We have been working with the Madeira Whale Museum in the context of their educational activities for kids with special education needs. Among other initiatives, we decided to develop and perform a pilot evaluation of an interactive learning tool for Down Syndrome (DS).
DS is one of the most common causes of cognitive disability in our society. In DS, cognitive skills are impaired, and learning requires personalized attention and specific special education approaches. In this context, computer mediated learning, and in particular computer games, are promising as potential tools for the personalization of learning and for engaging users in motivating and stimulating learning experiences.
In this project we developed a virtual reality gaming approach to support DS education, with particular emphasis in collective learning in small group settings. The developed system addresses some of the main limitations in DS such as training of association and composition/decomposition tasks. The results show a high degree of acceptance and suggest that our system can be a valuable tool to support both, instructors and DS users, in the learning experience. We also found that group settings seem to be more effective at engaging DS participants and encouraging their autonomy and initiative.
The final version of the system is based on the Unity3D game engine and can be used with an interactive board system, touch screen or a regular computer with a mouse. The stand-alone version and a multiplatform web version can be downloaded and accessed freely from the NeuroRehabLab site.
Our collaborations with the Madeira Whale Museum have had quite some visibility this year at the regional level, being them reported on the written journals (Journal da Madeira link) as well as on TV (RTP-Madeira link).
You can find more details on the development of the system and results of a pilot study of this system in this paper presented at the IEEE Serious Games and Applications for Health 2013 conference.
Developed by: Cátia Afonseca
Afonseca, C. and Bermúdez i Badia, S. Supporting Collective Learning Experiences in Special Education: Development and Pilot Evaluation of an Interactive Learning Tool for Down Syndrome. Proc. 2nd IEEE International Conference on Serious Games and Applications for Health (SeGAH 2013), Vilamoura, Portugal, 2-3 May 2013.