Assistive technology offers the promise to ensure that all students who have a learning disability can access the regular curriculum. Assistive technology is any technology that allows a student to circumvent an area of weakness. The difficulty is, even though we know that the technology should be able to support students, the implementation of technology has not been very successful. Across Canadian schools we see the abandonment of assistive technology on a day-to-day basis. Through the lab we are investigating the variables that predict the abandonment of the technology. One of the key factors we have found this year is that training the teachers directly predicts the increased use of assistive technology in a classroom. This makes sense, because if a teacher does not understand how a technology integrates into the lesson that they're teaching, it's going to be hard for them to be able to support a student who requires it.
Evaluation of Assistive Technology
Dr. Todd Cunningham
Progress: Many Ongoing Studies
An ongoing project of our lab, which consists of many smaller studies, is the empirical evaluation of assistive technology on the market. Commercial products are developed faster than they can be tested, so we are working hard to prove the effectiveness of the many tools out there and show that they work!
We are currently testing some popular Word Prediction, OCR, Text To Speech, Annotation, Audiobook, and Calculator technologies using systematic protocols.
Dr. Todd Cunningham
With over 400 different assistive technology products on the market, it can be incredibly difficult for consumers to make decisions about what AT is right for the individual who is using it. ATSelect.org provides a decision-making protocol to guide clinicians, teachers or parents to the most appropriate AT for the individual’s needs. This protocol is adapted from research on the SETT framework by Zabala and colleagues (1994). On the website, users will find summaries of the available research literature on each AT tool as well as product recommendations based on our research, clinical experience, and what is available on the market.
Student & Teacher Perceptions of Assistive Technology
Progress: In Press
This project investigates the variables that predict students’ and teachers’ perceived usefulness of AT, the barriers to student use of AT, and how teacher perceptions of AT affect student use of AT in classrooms using survey and interview methods. It will provide more comprehensive data on the state of AT use within classrooms and will identify how teacher practices and/or attitudes are related to greater use of AT by students within the classroom environment. Additionally, it will provide data that allows researchers to predict students for whom AT implementation will be the most successful based on individual, classroom, and teacher characteristics.
Impact of Cognitive Load on Student Performance
Progress: Study Design
This project looks to evaluate cognitive load using different methods such as TOI (transdermal optic imaging) technology, and show how much mental effort and stress students are exerting, and how that stress impacts their academic performance.
Standardization and Understanding of Typing Testing
Progress: Data Collection
This project will help develop a standardized, developmentally appropriate tool that researchers and clinicians can use to measure typing fluency. There continues to be a lack of consistency in the literature with how this skill is measured, including differences in task design, time constraints and passage complexity. Using a 2-minute copy paradigm with passages from a criterion-referenced CBM, this project will examine the impact of passage difficulty on typing fluency in children, measured by words per minute. We will also examine which variables, such as syllables per word and characters per word, have a greater impact on fluency. The results of this study will aid in the creation of a standardized fluency measure that will then be used in later studies to examine effectiveness of typing interventions for children with handwriting challenges and the relationship between fluency and written expression quality.
Progress: Currently Implemented in Schools
Waiting lists for psychological assessments through Ontario school boards can be as long as two years. One of the reasons for this delay is that an average psychological assessment takes 6 to 8 hours to complete. From work that Dr. Cunningham and his team have done in Northern Ontario communities it has become clear that the same information can be collected in as little as 2.5 to 3 hours. This new assessment protocol has the ability to significantly reduce wait times and is currently being evaluated by our team as part of our ongoing commitment to providing the most useful and efficient service that are based in high quality research to our clients.
Mental Health Literacy
Progress: Data Collection
Mental health has only become more relevant over the years, but how well can people actually detect when someone is at risk? This study looks to empirically evaluate the mental health literacy and judgement ability of experts in education.