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Technology to improve learning for visually-impaired children

Partners in the IST programme-funded MICOLE project, the teams responsible are working in close contact with national and local associations and organisations of visually-disabled persons, as well as schools. Their main task is to design the system itself. However, project coordinator Roope Raisamo, University of Tampere, Finland, describes several supporting activities emphasising users and their real needs.

"We are experimenting with how to use different senses to partially replace missing visual capabilities, especially in tasks that are central in the construction of the system," he says. "Empirical research of collaborative and cross-modal haptic interfaces for visually-impaired children is one of the most important research activities."

Haptic technology interfaces with the user through the sense of touch. This emerging technology adds the sense of touch to previously visual-only solutions. MICOLE's software architecture and applications are multimodal, that is, they use hearing and touch to complement different levels of visual disability.

Their work extends beyond developing an assistive tool. "In addition to MICOLE's immediate value as a tool, the system will have societal implications by improving the inclusion of the visually disabled in education, work and society in general," explains Raisamo.

Initial field studies involved interviews with teachers, children and related user organisations as well as observations of actual group work in schools. The objective was to determine how visually-impaired children collaborate in school with peers and teachers, and to understand to what extent they engage in group work.

"The interaction among the pupils, with teachers and with their peers is very important for learning," says Raisamo. "We know that collaborative learning has benefits because the pupils learn through a dialogue with their peers and construct their own knowledge by doing tasks together with others."


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Contact: Tara Morris
news@istresults.info
322-286-1985
IST Results
27-Apr-2006


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