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How Technology Benefits Students as Well as Focus on Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing Students

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Students with hearing disabilities face unique challenges inside the classroom. Many common learning modes that people take for granted -- lectures, discussion groups, and even one-on-one conversations -- can be a struggle for those who have any level of hearing difficulty. However, that doesn’t mean a college degree is out of reach. Today’s wide range of tools, devices, and systems can help students who are deaf or hard of hearing thrive in an educational setting. This guide focuses on those resources, tech tools and expert tips that students of all ages can use achieve academic success.

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The severity of these types of hearing loss can seriously impact a student's academic success. Reading and mathematics are especially challenging. Mild to moderate hearing loss can cause a student to fall behind by one to four grades. Education services are in place nationwide to prevent such academic setbacks. These efforts are paying off, with deaf and hard of hearing students attending college by the thousands. Schools are also realizing the unique needs of each student and the broad spectrum of services required to meet these needs. For example, preferred accommodations differ depending on whether students identify themselves as hard of hearing or deaf. Students who identify themselves as hard of hearing may or may not communicate using American Sign Language (ASL.) Students who identify themselves as deaf consider themselves part of the group of people who share a common language (ASL) and culture. These students may request an interpreter, while those who are hard of hearing may prefer an assistive listening device. Technology is a powerful tool that can be used to enhance higher education for the deaf and hard of hearing. Classrooms and institutions currently use a variety of hardware and software to assist students with hearing loss. Other support services are available to students online. E-textbooks are becoming more and more prevalent in college settings. More than half of U.S. higher education students have used this format for at least one class. Accessible on computers and other electronic devices, the additional features available in this book format may be advantageous for deaf and hard of hearing students. Interactive features such as polls, quizzes, note sharing and instructor annotations facilitate collaboration and interaction with the text, other students, and the professor. Students with mild to moderate hearing loss often find it helpful to use digital recorders. These capture lectures as sound files which can be stored in a device and replayed at the student's leisure. This can be especially useful in large seminars or locations not equipped with other assistive listening devices.

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All the studies critiqued by Han (2005) and Han et al. (2005) were focus-on-form investigations that involved visual input enhancement. Focus-on-form methodologies in general have been developed in the context of second-language instruction for hearing learners. With respect to English teaching and learning, whereas hearing ESL learners learn English under the cognitive constraints imposed on second-language acquisition, deaf learners of English are constrained by severely restricted access to spoken English input and, in many if not the majority of cases, by a delay in the onset of English language learning (Izumi S. 2002). Once deaf learners begin focused English language learning, often through formal schooling, English input is available to them largely through vision. Nevertheless, like all language learners, deaf learners must notice linguistic input before they can comprehend it, process it, and ultimately integrate it as acquired grammatical knowledge. Because deaf learners primarily have access only to visual linguistic input (although advancements in technology related to audition are changing that situation), any attempt to facilitate the noticing of English input through focus-on-form instruction must obviously employ methodologies that lend themselves to visual presentation. At the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), deaf students who test at the lower levels of English language proficiency, in fact, currently receive additional English grammar instruction as a corequisite to their academic writing courses. This corequisite course consists of 1 hr of remedial grammar instruction per week in addition to the four contact hours of academic writing instruction that they receive.

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In any event, the mean writing score of this sample of D/HH students in public schools fell in the below-average range; half the students received below average scores. The most difficult aspect of writing for these students was vocabulary and syntax; the area in which most students did well was story construction. Only a small amount of variance in overall writing was explained by demographic variables, although demographic variables explained a substantial amount of variance in the sub-scores of contextual language and story construction.

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Han Z-H, Park ES, Combs C. , Input enhancement: A critical meta-synthesis of the research, 2005Unpublished manuscript, Teachers College, Columbia University

Izumi S. Output, input enhancement, and the noticing hypothesis: An experimental study on ESL relativization, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 2002, vol. 24 (pg. 541-577)

Michigan Test of English Language Proficiency, 1977Ann Arbor, MIUniversity of Michigan, English Language Institute

Overstreet M. Text enhancement and content familiarity: The focus of learner attention, Spanish Applied Linguistics, 1998, vol. 2 (pg. 229-258)

Quigley SP, King CM. Syntactic performance of hearing impaired and normal hearing individuals, Applied Psycholinguistics, 1980, vol. 1 (pg. 329-356)

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How Technology Benefits Students as Well as Focus on Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing Students
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