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Volume 3 Number 10

"Everybody loves hummingbirds, and they are wonderful tools to excite students about learning."

That quote from a classroom teacher is the basic premise of Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project...

Meet our Antarctic Guide - A conversation with
USCG LT Marshall Branch
by Kathleen Carpenter, Editor in Chief
The Responsive Classroom: A Practical Approach for Teaching Children to Care by Dr. Belinda Gimbert
Attitudes Toward Numbers Through History by Daniel Chang
Classroom Photos by Members of the Teachers.Net Community
How Many Environments Does a Child Have? by Judith Rich Harris
The Hurried Child, Book Review by Sonja Marcuson
There IS a Printer and a Xerox Machine in Your Classroom That You Can't See! by Dr. Rob Reilly
What's Your Name? by Joy Jones
The funny thing about control: Or to gain control you have to give up control by Karin Ford
Through the eyes of a child - Reflections on teacher and student motivation by Sheree Rensel
Non-Conventional Techniques in Teaching Science by P R Guruprasad
Word Wall Tips from the 4 Blocks Mailring
Teaching Gayle To Read (Part 8) by Grace Vyduna-Haskins
Operation RubyThroat by Bill Hilton Jr.
Dear Old Golden Rule Days, Chapter 4 - Creative Writing by Janet Farquhar
Simple Science Center Ideas from the Early Childhood Mailring
The Freedom Box, Technology for the Blind and Visually Impaired by Dave Melanson
Librarians, Deaf Students and Hearing Students by Linsey Taylor
Pumpkin Math and Writing Activities by Michele Nash
Take Home Literature Activity Bags by Paulie
Favorite October Activities for the Classroom from Teachers.Net Mailrings
Fun Facts
October Columns
October Regular Features
October Informational Items
Gazette Home Delivery:

About Dave Melanson...
Dave Melanson is located in Montreal Canada. He has five years experience presenting seminars and sensitization training to elementary schoolteachers on mainstreaming and integrating visually impaired and blind children into the regular classroom. During the past 2 years he has begun to branch outside of the Montreal area and is now covering other Canadian Provinces as well as the U.S. When giving seminars Dave brings with him a briefcase of 10 pairs of simulator glasses, each allowing the wearer to experience a different type of visual impairment.

Dave will provide a tape of a previous seminar to any school district interested in booking a presentation in order to demonstrate the topics he covers with regard to integration and mainstreaming a sight impaired or blind child.

You may contact Dave for more information by e-mail at or by telephone: 514 7683264. Dave can also be found in the Teachers.Net chatroom many evenings during the week, logged on as Dave/Montreal.

Teacher Feature...

The Freedom Box, Technology for the Blind and Visually Impaired

by Dave Melanson

There is now a new and wonderful device on the market for computer users who have low vision or no vision at all. It is called the "Freedom Box," invented by a gentleman named Mike Calvo. Mike himself is blind and has a very positive outlook on how to make life easier for people who are sight impaired or blind. I had the honour of meeting Mr. Calvo at a demonstration of the Freedom Box at the Montreal Association for the Blind earlier this year.

The device is known as the "Freedom Box" because it allows the blind or sight impaired computer user to have the freedom to reap the full benefits of the internet. The device hooks up to any standard pc or laptop and comes with a microphone into which the computer user speaks commands.

The Freedom Box is programmed to accept very simple commands including one word responses. When the user logs onto the Internet he receives a warm greeting from the Freedom Box and it immediately asks, "What would you like to do now?" The user can answer in a simple response such as "Shop." The Freedom Box will then ask "What category?" The user can then respond with a category such as "Music," and the computer then connects to a section on the internet where there is a variety of music stores selling cd's, for example.

After listing the choices of stores available in this category, it will ask, "What would you like to do now?" The computer user could then say, "Locate Glen Campbell's 'Lineman for the County'" and the computer would list all of the places where this song is available and where one could order it. After that it would offer the opportunity to order online.

After the user has made his purchase, the voice will again ask, "What would you like to do now?" Perhaps the user would like to listen to the radio online. So, he would speak into the microphone again and say "radio," prompting the computer to find the radio category and list the choices of radio stations available in that category. The voice would then ask, "What would you like to do now?" The user might respond, "Country music," bringing up a list of all of the country music radio stations available for the user to choose from. With the one word commands, "Quiet," the Freedom Box voice will stop talking.

Mr. Calvo explained that the Freedom Box is designed to assist the "average computer user," it is not necessary for them to have extensive knowledge of how the computer operates or be technically inclined. The purpose is to serve the individual who wishes to surf the internet in a comfortable easy manner without having to worry about typing in every request.

He described it as a freedom for the visually impaired and blind, allowing them to do all of the leisurely things they may have had difficulty doing in the past. For example, if a blind or person with extremely low vision wanted to go shopping prior to the invention of this device, they had to go to a store and often seek assistance from others to find the items they wanted, thus relying on others and making them feel less independent. With the Freedom Box it is even possible to grocery shop online, ordering items to be delivered to the home. One can also do banking this way, and much more.

The Freedom Box has opened a new door for the blind and visually impaired, offering a new found freedom and a new kind of life.

I am proud of Mr. Calvo who is not only the inventor of the Freedom Box but also the CEO of Serotek Corporation, the company that manufactures this device. Listening to Mr. Calvo speak at this meeting was both an honour and a pleasure. He talked about how, if one believes in oneself and goes for his or her dreams, and places the highest goals in front of them, anything is possible.

After the meeting I had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Calvo and told him of the work I am doing with the teaching community, how I had a goal and a dream and I am making this happen. We talked about how important it is for other visually impaired and blind persons to be encouraged to think positive and to encourage others who are in the same situation as we are to strive for the best they can be.

I believe that this all depends on the attitude and overall outlook of the individual. If one is negative and feels "trapped" in a situation that they can never change, then that is the way it will always be for them. However, if they possess a positive outlook and have a set of goals for where they wish to be 5 years from now, see themselves striving to achieve those goals, then chances are they will overcome the many barriers they see in front of them and the impossible then becomes possible.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about the Freedom Box: Serotek can be reached by telephone at (952)831-3030 or by fax at (952)832-9138 or through their web site at: you can also email Mr. Calvo personally at

I would like to invite any teachers who have had a sight impaired or blind child mainstreamed in their classroom to please email me at if you would like to be interviewed for my second book. The interviews can be done by email. I am also trying to connect with teachers here in the Montreal area who have taught sight impaired and blind children. So, if you are a teacher in the Montreal area who reads this, please email me.

David Melanson, frequent contributor to the Teachers.Net Gazette, has self-published Integration: A Rewarding Experience, a manual for educators on the topic of working with sight-impaired students. As a sight-impaired person whose parents persisted in having their son placed in "regular" (public school) classrooms, David's experiences, perspective, and advice are particularly interesting and helpful. The manual is interesting and worthy of reading even if one does not currently have a sight-impaired student in class.

The cost in the U.S. is $10 plus $2 .45 for postage. In Canada: $15 Canadian plus $1 .45 postage. Money orders are preferred. To order the manual, contact Mr. Melanson by e-mail: Should you have difficulty reaching Dave directly, contact Kathleen Carpenter with "Melanson Manual" in the subject line.

To access monthly chats on the topic of working with sight-impaired students, moderated by David Melanson, visit the Teachers.Net Archives.

  • Special Needs June 27, 2002
  • Sight Impaired and Other Special Needs May 15, 2002
  • Working With Sight Impaired Students, April 24, 2002
  • Sight Impaired Students , January 17, 2002
  • Sight Impaired Students, December 12, 2001
  • Working With the Sight Impaired Students, October 23, 2001
  • Working With the Sight Impaired Students, August 6, 2001
  • Working With the Sight Impaired Students, July 19, 2001
  • Working With the Sight Impaired Students, May 7, 2001
  • Working With the Sight Impaired Students, February 15, 2001
  • Sight Impaired Students, January 17, 2001
  • Working With the Sight Impaired Students, December 6, 2000
  • Working With the Sight Impaired Students, Sept. 21, 2000
  • Accommodating the Visually Impaired Child, May 2, 2000
  • Integration Of Visually Impaired And Blind Students Into The Regular Schools, December 8, 1999

  • I have developed several audio tapes from previous seminars I have given on the topic of mainstreaming and integrating sight impaired children. I am willing to sell these tapes for $10 U.S. each. If there is any school district that is interested in purchasing a tape, please contact me:

    Postal Address:

      Dave Melanson
      702 Riverview Ave
      Verdun Quebec Canada H4H 2C1