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Innovation of the Year Award 2012

by Rosanna To

Congratulations go to Jennifer Chatsick (CICE Facilitator) and Anne Zbitnew (Media faculty) who are the recipients of Humber's 2012 Innovation of the Year Award for the creation of the Visual Storytelling Club.  

The Visual Storytelling Club is a student engagement initiative specifically for Community Integration through Cooperative Education (CICE) students. This project is a collaborative effort between the School of Media Studies and the CICE Program in the School of Health Sciences. The club, developed and led by Anne Zbitnew and Jennifer Chatsick, and assisted by several other CICE Facilitators, allows students with developmental disabilities an opportunity to explore alternative forms of communication and connectedness.  Students use various media such as collage, photography, images and Adobe Photoshop to communicate, make art and express themselves. The club also provides an opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with technology they may not have otherwise encountered. 

Last year, Anne was able to secure 24 iPads on loan from Apple Canada while partnering with the University of Toronto to conduct a research study. The study investigated new and emerging technology and its potential within an educational setting for adults with developmental disabilities. The project explored argumentative and alternative communication for adults with developmental disabilities by using technology (touch devices) to create art and use as a tool for expressive communication and to measure the social impact of a middle ground (iPad) between the creator and the interpreter. 

During the previous three years that the Visual Storytelling Club has been in existence, students have had the opportunity to connect with each other as they create various works of art. The club is an extracurricular activity for the CICE Students. The use of this technology has encouraged and supported students to interact and connect on a more social level. Through participation in the Visual Storytelling Club students have benefited in many ways such as increased self-confidence, self-esteem and independence. Parvesh Sharma, a graduate of the CICE Program and an active member of the Visual Storytelling Club says “The club was good. I learned something new. Visual storytelling is using pictures not words.”  

To celebrate the work of our CICE students, the Visual Storytelling Club displayed and exhibited these masterpieces for families, friends and colleagues at Humber College. Last year, several student art pieces were purchased by Humber’s Senior Management Team to be showcased in the College.  

The Visual Storytelling Club began as an opportunity for students with developmental disabilities to increase their communication.  However, through its participation in a research study, the Visual Storytelling Club has begun to make an impact in the area of communication and disability. Society benefits from having all of its members able to communicate and connect effectively, but more importantly the students benefit as they contribute to their learning and that of others. The strategies used in this study will empower people with developmental disabilities to take on a more active role in the community because of an increased confidence with technology. With the ability to communicate and make art, the participants can share with society their opinions, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. 

The research has value to those working with adults with developmental disabilities as it offers an alternative assistive technology that is commercially available and accessible and explores alternative methods of expressive communication and creative art. 

Humber College embodies the essence of being an inclusive community by providing learning for all students. The Visual Storytelling Club exemplifies what Humber represents by providing students with various learning abilities an opportunity to express, create and through art, increase their self-confidence. Anne and Jennifer’s work in the Visual Storytelling Club demonstrates innovation and excellence in learning and teaching.