Southgate teacher Robynne Fraser has witnessed many small miracles in her classroom.
She has seen first-hand a student classified as selective mute, speak for the first time, children whose parents were told they would never read, do the unimaginable and autistic children learn to share.
Those and other huge feats were made possible because Fraser teaches her students how to use technology.
“Although I’m not great with technology I do really see how it benefits the kids and I think more needs to be given to them,” Fraser says. “I think the special education departments in Campbell River are starting to go more towards using technology and people are really buying in because they can see how the kids have grown and developed because of technology.”
Fraser, a Skills for Life instructor, works with students from Grades 7-9 who have intellectual disabilities.
Her work and the progress she’s made with her students made her the grand prize winner of a Teaching and Technology Story and Sweepstakes contest sponsored by CDW Canada last May. Fraser, who edged out nearly 3,000 entrants from across Canada with her essay The Miracle of Technology, won $5,000 worth of technology including: two laptops, a projector, a keyboard, a webcam, a printer, digital cameras and a pocket video camera.
“I was really excited for the kids, it was sort of like Christmas when everything started arriving,” Fraser says. “It’s an opportunity to use equipment we wouldn’t otherwise get to.”
Fraser and her group of Educational Assistants, whom Fraser describes as “amazing” and credits for buying into her vision, have the kids using Smart Boards which allow the students to manipulate objects on the screen and gets the students to engage in lessons.
The kids also use a Wii for much-needed sensory body breaks and to work on motor skill development. Fraser recalls one particular joyous moment when a student with autism realized with delight that they had, for the first time, just finished playing with a peer, instead of atypical solitary play.
Cameras have also played a large role in helping many of Fraser’s students who have autism.
“A lot of the kids don’t want to look at the face because there’s so much going on and facial expressions are hard for them to understand,” Fraser says. “The cameras help them to understand where the face is and it helps them make eye contact.
“It also is a way of getting my kids to interact because they have to ask if they can take a picture plus other kids will come up to them and ask to have their picture taken. It’s a way of socializing.”
The cameras are also used in the production of yearbooks which are unique to the Skills for Life class. Each student in the class makes their own individual page using computer programs like Powerpoint and Microsoft Publisher.
The students are also familiar with using walkie-talkies. Fraser says they are the perfect tool to teach the students how to share, because they have to take turns speaking.
It also helps the kids with their annunciation because they have to slow down and speak clearly to get their message across.
Fraser says seeing her kids thrive and learn to do new things makes her feel like a proud parent.
“It’s just huge,” Fraser says. “It’s just so exciting to hear a kid talk for the first time, or interact with another student for the first time. It’s amazing what these kids have achieved, and it’s technology that’s allowed it to occur.
“So much of special education can be heartbreaking but when you get a kid to do something for the first time, it’s such an amazing high, you just feel like a proud parent.”