Monday, February 4, 2019

"Hear" Me Out: Deaf Culture Experience/Experiment

Challenge: You are about to experience simulated deafness for a full 24 hour period to truly experience authentic ASL language usage as a hard of hearing individual. 

What a shock that must have been to the students in Mrs. Enfinger's American Sign Language I and II classes as Byron Nelson High School. While this teacher is able to somewhat mimic this experience in class by having full silent class days by which students must solely sign the language without speaking aloud or listening to said communication, this experiment provided a truly different take on removing sound from the equation. As a result of the experiment, deaf culture awareness was at an all time high at BNHS as students, parents, teachers, and administrators were talking about their opinions, accommodations, concerns, and perceptions which brought to light the need for true empathy and understanding for ALL types of students.

To begin, the following various stakeholders were informed about the experience.
  • Students who would be participating learned of their assignment expectations and details
  • Parents of those students in part that the experiment was expected to continue in full effort at home throughout the 24 hour time span
  • Teachers and all other school staff since they would have these ASL students in their classes as well as other staff members who would be witnessing the experiment in other roles
The most frequently asked question was "How am I supposed to teach?" or "How is my student supposed to learn?" The best part about these questions is that the eye-opening learning experiment would not solely be experienced by the direct participant, but so much learning and understanding would also occur with other responsible parties.

To prepare for the "big day," students were tasked with researching ADA (American Deaf Association) requirements or accommodations available for all of the students' traditional daily activities including in the classroom such as enabling closed captioning on videos, live closed captioning on Google Slides, in addition to what needs may result for electives such as music or sports, and even church or other after school activities. They also gained an awareness of additional accommodations to accomplish other things they would want to do such as technology available including phone apps, interpreter and closed captioning services. Furthermore, research continued as students learned about Mandy Harvey and Nyle Dimarco to study deaf later in life vs. deaf from birth. Going into the experiment, students not only had a base understanding of the language they've so far learned through a traditional classroom setting, but they've also had a heightened interest in cultural aspects and legal accommodations as this research was authentic and immediately applied.

Students didn’t know the exact day they would go deaf in order to simulate adult deafness as it is usually gradual and don’t know it is happening. Instead, they showed up to class on a random day and were then told it would be their day to go deaf. The kids wore inner earplugs and outer ear muffs and on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being profoundly deaf) were a 3-4 to simulate an adult who was hard of hearing. Students had their choice of how they preferred to journal their experience from keeping an ongoing written blog via Google Doc, a vlog (video blog) for extra credit to later by shareable via YouTube, voice notes on a phone, other other digital presentation format.  

Alisa's full YouTube video blog (vlog)

Alisa's thoroughly detailed, insightful blog

Megan & Copelynn's Adobe Spark Page Experience Summary
These examples above show the passion and above-and-beyond-effort these students exhibited through being given an relevant, authentic experience coupled with the ability to share their story with a live, authentic audience. 

Mrs. Enfinger concluded that “The amazing thing about ASL is that I get to watch these kids fall in love with the culture and the people in a different way. They have a deep compassion and admiration for them, but it is difficult to teach them an understanding, empathy if you will. Not sympathy at all because what they learn over everything else is how empowered they felt- truly no fear! This experience was meant to educate them and those around them that the deaf can do anything the hearing can do except hear.”

This experience meets International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)’s standard of a Knowledge Constructor in which “students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits” (3A) and “students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions” (3D). 

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