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Embracing Teleservice

Things have changed overnight for schools, educators and families. Remote learning is taking place in many states, with varying degrees of preparedness, from elementary schools through college.
Teleservice, or the application of telecommunications technology to deliver professional services at a distance, is not new for many itinerant educators and in this uncertain time, it’s essential. With teleservice, we can maintain quality service delivery to our students who are deaf or hard of hearing; connect with families and school staff; and interface with our colleagues.
Today, I made some hot coffee and sat on my couch with my computer, ready to contact students and consult teachers right from the comfort of my living room.
            Usually one to see possibilities and solutions, when initially presented with the opportunity to work with students through teleservice, all I saw were problems and reasons why it wouldn’t work. How can I build authentic connections with students virtually? And before we transitioned to all distance learning during this public health emergency, I wondered: how could I possibly offer modifications for instruction when I’m not in the classroom? How would I ever get a genuine sense of the students’ academic skills and social relationships with peers if I couldn’t observe those moments? What kind of accountability would there be when I wasn’t able to pop into classes and see how my student was carrying over skills? And, I hate computers. Why on earth would I want to spend my day sitting at a computer when I chose this career in part because of the social interactions, constant change in scenery and schedule flexibility?
            Much to my surprise, I’ve quickly come to embrace this new model of itinerant services. I’ve found that all of my initial concerns have been quite easy to address. As with any new challenge, I researched what had been done in terms of teleservice with other organizations. I spoke with a colleague who had used this method. And I decided to simply embrace it. Below are my tips for starting out:

·      Determine your model. A hybrid model includes some in-person visits and some teleservice visits, versus a pure teleservice model where there will be no in-person visits. Distance is often the determining factor, or in this case right now, closed schools.
·      Familiarize yourself with the platform you’re using. It’s important you adhere to any guidelines and regulations put in place to maximize accessibility for the population(s) you serve. I’ve found that most schools use Google, and GoogleMeet is easy to use. Skype, Facetime, Zoom and any other accessible method also work well. Additionally, Google classroom works on X-box and PS4 for students who have gaming consoles but not computers.
·      Connect with your school team (including the student and family)and set clear goals for the sessions. Will you meet with the student or just the team of teachers? Right now, meeting with students in their homes virtually will also require coordinating with parents or caregivers.
·      Send materials in advance. When I meet with students directly, I communicate with my school team leader and the parent or guardian  ahead of time and send any resources that the student will need (such as when we are working on advocacy and completing scales or making goal plans) so that the student can have the materials in front of them as we go over things. If I will need materials that the student has (such as academic resources from class), those can be scanned by the teacher and sent to me through email, or sometimes I can access them directly from the students school account.
·      Create resources for your mainstream educator colleagues working remotely, if possible. Anything that can be done live can also be done virtually. Consider recording an in-service so that staff can watch it on their own with your actual narration. This was a tip from my colleague which is quite simple but also very effective. My presentation can now be used over and over without any extra work on my part and teachers appreciate having the opportunity to go back and review as well as being able to watch it at a time that works for them.
·      Leverage Email. Email becomes even more valuable! I am able to email resources and observation follow up notes, the same way that I do when I physically drive to a school to consult. With teleservice being a new model for most schools and students, my expertise in the technology and accessibility features (e.g. live captioning) as well as what my students need in terms of access (e.g. visual access, direct connection of the HAT system to the computer for auditory access) has made consultation with teachers and school teams just as critical as when I’m visiting schools in person during the year.
I’m still figuring out the nuances of this practice but as more and more students with hearing loss are requiring support services, teleservice may very well be the wave of the future. During the pandemic when most schools have gone online, I’m hopeful that even more resources and strategies will emerge.
Resources:
Live captioning for Google Slides:
Tips for creating a virtual classroom in Zoom:
A list of companies offering free educational subscriptions due to closings:
Accessibility strategies for deaf/ hard of hearing people in remote meetings:

Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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