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STUDY ON XYBERNAUT'S BACKPACK COMPUTER AS ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY AT THE POSTSECONDARY LEVEL

Presenter
James Fleming, M.S.
Beacon College
105 E. Main St.
Leesburg, FL 34748
Phone: (352)787-2912
Email: jfleming@beaconcollege.edu

Riviere (1996) stated that assistive technology (AT) improves lives by compensating for a disability while enhancing established strengths. AT has proven to be a positive compliment to students with LD entering postsecondary institutions.

This paper reviews various types of AT available to postsecondary students with a Learning Disability (LD). After the initial AT device is identified, suggestions For implementing AT are presented. These plans stress the need for AT to be transferred in various environments. Secondly, this paper will present a study that incorporates a XyberKids backpack computer to aid students at Beacon College.

Mull, Sitlington, & Alper (2001) stated the use of AT has increased recently due to the easy access of computers. Researchers examined studies written on AT and found the most used AT for students with LD were word processors, electronic spell checkers, personal organizers, time management software, calculators, speech control tape recorders, listening aids, speech synthesis systems, speech recognition systems, and data managers. This paper examines the above listed used with a personal computer.

Riviere (1996) described the use of a word processor as a writing system that allows one to remove concerns regarding making mistakes. The efforts using a word processor shifts from the mechanics of writing, to the concentration of the meaning of writing.

Spell checkers are available within the majority of word processors. These spell checkers include dictionaries and thesauruses. Spell checkers enable students to validate and correct spelling and /or grammar. The student is concentrating on the topic of the paper as opposed to the mechanics.

A student receives help from organizational tools when writing. Software is available to help organize a student's random thoughts. The software then presents the writer an outline to initiate writing.

A device used to help one with LD for math is a calculator. Some calculators come with voice synthesizers that repeat the math problem and respond with the answer (Lewis, 1998). Speech synthesis programs enable a computer to read aloud scanned text, keyed in text, or text loaded from the Internet or a CD-ROM. Raskind and Higgins (1995) conducted studies with students with LD and voice synthesizers. Their research found the use of voice synthesizers was effective AT for compensating for reading. Their research also found voice synthesizer programs improve a student's proofreading abilities.

Computers have the capability to receive words from a person through a microphone. The computer processes the words and displays them onto the screen freeing one from manually typing on the keyboard. These speech recognition programs are a positive benefit for those who may need to compensate for their writing deficiencies (Riviere, 1996).

Students are assisted with time management through the use of personal data managers. These managers allow one to organize schedules from daily to monthly on a calendar. These programs have the capability of displaying reminders and sounding alarms to remind one of an appointment or event. Riviere (1996) added free-form databases are available. These databases allow one to store notes, thoughts or other types of information. The student types a portion of the information stored to retrieve the full note or file.

Selection and Use of AT

Raskind and Higgins (1998) presented a comprehensive model for the implementation of AT in an institution. The following is an overview of the model: "goals and objectives, the office/department responsible for implementing the plan, service eligibility criteria, timeliness for completion, the specific technologies needed, including modification of existing technologies and systems (Email, library systems, etc.), location of technologies, hours of availability, times for training and support, funding mechanisms for continued financial support, training procedures and content, technical support and training plan, interdepartmental procedures, procedures for interdepartmental coordination, and a plan for feedback and evaluation of service delivery system over time."

Zabala (2000) presented a method where the Student, the Environments and, the Tasks (SETT) collected for information were incorporated to implement the Tool. The Student was examined for their special need. SETT promoted a strong team with a consensus early in the process for a greater understanding of the goals. Input from all participants was required.

The department implementing AT should include a model that encompasses the student's surroundings. Zabala (2000) stated environments are examined for physical arrangements, materials and equipment currently in the environment, supports available for the student, and how the environment in the classroom affects the student's learning. The tasks included the student's environment inside and outside the classroom and actual classroom activities.

Raskind and Bryant in (Bryant & Bryant, 1998), stressed when selecting an AT device, the IEP team should consider the following:

Xybernaut's Backpack Computer

One type of AT Xybernaut Corporation created is XyberKids. XyberKids is a modified computer placed inside a backpack. The current model specifications include: 128 MB SDRAM, a 5 gigabyte hard drive, and a 500 MHz Celeron processor. An 8.4 inch all-light readable color display allows one to use an on screen keyboard, and built-in handwritten recognition. With these specifications, various software programs can be installed and operated. XyberKids has various types of ports for attaching various peripherals. These ports include Compact Flash, USB, Firewire, Power Docking Port, and User Interface Port. The device weighs approximately one pound and fits into a backpack specially designed to hold the device.

Study Design

Beacon College, in Leesburg, Florida, has been approached to research the use and effectiveness of Xybernaut's XyberKids backpack computer. Beacon College is a four-year private college located in Central Florida. Beacon College serves students with LD exclusively. The current student population is 80. The College focuses on preparing students to be successful in programs through a mentoring program. The academic programs offer a student the knowledge for success in the student's chosen area of study. The Field Experience and Placement program at Beacon College affords students the opportunity to apply the tools and knowledge they have learned.

The proposed study will examine the student's use of the XyberKids device in the mentoring, classroom and, employment settings. The study will select five students currently attending Beacon College. These students will be selected by a team consisting of a mentor, a professor, and the College's technology person. The team will examine each of the student's LD and how XyberKids backpack computer will compensate for the LD. Software programs selected by the team will be loaded onto XyberKids.

Once XyberKids backpack computer is installed with the appropriate software, the selected students will undergo a week of training on the AT. The team will be involved with the training to become a support for the student and the AT. During the second the week, the student will begin to use XyberKids backpack computer in the classroom, in their field placement, and in their home environment.

The study will begin when the student uses the AT device in the mentioned environments. At the end of each week, the student will be assessed on the attitude toward, and ease of use of the AT in the various environments. The students' performance will be measured by their field placement.

The study will use a survey instrument to examine the student's attitude towards XyberKids. The instrument will measure the amount of time the student uses the device in each of the three environments.

One of the goals of this study is to measure the effectiveness of XyberKids backpack computer as an AT device for students with LD. The study will concurrently examine the flexibility of types of AT software that can be used with XyberKids. A third goal of the study will observe the effectiveness of XyberKids in various environments. The fourth goal of the study is to measure students' attitudes towards the use of XyberKids.

The study will be conducted during the 2003 spring semester. The results to date will be presented during the California State University Northridge Conference.

References

Bryant, D.P. & Bryant, B.R. (1998). Using assistive technology adaptations to include students with learning disabilities in cooperative learning activities. Journal of Learning Disabilties, 31, 41-54. [On-Line] Available: EBSCO

Lewis, R.B. (1998). Assistive technology and learning disabilities: Today's realities and tomorrow's promises. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31, 16 - 28. [On-line] Available: EBSCO

MacArthur, C., & Graham, S. (1993). Integrating strategy instruction and word processing into a process approach to writing instruction. School Psychology Review, 22, 671-682. [On-line]. Available: Academic Search Elite.

Mull, C, Sitlington, & P.L., Alper, S. (2001). Postsecondary education for students with learning disabilities: A synthesis of the literature. Exceptional Children, 68, 97-124.

Raskind, M.H., & Higgins, E.L. (1995). The effects of speech synthesis on proofreading efficiency of postsecondary students with LD. Learning Disability Quarterly, 18, 141- 58.

Raskind, M.H. & Higgins, E.L. (1998). Assistive technology for postsecondary students with learning disabilities: An overview. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31, 27-40. [On-Line] Available Electric Library

Riviere, A. (1996). Assistive technology: Meeting the needs of adults with learning disabilities.(Available from: National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center, http://www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/technology/ )

Xybernaut Corporation 2002, XyberKids Project (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2002 from http://www.xybernaut.com

Zabala, J.S. (2000). Setting the stage for Success: Building success through effective selection and use of assistive technology systems. LDOnline. [On-Line] Available: http://www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/technology/zabalaSETT2.html


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