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DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support) Volume 18, Number 2, Spring 2013

DOTS (Development of Teacher Support) for Braille Literacy is published three times a year and is available online at www.afb.org/dots.

In this issue...

From the Editor

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a state-led initiative designed to create uniform educational standards for language arts and mathematics from kindergarten through 12th grade. The initiative will allow for better comparison of student achievement from state to state. And in our highly mobile society, having shared standards for each grade level could be helpful for students who move from one state to another. To date, 45 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted the CCSS. As often happens with large projects like this, certain elements are quite controversial. Some educators are praising the standards as being comprehensive and evidence-based. Others are concerned that the standards have not been pilot tested, and feel that the guidelines are being implemented too quickly before there's been sufficient professional development. Two particular aspects of the English Language Arts standards have been the topics of a great deal of discussion.

The first issue has to do with what is referred to as the "exemplar" texts listed in the standards. The English Language Arts standards include an appendix with examples of grade level texts of different genres that could be used in the classroom. Some groups have expressed concern that these examples could be misconstrued as required curriculum materials, limiting teachers' freedom to choose the literature they want to use during lessons. While this was not the intention of including these exemplars in the standards, unfortunately, in the past, suggested materials have been mistaken as "strongly recommended," and then over time school systems have used those materials exclusively. Another raised concern is the amount of instructional time that is spent using "literary" texts as opposed to "informational" texts. As students get older, the standards state that more time should be devoted to reading informational texts such as newspapers, manuals, and other nonfiction. Some educators are concerned that novels, poetry, dramatic works, and other narrative texts will be thrown out of the curriculum. The standards, however, make clear that by high school, classroom teachers in content area subjects such as history, science, health, and technical areas are also responsible for the English Language Arts standards, and that an interdisciplinary approach will be needed. Sharing the responsibility for meeting the standards will help ensure that students get a balance of literary and informational texts across subjects and across grades—or, at least, that's the intention.

I'm very interested in seeing how the CCSS will be implemented over the next few years. Will the exemplar texts become "required"? Will teachers embrace an interdisciplinary approach? What will be the effect of the CCSS on statewide assessments? Most of all, how will students with disabilities be included? This issue's "Dear DOT" column will provide a few resources related to special education and the CCSS. I'd like to hear from readers of the DOTS newsletter about how you see the Common Core being implemented in your state and in your school, and the impact you see it having on your students.

—Frances Mary D’Andrea, Editor, DOTS for Braille Literacy

NFB 2013 Youth Writing Contest

The annual youth writing contest to promote braille literacy, sponsored by the Writers’ Division of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), is open January 1 to April 1, 2013. There are six categories: Elementary Fiction; Elementary Poetry; Middle School Fiction; Middle School Poetry; High School Fiction; High School Poetry.

All contest winners will be announced at the Writers’ Division business meeting during the NFB national convention to be held in Orlando, Florida the first week of July, 2013. Additionally, shortly after the convention adjourns, the winners will appear on the Writers’ Division Website, www.nfb-writers-division.net. There may be up to three prize winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and one or more honorable mentions. A prize-winning entry may be published within the Writers’ Division’s magazine, “Slate & Style.” Youth contest winners will receive $30 for first place, $20 for second place, and $10 for third place. Contest winners will receive complimentary copies of the issue in which their entries appear if they are not already subscribed.

This is a contest for students who use braille. Entries must be submitted in hand-embossed braille, either with a slate and stylus or on a braille writer. No computer braille entries will be considered. Submissions must be original works and brailled by the entrant. Each entrant must provide an identical electronic copy of the cover letter and story or poetry, for possible publication (as a Microsoft Word file [doc] or Rich Text Format [rtf] file). Attach the electronic copies to an email and send them to newmanrl@cox.net. For additional rules, entry requirements, cover letter required information, and the address of where to send the hard copy visit
www.nfb-writers-division.net/projects/2013_youth.cfm.

NFB also sponsors a writing contest for adults over the age of 18; information is available on the NFB Writer's Division site mentioned above. But hurry—the contest entries must be in by April 1, 2013!

New American Foundation for the Blind App Helps People with Vision Loss Easily Take Notes on iPhone®, iPad®, and iPod touch®

For the millions of Americans with vision loss looking for a simple, convenient way to take notes at work, at school, or at home, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today launched the AccessNote™, a specialized notetaker for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The app was designed to complement the iPhone’s other popular features, like web browsing and email, so that users who are blind have all the tools they need in one, handy device. AFB’s AccessNote app is available for $19.99.

In addition to being a low-cost alternative to traditional notetakers, AccessNote allows users to combine efficient note-taking with many other features and functions of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This allows people who are blind or visually impaired to use the same popular devices that their sighted peers are using in classroom or business settings.

This is the first note-taking app developed and designed specifically for users who are blind. AFB evaluated many of the other available note-taking apps, but found none to be very efficient or user-friendly to people who are blind or visually impaired. Features that set the AccessNote apart include:

  • Seamless Navigation. Customized keyboard commands make note-taking more intuitive and productive than ever before, including quick access to important features like Search All Notes and Search Within a Note, as well as several navigation options.
  • Automatic Saving. With an automatic save on every few keystrokes, notes will never be lost.
  • Cursor Tracking. When navigating among multiple sets of notes, users can always pick up right where they left off.
  • Unparalleled Simplicity. With a clutter-free interface, users can create, read, find, and sync, making it easier to spend more time with actual content and less time with tools.
  • DropBox Integration. All notes, always on hand. DropBox keeps AccessNote in sync with the user's desktop (and other devices) so their notes are always available and backed up.
  • Compatibility with Bluetooth Keyboards. AccessNote is optimized for efficiency with the Apple Wireless Keyboard and for today’s wireless braille displays.

AccessNote was developed in conjunction with FloCo Apps and is available on the App Store(SM).

APH to Partner with European Organization for International Tactile Book Competition

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH), will judge U.S. entries in an annual tactile book competition. The biennial tactile book competition is conducted by Typhlo & Tactus (T&T), an organization comprised of western and eastern European nations that exists to improve the quality and quantity of tactile books available to young children with visual impairments in member countries. As part of T&T's efforts, the organization has conducted a biennial tactile book competition each year, beginning in 2000. At first, the competition was open only to European T&T members, but in 2011 it was opened to a worldwide audience.

APH will be the contact organization for U.S. entries. A panel of U.S. judges will review each entry and select the top five books to send overseas for final adjudication by an international panel of children and adults with visual impairments, as well as professionals in the field. A single winning entry will be chosen, along with ten shortlisted books. Selected books may be featured on the T&T website and may appear in posters and promotional materials used by T&T. U.S. entrants should send their completed tactile book, designed for a child with visual impairment from birth to 12 years of age, to the American Printing House for the Blind by Monday, July 15, 2013.

A "Guide to Designing Tactile Illustrations for Children's Books" can be found at www.aph.org/research/illustration/. For entry forms and guidelines, visit www.aph.org/edresearch/tactile-book-contest or www.tactus.org.

BANA News

The Braille Authority of North America (BANA), which meets face-to-face semiannually, will hold its 2013 spring meeting on April 11-13 in Washington, D.C. This meeting is hosted by the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a BANA member organization. Meetings on April 11 and 12 will take place in the Madison Building at the Library of Congress, located at 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, DC 20540. Meetings on Saturday, November 13, including an Open Forum, will be held at the Arlington Public Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA 22201.

BANA will host an Open Forum that provides a venue for participants to ask questions and discuss braille with the Board and to learn more about the workings of BANA. Members of the BANA Board will share plans for the transition to UEB and encourage participants to share their views and suggestions surrounding braille and its future. The Open Forum will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon at the Arlington Public Library, with a meet-and-greet time and snacks at 10:00 a.m. To reserve your space at the Open Forum and to help ensure accurate counts for handouts, contact Frances Mary D'Andrea by email at literacy2@mindspring.com.

A new document, "Overview of Changes from Current Literary Braille to UEB" is now available on the BANA website in several formats. The HTML version of this document can be found at http://www.brailleauthority.org/ueb/overview_changes_ebae_ueb.html.

Additional documents about UEB, including sample materials written in the new code, will be added over the next few months. More detailed information about UEB and the motion that BANA passed can be found on the BANA website at www.brailleauthority.org.

News & Opportunities

National Braille Press Blog

National Braille Press (NBP) has started a blog. Check out their stories about braille and leave comments about what you read at nationalbraillepress.wordpress.com/.

NICHCY Fact Sheet

The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities updated their fact sheet on children with visual impairments. The revised fact sheet has several new sections, including types of visual impairments in children, signs and symptoms, insights about how children with visual impairments learn, tips for educators, and tips for parents.

nichcy.org/disability/specific/visualimpairment.

Proceedings of International Braille Conference

The proceedings of the conference, "World Congress Braille21: Innovations in Braille in the 21st Century" held in September, 2011, are now available online. Sixty papers are available related to six topics: Education and Literacy; Vocational Training, Employment, and Lifelong Learning; Research and Development; Improving Access to Information; Braille as a Part of Universal Design; and The Role of Braille in Enabling Independent Living. More than 400 delegates from 50 countries attended the conference. The proceedings can be found at
www.braille21.net/en/proceedings.

Blog About Diabetes and Braille

The blog "Blood Drops, Braille Dots" shares thoughts about living with Type 1 diabetes and using braille. One recent entry was called "6 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Braille." It's an excellent summary to share with students, parents, administrators, and people who just want to know more about braille. Read the blog post at blooddropsbrailledots.blogspot.com/2013_01_01_archive.html.

Braille Scrabble

RNIB is now selling the popular board game Scrabble for braille readers all around the world at the same price and quality as the large print version. Each of the letter tiles has a braille label, as well as clear print labelling. The playing board has tactile dots on the premium letter squares and tactile dashes on the premium word squares. The clever tile-lock design means that the letter tiles sit snugly on the board, even when rotating to the next player using the built-in stand. The price is £29.00. To order contact exports@rnib.org.uk or call + (44) 1733 375400. The RNIB Product Code is GB95.

Dear DOT

Dear DOT,

Thanks for telling us about the Common Core State Standards. What might be the impact on my students who read braille? Where can I learn more?

Signed, Carol

Dear Carol,

The website for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) states the following: "The Common Core State Standards give states the opportunity to share experiences and best practices, which can lead to an improved ability to serve young people with disabilities and English language learners. Additionally, the standards include information on application of the standards for these groups of students."

The information referred to above can be found on the CCSS web site at www.corestandards.org/assets/application-to-students-with-disabilities.pdf. The document states that for students with disabilities to benefit from the standards, their IEPs must be aligned with the standards, classroom teachers and specialists must be prepared to deliver instruction and support, and instructional accommodations should be in place. The guidelines also reinforce the need for a universal design for learning and the importance of assistive technology devices and services.

Another helpful site related to the CCSS and children with disabilities is the NICHCY site, the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. This page provides answers to many frequently asked questions regarding accommodations, assessment, and materials for the standards.

The International Center on Leadership in Education has developed a white paper entitled, "Fewer, Clearer, Higher Common Core State Standards: Implications for Students Receiving Special Education Services." While it's two years old now, the document provides an overview of the CCSS and outlines what is referred to as the "five key elements" for success: a sense of ownership, a culture of high expectations, intervention systems, inclusion and collaboration, and professional development. This document is available to download from www.leadered.com/pdf/Special%20Ed%20&%20CCSS%20white%20paper.pdf.

This could be an excellent paper to share with a supervisor to discuss how you as a teacher of students with visual disabilities will be expected to align your instruction with these new standards.

The National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness has scheduled a three-part webinar regarding the CCSS and children who are deafblind. Part one is available on their website as a recording or transcript and can be found at https://nationaldb.org/library.

The state of Maryland has already developed a helpful set of materials on how braille skills can be incorporated into the standards for that state. To read their framework for English Language Arts and Mathematics as well as their alignment with formatting and tactile graphics, visit mdk12.org/instruction/commoncore/braille/index.html. If your state has also developed similar guidelines, please let me know. I'll be happy to put this information in future issues of DOTS so we can share our resources.

Sincerely,

DOT

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