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Deaf Multiliteracies: Outcomes from our first ‘collaboratory’ workshop in India

15 January, 2018

We are pleased to share some exciting outcomes from our first Deaf Multiliteracies ‘collaboratory’ workshop, which was held last month at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT University) in Bhubaneswar, India. We would like to thank KIIT and the Odisha Association of the Deaf for organising this event with assistance from the Delhi Foundation of Deaf Women and our Ugandan and Ghanaian project partners, Makerere University, the Uganda National Association of the Deaf, and the University of Ghana.


‘Collaboratory’ is short for ‘collaboration laboratory’, and means a flexible, multiple-stakeholder event aimed at producing creative ideas and solutions through active cooperation. We were delighted that our collaboratory on 19 and 20 December benefited from the enthusiastic participation of our research assistants and peer tutors, as well as deaf community organisations, local schools, our advisory group, academics, and deaf learners. They explored ways to support teaching and learning that uses Indian Sign Language (ISL) alongside reading and writing, in concert with our project’s aim of testing innovative models of education.


Specifically, the collaboratory focussed on questions such as ‘Where can we find good bilingual teaching and learning initiatives in India that use sign language and literacy? What are the policies that relate to bilingual education, and how can we use them to create positive change?’ After discussing a broad range of educational issues, the participants created a shortlist of ideas for actions that allow innovative programmes to support each other. On the second day, they formed teams led by deaf facilitators to work on their preferred project ideas.

Some of the ideas that the participants generated are:

-Make teaching and learning materials in ISL. Provide our bespoke Sign Language to English by the Deaf (SLEND) platform to NGOs. Collect bilingual ideas from around India and share them.

-Lobby government to employ deaf peer teachers in rural Odisha. Create a deaf peer education centre in Odisha and interface with 30 districts.

-Create contacts and involvement between deaf associations (adults) and deaf children. Hold a state-level conference for deaf students every year. Encourage parents of deaf children to learn ISL.


Professor Zeshan, PI for the Deaf Multiliteracies project, commented: “This has been the first time that we ran a co-creative workshop with deaf participants. I was very impressed with the level of discussions and commitment. At the end of the collaboratory, self-selected working groups had created six implementable project ideas. We will now consider how to take some of these ideas forward in future work.”

We look forward to reporting the next stages of the project, which is a collaboration with Lancaster University’s Literacy Research Centre and our international partners. This includes our intensive training phase currently underway in India and the hard work of our talented RAs and PTs. We would also like to thank the Education and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DFID) for generously funding our work through their joint scheme Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems.



Nicaraguan signers contribute their expertise to our third SIGNSPACE workshop

6 December, 2017

We would like to thank the 17 deaf participants who contributed to our third SIGNSPACE workshop last month in Managua, Nicaragua. They tested the portal that the iSLanDS Institute is developing with our project partner Dolphio Technologies, and talked about plans to increase the capacity of Nicaragua’s deaf community.

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The workshop took place at the Lost Inn Managua from 11-12 November and was run by local coordinator Ivonne Morales Ruiz, a primary school teacher in Managua who is also active in the Nicaraguan Deaf Association (ANSNIC). She was assisted by Marie Coppola, a linguistic psychology professor at the University of Connecticut. The participants came from Managua and the surrounding cities of Masaya, Jinotega, and Esteli.

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They tested four of the activities on the Moodle pages of the SIGNSPACE portal. Two of these introduce the concept of communication breakdowns, and the other two relate to numbers and fingerspelling in different sign languages.

Ms Morales Ruiz said: “I was delighted to be involved in this workshop about facilitating communication between signers from different deaf communities around the world, and the participants appreciated the value of being able to use the online tools to communicate with signers from other countries. Most of them have not travelled outside Nicaragua, and for many of them even the visit to Managua was unusual”.

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Professor Coppola commented: “This was a terrific opportunity for deaf people from different cities in Nicaragua, outside the area around Managua, to meet each other, share ideas, and learn from each other’s experiences. They all responded very enthusiastically, and were pleased to also have the chance to discuss community development and capacity building”.

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She added: “The staff at the Lost Inn Managua went out of their way to ensure the success of our event, and we also want to thank the international group of Nicaragua Sign Language researchers who assisted with the logistics and photo and video documentation”.

Call for papers – SIGN9 in Poland

27 November, 2017

We are excited to announce that the call for papers is now open at the official SIGN9 website, thanks to our host institution colleagues at the University of Warsaw. The ninth conference in our SIGN series and the first to take place in Poland, SIGN9 will be held from 22 to 25 August. The deadline for abstract submissions is 31 January. Please visit the official conference website for further details.

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Another ‘first’ for PUPET: our Indonesia hub trains 18 aspiring sign language teachers.

10 November, 2017

Our Indonesia hub, PUPET, has marked another milestone, delivering its first training programme for deaf Indonesians who want to become teachers of BISINDO (Indonesian Sign Language).

The training, which was run at the end of October by iSLanDS research fellow Nick Palfreyman and hub co-ordinator Muhammad Isnaini, was attended by 18 participants from Solo, Bekasi, Sragen and Boyolali. Over three days, participants covered a range of teaching skills, including effective planning, class management, developing thematic resources, and integrating linguistic and cultural content.

IMG_3413Participants discuss sign language with co-facilitator Nick Palfreyman.

One of the key aims of the training was to raise the metalinguistic awareness of participants. ‘The experience of the iSLanDS team over many years has shown that this is vital if deaf people are to become effective sign language teachers,’ Nick said.

He continued: ‘We were really impressed with the focus and enthusiasm of the participants, and PUPET will of course keep in touch to see how their teaching activities develop over the next few months.’

IMG_3492Co-facilitator Muhammad Isnaini gives feedback to one of the participants, as they explore a learning activity together.

The programme included 18 linguistic games, which made the training hugely enjoyable – but these games can also be used to teach BISINDO, and each participant was asked to introduce one of the games. This gave them the chance to increase their confidence to use such games in their own classes in future.

Oktaviany, one of the participants, said ‘I really enjoyed this training! It was interactive and fun, and now I understand how to plan the class week by week.’

Muhammad Isnaini added: ‘We would like to thank everyone who made this training possible, especially Clark Denmark, who kindly shared examples with us from his own experience as teacher of British Sign Language over many years.’

workshop_2The 18 training participants came to Solo from four other cities.

The training programme will be developed further to include examples based on the Corpus of Indonesian Sign Language Varieties, and PUPET plans to make parts of the programme available online in BISINDO in the near future.

The training took place alongside the testing of materials as part of the iSLanDS SIGNSPACE project, and was possible thanks to funding from the European Research Council and the Leverhulme Trust.

Policy report: Peer-to-Peer Deaf Literacy pilot project

8 November, 2017

We are pleased to share the policy report from our Peer-to-Peer Deaf Literacy pilot project, which summarises recommendations for innovating the teaching of English to deaf learners in India. In this pilot, which has led on to a larger three-year project, our team designed, implemented, and evaluated English literacy instruction, with deaf peer tutors, online learning materials generated by learners, and Indian Sign Language for communication between tutors and learners.

We are grateful to all of the authors who contributed to this report, including our Indian NGO partners and experts in applied linguistics, ethnography, digital literacy and TESOL, as well as the peer tutors, research assistants and learners whose hard work was at the core of this project.

Policy Report P2PDL


Thanks to SIGN8 organisers and 297 participants for conference success at first SIGN in South America

1 November, 2017

We would like to thank the organisers and participants of SIGN8 for hosting a very successful conference in October, which attracted 297 researchers from across the globe who delivered 11 workshops, 27 talks and 74 poster presentations. As the first SIGN conference to take place in South America, this event was an exciting milestone in the series, made possible by the expertise and hard work of coordinators at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) in Brazil.

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Dr Ronice Müller de Quadros, a member of the SIGN8 organising committee, said: “Everybody had a terrific time at the conference, and it was an especially great experience and learning opportunity for future Deaf researchers. We particularly enjoyed welcoming the deaf participants from Uruguay and Chile, and we can tell that they really took advantage of SIGN8. UFSC was thrilled to have the chance to run this unique event, as it is such an important way of boosting the careers of deaf researchers.”

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Kang-Suk Byun, a PhD student at the Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and consultant for our SIGNSPACE project, gave a presentation on cross-signing. He commented: “It was brilliant to see so many deaf participants from Brazil and other countries congregating together at one university. UFSC showed a very proactive and inclusive approach to deaf people in academia. Meeting with the other deaf scholars there, who shared with me their passion for research, enhanced my enthusiasm and empowerment. It was very productive, and I think the atmosphere and culture of Brazil made it especially easy to make those connections and engage in deep one-to-one discussions.”

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Our PhD student wins Scottish International Educational Trust Funding Award

25 October, 2017

We are pleased to share that our new PhD student, Eilidh Rose McEwan, has won funding from the Scottish International Educational Trust (SIET). She began her 3-year PhD programme at iSLanDS on 1 July, working on a study entitled ‘Agency within deaf communities in capacity-building projects in the Global South’.

Eilidh is from Glasgow and has worked with the BBC, Glasgow City Heritage Trust and the Scottish Council on Deafness (SCoD). She earned an MSc in International Relations from the University of Glasgow in 2015.

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She commented: “As a deaf student with some knowledge of BSL and experience at SCoD, I was excited to apply for this PhD position at iSLanDS, due to its focus on deaf people’s linguistic rights and research on sign language linguistics and communities in various countries. By covering linguistic rights and human rights in an international context, specifically targeting the Global South, this PhD encompasses two topics about which I am particularly passionate. I am delighted to have the opportunity to conduct ground-breaking research on these issues at iSLanDS, and grateful to SIET for their generous grant of £2000 to support this important work.”

Eilidh’s PhD investigates deaf agency within the context of two overarching iSLanDS projects: our Peer to Peer Deaf Multiliteracies project, and a study called Patterns of Variation, which focuses on deaf communities in Indonesia.