GEOGRAPHY IN A DIFFERENT WAY


 

 

The author Roman Brvar wants to help other teachers in primary and secondary schools, even if they don’t teach the blind and visually handicapped pupils, with his experiences from the Institute for Visually Handicapped Children in Ljubljana. He is a devoted geography teacher.

In preface he describes all the characteristics of the  blind and weak-sighted pupils. He also describes didactic methods which we have to consider at school. He also stresses the importance of choosing the most suitable working methods for these pupils.

In his handbook forms of activities are described: geography lessons, there is an example of an excursion, a camp, a science day, pastime activities…

In next part he introduces special methods adapted for the blind: tactile cartography which takes the pupils on a trip through their country and the world.

 He gives special attention to adapted educational materials for both the blind and weak-sighted pupils.

He concludes the book with a glossary of tiflopedagogical terms.

This handbook is useful for all teachers who teach geography. Because of its specific contents it will also help other teachers, school counsellors and others who encounter the blind and weak-sighed pupils in the course of their professional work.

The handbook was published by: Zavod RS za šolstvo,

Poljanska cesta28, 1000 Ljubljana

 

GEOGRAPHY IN A DIFFERENT WAY

 

Key words:  geography,  visually impaired children,  tactile display, tactile picture, inventivness

1. INTRODUCTION 

Teaching geography in school for blind and partially sighted children presents at the same time a challenge and a great responsibility . Geography is very important for visually impaired pupils because it gives them the ability to understand and gather information about environment and space. The approach to blind or partially-sighted pupils differs from that to normally sighted pupils.

The aim of this presentation is to mediate the experience and knowledge of teaching geography in a class with visually impaired children. This experience should help other teachers, especilally those in ordinary schools, who encounter visually impaired pupils integrated in a class.

1.1. HOW DOES A BLIND PERSON »SEE« ?

For the blind a word SEE means a special way of perception. That is to accept the world with other senses – smell, touch, hearing, ..Pupils who lost sight later and still have some visual exsperience  gather spatial knowledge and relations in space much easier than those who have been blind since birth and have no visual experience. How to strive fot something which doesn’t exist for the blind, for something he can not imagine or even dream about it? A teacher should stimulate interest in the blind for things they are not aware of.

It is necessary to find, make or show in some other way the information which will be acceptable for the blind. These can be tactile displays – tactile pictures, graphs, adapted to tactil perception, models, tactile maps and plans or displays by audio-tactile devices. Some coloured tactile pads  are used for pupils with very low vision who are almost blind as well as adeqate visual material adapted to curtailed visual perception. Work with models and reliefs is advisible/necessary when  the observed object is out of hand reach or it is too big or it is a natural phenomenon or process.

1.2. HOW DOES A BLIND PERSON GATHER CORRECT EXPERIENCE ? 

Pupils with low vision gather correct experiences gradually, because they get only a little of back information. When meeting and describing a big object, natural curiosity, geographical phenomenon or some other thing in  space we should consider and pay attention to:

·        Blind pupils should not be left to their own ingenuity and independance, but should be  led to the object by hand. The observed or studied object should be explained or put in pupils hand.

·        At the same time basic characteristics and extensiveness of the object have to be explained by comparaison and put in geographical space.

·        When defining a concept – a phenomenon or a process, the guidelines have to be clear and unambiguous

·        The understanding of the object or a phenomenon will be more clear for blind pupils when explained with an apropriate model, relief, map or positive folie directly on the place

·        When  using tactile plans teacher and pupils should prepare the plan of the way, the content and extent of work, define goals and performers for separate  activities together. 

1.3. HOW DO PARTIALLY SIGHTED PERSONS GATHER SPATIAL

        EXPERIENCE? 

At partially sighted pupils time of observation is longer  because their eye needs more time to adapt to impulses from the environment. Exercises and experience improve perception of objects and colours. Partially sighted pupils have modest spatial experience as well. Low vision intensifies difficulties in perception so work at geography lessons should be adapted to perceptual ability of each pupil. When preparing teaching sheets (učni lističi) we should pay attention to adequate enlargement of graphic material, to an assortment of contrast colours, lines and contents, eliminated of all unimportant details.  

     1.4. FACTS THAT HAVE TO BE CONSIDERED WHEN TEACHING VISUALLY   IMPAIRED PUPILS

·        Blind and partially sighted pupils have troubles with perception of the outside world

·        Practical experience and spatial knowledge are modest, very often uncomplet and deformed

·        Orientation in space is weak because of lack of spatial knowledge

·        Pupils have difficulties with perception of distances, directions and relations between objects

·        Pupils are limited in perceiving dynamic processes and phenomena, they can not notice changes in nature

·        Generalization and synthesis are aggravated

·        Low vision limits  entire perception  at a high degree

·        Observation is longer as eyes need more time to adaptat to external impulses

·        Blindness create difficulties  and sets obstacles  whwn trying to achieve goals which may result in psychical problems, such as dissatisfaction or tension 

Teachers have to know pupils’ personalities and their  perceptual and learning  abilities. Accordingly, a teacher must be flexible, inventive and actual. Actuality is a demand of geography as well.

2.  PREPARING  FOR A LESSON? 

Teaching visually impaired pupils demands using special teaching methods, forms, different treatment  and principales of work. In the foreground there are motivation, demonstration, dramatization, method of direct observation or tactile perception, individualization, generalization and orientation.

The quality of a lesson, the realisation of educational goals and pupils knowledge depend on  preparation for the lesson. When planning and preparing a lesson some facts should be accepted. These facts are:

  • individual preparation, considering perception  of blind and partially sighted  pupils
  • differentiation of educational goals (adaptation of teaching contents to the          ability of individual pupils)
  • preparation of  teaching requisites: textbooks, papers in Braille for the blind,

      enlarged print for partially sighted pupils, tactile displays: tactile maps, models, adequate picture material…

  • teaching methods (demonstration, work with text), teaching forms (individualisation)
  • selection of special tools (magnifying glass, Braille line, individual lighting)

 Also to be considered are:

2.1. PERCEPTION – How will a teacher communicate with the pupil? Which perceptual paths will be used? Will the means of communication  be Braille, Braille typewriter, textbook in Braille, teaching sheets in Braille or tactile displays?(touch, residual vision) Will the pupil work with a recorded text (hearing), or will he use Braille line on computer? Will the lesson be based on demonstration near the object or on a model? Will it be excursion or individual work? All these ways are contemporary and often used in the teaching process.

2.2. ADEQUATE EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL – Educational material havs to be adapted to the visual perception of an individual pupil. Sometimes this is ordinary material or educational complet which pupils use with a magnifying glass or an electronic magnifier. For pupils with severe visual impairment who can not use ordinary material it has to be adapted to enlarged print, be generalized, be coloured intensively or somehow adapted so that it is suitable to individual perception of a partially sighted pupil. Adaptation of textbooks, teaching sheets and visual material should be made carefully. 

2.3. TEACHING TOOLS AND TEACHING AIDS – Will pupils use a textbook in Braille, teaching sheets, tactile maps, plans or tactile pictures? How will they write, record or complete the exercise? Will it be done by a Braille writing machine, taperecorder or computer? Magnifying glass, electronic magnifier, individual light, or programs for enlargment (computer) should be available. Use of pencil which makes strong lines and paper which does not reflect the light are very important  In what way will teacher explain the appointed notion or content? Teachers have to ask themself as well whether appropriate teaching aids (adapted or made particullary for the blind)  which are demanded for the topics  are available. When teaching geography, simplified and graphically intensive sketches and spatial displays, generalized and free of unimportant elements have to be prepared. 

2.4. PSYCHOPHYSICAL QUALITIES – Teachers should be acquainted with the pupil and should consider hidden individual qualities. Is the pupil self dependant, trained enough for some manner of work? Does he/she have difficulties when writing, reading, touching? What is his orientation like?Have they been blind since birth or did they loose sight later? 

2.5. EDUCATIONAL METHODS AND FORMS OF WORK 

Which educational methods and forms of work would be appropriate regarding work with the blind? Will they be individual, in groups or in couples. Will demonstration methods, working with model or tactile display be used? 

3.1. PRACTICAL FIELDWORK

When planning the fieldwork, an excursion or observation exercises pupils ,should already be familiar with correct useage of devices which will be neccessary when obsering and evaluating. Especially for the blind the teacher must make possible direct observation considering elementary orientation. Pupils should observe things, understand and recognize the relations to the environment directly. Pupils become familiar with the useage and work of the devices which are yet to be used in class. Geography lessons can not be successful enough without excursion and direct practical work. With predominating theoretical work in class pupils can hardly gain any concepts, knowledge or skills. 

3.2.  EDUCATIONAL  TACTILE DEVICES 

Each geographical topic presents a challenge for theteacher. There is a question how to present, explain, describe  to blind pupils a certain conception, diagram, picture, graph or table. For partially sighted pupils a magnifying glass or electronic magnifier are used. For the blind no graphical picture means any value. The solution is to make a tactile picture which means a model or a diagram accessible to tactile perception. Tactile maps, plans and sketches are the most characteristic elements at geography lessons for the blind.

Didactic tactile devices are the basis for successful lessons. The solution may be simple but it demands some inventivness. Elements of each display have to be clear and adapted to diminished visual perception. Display must be made in correct proportion with the thing it presents. Material of composition should resemble the actual   object  or idea. It is right that single parts of display work. Some graphic concepts, pictures, processes or models can not be simply translated to Braille or adapted into tactile pictures. These have to be made in such a way that they are  acceptlable to tactile perception or diminished visual perception. 

More exacting conceptions have to be presented as a model. Models can be the starting point for understanding processes and the basis for a wider proceeding of contents.Example:

Using a model of polder (artificial depression) pupils understand and know the entire image/concept of the Netherlands as a country of polders. Using this model some words like tide, channel with gates, depression, dyke, windmill, drying..can be explained easily.

Practical experience confirms these displays adapted to tactile and diminished visual perception are most suitable for gathering new knowledge and understanding different social and geographic factors in the environment. When making models tactile threshold, size of note in Braille, adequate graphic perception and elimination of unimportant elements  have to be born in mind. Diagrams and graphic sketches can be presented using simple techniques, such as a positive folie, tyflograph (positive  pointed drawing), or exacting thermo-vacuum technique. 

3.3. INVENTIVNESS 

When adapting  teaching plans, educational material or other literature during work many ideas or even inventions may arise. Teaching blind and partially sighted pupils is creative. Geography lessons express the need for original ideas and approaches. Countinous innovatory approachs and consideration of the pupils’ special needs  are necessary for achieving educational goals and a successful lesson. 

4. CONCLUSION 

Understanding  the space is quite difficult and complicated for the blind. There are several hindrances for them which sighted people even do not notice. Special requisites and knowledge are necessary for more or less successful recognizing and defeating of problems. Geography is of great importance for the entire personal development of blind or partially sighted  pupils. The knowledge and practical experience which pupils gain during lessons allow for a better understanding and recognizing of the home  environments and the world. That makes the blind richer. In this way visually impaired pupils understand the world as well as  sighted pupils.

e-mail: Roman.Brvar.siol.net

 

 

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