Australia has introduced its first mainstream “Model Classroom” for deaf students at LaSalle Catholic College in Bankstown. Classrooms are planned to maximise learning in mainstream schools with interactive whiteboards, captioned resources, visual computer content and sound-field systems.
The pilot project was designed by Media Access Australia in collaboration with the Catholic Education Office and LaSalle College.
During an Italian lesson at the launch, teachers showed how to display audio-visual content with captions. The teachers also use microphones to transmit sound directly to students’ hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Mary Connon, a teacher at the school, believes the students are already benefiting. She says of one student “This year he has been much more engaged. In his Italian classes this year he participates much more, while in another class without the system, he doesn’t participate as much.”
It is hoped Media Access Australia will offer this facility in more schools. An Accessible Education Database of captioned education resources is being devised for teachers working with deaf pupils in model classrooms.
Could this be the classroom of the future? In the US, similar pilot projects are being rolled out in schools in North Carolina, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Projects like this are essential for identifying and sharing information on what IT tools work for deaf pupils in inclusive classrooms, while documenting how students benefit from appropriate literacy and communication supports.
(compiled by Miriam Walsh)