For a lot of reasons, Children with vision impairments struggle to get a solid K-12 education. So if there will be more tools, their teachers will impart basic skills and concepts much better for them. A startup, . ObjectiveEd, aims to empower teachers and kids with a digital curriculum, a suite of learning games which is accessible to all vision levels, it also has tools to track and promote progress. Reading and writing of these vision-impaired kids are slower and more difficult for them than for sighted kids these reasons are obvious because of them they don’t get the education they deserve.
Some other reasons are that their overcrowded classrooms are already demanding more than teachers can provide, as they have limited time and resources to dedicate to these special needs students. We cannot say that technology is the solution to this problem , but it can play part to be part of the solution, because technology is so empowering and kids take to it naturally.
In the last few years, Marty Schultz, as head of a company worked on this oppontunity that makes games targeted at the visually impaired audience. During this process, the potential for adapting that work for more directly educational purposes was also studied.
Children don’t like studying and don’t like doing their homework,” he told me. “They just want to play video games.”Almost all regular education teachers use educational digital games in their classrooms and about 20% use it every day,” he explained. “Most teachers report an increase in student engagement when using educational video games. Gamification works because students own their learning. They have the freedom to fail, and try again, until they succeed. By doing this, students discover intrinsic motivation and learn without realizing it.”
Almost all kids learned to type, point and click, do geometry and identify countries via games, It’s a great way for kids to teach themselves. However, Practically none of these games would be playable by a kid with vision impairment or blindness. As the rising technology tide lifts everyone else’s boats, kids, like others with disabilities, are frequently left behind. To create accessible games that target things like Braille literacy and blind navigation of rooms and streets, are difficult and time-consuming. So, teachers are left with existing resources or, more likely, fall back on tried and true methods like printed worksheets, in-person instruction and spoken testing.
Due to lack of time, teacher cannot use these outdated methods to cater to an individual student’s needs, which is very difficult. A kid may be great at math but lack directionality skills. An “individual education plan” (IEP) explaining what steps need to be taken to improve, then track those improvements is needed which is time-consuming and hard.
Both games that teach these basic skills and a platform to track and document progress as well as adjust the lessons to the individual, will be provided by this digital curriculum. In a game like Barnyard we can see how it works, which like all of ObjectiveEd’s games has been created to be playable by blind, low-vision or fully sighted kids. The student finding an animal in a big pen is present in this game, then dragging it in a specified direction. The easiest levels might include only left and right, then move on to cardinal directions for further levels, then up to clock directions or even degrees.Schultz said:
“If the IEP objective is ‘Child will understand left versus right and succeed at performing this task 90% of the time,’ the teacher will first introduce these concepts and work with the child during their weekly session,” . That’s the kind of hands-on instruction they already get. “The child plays Barnyard in school and at home, swiping left and right, winning points and getting encouragement, all week long. The dashboard shows how much time each child is playing, how often, and their level of success.”
The teacher can set the game to get harder or faster automatically, or move onto the next level of complexity automatically (such as never repeating the prompt when the child hesitates). Or the teacher can maintain the child at the current level and advance the child when she thinks it’s appropriate.”
This digital curriculum is not to provide a full-on K-12 education in a tablet app. The gap between kids who can play Mavis Beacon or whatever on school computers and vision-impaired kids who can’t, is just trying to filled by this gadget .
The platform without expert help is not being developed.
“We’ve developed relationships with several schools for the blind as well as leaders in the community to build educational games that tackle important skills,” Schultz said. “We work with both university researchers and experienced Teachers of Visually Impaired students, and Certified Orientation and Mobility specialists. We were surprised at how many different skills and curriculum subjects that teachers really need.”
Two games has been built by the company to teach iPhone gestures and the accessibility VoiceOver rotor. A proprietary technology from Apple may be, but it’s something these kids need to know how to use, as they need to know how to run a Google search or use a mouse without being able to see the screen, and other common computing tasks.
ObjectiveEd exists to help teachers, parents and schools adapt to this new era of gamified learning for students with disabilities, starting with blind and visually impaired students,” Schultz said. “We firmly believe that well-designed software combined with ‘off-the-shelf’ technology makes all this possible. The low cost of technology has truly revolutionized the possibilities for improving education.”
To finalize and test the interface and build out the games library is the company’s plan for now. ObjectiveEd, digital curriculum, is still not ready to launch. However, it’s important to build it with constant feedback from students, teachers and experts.