Yesterday, we hosted a one-day seminar for ACTON, the network for Assistive Technology Officers in the Irish HEIs. The group had been quite dormant for over a year and a couple of months ago, our parent group, DAWN (Disability Officers Network), sought to re-energise us and it seems to be working!
We had a guest speaker, Neil Maguire from deafhear.ie, who spoke about some existing and emerging technologies for students with hearing disabilities. I find this area hugely technical and confusing, so it was great to have someone explain things very simply. He also brought a couple of bags of equipment to show us. It’s not at all surprising that many radio aids/listening devices are becoming very aesthetically pleasing and less like clunky ‘medical’-looking things.
My colleagues Orla Hanratty and Claire McAvinia (Teaching & Learning, NUIM) gave a fascinating talk illustrating some theories of teaching. I was insistent on this piece as I feel AT staff often come from quite diverse background and don’t have formal teaching qualifications even though we work so much with students.
My other agenda though is to encourage us to think of our roles in the wider teaching and learning context. There is a huge overlap between assistive technology and educational technology, and couple that with the ever-increasing use of elearning (when can we drop the ‘e’ – it’s all just learning, isn’t it?), AT officers have a potentially great role in both promoting technology in learning as well as ensuring good practice in accessibility are met.
Outside of that, the day was a good opportunity to meet (some for the first time) our counterparts across the country. There have been a lot of new appointments, so it’s important to establish rapport and support with our newbies as well as see if we can pick their fresh brains for ideas!
The next event will be hosted in University of Limerick in November.