Mixing O&M, Technology, and the Expanded Core Curriculum

Here are some suggestions for using apps for each area of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) as part of orientation and mobility lessons, and also a brief description of an option for a GPS app, BlindSquare. So, without further ado, here goes…  

Compensatory Skills:

Braille Touch is an app that allows six finger entry of text into the iPhone and can be used for route directions, grocery lists, phone numbers, etc. Compensatory Skills are clearly represented in this activity, and rather than the Orientation and Mobility Specialist “Teaching Braille”, they merely encouraging the generalization of the student’s already developed braille skills for use in the community, without having to bring a Perkins Brailler to the grocery store.  

Recreation and Leisure:

Geocaching is a fun activity that can be made accessible with GPS apps, such as BlindSquare. This is a great example of a mainstream activity that is developing orientation skills and concepts while also developing Recreation and Leisure skills, not to mention many core curriculum concepts.  

Adaptive Technology:

Just talking about mobile devices begins to address the area of Assistive/Adaptive Technology, but going beyond just talking and exposing a student to something like the compass app might be the connection the student needs to actually enjoy learning about cardinal directions; they can even pick their favorite digitized voice for the compass! Using apps that can read text have a multitude of uses. An app that has just recently been released that works very well is KNFB Reader. It photographs text and automatically begins reading it.  

Independent Living Skills:

Independent Living Skills includes things like going grocery shopping; the skills involved in grocery shopping are facilitated by scanning apps for bar codes and price checkers such as Red Laser or LookTel Recognizer. Another area of independent living is knowing the weather before heading out for the day to be able to dress appropriately, and students can address this with a weather app. Staying organized with a planning calendar and contact lists for calling transit companies and checking in at school, the ideas go on and on; this is a huge category.  

Self Determination:

Self Determination includes self knowledge and there are certainly ways to use the internet browser built into a mobile device to search about eye conditions; there are also simulator apps to demonstrate their eye conditions while they advocate for their needs. Students can set personal goals and track their progress using planning apps, notes, journals, and calendars.  

Social Interaction:

Telephone, texting, Facebook, Twitter, E-mail and many other resources built into phones and mobile devices are great teaching tools for Social Interaction, especially as student’s peers use these tools for social exchange, social planning, etc.  

Sensory Efficiency:

Sensory Efficiency can be addressed using a camera app or CCTV app for zooming in on directory signs or even produce prices in grocery stores, reading labels on packages, etc. And an example for non-visual skills, recording the traffic sounds at an intersection and then using it as an audio track for practicing the identification of lulls for timing crossings is one strategy. One of my favorite “homework” activities is to have a student listen to their favorite music, and while they are listening, ask them to practice listening and focusing on just one instrument so they can use the same skill while analyzing an intersection and listening for just one lane of traffic.  

Career Education:

How about looking up the address of prospective employer and then planning a trip to get a job application, or investigating the working conditions at a job site; sure is beginning to sound a lot like a Career Education activity. And, by taking the bus to get there, you are also practicing public transportation and taking on addressing more Orientation and Mobility. Wow two ECC’s in one activity : )  

Orientation and Mobility:

More specifically about Orientation and Mobility, planning bus routes with local transit apps, using GPS apps to virtually explore areas before exploring there in person, even asking Siri for their present location while traveling in residential areas or finding an address for a destination.   Have the student show you what they know and teach you how to do something using an adaptive gesture. What area(s) of the ECC would teaching someone else be?   Activities can easily be combined to address multiple areas in the same lesson.  

Lots of Apps for O&M:

Google Maps, Seeing Eye GPS, BlindSquare, and Nearby Explorer are just a few examples, but there are many more apps available for the various mobile device platforms, whether the device uses iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile. The Nearby Explorer app, which is only available on the Android platform presently, is available as a purchased app from the Google Play Store but can also be purchased directly through APH with Quota Funds. This is especially helpful if a student or client already has invested in an Android device, as the app alone is $99. Seeing Eye GPS is another full featured GPS app and is presently only available as an iOS app; it also carries a hefty price tag as far as apps go. It is free to download but requires a subscription. You can now purchase a monthly subscription for $9.99 to try it out rather than having to spend $70 for one year, or even $130 for a two year subscription.

The option I generally recommend people get started with if they have an iPhone or an iPad with a cellular plan is a $30 app called BlindSquare. It is not full featured for routing on its own, but it ties into other apps which are free, such as Transit and Google Maps to provide point to point directions. It also provides the user the ability to enter the latitude and longitude. The ability to edit and enter your own coordinates allows you to set a landmark for things like the front door to a building on a college campus one of your students will be attending, without ever having to have been there. The student can then learn how to do the same and have a full directory of landmarks before they even arrive at school!

The same strategy can be used for an early alert on bus travel about a stop location. It was previously possible to do this with a BrailleNote that had a GPS receiver and Sendero GPS software, but it is very nice that it can now be down with a reasonably priced app. Even for students who are very new to technology, all they have to do is open the app while they travel on a bus and it will begin reading the name of every street they bus crosses and all they have to do is listen. It allows them to have a bit more information about their location to know where they are along their route and to prepare for their departure from the bus.