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Visual light hypersensitivity, classroom digital media and inclusive pedagogy: Untangling the maze

Sproul, Janene (2019) Visual light hypersensitivity, classroom digital media and inclusive pedagogy: Untangling the maze. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Visual light hyper-sensitivity (VLH) is a sensory state in which light causes an abnormal reaction leading to intermittent or consistent discomfort, nausea, migraine and even seizure. Technological development has encouraged digital media-rich classrooms, altering the way in which visual information is accessed by students from traditional light reflective tools to light emitting devices. The possibility exists that this increase in light exposure within our classrooms is an invisible dis-abling mechanism for many students, decreasing cognitive ability and increasing discomfort. Using the perspective of Vygotsky’s theory of defectology, a model is presented that describes a unique group of students with VLH and the role of accommodations to support their active participation in learning.

A transformative paradigm incorporating a mixed method approach is utilised to examine policy and practices related to the frequency of digital classroom usage and the accommodations made for students with VLH within schools. A systematic review of academic literature, Australian education documents, manufacture and broadcast guidelines regarding digital media use for students with VLH identified a gap in policy and lack of awareness in practice but also highlighted six common parameters as reasonable adjustments for the classroom. The quantitative component used data from online surveys of 95 current students and 47 parents to calculate the total digital media used for educational purposes (minutes/day), digital devices used, and subject area usage of digital media. The qualitative component triangulated data from interviews with three groups of invested participants: six past students, five parents and five teachers to explore trends in digital media use and commonly used accommodations for students with VLH.

The study found that many students spend at least half of their class time using light emitting digital media devices. The technological advances and changes in the material culture of our classrooms is having a direct impact on students with VLH. This is further complicated by the incorporation of online assessment within our schools. The researcher calls for transformative change in digital classrooms by adopting design guidelines for usage and accommodation practices that enable, rather than dis-able, active participation of students with VLH.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
Supervisor(s): MacCallum, Judy and Ledger, Susan
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