It’s circle time in Colleen Blackman’s class.
Her students gather around the screen to watch videos. But these are no ordinary videos. Blackman and her staff are using an online learning platform called “VizZle.” These videos teach important life skills to her class of elementary school-aged children with autism at The Vista School.
A catchy song focuses everyone’s attention on the screen. Then an exercise pops up. Blackman calls up a student to find her own picture. Someone else puts the days of the week in order. “How are you feeling?” Blackman asks one of the boys. He walks up to the screen and points to the happy face.
“Kids are so in tune with technology,” said Blackman. “They’re so used to playing games on the iPad. They don’t realize: Oh, this is a lesson.”
Thanks to a generous grant from Andrew’s Gift, teachers across Vista’s Springboard campus are beginning to use VizZle technology for individual and group learning. The technology syncs with Vista’s curriculum and works in tandem with the All-in-One devices recently purchased with generous support from The Vista School PTO and with interactive whiteboard technology funded by the Andrew’s Gift grant.
Teachers can either access lessons in the extensive VizZle library or create their own customized lessons to meet the skill levels of individual students. For example, if a student doesn’t know their numbers, he or she can find and match numbers on the screen.
Whatever the student finds reinforcing can be embedded, too. Maybe it’s clapping hands or it could be a YouTube football video. “Before, we had to embed so much additional reinforcement to get our kids to participate,” Blackman said.
At home, parents can download the VizZle Player app and work with their students on the same customized skills they are learning in school. One of the first VizZle lessons that Blackman and her staff created for each student was an “All About Me” book. The books include pictures of family members and are designed to be fun while teaching vital information, such as the student’s home address.
“This [VizZle] is the first thing that doesn’t need explanation,” Blackman said. Her message to parents is “just enjoy being with your child and working on skills. See how awesome they are.”
Families are taking Blackman’s message to heart. “Our family is using the VizZle app as educational fun, while mirroring our children’s school lessons,” said Nicole Miller, the parent of two children at The Vista School. “VizZle has taught us that our oldest son has receptive abilities we were unaware of. It’s an exciting experience learning more about our sons’ capabilities while they are having fun.”
Jamie Stauffer, another parent, said the ability to participate in his son’s development and education at home, and have it align with what is happening at school, is “immeasurable.”
“VizZle allows us to be a part of something so much bigger than the lesson plans,” he said. “It allows us another avenue to engage and connect with him!”