1998 Conference Proceedings

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K-12 WEB RESOURCES FOR SCIENCE, ENGINEERING AND MATH

Dick Banks
EASI Electronic Resource Manager
rbanks2@discover-net.net 
http://www.rit.edu/~easi/workshops.html 

Dr. Norman Coombs
Chair: EASI Equal Access to Software and Information
Nrcgsh@ritvax.isc.rit.edu 
http://www.rit.edu/~easi 

INTRODUCTION

The World Wide Web holds the promise of being the most powerful tool for accessing information in a wide range of subject areas. Because our nation places a high value on education, particularly in the areas of science, engineering and math, knowledge of k-12 Web-based resources in these areas is essential for students, teachers and parents of children with disabilities.

The areas of science, engineering and math in elementary, middle and high schools needs to be considered in the overall context of education. Technologies like screen magnification voice recognition and speech syntheses are essential for many special needs students. Science, engineering and math offer a special challenge to students with disabilities because of content structure like math equations and graphs. Both general K-12 resources and specific SEM sites will be discussed. Those resources offered are those that are frequently updated and stay current.

Although there is a wealth of information on the Web in the areas mentioned in this article, this information is, far to often, not presented in an accessible format. There are very few sites in the area of science, engineering and math that are specifically designed for people with special needs. It is hoped that those reading this article would take the initiative to advocate for universal access in this and all areas of the World Wide Web.

General Sites

Awesome Library

Awesome Library is a relatively new site on the Internet. The special education portion of this site is a very good place to find links and information because the information is categorized disability population areas. Another feature of this page is the fact that there are categories for students, teachers, parents, librarians and community. The site is also accessible to all browsers.

Alliance For Technology Access

One of the finest resources on the Internet if you need to know about Adaptive Computing Technology and where to go in your local area to get assistance. There is a list of vendors who belong to this organization and specialize in hardware and software for the special needs population. Vendors are listed with contact information including email and web site links.

Federal Resource Center for Special Education (the FRC)

The special attraction to this page is because of the information about the IDEA. Another strong point is the, "Find out who serves you!" link. There is an, "Educational Hyperlinks" link which categorizes resources according to disability area as defined by definitions of disability by the American's with Disabilities Act.

LD Online

One of the most challenging problems facing many schools is making education a reality for students with Learning Disabilities. For those dealing with this condition or serving this population, this may be your most valuable bookmark on the World Wide Web. There are areas of interest for students, teachers and parents. Here are a few of the many links. ABC's of LD/ADD; LD in Depth, The LD Calendar and The LD Store. A free newsletter is available that is delivered via email.

Plane Math

This site was created with help from NASA and was developed with special needs students in mind. A text version of the page is the first item that one encounters upon retrieving the page, which makes it accessible to all users. Math problems are designed around situations that might occur in dealing with airplanes. This page would be very useful as a model for considering design in both math content and universal access to the Web.

Math Archives

The Math Department maintains this site at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The layout of the page is very simple and there is no problem in finding where you want to go. One of the most extensive collections of math software, both freeware and shareware can be found here. There are many other reasons to keep this site on your bookmark list, to numerous to mention. The site is not operating system specific either. Dos, Windows and Mac software are available.

Teaching Math to Visually Impaired Students

One of the few pages that is specifically designed to address issues of math access for the visually impaired. The page is 100% usr friendly and a wide area of math accessibility is addressed. The link above is directly to the math page. There is a link to the main page and is worth visiting.

MegaMath

The developers of MegaMath do a very good job of making their page accessible to all browsers. The content is worthy of mention as well. This site is rich in activities that show math as a living science by offering activities that bring math to life for elementary students. There are many activities that do make math interesting to learn. Here are four examples of how math concepts are presented.


Math HomeWork

Although this site is frame based, more recent versions of text based Web browsers can access information presented. Visitors to the page have the option of writing the author with any math questions they may have. Some of the special features found here are:

The MIT Biology Hypertextbook

This site, for the most part, is a complete book on biology. Although many of the pictures do not take advantage of the HTML ALT="text" accessibility tags, the text of the book is of enough value that it deserves mention here. It is actually a complete book and has study guides and a tutorial on how best to use the book.

CHEMistry: An Interactive Guide to Chemistry

This web site is an on-line textbook that provides an excellent supplement for high school chemistry classes. Although the site is heavily graphical, it does not take long to understand how to navigate.

The Hands-On Technology Program

The Hands-On Technology Program is specifically designed for grades k through 8. All of the activities are created to use everyday inexpensive materials. The site is accessible to speech if the, "by subject" link is chosen. Areas addressed at this site are:

Conclusion

The World Wide Web is a virtual gold mine of educational information on science, engineering and math. Over two hundred sites were reviewed in hopes of finding resources that would be accessible to all visitors. The simple reality is that user friendly sites were rare.

The very nature of the Web is its versatility in presenting information. It is tempting to present information in a graphical format. There is also an abundance of interactive programming like java scripting to make experiments and lesson plans interactive. Very little effort is made by these page developers to include accessibility in page design. Too often accessing the information presented is more difficult than the information itself. In other words, there are two challenges. One is trying to get to the information of interest and the other is learning that information.

In most cases inaccessible Web page design is a lack of knowledge on the part of developers. There is a real need for educating the entire web community about universal Web design. New technologies for making the World Wide Web interactive are appearing on nearly a daily basis. There is a need for all those interested in special education to advocate by being aware of how Web pages can be made accessible. Advocating to Web page administrators by writing them could make a difference.

There are a number of ways to advocate or universal access to the Web. One way is to inform Web page developers about the WAI (Web Access Initiative). This initiative is part of the World Wide Web Consortium, who are responsible for Web guidelines. The WAI has guidelines for creating accessible Web pages and these guidelines may be viewed at the following URL.

http://www.w3.org/tr/wd-wai-pageauth

EASI: Equal Access to Software is another option for learning about accessible Web page design. EASI has developed an online distance learning workshop. Participants are taught how to recognize a good or poor Web pages with regard to access. The EASI homepage can be found at the following url.

http://www.rit.edi/~easi 


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