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School of Informatics and Computing faculty receive National Science Foundation grant to develop educational, sound-based STEM games for blind and visually-impaired students

August 22, 2011

The National Science Foundation has awarded School of Informatics and Computing’ faculty approximately $250,000 to further their research and development of multiple online, sound-based educational games and reference materials for blind and visually-impaired K-12 students.

These unique educational resources will utilize audemes – short but complex, mnemonic collages of sound effects and music that do not rely upon traditional speech. Audemes are found to significantly enhance students’ ability to imprint and recall academic information, and have particular utility among populations unable to visually process information. The project will expand understanding of how audemes can enhance concept creation as well as recall, and how non-verbal sound in general correlates to language-based comprehension of concepts.

The games and supplemental digital materials will be specifically designed to support and enhance education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The National Center for Blind Youth in Science, a component of the National Federation of the Blind, notes that blind and visually-impaired students have historically received inadequate education in math and science, creating a barrier that discourages many such students from pursuing STEM careers as adults.

The two-year project is led by School of Informatics and Computing’ Professor Steve Mannheimer as principal investigator, with the school’s Mathew Palakal, associate dean for graduate studies and research, and Davide Bolchini, assistant professor, as co-principal investigators. The team is also supported by the School of Education’s Joshua Smith, director of the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education. The project builds upon nearly four years of previous research and evaluation with students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually-Impaired. That work was initially funded by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. The project was further supported by a one-year Google Research Award received in 2010.

The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually-Impaired will continue to serve as a partner in the testing and evaluation of the research.


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