The Ahead Journal


A Review of Inclusive Education
& Employment Practices ISSN 2009-8286

Connected Voices in Learning Exhibition

Broze O'Donovan

Disability Officer, Limerick Institute of Technology

About the Author

This exhibition aims to celebrate the huge diversity of people in our higher education system through the lens of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) by examining the multitude of connections that exist between our leaders, our champions for change (student support staff) and most importantly, our learners.

Our leaders in higher education have shone light on the inspirational words that have motivated their thinking with regard to the potential of higher education in Ireland.

Our champions for change have given us a window into their professional and personal lives through their intimate portraits, which share their proudest moments and personal passions.

Here is Broze O’Donovan’s own reflection:

Broze O’Donovan

Our learners have revealed the richness of their personal learning stories by contributing personally designed stamps and participating in the creation of an inspiring group poem.

Connected Voices in Learning Exhibition

Behind every student lies a personal story; a journey through an educational landscape that for some appear familiar and for others strange, even foreign. This exhibition is both personal and public; unique but representative - of how our learners see their place in this interconnected web of experiences. Their individual voices tell of life stories shaped by circumstance, happenstance and opportunity.

Their words, images and designs expose their hearts and minds, a rich palette of artefacts symbolising the humanity of diversity - each unique but connected representing individual threads in a complex colourful pattern.

A postage stamp was once a key medium to connect individuals and their stories. It carried the power to transport your personal thoughts and feelings around the globe. The postal service was entrusted with this responsibility, a purveyor of your private communications who guided each unique letter through the great interconnected public communication network. In a sense it reminds us of our role - interconnected with each other to provide the guidance, support, direction and love to ensure that each learner arrives at their chosen destination.

Our artists and poets in 1916 were moved to act for the benefit of others; motivated by a vision for change that would cherish all our children equally. Words and images were a key weapon in changing hearts and minds.

Here we come

Here we come, from all directions
like leaves on the wind in autumn
lone motes in the ebb and flow
of morning traffic.
Hopping off buses, jumping
out of our parents’ cars,
waving goodbye or just walking.
Some talking to others, most not,
this is the first day after all -
we don’t know anybody
and we’re trying to play it cool.
Looking around at where we are
or staring down, at a map,
a timetable, a mobile phone.
Drawn towards the same place
with that name we’ve been savouring,
repeating to our parents,
our friends, to anyone who’ll listen.
This morning, we’re going to college.

College - stepping into our tomorrow.
Weighed down with back packs,
folders, tablets, laptops,
pens, coffees, bottled water,
for some that’s plenty, maybe too much.

For others - that’s nothing, because
we’re carrying something else -
anxiety, or something bigger, maybe;
the hangover of a one night stand gone wrong,
an argument with a cheating lover,
a recent death in the family,
a problem with drink, or drugs, or both.
Or maybe we’ve once been told
that we’re simply the wrong sex,
the wrong religion, too old,
the wrong colour, not fit enough, disabled,
in some way that didn’t make the grade before.
Maybe school just never felt right,
maybe this is our second try,
maybe that’s keeping us back all the time,
holding us down, like chains or anchors.
Maybe we’re here, but ready to bolt,
ready to throw it all away,
but we won’t, not yet.
In our hearts
we’ve stowed away hope
humanity’s oldest motivation
and like flames inside our ribcages
we hold our dreams,
some almost extinguished
some undiscovered like distant stars
and all we ask from you is that you see this
and give us a few things.
an environment that cares for
our minds, our bodies, our souls
somewhere to make friends.
A system of mentors we can trust
to turn up in both senses of the word.
To look for what we can’t see in ourselves.
Experts who are out there,
still learning themselves.
Eccentric, stern, passionate,
always inspiring us to work
harder than we want to
harder than we think we can.
And if you want to know
how hard it is for, just ask.
The best of you always do.

Give us these things
and we all become part of the plan.
A connected part of the whole.
Like the intricate parts of a watch
but less separate.
So much more than just one cog,
more like the people who invented the watch itself,
or tracked the sun through the sky,
plotted the cosmos or mapped
the soft machinery of the human heart.
Here we come, from all directions
like leaves on the wind in autumn
students who want to stand
as graduates not just of a college
but of a way of life, a way of thinking,
a way of believing that anyone can be
the person they dream of being.

Above all, this exhibition is about the unique qualities of people’s journeys – the inspirations, the barriers, the personalities - which help to shape our higher education ecosystem.

The exhibition Connected Voices in Learning was organised and curated by AHEAD and the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and was shown at the AHEAD Symposium 2016 - Taking Stock: UDL. If anyone is interested in hosting the exhibition in their institution please email

Ilikecake Ltd
This article appeared in the AHEAD Journal. Visit for more information