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Small Business Innovation Research in Special Education


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FY Awards

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Refining and Validating the NimblePad

Year: 2009
Name of Institution:
Nimble Assessments
Principal Investigator:
Hoffman, Thomas
Award Amount: $749,840
Award Period: 2.5 years
Award Number: EDIES09C0056


Purpose: A major shortcoming of current computer-based testing systems is the inability to include items that require students to produce complex formulas, drawings, or graphs. Until this challenge is addressed, classroom assessments and large-scale state testing programs will be limited to administering items that are multiple-choice or require only typed responses. The NimblePad is a peripheral device designed to allow K–12 students to enter responses to open-ended test items in a natural manner by hand.

Project Activities: Technology development includes full-scale development of all hardware including the pressure-sensitive device on which answers are written and recorded as data and software that captures the responses on a computer. The team will also develop a tactile overlay feature for blind or visually impaired students to access and respond to open-response items that involve graphic elements and/or which require students to produce lines, shapes, or other simple "drawings." Research activities include a series of usability studies, stress testing of the system for when the new features are employed, and a set of studies to test validity of the tool.

Product: The NimblePad will be a low cost device that allows students to produce open-ended responses in a natural manner. NimblePad's main components include a stylus pencil, a screen that displays images and provides students a place to write or draw their responses, a casing that allows blind and visually impaired students to firmly place tactile overlays onto the touch sensitive screen, and a USB cable that connects the device to a computer. The USB cable relays information from the computer to the device in order to display base images on the unit's color screen. Once complete, the response is transferred to the computer and displayed in a response area associated with the test item on the computer screen.