2002 Conference Proceedings

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USING LINKED LAPTOP COMPUTERS IN THE CLASSROOM TO SUPPORT STUDENTS WITH DISABILITES

James Bailey, Adaptive Technology Access Adviser
University of Oregon
Disability Services
5278 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
jbailey@darkwing.uoregon.edu 
541-346-1076

Technology has been assisting post-secondary students with disabilities for well over a decade. Existing and emerging technologies can be applied creatively to solve many of the challenges facing today's college student with a disability.

The University of Oregon has done seminal research in the area of computer assisted collaborative notetaking 1. The university has moved into the practical application of this technology. This presentation reports on the deployment of this technology at the university.

This process allows students who need assistance in creating classroom notes to see notes being generated on a laptop computer in real time. The student is able to communicate to the notetaker via the laptop computer. Originally, the research done at the University of Oregon investigated using this technology for students with learning disabilities. Such students notetaking ability was deficient because of either writing or organizational learning issues.

While work progressed to assist students with learning disabilities, there was independent work with linking laptops to assist students who are deaf or HOH. Computer-aided speech-to-print transcription systems have been developed by at least two entities (one a private non-profit the other a software company)2. The software allows the use of typing shortcuts and facilitates real-time transcription. It should be noted that the two real-time transcription software packages mentioned here require specific training to be used properly.

The goal of applying any assistive technology in higher education is to have that technology as transparent as possible and to have the student participate in the class as typically as possible.

The challenge that the University of Oregon set out to meet was for students who were HOH. These students are excellent lip readers and do not use ASL. With lip reading, the student's focus must remain on the speaker and this diminishes notetaking capacity. By having the notes in real-time the student is able to refer to them to check his or her understanding and to more effectively participate in class discussions.

The communication system is two way. Not only does the student see the notes on the screen of his or her laptop; the student is able to write back to the notetaker in real-time.

While collaborative notetaking software exits in the Macintosh environment, it is not readily available for the Windows/Intel platform. Most collaborative writing software is for documents written by more than one person. It is not a dynamic and real-time link between computers. The makers of TypeWell software were developing a dynamic and real-time collaborative notetaking system for the Windows environment and allowed the University of Oregon to obtain a beta version of the software.

Disability Services hired notetakers who trained at the Adaptive Technology Center. The students also receive training on the use of the technology.

In conclusion, this system helps meet several goals in serving students with disabilities. It provides the student access to class notes that he or she might otherwise have a difficult time producing. It provides the student a mechanism for commenting on or questioning the notes as they are produced.

Endnotes

1. See http://ces.uoregon.edu/CBCN/default.html

2. Codewell LCC (http://www.typewell.com/) creates TypeWell software and NETAC (http://www.netac.rit.edu/c-print.html) produces C-Print


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