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Teaching Guide
Understanding Braille
Increasing Brainpower
Nerve Cell Infomercials
Hand Reading Braille
Most of us are aware that different regions of the brain process different types of information. However, when problems interfere with acquiring information, the brain assumes a more flexible organization. Regions of the brain traditionally responsible for certain functions can process messages that would have ordinarily been sent elsewhere. This remapping of function results in more effective utilization of the network and structure of this incredible organ. In “The Sight of Touch,” you observed a unique experiment in which a subject was blindfolded for several days. As she learned the basics of Braille language, her brain shifted the natural processing center for this information. Instead of processing the touch sensation in the touch region of the brain, her brain began using the visual region. This demonstrated a remapping of brain function to best exploit underused regions of the brain.


 


OBJECTIVE
In this activity you will learn more about Braille and its structure, and then design an experiment to test memory and touch sensitivity in yourself and your classmates.
This activity page will offer:

  • An introduction to the layout of the Braille cell
  • Hands-on/minds-on experience in communicating with Braille
  • A window into the communication system of the blind
  • The opportunity to develop a method of inquiry that will compare/contrast raised dots with raised characters
  • An arena in which to apply higher thinking skills in the creation of unique systems of tactile communication

BRAILLE BACKGROUND
Braille is a communication system based upon a pattern of raised dots. The six dot positions are arranged within a rectangular cell. Each cell is formed by two side-by-side rows, each containing three dots. Letters, numbers, sounds, common words, and other concepts are represented by the pattern of dots present in each cell. This chart illustrates the letters of the Braille alphabet.

Diagram of Braille Alphabet

MATERIALS

  • Ball point pen (with flexible plastic shell)
  • Scrap paper

Part 1- Dot Raising


PROCEDURE

  1. Examine the Braille chart shown here. Notice how all patterns arise from a cell that is 3 dots tall and 2 dots wide.
  2. Make a stack of several sheets of scrap paper. On the Making braille with the Dot-Making Techniquetop-most sheet, use your pen to press down a cell with 6 dots. The entire cell should be about the size of small, pinky fingernail. NOTE: When forming the cell, press down firmly, but not hard enough to damage or break the pen. The pen should be held straight up and down so that it imprints a perfect circle at the point of paper contact.
  3. Turn the top sheet of paper over and feel the raised dots. Can you count all six? Are some fingertips more dot sensitive than others are?
  4. Using this dot-raising technique, write your name in Braille. Once your name is completed, exchange this Braille sample with a partner. Describe the ease or difficulty in decoding these words.
  5. On a separate sheet of paper, write a one-sentence message in Braille. Add your Braille initials to the paper. The instructor will collect these messages and distribute them to the class.
  6. Decode the sentence you are given. Once you have read the message, identify the sender's initials.

TEACHER NOTE: Students MUST use a stack of paper when pressing down to produce dot imprints. Without the stack, both the table surface and pen may easily be damaged. Also, remind students not to press down too hard with the pen. Excessive force can damage the ball of the pen tip. To prevent cracked pens, use pens that have a flexible plastic shell.

INQUIRING ABOUT DOTS
Let's find out why Braille uses a dot system instead of actual raised letters.Using the paper-raising technique you learned in Part 1, design a method of inquiry that uses the scientific method to compare the effectiveness of reading dot cells against reading raised alphabet characters.

  1. Develop your inquiry strategy. What materials will you need? What techniques are necessary?
  2. Which letters or letter will make the best test subject? Why? Will the size of the raised letter make a difference? Explain.
  3. Should the test subjects be allowed to see the raised letters? Explain.
  4. Once your method of inquiry has been selected, pick a partner. Use your own inquiry strategy to test your partner's ability to identify cells and letters.
  5. Now switch roles and become the subject of your partner's inquiry.

EXTENSIONS

  1. Can you create a communication system using a raised dot pattern? Take a look below at the information needed to be communicated. Think about the arrangement and exact concepts that need to be conveyed. Then, create a dot communication system using your unique cell layout design.
    • Digits 1 through 5
    • Digits 1 through 50
    • Hours on a 12-hour clock
    • Hours on a 24-hour clock Hours and 15-minute intervals on a 12-hour clock
  2. Are some fingertips more sensitive than others are? Is there a difference between your dominant vs. your non-dominant hand? Design a method of inquiry that would uncover if any of your fingertips were better adapted to read Braille.
  3. Can you locate places in your world where Braille is used as an ancillary communication system to printed language? What type of information is printed in Braille? Where is it found? Should all printed signs be in Braille?

WEB LINKS

ANSWERS

"Understanding Braille" and "Increasing Brainpower" were contributed by Michael Dispezio, a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound" (Sterling Publishing Co., NY).

Academic Advisors for this guide
Neil Glickstein, Science Departmant, Waring School, Glouchester, MA
Corrine Lowen, Science Department, Wayland Public Schools, Wayland, MA
Suzanne Panico, Science Department, Fenway High School, Boston, MA

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