Technologies that facilitate the study of advanced mathematics by students who are blind: Teachers’ perspectives
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Implicit in the technology boom of the last three decades is the promise of the accessibility necessary to make equal opportunity achievable for all students. It is the role of teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) to provide the most advantageous tools and instruction on their use, at the proper time to the student and classroom teacher. This research examines TVIs’ perspectives on the current state of high-tech devices purporting to assist students who are blind, in an attempt to appraise the educational value of high-tech tools for practical application in various mathematics subjects. Six research questions guided the design of the survey instrument. The research examined TVI perspectives regarding which high-tech devices were currently used in secondary school advanced mathematics courses to support students who are blind. Furthermore, is there a core set of devices that is perceived by TVIs as beneficial, and do the contents of that set change depending on the subject? The next two research questions looked at perceived effectiveness of the devices for supporting typical lesson-plan steps and where there were gaps in support. Finally, teachers were encouraged to provide additional insight in order to determine if any themes regarding use of technology emerged. A mixed-methods questionnaire that included a multiple rating matrix containing 35 devices was distributed electronically to a convenience sample of TVIs. Survey Monkey was used to collect responses, and data analysis was conducted using spreadsheet software. While 157 surveys were returned, a total of 82 were completed Texas Tech University, Vicki DePountis, May 2012 vii through the device matrix question. Results indicated that 21 of the 35 devices were, in fact, used by TVIs. In addition, there was a core set of 13 devices used by TVIs regardless of specific subject. More than half of the participants listed the same four devices, for three of the five typical lesson-plan tasks. Participants recommended another seven high-tech devices in the open response question. Findings from this study lay a foundation for future research that will ultimately enhance advanced mathematics experiences of students who are blind and interested in going on to post-secondary school.