Objectives

In the project children with hearing difficulties ( children with hearing impairment) encompass the severe, hard impairment and the individual with a mild loss of hearing, who may understand speech without difficulty. Severe (deaf) impairment means that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, which adversely affects educational performance. Hard of hearing means a hearing impairment, whether permanent or fluctuating, to an extent that makes difficult but does not preclude the understanding of speech through the ear above, with or without a hearing aid.

According to demographic data (http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/press/2003/pr2808en.html) 6% of the European population have a hearing impairment. According to this data 22.5 million individuals have a hearing impairment in Europe and 2 million are profoundly deaf. In children deafness impedes language acquisition and generates learning difficulties. According to some other reports (www.zak.co.il/deaf-info/old/dempographics.html) in 11 EC countries an estimated number of 3.419.000 are hearing impaired. Among this population 3,6% are under the age of 15.

According to this report, the total population of hearing impairment is approximately 1% of the whole population of Europe.

Today’s classroom expectations require teachers to have a deep knowledge of their field of study, a thorough understanding of how children learn, a sincere commitment to the overall growth and development of a child and of course, a basic love for learning.

These attributes will not be enough for teachers to prepare students to succeed in a society that continues to grow in its dependence upon technology. Instead, today’s teachers must be comfortable with technology (e.g. instructional and assistive) as a tool to engage students to enhance their learning and understanding of the content. Thus, if teachers are ill equipped to use tools technology has made available, their professional education will be incomplete.

The need for teacher educators to integrate technology into teacher education is not new. Already, in 1986, Blackhurst and MacArthur found that special education faculty who were preparing teachers lacked the skills and knowledge to teach their students about technology. Similarly, over the past decade, researchers have argued that technology training must become a priority if we are to have teachers who are comfortable and competent with the respect to the use of technology in their teaching (Hasselbring, 1989, Langone, Malone, Stecker, & Greene, 1998, Wetzel, 1993).

Technology-rich teacher preparation is especially important in today’s special education preparation programs. Research has repeatedly identified assistive technology as well as the ever-growing instructional technology applications as effective instructional tools to meet the needs of the special needs learner.

In the education of hearing impaired students visualizing information is the key to successful learning, to communication and to school and classroom inclusion. The technology used in special education can be grouped in the following 3 categories:

a.Technology of Visualizing Information of the Environment [i.e. voice to text technology (CART- Computer Assisted Remote Transcription, or CAN- Computer Assisted Notetaking for mainstreamed hearing impaired students), Visual Signals for doorbell, telephone, smoke alarm, etc]

b.Technology for the Acquisition of School knowledge and skills (i.e. computers, videoconference, internet use and email for educational purposes, special software with multimedia including sing language, etc).

c.Assistive Technology for amplifying the residual hearing (i.e. FM systems, digital hearing aids), for special development (i.e. special hardware or software for visualizing voice production, etc

Technologies have provided new opportunities for accessing information and have brought more resources into classrooms. The graphics and animation capabilities of computers, multimedia presentations, and the World Wide Web provide the opportunity to develop educational materials especially oriented toward the visuospatial strengths of students with hearing difficulties..

Computers and accessible technology (e.g. captioning on CD-ROMS and teleconferencing) offer opportunities to transform the education of students who are severe hard of hearing and may help to rectify the long-standing reading difficulties.

The research has proved, that when captions are adjusted to the linguistic level and reading rate of impaired hearing viewers, the amount of information obtained increases significantly .

Early studies with computer-assisted mathematics instruction, also have shown that students with hearing difficulties can achieve gains in mathematics computation.

Technologies can help teachers plan additional time to foster problem solving and problem posing, which will promote the metacognitive skills so valuable to reading comprehension and critical thinking.

The World Wide Web now offers a gateway to countless sources of information. The challenge for the student is to avoid distractions and extraneous material while evaluating the quality of the resources that are so readily available. The Web provides a rich opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge in the comfort of one’s own home, to network with others, and to take advantage of multimedia aids to enhance reading comprehension).

There are two approaches to educate the children with hearing difficulties- in inclusive class and separately in special schools. The same technology may be used, but the teachers have to know how to use it effectively in both ways.

Every country has its background and traditions in teaching and learning as well as a specific way of teacher training.

In Denmark there are  3 state centre for hearing impaired and they have about 150 students. These Centres take special care of all severe problems ex. personal, social and learning problems according to the target group.

All 12 counties in Denmark have special schools or centre classes for all other hearing impaired students. The Counties take care of about 300 students.

The purpose for the counties concerning the hearing impaired student is to make a succesfull inclusion in normal Folkeskole classes. This purpose is very difficult to fulfil.

With this EU-proposal it will be possible to make a more precise inclusion.

The teachers in the normal classes will be given a better understanding, better tool for academic skills, personal and social development.

In Greece the students with hearing difficulties study in the inclusive schools and special schools. University of Patras Department of deaf gives a great contribution to the teacher training for special education, but at the same time consider that it is more possible to use modern technologies in the teaching process at schools.

In the United Kingdom and indeed some other countries, the use of ICT has provided pupils with special education needs with a powerful means of access to a broad and balanced curriculum that would otherwise be denied of them. ICT can enable pupils to overcome barriers to learning by providing additional or alternative methods of access to the curriculum. In an inclusive setting, the provision of appropriate resources ensures that all pupils can work co-operatively and collaboratively, as well as individually. ICT empowers pupils with special educational needs, heightens self-confidence and self-esteem. The curriculum is enhanced and enriched by allowing teachers to use ICT as a tool to differentiate, individualize and adapt it.

For example, some pupils can find their ability to learn is severely impaired by fluctuating hearing loss, also known as ‘Glue ear’. Glue ear is a very common condition among young people. It is basically an inflammation of the middle ear, sometimes accompanied by a sticky discharge, which give the condition its common name – Glue ear; the medical name is otitis media.

In the UK, hearing equipment such as neck loop, earphone accessories for conversor, headset microphone, hearing aid transmitter/receiver, pocket talker etc are available in some of the schools but not every teacher is trained to use them. Schools have varying degrees of expertise and approaches of using and creating resources.

Teaching and communication materials are very expensive to buy. The alternative though is that schools can make their own simple and usable materials using ICT. This requires some level of expertise both in design and transmission to students which some schools do not have.

In Czech Republic a programme Internet to Schools of the Ministry of Education, schools were being largely equipped with information and communication technologies. Subsequently, teachers were trained for basic computer literacy. However, the project of Internet to Schools did not include work with information and communication technologies applicable as educational support to special needs pupils and students. Meant in part for educators of the deaf was one of the projects of the Leonardo programme, submitted in cooperation with other partners by Parents’ and Friends’ Federation of the deaf, a civic association. The goal of their project named Internet as a Potential Source of New Jobs for the Deaf was to prepare the people with special needs to be successful in the labour market. Textbooks for special needs course participants were written in the project’s first year and teaching methods were being developed throughout the project. The participants finish the course with a thesis they write and print on a PC and pass an international exam in computer literacy.

The project named Teachers ICT Competences – a Way to Efective Learning for Childern with Hearing Difficulties will be focused on teachers at specialized schools for the children with hearing difficulties, enhancing their skills in the use of computer technologies amd encouraging them to apply such skills in teaching. The involvement of Czech partners will help to adapt them the special education to modern requirements, contribute to higher efficiency of such education, and improve the manner in which the special educational needs of the children with hearing difficulties are fulfilled.

In Latvia there are 2 special schools for children with hearing difficulties about 600 students. For the time being the inclusive school has not become the typical one in Latvia. The Universities are not yet ready to educate teachers with hearing difficulties, they lack the methodology and the language how to communicate with them. The technologies are used in these special schools, but it has not become as a practice because of the lack of material basis and the skills to integrate modern technologies in teaching and learning.

The use of interactive videos and computer technology and the development of the relevant software could help to meet the needs of children with hearing difficulties.

The ready made materials for the use in the work with students having hearing difficulties are well known from Scandinavian states,especially, from Sweden Orebro University, but they are expensive for the use in Latvia. Because of that the project could benefit to the methodology of the use of technologies as tools in the special and inclusive school in the teaching process.