2003 Conference Proceedings

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THE WEARABLE COMPUTER-TECHNOLOGY WITHOUT BOUNDARIES

Presenters
Jeanne Gides and James Gides
Retired Director of Special Services-Coventry Local Schools in Akron, Ohio
Wear I.T.
9410 Hocking St NW
Massillon, Ohio 44646
Phone: 330-854-4238
Email: jgides@wearit.biz 
Email: jimgides@wearit.biz

Measurable Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the session attendees will be able to:

  1. Identify the three component parts of a wearable computer system and how the system operates.

  2. Identify five wearable computer applications presently being successfully used by students with disabilities (including computer-generated voice output communication, text-to-speech capacity, visual schedules and organizers, replacing standard writing utensils, and more.)

  3. List five ways that a wearable computer can be used as an assistive learning device that can help bridge the gap between a student's disability and the curriculum.

  4. List 3 types of funding available for assistive technology.

Presentation Outline

Statement of Issue:

Emerging technologies are beginning to offer valuable solutions to a complex set of issues revolving around the assistive technology needs of students with disabilities. The wearable computer is one such technology.

Description of Activity:

Coventry Local Schools (Akron, Ohio), Baltimore City Schools, Queen Anne's Public Schools (Maryland), The University of Maryland, George Mason University (Fairfax, VA) and The Xybernaut Corporation (Fairfax, VA) have established the first of its kind, an educational consortium for wearable computer research. The Capitol Area Consortium on Wearable Computing is exploring and evaluating the applicability of wearable computing technology for education. Wear I.T. is a VAR (Value Added Reseller) for Xybernaut, and has worked closely with the Capital Area Consortium in the implementation and use of the wearable computer.

The Coventry Local School District was the first district in the nation to pilot wearable computers with students. The district is committed to using a collaborative, transdisciplinary approach to help students with disabilities develop competencies in using wearable computers.

A wearable computer is a fully functioning personal computer capable of running commercial learning software, organizational and study aid software, or any other assistive technology programs available on a desktop computer. By weighing less than 2 pounds, its size lends itself to accompanying the student throughout the school day by wearing it on a belt or in a small backpack. The hand-held screen can be clipped to the student's belt. The keyboard may be worn on the forearm using Velcro, or a keyboard can also be accessed through touch screen capability. Students can use the wearable computer as a communication device, for curriculum support, and for leisure activity.

During the 2001-02 school year, three Coventry teachers worked to explore, test and evaluate the possible applications of wearable computers for students with disabilities throughout the school district. Students ranged in age from nine to seventeen and have disabilities including: Learning Disabilities, Mental Retardation, Autism, Communication Disabilities and Orthopedic Disabilities. Activities in the research include the use of word prediction and speech synthesized word processors, Web-based learning through wireless connectivity to the Internet, computer generated voice output communication, speech output programs that provide verbal reminders to students, text-to-speech software for listening to text, visual schedules and organizational planners, enhancing competency in written expression, and enhancing or supplementing study and organizational skills.

During the 2002-03 school year, fourteen Coventry students with disabilities are using the wearable computer in a variety of applications and learning environments. A team composed of the student's teachers, school psychologist, and speech pathologist is assigned to each student. The teams are continuing to explore, test and evaluate applications of wearable computers for students with disabilities throughout the school district.

Outcomes

The use of the wearable computer has greatly improved students' functionality and well being within the classroom by allowing them access to crucial resources.

Through using the wearable computer, students have improved their communication, written expression, social-emotional, academic, cognitive and employability skills. Additionally, they have made significant improvement in their time-on-task. Students have also achieved higher expectations, participated in less restrictive environments and gained functional independence.

The wearable computer offers valuable solutions to a complex set of issues revolving around the assistive technology needs of students with disabilities. It is hoped that, as more research is done, wearable computers will revolutionize the intervention strategies implemented for children with special needs. It is anticipated that the results of these efforts with wearable computers for students with disabilities will have a major impact on all levels of education worldwide.


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