Semester Wrap-Up, Late and Plus

It’s actually the end of Spring semester now, and I am just getting to writing about the end of Fall 2016 semester. Whoops. My apologies! I’ve been busy writing up and submitting Tech & Disability as a permanent offering for the new Pathways undergraduate curriculum. So, I’ve been working on class-things, just not as publicly.

I also plan to submit paperwork for a grad-level course on the topic – but one thing at a time! The class was mixed for its first two runs.

STS 3284, currently proposed my number for T&D, has made it through my department’s and my college’s curriculum committees and is off to the university and Pathways committees. Fingers crossed. They ask for a little modification at every stage, but it’s been interesting to see the process so far. My department chair has been incredibly helpful through the hurdles and forms. When the class is approved (fingers crossed), it will count for credit in both my department’s longstanding and excellent Medicine & Society minor and the newly developed Disability Studies minor, as well as my department’s new Science, Technology, and Society major. I’m pretty excited about the possibilities for students from these areas, as well as continuing with populations that I’ve already really enjoyed having in class (shout out to industrial design and public health-interested students).

As for the last run of T&D with special topics numbers,  I feel pride. Student research was wonderfully all-over-the-place. Here’s a few highlights, hard to summarize such a dynamic batch:

  • One student presented a study of an adult-day center, looking at how technologies for mobility and safety were set up and talking about creating home like environments; she presented this work to leaders of this center, and I hope some of her ideas will be adopted.
  • Another student with a passion for photography took some wonderful stills of signage for access on campus – often obscured with plant growth or unclear. His narration through the images was a really amazing piece of performance art.
  • Two students did a group project documenting “accessfails” in our town’s downtown, from recycling cans blocking access to poorly maintained walkways, etc.. They are set to present this information soon to the Town’s ADA Committee!
  • We also had some more traditional research papers in the mix, one about the phenomenology of technology for diabetes monitoring for Type I diabetes and another on technological access for people with cognitive and learning disabilities in the context of educational software and design.
  • An industrial design student worked on better designs for hearing aid cases – and I wish his design was on the market for my own HAs! Since he presented the idea, I think about it every time I take mine out.

And last semester wouldn’t have been what it was without the assistance of Martina Svyantek, my teaching apprentice for this course. Yesterday, I sat and watched as she defended her prelim exams. Congrats, Martina.

Since I won’t be teaching the class again until Spring 2018, please do keep up with our Facebook page for news items on technology and disability. That page gets more updates than this one – and shorter so you don’t have to read through so much! 🙂

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Author: techanddis

Dr. Ashley Shew, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech. Please address queries to shew@vt.edu.

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