Click on the following links to learn more about our work:
- Around the World
- Automated Braille Writing Tutor
- Mobile Braille Writing Tutor
- PREval (Pilot Research Evaluation) Framework
- Standalone Braille Writing Tutor
- TechCaFE (Technology for Customizable and Fun Education)
Education and entertainment have become more closely linked in the past decade. With the prevalence of computer games amongst sighted children and the limited choices available for the blind or visually impaired, the need arises to create computer games that target this audience and incorporate a strong educational aspect. In addition, computer games are often the subject of discussion by children, it is important that such games be playable by both sighted and blind children while allowing fair and friendly competition that encourages interaction.
Around The World (ATW) is an audio based educational computer game that allows teachers and parents to incorporate material they want their students to learn and practice into the game. This material is then presented through the game's context and players are awarded for learning the facts and answering the questions correctly. In essence, ATW seeks to bring the excitement of computer games to blind and visually impaired children while proving a flexible educational component that is easily customized by teachers for different subjects such as math, science, history and geography.
Discussions are currently underway with our partner organizations to test the effectiveness of audio-based educational computer games and the role they can play in helping blind children practice in-class material in a fun and enjoyable manner.
Based on the feedback, we envision enhancing ATW through more options and effects, new game modes as well as the ability to post high scores on a website. This would encourage both sighted and blind children to play the game and achieve higher scores.
The Automated Braille Writing Tutor (BWT) is an intelligent tutoring device, which helps users learn and practice writing braille. The BWT currently consists of an electronic slate and wireless stylus, and is connected to a computer through a USB cable. As the user writes on the electronic slate with the stylus, the BWT provides immediate audio feedback by repeating the written letters, numbers or words. The tutor also guides writing and corrects mistakes.
The BWT's main objective is to teach braille writing through guided practice. The immediate audio feedback serves as a diagnostic tool for instructors, giving them a real-time understanding of what concepts the user did and did not grasp.
Started in 2006 by TechBridgeWorld researchers, the current version of the BWT has six enlarged buttons, which represent a braille writing cell, and are especially useful for new learners. It also has two rows of braille cells, similar to the traditional braille slate. The tutor has many modes for users to learn how to write, practice writing, and be quizzed on letters, words, and numbers. The tutor also has modes for educational games. The BWT is now functional in English, Arabic, Bangla, Chinese, French, and Swahili braille. It has been field tested twice in India (2006 and 2008), once in Tanzania (2009), and has been introduced to schools and institutions in the United States, Bangladesh, China, Qatar, and Zambia.
The BWT is currently on display at Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center) where usage of the tutor is supervised by Mada specialists and detailed feedback from users is gathered. Mada collaborates with various local organizations in Qatar, allowing our tools to be used by a wider audience. Our aim is to improve our technologies based on user feedback gathered at Mada.
DeSIGN is an interactive software application for deaf and hard-of-hearing students that provides guided practice for communication using sign language. The DeSIGN tutor aims to increase the reading level of the students, who are taught to communicate using sign language, by reinforcing the mapping between vocabulary and signs through lessons, tests, and games.
The DeSIGN tutor utilizes a knowledge-tracing algorithm to adapt its tests to the learning level of the students. The tutor also has an interactive game which provides teachers with a customizable tool for motivating students to practice the relation between the vocabulary of the language they are using and corresponding sign language. The game has three levels: the first level tests the association of words and phrases to signs; the second level tests the association of signs with definitions; and the third level tests the association of definitions with words and phrases.
Through the Assistive Educational Technology project, the DeSIGN tutor is available with an English and Arabic interface.
DeSIGN is currently on display at Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center) where usage of the tutor is supervised by Mada specialists and detailed feedback from users is gathered. Mada collaborates with various local organizations in Qatar, allowing our tools to be used by a wider audience. Our aim is to improve our technologies based on user feedback gathered at Mada.
The Mobile Braille Writing Tutor (MBWT) is a simplified version of the Automated Braille Writing Tutor (BWT) aimed at the Google Android platform. Whereas writing using the BWT imitates a slate and stylus, the MBWT’s touchscreen is used to represent a braille cell. Different locations on the screen represent the six dots of a braille cell. Touchscreens lack the physical characteristics of buttons and this makes it difficult for a blind user to navigate such devices. In the MBWT, vibration feedback and audio feedback are used in conjunction to provide information to the user about their input.
The MBWT software currently supports the English language and contains a subset of the BWT’s various modes that help users practice the writing of English braille. Discussions are currently underway with our partner organizations in order to test the effectiveness of such mobile-based software and the role they can play helping blind individuals reinforce their braille knowledge. Based on the feedback, we envision adding Arabic language support to the MBWT and targeting other mobile device platforms.
PREval is a framework for evaluating pilot projects in information communication technology for development (ICTD).
ICTD is a burgeoning field that has attracted increasing interest from researchers, sponsors and policymakers in the last decade. Much of the work being carried out in this area is at the pilot stage, where researchers explore potential technology solutions to challenges in developing communities across the globe. Although ICTD projects are now widespread, there is an evident lack of structure concerning how such projects are assessed; project outcome evaluations are often descriptive, rather than analytical. Within the field of ICTD, work done in the realm of assistive technology is at a nascent stage and therefore is particularly lacking in guidelines and standards for project evaluation.
This document was created to offer a systemic approach to evaluating pilot-stage field projects in ICTD. Most currently employed evaluation methods do not cater to the unique aspects of ICTD, which combines development endeavors with efforts in technology innovation and adaptation. We developed an ICTD-centric, practical method for conducting more comprehensive pilot project evaluations. Our belief is that laying the foundation for evaluation of pilot-stage ICTD projects can benefit this emergent field of research in many ways. First, it would offer an opportunity to improve pilot studies, learn more from them and also make better decisions on how to scale them. Second, it can generate a standardized and more refined approach to reporting results of ICTD endeavors. Finally, it could improve the overall quality of work produced in the field of ICTD and thereby better serve the relevant developing communities.
A copy of the PREval Technical Report is available here.
The Stand Alone Braille Writing Tutor (SABT) is an essential upgrade to our Automated Braille Writing Tutor (BWT). Motivated by feedback from our user groups around the world, the SABT conserves all of the BWT's features and is designed to work without an external computer and can operate long working hours with a built-in rechargeable battery pack. Moreover, the SABT includes three user interfaces (primary, intermediate and advanced) so that teachers can select the appropriate interface to match the skill level of the student.
The primary user interface has large, easily accessible buttons that represent a single braille cell. The intermediate user interface has smaller buttons and an electronic slate. The purpose is to gradually transition students to the advanced user interface which is solely an electronic slate.
In 2011, a prototype of the SABT was field tested with partners in Pittsburgh, USA and in Chittagong, Bangladesh. We received positive feedback on the SABT's accessibility and its potential for educating young and elderly people with visual impairments. In addition to the SABT's stand-alone capability, the multiple interface feature was highly appreciated.
TechCaFE (Technology for Customizable and Fun Education) provides educators with simple and customizable tools to make learning fun for students. TechCaFE currently offers tools for teaching and practicing English literacy. This includes CaFE Teach, a web-accessible content authoring tool that teachers use to create and modify English grammar exercises. Students learn content added by teachers through CaFE Teach via CaFE Web, a web-based practice tool, or CaFE Phone, a mobile phone game. Future work involves developing CaFE Play for customizing educational games.The Assistive Educational Technology team is working to expand this project to older deaf and hard-of-hearing students and their teachers.