It’s The End Of The World As We Know It!

April 17, 2007 at 7:09 pm (Uncategorized)

Ok, well not really…but it’s interesting to think about, right?

So, it might not be the end of the world but it IS the end off this project as well as nearing the end of the class/semester. Through this winter semester, we have done a lot in learning about and putting to practice, many of the concepts of writing as well as teaching writing. We were all encouraged, during this blog project, to explore aspects of education that we found interesting and appealing as future educators. I believe that by allowing us to take this project into our own hands the way we were allowed to really put a higher emphasis on the meaning behind it. As students, I’m sure we can all relate to the teacher who gave an assignment with a very specific topic in mind. These, many times, were not done whole heatedly since there was little room for personal opinion and/or change. However, by allowing individuals (ourselves as well as our future students) to choose their own topics, things they care about, it is easier to make the assignments more meaningful as well as making sure that, in the end, pride is taken in the completed project.

I very much enjoyed doing this RSS project. I feel that the freedom we had, as well as the large amount of information we were able to uncover, was priceless. I was able to learn, not only a great deal more then what I already knew about my own topic, but also about the topics chosen by my fellow classmates. Similar to the effects of the doing a research project in school, where the teacher allowed you to choose your research topic. I was able to, also, learn a lot more about RSS feeds, aggregates and blogs. The countless ways that they can be used in the classroom, by both students and teachers alike, makes these technological advancements such an amazing attribute to our education systems.

As a class, we were assigned to do a “This I believe” essay. At first, these seemed a little unusual to me for an assignment in this sort of class. It wasn’t until we had heard some examples and started writing our own that I was fully able to understand the meaning behind the phrase, “This I believe..”. As student’s many of us have a somewhat clear understanding of what we want in life. However, as college students, this is also after more years of life experiences. As future educators, we will find our selves encountering student’s from every walk of life as well as every mental, physical and emotional standing. Writing our own “This I believe..” essays were a look into this future (at least for myself). I found myself looking deeper inside of me and realizing that there were things I believed in that I hadn’t considered a dominant part of my life. As a college student and future teacher, I believe that this is something that all students should come to realize in their lives and in many cases, the sooner the better. We have to show our students, especially the ones who struggle through their academic career, that it’s what they believe in that will make them who they are.

On my topic:
I have found so much more information about the Deaf community and culture then I ever knew before. I being able to sign up on Alldeaf.com (which is NOT a Deaf only forum), I was able to be in contact and read blogs/watch vlogs by other Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing/hearing people who share many of my similar intersts as well as learn, first hand, about the culture from those who live in it everyday of their lives. I believe that everyone should look into some aspect of a society that they are not directly related to and look at how others live. You can’t fully understand or accept diversity if you have not experienced or learned about how ‘the other side’ lives.

I would like to conclude this final entry with a few, more personal words. First of all, I think that we, as a society and especially as educators, need to reexamine the world around us. There is so much that needs to change if we are going to continue to life and breathe in this world. Government, politics, the environment, the education system, diversity, cultural identity, equality…

These are all things that we have to believe in and fight for in order to keep us together. Pro this or con that, it shouldn’t matter. Stand strong as an individual and stand together as a race: the human race.

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And then I said…

April 17, 2007 at 7:04 pm (Uncategorized)

Ok, here they are!  My posts to my fellow classmates!  I hope my comments were helpful and/or interesting (to say the least  ^_~).  Anway, here they are!

Wade
David
Megan
Dan
Andi
Tami
Marie
Trisha
Tess
Kristie

Thanks, everyone, for such great posts!!

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Instead of ‘Bright Ideas’…

April 17, 2007 at 6:19 pm (Uncategorized)

Techno-savvy Ideas is the way to go!

Professor Rozema was one of many presenters at the 6th annual Teaching & Learning with Technology Fair on March 21st, 2007. This conference was focused on how to allow teachers to take advantage of the new technology that is constantly being updated in our society. With presentations ranging from how to make the most of Blackboard to iPods and podcasts to virtual worlds in the classrooms, educations is adapting to the techno-age at such a pace that it is almost impossible to deny the impact it will have on our future leaders.

The keynote speaker for the conference was Dr. Peter Doolittle and no, for anyone wondering, he did not discuss how talking to animals can help in education. His opening presentation brought up many good points. His discussion included how different educators have different expectations for their students to learn. He gave a number of examples of how assignments, depending on the language used in the instructions or the purpose of the assignment, can either help students learn or simply make things more difficult. Bringing technology into the classroom is a very important part of connecting to the recent generation. Dr. Doolittle was a straightforward and clear speaking presenter when it came to discussing how we, as future and current educators, need to believe in the idea of giving students a chance to combine their interest in technology and the education they are receiving from us.

I also attended a presentation by Professor Gisella Licari, the only Italian professor at GVSU. Her Italian 202 class, along with a 5th grade class from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Elementary School (IHM), put together a collection of digital fairy tales. The elementary school students drew pictures, which were scanned and given to the GVSU students for them to create stories from. The connection between the hand-made drawings and the final images on the screen helped show the way to bring technology into all classrooms. Using the video programs, which were on the Mac system provided, the Italian students were able to take the images of the drawings, piece them together in a linear story and create a fairy tale in the Italian language. I was very impressed, not only with the level of technical aspects used but also at the combination of the two, formerly separate, art forms. Virtual story telling is a great way to engage students, especially those currently in younger grades, who have grown up with a generation of techno-savvy predecessors.

Sally Hipp, of the College of Education, gave a presentation on Blackboard learning systems, but more specifically, the use of Bb learning Units. I’m sure we’ve all, at some point, had to use Blackboard. Whether for checking grades, collaborative learning or just checking the syllabus because you forgot what the next reading was for your class in under an hour. Blackboard is a system that, while many teachers and professors use it frequently, many other do not use it or do not understand it’s full potential. This presentation focused on Learning Units. Since information can be easily uploaded onto the Blackboard site and made readily available to any students signed in, Learning Units are a great way to keep the students interactive with the material outside of the classroom. By having images, videos, articles, assignments and other such materials on Blackboard, students are able to get to what they need in a matter of seconds while still working on what they need to accomplish. They are also able to collaborate with other students regarding the information to further learning and group discussions. Allowing the students to have access to this will help in preparing them for the next class.

Finally, we had our very own Dr. Rozema. His presentation on educating with a computer generated world was very different from the other presentations. Dr. Rozema discussed how so many students (81%) already play some version of an online game, that why not put this popular concept to good use and apply it to the classroom. His project; “The Thoughtcrime Project”, was a look at 1984 by George Orwell through a virtual world called Second Life. Second Life is a mulit-user environment online people, in this case, students, could develop a character and persona within this world, having complete control over their appearance, attitude and anything else they wish to express. While in the world, they are able to interact with other students and discuss their opinions on the world, society or whatever else it is that is occurring at the time. This gives the students more freedom to be open and expressive without having the fear of ‘looking stupid’ by saying it in class. Through their alternate personalities (which they can change at will), they are able to, more freely, have in-depth conversations with their teachers and fellow students. By allowing the students to discuss these topics through a medium that they understand and relate to, we are allowing them to be-able to truly get their feelings out without holding back. This project is currently under-consideration for a $30,000 grant which would allow the Second Life world to become more of a reality to develop and, possibly, more accessible for teachers nation wide.

Overall, it was a very interesting conference. The many presentations cover many different technical disciplines, as well as different ways that other subjects can be taught with the aid of the ever advancing technology we have available to us.

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Who Do You Think You Are?

April 15, 2007 at 7:41 pm (ASL, Deaf Education)

“Hello, this is AT&T calling about your local phone service…”

The telephone.

Where would we be without it today? With our dependance on communication, whether it’s around the corner or across the globe, it would be nearly impossible for us to imagine a time without this extrodrdenary aid. However, there was a time, believe it or not, when the telelphone was a concept that was laughed at. Who on earth could make sound a voice travel a distance, much less countless of miles, with the help of a transmitter, receiver and some wire. Well, as we know, Alexander Graham Bell was just such a visionary who found that this was possible and we went out to prove it. And so, to many hearing people, Alexander Graham Bell is a hero and genius.

But what about to others? What other parts of Mr. Bell’s life do we know about? The Bell Telephone Company, founded in 1878, was named after him, as well as many other telephone companies to follow years later. It is known that he was the mastermind such inventions as the telephones, photophone (which is NOT a camera phone), metal detector, phonograph and a very primative form of air conditioner. But what about his family? How well known is it that AG Bell’s (as the name is often abbriviated) mother, a portrait paintner and accompished musician, was deaf and that his father taught otehr deaf people to speak using a method called ‘Visible speech’ which is very similar to the common day Oralist method. He laster, after teaching at different schools for the deaf, he married Mable Hubbard, one of his deaf students and together they had 4 children.

This seems like a happy story, right? Well, just consider a few things before taking all this too seriously. AG Bell also has the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing which has a goal to help those living with a hearig loss live independantly. The following is an exceprt from the organization’s website;

“The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) is a lifelong resource, support network and advocate for listening, learning, talking and living independently with hearing loss….With over a century of service, AG Bell supports its mission: Advocating Independence through Listening and Talking!

AG Bell

So again, this is going on to promote the Oralist method of educating the deaf and hard of hearing of the United States. It must also be considered what else he promoted. While working towards ‘helping’ deaf people find their place in the hearing world through language, he was also fighting against their rights. Alexander Graham Bell was an advocate to make it so the deaf could not marry and reproduce. At the time, it was believed that deafness was transmitted through generations and by allowing these people to procreate, they were simply perpetuating the cycle of deafness.

I know it sounds crazy; the man of a deaf woman, who married a deaf woman wants this to pass?! It was true. At the time, like it is in some places still, Oralism is still the prefered method of education for the deaf, not because of it’s benifits (which there are fewer then with other methods) but it made the individuals less ‘different’ and more like the general, hearing society. So now what do we think about Mr. Bell? Yes, his inventions have been of great help to us in our lives and society, but were his intentions through out his life always so honest? This is something left for you to decide.

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Whatcha Sayin’?

April 15, 2007 at 1:09 am (ASL)

Unlike the popular (though annoying) Verizon ads, the question now is not
“Can you hear me now?” but
“Can you understand me now?”

In a world where communication is the key to getting ahead, both in private and public life, having more then one fluent form of communication is more valuable now then ever before. While many schools offer multiple foreign languages for their students to experience, it is important that this study continues during post-secondary education. In so many of today’s jobs, an employee is much more valuable if they can speak more then one language in order to better serve customers as well as to increase connections between other and bigger businesses worldwide.

However, this is not only to benefit them in their youth with diversity, but also in their older age as well. Studies in Canada, as of recently, have found that bilingualism can actually off set the onset of Alzheimer’s by, on average, of four (4) years. A Canadian newspaper reported the following findings;

“Toronto scientists, inspired by language research in children, uncovered evidence that Alzheimer’s begins affecting bilingual patients an average of four years later than unilingual ones. No drug now on the market provides as strong a protective effect. In fact, if everyone with the illness developed symptoms that late in their lives, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s would plummet 50%, the researchers say.”

Alzheimer’s

In accordance to being bilingual comes the concept of being bicultural. Today, with the number of culturally diverse families around the United Sates it is important to remember that respect for both cultures within these families should be shown. For an example, when it comes to Deaf students of Deaf parents, it is necessary that the children are not forced to turn away from their native and ancestral culture. The differences between the Deaf and hearing cultures, though they don’t seem like they would be very different, in fact, are quite unfamiliar. For example, it is proper and very much expected in Deaf culture, to touch other people (in an appropriate fashion) to get their attention or to emphasize a point. In the hearing culture, that would be a taboo worthy of a shocked expression and/or a slap in the face. As teachers, it is imperative that we understand, not only the cultures from which our student’s are coming from, but also, our own as well. Alice Speights of University of Alabama wrote the following in regards to bilingual-bicultural education for Deaf students;

“Before schools can implement bicultural programs, educators must have an understanding of both cultures. Sign Talk Centre for Children (STCC), a reverse mainstream program, found that many of the hearing staff members did not even realize that they have a culture. “As majority members, they have rarely had to think about the values and traditions that are part of their culture. Deaf people, as a minority group, are extremely aware of their culture because they have fought so hard for its recognition” (Evans). Therefore, STCC began training in cultural mediation to help bridge the gap between the two cultures and to prepare the staff for cultural issues among the children.”

Bicultural

Finally, and maybe on a bit of an off topic, we have those who are against bilingual education. This is not limited to those who believe that D/deaf students should only be taught using a single method (ASL, Oralist, Total Communication), but also to first time English language learners. Former Speaker off bilingual educat the House, Newt Gingrich gave a speech on March 31, 2007 discussing the concepts oion and how, he felt, that it needed to be abolished. He was quoted by saying;

“The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. … We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto,”

Gingrich

Granted, this does not apply directly to the education of the deaf community. However, the simple wording of this speech clearly indicates that it could be moved in that direction. If Mr. Gingrich had his way, not only would every citizen need to ONLY speak English, but wouldn’t every deaf person need to learn to speak as well? By his own wording, ‘English should be the official language of the government’, so this would include disbanding ASL.

In the end, we have to look at not what we as a majority society see as being ‘right’ or ‘normal’ but what we as educators and, maybe even as parents, feel is right for our students and children. We are not striving for normalcy, but instead, equality.

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

April 12, 2007 at 7:39 pm (ASL, Deaf Education)

Well? Do you? Do you hear what I hear right now?
Well, if you do, it’s the sound of progress
…..slowly
….slowing
….down.

Well, not completely. But there is still a lot of work to do. Within the hearing community to help the Deaf community, that is. As future teachers, it is important that we learn as much as we can about the different types of students we will encounter in our classrooms. So much time is put into discussing ADD, ADHD, learning disorders, cognitive impairments and second language learners but much less frequently talked about are the physically impaired students. Granted, I use this term lightly since I don’t personally believe in using the word ‘impaired’, but, for the sake of argument, I shall use it in this post.

One of the most important aspects of having a hearing impaired student in a classroom is the connection between the student, teacher and interpreter (considering that they require one). Interpreters are a major part of the Deaf community, since they are used to bridge the gap between the hearing and Deaf worlds. Though, with over 10% of the US population being deaf or hard of hearing, it’s amazing that the number of certified interpreters is so low. The last numbers that I have been given (Fall of 2006) state that the state of Michigan is ranked #5 of the 50 states in having the number of deaf and/or hard of hearing individuals living there. So obviously, we have a very high percent of people in need of the interpreting services. However, when accounting for the number of interpreters around, Michigan comes up a meager #45! So what is this saying? That as a state (and this is true across the country, too) we have such a high demand for interpreters but severely lack the supply of them to satisfy the need.

“There is a shortage of sign language interpreters in Iowa and on the national level,” she said. And that means sometimes being asked to work a pretty heavy schedule – being on call for a hospital or police emergency in between regular. “Most of us are booked two to three weeks in advance,” she said.

Interpreters

It is always important to remember that our first job as teachers is to make sure our students are in an environment where they feel comfortable and safe to learn in. By making sure the students know that their teachers understands their potential difficulties and have clear communication with them through the interpreters, the student will feel more at ease in the classroom. Linda Marie Allington; an interpreter, post-secondary educator and ESL instructor, gave a presentation at the Salt Lake Community College on Dealing effectively with literacy and communication in college courses. The following is an exceprt from her presentation that I believe is true for any level of education.

First let’s talk about teaching, and we are going to talk first about the direct communication issues that affect all teachers dealing with deaf and hard of hearing students. Most of us are familiar with typical classroom accommodations, interpreters of various sorts. Sign language, oral, cued, realtime captioning, other print accommodations such as C-Print, notetaking , assertive listening devices which we are using right now where we improve the audio access, advantageous seating so the person has the best visual and caption media.

It’s important for faculty to understand that most students require both visual and auditory access and the print access accommodations and it’s appropriate for the facilities to provide both because the duty in the classroom is not only to participate in the ongoing dialogue but to record for future study what’s going on.

Communication

Outside of the classroom, you can see how interpreters and the Deaf community has become more evident and easily accessible. It is more and more common to see ASL interpreters at large events such as sporting events, concerts, theater performances and presentations. Watching the people standing there, waving their arms around, can sometimes be confusing or even seem easy to those who do not understand exactly what interpreting means. However, there are times it can be very amusing, even for those who do not fully understand what is going on. Keith Wann is a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults). He was born hearing to two Deaf parents, so his first language was not spoken English but ASL. Now, he is an interpreter and preformer who does comedy shows in ASL with the aid of a voice interpreter. What’s great about Keith’s performances is that it gives the hearing audience the experience of not understanding the comedy and relying on the interpreter to get the point across. The link below is to one of his shows called “When Two World Collide” which brings up some of the differences between hearing and Deaf culture. If you enjoyed this performance, I encourage you to laugh at some of his other skits on Youtube.com.

keith-wann.jpg       Ice, Ice Baby

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Shock, Grief, Confusion and…What?!

March 1, 2007 at 3:44 am (ASL, Deaf Education)

Too often in our society, we look at differences and see them as setbacks. Words like ‘handicapped’ ‘disabled’ and ‘impaired’ all carry strong negative connotations to them. These terms all say the same thing, ‘this person has a problem that stops them from doing everything “normally”’.
No.
No, no, no, no, no!
THIS is the problem with our society today. We are too focused on what makes us different and not enough on how we can join together to embrace these individualities. What is also painful is the fact that so many people look at our world through such a critical and exclusive eye, that they fail to see anything positive about a group and would rather focus solely on the negative. There are multiple approaches to the education of children who are born deaf or hard of hearing. Three of the main education paths are Sign (ASL), Oral or Total Communication (TC). Granted, there are variations to each of these that are different through out the country, however, these three options are the most common. While the Deaf community fully supports the ASL method and some, even the TC rout, very, very few will give their blessing to the oralist approach. The following is on the introduction page of a pro-oral program:

“Every parent has dreams for their child. When they learn their child is deaf, these dreams can be shattered. Parents initially feel shock, grief, confusion and devastation. But for parents who want their children to listen and speak, there is hope.”

It is important to really understand what this is saying. Look at the language used. “dreams can be shattered” “shock, grief, confusion and devastation”. Grief?! Devastation?! Who has ever been devastated that they had brought a perfect child into this world, regardless of their hearing capabilities?! Though I am, obviously, very biased towards certain methods of education, I will make this very clear right now:
I have nothing against people who choose other paths for their children or for themselves. However, I am VERY much against parents who make decisions for their children’s futures basing everything off of statements like these and without doing any further research. Just as it is for any child born with a medical issue, parents must fully inform themselves from various sources before a decision can be properly made. The following is another excerpt from this same website:

“The hard work pays off. Deaf and hearing impaired children not only learn to listen and speak, but sing, play musical instruments, act, attend top colleges, pursue any career goals, and in general enjoy friends and family with little, if any, difference from hearing individuals. As one parent described it, “expect miracles.” The joy this brings is beyond words, and it is possible for every deaf child to achieve the same.”

Oral Deaf Education

Initially, this sounds positive, right? Well, I guess that depends on what you’re looking at. Taking a closer look at the list of possibilities for an oralist student, we find that it includes ‘attend top colleges’ ‘pursue any career goals’ and ‘enjoy friends’. Again, what is this saying? That any deaf child who does not go into this type of program will grow up, not attend college, get a job or have friends? Maybe I am taking this on a much too personal level, but I just can’t see the point in posting these types of things to a website. Parents who have deaf babies are already confused as to what to do and how to handle it, especially if they have never encountered the Deaf community before. However, it is statements like these that scare them into making rash decisions that could… no, will impact their children’s entire futures. Marlee Matlin, a profoundly Deaf actress was quoted by saying the following and I believe it is a great concept to end with:

“All it takes to realize that a deaf person can rise to any task is a little awareness and interaction. All it takes is a little awareness. I like to say that the greatest handicap of deafness does not lie in the ear, it lies in the mind.”

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McDebatable?

February 20, 2007 at 11:36 pm (Class Responses)

“Hello, welcome to McDonald’s. Would you like to try our new Supersized menu?”

Everyday, across the United States and around the world, people hear this phrase as well as many different variations of it from countless fast food chains. But what does this really mean? Our society has become more and more obsessed with the idea that ‘bigger is better and better can’t be beat’. So, why not apply this concept to our daily eating habits, right? Uh…no. In reality, our obsession with getting the biggest and the best has caused our country to become the fattest nation in the world. And because we are gaining weight so fast, it seems like we are dependent on larger portions to satisfy our hunger, which leads to the more rapid weight gain, thus, an endless cycle. Brian Wansink, a director of Cornell University was quoted in USAToday by saying;

“Overweight people are more likely to choose bigger meals than those at a normal weight. This may explain, in part, how large portions are contributing to Americans’ expanding waistlines. One of the big dangers of fast-food lunches is that we not only mindlessly overeat, but we mindlessly underestimate how much we’ve eaten”.

“Supersize Me” was a movie made by Morgan Spurlock, a man who decided to try the “McDonald’s Diet”, this consisted of eating only McDonald’s food for 3 meals a day for 30 days and monitored his body’s reaction to the sudden change in dietary intake. What he found was that the body didn’t take too fondly to the sudden change in nutrition. With so many different health risks out there that can effect people’s health, such as smoking, drinking and eating disorders, eating fast food seemed like something that wasn’t as high on the priority list. However, with our ever growing number of obese cases raging through the country, it’s important that we take another look at this epidemic.

“Fast food is commonly recognized to have very poor nutritional quality,” said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children’s Hospital Boston and the senior author of the study. “But there have been very few studies, essentially no long-term studies that have documented the effects of this dietary pattern on the key chronic diseases of Western civilization — obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease.”

USAToday 

Morgan Spurlock wanted to prove his point and make it loud and clear. Fast Food Is Bad! But what else can we say about this ‘documentary’? Putting a critical eye to it, we also find that he did not only eat McDonald’s food, but he also cut back and limited his exercise, including walking. This is another factor that people may not always consider. The movie itself seems to focus more on bashing McDonald’s for it’s available choices, we also have to take into account that people are free to make choices in this country. No one is forcing them to eat fast food all the time. Personal responsibility has to be taken into account almost more then the places that are supplying the ‘death meals’.

“Warning: The witty filmmakers rated the movie “F” for “fat audiences,” which includes most of America. Audiences should know that “some food may not be suitable for young children” (despite what all the cute, indoctrinating commercials from the food industry may claim). Spurlock hopes the film and his eating experiment will serve as a wake-up call for Americans who — as he, nutritionists, doctors, even a former Surgeon General he consulted with believe — are eating themselves to death.”

Review

In our classrooms where, we as future English teachers, will have to find ways to get our students to look at the world through new, critical eyes, especially when it comes to writing. Letting them examine something, such as this video, and allowing them to come to their own conclusions will do exactly that. “Supersize Me” is a great example of how, even though we have things presented to us in a formal way, in this case, in the form of a documentary, many times we don’t take the time to really examine the different points bought up or find the deeper meaning in a work. Though it can be debated, this film can be helpful to students in thier understanding of what it means to be a critical thinker, which, in turn, helps them become critical writers.

 

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Are you deaf? No. I’m Deaf!

February 7, 2007 at 12:00 am (Deaf Education)

Let’s open with some humor, shall we?


A Cuban, a Russian, and a Deaf American meet on a train. The Cuban takes out a fine, fresh Havana cigar, lights it up, takes a few leisurely puffs, and tosses the unfinished cigar out the window. He explains, “We have so many cigars in Cuba, we can afford to waste them.” The Russian then takes out a new bottle of fine native vodka, pours himself a shot, then casually tosses the nearly-full bottle out the window. “We have so much vodka in Russia, we can afford to waste it,” he says. Then the Deaf man picks up his sign language interpreter and tosses him out the window. Upon seeing the shocked expressions on his fellow passenger’s faces, he calmly wrote out; “We have so many hearing people in America, we can afford to waste them.
 

Just like every other culture, the Deaf community has a sense of humor, although, those of us in the hearing world may not always find it as funny or even understand the amusement behind it. The point is, it is important to remember that people all over the world are brought together by some common bond. Whether it be humor, music or sports, we are all more alike then we are different.

Starting February 1st, 2007, the 16th Deaflympics opened in Salt Lake City, Utah. With many different countries competing this year for the gold, it’s not hard to see how groups are brought together to support a single cause. The Deaf community, no matter where you are, is a tightly knit culture that supports it’s members in any endeavor. What so many people do not understand is that the Deaf community does not consider itself a ‘disabled’ group. On the contrary, most people who consider themselves Deaf (with the capital D), feel that deafness should not be considered a disability, but rather, another way of living. Julie Eldredge made this statement that furthers my point. 

“To be Deaf with a capital D, says Julie Eldredge, a Deaf teacher of Deaf culture at BYU, is to believe first and foremost that deafness is not a disability or a pathology. Being deaf, she says, is just another way of being. There’s nothing that needs fixing, and “hearing-impaired” is not a suitable synonym. Sound and speech aren’t the goal; communication is.”

Not all hearing people share the same belief that deaf people, those with a hearing impairment, should be taught through an oralists method. This is a way of teaching the deaf to speak and use what hearing they have (if any) to ‘fit into the hearing world’. This was the preferred method of education and, at one point, the only legal way of educating the deaf in this country.  Granted, not everyone how is deaf considers themselves Deaf.  There are many factors that go into why someone would or would not consider themselves part of the Deaf community.  Those who go deaf due to an accident or old age or, in other cases, where someone was raised in a Oralist/hearing family where ASL and other aspects of the Deaf community were not supported. 

Thankfully, times have changed and so has our understanding of Deaf culture. There are many people who work for Deaf advocacy, who work as interpreters for the Deaf and even are helping set up schools and educational material to educate the hearing community about it’s silent, yet strong willed counter part. In the end, I believe that Bryan Eldrege put it the best;

“Deafness doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t kill you, it isn’t a disease,” says Julie’s hearing husband, Bryan, who heads the American Sign Language and Deaf studies program at Utah Valley State College. “It’s just a kind of existence. A perfectly acceptable existence. But hearing people have always been uneasy with people who aren’t like them….To be Deaf with a capital D means being part of a tight-knit community that values candidness and friendship and stretches across the United States and beyond. It also means being embroiled in culture wars about the education and future of deaf children and the future of Deaf culture itself.”

 

 

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Bilingual Babble

February 1, 2007 at 7:23 pm (ASL)

Before we can talk about Deaf education, I think it’s proper to start at the beginning and discuss how American Sign Language (ASL) effects babies and children.

All along we’ve known that babies, before their bodies are developed enough to be able to produce any sort of speech, they make sounds that resemble words or at least, letters. We refer to this a babbling and have always encouraged it, believing that the more a baby babbles, the sooner they will begin speaking properly. But let’s examine something else here. For an average human, a baby’s hands develop before their vocal cords. This is why, when you watch a young child, even as young as a few days, they will begin to move their hands, opening and closing them, before they begin speaking words. Sure, we all know how babies and toddlers make sounds to try to make themselves understood, but how often do they get their point across? Why not teach them an alternative way of communication?

In Fredrick, Maryland, parents are starting to be given more options. Kriste Hartman Kovarcik established a baby signing class for parents and children as young as 19 months (though, studies have shown that you can start this process much earlier in a child’s development). Children often are also frustrated during the toddler years because of their lack of strong communication. Screaming, crying children can drive anyone up the wall, but what if that ‘Terrible Two’ stage could simply be passed over? This is one reason why Kriste began teaching her son, Kaden, ASL when he was young.

 

Toddlers often throw tantrums because they get frustrated when their parents can’t understand what they are trying to say, said Kriste Hartman Kovarcik, the Maryland School for the Deaf staff member who created the baby signing class.

If a child can express himself with a sign, he is less likely to get frustrated, she said.

She attributes her own 3-year-old son’s easy passage through toddlerhood to his signing abilities. Whatever Kaden couldn’t say, he would sign, she said.

“He might not sign perfectly, but I would understand, and he’d be so pleased,” Hartman Kovarcik said.”

With all these seemingly obvious reasons, why wouldn’t a parent want to teach their child ASL as a first, tentative language? Many believe that by teaching a young child ASL before English, the child will be delayed in spoken language development or will rely so much on the signing, their speech skills will be less then standard, there for, setting them behind in school. Anyone who had raised a child in a multilingual environment knows that since children’s brains are developing so quickly while they are at this stage of their lives, they are able to adapt and adjust in numerous situations while still sustaining and retaining all the information they are absorbing. Hartman Kovarcik brings up this to add:

“She believes learning ASL also has helped Kaden develop vocabulary and spelling skills at a young age. He can already spell more than 35 words.

Various studies have shown that children who use signs to communicate before they learn to speak score higher on IQ tests than children who don’t learn signs, Hartman Kovarcik said.”

Higher scores on IQ tests? What parents wouldn’t want that for their child? So let’s look at this again:

Decrease in tantrums, better developed vocabulary, improved spelling skills and a higher IQ? So what’s the problem?! More and more parents today are giving their children the benefit of being able to communicate at an earlier age while also helping them with their long term education. So the final question that should be asked is; why not?

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