Jen Kilpatrick Headshot
Jen Kilpatrick | Assistant Professor

An Opportunity to Learn Together


COVID-19 impacted PK12 and higher education in ways we never predicted. There have been unexpected challenges, but there have also been countless opportunities for innovation and learning for both faculty and students. I have found that the challenges and solutions are unique to each course, so I have approached the redesign of each course individually. Here I am highlighting two courses: EHD 4245 (Language and Literacy Assessment & Instruction for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students) and EHD 4290 (Differentiating Literacy Instruction for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students). In both courses, my primary focus was on prioritizing accessibility and inclusion and maintaining/building a community of learners. In EHD 4290, I was also focused on finding ways to maintain community-based learning, learning how to provide engaging remote instruction along with my students, and prioritizing self-care. Because several of my students in EHD 4245 were deaf or hard of hearing, I felt that holding class synchronously would not be accessible for all of the students. I chose instead to use app smashing to create accessible video content that included spoken English, American Sign Language, and English captions, along with my slides. However, each week during class time I offered an optional “Coffee with KP” time for students to ask questions, get support, and socialize. EHD 4290 presented a very different challenge because it is typically taught at Central Riverside Elementary where we have a Reading Buddies program. Instead of tutoring our reading buddies at a school this year, we met synchronously on Zoom, and my students tutored their reading buddies virtually.

EHD 4245:  Language and Literacy Assessment & Instruction for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

EHD 4245 is my favorite course to teach.  In this class, the teacher candidates learn how to collect and analyze language samples from deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students.  They are matched with pen pals throughout the semester.  In the first half of the semester, we discuss through-the-air (signed and spoken) language development, assessment, and instruction.  In the second half of the semester, we discuss written language development, assessment, and instruction.  The teacher candidates send videos and writing back and forth with an elementary aged DHH student.  They use the signed and written language samples that they get from their pen pal for all of their assignments.  Throughout the semester, we typically do a lot of group work to help them with their analysis and related assignments.

I was teaching EHD 4245 in Spring 2020 when COVID-19 forced us all to rapidly transition to online learning.  Because 20% of the students enrolled in the course were deaf or hard of hearing, teaching synchronously via Zoom would not be accessible and inclusive for all of my students.  Some students used an ASL interpreter and others relied on speechreading.  At the time Zoom did not allow you to pin more than one screen.  This meant that teaching synchronously was not an option, but not having class sessions would mean that the students wouldn’t be able to get support from their peers or me as they worked on their applied assignments.  The final exam was not a challenge since I typically use CANVAS for my final exam.  However, the course also includes final presentations, so I needed to consider how my students could do their final presentations in a way that would be accessible and inclusive for all.

In Spring 2020, I decided instead to use app-smashing to create accessible video content that included spoken English, American Sign Language, and English captions, along with my slides.  An example of a course content video can be found at this link.  In this video, I used Powerpoint to create my slides.  Then I created a screen recording using Quicktime.  During the screen recording, I narrated the slides with the auto-captioning (a feature in Microsoft 365) on.  Finally, I added an ASL translation using Loom.  In addition to the videos, I offered weekly “Coffee with KP” time in my Zoom room.  During this time more than half of the students typically joined.  I answered their questions and opened break-out rooms for them to work together.  The time was unstructured and included collaborative work, question and answer time regarding course content, and conversations about self-care.  Each week I reached out to students who didn’t attend and reminded them of my office hours  I also allowed students to submit drafts of their assignments early for feedback.  For their final presentations, I required the students to try out app-smashing to create accessible videos of their presentations.  Each week I included a demonstration of apps and discussed the ones I was modeling.  They used a variety of apps including Screencastify, Screencast-o-Matic, Kapwing, Loom, Zoom, iMovie, Quicktime, and more!  Not only did this allow us to watch prerecorded accessible presentations together, but the teacher candidates also got to practice using technology that will help them create accessible content in their future classrooms. 

I have continued to use app-smashing to create some content for this and other courses using a flipped-classroom model. In Spring 2021 we had more options and additional time to plan. A survey of the students in our program revealed that 80% of them wanted their Spring 2021 courses to be face-to-face.  Since our program is small, I chose to teach this course on campus and allow students who needed to attend virtually to join via Zoom.  While this approach met the accessibility and inclusion needs of students, the dual-modality presented additional challenges.  Most notably, group work and applied learning in a course where we communicate in both ASL and spoken English is quite challenging with 2/3 of the class attending in the classroom and 1/3 attending virtually.  It can be difficult to do ASL activities, and they are much more time-consuming.  By continuing to provide content through videos, I am able to use class time for more interactive applications.  All students bring their laptops and headphones so groups can vary each week and not be bound by how individual students attend.  I have continued to host “Coffee with KP” chats, and I will also continue to require that final presentations be recorded ahead of time and made fully accessible.  

Accessible content video for asynchronous learning created with app smashing.
Coffee with KP (Optional synchronous sessions)
Dr. Kilpatrick and face-to-face students during a quiz given on Canvas in a mixed modality course.
A face-to-face student presenting in a mixed modality course.
Virtual students leading an activity in a mixed modality course.
Virtual students leading an activity in a mixed modality course.

EHD 4290: Differentiating Literacy Instruction for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

This course is typically taught at Central Riverside Elementary School.  The deaf education teacher candidates are paired with reading buddies.  Each week, they meet with their buddy to provide tutoring throughout the semester.  The focus of the course is applying all that they have learned in their previous literacy courses and learning how to differentiate their instruction for individual deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students.  They conduct assessments; identify strengths, interests, and opportunities for growth; plan and provide instruction; and monitor student progress.  After tutoring each week, we meet to debrief and have class.  The content is focused on getting to see and use assessment and instruction materials that have been designed specifically for DHH students and reading and discussing research about the most effective current differentiation strategies for DHH students.

Since the entire course is built around providing instruction in an elementary school, I had to come up with a way to do community-based learning without being in the community!  Also, while I was teaching the course face-to-face, some students attended virtually.  This created challenges with providing the virtual students with access to assessment and instruction materials and will including them fully in our class discussions.  Additionally, students were struggling at this point of the pandemic and struggling to balance the challenges of virtual schoolwork, practicums, and jobs.  There was a clear need to focus on self-care so that these seniors wouldn’t be facing burnout in the semester before their final internship. 

We took UNF Deaf Education Reading Buddies virtual!  It was a challenge, but also a joy!  Kids who were tired of virtual work got to meet with their own buddy for individualized instruction for 30 minutes each Monday.  The teacher candidates became adept at providing virtual instruction in an interactive way!  We found experts on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.  And together we learned how to create content that was engaging and fun.  During class, we learned how to use multiple devices, cameras, and microphones…until CIRT blessed us with the beauty of a Zoom board!  It is the greatest invention that allows students who are joining virtually to be truly included in the classroom.  To show materials (that I would normally be able to pass around the room), I used my phone as a document camera while signed into Zoom.  This allowed all of the students to see the curriculum materials regardless of whether they were in the classroom or their bedroom!  Each week, we set aside time to talk about self-care.  I provided my students with a blank Self-Care Bingo card.  And each week, we talked about what they had been able to check off.  One week, we set a goal to self-advocate in some way during the following week and reported back in the following class.  In another class, we shared memes that made us smile.  Another time, we shared our most inspiring quotes.  On my favorite week, each student shared a video that makes them laugh.  (Mine is Kristen Bell and the sloth, in case you’re wondering!) 

We will definitely still be doing virtual buddies in the Fall.  While I miss being in a school, knowing that we can still do community-based learning virtually opens all kinds of doors for the future of our program.  We are no longer bound by geography for programs like this.  If we want to tutor students in other cities or states, we can.  One unexpected benefit of using a virtual model was that I could observe the candidates and provide in-the-moment coaching.  While I always do this, my presence is more obtrusive in a face-to-face setting.  When observing on Zoom, I could pop in without being noticed by the reading buddy and give feedback through the chat.  I’m glad that I found a way to continue the community-based learning emphasis in the course because the teacher candidates conveyed that they were grateful for the opportunity.  One teacher candidate wrote in a lesson reflection, “Teaching puts me in a better mood. It helps distract me from life and whatever is stressing me out.”  At the end of the semester, she wrote, “I really enjoyed working with Rebecca (pseudonym) and I’m kind of sad that it’s over.”

Another candidate wrote, “This week was very bittersweet! I am so going to miss working with my little guy but I am so impressed by his growth over the last two months. Instead of being the shy guy that I first met, he became so silly and excitable.”  One candidate wrote in her course evaluation, “My favorite part of this course was the reading buddies. I enjoyed creating individual lesson plans and teaching literacy aspects to a student online. This gave me a good experience of teaching online which can be useful for future jobs!”  Parents also expressed that the students looked forward to their weekly tutoring, and some asked if it could continue in the Spring.  As far as the technology in the classroom, I’d love to teach in a room with a Zoom screen forever!  I hope that’s a possibility.  (Are CIRT and my College scheduler reading this!?)  For years I have brought in guest speakers and allowed students who are sick or traveling to attend my classes via Skype, Facetime, and Zoom.  Having the Zoom screen provides removes barriers and makes this type of connection more inclusive.  Finally, the pandemic has taught me a lot about self-care and the importance of talking openly with our teacher candidates about this topic.  This is an essential skill for these students who will be in a service profession soon.  Being a teacher of the deaf is difficult and exhausting work.  While it is incredibly rewarding, too many teachers burn out and leave the profession.  I know that I will continue to talk more openly with my students about mental health and prioritizing self-care in the future.

Blank self-care bingo card given to students.
Dr. Kilpatrick teaching in a mixed modality course.
Providing virtual students with access to materials in a mixed modality course.
A teacher candidate tutoring her reading buddy and Dr. Kilpatrick observing tutoring.
A teacher candidate tutoring her reading buddy.
A student tutoring her reading buddy.
A teacher candidate tutoring her reading buddy.
Teacher candidates tutoring their reading buddies and Dr. Kilpatrick observing.
A virtual teacher candidate tutoring her reading buddy.
A virtual teacher candidate tutoring her reading buddy.
Dr. Kilpatrick observing/coaching during Reading Buddies

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