UTILIZATION OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY DEVICES AND ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT OF STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT IN SPECIAL EDUCATION

ABSTRACT
Assistive technology devices can move a long way in improving the quality of special education through making students with special needs more independent. Analogy assistive technology which is mainly used in Nigerian special school is slow, bulky, inefficient and dependent. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to analyze the potential of assistive technology devices in educational achievement for students with visual impairment at Yaba special secondary school. The study employed a case study research design where both quantitative and qualitative data of one special school were collected and analyzed. The target population of 133 students with visual impairments comprised of 73 boys and 60 girls. The study also targeted 10 teachers, a transcriber and a librarian. The study employed purposive sampling technique to select a sample of 40 students, 10 teachers, 1 librarian and 1 transcriber. Research instruments were questionnaires, interview schedule and observation checklist. Research findings were presented using frequency tables and percentages. The study revealed that in Nigeria students with visual impairment use analogy technology which embraces manual brailers, slate and stylus, abacus, Taylor Frame, cubes and Cuberithms Board which are slower, inefficient and not matching digital age. The study also found that: utilization of assistive technology devices has enormous.

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background to the Study
Modern assistive technologies are innovative technologies that modify or adapt the classroom for special learning needs (Shell, Cashman, Gunter & Gunter, 2006). This kind of technology assists in teaching students who have physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities. Such modern technology provides teachers with innovative tools to help students with special needs overcome the disability that block or impedes their learning process. According to American Foundation for the Blind (2012), assistive technology is any tool that helps students with disabilities to do things more quickly, easily or independently. The same sentiment about assistive technology is affirmed by Jonassen and colleagues (2008) who observe that assistive technology in education is a product system modified to increase maintain or improve the functional capabilities of children or students with special needs. Such technology for students with visual impairment entails large print access, speech access, braille access and scanned material access (Hasselbring & Glaser, 2012).

Assistive technology devices has proved to be an equalizer for students because it allows the Braille user to provide feedback to teachers by producing materials in braille for personal use and then in print for teachers, classmates and parents. It also provides students with visual impairment many options for accessing printed information and producing written material for communication sighted. This indicates that a computer system adapted by installation of jaws, NVDA, large screen and large raised keys for keyboard is an appropriate functional assistive technology devices is an ideal tool for students with visual impairment. In addition, studies show that a computer with preferred applications enhances cognitive and multiple forms of thinking in students. Jackson (2009) affirms that in this era of educational inclusion, integration and globalization, students and teachers with disabilities at all levels need every kind of information on how technology can enhance their performance, facilitate participation in instructional activities and improve educational outcome.

Educational achievement for students with visual impairment concerns the whole concept of education, which are academic achievement, personal development and autonomy. The aim of special education is to narrow the gap between inability and ability, so that educational achievement can be measured through examining the output. Students with disability must like other students who attend regular schools can achieve well and competitively if their schools and teachers can adopt assistive technology (D’andrea & Presley, 2009).

Constructivists, on the other hand, believe that students do not learn from technology which supports students to learn. The assistive technology for learners with visual impairment include screen magnifier, screen reading software such as jaws, window eyes, virtual magnifying glass, ward talk, Non-Visual Desktop Access, Thunder, Web Anywhere, Zoom Text and Soretek among others. When a computer is fitted with any of these assistive technologies becomes accommodative to a student with visual impairment. He/she can use it for reading, writing, doing assignment, socializing with others on facebook or email and searching for any new knowledge or information on the internet. For example, screen enlargement software allows the students to easily read and see what is on the monitor, especially those with poor eyesight. The talking software on the other hand reads the text appearing on the screen for the visually impaired student hence making access to information easier and education possible.

Computers and other technologies are powerful tools that support students with special educational needs. Those with visual impairments access written text through auditory devices or print magnification devices (Tomei, 2003). According to D’Andrea and Presley (2009), professionals and students with visual impairments function independently in other activities with the appropriate assistive technology.

They further confirm that having a personal computer acts as a backbone in one’s life as it supports a visually impaired user to independently write, edit documents, send and receive e-mails. It creates efficiency and independence to a student with visual impairment who has skills to use it. D’andrea and Presley (2009) further affirm that Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or note-taker allows a student with visual impairment to quickly and efficiently attend to his/her duties. Equipping a computer with assistive technology for learners serves as a backup for the learners’ brain since it has speech, a line of refreshable braille, and braille input keypad, calendar, workrelated files and notes.

A study conducted in USA by Johnstone, Altman, Timmons, and Laitusis (2009) on technology assisted reading assessment funded by US Department of Education office of Special Education programmes revealed that application of technology in education has increased. The study involved 27 teachers of students with visual impairment. These were teachers who worked in schools for the blind, itinerant teachers for low vision, those who taught students who were totally blind, teachers who taught braille and those who did not. It emerged from the study that all teachers who taught students with low vision used some form of magnification assistive technology and almost all teachers used some form of computer screen magnification. Those who taught students using braille applied various technologies including audio devices, and Braille note-takers. Finally, those who taught using Crossed Circuit Television (CCTV) reported specific names of products used in addition such as, Alpha Smart, Book Port, Braille and speak, DAISY Readers, Extreme Readers, Free box, iPod, JAWS, Kurzweil, Open book, Outspoken, Pac mate and Zoom Text. It became apparent from the study and conversation with the participants that technology and reading go hand in hand.

In South Africa, Sensory Solutions Limited (2008) developed a handbook stipulating guidelines on how the visually impaired can use and benefit from assistive technology. The handbook portrays the reality in South Africa by stating that blind students have access to braille production and Braille note taking class and for study. Students have access to Screen reading, magnification, as well as Scan and Read facilities. On the same note, the South African National Council for the blind (2010) in support of assistive technology stated that in the year 2003, nine schools for the visually impaired received assistive technology materials. It also stated that by the end of 2004, 21 schools were to receive assistive materials adding the total of schools to 30 having a population of 10,000 students with visual impairment. This was an indication that in South Africa, students with visual impairment have been introduced to efficient technologies to learn independently while at school.

In 1999, the centre for adaptive technology through Nigeria society for the Blind in response to train persons with visual impairment computer skills initiated training for persons with visual impairment. The first group of students received individualized attention in order to access electronic information for work and further their studies. Thirty-six students enrolled on JAWs screen reading software, orientation on computer hardware, braille display and embossers (KSB, 2012). Since then, no any organized training has trickled down to primary and secondary schools to prepare students on the same rendering the case on the ground different because the that kind of technology has not been introduced to all schools as a compulsory subject or as part of the subjects taught. Further still teachers are not technology survey and the number of computers in schools is minimal and limited to computer laboratories where they are minimally accessed.

In 2012, Communication Authority of Nigeria (CAK) facilitated a multi-stakeholder workshop on E-accessibility for persons with disabilities to address the barrier of accessibility among persons with special needs. During that workshop a web portal for persons with disability was launched by the name of the Nigeria disabilities web portal in collaboration with other stakeholders. However, it has not been utilized. The study intends to bridge the gap of inefficiency created by such outdated technology which is part of the barrier to equitable access of education for students with visual impairment (KSB, 2012).

In Nigeria, students with visual impairments largely use analogy kind of technology in their daily educational activities which basically comprise of Braille, slate and stylus accompanied with Braille papers. Majority are not exposed to modern technology their learning is majorly at the mercy of the sighted guide (Mugo, 2013). Mugo also noted that, students with visual impairments use braille and interact sparingly with JAWs, NVDA, Dolphin pen and other forms of assistive technology during computer lessons. The amount of time allocated, students cannot independently study and achieve education as per individual’s ability. Following this background the study sought to examine the utilization of assistive technology devices on education in education achievement for students with visual impairment.

1.2 Statement of the Problem
Education in developed countries is mandatory to all citizens and students in terms of design, environmental demands, economic empowerment, social demands and individual interest. It accommodates diversity whereby those living with disability are not left behind in every tier of education because the state has the sole role to provide quality education to every child, student and citizen. For instance, Singapore in 1970 to date recognized the potential of information technology as a key enabler in accelerating its economic development (Koh & Lee, 2008). United States of America, Canada, Australia and South Africa have fully embraced the potential of assistive technology devices as it supports students with visual impairment to learn independently, easily, quickly and efficiently. That is, they access quality education by utilizing information communication technology.

In Nigeria, the situation is different because the students with visual impairment cannot access quality education due to lack of assistive technology devices which is efficient in obtaining educative information, experience online entertainment, communicate with others and be independent in daily operations. Assistive technology utilized is analog such as braille machines for writing, Braille books, abacus, cubes and cubarithm board, taylor frame and types, Low vision optical and non optical devices and CCTV. There is, however, limited studies on utilization of assistive technology devices and how it affects education achievement for learners with disability in Nigeria. Ministry of Education in its Strategic Plan 2006-2011 intended to integrate information communication technology in education. If implemented, learners will benefit through acquiring ICT skills which are very fundamental in today’s all aspects of life (Ministry of Education, 2006). The strategic plan has however shown little concern in implementing adoption of ICT for persons with disability. There is also little awareness on the potential of assistive technology devices in effective education for students with visual impairment. There is also a problem of technical expertise in the area of providing specialized ICT for the visually impaired through digitization of the curriculum. This study sought to examine the utilization of assistive technology devices on educational achievement of students with visual impairment.

1.3 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to examine the potential of assistive technology devices and its effects on educational achievement of students with visual impairment at Yaba Special Secondary School.

1.4 Objectives of the Study
The study sought to address the following objectives:

(i) Identify assistive technology devices used in Yaba special secondary school for the visually impaired.

(ii) To examine the criteria used to select the best assistive technology devices that suits students individual needs.

(iii) To find out the challenges facing teachers and students with visual impairment while using assistive technology devices.

(iv) To find out the effects of assistive technology devices on educational achievement for students with visual impairment.

1.5 Research Questions
The study was guided by the following research questions:

(i) What kind of assistive technology devices used in Yaba special secondary school?

(ii) What criteria are used in selecting assistive technology devices that suit individual education need?

(iii) What are the challenges faced by teachers and students while using assistive technology devices in learning?

(iv) What is the effect of assistive technology devices in education achievement of students with visual impairment?

1.6 Significance of the Study
The study is expected to be of great benefit to various stakeholders in special education. To the Ministry of Education science and technology, the study will be useful while formulating policies and developing curriculum regarding special education since it will highlight the need of adopting assistive technology devices in teaching students with special needs. To the teachers, the study will be useful since it will highlight the benefits of adopting assistive technology devices while teaching learners with special needs. To the students, the study will be of great help since it will reveal how they can develop themselves independently to achieve their educational goals. To the parents, the study will be of particular importance since it will highlight the importance and how assistive technology devices can be effectively used to the betterment of their children education. The study will also act as a good foundation for other researchers interested in conducting studies on the utilization of assistive technology devices and its effects on educational achievement of students with visual impairment.

1.7 Assumptions of the Study
The researcher assumed that:

(i) Respondents involved could willingly provide reliable information to guide the study.

(ii) All students had equal chances of interacting with assistive technology to strengthen their learning.

(iii) Teachers had information communication technology skills in addition to area of specialization.

1.8 Limitations of the Study
The study faced various challenges, one of the challenge the researcher faced time; putting in mind that the study was a case study, a lot of time was required in the distribution and collection of questionnaires. In addition, student with visual impairment require more time to fill the questionnaire. To overcome the challenges, the researcher worked under tight schedules and also sought the help of teachers in helping the students fill the questionnaire. The researcher had to prepare brailed scrip of the questionnaire so that the students can respond to the questionnaire independently. The students’ response was also in braille format.

1.9 Delimitation The study
was on the utilization of assistive technology and its effects on educational achievement of students with visual impairment. Therefore, other forms of impairments will not be included in the study. The study was also conducted in Yaba special secondary school therefore; other special schools in the area of study were not included.

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Item Type: Project Material  |  Attribute: 53 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Price: N3,000  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.
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