Escuela Siemens

Edupreneurship #2: Videobooks in Sign Language

In the first part of this Edupreneurship blog series we talked with Isabel Sheinman about the “Library for All” project that aims to unlock knowledge and opportunities for children in developing countries with limited access to educational materials. Today we introduce you to another member of the empowering people. Network: Silvana Bonnet from Canales Associatión Civil. She works for the project Videolibros which aims to provide deaf children access to literature and reading with videobooks in sign language. Silvana gives us some insights into the project and her beliefs.

Silvana, what is the project “videobooks in sign language” all about?

We offer a free and open internet site (videolibros.org) where deaf children find books read by deaf people in sign language, which is their natural language. We combine children’s books and young adult literature in sign language with voice-overs in Spanish and animated illustrations. In this way we can all share the same books and deaf children are not excluded from access to literature and from the pleasure of reading. Since its launch in August 2011, our website has had 130,000 unique visitors and more than 1 million clicks; over 2,600 students have benefited through direct download. We are very happy that our work has already been able to help so many deaf people.

Yes, that’s really amazing! How did it all start for you back in 2011?

After hosting several reading workshops and telling stories in schools and kindergartens, we decided to investigate what was implied in the process of reading in sign language. Most people don´t know it but sign languages have no written form and for a deaf person reading also means learning a new written language. After a whole year of researching the reading trajectories of ten deaf families, strategies of teachers in the classroom and theories about reading and writing, we developed a book about the process of translation and reading in sign language, and the idea of “videobooks in sign language” arose. What motivates us is knowing that most deaf children have never been told a story in an accessible language and, in that way, they are excluded from access to stories, imagination, education, culture and information.

The narrator is placed “in the middle” of the story, creating a beautiful reading experience.

That sounds like an exciting but also demanding project. What have you learned from it so far?

As someone who is not affected by the physical limitation of being deaf, it’s often hard to truly understand the needs and feelings of deaf children. So the key lesson I learned is the need of active participation. People who can relate to the problem – in our case deaf people – need to be integrated in all steps of the project.

Aside from the specific challenges you have to face with your solution, what do you think are the main challenges Edupreneurs have to face globally?

I believe it is a great challenge to reach more people in need and finding strong partners working in the same field. Getting funds for the realisation of projects and to professionalise the teams that carry out these projects are challenges for edupreneurs and other entrepreneurs. And in many cases also the necessary adaptations of the legal framework that tend to be long. In my personal opinion, changes in the educational paradigm are happening now. But we need to keep on evolving and getting people on board as well as integrating sustainable approaches for the planet and mental health of people. Luckily these issues slowly become more important in our sector.

An example of how different narrators tell the same story in their personal sign language.

And what are special challenges for Edupreneurs in your country?

In the specific case of Argentina, and in the field in which our organisation works, we need a law that recognises the sign language of Argentina as an official language, and also that the ministries of education strengthen the programs of bilingual and intercultural education for the deaf. The incorporation of families into this model and the full participation of deaf people in all instances of the policies of which they are subjects are also a challenge. And like I said before, we know how important it is to involve affected people in the processes.

What advice do you have for young social entrepreneurs who want to start a business in the field of education?

It is important to change some of our competitive manners and begin to collaborate. Instead of just looking after our ideas we should join the projects and thoughts of others, associate with their work and improve their actions and impact. We need more participation in networks and people joining in existing organisations. So I would tell them to keep their eyes open for interesting projects and not start from scratch. Maybe you can improve existing projects with your ideas, develop them further or even help them to succeed. We have to reach out to each other.

Watch a video about Videolibros on YouTube: http://bit.ly/2t35aDg

About Silvana Bonnet & Videolibros:

Silvana began volunteering at Canales Associatión Civil in 2009 and first met the Deaf community of her country. Knowing about their difficulties to participate and the language barriers they face challenged Silvana in her social communicator skills and motivated her to join Canales to work to change them.

Canales is an NGO which is based in Buenos Aires and was founded in 2003 by deaf and hearing professionals who wanted to work together to help improve the education of deaf children, through a variety of interventions. One of them is Videobooks in Sign Language (www.videolibros.org), a gateway to literature as a means to access education, culture and inclusion.

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