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Anne Hill Awarded Fanshawe's First SSHRC Grant for Bridges to Learning Conference
Fanshawe College professor Anne Hill, together with a team of colleagues throughout Canada, was awarded Fanshawe's first Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant.
The Public Outreach Workshop and Conference grant of $71,466, awarded for a conference entitled Bridges to Learning 2010: Educational and Assistive Technology for All, is the first SSHRC grant in which Fanshawe College has participated as the lead institution.
Partners in the effort include Bridges Canada, a professional development and Assistive Technology solutions provider; Dr. Donna McGhie-Richmond, Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology & Leadership Studies at the University of Victoria; Dr. Jacqueline Specht, Associate Professor in Educational Psychology and Special Education at The University of Western Ontario; Dr. Maria Chuy, a post-doctoral student at the University of Toronto; and Ms. Barbara Welsford, Director of the Assistive Technology Centre in Nova Scotia and faculty member at Acadia University.
"It is truly amazing how many researchers and practitioners are all on board with the idea of incorporating assistive technology in the learning environment" said Anne Hill, project lead and professor in Fanshawe's School of Human Services. "Organizing this conference gave us the opportunity to help raise awareness about assistive technology (AT) and the necessary training to make it work in the learning environment."
AT is a general term applied to any tools or technological devices designed to help students learn better in the classroom by eliminating barriers and providing accessible accommodation for various needs.
Led for the past two years by Bridges Canada, the conference, intended to spread the word about AT and to promote research in this area, took place May 13 to 15, 2010, at University of Toronto's Mississauga campus. Free registration was offered to Fanshawe students and faculty, courtesy of Bridges Canada.
Hill, who discovered her interest in helping others because of a younger sister with developmental disabilities, said she has always known there was a great deal more information out there than most AT providers have immediate access to.
"The issue is making the information available in a way that's useful to the people who need it in the moment."
Approximately 275 people - college and university educators, students, private
sector educational software companies and agencies serving the disabled - came from
across Canada and the U.S. to attend the conference, which featured discussions,
presentations, hands-on computer lab sessions and interactive exhibitions. Several
conference sessions were streamed live for more than 1000 more participants from
all over Canada, the US, Australia, and Poland. Hill credits the strong team
effort of Fanshawe broadcasting students Samantha Doak, Lindsay Stanlick, Christina
Lacaria, Eric Smith, and Nathan Wilson along with faculty members Greg Latham and
Michelle Heslop. A Fanshawe Innovation Program research grant also provided an
opportunity for two Human Services faculty members, Dorota Bugorski and Monica
Thompson to collaborate with Hill in preparing the grant application and helping
expedite the conference.
"It takes a coordinated effort to have genuine success in such a complex and messy area," said Hill. "Millions of dollars are spent each year on AT, but we still need clear data to demonstrate whether or not it is effective. We also need to get students, families, teachers, school administrators, and researchers working together to plan ways to address the issues."
The result of a 185-page grant application, the Bridges to Learning conference aimed to put information about the latest research and best practices into the hands of educators and solutions providers worldwide and to help support collaborations to develop new expertise in this field.