IT, Disability and Lifelong Learning
2 February 1996
This Conference, attended by around 170 delegates, was organised by the
National Council for Educational Technology (NCET). It gave professionals
from a range of disciplines, including teachers, lecturers and support staff,
the change to see how IT was being used to overcome a wide range of disabilities
and provide better learning opportunities.
Several presenters focused on the benefits multimedia has to offer to both
physically and learning disabled students.
David Brown of Nottingham University and David Stewart of the Shepherd School
looked at the benefits of using virtual reality. They have created several
virtual worlds, in which the students can move around and perform everyday
tasks, such as shopping or making a cup of coffee. This allows them to practice
everyday tasks safely. Although they are initially guided, the students
soon become totally self-directed. It has been found that by practising
tasks in the virtual worlds, the students do cope better with real tasks
in the real world.
These virtual worlds run on IBM compatible 486 PCs, can now be accessed
using touch screens. A decision was taken at the start of the project not
to use head mounted displays to deliver immersive virtual reality as it
was felt the health and safety aspects, particularly psychological aspects,
of such sets are not yet well understood.
Multimedia learning materials are potentially very valuable to the disabled,
as multimedia can make a wide range of information more accessible, because
of the different ways in which the information can be accessed and because
different media can be used to reinforce meanings. A large range of multimedia
courseware is now available, though as was pointed out in the Higgenson
Report the quality is variable. Allowing students to generate their own
multimedia can also be beneficial, encouraging a wide range of skills, from
practical skills to collaborative working skills. Angela Lee and Steven
Logan of the Lumley Learning Centre, New College, Durham explained how their
students were using a simple multimedia authoring tool, MMBox2, to produce
their own multimedia applications.
As well as the main Conference, there was also an Exhibition and a 'classroom',
where delegates had the opportunity to see how IT was really being used
by pupils from several schools. These included the Sythwood County Primary
School Visual Impairment Unit, where text to speech convertors is being
used along with braille input keyboards to allow visually impaired children
to work alongside their sighted peers.
The NCET WWW pages can be accessed at: http://ncet.csv.warwick.ac.uk/
SIMA Multimedia Support Officer
Computer Graphics Unit
University of Manchester
Manchester M13 9PL
Tel: +44 161 275 6803
Fax: +44 161 275 6040