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Back in the dark days of winter JISC TechDis proposed to ICCHP (The International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs: www.icchp.org) that we chair a Special Thematic Session at their forthcoming July 2012 conference in Linz, Austria. Linz is a charming city on the Danube, associated with philosopher Wittgenstein, musician/composer Bruckner and mathematician Johannes ‘Third Law of Planetary Motion’ Kepler (less well publicised is the fact that it is also where Hitler and Eichmann were schooled!).
We have a long history with the wonderful people at ICCHP, Alistair having been involved in the ICC summer camps for blind students (http://blog.jisctechdis.ac.uk/?p=321), and myself presenting at four of the last five conferences, delivering papers on topics as diverse as “Virtual disability simulations as an aid to learning” and “Round Peg, Square Hole: Supporting via the Web Staff and Learners who do not fit into traditional learner-teacher-institution scenarios”. The conference is always a hugely enjoyable and educational experience, and it has been a huge source of both inspiration and contacts who have gone on to become great partners and wonderful friends. Read my blog post about the last conference at http://blog.jisctechdis.ac.uk/?p=241 and http://blog.jisctechdis.ac.uk/?p=251
This time around we decided to ramp up our level of participation and proposed, as mentioned above, a Special Thematic Session (STS) at the conference, entitled “Putting the disabled student in charge: user focused technology in education” (http://www.icchp.org/node/365). Essentially this means we would chair a quarter- or half-day of papers around our theme, subject to there being sufficient papers accepted that fit our theme. We weren’t sure how many people submitting to the conference would be interested in inclusive use of technology in education (the conference has not in the past had an explicit education theme, although it has always been a recurring element, and last time there was a Universal Learning Design STS for the first time). Papers were submitted under this theme by many esteemed colleagues around the world, and excitingly also by people we have not yet met, from as far afield as the US and Japan and as close to home as Coventry and Southampton. We have just learned that the peer-review process has approved sufficient papers for our STS to go ahead – not only that but there were so many excellent papers on the education theme a whole new track on Universal Learning Design has had to be created to accommodate them all!
So we are delighted our STS will go ahead, thrilled that three of the four papers we were involved in writing have been accepted, and looking forward to a fantastic summer of activity! My colleague Lisa Featherstone will soon be taking over the STS Chair’s duties from me as it will be Lisa who attends the conference and oversees the STS. After four visits I thought it was time I shared the fantastic experience around the team, much as I would have loved to attend as it is always one of my favourite conferences. Judging by the quality of papers that were submitted to our STS it looks like being one of the highlights of this year’s conference – I certainly hope so for all concerned. I suspect most people’s principal highlight, however, will be the keynote and musical demonstration by the exceptional Dame Evelyn Glennie, entitled “Listening with your whole body”.
As usual all of the conference papers will be published in Springer’s Lecture Notes in Computer Science later in the year. http://www.springer.com/computer/hci/book/978-3-642-14096-9
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