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4th Workshop
Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Europe

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Group 2: Internet based virtual resource data banks (IsaR) and distance university courses. How to realise them through international co-operation.

Content of this report:

Workshop participants

Chair person:
Frank Laemers (D)
Co-chair person:
Tarja Hännikäinen(FI)
Winnie Ankerdal (DK)
Sidsel Broendmo (NO)
Magdolna Brumbauer (HU)
Szilvia Garai (HU)
Piotr A. Gindrich (PL)
Antonina Hummel (PL)
Richard Piatkowski (D)
Luisa S. Silva (PT)
Gabriella Turbucz (HU)
Emese Pajor (HU)

Friday September 24 th

Our working group addressed two topics:

  1. Internet based virtual resource data banks (ISaR)
  2. Distance (university) courses - Open and Distance Learning for professionals who work in the field of visual impairment.

To get an overview about the situation about inclusive education in the different countries of the participants of the group the following questions were raised.

The questions were the following:

  1. How are support and counselling for students with visual impairments in inclusive settings, their regular school teachers and their parents organized in the different countries?
  2. What kind of schools can be attended by children with multiple disabilities and visual impairments?
  3. Which resources are available for the schools?
  4. Do communication and exchange of knowledge among the itinerant teachers exist? How is it organised?
  5. To what extent is the internet being used for exchange?

The situation is as follows:


At the School for the Blind, Budapest, there are 5 itinerant teachers and 2 mobility teachers for 80 blind integrated pupils. At the Budapest School for Partially Sighted 8 itinerant teachers work with 400 integrated children. There are some resources which are available for the teachers and parents.

For the teachers:

For the parents:


In POLAND 1000 children with a visual impairment ( between the age of 6-18 ) learn in special schools and 3000 children are integrated. The integration is not coordinated and a bit neglected, i.e. parents have to be active. Poland has a website with general information for integrated children. It's working but there is not enough new information.


All children (blind and visually impaired) are in inclusive settings and the children and regular teachers get support from VI-Teachers from the resource centre for VI. Some children who have multiple disabilities and visual impairement attend classes at the resource centre.

Denmark has set up a website with information and discussion boards for parents, teachers and children. You'll find it under: www.syndanmark.dk [new window].


In FINLAND 700 children ( between the age of 6-16 ) are integrated, 6 % of the pupils with VI are attending a class at the resource centres. These children have often additional disablilities. Finland has two resource centers with the mandate to support regular schools with children and young people with visual impairment (for further details please see the contribution of Tarja Hännikenen at the end of this report).


In Norway there are no special schools but because of the long distances the resource centers have distance teaching for regular teachers and of course locally based itinerant teachers, as well. If a child with a disability lives in a community the community is responsible to offer the child and his familiy the support which is needed for attending the local school. This applies to all children with disabilities. In our working group Norway was the only country where children with multiple disabilities were included without exception.


Germany has about 56 special schools and resource centres for children with VI. Only 25% of the children with VI learn at regular schools. These children and their parents and teachers were supported by special teachers from the resource centres for VI. The most children with multiple disabilities and VI are attending a school for VI or other special schools. For 4 years the ISaR-Website (http://www.isar-projekt.de) has been a useful resource with many information and material for teachers, parents and children.

As one result of the overview from the countries it became clear that only two countries (Denmark, Germany) are using a website for the exchange of information, materials and discussion to support the inlcusive education of pupils whith a visual impairment. Denmark is a more forum-based solution - but both sites were used and visited very often since they were set up.

After this first overview about the situation in the different countries the ISaR-Website was introduced in detail to the participants (for a detailed overview about ISaR please look at the introductory lecture by Csocsán, Laemers & Piatkowski of this conference).

A draft English version of the IsaR-Web was created for this conference to show how the work of administration with this system could be done. (You'll find this draft website under: www.isar-project.com [new window].)

ISaR is a mainly Internet based virtual resource and support system - to promote and support the inclusive education of children and youth with blindness and visual impairment. What does ISaR mean?

The topics of the Website are as follows: Search, Literature, Teaching Material, Didactic Pool, Addresses, Links, News, Information, Coordination and a Forum.

The participants brought some useful information about inclusive education from their countries - and then everyone had the opportunity to set this information up on the website during the afternoon-session.

It was amazing how much information was set up on the web in nearly half an hour while so many people were working on it. After this session we had new literature, adresses, links and dates for events and conferences all over Europe.

In the discussion it became clear that a European-wide ISaR-Web would be very useful and helpful to support the inclusive education of pupils with VI in Europe. This website should be in English - because this is the common language in Europe.

There should also be the possibility to set up country-based websites if needed. These websites in different languages have to be supervised by someone who will take care that information, teaching methods and materials which are valuable for other countries will be translated into English and that these things will be put on the ISaR-Europe-Website.

The main focus of the European ISaR should be on the furher development of teaching methods for inclusive settings.

The group members think that it would be usefull to create a European project under the umbrella of ICEVI with this emphasis. (People / Countries who were interested in such a project have given names of contact persons to the ISaR-Team.) It is planned to have a first meeting of people who were interested in 2005.

Winnie Ankerdale presented the Danish website called SynDanmark (www.syndanmark.dk [new window]). This site also has a lot of information for people with VI in Danish - and many discussion boards which were used by pupils, teachers and parents.

Saturday September 25th

The topic of the day was about distance learning. We tried to answer two questions:

  1. How is teacher preparation and education for VI organized in the differnet countries? What kind of model is used when there are no "non stop courses" available?
  2. Do distance learning programs or courses for the education of teachers for the visually impared exist in the countries of the participants?

Our results are:

We found 3 modells:

  1. Denmark, Finland (The Northern Countries)
    They use distance learning in co-operation with universities. The responsibility for the contents of these courses is with the schools and resource centres for VI - and they also offer these courses. A detailed example of such a system was given by Tarja Hänkinnen from Finland (you'll find it at the end of this report).
  2. Germany, Poland, Hungary
    These countries have teacher preparation for VI on a university-level - and in each of these countries it is possible to study special education with the emphasis on VI at an University. The Universities know about systems for distance learning and use it sometimes for their "normal" students. At the moment there are no official distance-learning-courses available - but maybe in the future.
  3. Portugal (The Southern Countries)
    There are no special schools nor special teachers for students with visual impairments. But it is obviously needed - and Portugal is taking the first steps toward teacher preparation on a university-level.

After this overview we looked at different systems and examples for distance learning in the field of VI:

We saw


At the end of these two days of discussion and work the participants of Workinggroup 2 gave the following recommendations to all the participants of the Seminar (and in the last session all participants of the 4th Teacher Training Seminar agreed):

Frank Laemers,
e-mail: Frank.Laemers@udo.edu
www: http://www.isar-project.com [new window], www.isar-projekt.de [new window]

The following presentation about the situation in Finland refering the two topics (supporting inclusion and distance learning) was given by Tarja Hännikäinen:

Children with visual impairment in Finland
by Tarja Hännikäinen

e-mail: tarja.hannikainen@jynok.fi,
www.jynok.fi [new window]


A child with v.i. in school

The primary choice for each child is the local school

No schools or special classes for v.i. in municipalities

Two state subsidised schools for v.i.

JNK: Jyväskylä school for the visually impaired

http://www.jynok.fi/school.htm [new window]

Special school
- preschool -> 9.th grade + 10th grade
- nowadays approximately 40 students
- most of students have other impairments
- residential
Support center
http://www.jynok.fi/services.htm [new window]

Four main services for integrated pupils and staff

1. Temporary education courses for children
- serving both blind and low vision children
- e.g. during certain weeks all blind children from 5th grade get together at JNK
- one course lasts mainly 5 days
- multidisciplinary report to home and school
2. Regional counselling services
for children, parents and schools in local school environments
- itinerant teachers offer individual consultation by e.g. visiting and supporting schools and families, providing information concerning pedagogical methods and rehabilitation at school, giving expert advice in drawing up IEP
3. Learning material production
- supplementary materials for school work (Braille and talking books come from the Library for the Visually Impaired)
- e.g. embossed maps, pictures, ...
4. Courses for teachers, class-assistants, parents
- About courses for teachers and class assistants: see more below...
Courses for parents:
- regular courses for parents with blind or low vision child organized jointly with the Finnish Federation for the Visually Impaired
- three-day-courses during the same week as the child's temporary education course
- National Insurance pays for the course costs for adults.
- at the most important stages of education; e.g. "Starting school", "What should I know about classes 3 to 6", "What is to be expected after grade 9?"
- aims are both concrete and informative, opportunity to observe own child in classroom work and to discuss the child's situation with the workers
- possibility to meet other parents in the same situation and to establish networks

II. TRAINING TEACHERS for children with visual impairment

Departments of special education in Helsinki, Joensuu, Jyväskylä
- training teachers for children with all kinds of special needs
University of Jyväskylä, Department of special education
- the only university in Finland where they train teachers for children with visual impairment
- http://www.jyu.fi/tdk/kastdk/okl/english/enktk/index.shtml [new window]

Possibilities to choose studies in special education:

  1. Studies for masters degree in special education
  2. Specialization studies in special needs

Problems / challenges to organize teacher training at University level

  • no possibility to choose studies in v.i.
  • special budget always needed for a course in v.i.

    http://www.jynok.fi/school.htm [new window]

    Organised by Jyväskylä school for the visually impaired pupils (JNK)
    Training teachers from integrated settings
    - separate courses for every important school level, e.g. "Teachers for grade 1 to 2"
    - also training for groups with special educational needs and rare syndromes
    - individual courses if needed
    - three to nine day courses (two parts)
    - information on visual impairment and its impact on learning, training special skills for overcoming the special needs caused by the impairment
    - concrete tools for teaching and assisting in everyday work
    - also offers possibilities to build up networks with colleagues
    - the local school authorities are responsible for the costs of a teacher or assistant attending the course
    Problems / challenges to organize teacher training at short course - level
    - municipality pays for the course costs
    - problematic for teachers to join the course


    HOW TO ENSURE... that a child with v.i. in integration system gets support and counselling from trained qualified teachers?


    HOW TO ORGANIZE research and studies for teachers and professionals in v.i.?


    "Education and counselling services for teachers teaching children with special needs in integrated settings"
    Special aims by JNK:
    1. To modify short courses to a distance education model
    2. To build up the consulting "channel" for teachers and students in integrated settings

    Example: "A teacher at local school with a blind student needs guidance in art programmes for children with v.i.

    Special aims by JNK in future...
    E.g. of used learning environments:
    Open learning environment / Peda.net
    Open learning environment / Optima

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