Anyone living with a disability who can and wants to work must be empowered to do so, and technology may be the solution. That was the message at this year’s Education and Technology Conference hosted by the Léargas-run EPALE Ireland programme and the Rehab Group at Tangent, Trinity’s Idea Workspace, earlier this week (16.10.19).
Managed in Ireland by Léargas, the national agency for Erasmus+ in adult, school and vocational education, EPALE (the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe) seeks to connect those working and volunteering in adult education across Europe. By working in partnership with the Rehab Group, a charity that champions the value of inclusion for people with disabilities, EPALE hope to put educational technology into the hands of both educators and students.
Discussing the importance of sharing learning and best practice in educational technology, Laura Austen-Gray, EPALE Ireland Coordinator at Léargas said “On the EPALE website we explore ways to make education more inclusive. Educational technology enables us to include new groups in education and in deeper ways. Therefore, we are delighted to work with Rehab Group on this conference, to bring new ideas about harnessing technology to educators”.
Reflecting on how technology could impact on learners Mo Flynn, CEO of the Rehab Group, told the event of a National Learning Network student, a woman with mobility and verbal challenges who can independently control her environment using Tobii Eye Gaze, eye-tracking software which enables her to operate a computer using only eye movements.
Flynn said: “For National Learning Network students with disabilities, technology offers an opportunity for them to be active participants in their classrooms and online-based learning activities and to make meaningful progress on their educational journeys. Attitudes now need to spread more readily from education into employment, the next frontier of change, but education is shoring up its transformation.
Technologies in education, when used appropriately, are tools that can promote inclusivity, collaboration and enable all of our student body to reach their educational potential, whilst having fun in the process. We at Rehab Group are exploring these technologies and believe innovation is a key strand of day-to-day work.”
Conference delegates attended workshops on Educational Technologies in the Classroom, Eportfolios in Education and heard from Stephen Howell, Academic Evangelist and Accessibility Lead at Microsoft Ireland, on how accessibility can be improved using Microsoft Translator, a software which instantly turns speech into text, an invaluable resource which enables deaf or hearing impaired learners to follow a lesson via subtitles.
Other speakers at the event included Minister Finian McGrath, Minister for Disabilities; Dr Mark Glynn, Head of the Teaching Enhancement Unit at DCU; and Roisin Doherty, Director of Active Inclusion at SOLAS.