Assistive technologies and teacher training in mainstream schools

Organization
Open The Windows
Country of Implementation
North Macedonia
Region
Europe
Subregion
Central and Eastern Europe
First published
31.01.2016

The "Active Inclusion" project introduces assistive technologies and learning possibilities into primary schools and carries out networking and lobbying activities. Also the programme offers trainings for teachers from participating schools as well as educational software programmes for children with disabilities.

Solution details

People

Vladimir LAZOVSKI
“Using technical tools and educational software, developed together with people with disabilities, we support active inclusion in schools on a daily basis.” Mr. Vladimir Lazovski, Director, Open the Windows

Problems Targeted

In Serbia and Macedonia children with disabilities are often excluded from the mainstream education system, and there is a general lack of awareness about assistive technologies among schools, teachers, parents, and pupils. Even though the Macedonian government introduced the use of computers in schools, it did not provide them with assistive tools and fully accessible software and did not offer teacher training on fully including children with disabilities in classroom lessons.

Solution, Innovation and Impact

The assistive technology is adapted according to the particular needs of each child. For example, one 10- year-old boy who attends an inclusive class in Serbia received a notebook, a wireless mouse, a mini keyboard with protector, a five-button adapter, and alternative assistive communication software. Teachers from participating schools were invited to attend training sessions that were led by special educators. The project team also promotes networking activities and know-how transfer through exchange visits between educational institutes in the participating countries as well as through groups on social media, with e-mail dispatch, and through partnerships – for example, with the University of St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, the University of Novi Sad, the University of Athens, and LIFEtool Austria – to ensure that the latest and most cost-effective technology is available to clients who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Two educational software solutions have been developed to teach basic reading, writing, and math skills, and these are currently available in Macedonian and Albanian. The project has several funders, including USAID, Brot für die Welt, Diakonie (Austria), and the ERSTE Foundation, and services are free for all participants.

Funding, Outlook and Transferability

The project partners seek to introduce assistive technology in the province of Vojvodina, following the successful piloting in its capitol, Novi Sad. Efforts will be made to increase the involvement of educational authorities, as well as to further support the exchange of experiences between relevant stakeholders from Macedonia and Serbia. In 2016, the project team also wants to translate the developed educational software into Serbian. There is also a potential to implement similar projects in the West Balkan countries using existing linguistic and cultural similarities. From 2016 to 2018, the two organizations offering the project will be participants in another initiative to facilitate knowledge transfer between the West Balkan and the Eastern European partner organizations concerning education and Roma. Through bilateral field visits and a multilateral regional meeting, examples of best practices on facilitating Inclusive Education will be identified and exchanged. The aim is to encourage the partners to examine different approaches to include Roma and other marginalized groups in the mainstream state education system and to integrate the best ideas into their own programmes

Media

Life Story

THE STORY OF ANDJELIKA

“After two years, Andjelika follows the same curriculum as the other children.”

Andjelika is 10 years old and is in the third grade. She was born with hypertonia, diabetes, and autism. She has no form of oral language, although she can express herself well with sounds and body language and gestures. She has a personal assistant, which her parents pay for. She has been receiving support from Open the Windows for five years, including a big button keyboard and a standard notebook that has been adapted by Open the Windows with various accessibility options. She is extremely computer literate and advanced in her use of IT, her notebook, and her smart phone. Andjelika’s sugar levels influence her mood and attention span. She is also noise sensitive (switching on a digital camera can upset her), so her school has arranged for a room in which she can retreat, if need be. She worked with a special teaching plan for the first two years of primary school; but as her teachers and other educators are pleased with her progress, this year Andjelika is following the same curriculum as all the other children in her class. The combination of illnesses means that she cannot hold a pen due to muscle weakness and she has fine motoric issues. Exercises to build muscle strength include kneading plasticine, but it is a slow process as Andjelika has issues with certain sounds and sensations and at first refused to touch the plasticine due to its texture. Andjelika attends Dimitar PopGeorgiev Berovski Primary School in the municipality of Gjorče Petrov, which caters to 500 children in two shifts. Ten children with disabilities attend the school, all of whom have received Open the Windows support in the form of coaching or assistive technology. The school has its own psychologist plus a special educator (formerly, Lydia – president and cofounder of Open the Windows) who is responsible for all primary schools in the municipality (in this case there are six). The special educator is responsible for approximately 70 pupils in the whole municipality, of whom approximately 30 have intellectual disabilities and thus have higher need requirements than children with physical disabilities.

Related information

Connections
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Solutions with the same:

Country of Implementation

North Macedonia

Region of Implementation

Europe