Only a person with acute or total hearing loss realizes how fundamental sound is to get through life. Without even considering conversation, several tasks imply a level of coordination between auditory and other sensory input, for which there is not always a workaround. Individuals who are hard-of-hearing have a difficult time determining patterns and functional relationships most of us achieve before puberty and rely on for the rest of our lives. This worsens when the individuals do not receive the special education that suits them, often because identification of hearing issues does not occur during childhood, another complication in itself.
Science news outlet Phys.org reports on an initiative in which Moodle is the basis for an intervention in mathematical skills for people with hearing impairments. It quotes Nolan Damon, researcher at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, revealing part of the motivation:
«[D]eaf students, for example, don’t hear or understand that fruit, meat or vegetables are sold per kilogram. They know the sign for it, but they find it difficult to grasp that if I pay R4,00 for 2kg apples, the functional relationship can be applied to more bags of apples…»
Even in written mathematics examinations, hearing impairments can affect performance. To counter this, Damon’s project involved the development of special Moodle plugins targeted to learners in eighth grade, the first year of high school in South Africa.
One of the first key insights discovered with the project involved deaf students’ ability to understand the concept of a mathematical function in practical terms. As Damon enriched their Moodle experience with a glossary, video, and visual representations, it became clear the low scores on mathematical tests, which they also performed in Moodle, are not an inherent trait of the impairment.
Feedback was a critical part of the research. Moodle allowed for tracking data about the interaction with the materials and activities, as well as gathering direct feedback from the learners. Face-to-face interviews outside Moodle also took place.
This initial discovery highlights the value of technology as a learning aid for students with disabilities of any kind and paves the way for more research that enables them across subjects beyond mathematics.
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