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In the Spotlight - Karen Gilligan

spotlightThis year in Enabling e-Learning we are going to be inviting members to be put In the Spotlight and share a bit more about themselves so that we can get to know them. You may be approached to share, or if you would like to volunteer yourself or suggest someone else then please contact Nathaniel or Tessa.

In the Spotlight this week is Karen Gilligan.

spotlight-KarenName: Karen Gilligan

School/organisation: BLENNZ

Kia ora everyone. I am based in Wellington and work as e-Learning Facilitator at the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ, or BLENNZ for short. BLENNZ is a nationwide school that supports over 1500 learners aged birth to 21 years who are blind, deafblind or have low vision. My role is to work with our staff and students particularly around making sure that BLENNZ learners can access online learning environments, alongside their peers. I also work to make sure our IT network and infrastructure is solid and reliable to ensure our regional centres are supported within their specific areas.

What is the most exciting/inspiring thing that you have been involved with in education that involves e-learning tools or pedagogies?
A huge part of my role as e-Learning Facilitator is around looking at access to learning and how this works for BLENNZ learners. This has been a new and hugely rewarding learning opportunity for me and sees me in both learner and teacher roles. As we move into an increasingly online world there are major implications around accessibility for learners who need extra equipment.

For BLENNZ learners historically this has meant ensuring that print materials are accessible to them in their medium of choice - braille, large print or audio. Classroom teachers are now more aware of universal design for learning and are beginning understand that by preparing learning materials and resources that are accessible to all learners, they will be providing a more inclusive learning environment. That way all learners can access print materials regardless of their technology.

Now that online assessments and testing is becoming a reality this also has implications for companies that are creating these spaces to ensure that they are accessible for all learners, not just the majority.

What are you most looking forward to in regards to 21st Century education this year?

Seeing New Zealand move towards ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty. The Marrakesh Treaty is an international treaty that aims to increase access to published works for people with a print disability. This will improve access of people who have a vision impairment to copyright works in accessible formats.

I always look forward to my work with our students and whānau. I am privileged to work with BLENNZ learners and families around the country and we have a fantastic network of staff around New Zealand who are constantly working to support our ākonga and their parents and whānau.

What do you get up to in your relaxation time?
I love to travel and have spent time living and working overseas so any chance to get away is great. I find myself increasingly drawn to developing my knowledge in IT and e-Learning, particularly around accessibility. I enjoy catching up regularly with friends and family and love a great glass of wine!

Favourite quote
My favourite quote is from Stevie Wonder at the Grammys in February this year.

“We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.”