How long have you been teaching, and how did you get started?
I have been teaching for 25 years. I wanted to teach because I love working with children. Kids make the day fun.
What age, subject, or specialty do you teach?
I am a TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired) who specializes in CVI (Cortical/Cerebral Vision Impairment). CVI is a brain-based vision impairment that is the number one cause of vision impairment in our students and is severely underdiagnosed. Evidence-based fact—one in every thirty school-aged children may have brain related vision problems.
I teach all ages but have done Early Intervention for 18 years and now am at the elementary school level.
What are some of the traditional (non-digital) resources you use with learners?
Most resources are adaptations made from traditional learning materials. Materials for our CVI/Vision students need to be bold, high contrast, large font, and uncluttered. Books need to be simplified, and manipulatives need to be larger and high contrast with a simple/multisensory approach.
How did you first discover Boom Cards?
Boom Cards were starting to be used by elementary classroom teachers, and parents were asking me how their child could access them since many of them had good content but were not accessible to all students. This became more apparent during Covid when we had to learn from home and access our learning via the computer.
My students enjoy the ability to use Boom Cards independently, which is not always the case with other apps, technology, and classroom-related materials. They also enjoyed the sounds and personalization. I sometimes add a Boom Card with a picture of them or a favorite character or pet to make them smile when they are doing an activity.
What about you? What’s your favorite tool or feature?
My favorite feature about Boom Cards is that I can change the background, font, spacing, add or delete pictures, and insert sounds to customize them to each student’s needs and accommodations.
Do you have any favorite Boom Card publishers that prepare great materials for learners with visual impairments?
Thebrightsideofme has CVI adaptations in place for her 2 groups of Boom Cards that I like. I want to make more of these for Autistic kids (who also benefit from CVI adaptations) and students with visual impairments. Boom Cards that use REAL pictures work well.
We need to make sure that these materials are truly designed for our vision students including CVI. Some are promoting “CVI Friendly” Boom Cards but that are not. Just because they are high-contrast doesn’t make it CVI accessible and parents are purchasing these thinking they are getting what they need for their child when, in fact, it is not best practice for them.
CVI adaptations often help a lot of learners, making them a Universal Design Approach, which is what we really need. With this approach, we don’t have to adapt because best practices are already in place.
Do you ever combine Boom Cards with other in-person learning activities?
I love to combine Boom Cards with in-person learning activities. When introducing new concepts, we work together. Then, I like to let students practice the taught concepts on Boom Cards. After they have practiced the concept, Boom Cards can be used for assessment and review.
Yes, I am just starting to make some Boom Cards and look forward to eventually having a whole library of my own. There needs to be a better selection of Boom Cards for our vision students to access and I want to be part of making that happen.
What was the most challenging thing about making your first set of Boom Cards?
Learning curves are real. Just like with anything else, when making your first set of Boom Cards, you need to make time for errors. Trial and error are real, and what is most helpful is to have a nice chunk of time to allow for the learning process.
A great idea is for supervisors to take those teacher in-service times and let teachers learn how to create their own Boom Cards.
How long does it take you to complete a Boom Card deck?
It depends on the deck, but it takes me about an hour to make a deck designed for my students.
Do you share the decks you make with other teachers?
I have started to share and give tutorials to parents and teachers who have students who are working with visually impaired students.
What kind of progress have you seen from learners who have played with Boom Cards?
It creates a greater independence for students who have special needs. So often, they are dependent on others but, with Boom Cards that are created with them in mind, they can access learning independently. With that, it is giving us a greater picture of what they truly know.
How do you know that students have made progress? Do you have any specific benchmarks that you look for?
Each student in special education has an IEP (Individualized Education Program), so besides benchmarks for learning objectives in specific grades, we also have goals for each student. Using Boom Cards gives you progress after each trial. So, the first time a student uses it, we must allow for error due to novelty. The student is trying to understand exactly what they must do for the activity. After that, they understand what the process is…for example, read the sentence and fill in the blank with the correct answer by clinking on it (which might be a task in itself). Proper assessment is a big issue for our students. Often evaluations are not reliable.
Just being able to independently complete the activity might be the first goal. Then, when they understand the objective, we can assess their content knowledge. Being able to use Boom Cards, parents and teachers who know their students’ strengths and needs can design the learning and assessment around them. This is great!
Looking at the reports for certain Boom Cards helps me to pivot in the right direction for teaching. Since my students use individual Boom Cards more than once, I can see their progress. From that, I can take the next step and create new Boom Cards when they are ready to be challenged more.
Have the reports ever surprised you, and shown different results than you were expecting?
Reports help me more when I have the students do the activity independently. If I step away and let them do the Boom Cards by themselves, can they be successful? Yes? No? Do they still need me to “walk them through” the steps? If so, then we still need to work more together.
What do you wish more people knew about Boom Cards?
I want Boom Cards to be used by more special education teachers who are often struggling to find the right teaching and assessment tools.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to teaching?
If you are new to teaching, my advice is lean on your veteran teachers. Our greatest teaching tool is our peers. We learn from others. Ask for help and use what has been successful for them. Veteran teachers are able to manage their time to focus more on what is most important, THE STUDENTS.
What advice would you give to a teacher who is about to retire?
My advice to a teacher who is about to retire, first, thank you for your service, and don’t walk away entirely from the field. We need your wisdom. Continue to mentor, write articles, present to future and current teachers so that you can share what you have learned over your career.
What advice would you give to yourself if you could send a message back to 2019?
I’m glad I didn’t know what was coming back in 2020. I would have felt such anxiety. But if I could have given myself advice back in 2019, it would be to get ready by preparing online activities that families can access and use on their own. Imagine teaching to blind preschool children on an iPad and expecting them to be engaged and learn! How overwhelming it all was at first…
What advice would you give to parents who feel like their children are struggling because of remote learning during the pandemic?
The advice I give to parents when consulting with them because of remote learning during the pandemic is to make a plan. When you have a plan in place, you take your power back.
Parents are more tuned in to learning than ever before because it literally was put in front of them all day. They know what works and what doesn’t work, and they are the most important teacher to their children since they know them better than anyone. If they discuss what their child’s strengths and needs are and what they need to be successful, then everyone on the team can create a plan that works.
In fact, I have had many families continue with remote learning even after students return back to the classroom. With one-on-one instruction without the distractions of a busy classroom, some are finding hybrid learning is best after all.
Note: Boom Learning is now working closely with Lisha to develop a certification process to better identify resources that use best practices for CVI learners.
If you want to be featured as a teacher of the month, email BoomLove@boomlearning.com.