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Tactile Images for Inclusive Teaching in Nature and Science - in 't Veld, Dorine

Dorine in ‘t Veld
Dedicon, The Netherlands


Dedicon is the Dutch ‘Reading for all’ Library. The educational department provides accessible school- and studybooks for print impaired people. A major issue is how to make the many images in these books accessible. In this presentation I will show the results of a pilot with lessons in geography and world orientation in primary education. Two thesis students from the Utrecht University, Science of Education, work as an intern in this project.

The pilots were in primary education concerning ‘nature and science’ and geography. The question was what tactile images should be produced and/or described in order to enable inclusive teaching, that is (in this case): allowing a blind student to fully participate. The adaption of the images shall:

  1. Allow the student to fully understand a subject
  2. Help the teacher to provide a proper explanation, taking into account that there may be gaps in the knowledge of the student
  3. Allow cooperation with (partially) sighted students

The teachers were asked to select images from the book they thought they would need and they were invited to ask for additional or alternative images if they would think that necessary or better. They were asked to motivate their choices and to indicate the purpose of each image. The purpose might lay in explaining (or testing the knowledge of) the main subject (e.g. electricity, the working of the senses and so on) or in explaining a particular object or concept further that might not be known or clear to a blind student (e.g. a belly speaking doll that was given as an example for how the senses may be tricked).

In the first round the teachers did not ask for alternative tactile pictures; they only selected images from the book. They motivated their choices with quotes from the text in the book; the image would serve to make that fragment clear. Sometimes they added sketches and/or Braille labels they wanted to have added in the tactile images.

The images were used in ordinary lessons (that otherwise would have taken place without images). From observation it was immediately clear how inclusion improved since the blind students now could more actively participate. The hypothesis from the first tests is that having a tactile image – or a model – enhances the inclusion of the blind student and the pleasure in learning as we observed from the response and mimic of the students. The multimodal experience probably also enhances the quality of learning. This is subject for further study.

For the teacher it seemed that the extra effort including the blind student paid back. However in the first round we observed that the teacher had to do quite some extra effort in the plenary lessons, since the students worked with different materials. Moreover the images were not always sufficient for the blind student since the (partially) sighted students worked with a lot more images and the teachers had not indicated that the subjects and terms explained there had to be incorporated in the image(s) that were produced for the blind student.

In the second round teachers will be asked to rethink the lesson; what are the learning purposes of the class and what needs to be explained in images? We then will provide a set of images that can be used for the whole class. The (partially sighted) students can find and study the corresponding images in the text. The images will be designed for use by blind, partially sighted and color blind students and students with dyslexia or other reading and/or concentration problems. Working with tactile images forces to make clear choices, sometimes to simplify and (re)structure. It also forces to be exact.

We expect that all the children in the class will benefit from the well structured explanation.

At the ULD conference we will present our findings. They will give food for thought and further research and development of both an Evidence Based and cost effective way to produce tactile images and descriptions for nature and science (like disciplines).

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