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FL Deaf and Hard of Hearing program receives TEFFLA grant

Video Studio

Forest Lake Area High School senior Emily Hekele has often struggled with having appropriate accommodations in her classes when it comes to her hearing disability. But now, she has been given a tool that will allow her to take hold of her own learning and accommodations when she enters college in the fall.

Hekele will be distributing a video she has created to her college professors that will help educate them on what accommodations will best help her learn and grow in their class. This was all made possible by The Education Foundation of the Forest Lake Area (TEFFLA) grant given to the Forest Lake Area Schools' Deaf and Hard of Hearing program in Dec. 2016.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing program serves approximately 31 deaf and hard of hearing students, and is made up of about 10 teachers, interpreters and other staff members. One goal of the program is to provide equal access to Deaf/Hard of Hearing students.

For students with a hearing loss, access is often the largest challenge they face when in a general education setting. These students typically have to work twice as hard as their peers with "normal" hearing just to hear what they are being taught and to process the information. This is because approximately 90% of what we learn is through listening. Thus, students with hearing loss often miss out on incidental learning throughout the school day.

With this project, students with hearing loss will gain access to academic content in their classrooms in a unique and memorable way. Students are creating individual videos that provides their teachers, parents, and support staff training about their educational needs related to their hearing loss. In the process, students are enhancing their own awareness of their hearing loss and of adaptations that help them become successful in the classroom and, ultimately, are improving their self-advocacy skills.

Jeanne D'Aloia, one of the teachers for the deaf and hard of hearing stated, "Self-advocacy skills are skills that students with hearing loss need in life so that they can be independent and successful. Without these skills they may not be able to ask for accommodations in a postsecondary education setting or in a future career. They need to be able to apply these skills in everyday situations - such as being able to request an interpreter at a community event or sharing strategies with others to increase effective communication."

D'Aloia said The video is helping teachers learn about their student in a more personal way and have begun to understand how to successfully accommodate their student's needs in the classroom, leading to greater academic success.

In order to accomplish the goal of the grant, TEFFLA purchased video equipment including a camcorder and an Apple MacBook Air computer. Forest Lake Area Schools supported the grant by purchasing the editing software. D'Alois said the student-created video project helps instruct teachers beyond the generic teacher-led training, and it promotes instructional strategies, such as the use of captions, that help all students better access content.

"Students are thrilled to be able to use the technology in creating their videos," said Cheryl McMahan, an assistive technology specialist with the school district. "They are so quick in learning new things and being able to use these skill independently. I'm sure there are future film makers out there.".

Forest Lake senior Emily Hekele was the first student to participate in the grant and created a video that she can give to her professors when she moves on to college in the fall. Hekele presented her video to the Forest Lake Area School Board on Feb. 2. The video showed her explaining, in her own words, the details of her individual hearing loss, the challenges she faces and accommodations that support her success within the classroom.

"I...need all videos and movies captioned. I can't take notes for the video because it's too hard for me to take notes and listen at the same time," Hekele states in her video.

Hekele worked with her teacher and with the assistive technology specialist throughout the filming and editing process to create the video. During filming, Hekele was able to write and edit the script using a teleprompter app on her iPad. In the editing process, Hekele chose background images, transitions, and special effects, while working collaboratively with staff using the Camtasia software. Hekele tells others that during this project,

"I learned how to adjust the video backgrounds because of my hair color. My hair turned green when I used the green fabric," she said. "It was very funny to see. So, we had to change to a navy blue fabric."

When asked what she enjoyed the most Hekele replied, "My favorite part of this project was adding pictures, choosing fun background images, and picking the transitions."

Now, more students are getting involved. Since the school board meeting, more students at the high school, Southwest Junior High and at the elementary buildings have begun working on their videos.

"We have noticed many of our students fully investing in this project with much enthusiasm by wanting to include their personal experiences of what it's like to have a hearing loss," said Karen Richards, one of the teachers..

The Deaf/Hard of Hearing program will finish making their grant videos this spring with the intent to share them with their students' teachers and families at the start of the next school year. They also hope to continue making videos with more deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and they hope to expand this project to include students with multiple disabilities.