Now That’s Educational Technology
T here isn’t a moment in the day that Sofie Christie, 11, isn’t surrounded by technology. The
fifth grader from Eugene, Oregon,
wakes to a vibrating alarm clock
under her pillow and then loops a
processor, which attaches to a cochlear implant, around her left ear. In
her right ear, she wears a hearing aid.
When she gets to school, she unplugs
a microphone from its charger, turns
it on, and gives it to her teacher. Small
receivers, or “boots,” attached to her
implant and hearing aids pick up her
teacher’s voice, transmitted via FM
Sofie was diagnosed as hard of hearing at 17 months and began wearing
hearing aids around that time. When
she was 7, she got the cochlear implant.
“While most kids today are plugged
into iPods and cell phones, Sofie actually has a computer embedded in a
hollowed-out section of her skull, receiving messages through an implanted magnet from another computer
hanging on her ear,” says her mom,
Unlike a hearing aid, which ampli-fies sound, a cochlear implant improves the quality of sound. Together
they allow Sofie to listen and understand speech, although she knows
how to read lips and has been using
sign language since she was 2.
“I do like speech the most,” Sofie
says during an interview using a captioned telephone.
Donnelly credits the FM device
for allowing Sofie to hear speech in a
mainstream classroom at Bertha Holt
Elementary School, where she is at the
top of her class.
“With no FM and no visible cues,
she is only able to hear about 20 per-
cent of the words the teacher says,”
Donnelly explains. “With the FM,
speech discrimination test results
jump to 96%.”
Those numbers illustrate why Don-
nelly, a self-described evangelist for
educational audiology, pushed so hard
to get a specialist into Sofie’s class-
room who was qualified to select, fit,
and monitor FM systems and train
“All of this technology gets a bit
complicated, and many things can and
do go wrong,” Donnelly says. “Bat-
teries run out, signals get crossed,
equipment breaks, and teachers forget
to turn the FM off on trips to the loo.
This was the first year Sofie was able
to start the school year with a working
Another piece of the communication
puzzle is getting teachers and class-
mates to understand how to help Sofie.
So she and her teacher of the deaf,
Heidi Corce, turned to another type of
technology to make that happen.
Beginning with this issue, L&L will profile students who use technology in an authentic way. The Student Profile will alternate with the Member Profile.