ABILITI stands for Avatar Based Interaction and Learning In Times of Illness. It is a transnational project funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme, with partners from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, and Spain.
With over 520,000 long-term ill children and adolescents in the EU, every sixth classroom has an empty desk. These pupils cannot attend school over a long period due to cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic diseases and disabilities. ABILITI draws attention to the inclusion of these young people with chronic disease and their right to education and psycho-social care while affected by illness. Continued schooling and sense of belonging to the peer group are crucial factors to ensure professional career perspectives and emotional well-being.
Technology can be extremely instrumental to prevent isolation and foster inclusion of severely ill children. Avatars and other telepresence systems can enable them to attend classes and interact with their peers. But technology cannot be an end in itself. Deployment of technical tools must be embedded in appropriate pedagogical approaches. Teachers have to be aware of the needs of the affected children and have the necessary knowledge how to use technology wisely in particular learning settings.
ABILITI develops, tests and scientifically evaluates pedagogical strategies and methods for including ill children in school activities using telepresence systems.
The project provides training and resources to enable teachers to
- make informed decisions about the deployment of telepresence systems for the inclusion of ill children in the classroom, such as avatars, videoconferencing, virtual classroom solutions
- develop and implement pedagogical strategies to take full advantage of these technologies
- reflect on the effects of these technologies on the ill pupil and his/her classmates
- foster the classmates’ ability to understand and deal adequately with their ill classmates’ situation as well as their own changed situation
- prevent exclusion and isolation of pupils with chronic diseases and thus
- improve inclusion, sense of belonging and wellbeing of the ill children
To achieve inclusion and sense of belonging, all pupils of a class, with and without chronic diseases, need to contribute. The ABILITI approach enhances teachers’ professional competence to foster all pupils’
- personal competence: empathy, understanding and sympathy for fellow pupils who suffer from a chronic disease, understanding and dealing with illness, personal responsibility, and tolerance
- social competence: learning by engaging in a team with members who have different vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses
- digital literacy and competence: understanding what technologies can enable, and what their limitations are in particular circumstances.
In a nutshell: ABILITI develops an innovative, research-based teacher education programme for providing comprehensive support to a particularly vulnerable target group.