“Our children have potential and can develop to be integrated”

Seven months ago, 3Love Inc. helped implement the “Jenny Inti Bocángel” technology classroom at the C.E.B.E. “Laura Alva Saldaña” in Lima, Peru and 10 tablets were purchased. Thanks to the use of technological tools, children with severe disabilities and multiple disabilities in their different conditions, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), have been able to improve their learning, autonomy and communication skills.

To know the results that have been achieved in these first months, we interviewed the director of the C.E.B.E. “Laura Alva Saldaña”, Raquel Rojas.

 

What improvements have you been able to observe in the students in these first months of operation of the technological classroom “Jenny Inti Bocángel”?

 

First, the use of technological tools and the opportunity to use these tablets, in which the software for learning is being applied. Second, the attention and concentration of the students, because when they have the Tablet, their eyes are fixed on an object or a figure according to the indications given by the teachers. So the students are maintaining attention and concentration. Third, the cognitive aspect: memory, following instructions. And also in the pedagogical aspect, it is a tool for teachers as a didactic strategy. Teachers also use them as complementary activities: not only does the teaching remain in the classroom with the teacher and the student, but it also complements learning through the use of tablets.

 

How many students on average enter the technology classroom in each class?

 

The students enter from kindergarten, especially the classrooms that have the conditions for children to manipulate the tablets or use this software. In that level, an average of 8 students enter. In elementary school, there are 10 classrooms from 7 to 20 years old. Little by little, the other classrooms will also participate. There are children with very severe disabilities who need to have the ability to have the tolerance to be with the tablet. We are advancing little by little, progressively.

How many tablets does the classroom currently have?

 

We have 12 tablets. 3Love and the Lions Club of Barranco gave us the opportunity to start this project with “My thoughts have a voice” and later “I play and learn in the digital world”. Through other allies and also with the Ministry through FONDEP (National Fund for the Development of Peruvian Education) we have been able to acquire 6 more tablets so that each teacher who enters the classroom can have his or her tablet and so that they can prepare the material on the tablets.

 

Have you also obtained the donation of an interactive whiteboard?

 

Yes, the interactive whiteboard is also a much broader tool for the children to interact in a more experiential way. With the help of a projector, the board is used to do activities that are no longer just on the tablet. With a much larger whiteboard, the children interact more.

 

How does the use of classroom tablets enable students with severe disabilities and multidisabilities to improve their autonomy and communication skills, for example with the “My thoughts have a voice” project?

 

The “My thoughts have a voice” project allows us to help children who do not have an articulate language, but do have a comprehension level. So we have children with severe disabilities and multiple disabilities who, despite not having an articulate language and having motor problems, do have a comprehensive language, because they can understand, they can express themselves with gestures. The Tablet allows them to express their thoughts or what they understand and they can execute it on the Tablet. There is the software where the teacher asks them “What day is today?”, “How do you feel?”, “What do you want to eat?” or “What do you like?”, the child already knows the icon because he already recognizes it and presses it, to express “I want this” or “I feel like this”. This allows us to give the person an opportunity without conditioning them because of a disability, because everyone needs an opportunity and they have hidden abilities, and with these technological aids they can develop communication, which is very important for every human being. Then they express their emotions or their interests through the Tablet and this software. Previously, the specialists have had to adapt and condition tools that are in the digital world, but they have adapted the tools for them.

And what does the project “I play and learn in the digital world” consist of?

 

“I play and learn in the digital world” allows us to complement the learning activities in the areas of communication and mathematics in the curricular part, such as quantities, temporal notions, figures. In communication, we work with short stories, sequences of activities, everything that the national curriculum and the teachers have proposed for each learning session. The teachers of this project have applied the tools that are in the Internet system and adapt it for the students. First they use it, each one has her Tablet and they select everything they are going to use, adapt it and then use it with the children.

 

What has been the reaction of students and parents after trying these technological tools?

 

Our students have felt excited, because hearing a voice, seeing figures and colors, interacting and having a response of satisfaction, like a voice saying “You did it” and seeing little balloons or fireworks on the screen, has caught their attention, that is, it is a satisfaction, because you can see it in the children’s gestures. It has also motivated parents to use these programs in a didactic way, moving towards a learning purpose. And the teachers see the results, there is more attention, the children go happily to the classroom and wait their turn.

 

This year the children returned to the classroom after two years of the pandemic. What has been the main challenge for the students in returning to on-site classes?

 

The main challenge for the students has been to be able to have the tolerance to stay in one place again. We have to condition those social skills, the tolerance. And the other challenge is that since they have been taking virtual education, they have already made progress in interacting with the computer or the Tablet. And that is also the new challenge of using technological tools, such as the Tablet, the computer or the interactive whiteboard, because we have turned around the use of technology due to the pandemic and we cannot leave them behind. That is the challenge for parents and also for students.

What would you say has been the main achievement of this school year?

 

With the virtual classes the children were at home and did not need to use the masks. So the main achievement was to see that they did maintain their tolerance to use the mask and all the biosafety implements. We used to say, “And how will our children, who are now going to return to face-to-face classes and have no tolerance, fare?”. But they have given us an example that it is possible to change and they can adapt. And that has allowed them to protect themselves. Secondly, they have learned to use other spaces, enter the games again, enter the environments with the therapists again and continue with all the other complementary aspects, not only in the pedagogical aspect, but also in the integral development aspect: physical, psychomotor, cognitive. There has been no rejection or major difficulties with the children. We still keep some of them wearing masks for safety when they have respiratory problems, but we are almost back to normal.

 

What attitudes does society need to change in order to better integrate children and adolescents with severe and multiple disabilities?

 

We still have attitudinal barriers and architectural barriers as well. When our children move from one place to another, some people do not respect that they have a place for them to sit or for moms to be with their children. These are barriers that we still maintain in our society. There is also a lack of opportunities from the authorities. For example, our children need adequate materials and furniture. The authorities do not know that our children have potential and that, by giving them the opportunity, they can develop to be properly integrated into this society, included as human beings who also have the same rights as all of us to move around and to be able to use tools. We from Special Basic Education are adapting the materials or looking for allies to be able to give good attention to our students. Because of these attitudinal barriers, sometimes people do not know that our children have that potential and can learn much better using the right materials.

 

Interview by Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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