Workshop on Inclusive E-Learning: Special Needs and Special Solutions

Collaborative learning, shared knowledge construction, social software and WEB 2.0 are part of modern everyday life. Thus, e-Inclusion is necessary prerequisite to let people with different kinds of handicaps stay as equal members of our society. In this workshop we would like to go further into the question how researcher and developer for special solutions for elderly people and people with learning disabilities can benefit from each others' experiences.

In our workshop we will address the similar difficulties experienced by very young learners, learners with handicap or disabilities and elderly people when using ICT. Our assumption is that developing computer supported learning environments and utilities for every day life shares more common properties than the diverse target groups let expect. Abbott (2007) says that "researching the effectiveness of technology to support learning by those defined as having special educational needs is essential no different from researching the needs of all other learners''. And Bradburn and Pearson (2006) find that although requirements for specific groups may be conflicting or changing over time the design to support inclusion  is the more crucial aspect. Considering not only technical but pedagogical and contextual aspects and intended outcomes and needs is a key for success solutions.

Since the widespread availability of internet technology in most areas of the world, accessability issues and competencies, such as digital literacy, became topics of discussion. Nowaday most technologically-inclined and literate people adopted information  and communication technology in there everyday life. Additionally there have been dedicated projects and activities for specific groups with special needs, but these efforts are mainly isolated experiences, that have not been put into a broader discussion with other special needs. Thus, a workshop is an ideal opportunity to bring together practitioners and researchers taking care in the various areas of special needs in a joint discussion and more general comprehension of the challenges posed by e-Inclusion.

Programme (tentative)

12:00 Lunch

12:30 - 13:00 Welcome, Introduction & Overview

13:00 - 14:30 first session

  • Beatriz Barros, Ricardo Conejo, Alberto deDiego-Cottinelli & Javier Garcia-Herreros
    Modelling pre-writing tasks to improve graphomotricity processes
  • Brigitta Réthey-Prikkel & Márta Turcsányi-Szabó
    A Collaboration of ICT teacher training and primary school for special educational need children in Hungary

14:30 - 14:45 break

14:45 - 16:15 second session

  • Martina Weicht & Alke Martens
    On the way to digital literacy for everyone: A user interface agent to assist (not only) blind computer users
  • Christian Petter & Kathrin Helling
    Designing ICT-based Learning Scenarios for Special Target Groups - Meeting Senior Learner Needs

16:15 - ??? open discussion, ideas, plans, etc. :-)

approx. 17:30 end


Topics of Interest (non exclusive) 

  • computer enriched environments/scenarios to support everyday life management of handicapped or elderly people
  • practice reports
  • study results about difficulties with and/or atvantages of computers used by elderly or handicapped people
  • software developed for the target groups
  • research/studies about differences and similarities observed when handicapped and elderly people are using computers

Further Information

The embeddance of eLearning and of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Life Long Learning, same as being connected with the large amount of information available in the web, and being part of the "Internet Community" plays an important role in our every day life. There is almost no domain or field where neither computer based teaching and tutoring is offered nor computer based content and information is provided, or at least computer based support is available. Three important aspects regarding this comparable broad coverage of life long learning support by computers has led to the definition of three terms (e.g. Glossary on e-Accessibility, Digital Devide or e-Exclusion, and eInclusion. e-Accessibility aims towards integration of people with disabilities in the information society based on ICT. Digital devide and e-Exclusion is atriculating the risk (and facts, see e.g. Commission of the European Communities, Commission Staff Working Paper: e-Inclusion, 2001) of excluding e.g. people with disabilities from the information society. eInclusion aims to prevent risks of digital exclusion. Whereas e-Accessibility is directly related with the needs of people with disabilities, e-Exclusion and e-Inclusion also include certain social groups.

Nevertheless the needs of special interest groups as e.g. pupils with cognitive disabilities, people with learning difficulties or handicapped people, same as old people, do still play a secondary role for the mass medium computer and internet. The postulated basic right of internet access and computer usage for every child at school has been very lately applied to pupils with special needs. Elderly people can also be regarded as a special needs group. Addressing old people places different demands on teaching and training software. Bringing old people to the internet community requires other actions than working with kids or young adults. Although cognitive abilities are usually not the obstacle, nevertheless the problems old people have while accessing computers and internet could be very similar to those people with disabilities have. Special needs can be seen on the same level as required in the context of handicapped people, as elderly computer users often suffer from loss of proper eyesight. Additionally, old people often feel lost when using modern and fast innovating computer technology (Naumanen, 2007). The use of computers for people with cognitive disabilities has been described as very efficient since several years. It has already been described very early by (Zellmer, 1976) that computers help to

  • elevate concentration
  • make variation of the learning subject for different pupils easy
  • could provide immediate feedback to pupils and encourage pupils after every step
  • enable access to information even for people who cannot read because of the possibility of multi-media representation (pictures, sound)
  • offer multiple ways of input, e.g. by touch-screens.

In addition, working with this medium supports the increase of self-determination, of independence, and integration skills (Wehmeyer, 1998) and allows for "positive changes in inter- and intrapersonal relationships, sensory abilities and cognitive capabilities, communication skills, motor performance, self-maintenance, leisure, and productively.''  (Parette, 1997). Additionally, Zentel, Opfermann, & Krewinkel (2007) showed that a computer can be used as an effective learning tool to support the acquisition of basic learning skills.

Expected Outcome

Following our assumption that e-Inclusion for elderly people on the one hand and people with handicaps or learning difficulties on the other hand should be regarded as a unit we expect to form new partnerships which could aim for interdisciplinary projects or at least scientific exchange.

Workshop Organisers

Andreas Lingnau is post-doc researcher at Knowledge Media Research Center, Tübingen. His main research focus is computer-supported learning in Schools. In this area he finished his PhD at Universität Duisburg-Essen in 2005. Since 2006 Andreas Lingnau is working at KMRC and mainly responsible for the software development within the project "Learner supporting multi-media platform for pupils with cognitive disabilities - LMMP".

Alke Martens is Professor at University of Rostock and head of the research group e-learning and cognitive systems. Cognitive Systems -- in the context of this research group - is associated with the investigation of learning from a theoretical point from the background of cognitive sciences. Teaching and training systems in general, and intelligent teaching and training systems in particular lend themselves for investigation and evaluation of human learning. Research takes place in the broad field of life long learning -- starting with kids and students, investigation of scenarios of adult education, including also old people

Andreas Harrer is Professor for Computer Science at Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. He holds a PhD title from Technische Universität München and worked in several European R\&D projects on technology enhanced learning to support learners, teachers, and researchers in their respective tasks. His main research areas are collaborative learning support envrionments, analysis of learner interactions, and educational modelling.


  • Commission of the European Communities: Commission Staff Working Paper: e-Inclusion The Information Society's potential for social inclusion in Europe (2001)
  • Naumanen, M., Tukiainen, M.: Guiding the elderly into use of computers - lessons teaught and lessons learned. In: Proceedins of CELDA 2007. (2007) 19-27
  • Zellmer, S.: RechnergestÄutzter unterricht bei lernbehinderten, geistigbehinderten und verhaltensgestÄorten kindern. Zeitschrift fÄur HeilpÄadagogik 27(6) (1976) 367-369
  • Wehmeyer, M.L.: National survey of the use of assistive technology by adults with mental retardation. Mental Retardation 36 (1998) 44-51
  • Parette, H.P.: Assistive technology devices and services. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities 32 (1997) 267-280
  • Zentel, P., Opfermann, M., Krewinkel, J.: Multimedia learning and the internet: ensuring accessibility for people with learning disabilities. Journal of Assistive Technologies 1 (2007) 22-32
  • Lingnau, A.: A software design approach for pupils with special needs. In: Proceedings of ICALT 2008. (2008)
  • Abbott, C.: e-Inclusion: Learning Di±culties and Digital Technology. Futurelab Series, Bristol (2007)
  • Bradburn, E., Pearson, E.: From inclusive guidance to inclusive online teaching practive - a tool to help planfor student diversity. In: Proceedings of 6th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies. (2006) 540-541