Those that are in favor of closing these schools only consider the costs of operation of the school that is being closed. They do not consider the additional expense to the local school district and community. This was the case as legislators continue to consider legislation disbanding special education facilities to service deaf students in that state (Hopkins, 2007). They are only looking at one side of the budgetary issues, rather than looking at the total expenditure picture. This is a short-sighted approach that will cost more in the long-term.
Appropriate education in the age of distance technology vs. Vygotskyy's theory
Larwood (2004) proposed distance education at a potential solution to the problem of finding certified sign language teachers and teacher for the deaf. This same solution may hold prospects as a solution to the problem of educating the deaf students themselves. Online schools are popping up all over the nation as a potential solution to a number of educational issues. They are particularly appealing to those students that do not "fit" into the traditional school setting. Many of these schools, such as TRECA Digital Academy offer programs in partnership with local school districts (Schumm, 2007).
Online may be the ultimate solution for the technical and budgetary issues facing those that specialize in the education of the deaf. However, one has to also consider the impact on the cultural aspects of the student. According to Vygotsky, a child learns the social and cultural aspects of their society by interacting with others. The cultural aspects of society are always a concern in the online learning environment. There is concern that children that do not have interaction with others will not become fully integrated members of that society.
In an online school setting, the child can excel academically, however they are doing so in a rather isolated environment. A deaf child is even more socially isolated than hearing children. There needs to be special attention given to deaf students and their needs for socialization. Video conferencing combined with chat via software such as elluminate Live is one option for keeping the student culturally and socially informed. Extracurricular activities are especially important when a deaf child will be receiving their education through an online school.
There are many challenges facing those that choose to educate the deaf. Many of the internal issues are closely related to external factors. The entire educational system in the United States is faced with teacher salaries, budgetary issues and the problem of how to integrate changing technology. Emerging technology may be the answer to many of the woes, not only for the education of the deaf, but also for the educational community at large. However, as we seek the answers to these questions, we must not forget the include the student as a major stakeholder in these decisions. Education must also consider Vygotsky's theories on socially relevant education. There are ways to resolve these issues and still provide the student with the optimal learning environment. However, it will take cooperation between all parties involved. Perhaps the most important factor is not to forget to place the priorities of the learner first.
Elluminate live (2007). Elluminate Live. http://www.elluminate.com/
Gallagher, C. (compiler) (1999). Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky. Retrieved October 26, 2007 at http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/vygotsky.htm
Hopkins, J. (2007). Closing of Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind on hold as officials draft legislation. Times-News Writer. Retrieved October 25, 2007 at http://www.magicvalley.com/articles/2007/08/10/news/local_state/118166.txt
Larwood, L.(2004) the Technology Skills of Teachers Enrolled in Distance-Learning and on- Campus Components of a Deaf Education Credentialing Program. E-Journal of Teaching and Learning in Diverse Settings. 1 (2), 237-345. Retrieved October 25, 2007 at http://www.subr.edu/coeducation/ejournal/EJournal.Volume1Issue2.Larwood.pdf
National Education Association (NEA) (2006). Teacher Shortage. Issues in Education. Retrieved October 25, 2007 at http://www.nea.org/teachershortage/index.html.
Ohio School for the Deaf / Ohio State School for the Blind (2007).
New Building Project Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes.
Ohio School for the Deaf Conference Center. August 14-15, 2007. Retrieved October 25, 2007 at http://newcampus.ossb.oh.gov/documents/AdvisoryCommitteeMinutes070820.pdf
Schumm, K. (2007). School Doesn't Fit? Try Us on for Size. TRECA Digital Academy. Retrieved October 25, 2007 at http://www.trecaonline.net/PDFs/doesnt_fit.pdf