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IES Contract

Title: Haptic Immersion Platform to Improve STEM Learning for the Visually Impaired
Center: NCSER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Darrah, Marjorie Awardee: Information Research Corporation
Program: Small Business Innovation Research in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2.5 years Award Amount: $1,049,279
Type: Fast Track Award Number: EDIES11C0028

Phase I Amount: $149,603
Phase I Period: 6 months

Phase II Amount: $899,676
Phase II Period: 2 years

Product Video Demonstration:

Purpose: For most of the 20th century, students with visual impairments were placed in separate schools from their peers. With major advances in public policy, it is now more common that all students (regardless of such disabilities) be integrated within schools and in classrooms. Recent research demonstrates a lack of products to support the visually impaired in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classrooms, as schools today often rely on large print or curricular materials that cannot wholly convey information to students. This project will develop a platform to enrich STEM learning among students with (or without) visual impairments.

Project Activities: After mock-ups are completed, prototypes of the multi-media learning applications (apps) will be developed. A user-interface will be designed to house the apps and the materials needed to implement the intervention. Next, programming code will be authored to integrate a haptic controller device with the platform to enable tactile sensory learning opportunities. To assess implementation feasibility, the usability of the technology, and to gather data on the promise of the product to support learning, the pilot study will follow 10 classrooms over two months. The classrooms will include a mixture of students with and without visual impairments. Half of the classrooms will use the product to supplement their normal science curriculum whereas the other half will serve as a business-as-usual comparison group. Research questions will address the ease of integration of the product within classrooms, whether visually impaired students have greater access to science data than typical practices, and whether students learn more from using the platform compared to those not using the product. Pre and post measures will address STEM topics.

Product: The Interactive Touch Science will be an integrated software and hardware assistive technology platform to support STEM learning among middle school students with (or without) visual impairments. The product will include a series of 20 apps that will be accessed through the user-interface. Each app will address standards-relevant content. The product will also include a haptic sensing controller device, which will be connected to a computer and integrated with the apps to provide real-time tactile, visual, and audio feedback. The product will include materials for classroom-based implementation.