Although current data suggests that less than 10% of students with blindness or significant visual impairment read braille, those of us in the field know how important braille instruction is. Braille to the child with blindness is like print to the sighted child. Without braille, our students would not develop the literacy skills to read, write, and compose. Also, current research shows that braille instruction is important for life-satisfaction, self-esteem, and employment.
Also, we know that our students today live in a digital world. They are accustomed to accessing a variety of technologies and/or noticing that adults access a variety of technologies on a daily basis. Educators have to realize that our students use a lot of electronic media and we must compete with that. Student engagement too is an important piece for learning and results in higher academic outcomes. Three important pieces of student engagement include using the power of technology, giving students the opportunity to work together, and making learning fun.
Dr. Betsy Flener, a specialist in assistive technology and low vision education along with Joni Nygard, AAC/AT Consultant and Vice President of the Attainment Company have developed a product that encompasses a new and engaging way for students to learn braille. This product is called GoTap Braille (GoTap Braille Website here.) It was developed with the idea that students should learn braille in an engaging way, one that mirrors reading instruction for typically developing sighted peers. With GoTap Braille sighted students can sit alongside the student with blindness and learn the same words and word fragments in print. In the past, typical braille instruction mostly included programming that removed the student with blindness from instruction with same age peers. By using the same words that typical sighted students are learning, GoTap Braille allows students the opportunity to keep us with same grade peers.
Figure 1: Components of GoTap Braille (flier)
GoTap Braille is an exciting app and learning program designed for the 10.2 size iPad that includes eighty-one pages of content. Each page has auditory hot spots that students may interact with. Included with the program are thirty-nine customized vinyl tactile overlays and five reusable vinyl overlay templates. Also included are four hundred eighty-eight three- dimensional braille tiles along with a guidebook. The guidebook includes information about using the product with other technologies and products, sample lesson plans, screen shots of each page, additional suggestions for using the tiles, and progress monitoring forms
Figure 2: Progess Monitoring Form
The GoTap Braille app first teaches tactile discrimination (See Figure 3) but then introduces letter and contractions with Dolch Sight Words and other typical words that children learn at young ages. Also, the app with overlays provides a fun way to learn braille with auditory output. Auditory output enables immediate reinforcement of the dots that the child is feeling. With GoTap Braille, students have the opportunity to match words on the iPad screen (See Figure 4), tap to form words (See Figure 5), tap to form sentences See Figure 6), and read sentences (See Figure 7) and paragraphs See Figure 8). As a review, at the end of the program there is a four-page story with tactile overlays that contains over eighty-five braille contractions (See Figure 9). is noted that GoTap Braille can also be used by a paraprofessional or parent under the supervision of a certified teacher of the visually impaired who is well trained in braille instruction.
Figure 3: Tactile Discrimination
Figure 4: Match Words
Figure 5: Make Words
Figure 6: Make Sentences
Figure 7: Read Sentences
Figure 8: Read a Paragraph
Figure 9: Review Story
GoTap Braille can also be used remotely. The recent Covid-19 Pandemic has been an eye opener about the need for and use of remote technologies. For the past year and a half, students in our country have received instruction at least 50% of the time remotely. Educators have scrambled for ways to provide instruction for typically developing students while our teachers of students with disabilities have spent countless hours trying to determine how to actively engage students and work with others to provide a delivery of services including instruction in braille. GoTap Braille is a program that is engaging, inclusive, and can be used remotely.
Video Walk Through of GoTap Braille below. Transcript of GoTap Braille Video here.