someone else could go with her. Her grandma’s voice had become so soft that Bet couldn’t hear her to have a conversation. Bet’s mother is all business and taking care of the paperwork/organizing aspect. However, Bet vocalizes to her mom that when she was ill, she never really came to visit other than to drop items off. Bet explains to her mom that she needs to be there for grandma because this will be her last chance. Bet visits David and he notices that she doesn’t seem like herself. He asks her what is wrong and Bet reluctantly shares that her grandmother passed away. The episode ends with David comforting Bet. This episode was short and sweet, but something that resonated with me was that Bet had stopped visiting her grandmother after she lost her hearing. I feel like Bet’s mom lives in denial that Bet’s life has changed quite dramatically, and as a result, hasn’t been offering her the support that she needs. Bet feels isolated and is missing out on opportunities, as she feels judged asking for help. This situation highlights the importance of learning to self advocate and having a network of people to help you adapt to change.
Deaf U: I’m definitely a reality T.V. junkie, so I’ve really been getting into Deaf U and watching the drama unfold. However, I’ve been trying to keep my posts focused on Deaf culture and the Gallaudet University experiences of the people featured in the show. This week I watched episodes 3, 4, and 5. Keep reading to find out my “takeaways.”
In episode 3, Rodney and DQ were having dinner with Rodney’s family. Rodney’s parents are both African American and attended Yale University, which is an Ivy League school. At the dinner table, they discuss the intersectionality of Deafness and being African American. DQ is also African American and grew up in difficult conditions, as he lost his mother when he was only 14. He explains to Rodney’s family that he feel like his life experiences and what he has been through doesn’t align with the experiences of the other students that attend Gallaudet. Rodney’s mom asks DQ if he feels this way because he is Black and hearing. As a white, hearing woman, the concept of the intersectionality of being Deaf and African American never dawned on me. I felt that Rodney’s mom raised an interesting point that I’m sure many people from other marginalized groups face in the Deaf community. DQ elaborated more on the hearing/Deafness piece, as he explains that he struggles with the culture at Gallaudet because he is hearing and doesn’t sign all of the time; he talks. They also discuss how the gossip at Gallaudet spins out of control so quickly because they are such a small community. Rodney’s mom cracked me up because she didn’t miss a beat and doesn’t take any excuses. She explained to Rodney that he knows what the Deaf community is like and understood that Gallaudet is a small community… Essentially, he knew what he was getting himself into. Sidebar: During this segment of the episode, Rodney signed, “mommy’s boy” and I was excited that I knew what that meant, as I learned these signs in my lesson this week! Woohoo– progress! The smallness of Gallaudet is highlighted in Cheyenna’s conversation with Alexa. She addresses the issue of Alexa’s friends being critical about her YouTube videos. Alexa is part of the “elite” group at Gallaudet, but is also friends with Cheyenna who is not. Alexa explains that the term “elite” is somewhat misleading. From her perspective, it refers to friends she has had since childhood. Alexa often finds herself stuck between her friends who are “elite” and those who don’t belong to this group. She wants to keep her old friends, but enjoys connecting with Cheyenna because she is different than the people Alexa spent most of her childhood with. On a date with Rodney, Cheyenna explains that she struggles because she doesn’t feel like she really belongs to the Deaf community and that she is often judged by them. In some ways, I feel like the Deaf community at Gallaudet is very hierarchical and some of the students feel like they need to prove they are “Deaf enough.” Based on the experiences I am seeing from some of these students, I wonder if other Deaf communities are also like this to a certain degree. I understand this is reality T.V., so some details may be fabricated, but I also don’t doubt that small communities can become “cliquey,” as we can see this in many other contexts. However, as a young person in college, I think this would be challenging when you are still trying to figure out your place in the world. In my opinion, I think being Deaf adds another layer when trying to develop relationships with others who are hearing, as the mode of communication is completely different and so is the lived-experience of those who are Deaf versus those who are not. I am not saying it isn’t possible for hearing and Deaf people to connect, but there are different things that need to be considered.
In episodes 4 and 5, Dalton shared with Rodney that he isn’t interested in dating people who are hearing. After he began attending an all Deaf school, his world really opened up because he found people who could relate to his experiences. After he began attending this school, he took his hearing aids and flushed them down the toilet, as he didn’t feel they were necessary anymore because he had found his niche. I appreciate that this show brings in so many relatable topics and tries to deconstruct the stigma around mental health. Renate expresses that she deals with depression, anxiety, and often worries about the future. She also explains that her parents divorced when she was 5 and reveals that she deals with PTSD from the domestic violence that occurred before the separation. Renate’s struggles highlight that although she is Deaf, the challenges she has experienced in her life reflect those of many others. I also want to bring attention to how Deaf U highlights that people who are Deaf experience things that all hearing people experience as well. I read this article by Fred Topel that explains one of the goals of the series was to highlight how Deaf people experience the world is not drastically different than hearing people. The cast was also interviewed and they gave some great insight into the purpose of the show, as well as their experience of filming it.
My final comments on the episodes I watched are regarding some small pieces I noticed in the episodes that caught my attention as a hearing person. The first piece that caught my attention was clapping. Renate performed at a Slam Poetry night and the audience raised their hands and twinkled their fingers, rather than clapping. I wondered if this was because it was a Deaf performance. Turns out it is! It is called the deaf applause and it started in France and was brought to America by Gerald “Bummy” Burstein. Essentially, it is a “visual display of applause.” I got a chuckle out of this e-card! I was also impressed with myself when I understood the joke without any help. If you don’t get it, look here and here! The second piece was when Cheyenna went to a bar with Cameron and Rodney. When Cheyenna placed her order, she asked for a napkin and pen and wrote it down. In addition, she was reading the lips of some other girls talking in the bar who were staring at her. She could tell they were talking about her because she could read what they were saying… Busted! Finally, my favourite part of all of the episodes, was when Cheyenna was talking about music. As a child, she felt it was so unfair that everyone else could hear music and she couldn’t. One day, she realized she could feel vibrations and she said that after she learned this, the world became such a colourful place and wasn’t simply black and white anymore. I felt this statement was so powerful and eloquently phrased.
New Resources/Social Media Explorations & Wakelet Update
I’ve also spent some time going through the resources I’ve stumbled upon on my own and some that were recommended to me by Alyssa, Michelle, and the SLP from my school. Since so many wonderful resources were shared, there’s no way I would be able explore them all and post about each one. I decided to choose a couple and discuss them on my blog, but will also post others on my Wakelet. This week, I’ve decided to tackle some social media accounts that I’ve discovered…
Chrissy Can’t Hear You: I’ve watched a few of Chrissy’s videos on YouTube and I’ve really enjoyed them. Michelle and Alyssa offered great insight, but it has been helpful listening to the perspectives of a Deaf person and their everyday experiences. She uses her social media (Tik Tok, Instagram, YouTube channel, etc.) to educate people about ASL and the Deaf community/culture. In addition, she is a film major at the University of Southern California. One of the first videos of Chrissy’s that I watched was her experience of getting a cochlear implant. This process can be complicated and difficult to understand. Getting to see snippets of Chrissy’s experience made it that much more “real” for me. Something I found surprising from Chrissy’s experience was that the implant doesn’t work immediately. One month after the surgery, it needs to be activated. I always figured that it is turned on immediately and that was it! However, I am learning that cochlear implants take practice to learn how to use and they are uncomfortable at first. Chrissy said all of the noises she was hearing were very over-stimulating and she felt guilty for not liking her cochlear implant. However, she has learned to balance her use of the cochlear implant and the sounds are becoming less stimulating. She said it is important to remember that even though she has the cochlear implant, she still requires many of the adaptations she had before the surgery and self-advocacy is still crucial. Lastly, she says the experience really emphasized the importance of ASL and how the cochlear implant is a tool to supplement ASL. She says the ASL provides full access and the cochlear implant is the security.
This was another great video I watched prior to my conversations with Michelle and Alyssa. I found it helpful, as it gave me an idea of where to start and what I should be aware of to approach my project respectfully. Much of what she mentioned was also noted by Alyssa and Michelle as well! I encourage you to watch this video, as I wouldn’t have known about some of the “dos and don’ts” without it.
Connect Society: This is a nonprofit organization in Edmonton and Calgary that Alyssa had spent some time working in. They have an Instagram page that has signs of the month and showcases the work that they do. They share some helpful tips as well. This organization works to help build connections between Deaf and hard of hearing individuals, as well as provide resources. In this post, I’ve included their signs of the month for September. I encourage you to check out their Instagram page!
I’ve also added these resources, along with some others, to the Wakelet that I’ve started!
Where We Are Heading…
In my last blog post, I contemplated learning how to sign a children’s book or part of it. However, I took a peek at my calendar and my days are numbered! This goal might be a little much, as I am trying to bring this project to a close while also beginning my Summary of Learning! The next post you read about my Learning Project will most likely be my wrap up post, but never fear, I still have a few things up my sleeve I plan to work on and include in my final Learning Project post. Some of these items include…
Complete Bill Vicars Lesson # 5
Continue working on my ASL Connect supplement lessons… I’m thinking about learning family members next!
Continue adding to my Wakelet and exploring the many resources passed down to me
If time allows: Keep up with Seen and Not Heard and Deaf U shows
Thank you for sticking with me this long and following my journey!
Another blog prompt, another anecdote to start us off…
The first class I took in my graduate studies was the research methods course. In this course, we were tasked with writing a hypothetical literature review on any topic of our choosing. After much deliberation, I decided to write my review on teacher collaboration and the impact it has on student achievement. At the time, I was working in a collaborative situation with two other teachers. This would have been my third (ish) year teaching, while my co-teachers had about 10 or more years under their belt. Up until this point, I hopped from temporary contract to temporary contract and was a new teacher. I felt so lost on my teaching journey and was constantly wondering, “Am I doing this right…?” I was unsure and could not figure out how people have lives beyond teaching, as I was learning just how demanding this career can be. Eventually, I landed a permanent contract and was told I will be working alongside two other teachers. The concept intrigued me, but was also terrifying. “What ifs” flooded my thoughts, “What if we don’t get along? What if they think I am the worst teacher? What if…”. In the end, it was the best possible thing that will ever happen to me, career-wise. Nysa and Nicole not only embraced my ideas, but I learned so much from them. In a lot of ways, they saved me from eventually burning out from teaching. They became my mentors and friends. In addition, they’ve been an integral part of my master’s program. They somehow always end up getting involved and it’s the best– check out my EC&I 832 Major Project for proof! Since we are in different places on our teaching journeys, after my second year working with them, they were moved to another school. I was sad to see them leave, but gained equally as awesome new co-teachers the following year, which was a blessing too. This year with all the shuffling throughout my school division, my situation is a little different, but my confidence and resource hub has significantly improved and I owe that to developing my own little network of teaching partners. Hence, my decision to write my literature review on teacher collaboration. Simply put, it was the resources and collaborative opportunities that allowed me to grow in a professional way that never would have been possible if I were completely left to my own devices. Although this happened “in person”, lately, I’ve been imagining the possibilities by harnessing digital technologies…
During this the research process for my literature review, I actually stumbled across a variety of articles that discussed the value of Web 2.0 technologies, which I discussed in my paper. I was also introduced to open education resources (OER) and contemplated incorporating this into my literature review as well. However, I was struggling to really understand the concept and wasn’t comfortable including it in my paper. In class last week, Alec mentioned some terms that I recall from my research on this topic that I was grappling with two years ago: copyright, copyleft,open education resources (OER), and massive open online courses (MOOCS). Needless to say, I was looking forward to exploring these concepts further!
My Context: Impacts of the Culture of Sharing and Open Education Resources
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation define OERs as, “high quality teaching, learning, and research resources that are free for others to use and re-purpose. OER presented an extraordinary opportunity for increasing access to education, sharing knowledge, fostering instructional innovation, and supporting personalized learning” (p. i). In addition, they highlight the materials provided by school divisions do not always meet student needs and constrain the teacher’s ability to adapt these resources. This was something that I could relate to. Paper copies of textbooks cannot be easily adapted by teachers. In addition to this issue, more often than not, textbooks always seem to go missing and there is never enough to go around. ISTE explains that unlike proprietary resources (such as textbooks), OERs can be updated and remixed to improve their quality, ultimately benefitting the students we teach. ISTE highlights the benefits of incorporating OERs:
Expanded Access to High Quality Materials
Empowered Teachers & Collaborative Culture
I almost feel like these two benefits could be clumped together. As you could probably tell from the above anecdote, collaboration and working as a team was an empowering experience for me. It not only boosted my confidence, but I became a better teacher knowing that I had a support system behind the educational decisions I was making. In addition, I believe it is important to recognize teaching as an art or craft that has been refined over years of experience. ISTE notes that when using OERs it allows teachers flexibility and the opportunity to evaluate which OERs will benefit the unique needs of their students, rather than being pigeon holed into strictly using proprietary resources. As we all are, I am a big fan of Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). I completely understand teachers attaching a fee to their hard work of developing resources for (generally speaking) reasonable prices and for their work to be copyrighted. After grappling with the idea of open access, I’ve began to wonder about the potential of removing the cost associated with these resources and allowing other teachers to remix and share the content that is already out there. I know of some teachers who have actually quit classroom teaching and have made TPT their main source of income. This group of people would most likely oppose this idea, but I do believe that it could lead to some pretty amazing resources and positive outcomes for students. The more people with access, the better these resources can become. The ISTE article I’ve been referring to also highlights that if schools are to make a transition to using OER materials, this would be difficult to do in isolation. I find this ironic because the whole premise of OERs is to collaborate, but to even learn how to maximize the use of them also requires collaboration!
Alec shared a quote from Eric S. Raymond that resonated with me when it comes to developing and sharing information. Essentially, it isn’t about what you get, but about what you give.
Expanded Access to High Quality Materials & Reinvested Funds
ISTE also highlights that by using OERs teachers have access to materials that better meet student needs by being culturally diverse and representing students from all walks of life. In addition, these well-thought out and inclusive resources can reach larger populations if they are open-licensed and have permit-free distribution. I also want to extend this a step beyond OERs being created by educational professionals. I was inspired by Larry Lessig’s TedTalk and I appreciated that he made note of the value of amateurs engaging in read-write culture. I think it is important to bear in mind that people who may not be professionals can still make meaningful contributions purely because they are interested and find enjoyment in engaging with that particular content, not for monetary gain. Lastly, OERs are free. This means that school division budgets can be allocated elsewhere. The cost of one textbook in a school can be expensive… Then, multiply that by enough for a whole class. By using OERs and less proprietary material, large amounts of time and money can be saved
It is important to mention that I don’t believe all proprietary materials are bad. However, I do believe that OERs offer a lot of potential. As educators, we should be looking more seriously into these resources, as this can bring about more accessible learning opportunities to serve our students well.
Larry Lessig & Aaron Swartz: “Dumb” Copyright
Well. I wasn’t planning on spending four hours watching Larry Lessig’s speech on Aaron Swartz or the documentary, The Internet’s Own Boy. I figured a half hour each would give me lots to write about. However, once I started I couldn’t stop. I was so captivated and moved by the scope and breadth of the accomplishments Aaron Swartz had achieved by age 26, but I was also overcome with sadness by his tragic and unjust death. In previous classes with Alec, we’ve discussed the story of Aaron Swartz, so I did have some background knowledge. However, I decided to take a deep dive into this story because as devastating as it is, I think there is much to learn from this tragedy.
In my opinion, the world wasn’t ready for Aaron. I had watched The Internet’s Own Boy and I was blown away by the possibilities he recognized at a whopping 12 years of age. Before Wikipedia existed, he had already began embracing the collaborative potential associated with the internet through his creation of The Info Base. As a matter of fact, Tim Berners-Lee called him a connector and noted that he was part of the culture movement. All of this, before he was even 15.
Aaron’s brother noted that he found school boring because he could just learn whatever he needed on the internet by himself. This statement made me reflect on a conversation that I have every year with my students. They are shocked to find that I make mistakes and that I don’t know everything there is to ever know. As flattering as this assumption is, I am just as much of a student as they are. This conversation reflects an antiquated way of thinking that teachers, schools, and books are the only places where knowledge can be found. With the worldwide web being an integral part of our world, we can learn from others and connect with people so easily. I think we often take for granted the fact that the worldwide web was created for all people to use, free of charge. Without Tim Berners-Lee making his creation free for all to access, we wouldn’t have exposure to the wealth of knowledge we have at our fingertips or only those who could afford access would be granted it.
After watching the documentary on Aaron Swartz, the thing that frustrates me the most about his case was that he wasn’t doing any harm and this could have been handled differently. He was simply fighting for open access rights to allow knowledge to be shared by all. Gabriella Coleman explained that there are tons of hackers out there that are causing people harm that require the FBI’s attention. Aaron’s case never should have landed in the hands of the criminal justice system. He was being made an example simply because the government could, which is disturbing and unjust. The prosecutors were trying to prove that what he did was harmful. However, his fight for open access rights to scholarly articles led to 15 year old Jack Andraka developing a quick test that can detect pancreatic cancer. I believe that all of this boils down to providing equal access to knowledge. It can change the world because you never know whose hands this knowledge is going to land in. This documentary also highlighted that it was old copyright law (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) from 1986 that ultimately led to Aaron’s demise. His case, a contemporary issue where Web 2.0 technologies are ubiquitous, was being judged with outdated laws to determine the trajectory of this man’s life.
I have shared this quote before on my blog, but it is one of my favourites and very relevant to this current post…
A piece of knowledge, unlike a piece of physical property, can be shared by large groups of people without making anybody poorer.
When I first started my post-secondary studies at the University of Regina in 2011, I was fresh out of high school, and quite frankly, didn’t have a clue about anything. I didn’t recognize the privilege it is to be able to attend school, let alone post-secondary and to have access to all kinds of knowledge. Aaron’s story highlights that knowledge is power, but that it is also reserved for certain kinds of people. Larry Lessig explains in his speech that current systems reinforce the notion that knowledge is for the elite and as for the rest of the world, not so much. In addition, he shares a tweet from Carl Malamud that highlights the financial gauntlet associated with gaining access to scholarly information. I found this tweet frustrating because you can buy a hardcover book for $20.00. Larry mentioned something that surprised me. It isn’t the authors of these scholarly articles or even JSTOR that is the issue necessarily… It’s the publishers of these pieces. There aren’t many authors out there that wouldn’t want their work widely distributed, free for all to engage with and JSTOR does not facilitate the pricing of journals on their database. For example, when the pandemic first hit, teachers were scrambling trying to find ways to make their instruction accessible online. Curtis mentioned that his school had posted a read aloud on their website, with permission from the author. I was shocked to find out that even with permission from the author, it means very little if the publishers own the copyright. I found myself in a similar situation as Curtis. In March of 2020, I was reading The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau to my students and they were loving it. I was hoping to keep this novel study going strong and debated about getting in touch with the author, however, I see now that wouldn’t have protected me. I lucked out and a colleague of mine mentioned that Random House, the publisher of the book, was providing open access for their books to be read online. In order to do this, the YouTube link needed to be unlisted and sent to their email to keep a record of these read alouds. This made me think of one of the slides Alec showed in class (see below), mainly the, “Who controls knowledge” piece. From what I’ve been seeing, it is the people or companies who have some kind of financial investment.
Furthermore, Larry explains that Aaron did not have an issue with copyright. He had an issue with “dumb” copyright. This is where Creative Commons comes in and brought Larry and Aaron together. Essentially, the goal of Creative Commons is to encourage the sharing of knowledge by giving the proper attribution. As Larry explained in The Internet’s Own Boy, this makes the shift from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.” There are various licenses to choose from and I found it incredibly user-friendly. This resource is a great way to use content generated by people and spread creativity, all while remaining within the legal framework.
In Larry’s TedTalk, he highlights the difference between re-creating and piracy. There is a difference between taking the content generated by someone else and distributing it without permission of the copyright owner and re-creating other people’s content to say something in a different way using digital technology. I appreciate that he highlights previous generations were part of the “read culture”, where participant creation was seemingly obsolete. Kids today are different because they have access to tools that allow them to not only read content, but to produce and/or remix what is already out there. Although this concept seems new, Larry makes an excellent point; television and film producers have been taking and re-creating content that already existed for years. The difference today is that this ability has been democratized.
It is now anybody with access to a $1 500 computer who can take sounds and images from the culture around us and use it to say things differently. These tools of creativity have become tools of speech.
Kids have become masters at creating/remixing content and sharing it with others. Technology has enabled this creativity and provided opportunities that previous generations did not have. Instead of making these actions illegal, Larry explains that we need a change in mindset when it comes to creating content:
Artists and creators need to choose to make their work more freely available. For example, saying their work is not available for commercial use, but is for non-commercial purposes.
Businesses need to embrace read-write culture.
I suppose my point is that we are better together. The realm of possibilities are endless when we open up our work for others to remix, give feedback, or engage with in some way. To a certain degree, we need to abandon our egos and this notion of knowledge being my property. As I conclude, I leave you with this:
What are some of your favourite education OERs? TPT is my go to, but I would like to explore other options!
What have your experiences been with collaborating with other teachers? Do you find collaboration is more effective in person or online?
Did anyone else watch The Internet’s Own Boy? I was quite moved by how ahead of the times Aaron was at such a young age. What were your thoughts?
Like I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to mainly focus on my ASL skills, creating a Wakelet with my resources, and continue to watch Deaf U and listening to Seen and Not Heard. I was also hoping to show a little more learning retention by practicing the skills I’ve already learned, such as the alphabet and numbers to 20… Does she still got it? Keep reading to find out!
Where We Started…
Bill Vicars ASL 1 lessons (aiming for Lesson 2 and maybe 3)
When learning a new language, practice and repetition is key in order to make it stick. Part of what I wanted to work on for this next update was reviewing what I’ve learned and to film these updates to keep me accountable. For the most part, I remembered the alphabet and my numbers to 20 pretty well, but before I recorded myself, I still needed to do some mirror practice. Even then, I stumbled trying to remember when I was recording. However, I am proud to say that this time, I only needed to do one take when filming and that I still remember!
Since I really liked the ASL Connect resource and their basic vocabulary lessons, I wanted to supplement my other lessons with these. This week I wanted to learn different places, which was more difficult than learning my numbers to 20! The movements for these words are more complex and take close watching. The person in the video was so fast, making it difficult for me to catch the details in the words being signed. I’ve heard some people mention the term, “Deaf speed.” I wasn’t sure what that looked like at first, but it basically means being able to sign very quickly and fluently. The person in the video could fingerspell the word, “station” so fast that the first few times I watched this video, I thought it was one sign to itself! As a result, I decided it was time to dive into the Handspeak resource that was recommended to help break down these signs. I found this quite helpful as it was slower and easier to follow along. However, like Alyssa mentioned, ASL can have many different signs for one word or the same sign can be used for something else. I found that Handspeak and the ASL Connect video mostly aligned, but there were also words that were not signed exactly the same. In this case, I decided to go with what Handspeak did, as these words were easier to see. However, when possible, I tried to stick as closely as I could to the ASL Connect resource for consistency. In the ASL Connect video about 20 different places were signed, so I set a goal of learning 5-6 new words a day and filming my progress throughout the week. Each time I filmed a new set of words, I also repeated what I previously learned… So. Much. Repetition. Check it out to see for yourself!
Bill Vicars Lessons: 2 & 3
When I was looking for a GIF to insert into my blog post, I was looking for something that encapsulated project-based learning and inquiry… “Work in progress” was very fitting! Although I am learning lots, mistakes are inevitable. I’ve been looking back at some of my progress videos and I keep catching mistakes that I’ve been making throughout my process. However, it excites me that I am catching mistakes in my hand movements and facial grammar because that means I’m improving on my ASL. I was watching a video that popped up on my Facebook that had two Deaf teens and their grandmother. The two teens were signing and speaking in the video. At the the end, they signed, “thank you” and I knew what it was without being told or needing closed captioning! Although this is a small victory and one word out of an entire conversation, I consider it a step in the right direction!
Over the past two weeks, I’ve gone through Lessons 2 and 3 from Bill Vicars. After a few lessons, I’m starting to notice a pattern in the structure of how he teaches. Each section in his video starts with basic vocabulary, he signs a phrase/sentence to the student and they answer, and then they switch roles. I appreciate that the videos are structured around conversation dialogue and the topics explored are things people typically talk about, such as family, names, places, etc. I had just finished the lesson on places from ASL Connect, so some of the words I already knew in these lessons. The main challenge I’ve encountered with Bill Vicars’ lessons is that there is either very little or no closed captioning, although there was closed captioning in the first lesson I did. In my previous post, I mentioned that I would pause the video, practice, make notes, and resume watching. Although this takes longer, it helps me retain what I’m learning. However, without the closed captioning, it takes even longer because I’m having to figure out what is being said and really pay attention to the signing. Plus, it moves so quickly! Usually I can figure it out, but I need to slow things down. To be honest, I would even venture to say it’s a little exhausting. However, this is a very small glimpse into what it is like for anyone learning a new language. Again, I used Handspeak when I needed clarification if the signs were moving too quickly. Thank goodness for that resource to support my learning! My experiences in learning ASL has reinforced that learning needs to be a multi-modal experience. I always thought of myself as a visual learner, but this process has shown me that I also heavily depend on that auditory piece… Possibly just as much as the visual!
Handspeak & Signing Savvy
These have been total lifesavers for my lessons with Bill Vicars and ASL Connect. The following is a little information on each resource.
Handspeak: This website is an ASL dictionary and so much more! You are able to search up words, select the word with the meaning you’re looking for, and a short demonstration video comes up. They also have a word of the day. Of course, today it’s Halloween! A feature that I thought was helpful was the reverse dictionary. Instead of typing a word in for the sign, you click on the descriptions of the sign to get the word. The website did explain that this is a pilot project and its development is ongoing. Handspeak also has word lists of the most common signs used. This page on the website also lists some important aspects to keep in mind when learning ASL. Alyssa stressed that signs can look the same, but have a completely different meaning elsewhere and ASL varies based on context and location. I appreciated that Handspeak made note of this, as it is important to bear this in mind when using ASL in different places. In addition to an adult dictionary, this resource also includes a signing dictionary for kids, with kids doing the signing. I have mainly been using this website as a word dictionary to support my lessons, but it also has tons of information in the Learn ASL tab on Deaf culture, Deaf Art, ASL myths and facts, etc. I had no idea until I started diving into this resource a little more over the past few days. With that being said, I would like to spend more time doing some reading on this website and not just using it as a dictionary.
Signing Savvy: Truthfully, I relied mainly on Handspeak to support my lessons, but Signing Savvy is also a great resource. After taking a more in-depth look at this website, it has a lot to offer. In terms of its signing dictionary, it includes the ASL 1, 2, and 3 levels and the fingerspelling options for each word. A minor inconvenience with the dictionary is that it has advertisements before each video. I also don’t have an ad blocker, so that could also be the issue. Like Handspeak, Signing Savvy also includes wordlists. They have wordlists for continents, animals, family members, etc. Plus, these are also available in the form of flashcards too. Some wordlists and flashcards are only available to paying members, however, there are a lot of free resources available as well. Lastly, this resource provides tons of articles, lots of which touch on topic such as Deaf culture, biographies of successful Deaf individuals, and other information regarding signing.
Seen and Not Heard & Deaf U
Seen and Not Heard: Episode 6 begins with the sounds that Bet would hear in a phone conversation. She explains that her mother insists on calling her, rather than texting. Bet notes that she has made it clear to her mom that texting works better for her, but her mother feels texting is impersonal. David shows up at Bet’s apartment because he was in the neighbourhood. They end up going on a walk to grab a coffee. During Bet’s conversation with David, we learn that she used to be in culinary school, but quit after she began to lose her hearing. She didn’t feel it was a practical career choice, as you need to be able to hear what people are telling you in a busy, chaotic kitchen environment. Bet explains that there are restaurants where the staff is all Deaf and everyone places their orders in sign. However, Bet explains that she opted out of this option because she doesn’t know how to sign. At her family’s Rosh Hashanah gathering, Bet discusses the awkward supper from a few weeks ago with her sister. Sarah explains that their mom is just anxious and that Bet needs to let things go. Bet also explains that she had never asked her dad how he felt about her hearing loss, while on the other hand her mother makes it very clear how she feels about it. The guests eventually arrive for the Rosh Hashanah celebration. Bet is disheartened that she finds it so hard to keep up with the flow of conversation… It was hard enough at a small family supper in a restaurant. She wishes that people would take turns when they spoke and listened to each other. When Bet was getting coffee with David earlier in the episode, he made a joke about Bet being Deaf and immediately felt guilty. To his surprise, she laughs and explains that she has such few opportunities to joke about it. I think Bet finds it frustrating that her family has been so resistant to addressing her hearing loss and has found some relief in being able to discuss it candidly.
Deaf U: One of the characters, DQ, explains that some people who are part of the Deaf community don’t like him because he doesn’t sign all of the time. He explains that he is new to learning ASL and that before he came to Gallaudet University, he only spoke. Rodney is in a similar situation and explains that he will speak when he wants and sign when he wants, as he isn’t concerned with what others think about how he communicates. Something I found interesting was that mouthing while signing is quite taboo, according to the information in this episode. Cheyenna has a YouTube channel and made a video where she mouths what she is signing to her audience, as some of her viewers are hearing. Her friend, Cameron, encourages her to stop mouthing the words, but she refuses. Furthermore, she explains that coming to Gallaudet was culture shock for her because she was mainstreamed her entire life. It was challenging because everyone signs really fast and uses strong facial expressions, which she was not used to seeing or doing herself. Her video was heavily critiqued by her Deaf peers, except one student mentioned that she liked the video. Furthermore, she highlights that a lot of her Deaf friends stick closely to their Deaf bubble. She also notes that they can be so quick to judge.
Being a hearing person, there are so many things I don’t realize in daily interactions that are not Deaf-friendly. For example, a group of students went to a restaurant and they needed to re-arrange the seating so everyone could see each other. In addition, when they ordered, they all typed what they wanted on their phones to show their server. In addition, Renate and her girlfriend went to get their nails done at a salon. Typically, this involves chatting during the appointment, but they could not chat easily because they were not able to use their hands! This episode also touched on what sign names are and how people obtain them. Instead of fingerspelling your entire name, a sign is created for you that represents your personality traits or something you’re known for. An example of this is one student’s mother gave her a sign name when she was little that involves touching her nose because her nose was always red when she was younger. Something I appreciate about the show is that it also represents the LGBTQ+ community. Renate and her girlfriend explain their family’s disapproval of their relationship and how they plan to tackle this together.
I’m currently in the process of creating my own Wakelet to compile the resources shared with me so far. If I’ve mentioned any resources that have piqued your interest, feel free to access this Wakelet anytime you like! It is not completed, as I will continue to explore different resources and add them throughout the remainder of my project. Also, if you’re an experienced user of Wakelet, please feel free to give me any feedback regarding how I’ve set this up or if you have any general advice/tips to offer! For now, here are some of my highlights…
Where We Are Heading…
I feel like I stayed pretty on track over the past two weeks and scaling down my goals was very helpful! For my next blog post, I plan on tackling the following:
Continue with my ASL 1 lessons (Lesson 4 and maybe 5)
Keep up with Deaf U and Seen and Not Heard shows
Continue to explore ASL Connect… I’m thinking of learning how to sign different outdoor activitiesand the person doing the signing in the tutorial video is Cameron from Deaf U!
Continue building my Wakelet resource hub
I’ve started following some Deaf influencers on social media and some other educational accounts… I’d like to spend some time exploring these as well!
I may even start trying to sign a song chorus or part of a children’s book… However, in the spirit of balance, that might be another goal for another week!
Until taking my first class with Alec, which was almost two years in ago in EC&I 832, I completely steered clear of posting anything on social media that could even remotely ruffle any feathers. I was so nervous to post on Twitter and start connecting with other educators! In the end, I’m glad I’ve come out my “social media shell”, as I’ve learned a lot from other teachers, mainly from my fantastic classmates who willingly share their resources and perspectives! My approach was very similar to what Katia discussed in her blog post titled, In Online Spaces, Silence Speaks as Loudly as Words, with her pre-service teachers. I was (and still am to a certain extent) concerned about being hireable in the future or something I potentially said in the past could come back to haunt me. As a result, I’ve been convinced that I need to remain as neutral as possible online or even non-existent. However, Alec and Katia over the years have disrupted this belief I’ve held about social media avoidance and have challenged me think about what my silence says and how my privilege has played a role in my silence. I am still very (I would even say overly) cautious about what I share online, however, this week I’ve been thinking more about how I can achieve the balance of being an advocate and using my privilege for positive change without jeopardizing my career.
Can Online Social Media and Activsm be Meaningful?: Activism and Slacktivism
For starters, I think it is important to address the difference between cyber safety and digital citizenship. According to What Kind of (Digital) Citizen, cyber safety initiatives were the root of digital citizenship. This model focuses on what not to do and often instills fear into individuals about their online activity. On the flip side of this concept is digital citizenship, which makes the shift from an avoidance-based model to a responsible-use policy. Something I appreciated about this post was that it highlights the importance of protecting oneself, but also encourages people to think about how they can help others online as well.
Students are taught to use secure passwords, to find a healthy balance between screen time and offline time, to safeguard their digital identity. And while all of these skills are important pieces of being a good digital citizen, they revolve around protecting oneself, not helping others or contributing to the wider community.
Alec shared some of the research by Westheimer and Kahne (2004) that highlights the various types of citizenship: personally responsible, participatory, and justice oriented. If I had to place myself somewhere within these types, I would say I fall into the personally responsible category. I would like to eventually move into a more justice oriented mindset, as I am still grappling with the idea of leveraging my social media use and privilege to enact change. I’ve come a long way in regard to my views on social media use and digital citizenship, but I’m not quite out of the personally responsible category and I would venture to say, in some ways, I might still be a little stuck in the cyber safety mindset.
I also believe that there is nothing quite like, “boots on the ground” activism or taking action in a more tangible way. I’m not saying that there isn’t value in online forms of activism such as blogging to raise awareness about a cause, sharing resources, and making connections with people, but it takes two to tango! Imagine if there was only online activism or “in real life” activism. I don’t believe awareness could be raised or significant change is possible without both ways working in tandem. Simply put, absolutely– I believe online social media and activism can be meaningful and worthwhile, but it can’t exist in isolation either. Simply clicking a “like” button or sharing information via social media falls somewhere in the personally responsible category and/or the participatory category, but I wouldn’t say it is justice oriented. Those types of actions need to be followed up by speaking out about social justice issues either in person or online.
How Can We Have Productive Conversations about Social Justice Online?
It is all too easy to get fired up about a topic and let er’ rip on Twitter. My fiancé spends a lot of time on Twitter interacting with other NFL fans and I asked him how people converse on this platform. He said the issue with Twitter is that anyone can comment and they may not be a reliable source of information. He mentioned that following niche blogs where experts are present is most likely the best way to go for productive conversation in this realm. Although I agree with him on this, social justice is a little different, as you’re most often trying to reach the masses. This might be easier said than done, but on social media I think it boils down to leaving your ego/opinions at the door and to ground your beliefs in facts from credible sources. Katherine Schulten from the New York Times outlined 10 ways to generate productive conversations in the classroom about difficult topics. Although this isn’t geared specifically to online discussions, most of the tips mentioned in this article are still relevant.
Creating a list of rules and structures that support productive conversations, online and offline.
Taking “The Speak Up for Civility Pledge”. Although this may be difficult in an online setting and is geared toward the American elections in 2016, I like the idea of having a contract that outlines the responsibilities of commenters… Adults and kids alike!
Back up statements with evidence and (reliable) sources. There was a great point in this article about how someone can be entitled to their own opinion, but not to facts.
Listen better. Ask questions. Seek to understand, rather than judge.
Expand your filter bubble. Follow people on social media you don’t agree with as well.
Consider why as humans we have the mentality of “us” and “them”.
Learn about confirmation bias and work to see the other side of things.
There was another point in this article, but I feel like it is more relevant to my final question, so hang on! I understand, in some ways, this list is a little idealistic because it is difficult to create these rules in online spaces where it seems almost too far gone to implement them now. However, as educators, we hold the unique power to change how future generations interact online…
What Is Our Responsibility as Educators to Model Active Citizenship Online?
Although it might be difficult changing how people interact and have these conversations in online platforms, we as educators, can do our part in the classroom and impact the next generation by teaching the above skills (in online and offline environments). We are able to provide authentic learning experiences by integrating social media in the classroom and engaging in difficult conversations in person as well. One of the points mentioned in the article above is providing students with reading and discussions about social justice issues/why our country is so divisive in its views. This probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone, but we need encourage tough conversations and engage in them with our students in a respectful way. The New York Times hosted a challenge that asked students from all over America to participate in online discussions around immigration, gun control, climate change and energy, race/gender/identity, and an open forum where students could post about issues they are passionate about. They explained they are not looking for excellent posts, but rather, but civil and productive conversations between students. Teachers followed a lesson plan and explicitly taught these skills to their students. Here are some of the results:
Students demonstrated respectful language.
Students made personal connections to the conversations.
Thoughtful questions and observations were made.
Many students cited their sources.
Students respectfully pushed back by asking questions or for more information about each other’s claims.
Students demonstrated open-mindedness.
Some students’ views even changed from engaging in these discussions.
Check out the results linked above for unedited student comments and more positive results from the challenge!
Some aspects that could be improved on:
A lot of comments were individual posts and didn’t generate much conversation.
Some students cited unreliable sources.
Of course, grammar and spelling.
Asking more questions and pushing each other further on their viewpoints.
To me, this shows that teachers must model and have discussions with students about how to demonstrate online citizenship. These behaviours are not simply learned through growing up and maturing, but need to be explicitly taught and modelled. I think a large piece of these conversations need to be around media literacy and seeking resources from credible outlets and ensuring the causes we are advocating for are what we think they are by fact checking with multiple sources.
Like we discussed in class, some people aren’t necessarily in a position to have a heavy social media presence regarding issues of social justice. I may not be as vocal about issues of social justice on my social media platforms, as I feel my strength in addressing these issues lies within my classroom. Addressing these issues in person leaves less room for interpretation, as I find comments can come off in a way you didn’t intend to in online settings. On the contrary, to reach the masses and connect with people, social media provides many opportunities for online activism. Personally, I think I need to work on leveraging my privilege and my social media use in order to strike a healthy balance between online and in-person activism. This intimidates me a little since I’m not a huge social media person in general, but Katia’s blog post gave me a lot to think about! Those of you who have experience in this area…
How have you used your social media for online activism? What are your recommendations for implementing this in a classroom environment/what are some aspects I should consider?
How have you taught your students about having civil and productive conversations in person or online?
If you receive backlash for a post/comment, how do you go about handling this in a respectful manner?
I would love any insight on this topic and to hear about your experiences!
Okay. I’ve set some pretty lofty goals and I need to scale it down. Classic Leigh. I’ve also learned something new about myself. I’m more interested in learning about the education, culture, and community surrounding deafness more than I am about ASL. I’ve learned so much about deaf culture over the past few weeks, I just don’t feel like I’m doing the language and culture justice by learning on my own. That’s not to say I am not going to continue pursuing this part of my project, but I’ve re-thought some things. For example, after my conversation with Michelle, I am not comfortable teaching ASL to my students without proper certification, especially as a hearing person… You’ll see why if you decide to carry on with reading my blog post. I will continue with my ASL practice and update videos, as I am enjoying learning this skill and I do think having some of this knowledge is valuable. A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend who is in her residency in medical school. A Deaf couple had come into emergency and no one in the hospital could communicate with them. She said it was scary and thankfully, someone knew a little bit of sign, which was helpful in the end. So, even if I know just the littlest bit, it may come in handy at some point.
Where We Started…
Interview a Deaf and hard of hearing teacher in my school division
Finish the Seen and Not Heard podcast
Start watching Deaf U on Netflix
Keep up with my ASL 1 lessons (and actually keep practicing those same lessons throughout the week…)
Explore Gallaudet University resources
If I have time: Dive into some of those apps Alyssa suggested
Where We Ended Up…
Interview with Michelle
Another week, another fantastic interview! This week, I had the incredible opportunity to chat with a Deaf and hard of hearing teacher named Michelle. Again, I would venture to say this was another highlight of my project thus far! Michelle is not only a teacher of the Deaf and hard of hearing, but also the parent of a Deaf child. She had so much knowledge to share from the teacher perspective and the parent perspective. I was blown away by her experiences and knowledge, but more than anything, her fierce advocacy for the Deaf and hard of hearing community. I truly feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to chat with Michelle. I still have lots of learning left, but she really opened my eyes to the importance of teaching kids self-advocacy and holding ourselves accountable as educators for implementing adaptations for our students… Stay tuned because there is more on that to come. I would be amiss if I did not give a little shoutout to Kelly for connecting me with Michelle! Let’s get to debriefing this interview…
How did you become a Deaf and hard of hearing teacher? What was your inspiration?
Michelle began by explaining that she has been teaching since 2005. In 2009, she had twin baby boys. In 2010, she noticed one of her sons was beginning to experience hearing loss. This was her inspiration to go back to school in 2016 for her Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education through York University. She noted that she was needing a change and this seemed like the perfect fit for her. She explained that this program is free to Ontario residents, but is not for out-of-province students. She explained that this program is completely online, which was perfect at the time because her children were still quite young. She did the practical piece of this program in Regina, but was required to travel to Toronto for two weeks to complete one of her course requirements. In addition, there is a program in British Columbia (B.C.) and Nova Scotia. However, the program in B.C. must be completed in person and the program in Nova Scotia only does student intake every three years. In addition, you must spend six weeks of summer in Nova Scotia as part of the program course requirements.
In the DHH Program, do teachers and students sign or speak?
Michelle explained that the current view in Deaf education is that signing is the last possible option for students to communicate. Furthermore, she also mentioned that oralism is often forced onto students and they must show significant academic struggles in order to attend the program. Michelle stated that the program is truly bilingual, as speaking and signing are both used. Some students go to mainstream classes and use the program as tutorial, some exclusively use sign, and some do both. Some students have cochlear implants or have hearing aids that connect to an FM system in order for them to hear during class. Normally, the program has interpreters in the classroom and they sign while the teacher speaks in order to give the students a multimodal experience. However, interpreters are difficult to come by. Currently, there are four teachers in the program, but no interpreters. Michelle said her job this year is basically 50% teaching and 50% signing. In addition, there is a huge push for getting the kids in the program into mainstream education. In my own experience, I feel the same. There is a major lack of programs that really meet student needs. So many kids are pushed into the mainstream, when they would flourish in a program that is more specialized for their learning needs.
What does a DHH Program look like?
I was hoping to experience this for myself by being able to go to Michelle’s classroom to see the program in action. However, our division no longer offers sub coverage for professional development… Ugh, I was SO disappointed. I even had a colleague offer to cover for me, but it was still a “no-go.” Michelle said herself that in order to really understand how the program operates and what they do, you need to see it. However, from a bird’s eye view, the program originally started at Thom Collegiate and moved to Winston Knoll Collegiate. Michelle also emphasized the need for more interpreters and teachers with the proper training in order to work in these classrooms. That being said, finding appropriate sub coverage is difficult, as you do require a specialized skill set. Michelle said she hasn’t taken a day off of work in two years for this reason, highlighting the need for people who are able to work in these classrooms. There are two substitute teachers that can sign and are able to work in this program. The issue is that the jobs for Michelle’s classroom on the substitute teacher dispatch system can be taken before they have a chance to snag them. Something that I thought was interesting was that the DHH Program has a Deaf elder that students and teachers work alongside. Michelle also explained that the high school intervention program is quite intense, but early intervention in elementary school will serve students better in the future. For the most part, Deaf/hard of hearing students in mainstream elementary school classrooms have interpreters that sign for them in class. However, this is not sufficient intervention. She also noted that ASL was offered as a class to take in the high school where she currently works. Out of respect for the Deaf community, they no longer offer this course because all of the teachers in the school who can sign are hearing. This echoes my conversation previously with Alyssa, as she stressed the importance of learning ASL from someone who is Deaf. Michelle also mentioned that English Language Arts (ELA) classes take twice as long for Deaf students to complete because these courses are oral and signed. It is also important to note that ASL is like any other language– the more exposure students have to it, the more they will naturally begin to pick it up. The amazing thing is that the kids will actually teach each other through simple interactions on a daily basis. This was a piece of our conversation the really resonated with me. I’ve always believed the most valuable way to learn is to teach someone else and that students are often our best teachers.
In what ways do you work alongside families? What has your experience been?
Michelle said a lot of families find out about the program simply through “word of mouth” and then get referred to her. I asked her if families are supportive of their children learning to sign and learn themselves. Again, like Alyssa explained, it depends. Michelle said that she has worked with families where everyone has learned to sign and support their child’s choice to communicate through ASL. On the other hand, some families are resistant to the idea of their children signing at home, but will allow them to do so at school. She also explained there are some cultural beliefs about deafness that some people hold. For example, believing that being Deaf is a punishment. In Michelle’s experience, about half of families resign to signing because this is the only option they haven’t tried and the other half are anti-sign. This just blew my mind. If students prefer to sign as their mode of communication and their families won’t allow it, I asked Michelle how this plays out in the home. Unfortunately, in these homes there is a lot of yelling (which obviously is not a productive use of time or energy when communicating with a Deaf or hard of hearing person), have their own gesturing system, pay for audioverbal therapy (which can be very costly), or the child takes lip reading lessons. Michelle also added the the audiologist perspective encourages families to get cochlear implants for their children and that they need to “learn to listen.” Ultimately, this should be the child’s choice. If speaking and lip reading is their preference or strictly signing, that should be respected. From the parenting perspective, Michelle explained that her son has been signing since he was two years old. For a long time, she was pushed toward the spoken route with her son, but this was just not working. Her son now signs and will sometimes speak. She emphasized that navigating deafness as a parent is an emotional ride, as there are so many perspectives and opinions on the “right thing to do.” I asked Michelle if she could give advice to a family newly navigating this journey what she would suggest. She noted three things families should keep in mind:
1. You can always change your mind.
2. You don’t need to choose between speaking and signing… You can do both.
3. Hearing loss is big business. Always be wary and ask yourself if the people you are working with have your child’s best interest in mind. Be critical!
I really appreciated that she mentioned you can change your mind. I think as humans, we like things to be black or white. You make a decision and next, you follow through. Deafness is not a linear path. Sometimes, what you thought would work didn’t and that’s okay.
What does teaching self-advocacy look like? How can I approach my project with respect for the Deaf community as a hearing person?
Self-advocacy is definitely something that needs to be taught. Michelle says she has a lot of conversations with her students about communicating to their classroom teachers about what they need to be successful. For example, telling their teacher that they require closed-captioning on any videos they show in class or that they must use their FM system. She also explained that students who come from a supportive home environment are more comfortable advocating for themselves. Although this helps, a major piece to this is the overall culture in the building and that teachers are implementing the technologies or adaptations that their students need to ensure their success. This reminds me of implementing students’ Record of Adaptations (ROA) or other individualized plans. Michelle, said unfortunately, some teachers can be somewhat resistant to this and she has needed to address this with these teachers. This served as an important reminder to myself to stay accountable and frequently revisit my students’ ROAs to ensure I am following them accordingly, as it is easy to forget and fall in to an “auto pilot” mode. The National Deaf Center shared a graphic on self-advocacy and deafness (see above). This was one of many resources Michelle shared with me as well.
I asked Alyssa how I can respectfully approach my project, which I found very helpful, so I asked Michelle the same. Much of what she mentioned reflected Alyssa’s perspective as well.
Michelle shared that her other son was wanting her to come to his class to teach ASL. Since she is a hearing person, she consulted the Deaf elder at her school and sought permission to do so. This highlights the importance of recognizing, as hearing people, we do not have the lived experience of deafness. The elder granted Michelle permission, but it was imperative she went through that process first.
This next piece was brand new to me and I am so glad Michelle mentioned this. She explained that the term, “hearing impaired” is equivalent to the r-word. The proper terms are Deaf or hard of hearing, never hearing impaired. She also said disability is another word to be wary of. I did a little digging on this myself and the term hearing impaired gives off a negative connotation and it doesn’t acknowledge the culture associated with the Deaf community. This was something that I wasn’t aware of at all. Initially, I thought it was a less direct, “politically correct” way to address someone who is Deaf or hard of hearing, but it turns out to be just the opposite. Again, another great reason to continue developing networks with all types of educators in order to become a more informed, inclusive, and socially-conscious person/teacher.
deaf vs Deaf
I asked Alyssa this question as well, but wanted to ask Michelle to see if she had anything else to add. She explained that Deaf people do not see their deafness as a disability and view their deafness as a whole language and culture. On the contrary, deaf follows more of a medical model approach. Michelle shared some graphics with me that offer some other information regarding deaf and Deaf. She shared a fantastic resource with called Language First. Michelle noted that for a membership it does cost 25-30 dollars a month, but that it is well worth it! Even without the membership, there are some free resources on the site as well if you start digging into the tabs. I was very impressed with this resource and have been considering getting a membership myself. Check it out!
The Arts and Deafness
The arts offer a variety of modalities for communication, self-expression, language development, and human connection. Michelle spoke to this in our conversation and referred to the work of Joanne Weber who is the first-ever research chair in Deaf education. I believe (if I recall correctly from our conversation) Michelle had mentioned that Joanne had done her PhD thesis on language and literacy, with a focus on Deaf education. Michelle also spoke about The Deaf Crows Collective, which I believe was part of her thesis research as well. Instead of me stumbling through an explanation, watch the video included to take a peek at her work in action and at this article that explains her research and aims. It was so incredible to see the opportunities the arts have presented for Deaf students. In the article noted above, Joanne spoke about language deprivation and how the arts offer ways for expressive and perceptive language to provoke meaningful interactions. Often when I think of language development, my mind goes immediately to speech. However, language is not only speech/speaking. As educators, of hearing and/or DHH students, I feel this is something that we must keep in mind when thinking about language development and literacy. One way of expression should never dominate our instruction and my conversation with Michelle reminded me of this.
Government Funding for Hearing Technology
On my previous post, Lynnette asked about funding for hearing technologies and surgeries. Of course, Michelle has more insight on this topic as well! She had said that the government will pay for the initial cochlear implant surgery and the first set of processors. If your child is school age, the school division will pay for the other processors needed throughout the child’s time in the division. However, processor updates cost anywhere between 10 000-14 000 dollars and need to be updated every five years. Michelle also explained that since the technologies change so quickly, updates could actually be needed sooner, more like every three years. After the child has completed their schooling with the division, families need to pay for these processors on their own. In terms of hearing aids, these are not covered at all unless you have some kind of supplemental support. Even at that, these hearing aids would be the basic type. My heart just sank thinking about families that cannot afford the resources needed to support their child. I wasn’t surprised that cochlear implant processors were so expensive, but what did surprise me is that they needed maintenance (at maximum) every five years. I assumed that once the surgery was complete, that was it! I also didn’t realize once you have the cochlear implant, you need to learn how to use it, which is another expense that is not covered. I do wonder how families end up affording various surgeries, updates, technologies, etc. and if there is any other support out there?
Podcast: Seen And Not Heard
This week, I listened to episodes four and five. Something that I’ve began to appreciate about this podcast is that it highlights the small things in daily life that hearing people do not need to think twice about, such as the noise level in a restaurant or missing pieces in a conversation.
Episode Four: After the awkward family supper in the previous episode, Bet seeks some guidance from her rabbi. The rabbi encouraged Bet to keep going and to take it one day at time. She reminded Bet that her deafness is not a punishment and that she doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. The rabbi suggests that Bet should attend a service to feel a sense of belonging and community, echoing the idea of the Deaf community highlighted in the first episode. When the rabbi asks Bet if she has considered learning sign, Bet explains that it is pointless to learn if no one else is willing to learn with her. For me, this episode really highlighted the importance of community and support. Whether that means finding people that can relate to your experiences or simply another person who is willing to listen and show empathy. Unfortunately, this is something that Bet is lacking and I think this is why she is feeling so “stuck.”
Episode Five: Bet’s family is out for supper. The episode immediately caught my attention because it began with an imitation of what Bet was hearing in a busy environment, with a lot of different sounds to hear through when trying to have a conversation. Bet discusses how excluded she feels from the conversation because she can’t hear with the background noise. When the server comes to take their order, she struggled. Her mom lost patience with her and starts yelling what the waiter was saying to her. After the server leaves, her mom chastises her for not listening and paying attention. Bet explains how her family talks like she isn’t there. When she hears a blip of laughter, she asks for the joke to be repeated, but her dad replies with, “Oh, it was nothing.” Bet keeps asking for someone to repeat it for her, but no one does. She gets into an argument with her mom and leaves supper early. She ends up forgetting her keys and needing to return to the restaurant. She begins chatting with the server, who we learn is named David, and he invites her out. When Bet is out with David she finds herself in the same situation where he said something, she didn’t hear, and he replies with, “Oh, it was nothing.” Bet was frustrated by this comment and explains to David that she wants to decide for herself if it was really “nothing.” David and Bet end up having a pleasant evening, but she is skeptical she will see him again. Like in my conversation with Michelle, self advocating can be so challenging for students at the beginning. Maybe it is the eternal optimist in me, but like David, when people make a mistake or inadvertently upset someone, they want to fix it. By advocating for yourself, you are also helping to educate others. Although the response from her family was negative, she received an open and apologetic response from David. I also thought Bet’s response of, “…let me decide for myself if it’s nothing” line was very powerful. Even the simplest of choices can empower others and what seems insignificant can make a huge difference for another person.
In both of my interviews and casually chatting with my sister-in-law, Gallaudet University has come up. It really does seem like a staple feature in Deaf education and history. I also learned form Alyssa that they offer free basic ASL resources. I’ve decided to use these lessons alongside my lessons with Bill Vicars. Before I get in to what I’ve learned in regard to my ASL lessons, a brief history is in order!
Gallaudet University was founded in 1864 by Edward Miner Gallaudet, who was the son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Edward named the school after his father due to his contributions to Deaf education. Thomas’ interest in Deaf education started when he met Alice Cogswell in 1814. At the time, there were no schools for the Deaf and Alice’s father funded Thomas’ trip to Europe to learn about starting a Deaf school. Thomas eventually learned how to sign from Laurent Clerc, who was a Deaf faculty member and graduate of the Institut Royal des Sourds-Muets in Paris, France. Thomas taught Laurent English and Laurent taught Thomas how to sign. Together, they founded the American School for the Deaf in 1817. Laurent became the first teacher of the Deaf in America who also was deaf. The school’s mission is to not view deafness as something to overcome, but as a way to understand oneself, to empower Deaf people, and bridge connections between the signing and Deaf community and beyond.
ASL Connect has a variety of resources for learning ASL. They offer basic ASL vocabulary (e.g.: vegetables, places, pronouns, etc.), interactive lessons that are more structured and you can track your progress, and more intensive ASL lessons that involve paying tuition. For the time being, I am going to continue with Bill Vicars’ lessons and supplement this with ASL Connect Basic Vocabulary.
Previously I learned the alphabet, so I decided to venture into numbers. On ASL Connect there were two tutorials for counting. One video is for 1-10 and the other is for 11-20. My initial thought was that I would use both hands, but for numbers 1-20 it is all on one hand. In addition, like in the Bill Vicars videos I referred to in my last update, all of the videos are silent. In this case, I actually found it helpful that there was no talking because it allowed me to really focus on the hand movements and finger placements. Like Alyssa suggested, I practiced in front of the mirror, but this time I sat with the video on while I practiced to help me catch my mistakes.
Netflix: Deaf U
Deaf U is basically a reality T.V. series at Gallaudet University. It features people with and without strong Deaf identities. For example, one person learned sign once he arrived at the college and still relies mainly on speaking. In addition, it features people who are hard of hearing and completely Deaf. Keep in mind it is a college-based show with partying and some not-so appropriate content for the entire family, but it was interesting to see just how quickly people who are fluent in ASL sign in “real-life” and to learn a bit more about Deaf culture in a college setting. However, I recognize that this is a T.V. show, so things can be fabricated or exaggerated.
The show mentioned the “elite” group of students that attend Gallaudet University. This refers to students whose families have been Deaf for four or five generations, attended all Deaf high schools, their first language was sign, etc. Something that I never considered as a hearing person was having conversations at restaurants. Bet gave me some insight on how background noise can distort sounds, making conversation difficult. Aside from this, people who sign need to be able to see each other clearly. Two of the people in Deaf U were eating at a restaurant and signing, then the server came and placed the water jug in between the two of them. One of the students remarked that this was not a “Deaf friendly” gesture. This was something that I had never considered from my days as a server, but it will definitely stick with me now! In addition, when a group of students went out to a club one of the Deaf students told his buddy to stick with him in case a hearing person talks to him, so he can interpret. This student is able to read lips, but in a dark and loud environment, this is difficult to do. Another student also explained that there are different kinds of Deaf people. He notes that there are Deaf people who used to speak, but no longer do, and Deaf people who cannot speak. This same student also explained that Gallaudet has a “criteria” on how Deaf you are. He notes that people with cochlear implants (C.I.) or hearing aids are often judged. This student has a C.I. and explains that he can’t hear anything without it, so he continues to wear it anyway. This doesn’t sound like an official criteria, but more of a social one. The episodes are fairly short, thankfully, because I needed to watch it again! Everything is signed, so I need to read the closed-captioning in order to understand what they are saying. I’m notorious for doing other things while watching T.V., so this doesn’t work when learning ASL or watching shows that involve signing. This made me reflect on how distracted I am when engaging in conversation with other people. For example, I’ll chat on the phone when I’m doing the dishes or I’ll be typing on my computer during a staff meeting (shhh, don’t tell my admin…). To me, ASL is such a personal language. You need stop everything you’re doing to communicate by only focusing on that person, making eye contact, reading their hand movements, and facial grammar. This is something I could definitely work on in terms of my communication, not just for my ASL learning, but in general.
Bill Vicars Lessons
I needed to take a step back from my ASL practice the past two weeks in order to keep up with my other commitments to this project, but in the coming weeks, I am planning to focus my learning on sign. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I completed two of the Bill Vicars lessons, but did not practice enough to retain what I’ve learned. As a result, I back-tracked and re-did one of the lessons! Below, I’ve posted some of the key phrases/words from the first lesson. I was planning on doing the second, but the first took longer than I thought! I started by practicing with the video for the first lesson. This time, I paused a lot more to practice the words/phrases and wrote them down to help me remember for my update video. The 35 minute lesson ended up being closer to 50 minutes, which was longer than I was thinking it would be. After, I practiced in front of the mirror and finally I was ready to film! Which then resulted in a few takes, but in the end, I think I’ve got the key elements of the first lesson down! Next week, I’m aiming for completing lesson two and (hopefully) three.
Moving forward, to keep me accountable and to help me retain what I’ve learned, I will start reviewing my skills weekly by continuing to practice the alphabet, numbers 1-20, etc.
Where We Are Headed…
I didn’t quite meet all my goals exactly as I planned, as I didn’t finish the Seen and Not Heard podcast and I didn’t get a chance to spend the amount of time I would have liked on my ASL lessons. I feel the the beginning pieces of my project were very focused on Deaf culture and education, but not so much on learning ASL. In the coming weeks, I’m predicting a bit of a switch! I would like to explore the plethora of resources sent my way and focus on ASL. In the coming weeks I aim to…
Keep at those Bill Vicars ASL 1 lessons (aiming for Lesson 2 and maybe 3)
Over the past two weeks, I’ve finally started making some headway! It has been a process learning ASL, organizing interviews, and trying to soak in as much information as I can in an efficient (and effective) manner. Now that I’ve got the ball rolling, I’m starting to feel a little more confident in the direction my project is heading. However, there is still a lot of learning on the horizon for me! The following are some highlights, challenges, and potential next steps.
Where We Started…
In my project outline from two weeks ago, I had made a schedule to help me organize a timeline of my project. My plan dictated that over the next two weeks I would…
I figured I would start simple… The alphabet. If I know this, I could at least spell out what I am trying to communicate if I am at a loss for the proper sign. I’ve used this video in the past to show my students when we are working on the Sound Unit in Science, so why not use it for myself?
Surprisingly, I was able to learn how to fingerspell the alphabet pretty quickly by following the instructions in this video. After I followed along for the 15 minutes and had it pretty well memorized, I was concerned the letters I was making were not formed exactly correct. So, I sat in front of a mirror and practiced (like Alyssa suggested below). I felt a little odd, but it did help! Since this came quite easily, I was feeling confident and ready to take on some ASL!
Bill Vicars Tutorials on ASL 1: Lessons 1 & 2
Well. These lessons were certainly more difficult than my fingerspelling experience! There was no sound. None. I could read the captions, but I was also trying to watch the video… Sensory overload! However, this was a humbling experience because it offered a very small taste of what Deaf people or anyone learning another language experience. I’ve included the lessons that I’ve completed so far– feel free to try them out for yourself!
Not having sound included in these videos created an authentic experience and forced me to really pay attention to what was going on. I truly needed to give it my undivided attention! In addition, I liked that it featured a hearing student, like me, who was also learning ASL. I found this slowed things down and if I missed something, the odds are the student did too. Something that I didn’t realize about ASL was that it also involves facial expressions. For example, when asking “wh questions,” you need to make your eyebrows go down and for yes or no questions, you need to make your eyebrows go up. Lesson two was when things started to get really tricky because there were not any captions to read! In addition, when you use ASL it is not in the order of English grammar… It is almost the opposite. Below, Alyssa speaks to this a little more! In the second lesson, there was also some playful banter. I enjoyed this, but I found it difficult to decipher whether we were learning something or if Bill was making a joke… Again, a small taste of what someone who is learning another language experiences! I’ve been enjoying these lessons so far and am looking forward to more over the next few weeks.
Interview #1: Alyssa
Without a doubt, this was the highlight of my project so far. I was connected with Alyssa through the SLP at my school. The SLP at my school had mentioned that as part of her training, she learned a little bit about deafness, but our school division recently hired someone who might be more knowledgeable on the topic. She recommended Alyssa, who minored in deaf education and has a master’s degree in speech and language pathology, with an emphasis on deafness… I don’t think I could have asked for a better person to interview. In true teacher fashion, I needed to make a list of questions/topics to help guide our conversation, as I didn’t want to forget to ask anything… We all know how I love a good question. The following are some of the topics we chatted about in our conversation…
Tell me a little bit about what you do?
Currently, Alyssa’s area of focus is on listening and spoken language and works as an SLP in mainstream schools. However, she has worked in a variety of other places throughout Canada that focus on deafness. She lived in Vancouver and taught Pre-K to deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students. When Alyssa lived in Edmonton, she worked at a non-profit organization and ran an early intervention program for Pre K-K students who were also DHH. I had asked her what were some differences between the two experiences. When she worked in Vancouver, all of the kids in this program used some sort of hearing device and did not use signing. She also noted that these kids also came from hearing families. The devices she mentioned were cochlear implants, hearing aids, and bone anchored hearing aids.
I was familiar with hearing aids and cochlear implants. However, bone anchored hearing aids were new to me. Alyssa explained that people who use these were born without an ear canal, which means that sound isn’t able to get into the ear. However, everything on the inside of the ear works. The headband vibrates on the skull in order to transmit sound.
When Alyssa worked in Edmonton, she taught by using a combination of signing and spoken language. She also had aids in her classroom who were also Deaf. This program dealt mainly with families who were part of the Deaf community, so no hearing devices were used (more on that to come). Since both languages were used, Alyssa said it was interesting to watch which kids gravitated toward spoken or sign language. She noted that the teachers would present their instruction in spoken language and the Deaf aids in the classroom would sign for the students, particularly if a story was being read.
deaf vs Deaf… What’s the difference?How can I approach exploring this topic as a hearing person as respectfully as possible?
This question was eating away at me the most! The SLP at my school had mentioned this to me in passing, but I never did get the details. Thank goodness Alyssa could fill in the blanks for me. In a nutshell, this is what I learned…
Alyssa mentioned that the views on Deaf and deaf can be very political, however, the above chart sums up some basic characteristics of each… I promise I’ll explain the “Yoda” thing in a bit! At first when Alyssa explained this to me, I felt a little anxious learning about Deaf culture and ASL because I am a hearing person. I almost felt like I was imposing. Alyssa eased my concerns as she explained, in her experience, the Deaf community is very welcoming and want people to learn their language.
What is some advice you can offer to me as I begin learning ASL?
Something that took me by surprise is the complexity of ASL. Alyssa explained ASL is different everywhere you go and signs for certain words can mean different things, which can make communicating tricky and confusing because there can be 5 different signs for the same word… To stir the pot a bit more, slang terms are also different wherever you go as well! Alyssa said that I should be prepared to make mistakes and to be corrected, as learning ASL has many layers. She also suggested the best way to learn ASL is to learn from someone who is Deaf, as this creates a more authentic experience. In addition, she said it is helpful if you know how to fingerspell the alphabet. When you don’t know the sign for something, you can spell it out! We got chatting about how fast Deaf people finger spell and sign. I mentioned to her in my lessons I often had a hard time keeping up and was replaying the videos for what felt like every 10 seconds! She recommended that when you’re trying to figure out what someone is saying when they are fingerspelling, try to sound it out as the person goes… Alyssa said it’s surprising how well it actually works! She also suggested to practice in the mirror, even though it feels super weird. This way you can actually see if you’re doing the signs correctly! Oh and the, “Yoda” thing: When communicating in true ASL fashion, when asking, “How old are you?” Instead of signing the words in order, like we communicate in spoken English, it almost in reverse… Alyssa compared it to how Yoda talks. I could be wrong, so don’t quote me on this, I think the word order would be, “Old are you how.” Another important piece of advice Alyssa offered was to try not to speak and sign. This is for two reasons:
Like I mentioned above, when communicating in ASL, the order of the words/grammar rules are different than in spoken English.
Both languages are distorted by speaking.
What’s been your experience working with families? Are they often willing to learn ASL to communicate with their child? How do families handle learning that their child is deaf?
Alyssa emphasized that every family is different and over the course of her career, it really has been a mixed bag. She said some families are very much so part of the Deaf community. For example, some families do not allow anyone into their home that is a non-ASL user, while others are more flexible. For the most part, when families learn their child is deaf, they are willing to do anything to support their child and learn how to communicate with them. However, she highlighted that there is a grieving process that families often go through when their child receives a deafness diagnosis, especially when their child has no auditory nerves and is completely deaf. In addition, she also explained that families who do not take the time to learn ASL or gain an understanding of their child’s communication needs, is due to family circumstances. For example, if a family is living in poverty, putting food on the table needs to take priority. She also explained in these situations where there is minimal communication between the child and their family, behavioural issues are a concern. Alyssa explained that often he deaf child will just kind of do their own thing or are overly independent. In these cases, there is usually a lot of gesturing to communicate, but that only goes so far.
What has been the impact of Covid on Deaf people? How have masks created a communication barrier?
As I’ve learned over the past few weeks, ASL is way more complex than I initially thought. It has its own set of grammar rules and doesn’t just involve hand and arm movements… It involves eyebrow movements and facial expressions to communicate as well. Alyssa has a friend who uses hearing aids and she explained these Covid communication barriers beautifully, “I don’t read lips, I read facial grammar.” I assumed lipreading would have been the biggest issue due to mask wearing, but facial grammar offers context in conversations, even for hearing people. In contrast, Alyssa has another friend who relies quite heavily on lip reading. Wearing masks has made simply going to the grocery store a chore, as now she must use her phone to communicate or search for “clues” to find her way. In addition, (as we’ve all probably experienced) masks majorly distort sound and it is difficult to hear as a hearing person in the first place! Alyssa said that sometimes they use the clear masks, so lip readers can see. When I asked my doctor about this, she said that those types of masks are useful for that purpose, but are not medical masks and don’t provide the level of protection needed to be deemed safe. As you probably presume, Covid has been very isolating for everyone, but poses unique problems for Deaf or hard or hearing people. My mom is slightly hard of hearing and wears tiny hearing aids and glasses… and a mask. Multiple times she’s taken off her mask in her car and her hearing aids fly out of her ears along with her glasses… Trust me. You don’t want to lose one of those hearing aids, as they are expensive to replace if lost or damaged.
Resources from Alyssa…
Okay. This could be a separate blog post on its own. However, I’ll share some resources that piqued my interest that I can add to my ever growing list. Something that I feel is important to mention is that all of the resources Alyssa passed along to me are Deaf recommended.
Bill Vicars from Lifeprint: Currently, I’ve been using his YouTube videos. He is also deaf/hard of hearing. I didn’t know this until I chatted with Alyssa, but he also has fingerspelling videos too.
Apps: Marlee Sign, Signed Stories (this one is more so geared toward kids, but could definitely be useful in learning about setting up stories for Deaf students and learning some basic vocabulary), and Zorp Meets Earth (also geared toward kids)
Television shows to learn about deaf culture: Deaf U (reality TV show at Gallaudet University AND it’s on Netflix) and Switched at Birth (features some signing)
I mentioned Start ASL to Alyssa. She said that the Deaf community doesn’t particularly love this program for learning ASL. She said that she hasn’t engaged with it much, so she couldn’t really offer any insight on it. Nonetheless, good information to know moving forward!
Total sidebar: If there is an SLP reading this, I was blown away at the breadth of knowledge you all have. My sister-in-law works at the hospital with people who have swallowing disorders and previously with people who have autism, Alyssa has a wealth of knowledge on all things deafness, while other SLPs work in schools with kids who have all kinds of speech delays or social skills challenges. You rock. Although I am looking forward to diving into these recommendations and learning more through open education resources, I honestly did not feel very confident until I had some human connection/direction on my topic. I learned so much from Alyssa and she really helped me get the ball rolling!
Podcast: Seen and not Heard
Unfortunately, I did not finish the entire podcast, but I will work on it in the coming weeks! This podcast also as a Twitter account that I’ve began to follow, however it isn’t overly active, as the last update was July 23, 2020. Essentially, this podcast follows the story of Bet Kline who recently lost her hearing from an undisclosed illness. Bet works to navigate this major change in her life and encounters some challenges along the way. Initially, I was expecting the podcast to be interview style or there to be a host. It actually is a fictional audio drama… It’s like listening to a TV show without the visual. I find it ironic that I am learning about Deaf culture through a podcast, which relies on its listeners’ ability to hear…
I’ve listened to three episodes, but the one that stuck with me the most was the third episode. Bet is having dinner with her family and she pitches the idea of learning sign language as a family. It was disappointing to see the lack of support due to excuses such as being too old to pick up new skills, being too busy, or, “You have hearing aids, why do you need sign language?” Her family felt as though she was imposing on them or asking for something outlandish. Although this story is fictional, I would imagine there are people who have come into deafness later in life and their friends/family have a difficult time adjusting to this change or resist altogether. This is reminiscent of the grieving process that Alyssa had mentioned previously in our conversation. My heart hurt for Bet because in the first episode she went to her first sign language class and felt very out of place, but wanting to learn more. It is almost as if she is stuck in the middle of two worlds: hearing and deafness.
So far I’m enjoying this podcast and I’m finding the storytelling format engaging to listen to! Another update on this to come in the near future…
Artefacts of Learning
I had completed my ASL one and two lessons, along with fingerspelling the alphabet about a week ago. In order to make the video below, I needed to do some review by re-watching the alphabet and then practicing in the mirror again! I felt pretty confident filming this to mark my progress. On the contrary with my ASL lessons, I’m going to need more practice before I’m ready to film. When I did the first two lessons, everything felt like it really sunk in… However, moving forward, I will probably focus on one lesson at a time and practice it throughout the week. Although this may slow my process down, the lessons will stick better by reviewing the same thing a little each day! Since most training in ASL is only done in ASL (no speaking) my videos will be silent, but I will include captions wherever possible. Here is my fingerspelling alphabet:
Where we are heading…
My goals (like I suspected) have changed from my original plan! Over the next week/two weeks this is what I am aiming to accomplish…
Interview a deaf and hard of hearing teacher in my school division
Finish Seen and not Heard podcast
Start watching Deaf U on Netflix
Keep up with my ASL 1 Lessons (and actually keep practicing those same lessons throughout the week…)
Explore Gallaudet University resources
If I have time: Dive into some of those apps Alyssa suggested!
I certainly have my work cut out for me and hopefully I can meet all of those goals within the next week or two! Nonetheless, I am excited about where my project is heading! As always, thanks for taking a read!