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Workshop: Haptic tools to introduce geometric concepts

Presented by Emanuela Ughi

It is not easy for blind people, mostly if blind from birth, to understand and master basic geometric ideas. Indeed, the properties of geometric objects (lines, planes,...) cannot be simply “said” to the blind students, but require a carefully planned collection of manipulatives, to offer an haptic approach to them, surrogating the visual geometric experiences they miss. Moreover, is not sufficient that a object “contains” an information. For that information to be received by a blind student, it has to be grounded on the experiences the student already knows,
Bearing this projectin mind, I started to re-read Euclid's Elements , and to plan and realize haptic tools to explore (and better haptically understand) several geometric concepts.

Right now, they are just at the prototype state, but it is enough to test their usability and usefulness. For the workshop, I am planning to bring and show how to use some simple tools about :

  • Parallelism between lines in the plane (What does it mean? How to detect if two lines are parallel or not? Geometric facts about parallelograms)
  • Angle between two lines and their comparaison. Hortogonal lines
  • Parallelism between planes in the space (What does it mean? How to detect if two planes are parallel or not? Angles between two planes)
  • Similarity of plane figures (Same angles, same ratio between
    corresponding lengths. How to detect if two figures are similar or not?)

These object hopefully will offer blind students a new level of understanding of some basic concepts, while teachers and professionals involved in education for blind can find occasion of thinking about the risk of wrong or incomplete communication, when a teacher and a blind student are not giving the same word the same (set of) meanings.