On Wednesday 28 August, as part of Hearing Awareness Week, students who are deaf or hard of hearing received free entry and a ‘celebratory’ excursion at Werribee Open Range Zoo (WORZ), sponsored by the Victorian Deaf Education Institute (VDEI).
More than 117 students plus teachers and supervisors from Charles Latrobe College, Furlong Park School for Deaf Children, Mount Erin Secondary College, Mount View Primary School, Sunshine Secondary College and the Victorian College for the Deaf (primary students) learned all about the animals at the zoo, using the OpenMi-Excursions App.
OpenMi-Excursions is a global first technology application, to be used on android or smart devices. The app was developed by the Australian Communication Exchange (ACE) in partnership with the VDEI and WORZ to create accessible learning for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The OpenMi Excursion app, launched in October last year, has been recently updated to include new features, including an audio tour with scrolling captions. OpenMi enriches the zoo experience by providing options for Auslan sign language with scrolling captions or audio with captions and quizzes.
Giaan Rooney, former Olympic champion swimmer and current weather reporter at Channel 7, attended the day to film the weather report and spent some time with the students. One deaf student asked Giaan in Auslan, “Why did you quit the Olympics to become a weather lady?” Giaan laughingly replied that even athletes needed to work to pay bills!
Students enjoyed special keeper talks about servals and gorillas, saw mixed herds of rhinoceros, giraffe and zebra on a Safari tour and went on a walking trail to see cheetah, lions and hippopotamus. Students learned about the animals, their habits and habitats through the OpenMi excursions app.
At key animal exhibits students were able to scan a QR code which then brought up a video of a person communicating in Auslan on their device, ensuring that the students did not miss out on information.
Students could also read the information, answer questions and complete quizzes. Teachers were able to track the students’ progress on the app and set work to follow up in the classroom.
Kaye Scott, Statewide Program Manager from the Victorian Deaf Education Institute said that it was wonderful to see the way in which the application is being used by schools visiting Werribee Open Range Zoo.
“What makes OpenMi-Excursions so unique is that it goes beyond translation to provide a level of interactivity between students and teachers that we haven’t seen in other applications like this before. It’s a fantastic resource and we would love to see more schools taking advantage of it,” Kaye said.
VDEI Project Manager Karyn Barrasso, with project partners ACE are currently exploring the suitability of further Victorian excursion sites after consultation with the Victorian Deaf Educators Network for the potential customised site adaptation of the OpenMi-Excursions app.
OpenMi-Excusions also has broader application beyond school groups with general visitors able to download the free public OpenMi Tours App to access video content with captions, audio and Australian Sign Language while onsite.
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