A Classroom Investigation of Software Design Requirements for Special Needs Learners

Walsh, L. and Barry, M. (2009) A Classroom Investigation of Software Design Requirements for Special Needs Learners. In: Edtech 2009, 20-22 May, 2009, National College of Ireland, Dublin. (In Press)

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Abstract

Our study investigates the establishment of a design framework for multimedia software design for young learners with autism. The researcher, in partnership with local special needs and autism schools, has developed a social skills multimedia-based lesson. The Discrete Trial Instruction (DTI) teaching approach has been adopted within the framework of the prototype. DTI is a teaching method used to teach children with learning difficulties. DTI aims to positively improve a social behaviour or teach a task to a child within the classroom environment. The researcher has completed an in-depth study in the field in order to build a specific user model for these young learners. A series of interviews, classroom observations, parent/tutor reviews and sequential prototype design evaluations have been performed. Non-obtrusive observation techniques have been followed throughout the user profile building stage, as suggested by Druin, a children’s technology and interaction design expert. This approach enables learners to feel at ease in their own environment. Findings from these early investigations and user profiling have shown that ease of access to technology and software is a key criterion for these young users. A variety of multimodal technologies such as touchscreens and switches must also be integrated into the design of software. These technologies alleviate the motor and input difficulties which many young learners find when using the more common hardware devices such as a keyboard or mouse. Further recommendations have also indicated the importance of audio to be included within the prototype construction. From the perspective of this project, voiceovers have been recorded to assist children with reading and understanding of lesson content. Results from initial evaluations state that current software on the market is strongly targeted at an American audience. Our project consists of an Irish tone in order to make the lesson more comprehensible for the young learner. In accordance with the DTI approach an animated social scenario lesson has been created using web animation tools. Accompanying the animation is a sample quiz and short animated rewards to assist with motivation and the transfer of knowledge of the lesson content. A nationwide survey is currently in progress to further consolidate the design structure of the prototype. A random sample of Irish national special needs schools has been chosen to participate in the survey. An online questionnaire documenting both interface design and software usability questions has been developed to evaluate the software design framework. It is anticipated that results from this survey should further help the progression of educational computer-based programmes for young learners with autism, and contribute to a clearer understanding of multimedia and software development approaches that have good learning and teaching potential.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments or Groups: eLearning Technology Group
Divisions: School of Science > Department of Computing, Maths and Physics
Depositing User: Leanne Walsh
Date Deposited: 26 May 2009 11:39
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2016 10:25
URI: http://repository.wit.ie/id/eprint/1227

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