Encouraging enthusiasm and promoting braille activities in inclusive settings in kindergartens in Norway
ASTRID: This presentation is entitled Encouraging enthusiasm and promoting braille activities in inclusive settings in kindergartens in Norway. My name is Astrid Kristin Vik and together with Silje Benonisen and Gro Aasen, we will present some of the best practise all over Norway, and we will also present results from a research project about emergent literacy, held here in Norway from 2018. Our ambitious are that children who are intended to be future braille readers should be exposed for the written language equally as for children who are intended to learn print. In addition, children with a severe visual impairment or blindness should be introduced to the specific topics necessary to gain a basic for development and literacy skills. As far as possible, activities and interventions within this area should take place in inclusive settings together with sighted peers. This was the basis for a Norwegian project started in 2018. The target group for the project was children in kindergartens, in inclusive kindergartens in Norway that were intended to be future braille readers. The study group consisted of 12 children aged two to six years and in inclusive kindergartens, and their preschool teachers. During the one-year participation in the project, their preschool teachers received courses and guidance within topics especially relevant for their child and kindergarten. The preschool teachers provided data to our project. It consists of semi-structured interviews, pre and post. They completed questionnaires pre and post. It was logs from braille activities in the kindergarten and observations from activities connected to early intervention, and they also provide data during participation at the two-day workshop. Now, Gro will continue with the results from the project and some examples of best practise, and later you will meet Silje presenting results about use of digital tools.
GRO: Yes, hello, I'm Gro Aasen, I'm going to go further in this presentation, and when it comes to data from questionnaires and interviews, they gave us information on age, sex, language development and use of hands, among other information. Age varied between the children from two to five years old, and their language development varied from age adequate with better to below age adequate for one. Some of them had some social difficulties, others had not. All but one child had some experience with braille. Half of the children had some experience with digital tools, and the other half had not. We got information about each kindergarten, their size, number of staff, knowledge of braille, and if the teachers had experience with teaching visual impairment. We also got information about how their pedagogical work were related to emergent literacy in general. From the interviews, we got further elaboration from the questionnaires, the need of help, how they were able to make things concrete for the child, for example, how to build progression, expectations, and motivation. Unpublished data, preliminary results. We will now share some of our unpublished data. We have systematised and transcribed a huge amount of data from the project, but we have only started to further analyse and to go deep into all topics we have data about. So, what we present today is just a short teaser. What do we know? When it comes to expectations, we saw that all kindergarten staff said the project answered the expectations and more. Motivation, we saw that all staff are highly motivated, even if some had unsecured start the motivation was top. And this one of the success factors we've found has been that the guidance has been easy available and it has been promoted a safe frame to discuss and this was established quite early in the project. At the workshop, where we shared theoretical knowledge and practical ideas this promoted enthusiasm and ownership, and this partly because the workshop gave all participants possibilities to see varied examples from several kindergartens. Individualised support, principle for pedagogical work must be individualised to motivate the child. For example, personal stories and tactile books. So, what we saw from interviews and questionnaires, nine children had full-time support, varied routine assistance, pre-school teachers, special teacher and teacher for the visually impaired. Two children had a close to 75% support, and one child about three hours extra support a week. Nine children did not have a teacher for the visually impaired while two had. The kindergartens were well organised for children without visual impairment, and all wanted to be able to do the same for the children with visual impairment. All children had already adjusted the pedagogical approach to some degree for the children with visual impairment at the start of the project, but all wanted more ideas and follow up to be able to promote literacy for the child. Some of the children were not easy to motivate to read books and engage in activities, they needed even more than others an individual approach. The staff they wanted to know if what they did was right and how to build the progression in emergent literacy for braille. One teacher said, "we do not know enough about how to teach braille." another said "to plan for the road far ahead and then it is hard to plan and lead the process" Nine teachers said they did not have competence in promoting braille. All want more information about technical aids. So, what did the kindergartens do? Some examples are the used books, they had labelling in the environment, different kinds of games both bought from the store and some made in the kindergarten, some of the children, they tried out the LEGO Braille Bricks, arts and crafts were important for many, tactile symbols and schedules were also important for several other children. Pre-braille activities other than those mentioned were taken into use. Use of digital tools and 3D print. So, books were in use from start, all children got more varied books and text available during the project. All had visual books in the kindergartens, some with tactile structures. At start, seven kindergartens had borrowed tactile books from the library for the blind and five had not. And one kindergarten had not heard of this library, at the end 10 kindergartens borrowed books from this library when it comes to individual books, which were made for the children, one had already made one from start and 11 had at the end. The books were either about rhymes and fairy tales, other topics like seasons, stories from children's books and stories from the children's own experiences and surroundings. For example, one had a sound book from the teacher's car where the child and the teacher had explored the car from the inside. And this is a picture of a book with rhymes, house-mouse, and we see the child reading the front page with both hands, and we also see when we look through, we use some pictures that the children they are using a lot of different hand movements from exploring with flat hands and two more fingertips. The next picture is just example of a book with rhymes shoe and two, and from another one, ole, dole, doff, kinkliane, koff. And the next is a book about daily items. Kind of a hat to have on your head. And in one kindergarten they had a fairy tale about the three goats going to the mountain, and they had it in many different ways, both on the wall and also as concrete small figures. This picture is a homemade book, tactile book about seasons and we can see the child exploring the front page, and then, has read the first page, and then already are interested in the second page while he's reading still at the first page. So, these children they get access to what a book is and stories which are interesting for them. Some made topics from children's songs or other topics, these pictures are at the left corner top, the children had costumes and this child has a small hat with feathers on because this is a bird, a small bird and he has, he also touches the wall where there also is a picture of a bird. And we see that they both have costumes, the children and also, they had a lot of digital, no not digital but tactile material placed on the walls. And one child got his book, as a story about a bike ride which had really actually happened, and he fell and hurt himself. So, the story book is about him riding the bike with a friend and falling and tipping over, he had a small wound and he got a BandAid. This was a very popular book. This picture is from a trip with friends to a playground and the child sits at the floor reading together with another, and also, she kept take out the doll which is supposed to be her and feel it in her hands. The kindergartens were also inspired to glue tactile materials in visual books, which some of them did is some got the big variety or what kind of books they could read, and which were all used among all the children in the kindergarten. And some of the children, they used tactile symbols, schedules and labelling. So, this picture is about this, the top to the left is a little girl sitting in the left over an adult and going through what they going to do just for the next hour. And one day the child had wanted to talk about her symbols that's the picture down in the left corner, and she and her adults, which she was together with them, the second talked about different kinds of activities, and a picture or labelling is shown to the right, a little child is going into a room, and feels the tactile symbol for which room it is. And the next picture, is about labelling groups into the bathroom a small kind of plastic material to symbolise or represent the bathroom and for outside a picture and also some part of a grass and also all symbols are marked with braille, labelled with braille. And when many of the children they were participating in labelling the tactile symbols with braille, sitting together, children and adults and other adults and they made this with a hand labeler and we also have a picture here of tactile symbols for group activity and songs where they had all persons in the room they're going to say their names, they're going to read and talk and also to sing. And they also have symbols for songs to sing. When it comes to games, they had homemade games. The picture to the left is a box with eight rooms, and the task is to find two similar tactile structures. And the picture to the right is a game which functions well among the children with numbers and rings to put on the numbers. Eltho tactile is an activity game for two to four participants. The aim is to promote social skills by doing activities together in a structured manner. And the children they can, for example, they can go to the kitchen and divide an apple in two and share it or they can make have a dance together. It's individually made. Some examples of this practise from the intervention, use of hands, the children are encouraged to try scissors, glue on paper, using dough to shape forms, and explore what they found interesting. The staff tried out several ways to give meaning to concepts for example a group activity was to pick a vegetable from a plate and clap the word for the vegetable, each child choose to taste, for example cucumber. And one child talked a lot about fishing poles, and so they tried a child-sized fishing pole at the sports field and practised throwing, just to know what does a fishing pole do. So, they didn't come to the use of that sports field but that was later. This is a picture of how the children use the hands in different ways. Some had a bucket with rice, and they had two similar things put in it and the child should find it. Another had dough, which was cut with the scissor, this is a play dough in water, and some used kind of yarn and different kind of tactile material when they were making arts and crafts and this is a drawing in the middle. Threading and measuring with the person measuring different sizes and different thickness on what the pearls on. This is another picture of arts and crafts where they use glue around the hand to measure the hand or they had shapes around to fill with colour, and they also had play dough to cut with the scissor which they also had this picture before.
SILJE: Hello, my name is Silje Benonisen and I going to talk about digital tools the implementation and use of them in this project. Digitalization is an integral part of our society and continually changing and digital tools play an important role for all children. When children attend school, they are expected to have digital skills and experience with technology. This raises two urgent questions. Firstly, how can we assist pre-school teachers in adapting learning conditions and selecting a technology that will give children with blindness digital experiences? Secondly, how can digital tools support emergent braille literacy and be used in inclusive settings? Digital tools can be a lot of things and in this project, we chose to work with the tablets, computers, braille displays, embossed printers, audio players and recordings, Mountbatten, Flexiboard which you can see at the picture on the top, this can shortly be described as a keyboard that you can connect to a computer. You can use overlay sheets to decide how the keyboard shall work. We did also use a braille labeler which is called BL-1000. This is a labeler that you can connect to a computer and it's quite easy to use. And below the Flexiboard you can see a picture of this labeler. By the end of the project, seven of the children have been using tablets, four having using braille displays and embossed printers, seven have a Mountbatten, one have a Perkins, one child got a Flexiboard and all 12 children got the braille labeler. As you hear all children participating did not get the same digital tools. At the first meeting we had a presentation of different solutions and together with the parents and the kindergarten staff we agreed on what could be suitable for each child. By the end of the project, every child has received a braille labeler BL-1000. And our experience is that this has increased the ability to tag and mark things in braille. As of the teacher said "getting experience with language is a part of many spontaneous activities, they want to have their name in braille on drawings. Here we use a braille labeler, we can use it in small or big groups and it's easy." This picture shows a girl who is singing the alphabet song while their hands are following the letters in braille. One of the main goals of this project has also been to give the children who participated the opportunity to create and produce text babbling and playing with letters and words. We wanted them to experience the joy of creating and producing text. And we now want to show you some pictures and movies as examples of which activities the kids have been doing when using digital tools. The next movie shows a girl with some treasure hunt on her braille display, she's hunting for the letters in her name. We got inspired by the I-M-ABLE method and we've wrote some excesses on her braille display This is the first time she's trying a braille display, but as you can see, she has no trouble in finding her letters among the excess. (speaks Norwegian) This little girl is exploring how to write her own name. She's writing on a Mountbatten and she and the teacher are talking about how she can put her fingers to create the letters. He's gently placing her fingers at the right place. And when they wrote her name, he leads her fingers to the sheet so that she can read it. In the next movie you will meet this boy, he loves writing on his braille display, it gives him the opportunity to create letters and stories. At the beginning of the movie, he counts the dots in the letter. And then he explores what happened when he is writing on his braille display. His hands are so involved. He is writing, the speech tells him what he wrote, and his hands are checking out the letters. (speaks Norwegian) Inclusive activities. We wanted the children to experience and explore reading and writing together with their friends. Here you can see pictures of children writing together with their peers on braille displays. These two boys are making up a story together and the teacher is writing the story on a computer. The boys can read it on the braille display. When the story is finished, they can print it out and read it together. Children who got braille displays also got embossed printers, so that they could read on paper what they wrote. We also saw a big advantage for these children when it came to the opportunity to create text and books when they had access to an embossed printer. Here you can see pictures from a book where they combined braille, visual text, colours and tactile materials. Seven of the children have been using an iPad during the project. The main purpose of this has been that they could get experience with the movements that are required when you use a tablet or smartphone with a screen reader. We also want them to get experience and digital competence. Using an iPad. In this movie you will meet a boy who is using the app "Sound touch". What we experiences was that this app could be used as a starting point to talk about different concepts. In the end of this movie, he wants to know more the sailboat in the picture. He wants to know if it is a big or a small boat. We also saw that when the app is used together with other children, it created an arena for talking about concepts and things that have actually happened. (speaks Norwegian) Important factors when implementing digital tools in kindergarten. Information to the kindergarten staff and parents at the first meeting. Testing different solutions. Apply for assistive devices. Installation of software. And last but not least, learning how to use the chosen equipment. And getting regular support. Just some last remarks. This important message was at the top of the embossed printer in a kindergarten. "This is an embosser. Don't put things here. Then it will be so tiresome to use it." And we just want to end this presentation with a quote from a kindergarten teacher. "All children are curious about braille, and embosser, braille display etc should be where the kids are, that will contribute to inclusion and friendship." Thank you! To all children, parents, and kindergarten staff who participated in the project. You inspired us, tried out and gave us the opportunity to see so many varied ways to promote emergent literacy. Thank you! Beside from Statped, we also received financial support from The Research Fund, The Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted.