Flipped Learning and the Hard-of-Hearing Student – Initial Thoughts (#flipblogs)

--Originally published at Flipping With Joy

This is my fifth entry in Andrew Swan's 20-over-30 September #flipblogs challenge. See my first entry here for some context and a little more information about the challenge.

Yesterday I was asked to attend an in-service meeting for one of my grade 9 math students. This student is hard-of-hearing, and the meeting was set up as a way for her to share with all her teachers at once what her needs are and how we can best accommodate her. One of our school board’s staff from the hearing itinerant program was also there, and a few of the insights she shared got me wondering how this student’s hearing will affect her experience of a flipped class.

Implications for flipped learning videos

The hearing itinerant teacher mentioned some high percentage of language as being on the lips. (The percentage I think she said doesn’t seem to match up with the amateur web search I just did, so pardon my leaving it out lest it be incorrect.) She pointed out that the glasses she and I wear do supply things we normally miss, in a way: our retinas and optic nerves are capable of responding to and processing light properly, and our glasses just need to modify where that light falls in our eyes so that it can reach that fully-functional optic system in the right way. She reminded me that hearing aids aren’t like this in that they don’t magically supply the frequencies the student is missing; they help to amplify what the student can already process, but making a frequency louder than the student’s ear can’t respond to doesn’t fill that gap.

The implication of this for the classroom is that I can’t solely rely on the FM system to communicate what I’m saying to the student — she needs to see my face, and she needs to be able to see my lips moving. If I want to produce flipped learning videos that will work for hard-of-hearing students (and probably others, through universal design), though, the implications of this need to see the face may be a little more complex.

In the past, I’ve generally recorded my videos with one camera watching my face — putting that feed into a corner of the final video, picture-in-picture style — and either a document camera following my hands or a screencast of a PowerPoint presentation taking up the majority of the screen. I’ve been rethinking this somewhat already given the research showing that students actually process something worse if it both appears in text and is said verbally by the presenter at the same time, but that using visuals to support what you say aloud improves their processing. For the hard-of-hearing student, is it unfair to ask her to have to both watch my lips and something going on elsewhere on the screen? I had a professor for two courses in university who would always pause what he was saying to write on the board, then turn to face us and say essentially what he had just written down; while I found that annoying and sometimes laughable at the time, was that actually more in line with what research is now saying supports learning, and of benefit to those with hearing needs to boot???

The hearing itinerant teacher also told us that if we use any videos in class, we should make sure we turn on any available captions. I doubt flipped learning videos are what she had in mind, but yes, I have been thinking in the last couple of years that captioning my videos could be important, and having a student who is hard-of-hearing just boosts the importance of that. I always turn on captions if they’re available when I watch a movie myself anyway because I mishear things All The Time, so why should it be such a surprise that students would benefit from captions on educational videos?

Implications for the group space

I had another hard-of-hearing student several years ago supply me with an FM system for use in class. What was neat to hear about the system of the student I have this year is that she can provide me with a microphone that can be passed around to other students in the class if we’re having a class discussion, and that the FM system itself can also sit on the table in the middle of a small group of students if a smaller discussion is being held (rather than leave it around my neck). As I plan activities for the group space in that class, I’ll have to consider what approach will work best in order to best support my student’s hearing in that activity, as well as how to manage any background noise for her (such as that from the discussions of other groups nearby).

This is definitely going to be a learning experience for me, let alone for the student, so a key is going to have to be getting her feedback as we go through the semester together. I’ll try to remember to drop here any nuggets of wisdom we can pass on to other flipping teachers with hard-of-hearing students, and if any of you have been in this situation, I’d love to hear your insights, too.

I also had to attend another meeting yesterday that could have been flipped with an email, but that’s a frustration to address another time...

1 Comment

  • Actually for higher education we have state law in Illinois that requires captioning thankfully of my hundred and some-odd videos on YouTube all but two of them where automatically closed-captioned by YouTube itself and it was actually very well done

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