My Online Teaching Journey

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Gerard wearing headphones and sitting in front of his computer

Android phones had been a necessity in our lives now that we are stepping in the world of 21st century era. It helps us create and check emails on the go, post our life events in Facebook, contact our connections wherever and whenever we want; basically, making our lives sweeter and easier as Google call it.

This also holds true for visually-impaired android users as well, for android phones not only do those things mentioned above; but also helps the blind and visually-impaired in their daily struggles in life. From simple tasks as describing the things around to helping the visually-impaired pupils with their digital educational needs. That’s why learning how to use this device was already essential part of our journey from education to employment to livelihood.

When did I start?

I started learning how to use an android device back in 2014 during the android accessibility training from ATRIEV Computer Learning Center for the Blind. Since then, I was tasked to train other visually-impaired and impart my skills to them in their center-based training. We taught the basics of navigating the android interface through a screen reader app called “talk back”, an accessibility app made by Google solely in giving audible feedback for visually-impaired users.

At first, it was quite difficult because there were only limited number of accessible apps at the time and we had to find another alternative to a laggy built-in apps shipped along with the phones. For example, the built-in on-screen keyboard that came in along with phones back then weren’t readable by talk back. Even some of the native apps weren’t that friendly for the blind such as cameras and messaging apps. But as time went on and updates came in, so as the apps and the operating system of android got developed as well.

In terms of teaching, I really enjoyed the ride since teaching and motivating others were one of my passion. Even though the reporting phase of the job sometimes get so tiring, it was all worth it especially when we hear words of gratitude coming from the students and participants from the training.

Changing Gears

Now that the center-based training migrated to online-based due to this pandemic everyone is struggling to survive from, the trainers also migrated to a work-from-home setup. I can say that I was already ready myself because I already got the necessary tools needed to teach online such as internet, a working laptop and some fancy peripherals like an HD webcam, headset and a decent sounding microphone. I even have a pair of DIY stand lamps placed in my room for this very setup. I had been teaching online since 2019 so I wasn’t that pained when we were all forced to stay at home.

In the online training of android accessibility, we are teaching parents and teachers who had visually-impaired students or children how to use an android device with talk back enabled. We are teaching them the way to properly impart this skill to their kids and pupils, so that they too can relay this to them and make this useful through their endeavors in education, and or livelihood. Specifically, we emphasize the importance of verbal description of directions and gestures/commands to them so that the visually-impaired beneficiaries will be able to create a visualization in their minds while learning the technology of assistive devices.

Challenges Along the Way

As good as this migrated training setup is, I wouldn’t say that it didn’t had flaws as well because we had our fair share of difficulties along the way while conducting the training online.

Slow connectivity

One notable difficult thing to get across from is the slow internet connection we staff and trainers had to deal with. There were instances where the trainers and even the participants would cut away from the classroom due to a poor internet connectivity.

Adapting to online class platforms

In gearing towards online setup, we spent hours in trying to master and blend ourselves to various online classroom platforms such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and the best one we had so far, the Team Talk application. Before arriving to a stable system, we had to experiment our classes and how our participants would behave in these platforms.

Commitment from Everyone

Another thing is the willingness and commitment of the participants which doesn’t last long enough to the entire training maybe because it was just being done online. This doesn’t happen to every one of our participants though, but there are just some who couldn’t make it to the end due to some personal reasons and other commitments as well.

Keeping it up

Even so, we still keep on striving in promoting the usefulness of technology for the visually-impaired be it online or face-to-face setup. Nothing could stop us from advocating for the benefit of the PWD sector especially with the aid of technology in our fingertips. We will always aim for innovation in our trainings so that there will be something new in the table.

As for me, I have always enjoyed working at home since 2014. Now that I have a complete studio-type setup in my room, the more reason for me to do my best in teaching both online and face-to-face in the future. Teaching will always be one of the things I would love to do for others. Lastly, even though I live in the South part of the country now, my loyalty and service to ATRIEV along with its mission for the visually-impaired people stay strong as it was when I was still in their center in Quezon City.

I started learning how to use an android device back in 2014 during the android accessibility training from ATRIEV Computer Learning Center for the Blind. Since then, I was tasked to train other visually-impaired and impart my skills to them in their center-based training. We taught the basics of navigating the android interface through a screen reader app called “talk back”, an accessibility app made by Google solely in giving audible feedback for visually-impaired users.

At first, it was quite difficult because there were only limited number of accessible apps at the time and we had to find another alternative to a laggy built-in apps shipped along with the phones. For example, the built-in on-screen keyboard that came in along with phones back then weren’t readable by talk back. Even some of the native apps weren’t that friendly for the blind such as cameras and messaging apps. But as time went on and updates came in, so as the apps and the operating system of android got developed as well.

In terms of teaching, I really enjoyed the ride since teaching and motivating others were one of my passion. Even though the reporting phase of the job sometimes get so tiring, it was all worth it especially when we hear words of gratitude coming from the students and participants from the training.

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