A handful of research projects now under way will gauge the effectiveness of new learning and assistive technologies for students with disabilities, such as a non-visual web browser and spell-check programs designed for those with dyslexia.

The projects are being supported by the National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) and its “Technology in the Works” grant program. The five grant recipients each will receive $15,000 to conduct research that examines the effectiveness of software and technologies for students with special needs. The grants require matching funds from project participants.

“This year’s winners represent and exciting cross section of breakthrough technologies that advance the learning and assistive technology field,” said Tracy Gray, director of NCTI at the American Institutes for Research. “We look forward to the knowledge these studies will bring to the field, [resulting] in greater opportunities for students with disabilities.”

Accessible Math Software

Madalaine Pugliese, developer of “Stages Math: Number Sense” software, is studying how well software can help young students of various abilities develop number sense.

“We want to create math software that is universally designed, so it’s accessible for all learners and provides differentiated instruction,” she said.

Pugliese, along with researchers Russell Maguire, an associate professor at Simmons College, and Karen Janowski with EdTech Solutions, will pre-test students in two classes in kindergarten, first, and second grades to determine areas in need of instruction within eight content areas. Students will receive instruction (supplemented by their use of the software) and then take a post-test.

Pugliese said the pre-test and post-test data will be analyzed to determine the efficacy of the software as an instructional tool and the effectiveness of the differentiated instructional settings for individual learning.

“We have different kinds of learners, so a [universal design] strategy is needed because kids are unique,” Pugliese said, adding that she hopes to determine “how software can play a role for kids with these needs.”

She said she is focusing on math, because she sees math as the next area that needs to be addressed in education.

“We’ve already tackled reading on a national level, but we know that math is the next horizon,” she said.

Mobile-Learning Efficacy

Robert Longo, executive vice president of Etech Group North America, researcher Megan Whitmore, a graduate student at the University of Michigan-Dearnborn, and researcher Susan Everett, assistant professor at the University of Michigan, will study the impact of individualized instruction delivered through the use of mobile technologies on the achievement levels of fifth-grade general education students and students with learning disabilities.


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