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2nd Workshop
Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Europe

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1. Introduction

ICEVI is an organisation of professionals involved in the education and rehabilitation of children and youth with visual impairment. Originally it was an organisation consisting mainly of special teachers. As the education of blind and partially sighted children, either in special schools or in mainstream schools, largely depends on well trained, expert teachers, a discussion about the training of these teachers is very important.

Against this background ICEVI Europe organised a small-scale invitational workshop about this subject in 1997 in which approximately 45 people from 22 European countries took part. There, the wish was expressed to hold such a meeting again after two to three years.

A study group especially set up for a second workshop long struggled with the question of structure and content of such a second workshop. It should be prevented that it would become a copy of the first one, more of the same.

During the first workshop the emphasis was on exchange of experiences, the second workshop should be characterised by 'sharing and creating knowledge on a European level'.

In order to realise this a good preparation was a conditio sine qua non both with regard to content and the methods to be used. Instead of allowing everyone to discuss all subjects it was decided to have the participants make a choice from five subjects/themes beforehand. During the workshop people worked for two days with colleagues who had chosen the same subject. The term 'worked' is used here instead of 'discussed' because the preparation committee held the opinion that there are also other methods aimed at creating knowledge besides group discussions. (see the contribution of Frans Meyer, page 31).

Furthermore, five (pairs of) participants - we called them facilitators - were asked to prepare one of the subjects/themes in depth. To this end they wrote a paper, collected literature, formulated theses and subjects for debate. This material was sent to the participants two months before the conference.

The final evaluation showed that this method of working was judged very positively by practically everyone, more productive than the method used during the first workshop.

The goal of the workshop: sharing and creating knowledge on a European level should not restrict itself to those days in Bratislava. That process should be continued according to the participants of the workshop and the preparation committee. In order to realise this, contact was established with the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. For that purpose, this Agency has a network in Europe. The first contacts were made during the workshop, concrete co-operation between ICEVI Europe and the European Agency has been initiated.

Since internet will probably be the most important means of communication in the near future, one of the participants, Harry Svensson, has conducted an investigation among the participants into the access to internet and the desire for ICEVI actions in this area. A survey of the results has been incorporated into this report.

Since in a number of countries the textbook facilities for visually impaired pupils is a problem, one of the participants, Jadwiga Kuczynska-Kwapisz from Poland has conducted an investigation among the participants into this situation in their country. A summary of the results has also been incorporated into this report.

Besides the official programme there was enough time for informal contacts and activities of which the jazz concert of Vladimir Radoulov undoubtedly was the highlight.

Herman Gresnigt

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