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Empowering spatial thinking of students with visual impairment
Start date: Sep 1, 2016, End date: Aug 31, 2019 PROJECT  ONGOING 

Spatial thinking is a blending of knowledge and skills that supports people in identifying, and interpreting location, distance, relationships, orientation, movement, change, patterns, and trends through space. It is as a key ability for STEM disciplines, social sciences and humanities, as well as for several tasks of daily life.The competence of spatial thinking, usage and interpretation of maps or other spatial tools is not self-evident for all; it is a dexterity which must be cultivated. For students experiencing disabilities, such as visual impairment (VI), spatial thinking proves to be an imperative skill for perceiving the world far beyond their immediate experience. Learning functional ways to utilize spatial experiences as an entirety and realize the relationships between objects in space and themselves is vital. Maps and other spatial representations are a splendid source of information for portraying space and environment. By using tactile maps and innovative ICT technologies, children may deploy their spatial notion more effectively compared to proximate orientation experiences in accordance with verbal directions. Providing thus a concrete set of such tools would empower specific spatial thinking skills not only of those with VI but of all students. The VISTE proposal aims at empowering the spatial thinking skills of students with VI. This will be accomplished by providing an innovative methodological framework and a semantic and technical infrastructure for developing appropriate inclusive educational modules to foster spatial thinking. The project’s main target groups are primary/secondary education students, as well as teachers, teachers’ trainers, and stuff involved in their education. Six partners from 4 EU countries, (Greece, France, Romania and Luxemburg), i.e., 2 from research and technology (National Technical Univ. of Athens GR, Inria Bordeaux Sud Ouest FR), 2 special schools/educational institutions (Athens School for the Blind GR, Liceul Special pentru Deficienti de Vedere RO), one teachers’ training centre (CCD Cluj RO), and 1 technology provider (INTRASOFT LUX), adequately meet all requirements of the project objectives.VISTE is methodologically structured to fully support the production of the following 5 intellectual outputs: 1. The VISTE inclusive educational framework for spatial thinking of students with VI will introduce essential strategies for the development of an innovative teaching approach towards effective spatial thinking for students with VI, facilitating inclusion for accessing mainstream schools. New cartographies will also be explored in a multi-sensory approach.2. VISTE Spatial Thinking Educational Components will introduce, implement, and validate innovative ways for spatial thinking educational practices. To accomplish that, new modules will be designed and developed, to encompass needs of students with VI, and both will be piloted and validated in formal educational contexts.3. VISTE Innovative ICT Toolkit (design, implementation and validation) will: (a) take advantage but also extend existing tools developed in previous projects, and (b) incorporate new tools developed especially for the project. This includes an extension of the GEOTHNK authoring environment (www.geothnk.eu) with new innovative features and will also include an augmented reality tool that allows VI and sighted students and teachers to collaboratively, explore, and build geographic maps. The toolkit will be available in the languages of the consortium plus English.

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