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DOTS for Braille Literacy (Development of Teacher Support), Volume 15, Number 2, Winter 2010

DOTS (Development of Teacher Support) for Braille Literacy is published three times a year and is available online at or in braille, by request.

In this issue...

Keep in Touch with News

Since DOTS is published only a few times each year, the announcement of some workshops and events of interest to teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired may slip through the cracks. AFB eNews, and AFB's Professional Development department's newsletter Connections, and the AFB Calendar of Events usually have the latest information on activities. (Register to receive eNews and Connections for free at Also, AFB and the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) host a web site where local and national events of interest to families are posted:

Please make a habit of checking the AFB web site and other web sites and links identified in this newsletter. Perhaps subscribe to an electronic discussion list such as AERnet to keep up with news related to teaching and promoting braille literacy. Connect to and follow the Join AER Listservs link to subscribe to the AER electronic discussion list; you can choose to receive it either as individual e-mail messages or as a digest that includes several messages at one time.

From the Editor—Quack!

"Questions, answers, more questions..." That was part of the title of a presentation at the 2009 Getting In Touch With Literacy conference this past November. Presenters discussing the ABC Braille Project generated the topic, and reading about it reminded me that just when I think I have all the answers, another question pops up. QAQ! (Questions, answers, questions). I wish I had been there to hear the new questions the presenters posed.

I didn't have to "be there" to access the October-November 2009 special issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB). It came to my door. The issue focused on literacy and included more than a dozen articles that provided more "QAQs." The special publication presented topics such as the history of instructional methods in uncontracted and contracted braille, the acquisition of literacy skills by young children who are blind, participation of parents in early exploration of tactile graphics, and a review of research on the literacy of students with visual impairments and additional disabilities.

Ask questions—that's what researchers do. Ask, find answers, then figure out what else we need to know in order to improve literacy. Dr. Tina S. Herzberg, co-author of one of the JVIB articles, is still asking questions about the quality of braille instructional materials transcribed by public school personnel. This time she is focusing on math materials, and would like your help

Children are famous for asking questions, a trait that could well lead them to great things. As you read about the Junior Science Academy at NFB, perhaps you'll think of a budding scientist who will benefit from the program. Maybe you know an aspiring film artist, too, someone who is always imagining how to answer the "what if" question with creativity. The Braille Challenge offers something to spark that student, and they are looking at ways to honor teachers who build such sparks into bonfires of learning.

Maybe QAQ is what keeps teachers growing through the years, too. We enjoy lifelong learning. Sometimes, though, it may be we simply have so much on our minds that we need to ask questions to ensure we relay the right information to our students, their parents, or our co-workers. Help from our peers at the National Braille Association, Hadley School for Professional Studies, or the American Foundation for the Blind is often just a click away.

Perhaps I will travel to at least one of the upcoming conferences in our field listed in the Calendar of Events. They are sure to generate more QAQs, and I may even pose a few questions of my own. I bet I'll even find a few other ducklings in the crowd. Quack!

Request for Research Participants

Dr. Tina Herzberg, University of South Carolina Upstate, and Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, University of Arizona, are seeking individuals who prepare math materials for tactual learners in preschool through grade 12 to participate in a research study. The purpose of the study is to learn about the background of participants, the ways in which they prepare math materials for tactual learners, and the accuracy of the materials prepared. Potential participants in the study include: teachers of students with visual impairments, paraprofessionals, braillists, transcribers, and others who prepare math materials for tactual learners. Participants must have prepared math materials for tactual learners during the 2007-2008, 2008-2009, and/or 2009-2010 school years.

If interested in participating, visit and read a letter of invitation. After giving your consent to participate in the study, you will complete an online demographic survey, select a worksheet to braille and mail to the researchers, and complete the online transcription survey.

You may contact the research coordinators as follows: Dr. Herzberg at 864-503-5572 or by e-mail at, or Dr. Rosenblum at 520-621-1223 or by e-mail at

Gear Up for Greatness! National Federation of the Blind 2010 Junior Science Academy

The National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS), a program of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Jernigan Institute, is offering its Science Academy for students in grades three through six. The program was designed to spark and enhance students' interest in scientific study, an academic area often thought to be too difficult for students who are blind. The NCBYS will use hands-on experiences, tactile materials, and interactive activities to expose children to the excitement of science in real-life applications. Parents/chaperones who accompany a student to the NCBYS will participate in related activities during the event.

Applicants can apply for one of the following dates in 2010: Session 1, July 28-August 1 or Session 2, August 4-8. A registration fee of $150.00 will be charged for each accepted student and parent/chaperone pair. The cost of travel, room, board, and program materials will be covered by the NFB Jernigan Institute. Visit and click on the link to Summer 2010: Junior Science Academy.

News from The Braille Challenge

Regional competitions for The Braille Challenge, an academic competition for braille readers sponsored by Braille Institute, are ending and the finals will be held in Los Angeles, California June 25-26, 2010. Before then, though, The Braille Challenge has two important deadlines to note.

March 26 is the deadline for submitting nominations for The Braille Challenge Teacher of the Year Award. The award honors those who employ innovative teaching strategies for braille literacy, who involve parents and the school community effectively, and whose students have demonstrated success. Professionals from all across the United States and Canada are eligible to be nominated by parents, peers, or administrators. Download and print out the three-page nomination form from the Braille Institute web site at The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to take part in The Braille Challenge Finals in June and will be a special guest at the gala Awards Ceremony.

April 1 marks the date for Braille Institute's film festival celebrating the abilities of young people who are blind or visually impaired. The festival is called Cinema Without Sight, and it is a showcase for students to share video based on the theme "I Am More Than What I See." Students are invited to make their own movie, from a simple collection of images and scenes to fully scripted, acted and edited films. The top three submissions will be premiered at the Braille Challenge Finals and a top cash prize of $1,000 will be awarded. Download an application from It outlines criteria for the work and all contest rules. You may also contact Christine Pak at 1-800-272-4553, extension 1321, or send her an e-mail at

If your students did not participate in a regional Braille Challenge this year and you wonder what the competition is like, visit their web site to see sample challenges from the various categories. The Braille Challenger Newsletter also includes a sample of questions posed to participants in the event.

QAQ Resources

The National Braille Association (NBA) recognizes how difficult it is to learn and/or retain everything there is to know about braille. How should I format the text of a certain kind of document? Where can I find the rule explaining how to...? How would you braille this e-mail address? Should this image be a tactile graphic, and if so, what are your recommendations? Ask An Expert is a forum that allows transcribers and educators to discuss the complexities of formatting braille so it is consistent and provides the greatest possible benefit to students. Visit and check out the Ask An Expert site.

Hadley School for the Blind provides distance education for individuals worldwide. Their four program areas include Adult Continuing Education, High School, Family Education, and the Hadley School for Professional Studies (HSPS). Among the courses available in the HSPS are Blindness Basics, Social Skills: Foundation Introduction to Braille, Basic Nemeth Code, Abacus 1, The Human Eye, Access Technology: Beginnings, and Independent Living. The HSPS provides a resource for educators to refresh their knowledge or to introduce elements of the profession to administrators or paraprofessionals with whom they work. Visit for more information. The Family Education program offers the same courses to assist families in learning about their child with a visual impairment.

FamilyConnect is an online community where families can ask questions about students with visual impairments and get answers from their peers as well as from professionals. Sponsored by American Foundation for the Blind and National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, the web site offers videos, personal stories, events, announcements, and blogs set up by age ranges—infants and toddlers, preschoolers, grade schoolers, and teenagers. A sample of recent topics includes: tips for travel with a visually impaired child; playing with other children; when other teens are learning to drive and your child isn't; talking to family and friends about your child's visual impairment. The web site is

Calendar Dates of Interest

DOTS (Development of Teacher Support) for Braille Literacy is published three times a year (October, February, and June), and is available online at: or in braille, by request. For further information please contact:

DOTS Editor
American Foundation for the Blind
100 Peachtree Street, Suite 620
Atlanta, GA 30303
Telephone: 404-525-2303
Fax: 404-659-6957

If you would like routinely to receive an e-mail alerting you to the posting of future issues of the DOTS newsletter, please visit and follow the instructions there to sign up. You can then log in and update your profile at any time to alert us to changes in your contact information. If you choose not to receive an e-mail notice, you will still be able to access current and archived issues of DOTS online at; and if you are a braille format subscriber, you will continue to receive your DOTS newsletter in braille.

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