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Visually impaired kids can learn astronomy

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:53 -- nikita.jain

-It has been noted that visually impaired students fail to understand geography chapters based on astronomy in schools.So Dr Kalpana Kharade, associate professor and Hema Peese, assistant professor of KJ Somaiya Comprehensive College of Education Training and Research (KJSCCETR) researched on teaching astronomy to these kids with the help of Technology Based Inquiry Learning. Soon they would conduct workshops in schools for visually impaired students.

The cost of research was Rs5 lakh and was funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research. During the research, the professors discovered that children in class VI, are unaware of basic facts. They are fed on bookish knowledge instead of anybody explaining it to them.

Astronomy has remained inaccessible for these learners due to its abstract nature and focus on visual representations.

During their research, they carried a six week programme with class VI students. The programme included topics such as 'solar system and the galaxy', 'motion of earth and its types', 'occurrence of day and night' and 'reasons for the seasons'. The results showed that there was a significant improvement in the understanding level of the students.

Kalpana said, "In the research, we found out that special schools are using text books made available in Braille. However, these books lack in appropriate graphical

presentations and the content and vocabulary used is not helpful for visually impaired students. To solve this problem, we carried a thorough content research on the subject; identified the complex areas and provided textual supports by creating new learning material. We used the latest technology to introduce the graphics in tactile form. Teachers training colleges should train regular, B.Ed and D.Ed students, in such methodology, so that they can cater to the needs of differently abled students in regular classrooms."

Peese, said, "The astronomy content has a lot of visual elements, presented with language meant for sighted people. Similarly, the description of many phenomena like equinox positions and solstice positions, etc, was also difficult to und
erstand for these students."

The professors also made these resources available in Braille with tactile diagrams and in DAISY (digitally accessible information system). They developed a short movie on solar system with audio description.

The children found these learning experiences fun and exciting.


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