ETS Develops New Technology for Visually Impaired Students
- David Waterman
- David Waterman
Princeton, N.J. (October 29, 2013) —
Groundbreaking technological advances that will improve the accessibility of computer-based math instructional materials and tests for visually impaired students were unveiled recently by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Design Science, Inc. (DSI) during a research forum in Washington, DC. The event included a demonstration of the technology along with in-depth presentations from three of the project's main investigators.
The project, funded by the National Center for Special Education Research, aims to expand access to math related instructional materials and assessments relevant to the Common Core State Standards, with a focus on high school algebra.
"The new technology is revolutionary because it incorporates advanced synthetic speech and interactive navigation software into its programming," said Lois Frankel, a Senior Assessment Specialist in ETS's Assessment Development Division and the project's Principal Investigator. "This allows the audio portions of an assessment to either supplement Nemeth Code – the highly specialized braille code for mathematics and science – or provide an alternative to it for blind students who are not familiar with Nemeth Code."
In addition to the benefits that are gained from the new programming in the forms of alternative and supplemental materials, there are a number of additional features that increase the technology's value.
"The language used by the program to describe the math is similar to the language used by teachers in the classroom," said Beth Brownstein, also a Senior Assessment Specialist in ETS's Assessment Development Division and the project's Math Accessibility Lead. "This means that the audio portions of the assessments will be familiar to students, making it easier for them to understand the math spoken by the computers."
"Another valuable aspect of the technology is that it already works with the software and screen readers that teachers and students currently use," added Neil Soiffer, a Senior Scientist at DSI and the project's Technical Lead in charge of software development. "This feature will allow for a quicker, smoother and less costly transition to the new technology when it is eventually implemented into the classroom.
The event's presentations were delivered by Frankel along with Brownstein and Soiffer, and included the results of their research, a summary of the important advances that they made and a discussion of where they hope to take the technology from here.
At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series™ assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide.
Design Science is a worldwide leader in software for scientific and technical communication. The company's MathType, MathFlow and MathPlayer products are used by scientists, engineers, educators, students, and publishing professionals, for authoring and publishing mathematical notation in print and online content. DSI also licenses components and technology to OEM partners who want to math-enable their own products, and aggressively research new products and technologies, particularly those that extend our commanding lead in MathML technology. For more information please visit www.dessci.com.
This research was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R324A110355 to the Educational Testing Service.