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

15 January, 2018
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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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