During the last meeting with my coordinator José this thursday we concluded what the application should do:
- Like I concluded from the interview, the students will be able to use text-to-speech in the application. They should be able to select words, sentences or paragraphs in an easy way which the current voice-over functionality on the iPad does not.
- The application will gather all the words the students select to be read aloud.
- The teacher will be able to see this data in her application. In that way he/she is able to see if there are certain words the students select repeatedly. That way he/she can work on those words.
- This data can also be used to make a user profile of the student. This could for example be used in a web search application. When the student looks for certain topics, the application can do a risk evaluation of the resources and recommend or discourage visiting a website because there could be a lot of words in it where the user has problems with. This can avoid frustration. For this the IMS Acc4All (social tagging of the resources) and LIP (this specification defines a user profile) standards can be used.
- There will also be Facebook integration. This will be limited to accessing the classgroup’s discussion boards, the accessing of profile pictures for the teachers application. The reason the classgroup discussion board will be integrated is that in this way they will be working in an environment that protects them from some other facebook functionality that some people with a mental disability have problems with like explained in the post about the interview.
- Twitter feed for quick announcements from the teacher.
- Of course the application will also be able to do the “basic” things we would expect in an application that will be used in a class environment like an attendance checker, grade stats, calendar, assignments checker,…
Monday 11 October 2010 I interviewed Ann De Leersnijder (teacher for students with social and emotional problems) and Peter Bauwens (ICT teacher) at “De Sprankel” in Mechelen. This is a school for people with mental disabilities.
The interview was really interesting because this is one of the very few schools that already use ICT tools for people with disabilities. Not yet in the classroom though, they have ICT-lessons were they use those tools. For example they use Sprint which is a text-to-speech program normally used by people with dyslexia but this is also very useful for those with a mental disability. They pointed out that this isn’t the ideal way though. Sprint is not designed to be used by people with a mental disability but solely for people with dyslexia. The problem is that there is just no alternative… There are so much opportunities in this field which could help the people with a mental disability a lot and allow them to have a higher life standard.
They also use Wai-Not, this is sort of a private social network were the students can chat and send e-mails to each other. This is specially made for people with mental disabilities and uses betaprents. This are pictograms so that the ones that can’t read can transform sentences into pictograms. Peter pointed out that too badly the other way around is not implemented (I showed them Proloquo2go and that is exactly what they want Wai-Not to implement). It also has auditive support so the students can let it speak everything out loud. The problem with it is that it is really limited. Sometimes the students just want to let one word or sentence be spoken out loud and that is not possible. It also does not show which word where in the text is spoken while this is something that stimulates and improves their reading capacities. The other big problem is that this is a private network so yes it is secure and avoids abuse but on the other hand they are again separated from other people without a mental disability… Having a mental disability does not mean you can not have friends without one! I mentioned that it could be possible to use the api of for example Facebook to make a simple, safe application for Facebook with tools for people with a mental disability so they can also be socially active. They responded that if something like that existed the world would open for a lot of people with a mental disability.
So what I can conclude from this interview is how important text-to-speech software is for people with a mental disability. This allows them to do a lot more. It is not that they can not understand things or process information. It is just that they do it differently and therefore perhaps slower but they may not be underestimated and too badly this happens too much…