Practice-Based PhD Case Study 2: Mick Donegan

Practice Based PhD Case Study 2

Mick’s PhD took 10 years. He did the PhD in his own time when he had only one job. He finished 2 years ago.

Specialist teacher by trade, started mainstream then special needs.
He’s currently working 4 jobs including:
1. European IST Network of Excellence – Gaze Interaction. Mick showed pictures and explained of a few people he’s working who have disabilities from Meningitis and a roller blading accident.
2. Maxess Products – Mick’s company for new interfaces – eye gaze and different keyboards.


Mick is using what he learned during the PhD about self expression and games in his daily work.Website?.
Practice Based Research Wikipedia definition given.
‘Growing popularity in medical field which has had an influence on Special Needs Education and AAC Alternative and Augmentative Communication.’
Google on “Practice Based Research reveals 54k hits.
“Evidence-Based Practice” – growing in interest.
“.. the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of patients”

Mick’s Thesis
“An investigation in to the conditions for successful use of computers in mainstream by children with complex physical difficulties.”

Mick showed video of people working with different interfaces having difficulties to discuss success factors of improvements.

Mick gained insight from observations that there must be a way to make interactions with computers easier.

Discussion of Mick’s Methodology:

  • As open as possible
  • As informative as possible
  • A small sample in detail – qualitative
  • Longitudinal – just 3 years would have only provided a snapshot
  • Thematic – rather than hotch-potch of case studies; and to discover if any consistent themes emerged over time.
  • Case study based action research
  • Grounded theory – several definitions provided, ask Mick for slides
  • Progressive focusing
  • Content analysis
  • Triangulation
  • Comparative analysis
  • Annotated chronological ‘journal’ for each child (phone calls, emails; analysis, reports; interventions; interviews; video; recommendations.

Panning for Gold – boiling down to themes
Continuity – impact of change
Impact of physical issues and challenges
Technology can be counterproductive for certain children at certain times.
Independence can lead to failure
Joined up support network – guidelines
Incorporated remote support

Part 2: An evaluation of the use of telecommunications technology to provide remote assessment support an d training in relation to young people with severe and communication difficulties.

Summary included recommendations for national support network with recommended roles for professionals at all levels of support.

Mick did screen sharing remotely over the network to show a communication page in action as a training example. Many prefer the screen sharing based training to face to face.

Mick promised to publish his PhD but wanted to distance himself from it once finished so hasn’t done it yet. He listed several target publications.

One word to remember: Passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing find something that you are or it will be even harder to complete your PhD.

Questions/Comments:
Technology can get in the way, even be disabling – this is often overlooked. The key is to find solutions that meet the needs of each individual.

Result of PhD is continued passion to find easier better technologies.

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