A Day in the Life: Dan Maggiacomo

Since 2009, Dan Maggiacomo has been using wikis to beef up the teaching toolkit for his blind and visually impaired students in Ontario, Canada. We asked him what that’s like.

Building a sweet Wikispace is fun, mildly challenging, and certainly rewarding. Building one that’s accessible and meaningful for my students, all of whom are blind or visually impaired, has been one of the most positive turns of events for my teaching.

When I set out to try and use Wikispaces, I thought “I’ll just throw up some notes so they can grab them if they miss them.” That worked on one level, but if you’re not differentiating how you deliver and connect your students to information, you’re not doing as much as you could.

With this in mind, I had my first light bulb moment. I made an audio note with my computer’s text-to-speech function and embedded it. Great, I figured, now the kids with low vision could sit back and listen if their eyes were tired from reading textbooks all day and the kids who use screen readers could hear a different voice for a change.

OK, that worked alright. Now, I need some work in there! One of the problems kids who’re blind or low-vision have is finding information in pages of text. When you have the magnification set so large that you only have a few words on the screen at a time, or you can only listen to the text, it’s pretty hard to scan a document. So I started to manipulate the text to meet the needs of MY students, something that can’t be done with a textbook.

The momentum built and I started to connect the Web to my Wikispace. Other sites, blogs, videos, podcasts, anything and everything that was accessible and meaningful I could gather in one spot. Brilliant! I could check and make sure everything is accessible before posting it, avoiding the dreaded “Mr. M, this doesn’t work with (fill in accessibility software name here).” Sweet!

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  1. Victoria
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    This is going to sound wierd but I really enjoyed reading your blog! It was really interesting the way that you described things and made the reader really want to read more! I’m going to go back and read some more of your old blogs when I have the time (and not so much homework).
    P.S- I really enjoyed doing the homework that you gave us, It wasn’t to hard but it wasn’t exactly easy and I understood what the book was telling me without it being boring!

  2. Posted August 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s a good idea to construct a website that allows blind or low vision kids to use without going through the trouble that they would normally have to got through.

  3. Posted August 13, 2010 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    I really love the idea of using the internet as a constructive took in teaching learners with a disability. This empowers them to a greater extend as well. They gain knowledge and confidence

  4. kevin
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Empowerment is the best outcome here, giving a feeling of fulfillment and worth. Enabling people to be part of a playing field with equality.

  5. Sister M. Christiana
    Posted August 24, 2010 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    I am interested in learning more about Wiki spaces and teaching using Interent-based programs. I am also interested in learning about the programs students with vision impairments use. We have made much progress in the United States to meet their needs.

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